Feast of St. Thérèse Giveaway-Today Only!

kochiss-therese-267px-400pxSign up to receive Angelico Press email by midnight tonight for a chance to win A Companion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Life and Work & The People and Places In Her Story by Joseph P. Kochiss.

About the book:

THE PRODUCT OF TWENTY YEARS of research and writing, this extraordinary new work is the most comprehensive portrait of Thérèse ever published, and the ultimate reference to her life and spirituality. A Companion to Saint Thérèse will appeal to all devotees of Thérèse, as well as those approaching her for the first time, who will find it a fascinating introduction. There is abundant material concerning her autobiography as well as her other literary and artistic works, and a treasury of information on all the people and places in her life story. Finally, the author revisits the steps leading to her beatification, canonization, and the proclamation of her as a Doctor of the Church, and provides a history of the Carmelites and the origin of the Lisieux Carmel. As a source of biographical detail and photographs it is unsurpassed in any language and will remain the most authoritative work on Thérèse for many years to come.

Praise for A Companion to Saint Thérèse:

“A remarkable book!”
— FR. BENEDICT GROESCHEL, C.F.R., Co-founder of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

“Obviously a labor of love. If one were making a movie about the Little Flower, this would be the perfect book to provide the background material to help understand St. Thérèse and all the people that touched her life.”
— FR. ROBERT J. BOYD, Ph.D., F.S.S.P., Third Order Carmelite

“An astounding achievement in the annals of Catholic hagiography. There has never been a work like this regarding the life and times of ‘the Little Flower.’ It will be an essential acquisition for every theological library, every Catholic school and homeschooling co-op, and every member of the lay faithful with a devotion to Saint Thérèse.”
— CHRISTOPHER A. FERRARA, President, American Catholic Lawyers Association

“In A Companion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux we are given the opportunity to study Saint Thérèse in a novel way, through the optics of the people and places associated with her. I exhort all of you to come to appreciate she who identified her vocation as Love.”
— FR. FRANK PAVONE, National Director, Priests for Life

“This is an encyclopedia of information on the life and spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Here you will find information and photos concerning the Saint that have not been published anywhere else. The author is to be congratulated for his diligence and persistence in assembling all this material for the many Catholics devoted to the saint of the small and simple way to God.”
— FR. KENNETH BAKER, S.J., Editor Emeritus, Homiletic & Pastoral Review

About the Author

JOSEPH P. KOCHISS, born and living in Connecticut, is a retired Stratford (CT) school teacher and the author of many magazine articles about St. Thérèse. He has also composed music for plays and musicals. His other interests include playing the violin and painting portraits.

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T’is the Season to be Stoic


By Kevin Vost, Psy.D.


Like flourishing leaves on a spreading tree,

which sheds some and puts forth others,

so are the generations of flesh and blood;

one dies and another is born.

Sirach 14:18


As is the race of leaves, so is the race of men.

Some leaves the wind scatters upon the ground,

and others the budding wood produces,

for they come up again in the season of spring.

So is the race of men,

one springs up and another one dies.

Homer, Iliad, Book VI, 145-149


Leaves also are your children…

A little time and your eyes will close;

and he who attends you to your grave another will soon lament.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book X, 34.


 On this early September morning, well before dawn, there’s a slight bracing chill in the air. The summer choirs of crickets and cicada are silent right now, as the violin-sounds from my computer’s speakers proclaim the arrival of my favorite season through the strains of Vivaldi’s Autumn.[1] As much as I enjoy the warmth and activities of summer, the fall has always signaled for me the best time of the year for mind and body as my thoughts return again to formal studies and also to heavy weightlifting. But why is fall “the season to be Stoic?” I will offer three main reasons in the three sections below.

From Summer’s Hot Violent Passions to Fall’s Cool Stoic Reflections

Social scientists have been aware for decades of the increased rates of violent crimes in the United States during summer time, often with the hottest of summers yielding the highest rates of violence. This year has unfortunately been no exception. Headlines for the city of Chicago within my own state proclaimed the 500-murder mark had been reached by Labor Day this year, and yet other cities, such as St. Louis, New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, and Newark tend to have even higher murder rates per capita. Explanations for the increase in violent crimes in summer have included the fact that people are out more in the summer time and more likely to interact, including in violent ways. It also appears though that the discomfort that comes from the heat itself may tend to increase irritability and make people more hair-triggered in their anger, with potentially deadly results if that hair-triggered finger rests on an actual trigger or some other deadly weapon.

