Forgiveness Through the Eyes of the Soul

Tonita M. Helton

We know in faith that there is a supernatural realm, a world with demons and angels, evil and grace, a world that interacts with our own in an intimate and profound, yet unseen, way. We know that a battle rages in that world for the soul of each and every human being on Earth. And sometimes we see, in the most unexpected of moments, a rare glimpse of what happens in that world, of what lies beyond the veil that thinly separates our reality from the ultimate reality.

It happened when I was in my third year of law school. I had met and began dating a man we’ll call Jack. Jack was fairly good-looking, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a generally handsome face. He was of above average intelligence, could be quite charming, and had a truly amazing voice when he sang, which he did perhaps too often. Jack was not the man I would have chosen for myself, however. He was not physically my “type,” but more critically, he was not a man of faith, and could be selfish, boorish, and materialistic. There was something beyond me at work, however, when I met him, and my spirit was moved deeply, in a way that it had not been before and in a manner that I did not recognize at the time. As a result, I quickly came to conclude—became quite convinced, in fact—that this was the man that God wished for me to marry. And, although not in the way I believed, Jack was indeed destined to change my life forever. [Read more…]

Measure for Measure: Shakespeare’s Parable

Ken Lasnoski

With what measure you mete out, it shall be measured unto you (Mark 4: 24).

The tangled plot of Shakespeare’s comedy Measure for Measure might initially convince any audience that Shakespeare finds little of serious value in the Christian tradition. The Duke of Vienna leaves his troubled town in corrupt hands of his highest deputy, Angelo, and masquerades in a friar’s guise. Posing under this religious pretense, he encourages and orchestrates an act of fornication. Further, he deceives Isabella, making her think that her brother Claudio is dead. Finally, he brings the play to a comic conclusion using marriage and unilateral forgiveness in a manner that seems to signal a failure to bring justice to a town reeling with lax law enforcement and moral depravity. Why does the Duke knowingly submit Vienna to Angelo’s cold corruption? How can the Duke’s representation of religious authority be anything other than mockery if he sanctions and even causes immoral acts? How can an audience accept a comic ending brought about by such “dark deeds”—an ending that seems to unilaterally solve social ills by means of imposed marriage?1 [Read more…]

Social Justice and the Theology of the Body

Catherine Rose

It is necessary for any social program to have a theological basis. Man, as a transcendent being, can only find ultimate fulfillment in God; social reform is limited if it addresses only the physical needs of those it serves. This is true of communism and socialism, and even of social ministry when temporal justice is the only goal. The Church’s social doctrine, while assuming a theological basis for social ministry, does not often speak explicitly about the transcendent. What is needed, therefore, is an explicit articulation of the theological roots of social justice and injustice, as well as a reflection upon the deepest causes of war and hunger and slavery, in order to highlight the fullest answer to such injustice. The following reflections upon Catholic social doctrine in light of Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est, will illumine more clearly the theological assumptions which comprise the foundation of Catholic social doctrine. [Read more…]

G.K. Chesterton and the Use of the Imagination

Dale Ahlquist 

The purpose of the imagination is to make us more like God. Sounds like something a serpent might say. But it’s not. That really is the purpose of the imagination. To make us more like God. After all, our imagination is a gift from God. It is perhaps one of the greatest gifts God has given us. It not only separates us from the beasts, it allows us to create new worlds of our own. Our imagination gives us a kind of omnipotence. There is almost nothing that we cannot do within the infinity of our minds. The Creator has made us in His own image. That is, he has made us creators. Our creativity is re-creation. And yes, it is recreation as well. It is restorative and rejuvenating. It is a pleasure. It is peace. It is a gift that we have abused, but perhaps even worse, it is a gift we have left unused. [Read more…]

I’ll Have What She’s Having

Every morning when I come into work, I chat with my coworkers, check my email, my other email, and then scroll down my news feed to see if I missed anything important. And yes—because I also happen to like baby pictures, kittens and puppies. And every day or couple of days, I try to share something on my own wall that will either make people laugh, or make them happy, or help them in some way.

There is one thing, with a very few exceptions, that I will not do. I will not post a status or a meme that is seriously socially, politically or religiously inflammatory. Sure, I share the goofy ‘murica memes, and on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade combat the historically dismal media coverage of pro-life work by standing on my corner soap box. But the majority of the time, I don’t get into anything about gay rights, abortion, religious debates or whatever the topic de jour might be. (Vaccinations, anyone?) And, lest you be concerned, this is not a renunciation of my earlier thesis on The Problem with Being Friendly. This is about context, circumstances, efficacy, and, at some level, personal sanity.

There have been a few times in history, in a few civilizations, where people liked a logical argument and could even be convinced by it. This is not one of those times. More perhaps than ever before, no doubt in a far progression from early 19th century humanism, individual feeling is the name of the game. I am not saying all intellectualism, all logic, is dead; merely that Facebook is not the forum in which they are natively found, nor is it the context in which their employ can generally be efficacious.

