Month: November 2004

Thanksgiving.

I suppose it would be customary to blog a by no means comprehensive list of those people I’m thankful for this year. Briefly:

  • For St. Blog’s Parish, especially Gerard Serafin, the heart of St. Blog’s, may he rest in peace.
  • For our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all those in service to our country — may God “give success to our arms . . . and grant unto us and all nations a speedy, just and lasting peace.”
  • For my co-editors at Catholics in The Public Square (formerly Catholic Kerry Watch), for insightful posts and spirited discussion during the 2004 election and beyond.
  • For my family and extended family, for their love and patience in putting up with me for another year of my life.
  • For all those who read this blog and (I hope) benefit in some way from it.
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Cardinal Ratzinger "Featured Author" on Ignatius Insight

I should mention that Cardinal Ratzinger is “Featured Author” for the month of November on Ignatius Insight, the online magazine of Ignatius Press. In celebration of which they have generously provided excerpts from from Ratzinger’s latest book, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions and God is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life.

I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Carl Olson, chief editor of Ignatius Insight (and author of Will Catholics Be Left Behind?), about the history of the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club. When it comes to the RFC I prefer to remain “behind the scenes,” — so being interviewed and discussing my contributions was a unique experience.

Ignatius Insight, together with Godspy.com, are two good non-blog treasure troves for online reading on religious topics. Here’s a roundup of just some of the articles:

The Pontificator’s Talking About Sex . . .

How’s that for a title? — Perhaps as an antidote to the recent movie about (and revival of secular interest in) Dr. Kinsey, Fr. Al Kimel, aka “The Pontificator”, has devoted recent posts on Pontifications to the proper view of sexuality in Jewish and Christian traditions. Dave Armstrong (Cor ad cor loquitur) provides us with a roundup of the Pontificator’s contributions.

I’m delighted to see a number of quotations by Orthodox Lubavitcher Rabbi Manis Friedman, author of Doesn’t Anyone Blush Anymore: Love, Marriage and the Art of Intimacy — a book which Bob Dylan endorsed as a must-read “for everyone married or thinking of getting married.”

A Christian equivalent to Rabbie Friedman’s book would be Plea for Purity: Sex, God and Marriage by Johann Christoph Arnold of the Bruderhof Community. You can download a free copy here (.pdf format).

Of course, we couldn’t possibly end a post on this topic without mentioning Christopher West‘s presentation of Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”

Tim Drake’s Young and Catholic

Tim Drake calls my attention to his new book Young and Catholic.

In your parish, the Church may be graying at the temples, but elsewhere – across America and around the world – young Catholics are ushering in a new springtime of faith and vitality for the Faith that you and I love. Here veteran Catholic journalist Tim Drake introduces you to some of the surprising ways in which the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of these Catholic young people today.

In Young and Catholic, you’ll learn:

  • That contrary to common belief, young Catholics are not distant from the Church, but are actively engaged in it, often in ways not easily seen by those in the pews.
  • How young adults across the country gather in urban bars, not to drink but to learn about their faith.
  • How the priesthood is attracting young and vibrant priests.
  • How the young are involved in a Church without borders, using the Internet to connect with their peers and evangelize the secular culture.
  • Why millions of youth have gathered to pray together and show their love for the Pope and their devotion to Christ.

Surely a book that’ll strike fear in the hearts of the National Catholic Reporter. 😉

I haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet, but having already received the endorsements of Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, Sherry Weddell (Catherine of Siena Institute), James V. Schall, S. J., Russell Shaw and a host of your fellow St. Blog’s Parishioners, I’m adding it to my reading list.

Ordering Information Here

Habermas rises to Christianity’s Defense against Secularism

Here is an interesting development in the latest story on Cardinal Ratzinger, who made news again this past week by denouncing the systematic assault on Christianity by “an aggressive secular ideology”: Italian journalist Sandro Magister reports that the atheist philosopher Habermas is speaking out on the Church’s behalf in his latest book:

Between the likes of Ratzinger and Habermas, naturally, the distance remains intact. Habermas defines himself as, and is, “a methodical atheist.” But to read his most recent essay translated in Italy, “A Time of Transition,” published by Feltrinelli and available in bookstores since mid-November, Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization:

“To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”

Habermas says he is “enchanted by the seriousness and consistency” of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, the opposite of the feeble thinking that pervades current theology:

“Thomas represents a spiritual figure who was able to prove his authenticity with his own resources. That contemporary religious leadership lacks an equally solid terrain seems to me an incontrovertible truth. In the general leveling of society by the media everything seems to lose seriousness, even institutionalized Christianity. But theology would lose its identity if it sought to uncouple itself from the dogmatic nucleus of religion, and thus from the religious language in which the community’s practices of prayer, confession, and faith are made concrete.”

On relations with other civilizations, Habermas maintains that “recognizing our Judaeo-Christian roots more clearly not only does not impair intercultural understanding, it is what makes it possible.”

Source: “The Church Is Under Siege. But Atheistic Habermas Is Coming to its Defense”

Magister’s article containts additional excerpts from Habermas’ essay. Readers might recall that Cardinal Ratzinger and the philosopher engaged in a public dialogue in Munich, January 19, 2004. And according to Magister, “Cardinal Ratzinger made recourse to Habermas during a two-way public discussion on “History, politics, and religion” with yet another secularist intellectual, Ernesto Galli Della Loggia.”