So where do the Stoics come in? The great ancient Roman Stoics moralists of the first and second centuries A.D. (e.g., Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, Seneca, & Marcus Aurelius) were best known for the way that they taught that we can become masters of our emotions, including anger. Indeed, even in our day, a person who bears calmly with adversity or insult is said to be stoic with a small “s”, because of those capital “S” Stoics of old.

Seneca once wrote: “but anger may be routed by precepts; for it is a weakness of the mind that is subject to the will.”[2] The fall then is a time to slow down and to cool down, to reflect on life, on our own behaviors, and on our responsibilities to control and improve the ways that we think, and act, and feel. Regarding how we can train ourselves to control our own anger and irritability, I offer as an example, this simple bit of sage advice from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

In Book II of the Meditations[3], Aurelius begins with a paragraph of advice that we might all do well to read first thing every day, right after morning prayers! The kindly emperor tells us that upon arising each day we should say to ourselves that we are going to encounter “the busybody, the thankless, the overbearing, the treacherous, the envious, the unneighborly”;[4] and though more than two-thirds of a million days have passed since he wrote those words, I think they still ring true for us today (and tomorrow). He goes on to say that we should remind ourselves that such people act this way because they do not truly understand the beauty of goodness and the ugliness of evil; that we cannot truly be debased or injured by them if we do understand the good; that they share with us the same humanity and capacity for reason; and that we cannot hate them, but must value them as kinsmen, placed in the world for cooperation, and not for resentment and aversion. Whew!

In other words, he tells us that we can remain calm in our minds and loving in our hearts if we forgive one another our faults—in advance! If I may call to mind Dr. Ellis’s ABC scheme from chapter 6,[5] inspired by the Stoics after all, the emperor would have us plant rational beliefs in our mind ahead of time, ready to spring forth to counter life’s little unfortunate events that are simply bound to happen. (And what better day to start this practice than this one?)

We and Ours are as Leaves

There is another simple reason the fall might prompt us toward Stoic (and Scriptural) reflection. For the first time this year, after I swooped around the front lawn mowing in a “crop circle” pattern last week, I noted at the yard’s perimeter some semi-circular swirls of brown and crispy flat objects. We read in the Old Testament book of Sirach how human generations are like the leaves of trees that sprout forth for a time and then are shed to make room for a new batch to flourish. The wise Greek poet Homer had made a similar observation, and the sage emperor Aurelius had taken the idea and run with it in several different parts of his Meditations.

So many generations of leaves and of men have sprouted and been shed in the more than 1800 years since Aurelius himself left the earth, and yet in his own time, the emperor reflected on those who had passed before him, calling to mind the times of his predecessor the emperor Vespasian (68-79 A.D.), poignantly noting how we “will see all the same things, people marrying, bringing up children, sick, dying, fighting, feasting, trafficking, farming, flattering, pushing, plotting, wishing for someone to die, grumbling about the present, loving, heaping up treasure, coveting the consulship and kingly power. Well, the life of those people is all over.” He notes next the time of Trajan’s rule (98-117 A.D.), stating: “Again, all is the same.” Aurelius reminds himself that the same applies to himself and his time, and to you and me, and indeed to our sons and daughters and to their children as well. Indeed, consider that today in 2016 we have documented proof right now of merely one living person born before the year 1900, and when she passes away, every single leave from humanity’s tree of the 19th century will have been shed.

The point of such reflections is to remind ourselves not to be carried away with the trivial, swept up in anger over things that do not matter much, or waste our time pursuing fleeting pleasures, earthly treasures, or hollow acclaim. Instead, we should use our brief time allotted on earth to pursue virtue and follow the will of God in the matters that matter the most.

The fall then is certainly a fitting time of year to think of the fleetingness of our life on earth, as did the most thoughtful Stoics, employing their God-given reason. Yet we as Christians are aided by God’s revelation too and by our faith in God Incarnate in Christ. This leads to one last reason to consider this “the season to be Stoic.”