Facebook is not designed for reflection, for steady, methodical thinking. It isn’t built that way, nor is it used that way, even though some people seem to think it can be. The majority of users don’t log on to improve their thought processes, tighten their reasoning abilities, and deepen their understanding of greater Truth.

It is not home to treatises, or even news articles, or, ahem, thought-provoking blog posts. It’s a series of two-second commercials and millisecond snapshots. Sensational, attention-grabbing, comfortable or exciting—little firecrackers that burst, some of which cause a conflagration of emotional argument that inevitably leads to name-calling, anger, snark, general rudeness, sometimes obscenity, and a digging in of heels on both sides of the gulf. I’ve been astounded at the depths to which respectable, intelligent people I’ve known my whole life have sunk to in their online-selves.

This, then, is why I avoid remarking on posts from Friends that are discordant with my own beliefs and, dare I say it, are sometimes grossly illogical and morally depraved. And, for that matter, why I try to avoid posting controversial things myself. I know it won’t change minds and, if it effects any change at all, will most likely only cause their collective subconscious to associate negative emotions with my name and anything I believe in. And those subconscious emotional reactions. . . boy oh boy. Those are hard to take down.

But Ellen, these things really matter! We must debate them in a public forum! Our voices must be heard, and we cannot let “the others” drown us out! Yeah, I know. Of course they matter. So debate them when you are asked to do so, or write something intelligent when the occasion calls for it. Let your stance be known when touchy subjects come up in conversation or when sacred things are desecrated, but don’t be a pill about it, and don’t engage in a discussion that makes you, or, more importantly, all of the things you stand for, appear petty, trivial, emotional and able to be swatted away with a “hide” or “delete” button.

And, in the meantime, realize that most people who are even vaguely acquainted with you know where you stand on The Big Issues. So be a kind person! Be a reasonable person. Be loving and gentle. Do not give anyone an excuse to associate hatred and arrogance with Truth. Let their subconscious associate you, and everything you believe in, everything you stand for, with a nobility of spirit, a strength of character, and a sweetness of temperament that does not mock, insult, or scorn. Facebook squabbles are undignified and belittling for all parties concerned. Lost creatures searching for peace will not dock at a vitriolic port. Be unyielding in your principles, and let prudence and love be foremost among them.

Flannery O’Connor, Women, and the Home

Barbara Wheeler

We cannot underestimate the roles of home, family, and community in shaping Flannery O’Connor as a writer. In her essay entitled “The Regional Writer,”Flannery O’Connor states: “Unless the novelist has gone utterly out of his mind, his aim is still communication and communication suggests talking inside a community.” She goes on to say, “I wouldn’t want to suggest that the Georgia writer has the unanimous collective ear of his community, but only that his true audience, the audience he checks himself by, is at home.” Home forms a major motif in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, particularly in “The Lame Shall Enter First” and “The Enduring Chill.” [Read more…]

Communion of the Saints

Shannon Berry

On the first of November, All Saints’ Day, my boyfriend Kim and I drive nearly an hour away to an ecumenical bonfire on the southern shore of Lake Superior. Two Lutheran girls from the university I attend as a graduate student cram themselves into the miniscule, low-ceilinged backseat of my Toyota, as I try to carefully maneuver the bumpy country roads and the new fallen snow. I apologize in advance for giving them headaches. As we drive, we talk about hometowns and courses and the difficulties of getting students involved in our various organizations, ours the Catholic campus ministry, theirs the Lutheran. The conversation surfaces but never dives; we stay in the safe territory of small talk. [Read more…]

Breathing with Both Lungs

Tonita M. Helton

How can we be fully credible if we stand divided before the Eucharist, if we cannot live our sharing in the same Lord whom we are called to proclaim to the world?
Orientale Lumen, John Paul II

John Paul II stood on an elevated platform before the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa and celebrated the Holy Mass before a crowd more than one million strong. The date was August 15, 1991—a day of triumph and joy. This was the first time ever that large numbers of young Eastern Europeans were able to participate in World Youth Day. In addressing the Eastern pilgrims, the Holy Father thanked them for the “precious treasure” of their Christian witness, a witness for which they often suffered persecution, death, and imprisonment behind a geopolitical wall that created “nearly impassable borders.” The collapse of communism in the East, however, had ushered in a new era and he rejoiced that “the Church in Europe [could] now breathe freely with both of her lungs.” [Read more…]

Pre-Christian Infusion: Faith. Hope and Charity in The Lord of the Rings

David Rozema

In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes the four cardinal moral virtues of fortitude, temperance, wisdom, and justice from the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (charity). He maintains that the moral virtues of fortitude, temperance, wisdom, and justice are virtues only in “a restricted sense”: they bring only a “natural happiness.” But the very same moral virtues can be a part of a “supernatural happiness” if the practice of them is supported by the theological virtues. So a person may possess the moral virtues of fortitude, temperance, wisdom, and justice without possessing the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, but that person’s moral virtue will be imperfect. [Read more…]