The Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York invites all Medical Students, Residents and Medical Professionals for an informal time of fellowship. We wish to support you in your work of caring for the sick and to give you the necessary spiritual support to allow you to care for the whole person, body and soul, in a world that increasingly denies the connection between the two.
St. Catherine of Siena
68th St., btwn. 1st and York Aves.
31 July 2011
From 1-3 pm, after the Sunday Noon Mass
rsvp: firstname.lastname@example.org / 212.988.8300
“In the Scriptures, Matthew and Luke furnish a legal family history of Jesus, tracing ancestry to show that Jesus is the culmination of great promises. Not only is his mother’s family neglected, we also know nothing factual about them except that they existed. Even the names Joachim and Anne come from a legendary source written more than a century after Jesus died.
“The heroism and holiness of these people, however, is inferred from the whole family atmosphere around Mary in the Scriptures. Whether we rely on the legends about Mary’s childhood or make guesses from the information in the Bible, we see in her a fulfillment of many generations of prayerful persons, herself steeped in the religious traditions of her people.
“The strong character of Mary in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the laws of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family that looked forward to the next generation even while retaining the best of the past.
“Joachim and Anne—whether these are their real names or not—represent that entire quiet series of generations who faithfully perform their duties, practice their faith and establish an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah, but remain obscure.”
[Read below from our Holy Father's catechesis on St. James the Greater (21 June 2006), after watching him delight in the great custom of Compostela]
Today we meet the figure of James. The biblical lists of the Twelve mention two people with this name: James, son of Zebedee, and James, son of Alphaeus (cf. Mk 3:17-18; Mt 10:2-3), who are commonly distinguished with the nicknames “James the Greater” and “James the Lesser”.
These titles are certainly not intended to measure their holiness, but simply to state the different importance they receive in the writings of the New Testament and, in particular, in the setting of Jesus’ earthly life. Today we will focus our attention on the first of these two figures with the same name.
The name “James” is the translation of Iakobos, the Graecised form of the name of the famous Patriarch, Jacob. The Apostle of this name was the brother of John and in the above-mentioned lists, comes second, immediately after Peter, as occurs in Mark (3:17); or in the third place, after Peter and Andrew as in the Gospels of Matthew (10:2) and Luke (6:14), while in the Acts he comes after Peter and John (1:13). This James belongs, together with Peter and John, to the group of the three privileged disciples whom Jesus admitted to important moments in his life.
Witness of Jesus’ Passion and glory
Since it is very hot today, I want to be brief and to mention here only two of these occasions. James was able to take part, together with Peter and John, in Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the event of Jesus’ Transfiguration. Thus, it is a question of situations very different from each other: in one case, James, together with the other two Apostles, experiences the Lord’s glory and sees him talking to Moses and Elijah, he sees the divine splendour shining out in Jesus.
On the other occasion, he finds himself face to face with suffering and humiliation, he sees with his own eyes how the Son of God humbles himself, making himself obedient unto death. The latter experience was certainly an opportunity for him to grow in faith, to adjust the unilateral, truimphalist interpretation of the former experience: he had to discern that the Messiah, whom the Jewish people were awaiting as a victor, was in fact not only surrounded by honour and glory, but also by suffering weakness. Christ’s glory was fulfilled precisely on the Cross, in his sharing in our sufferings.
This growth in faith was brought to completion by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, so that James, when the moment of supreme witness came, would not draw back. Early in the first century, in the. 40s, King Herod Agrippa, the grand-son of Herod the Great, as Luke tells us, “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword” (Acts 12:1-2).
The brevity of the news, devoid of any narrative detail, reveals on the one hand how normal it was for Christians to witness to the Lord with their own lives, and on the other, that James had a position of relevance in the Church of Jerusalem, partly because of the role he played during Jesus’ earthly existence.
A later tradition, dating hack at least to Isidore of Seville, speaks of a visit he made to Spain to evangelize that important region of the Roman Empire. According to another tradition, it was his body instead that had been taken to Spain, to the city of Santiago de Compostela.
As we all know, that place became the object of great veneration and is still the destination of numerous pilgrimages, not only from Europe but horn the whole world. This explains the iconographical representation of St. James with the pilgrim’s staff and the scroll of the Gospel in hand, typical features of the travelling Apostle dedicated to the proclamation of the “Good News” and characteristics of the pilgrimage of Christian life.