Preparing to Deck the Halls

Marcus Aurelius and some other great ancient Stoics reasoned their way to a powerful, loving God and believed that the soul was in some way immortal, but they did not know Christ or understand the extent to which our fleeting lives on earth prepares us for an eternal life, hopefully in heaven. They did not fully realize that while the leaves must fall and die in the limited physical space of the earth, the tree of eternal life has room for all who would seek it and persevere in their faith in the God-man who chose to hang from a tree for us.[6] The stoic reflections of the Stoics on the season of fall can still perhaps prepare us for the advent of Advent and of Christmas time soon before us. Then it will be not merely the season to be Stoic, but the season to be jolly, and as the song goes, to deck the halls with boughs of holly — in the most joyful way.


[1] Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Great Baroque composer, violinist – and ordained Catholic priest, perhaps most famous for his musical piece The Four Seasons. (I invite you to pull up his Autumn and listen along as you read!)

[2] Seneca, Moral Essays, vol. 1, trans. John W. Basore (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), On Anger, bk. 2, chap. 1, 169.

[3] Those notes to self he prepared in his late 50s in the evenings along the frozen banks of the Danube as he led troops at the border of the Roman Empire.

[4] Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. C. R. Haines, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 27.

[5] This section is excerpted from my The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2016), 160-161.

[6] Cf. Rev. 2:7.

Copyright 2016 Kevin Vost

Image by hotblack (2011) via Morguefile

Kevin Vost holds a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) from Adler University in Chicago. He has taught psychology and gerontology at Aquinas College in Nashville, the University of Illinois at Springfield, MacMurray College, and Lincoln Land Community College. He has served as a research review committee member for American Mensa, an organization promoting the scientific study of human intelligence, and as an advisory board member for the International Association of Resistance Trainers, an organization that certifies personal fitness trainees. Dr. Vost can be reached through his website: www.drvost.com.

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The Morning Star, or the Beautiful Revolution

view from the farm_photo by Scot F.Martin

Morning Star Farm, photo courtesy of Scot Martin

On July 22nd and 23rd of this year, Morning Star Farm in Waterloo Township, Michigan hosted a conference entitled The Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. People attended from as far away as New Jersey and New Hampshire in order to swelter in the 90 degree heat and begin to envision a new way of being in a world broken by, among other things, the technologization of everything and its attendant homogenization, not to mention the disappearance of the sacred. There was no charge for the conference. People camped. Some brought their spouses. Some brought their children. The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom was celebrated in the barn on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. We shared food. Most of the people I knew only from the internet. Meeting them in the real world was truly a work of incarnation, of taking on of the flesh.

Oh, and “Morning Star Farm” is code for “my house.”

Morning Star

The author’s farm and home, photo courtesy of Michael Martin

Participants discussed radically Catholic ways to think about conviviality, community, and the relationship of the Church year to the breathing of the seasons, to see the cosmological dimensions of a world reconsecrated to the sacred. We talked about Catholic science and what such a thing might look like and how Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “gentle empiricism” might be a more Catholic approach to science than the technocratic and utilitarian modes of “doing science” with which most of us are more generally familiar (and which Goethe called the “empirico-mechanico-dogmatic torture chamber”). We considered the roles of phenomenology and sophiology in such a project. We talked about the ecology of place, the ecology of human culture, the ecology of Christ and the holiness of incarnation.

We also considered the possibilities of a Catholic art, an art that makes all things new and does not simply reproduce medieval, Renaissance, mannerist, and Baroque styles ad nauseum. We lamented that “Catholic art” in the cultural imaginary has degenerated into code for “religious kitsch.” We mentioned the audacity of Jacques Maritain and his engagement with the art of his time (and in particular with Jean Cocteau, one of the most imagination-rich figures of the 20th century).

We lamented a Catholic blogosphere and social media presence that so often assimilates the nastiness, pettiness, and utter lack of charity characteristic of the master culture.

We also talked about the possibilities of such a reimagining for Catholic education.

We cited a number of people and groups (Catholic and non-Catholic) as inspiring us in their desire to not simply reside in a realm of dreams and ideas, but of deeds: Dorothy Day, David Jones, Joséphin Péladan, Rudolf Steiner, Therese Schroeder-Sheker, The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, Maritain, Ivan Illich, The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Stratford Caldecott, Chiara Lubich, Francis of Assisi, the Apostles. People like that. People that have actually done something.

In the spirit of ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING, we have a number of initiatives to propose:

First, we are starting an arts and ideas journal: JESUS THE IMAGINATION (the title inspired by William Blake in his illuminated poem Jerusalem). Here is my unconventional call for papers:

I want works of visionary daring, not of the usual Catholic blogosphere snark, polemic, and maudlin self-shaming.

