All posts tagged: Tradition

Walker Percy and the Racist Tragedy of Southern Stoicism

The life of Catholic novelist, philosopher, and essayist Walker Percy was shaped, in part, by an uneasy confrontation between Stoicism and Christianity.[1] Although Percy was raised in a noble, affluent, and prominent Southern family, his background was also marked by a family history of melancholy, depression, tragedy, and suicide.[2] As Paul Elie explains, “There was a suicide in nearly every generation. One Percy man dosed himself with laudanum; another leaped into a creek with a sugar kettle tied around his neck. John Walker Percy—Walker Percy’s grandfather—went up to the attic in 1917 and shot himself in the head.”[3] His father, Leroy Pratt Percy, committed suicide in the attic in 1929. Percy remarked, “The central mystery of my life is to figure out why my father committed suicide.” In fact, wondering if he were destined for the same fate, he often referred to himself as an “ex-suicide.”[4] Not long after the death of his father, Percy lost his mother in a tragic car accident. Committed Stoic, William Alexander Percy, Walker’s second cousin, adopted all three Percy …

The Return to Ancient Traditions After the Death of God

The “traditionalists” among conservative Christians are surprised when we show them how relatively modern and extremely limited is the form of Christianity that they wish to conserve, and what enormous intellectual and spiritual wealth resides in much older traditions of the church; suffice it to recall the desert fathers, the Greek patristics, the negative theology of Dionysus the Areopagite, the medieval mystics, etc. Maybe what some called secularization and the decline of religion and others “the death of God” marked the beginning of theology’s inability to respond creatively to the changing picture of the world and mankind on the threshold of modernity, having exhausted itself with interdenominational conflict. Theology in those early days of modernity adopted unthinkingly, inadvertently—and hence uncritically—modernity’s division of reality into subject and object and to a great extent adapted the medieval dichotomy of the order of nature and the order of grace, the natural world and the supernatural world, to that new division. Emphasis on the “objectivity” (now the antithesis of subjectivity) of God and the order of grace also meant …

Notre Dame Football Premium Upgrades and Trash Removal

For half a dozen Saturdays every fall, the University crafts a magnificent story. The Notre Dame Football Weekend for many Irish fans means a break from work, plenty of food, time spent with family and friends and the pleasant exhaustion that accompanies hand-clapping, hoarse-yelling, heart-twisting victories. It’s a sensational event. It’s a well-developed story. But there are others who tell the story differently. This is the first installment of The Magnificat Project. “Experience the call to greatness.” An advertisement for premium seating at Campus Crossroads offers insight into an elevated gameday experience—literally.[1] Extending from the upper floors of the Duncan Student Center and Corbett Family Hall, these seats look down over the field and stadium bowl. Duncan and Corbett are two of three buildings in the Campus Crossroads Project, which made its debut this year—the product of more than $400 million dollars and 3 million hours of labor. Each with nine successively impressive floors, these building tower over much of campus[2] and provide classroom, study, recreation, and rehearsal space. The project was funded in part …

Catholic Disagreements and the Catechism’s 25th Anniversary

This year marks the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s 25th anniversary, and I believe its silver year is one worth celebrating. I realize that my estimation is not shared by all in pastoral ministry nor in the academy. The word “catechism” elicits disdain for some, evoking preconciliar memories of rote memorization of endless questions and answers, an overly cognitive approach to religious education, and days marked by clericalism and passivity in the laity. Underlying these are problems more theological in nature: a universal catechism seems incongruent with a world marked by cultural relativism, and it manifests, or so the claim goes, an ill-conceived and outdated understanding of revelation as static and propositional. Isn’t the “universal” a Platonic leftover from earlier days, now understood only to be manifest in the particular? Or, more extremely, does universal truth even exist at all? Furthermore, isn’t truth subject to praxis, the only way of semi-empirically verifying the claims of any person or authority? These concerns are legitimate in the sense that those who voice them often do so from …

Erasmus and the Second Vatican Council

John Courtney Murray referred to the development of doctrine as the “issue under the issues” at Vatican II.[1] Whether the Council Fathers considered changing the practice of liturgy, the teaching on religious freedom, or the teaching on revelation, they confronted the challenge of expressing the unchanging Truth to a changing world. Of course, this was not the first time the Church had found itself in this position. Most notably, over 400 years earlier, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and others broke with Rome to found new Christian communities that they felt better expressed the Truth and witness of Christ. Prior to and during the early stages of the Protestant Reformation, Erasmus of Rotterdam emerged as an influential voice of reform who advocated change without breaking the unity of the Church. At the beginning of the Reformation, Luther and Erasmus were cautious allies, but “by 1521 it was clear to Erasmus that Luther did not intend a gradual reform within the old faith, but a fundamental recasting of traditional doctrines and practices.”[2] Erasmus’ vision of gradual reform …