What St. James teaches us
Consequently, we, can learn much from St. James: promptness in accepting, the Lord’s call even when he asks us to leave the “boat” of our human securities, enthusiasm in following him on the paths that he indicates to us over and above any deceptive presumption of our own, readiness to witness to him with courage, if necessary to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of life.
Thus James the Greater stands before us as an eloquent example of generous adherence to Christ. He, who initially had requested, through his mother, to be seated with his brother next to the Master in his Kingdom, was precisely the first to drink the chalice of the passion and to share martyrdom with the Apostles.
And, in the end, summarizing everything, we can say that the journey, not only exterior but above all interior, from the mount of the Transfiguration to the mount of the Agony, symbolizes the entire pilgrimage of Christian life, among the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, as the Second Vatican Council says, in following Jesus, like St. James, we know that even in difficulties we are on the right path.
Just yesterday, there was a major public conversation on the nature of marriage. Robert George was one of the three, and you can consider some of the learned professor’s arguments here, previously published.
Not surprisingly, Sesame Street also has something to say. Consider:
Obviously, the point of the skit is to show how an innocent young child is easily and happily able to discern the basic essence of marriage, an essence that fanatical adults are hatefully trying to obscure with their agenda. Whether or not that’s the case, it’s nevertheless clear what the kid and Grover’s first principle is, made clear by the kid’s first response: “Marriage is when two people get married.” This is the same first principle that governs those who deny that marriage is a lifelong partnership, established by one man and one woman, for the procreation and raising of children and for the couple’s growth in the security of friendship. Those who deny such an understanding believe that marriage is whatever it is defined to be.
The circumstances and consequences of an action are not what specifically make it good or evil. And yet still, it’s important to look at the surrounding phenomena of moral action, particularly when it is structurally engendered, such as in the industry of artificially planned/manipulated parenting. Looking at these circumstances and consequences as they arise in a society or societies different from ours helps us to gain greater perspective on the evil ramifications of a particular object — in this case, abortion. Although the sociological and ethical concerns surrounding the abortion industry (and its allied technologies and activities) in our country are of a somewhat different cast than those of East Asia, both are radically startling.
Consider this recent article from Foreign Policy (27 June 2011), where Mara Hvistendahl details some of the circumstantial and consequential horrors of sex selection — possible because of legal abortion… even as she is unable to identify the evil of the object of abortion, remaining committed to the project of reproductive rights.
Where Have All the Girls Gone?
How did more than 160 million women go missing from Asia? The simple answer is sex selection — typically, an ultrasound scan followed by an abortion if the fetus turns out to be female — but beyond that… [continue reading]
Also check out Dominican Brother, Gabriel Torretta’s commentary on this at First Things (5 July 2011).
Please join the World Youth Alliance for a lecture by
Dr. Bob Scanlon introducing our new reproductive health program
F E M M !
(Fertility Education + Medical Management)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
2:30 pm -5:00 pm
World Youth Alliance Headquarters
228 East 71st Street
New York, NY 10021
Please contact Caroline Van Horn at email@example.com
if you or anyone you know is interested.
The World Youth Alliance is pleased to introduce Fertility Education + Medical Management (FEMM), a knowledge-based reproductive health program, to New York City. FEMM teaches women of all social, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds how to monitor their reproductive health and manage their fertility by understanding the natural signs of the body. Where health problems are indicated, women are referred to FEMM-trained medical practitioners for evaluation and treatment where they are informed participants in their own reproductive healthcare.
Dr. Scanlon, a OBGYN working in collaboration with the WYA, will give two lectures introducing FEMM as well as discussing WYA’s approach to maternal health. There will be time to ask questions following both lectures.
This is a must!
A wonderful way to celebrate the feast and the weekend. Click on the images to learn what the GIGLIO is all about!