I want writers and artists willing to risk the safety of reputation and the security of acceptance.

I want work that isn’t afraid to make a mistake, and artists who don’t confuse mistakes for sins.

one rule: ASTONISH ME

The first issue will be an assertion of a Catholic/sophianic/aesthetic reimagination, almost a kind of manifesto. A challenge. A spiritual gauntlet. Submit by 30 November 2016.

You can send submissions to me at mmartin@marygrove.edu

I am so not fooling around.

Second, I am currently putting together a colloquium entitled Transfiguration: A Colloquium on the Integration of Science, Art, and Religion. I’m still working out the details, but hope to see it happen in October 2017. Stay tuned.

Third, we hope to found an institute dedicated to this new worldview informed by a Catholic, sacramental, sophiological aesthetic (I know it’s a tautology). The institute (at least as we’re imagining it now) would provide lectures, training and/or workshops in education, the arts, sciences, agriculture, beekeeping, etc., informed by such a Catholic sophiology.

We also hope to put out a series of books related to the project.

There was also some talk about starting a school. Seriously.

Feel free to join the beautiful revolution.


Copyright 2016 Michael Martin

Michael Martin is author of The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics (2015), Meditations in Times of Wonder (2014), and editor of The Heavenly Country: Primary Sources, Poetry, and Critical Essays on Sophiology (2016). He teaches philosophy and English at Marygrove College and runs an organic/biodynamic farm in Grass Lake, Michigan with his wife and children.

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Gods of Infertility


By Michael Martin

April and May are exceedingly busy months on our biodynamic-organic farm. Blossom, one of our dairy goats, birthed three kids on April 1 (and now she’s giving over a gallon of milk a day!) We also welcomed three feeder pigs to our woods on April 24, started brooding the first batch of twenty meat chickens on the same day, installed two packages of honey bees in their new homes on May 6, and started double-digging the first of the thirty 3’ x 36’ beds of our new garden (I still have ten to go). The laying hens, after a dearth of egg production over the winter, have overwhelmed us with their output, filling carton after carton with their glorious eggs. Meanwhile, we’ve started tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, leeks, and onions in the house, direct-seeded a great variety of greens and roots, started onion sets, rhubarb, and asparagus. Wild turkey visit every day, morels abound under the chokecherries, the French lilacs explode in fragrance, the barn is filled with the chirping of newborn barn swallows and their parents, and my two youngest (of nine) come in the house every day covered head-to-toe with dirt and mud from catching frogs and turtles in the pond and playing in the clubhouse they made from fallen timber, pine boughs, and planks of bark, and which they decorated with lilies of the valley and violets. The world is a fertile place.

Prior to the scientific revolution, people lived lives very mindful of fertility and of its opposite, infertility. Fertility was desired, infertility was to be avoided. It is no surprise, then, that the religious culture of premodernity was deeply mindful of the interrelations of matter and the spirit in assuring the fertility of the land, animals, and humans. Ploughs were blessed, fields and cattle were blessed, barns were blessed, marriages were blessed: the fecundity of Things was understood as an essential Good, a fecundity likewise Beautiful and True. This is not, as some might suggest, simply a case of primitives trying to appease some imagined magical being in the sky (we can do without the positivist arrogance) but the recognition and affirmation of a metaphysical reality. In short: as Richard Rodriguez has rightly noted, the God of the Old Testament, who initially announced himself to a nation of the desert, is a God of fertility, of life. To drive home this Judeo-Christian subtext, Deuteronomy admonishes us (in words often quoted by the Prolife movement): “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both you and your seed may live” (30:19). Seed. Likewise, the God of the New Testament is a God of fertility who died as a seed dies, was placed in the cold earth, and rose in a completely new form. What may well be my favorite Anglican hymn expresses it in this way:

 Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,

Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;

Love lives again, that with the dead has been:

Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

Or, to put it differently, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). I would argue that the fertility of God and of all Things is still an intuition maintained deeply within the human psyche—it’s encoded in our DNA as the biological imperative, after all—and, even though our own cultural milieu rejects fertility as a good, we still have Deuteronomy’s choice before us. We can still choose fertility. It is really—existentially, ontologically, spiritually, and biologically—the only choice.