Habermas rises to Christianity’s Defense against Secularism

Here is an interesting development in the latest story on Cardinal Ratzinger, who made news again this past week by denouncing the systematic assault on Christianity by “an aggressive secular ideology”: Italian journalist Sandro Magister reports that the atheist philosopher Habermas is speaking out on the Church’s behalf in his latest book:

Between the likes of Ratzinger and Habermas, naturally, the distance remains intact. Habermas defines himself as, and is, “a methodical atheist.” But to read his most recent essay translated in Italy, “A Time of Transition,” published by Feltrinelli and available in bookstores since mid-November, Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization:

“To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”

Habermas says he is “enchanted by the seriousness and consistency” of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, the opposite of the feeble thinking that pervades current theology:

“Thomas represents a spiritual figure who was able to prove his authenticity with his own resources. That contemporary religious leadership lacks an equally solid terrain seems to me an incontrovertible truth. In the general leveling of society by the media everything seems to lose seriousness, even institutionalized Christianity. But theology would lose its identity if it sought to uncouple itself from the dogmatic nucleus of religion, and thus from the religious language in which the community’s practices of prayer, confession, and faith are made concrete.”

On relations with other civilizations, Habermas maintains that “recognizing our Judaeo-Christian roots more clearly not only does not impair intercultural understanding, it is what makes it possible.”

Source: “The Church Is Under Siege. But Atheistic Habermas Is Coming to its Defense”

Magister’s article containts additional excerpts from Habermas’ essay. Readers might recall that Cardinal Ratzinger and the philosopher engaged in a public dialogue in Munich, January 19, 2004. And according to Magister, “Cardinal Ratzinger made recourse to Habermas during a two-way public discussion on “History, politics, and religion” with yet another secularist intellectual, Ernesto Galli Della Loggia.”

The Sabbath of History – Cardinal Ratzinger and William Congdon


Charles E. Flynn of Riverside, RI, writes:

The last place I expected to find a recent book with text by Cardinal Ratzinger was on a display shelf at the bookstore of the Rhode Island School of Design. The title is “The Sabbath of History.” It combines Cardinal Ratzinger’s text with reproductions of paintings by William Congdon in what the Congdon Foundation calls an “involuntary encounter.” You can see a description and photograph of the cover here.

I like to call Cardinal Ratzinger one of the world’s most “deeply unconfused” men.

I did some research, and Zenit.org provides details on the publication of the book (“In Search of Eternity” January 7, 1999):

The last painting of William Congdon entitled ‘Three Trees,’ was completed five days before his death. The American artist worked on the painting the whole of Good Friday, April 10. Both in the choice of the title and the theme, he was inspired by Proust’s ‘Recherche’ and the ‘Icon of the Trinity’ of Andrej Rublev (1360-1430), the Russian monk and painter who left his mark on Congdon. Both in his life and in his work Congdon pursued the same objective: to humanize the sacred.

‘Three Trees’ is part of the exhibition “William Congdon, 1912-1998: Perspective of a XX Century Witness,” been held in the Exhibition Hall of Plaza de España in Madrid until February 14.

As part of the event, ‘Ediciones Encuentro’ has published a book entitled “The Saturday of History” (El sabado de la historia”), which includes reflections by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the work of the American artist, as well as texts from other authors.

Catholic New York editor Anne Buckley profiles the artist (“His Disc Of Gold”, June 4, 1998):

[Congdon] was born in Providence, R.I., to a prominent family, well educated and attaining fame as a sculptor when World War II broke out and he joined the American Field Service. He served with the British Eighth Army in Italy, Germany and North Africa. He was one of the first Americans to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He painted suffering. And kept on searching.

It was in Assisi that he finally found his orange moon of warmth and love. He became a Catholic, and joined Pro Civitate Christiana, a lay organization founded in 1939 to make Christ known, especially in influential circles of unbelievers.

Nourished by the sacraments, he wrote, “I began to paint from love rather than from my senses.”

And in William Congdon: Five Decades of Painting, by Peter Selz. Image magazine, No. 14, Summer 1996 — a good biography beginning with this provocative quote from the artist himself:

I felt the weight of Christ on my pictures, on my very creative freedom. In those years few pictures came to birth, and they would not have come to birth—I lament—if I always had to think of Christ when I painted. When I heard that the Blessed Angelico painted with a brush in one hand and the Gospel in the other, it struck me as the most absurd nonsense. One of the greatest difficulties for the artist who offers himself to conversion is letting Christ settle in. The autonomy of art is an inviolable, untouchable mystery that, like the Spirit, “blows where and when it wills.” “A collision of two mysteries,” a friend said to me. One mystery the artist had already within himself. God has given it to him, and the artist will only permit God, with difficulty, to take it from him in order to have the artist accept another mystery that he neither sees nor touches, even if this latter mystery promises to recover and to regenerate the first mystery which was lost.”

Related Links:

  • William Congdon (Providence, 1912 – Milan, 1998), images of Congdon’s paintings online, courtesy of ChristusRex.org.
  • Return to America, Traces article on
    the American reception of Congdon after his death via an exhibition in Providence, Rhode Island: “Fifty years ago, Life magazine hailed him as one of the most talented and successful painters in America. Then, mysteriously, he dropped out of the art world and was forgotten for more than thirty years. Three years after his death, William Grosvenor Congdon returns to his fatherland . . .”

  • “Light in the Adventure of a Stormy Sea”. Communion & Liberation’s Traces interviews Paolo Mangini, Congdon’s friend and vice president of the Congdon Foundation.
  • Christianity and Contemporary Art. Zenit.org interview with philosopher Massimo Cacciari, Mayor of Venice, with a focus on Congdon. Feb. 25, 1999.