(From Our Holy Father’s Wednesday Audience on the Seraphic Doctor, 3 March 2010)
So it was that in about the year 1243 Giovanni was clothed in the Franciscan habit and took the name “Bonaventure”. He was immediately sent to study and attended the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris where he took a series of very demanding courses. He obtained the various qualifications required for an academic career earning a bachelor’s degree in Scripture and in the Sentences. Thus Bonaventure studied profoundly Sacred Scripture, the Sentences of Peter Lombard the theology manual in that time and the most important theological authors. He was in contact with the teachers and students from across Europe who converged in Paris and he developed his own personal thinking and a spiritual sensitivity of great value with which, in the following years, he was able to infuse his works and his sermons, thus becoming one of the most important theologians in the history of the Church. It is important to remember the title of the thesis he defended in order to qualify to teach theology, the licentia ubique docendi, as it was then called. His dissertation was entitled Questions on the knowledge of Christ. This subject reveals the central role that Christ always played in Bonaventure’s life and teaching. We may certainly say that the whole of his thinking was profoundly Christocentric.
In those years in Paris, Bonaventure’s adopted city, a violent dispute was raging against the Friars Minor of St Francis Assisi and the Friars Preachers of St Dominic de Guzmán. Their right to teach at the university was contested and doubt was even being cast upon the authenticity of their consecrated life. Of course, the changes introduced by the Mendicant Orders in the way of understanding religious life, of which I have spoken in previous Catecheses, were so entirely new that not everyone managed to understand them. Then it should be added, just as sometimes happens even among sincerely religious people, that human weakness, such as envy and jealousy, came into play. Although Bonaventure was confronted by the opposition of the other university masters, he had already begun to teach at the Franciscans’ Chair of theology and, to respond to those who were challenging the Mendicant Orders, he composed a text entitled Evangelical Perfection. In this work he shows how the Mendicant Orders, especially the Friars Minor, in practising the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, were following the recommendations of the Gospel itself. Over and above these historical circumstances the teaching that Bonaventure provides in this work of his and in his life remains every timely: the Church is made more luminous and beautiful by the fidelity to their vocation of those sons and daughters of hers who not only put the evangelical precepts into practice but, by the grace of God, are called to observe their counsels and thereby, with their poor, chaste and obedient way of life, to witness to the Gospel as a source of joy and perfection.
Today is the feast of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, often called the Lily of the Mohawks. Born in 1656 near modern-day Auriesville, NY, Kateri converted to Christianity as a teenager. Rebuked by her tribe for her new faith, she fled to Canada, where she spent the rest of her short life living within a Christian mission. Vowed to chastity and devoted particularly to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Holy Cross, Kateri spent long hours in church conversing prayerfully with her Savior. A serious illness toward the end of her life allowed Kateri to conform herself more perfectly to Christ Crucified. Finally succumbing to her illness, Kateri died peacefully just before her 24th birthday.
Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri in 1980, making her the first Native American to receive this honor.
For more on Blessed Kateri’s life and faith, visit the website of the national shrine dedicated to her.
As a side note, “Kateri” is a French-Indian derivation of “Catherine.” When she was baptized, Kateri took St. Catherine of Siena as her heavenly patron.
St. Henry, son of Henry, Duke of Bavaria, and of Gisella, daughter of Conrad, King of Burgundy, was born in 972. He received an excellent education under the care of St. Wolfgang, Bishop of Ratisbon. In 995, St. Henry succeeded his father as Duke of Bavaria, and in 1002, upon the death of his cousin, Otho III, he was elected emperor.
Firmly anchored upon the great eternal truths, which the practice of meditation kept alive in his heart, he was not elated by this dignity and sought in all things, the greater glory of God. He was most watchful over the welfare of the Church and exerted his zeal for the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline through the instrumentality of the Bishops. He gained several victories over his enemies, both at home and abroad, but he used these with great moderation and clemency.
In 1014, he went to Rome and received the imperial crown at the hands of Pope Benedict VIII. On that occasion he confirmed the donation, made by his predecessors to the Pope, of the sovereignty of Rome and the exarchate of Ravenna. Circumstances several times drove the holy Emperor into war, from which he always came forth victorious. He led an army to the south of Italy against the Saracens and their allies, the Greeks, and drove them from the country.
The humility and spirit of justice of the Saint were equal to his zeal for religion. He cast himself at the feet of Herebert, Bishop of Cologne, and begged his pardon for having treated him with coldness, on account of a misunderstanding. He wished to abdicate and retire into a monastery, but yielded to the advice of the Abbot of Verdun, and retained his dignity.
Both he and his wife, St. Cunegundes, lived in perpetual chastity, to which they had bound themselves by vow. The Saint made numerous pious foundations, gave liberally to pious institutions and built the Cathedral of Bamberg. His holy death occurred at the castle of Grone, near Halberstad, in 1024. His feast day is July 13th.