Indeed, Rainer Maria Rilke, writing in the beginning decades of the 20th century could still celebrate the fertility of God and the Things of this world in poetry (here rendered in Daniel Polikoff’s masterful translation which appears in The Heavenly Country: An Anthology of Primary Sources, Poetry, and Critical Essays on Sophiology):

 I find you in all these myriad things

I love and care for like a brother.

As seed, you sun yourself in the smallest

and in the greatest, spread generously abroad.


That is the wondrous play of powers

that move selflessly, upward and down:

rising in the roots, dwindling in the bough

and blooming like resurrection in the crown.

The rejection of fertility is, I fear, leading human culture into the service of sterility, a slavery to a strange new god. And the worship of this false god will not end well. The symptoms abound: in the proliferation of poisonous agricultural practices that poison the soil and our food and embed sterility into their reproductive DNA; in the chemical and surgical alteration of human fertility; in the cultural fetishization of Planned Parenthood and a life-denying “family planning” that glorifies the erasure of the miracle of life as a political right; in nuptial paradigms of sterility held up as goods; in the technological colonization of the human person that celebrates the simulacra of a beauty devoid of fertility; and finally in the encroaching transhumanism that even one Catholic nun looks forward to as the harbinger of “the emergence of cybersapiens and a new consciousness of gender.” This is not a future I welcome, but it is a future I more and more believe likely.

In her extraordinary 1992 novel The Children of Men, P.D. James offers a ghastly picture of such a world. I will skip over the warnings of a creeping totalitarianism present in the book (frightening and likely enough as it is) in order to dwell on the image of a condition that James envisions developing in a culture that has lost all capacity for fertility, of every possibility that any woman might be able to bear a child:

In our universal bereavement, like grieving parents, we have put away all painful reminders of our loss. The children’s playgrounds in our parks have been dismantled. For the first twelve years after Omega the swings were looped up and secured, the slides and climbing frames left unpainted. Now they have finally gone and the asphalt playgrounds have been grassed over or sown with flowers like small mass graves. The toys have been burnt, except for the dolls, which have become for some half-demented women a substitute for children. The schools, long closed, have been boarded up or used as centres for adult education. The children’s books have been systematically removed from our libraries. Only on tape and records do we now hear the voices of children, only on film or on television programmes do we see the bright, moving images of the young. Some find them unbearable to watch but most feed on them as they might a drug.

Let these be thy gods, O Israel.


Michael Martin is author of The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics (2015), Meditations in Times of Wonder (2014), and editor of The Heavenly Country: Primary Sources, Poetry, and Critical Essays on Sophiology (2016). He teaches philosophy and English at Marygrove College and runs an organic/biodynamic farm in Grass Lake, Michigan with his wife and children.

Copyright 2016 Michael Martin

Photo by ImBooToo (2015) via Morguefile

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Aid in Dying-When Life Comes to Completion

Dr. Gerard M. Verschuuren discusses the issues surrounding moral care of the dying person and the obligations of our faith, based on his new book, Life’s Journey: A Guide from Conception to Growing Up, Growing Old, and Natural Death.

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Breaking the Enchantment of Worldliness


By David W. Fagerberg

If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick my favorite CS Lewis quote, I would narrow it to this one. Well, actually there are three or four more, and I’d try to wrestle the gun out of his hand, but I’ll just share this one with you:

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. Almost our whole education has been directed to silencing this shy, persistent, inner voice; almost all our modern philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.

The enchantment from which he hopes to wake us, I think, can be called “worldliness.” That accounts for a strange collision in theology. The world is good, worldliness is bad. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son for it (John 3:16), and yet it is those worldly people that cause division (Jude 1:19), and worldly grief produces death (2 Cor 7:10). How does the world become worldly?

Lewis sums up worldliness in that final line: it is the philosophy that suggests our good is to be found on this earth. So nothing about the world changes, something in our attitude toward it changes.

Are there goods on this earth? Yes. Can man and woman enjoy those goods? Yes. Are they our final good? No. And to think so makes the world into something it shouldn’t be. The enchantment turns the world from sacrament into idol.

If he is right about this, he may also be right when he says we have need of the strongest spell possible to awake us from this enchantment. And that would be a spell that comes from God himself. It would be the Holy Spirit pervading our sensibilities, so that we could see the world the way it was meant to be seen.

Now, this is connected to my daily work in two ways. First, I am a liturgical theologian, and my mentor, Aidan Kavanagh, used to define liturgy as “doing the world the way the world was meant to be done.” Second, the application of this healing poultice upon our wounded psyche is called asceticism, and though I’m not a very good ascetic, I do what academics do: I write about it. My book On Liturgical Asceticism was about restoring the capacity to do liturgy.

