All posts tagged: virtue

Humanae Vitae and the Mystical Call of Chastity

How do we understand chastity? For many, the very word implies restraint, and restraint is not exactly the most exciting thought. The Ancient Greeks thought of chastity as a subspecies of temperance,[1] and if there is one virtue more alien to today’s so-called “late capitalism,” it is probably temperance—and not just in matters sexual. For others, talk of chastity brings to mind purity rings and virginity pledges, almost as if chastity is defined primarily by sexual abstinence before marriage. Hence we often speak of being chaste before marriage, but hardly ever about being chaste in marriage. Yet it seems to me that the paradigm of Christian chastity is not, in fact, abstinence, but marital sexual union. This thought may well be what distinguishes an authentically Christian understanding of sex from mere social conservatism or prudishness. For chastity, as Elizabeth Anscombe wrote, “is simply the virtue whose topic is sex, just as courage is the virtue whose topic is danger and difficulty.”[2] But why, many would object, does sex need its own, dedicated virtue—does this not …

Desanitizing Christianity After St. Benedict and After Virtue

It has been a year or so since Rod Dreher published the much debated book The Benedict Option.[1] St. Benedict Reconsidered Since first hearing the term “Benedict Option” bandied about on social media, I had the impression it was based upon a reading of MacIntyre’s concluding salvo in After Virtue. Whether that reading is fruitful or pernicious I leave to the judgment of others and to that of history—though I suspect, as with most things, it is neither simply the one nor the other. It has been noted recently[2], that we can read MacIntyre’s concluding observation as either a prophecy destined to go unfulfilled or an exhortation to be heeded. In the first case, he is not unlike Cassandra of ancient Troy—given the gift of prophetic sight only to be condemned to a see and speak in a world incapable of hearing and believing.[3] If we read it in the second sense, it is closer to a call to arms, a call that has been met over the past year by proposals from figures like …

The Personalist Awakening in 20th Century Catholic Moral Thought

The personalist awakening in 20th century Catholic moral thought restored the ancient and medieval priority accorded to persons—as well as to the ways of relating between them (especially friendship)—to the modern field of ethics and moral theology. Furthermore, friendship is a strong idiomatic pattern in New Testament reflections, according to which, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can once again enjoy friendship with God. Jesus related not only to the Apostles as friends, but to all who gathered around him as friends. Jesus says the following in John 15: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father (12-15). Though the …

Alasdair MacIntyre Reads Jane Austen Reading Her Late Modern Reader

“You must hear this story,” a friend told me. “As a devoted Janeite, you will love it!” Apparently, renowned philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre was attending a panel on Jane Austen’s novels at the Notre Dame Fall Conference. MacIntyre asked a quaking undergraduate panelist, “Who is the best of all Austen’s heroines?” The panelist shuffled her papers nervously and, in her hesitation, MacIntyre stood and bellowed “Fanny Price!” The shocked panelist fell to the floor in a faint worthy of Marianne Dashwood. I realized halfway through the story that I had been there! In fact, I was a participant in the panel described. But the story had taken on a life of its own, which is why I did not immediately recognize the tale. The real events involved a fellow undergraduate panelist feeling lightheaded while giving her paper on Jane Austen’s view of proper pride with MacIntyre and the Center’s founding director, Dr. David Solomon, in the audience. After she put her feet up for a few minutes, MacIntyre inquired whether she was quite ready to continue …

Virtue as Revolution: Reforming Emotional Chastity

Way back in the day, my mother taught my siblings and me Catholic doctrine through the mode most appealing to small Roden children: competition. Every morning, from a small Tupperware that lived by our prayer books, we would draw a number that corresponded to a question from a well-worn copy of the mid-century Baltimore Catechism. We would then have to recite the answer to said question from memory. If you were lucky (or a strategic number-picker), you would get Question 15: Where is God? Its answer? God is everywhere. If your luck had deserted you, you’d receive a stumper like Question 58: What are the effects of venial sin? And woe unto you if you omitted even one dependent clause of its answer: The effects of venial sin are the lessening of the love of God in our heart, the making us less worthy of His help, and the weakening of the power to resist mortal sin. One question and answer couplet that branded itself onto my brain was Question 53. Question: What other gifts …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hacksaw Ridge

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. Walking out of the theater after seeing Hacksaw Ridge, my senses were on high alert. Sitting through the graphic, suspense-filled battle scenes of this based-on-a-true-story war movie left me waiting for an enemy soldier (or, more realistically, a car or pedestrian) to jump out in front of us on the drive home. Luckily my less-fazed husband was driving and we made it home safely. I left feeling slightly traumatized by the battle scenes, but I can appreciate what Mel Gibson was trying to do with his realistic portrayal of the horrors of war Desmond Doss faced. In a press conference, Gibson described his intentions in directing these violent scenes for the movie: [The realistic portrayal of the Battle of Okinawa] highlights what it means for a man with conviction and faith to go into a situation that is a hell on earth, that reduces most men …

Waiting in the Mystery of Hope

What surprises me, says God, is hope. —Charles Péguy, The Portal to the Mystery of Hope Every Advent I sit around a small prayer table with four-year-olds and contemplate the great mystery of messianic hope announced by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We wonder aloud what it is like to wait and long for the light. We wonder how the people of Israel felt when they heard the words of the prophet. We wonder what it is like to be in the dark and to see a great, bursting light. We wonder as we wander around the words of Scripture. Every so often the small voice of a child will chime a single word: “hope.” No lengthy explanation. No theological treatise. No empty platitudes. Small children do not feel the need to give an account of themselves. Just simple, unadorned, astonishing, little, expectant, “hope.” Hope is a strange thing, gathering in time and memory—memory of the past and, oddly, remembering into the …

Rediscovering Hope

Always be ready to give a reason for your hope. (1 Pet 3:15) As children of God, all Christians are called to proclaim boldly the truth of Christ. Far too often, however, Christians are reluctant to explain the Church’s teachings. We are found apologizing for or even watering down the truth, especially those truths relating to morality and man’s search for love. What is the reason for this reluctance? Perhaps modern man seems too faithless to receive the truth. Perhaps the Church’s teachings seem too difficult to accept. Or perhaps we have forgotten that to give truth is the greatest charity. Perhaps we have forgotten that with every invitation to virtue, God gives us the strength to achieve greatness. Perhaps, we have forgotten hope. St. Thomas Aquinas defines hope as a theological virtue by which man, relying on God’s strength, seeks an arduous but possible good.[1] In a fast-paced society of immediate gratification, man’s appreciation of the arduous or difficult good has fallen by the wayside. He prefers immediate pleasure to future greatness. The Church’s …

What is a Man? Redefining Male Success

In all honesty, I do not spend a lot of time thinking about how I measure up to masculine ideals of what it means to be a “real man.” I view myself primarily through the prism of my personhood—my status as a unique child of God who is made in the image of God with all the gifts and responsibilities that this entails. While there are differences between men and women, the commonalities far exceed these and too often generalizations obscure the fundamental uniqueness of each human person. This is present in the identity politics of the left, where false divisions too often undermine solidarity, and among those on the right, whose articulations of complementarity are hazy and incoherent. In reality, each person has a unique personality and set of experiences, beliefs, gifts, and relationships. Each person has a unique role in building the Kingdom of God. At the same time, it is clear that social pressures, particularly on young people, are often different for men and boys compared to women and girls. While many …