He is the patron saint of the childless, of Dukes, of the handicapped and those rejected by Religious Order.
(From Catholic Online)
One of the suppositions of the so-called new atheist crew is that reason — most especially scientific reason — positively disabuses humanity of its religious pretensions. I think these guys (and yes, oddly, they’re all guys) are not worth much time in themselves. However, they are lingeringly popular; and their reasoning (or attempt at such) is emblematic of the way many believe themselves to be intelligent, i.e., by a hodge-podge of unjustified principles arbitrarily applied alongside basic commitments that spring from the Christian West as such. So, if somewhat tritely, they’re worth considering.
Sam Harris is known for his ill informed and meandering screed against Christianity in America and for his more recent attempt to speak about being moral from a scientifically hopeful point of view. A recent article of his provides an opportunity to diagnose what’s wrong with his thinking.
For Harris, everything we do is for the sake of “altering consciousness. We form friendships so that we can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. We eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. We read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts. Every waking moment—and even in our dreams—we struggle to direct the flow of sensation, emotion, and cognition toward states of consciousness that we value.” In other words, the reason we do everything that we do, the closest thing that could come to our raison d’etre, is (1) to change (2) our consciousness.
The point of view that Harris placidly espouses is inherently radical: The purpose of life is “to alter” whatever it is we experience. In other words, the root of what it means to be human is to change reality–he’s radically radical, to use two senses of the world. According to this view, the life of the mind, of esprit, is constituted by the exertion of the will. We live in order to project our freedom upon reality in such a way as to change it.
To be sure, the wise man has classically recognized the changing nature of the world. Everything changes. Philosophy, in large part, is an attempt to discern the order to this picture of reality as inherently changing.
The modern era changes all this, and introjects reality into the the self, or, the mind and its will. Hence, as Marx famously declares (in a way that is not particular to Marx and Marxism), the purpose of philosophy is not to understand the world but to change it.
So what is reality for Harris? It is what is perceived. “Reality” is simply another word for what the consciousness of the individual’s living processes in terms of physio-chemical categories such as “sensation, emotion, and cognition.”
Harris is both a radical and a subjectivist; and he’s necessarily one because he’s the other. He’s a radical because, as a subjectivist, the only way for man to exercise his freedom is through projecting his will upon “reality” to change it; and he’s a subjectivist, because, as a radical, he has no principle for determining what is worthy of being changed or toward what one should aim his change other than oneself.
Desire for Transcendence
Interestingly, Harris advocates for something that is noble: transcendent experience. How does he get here? By considering the longstanding practice of taking drugs.
He thinks that the taking of psychedelic drugs is not necessarily a bad thing, and can actually be seen as a natural element of the adult’s desire to acquire new experiences. “I have a daughter who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely, but a life without drugs is neither foreseeable, nor, I think, desirable. Someday, I hope she enjoys a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If my daughter drinks alcohol as an adult, as she probably will, I will encourage her to do it safely. If she chooses to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation. Tobacco should be shunned, of course, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer her away from it. Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.”
Let’s forget about the blithe manner in which Harris underplays the occult damage of psychotropic drugs. Instead, consider that the seeking of these psychedelic experiences has an analog in seeking transcendence in meditation and suchlike. Then realize that the only difference is that the drugging method of altering the consciousness is, according to our guru, chemical, guaranteed, uncontrolled, and more or less taboo. “There is nothing that one can experience on a drug that is not, at some level, an expression of the brain’s potential.” In other words, both varieties of religious experience (alluding quite intentionally here, as Harris himself does in citation, to William James’s modern masterpiece) are functions of the subject’s awareness, which are materially constituted and therefore materially reducible.
(Indeed, Harris does not discount the possibility of a “world” that exists independent of the individual’s mind, or that there isn’t some cosmic Mind … but only that we’re unable to confirm this… since, after all, all judgments of the mind are reducible to the experiences of an individual mind anyway. And even so, this possible “dualism” would not, for Harris, be comprised of any immateriality.)