My new book at Angelico Press is connected to liturgical asceticism like the second panel of a diptych. Consecrating the World concerns the liturgy after the liturgy; it tries to see the world with unenchanted eyes; it is mundane liturgical theology; it considers our conspiracy with the Holy Spirit (con+spirate, breathing together); it sees the world liturgically and sees the liturgy splendoring the world; it is what flows from the altar through the nave across the threshold of the narthex into our daily life; it is seeing what the world is, not just what it is made of; it is the third hypostasis of the Trinity opening all our senses to see what the second hypostasis of the Trinity has created in matter; it is about the effects of ordo amoris; it is understanding the acorn because we have been shown the oak; it is fastening the wings of the cross so we can fly above the banal; it is why we are homesick at home.

David W. Fagerberg is professor in the department of theology, teaching mainly liturgical theology and sacraments, and a little about CS Lewis and Chesterton. He wishes that liturgy be seen as the foundation for theology, for the good of both theology and liturgy. This was explored in Theologia Prima (Hillenbrand Books, 2003), into which he has integrated the Orthodox understanding of asceticism as preparing the liturgical person, in On Liturgical Asceticism (Catholic University Press, 2013).

Copyright 2016 David W. Fagerberg

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The Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything


By Michael Martin

I’ve been contemplating, probably for years, the cries of “Wisdom! Be attentive!” which appear at several significant moments of the Byzantine liturgy. They occur, for those who may not know, at the Little Entrance, as the book of the gospels is held before the holy doors; prior to the readings of the epistle and the gospel; at the Great Entrance, as the Holy Gifts are brought to the altar; and before the recitation of the Creed. It seems to me that there is more than a little in the way of a sophianic theopoetics here, as Sophia/Wisdom (from one side) facilitates or catalyzes the graces of Christ that follow and the paying of attention (from the other side)—so crucial an element of phenomenological intentionality—brings us ourselves into the presence of the mysterion. (The movement is inherently reciprocal.) It will be noted that no such announcement precedes the Consecration—an important point—but following the Consecration (and the Epiclesis) the text invokes the Virgin herself in the hymn known as the Megalynarion, “The Magnification of Mary”:

It is truly proper to glorify you, O Theotokos,

the ever-blessed, immaculate, and the Mother of our God.

More honorable than the Cherubim

and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim;

who, a virgin, gave birth to God the Word,

you, truly the Theotokos, we magnify.

Mary’s participation in the Incarnation is acknowledged here, however tacitly, as participation in salvation and in the coming-into-being of the Eucharistic gift. As the Wisdom/Sophia of Proverbs and Sirach participates in the Creation, the Virgin participates in the Redemption of that same Creation.

My investigation here is not about the liturgy, however, but about the ways in which phenomenology and sophiology discover the same phenomenon: the shining that illuminates the cosmos. This shining speaks in the languages of poetry, languages that take on a myriad of forms and are sometimes mistaken for science, sometimes for theology. As Martin Heidegger has it, “All reflective thinking is poetic, and all poetry in turn is a kind of thinking.” This thinking distinguishes itself, I would further argue, by attentiveness to what Hans Urs von Balthasar identified as the Glory of the Lord, a deeply sophiological term. Furthermore, such an approach is profoundly antithetical to some ways of doing theology. As von Balthasar writes:

In Neoscholasticism, when the feeling for the glory of God was lost—that glory which pervades Revelation as a whole but which is not perceived by conceptual rationalism, or concerning which it remains silent, or which it wholly removes by means of method—there perished also the sensorium for the glory of Creation (as “aesthetics”) which shone through the whole theology of the Fathers and of the Early and High Middle Ages. This sensorium passed preeminently to the poets and artists (from Dante to Petrarch, to Milton, Herder, Hölderlin, Keats…), but also to the great natural scientists (such as Kepler and Newton, the early Kant, Goethe, Carus, Fechner, Teilhard), whereby Neoscholasticism found itself doubly bereft and denuded.