What’s peculiar about Harris is that he affirms the need for transcendence. The problem, however, is that it’s not clear how “transcendence” could genuinely be transcendent according to his perspective. For Harris, “transcendence” is itself a value that is simply such for the subjective consciousness. It has no objectivity to it. Transcendence is itself radically subjective! It’s not a transcending of the self, but a “ceasing to cling to the contents of consciousness” … but not a ceasing to cling to consciousness as constitutive of reality!
Therefore, even though transcendence is a way to get beyond our own “egoity” for the sake of moral rectitude, given Harris’s principles, it’s not clear how the basis for being moral could be something other than a function of the individual consciousness. Hence, after giving historical anecdotes about the usage of psychedelics from primitive religion and America’s sixties to personal experience, Harris’s discussion of the moral desirability of transcendence is a complete non sequitur.
Harris has a twofold principle that steers the course (radical subjectivity) until certain intuitions pop in, such as the intuited need for transcendence as well as the intuited good of being good. He’s unable to account for the latter as long as “everything is for the purpose of altering consciousness.” In all likelihood, though, the desires for spiritual transcendence and moral goodness are not the result of mere intuitions … but of the passing language of Christendom that has an unalterable resonance with the mystery of being human, even for those who try so hard to eliminate both.
The well known last words of Alasdair MacIntyre’s book, After Virtue, written some twenty years before the election of our presently reigning pontiff:
A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead . . . was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. . . . This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another — doubtless quite different — St. Benedict.
And from our Holy Father’s concluding words of an Audience dedicated to St. Benedict (9 April 2008):
By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe on 24 October 1964, Paul VI intended to recognize the marvellous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilization and culture of Europe. Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built. Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself – a utopia which in different ways, in 20th-century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused “a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity” (Address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, 12 January 1990). Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism.
The EAST VILLAGE ARTS PARTY, brought to you by Arts NYC, is looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow, Sat. July 9th for their highly anticipated event!
Come see dozens of bands, musicians, films, fine artists, and more, and mingle with hundreds of friends, old and new, for THE party of the summer!
Doors Open: 7:00 PM
Admission: $10 and drinks/food to share (21 + unless accompanied by an adult)
Proceeds to benefit: The Meatloaf Kitchen: http://meatloafkitchen.org/
Venue: Courtyard of the Immaculate Conception Church, 414 E 14th St @ 1st Ave.
Performing Artists such as:
Walking for Pennies, Mike Lahey, Paul Tabachneck, Cecilia Schwartz, and more…
Visual Art displays by:
Mary Acosta, Sean Scanlin, Alexander Ponomarenko, Daniel Somarriba, plus several others…
Classical Music performances indoors by:
Kara Vertucci, Scott Tran, Donna Nathan, Joanne Togati, Linda Garrity, Nhi Pham, Joe Shippee to name a few…
Short Film and Trailer screenings by:
Grassroots Films, Juan Reinoso, and Jennifer Cadena, and others…
And be sure to check out the website for details, schedules, and to meet the artists:
Happy Independence Day!
And a hearty feast day to all, especially those of the New York Frassati Fellowship!
From our Nuns at Summit:
Today is the feast of BL. PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI (1901-1925), a Third Order Dominican who dedicated his life to study, the pursuit of holiness, and to apostolic and social activity that upheld charity. He is a shining example for all young people of an authentic Christan life lived in the world and completely dedicated to the love of God.
At the age of 21, Pier Giorgio was admitted into the Third Order of St. Dominic by Fr. Martin Stanislaus Gillet, O.P., later Master of the Order, and took the name Jerome, after the great Dominican, Jerome Savonarola.
After Pier Giorgio’s death of polio at age 24 (contracted from the poor he ministered to), Fr. Gillet wrote,
“(Pier Giorgio) loved the Church: the mother of all. He willingly, generously, would have given his life for her. And, in the Church, souls attracted him, especially those of the poor. To the hungry he gave the little he had: to the unloved he gave his heart: to the disgraced who know nothing of God and live in spiritual loneliness, he gave the example of the just one who lives his faith and attracted them to God who would satisfy them.”
In this weekend’s cover article of the New York Times Magazine, there’s a clear example of what St. Paul means in Rom 8.12 by living indebted to the flesh (30 June 2011). I won’t expatiate on the doubly unfortunate title, “Married, with infidelities,” which appropriates the harrumph of family life (“married, with children”) in order to replace the gift of progeny with the rape of trust. But I do want to point out the underlying viewpoint of the article: that flesh is the measure of the spirit.
Mark Oppenheimer primarily focuses on the work of Dan Savage, long-known to college co-eds and the alternative anti-culture for his column, “Savage Love,” a candid (read: sordid and graphic) consideration of sex from a homosexualist’s point of view. Over the years, Savage’s column has begun to focus less on sex (at least as such) and more on love… still, of course, from the standpoint of gay relationships.
In other words, the habits of gay sex can be normative for the goals of heterosexual love.
Gently but definitely supporting this opinion, Oppenheimer discusses the possibility that the model of gay “committed” relationships, with their tendency toward “openness,” pornography, and fetishism, could benefit heterosexual marriages with the grace of stability.
(If you for a second thought that the “gay rights” interest in the marriage debate is for merely legal equanimity, think again!)
The critical premise for Savage’s argument, which obviously has experiential probity, is that monogamy is amazingly difficult, especially for (all) men. But the additional and more fundamental premise is that the flesh is the measure of human possibility. The body’s given inclinations, urges, and (according to our superego’s postmodern/postmortem pretense), the body’s indiscretions provide the scope of freedom’s forum.
It ought to be self-evident that moral possibility cannot be delimited by moral tendency, or that philosophical ideals cannot be measured by sociological data. For example, most people have lied at one point or another in their lives. And many people live lives accommodated to variants of lying, i.e., of intentionally deceiving another through the utterance of falsity. But it would be ridiculous to take this and argue that because most people lie, it therefore ought to be positively introduced into a working understanding of truth.
This test’s whiff of Kantian maxim-making is not without cause. For Immanuel Kant, we cannot judge the existence of a transcendent God or that, in light of his benignity, we are actually free. We are left with the imperative to act as if our principles could be made universal laws. But this maxim-making has nothing really to do with reality, but simply the logical testing of subjective postulates for action. Since it is unconnected to God, the world of morality has nothing really to do with the world of nature or of science. Moral responsibility nevertheless has to make sure that it acts in a logically consistent way, since all we have is the rational drive of the mind. Such a life is not only boring, but beset by internal antinomy.
Unwilling to accept this bifurcation between what the mind can tell us about “reality” and what the mind ought to propose for moral action, the late modern (or postmodern, or whatever you want to call our world’s relativism)–the contemporary approach to morality collapses the antimony between freedom and nature or morality and science by declaring the former a function of the latter. Moral intelligence is an endless project of control and experimentation: The mind is the will!
Indeed, is it not the case that in public debates today, political power and moral indeterminacy predominate above all today. Anything goes, as long as the one with the bullying pulpit is saying so.
But the human mind is able to judge the reality of transcendence through its own life… which is transcendent. Transcendence need not be postulated as an internal or mental superstructure in order to secure our good taste for decent behavior. Indeed, that project already failed.
Transcendence is objectively experienced through our body. And that is why, for the Christian, the body is so wonderfully good. Because the body’s experience and prospect is measured by the spirit!
When I find myself in love such that I desire to be what people call “married,” I desire to give my heart to the beloved 100 percent. To be sure, from a material standpoint, it’s a ridiculous investment; but that is what people want to do in being married. There’s something so ultimately good about my beloved that no single experience can exhaust. I can return and return to experience my beloved and the good of the relationship is not itself exhausted. Eventually, I judge that I want to give my heart entirely; that I want to be married.
In giving all of myself, I’ll receive all of myself through the love of the other. Although I am a complete individual, I shall somehow be less than I am if I cannot be with my beloved. And so, ironically, the greatest work of most people’s lives of freedom is the binding of themselves to another in marriage.
But because I am not simply some vague monad of interiority but an embodied soul, I can only give my 100 percent of my heart when I have given 100 percent of my body as well. This side of things, that means that, naturally speaking, I cannot be married unless my body is pledged for the remainder of its bodily existence–i.e., until death.
Furthermore, I cannot give my body and heart to another completely unless that other truly is “an other.” And this otherness must necessarily be physiological. If I am most definitely not only a heart but also a body, and the only way in which I experience the trials and joys of my heart is through my body, then I cannot give all of myself to another if I am giving it to someone who is only another heart. In this case, I would be giving less than myself to someone who is less than another.
Hence, the only kind of loving union that is able to reproduce individuality is that which is physiologically unitive: the heterosexual love-making between a man and a woman (which is properly within the context of a committed relationship for life).
Finally, because my heart or spirit is measuring the good and the use of my body, there is no room for any others. Marital friendship is necessarily exclusive. The one man is bound until death to one woman, and vice versa.
Infidelity, taken as an occasional good, clearly contradicts the intrinsic if generally unarticulated reasons for getting married. In other words, the very nature of what marriage is excludes infidelity as possibly good. Very clearly, what is proffered in the NYT Magazine article is an image of marriage that hates the goods of indissolubility, procreativity, and exclusivity, and therefore hates marriage.
And how is this hatred given voice? Because the individual body (whose icon is that of the gay male) is proposed as the measure of freedom. I want to be with my wife until I die, at least for the sake of our kids; but I have sexual urges that deviate from our relationship. So, according to this logic, the relationship ought to revise its culturally accidental constraints with the granting of licenses for my body’s desire.
But then there is no transcendence, either of myself with the other, or of ourselves and that which makes us both partners in a particular species–i.e., there is no transcendence of human nature.
Ever since the West threw off the shackles of man’s natural sense of transcendence, his activity has been turned in on and against itself. “Man” itself has become the ultimate object to twist into submission. And, because there is no limit to man’s endeavors, there is no limit to what man can make of himself.
He can become anything; and so, he is nothing.
“Organized religion,” and most prominent among those who are organized, the Catholic Church, speaks most loudly in defense of human nature–its specific integrity of nature and its individuated dignity in the person. The Church, therefore, is necessarily invested in the preservation of the natural law. That is, she is with human nature as usch, and with the natively systematic norms that reason adduces for human behavior as the basis for an intelligent society.
Predictably, then, Mr. Savage also happens to be a Catholic, and one in whom the rag-mag’s author sees a positive image of Catholic moralism.
Of course, the Church’s severely attenuated moral authority is hereby evoked. Precisely because of what certain clergy have done, (indeed, most abominable), the measure of the Church’s preaching significance has been established. And, since her men seem to be just as perverted as those who openly apotheosize perversion, one really ought to take direction and guidance from the latter.
The wise and learned of our age would have us believe that there is no such thing as nature or moral standards. Everything is open to anything and everything, such that there is no such thing as “man,” and we can twist “marriage” to mean anything we want. Indeed, in the words of Michel Foucault (who, living for a long time in a committed relationship with “a partner,” died of AIDS, debauched by the San Francisco bath-houses):
Ought we not rather to give up thinking of man, or, to be more strict, to think of this disappearance of man – and the ground of possibility of all the sciences of man – as closely as possible in correlation with our concern with language?
From within language experienced and traversed as language, in the play of its possibilities extended to their furthest point, what emerges is that man has ‘come to an end’, and that, by reaching the summit of all possible speech, he arrives not at the very heart of himself but at the brink of that which limits him; in that region where death prowls, where thought is extinguished, where the promise of the origin interminably recedes. (The Order of Things, 382, 385)
We ought not to give up thinking of man or fighting for “man,” which necessarily involves a way of speaking that is congruent with the way of being. Nevertheless, the purpose of our freedom is not to agitate ceaselessly for social revolution. In fact, the ultimate purpose of our freedom isn’t even to act … but to rest! We have been given freedom on earth to enter into the rest of heaven.
Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Christ speaks these words to all who experience their body as a yoke of the will and burden to the spirit. If we put to death the deeds of the body, if we refuse to vaunt the flesh as our ultimate value, we can be renewed in his Spirit.
God became man, He took on flesh in Christ. The body is not bad; flesh is not evil. But it must be measured by the Spirit. We who feed on Christ’s flesh are able to be renewed in his Spirit, that Spirit of God who raised our Lord from the dead.
Etymologically, “rest” is probably rooted in a word that means “great distance.” Hence, “rest” is what one does after having traversed a great distance. Christ has traveled the distance between God and fallen man by taking on our flesh and raising it anew. Let us not give up on the good fight or on completing the race. In Christ, we are called to be human.
Let us travel the full distance of human trial and joy — uniquely and wonderfully evident through marriage — and expect that the very distance of this journey, recognized and adhered to in the nobility of its natural ideals, promises the possibility of a final rest, where that same humanity will flourish in the finality of a freedom that has been wedded to the most faithful of lovers — God Himself.