This Glory is accessible to children—the formal employment of the technology provided by the epoché is by no means requisite—as Robert Kelly describes in the opening lines of his magnificent prose poem, “The Heavenly Country”:

Once I thought it was the place my father brought me and my mother to, between the rivers up north. The near river was full of white stones bleached in the sun, and the banks on the far side were red clay. At night it was almost cold, so we slept with blankets or walked out in sweaters early morning to see deer or whatever else might reveal itself to us. That it is a matter of It willing to reveal to Us I have never doubted.

This is an eminently Catholic, eminently sacramental, and essentially sophiological insight. And we all innately possess it; it is part of our baptisimal birthright. Only, I think, we are trained out of it through the deadening course of our education, perhaps the most invisible yet destructive of modernity’s many tragedies (and Catholic education—of which I am a survivor—is by no means less culpable than that of the mainstream). My late colleague, Stratford Caldecott, devoted much of his career to exploring a remedy for this poison. For him, as for me, this remedy can only be realized through an education attentive to the Glory of the World; that is, an education that simultaneously speaks the languages of rationality, theology, and poetry: in every sense of the word a truly Catholic language. This is a Catholicism hinted at in the Wisdom literature, literally fleshed out in the New Testament, and—following the collapse of traditional metaphysics in a postmodern, post-capitalistic, post-Christian, and (increasingly) post-human cultural milieu—a Catholicism that offers a much-needed corrective to the bastardization of ontology, the technological and ideological colonization of the human person, and the ascendance of postmodern nominalism so prevalent at our own cultural moment.

It is in the spirit of this idea of Catholicism that I have dedicated myself to a project of cultural renewal. So much of what I witness in Catholic or religious culture, alas, echoes so much of what is deadening in the culture-at-large. Indeed, even the so-called “New Evangelization” day by day shows itself to be nothing more than the old evangelization: Behold, I make all things old.

To that end, I am interested in hearing from poets, artists, scientists, adventurers, teachers, communitarians, distributists, scholars, and visionaries who hanker for something more living in Catholic culture. What I am not so interested in is theory distanced from practice. I’ve heard far too many proposals anchored in the theoretical (this may be an inheritance of the Neoscholastic patrimony that has stifled so much innovation in the life of the Church) that never make it to the ground. As any biodynamic farmer would tell you, renewal starts from the soil, not from the air.

Feel free to contact me by email at mmartin@marygrove.edu

Michael Martin is author of The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics (2015), Meditations in Times of Wonder (2014), and editor of The Heavenly Country: Primary Sources, Poetry, and Critical Essays on Sophiology (2016). He teaches philosophy and English at Marygrove College and runs an organic/biodynamic farm in Grass Lake, Michigan with his wife and children.

Copyright 2016 Michael Martin

Photo by hotblack (2015) via Morguefile

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Profoundly Pro-Life Pagan Philosophers?

800px-Sanzio_01By Kevin Vost

The primary end of marriage is community of life with a view to

the procreation of children….

Musonius Rufus, Lecture 13A

I envisioned the book The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living as a way to introduce modern Catholics and other Christians to the wonderful practical lessons of the ancient Stoic philosophers, men whose reason led them to acknowledge VOST-The-Porch-and-the-Cross-267px-400pxGod’s existence and to strive to guide them in lives of virtue in accordance with His will as expressed in natural law. I knew that medieval abbots had adapted Epictetus’s Handbook to use guides for monks, and that St. Thomas Aquinas had mined the writings of Seneca in his analysis and synthesis on human virtue within the Summa Theologica. As a psychologist, I was well aware that the founders of modern cognitive psychotherapies had openly expressed their debt to the wisdom of the Stoics in teaching us how to use our powers of reason to rein in harmful emotions and distress. What I did not know until the contract was signed and my research began was that among the Greek and Roman Stoics were outspoken ancient champions of what Pope St. John Paul II would deem in our time a “culture of life.”

Some political and social elites in modern America argue that those who champion issues like the sanctity of traditional marriage between one man and one woman, the sacrosanct dignity sanctity of human life from conception to death, (thus proscribing abortion and inveighing against contraception), and the encouragement of large, loving families, attempt to shove Christian religious convictions down the citizenry’s throat in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of a national religion (let alone the more amorphous “separation of church and state” not found in the Constitution itself).

One way to respond to such arguments of theocracy is to reply that the Catholic Church has long been the champion of both faith and reason, and indeed, some of the most profound and reasonable philosophers who did not even know who Christ was, have, based on the powers of reason alone, championed views of marriage, sexual morality and life that would not appear out of place in our modern Catechism of the Catholic Church. In this blog I’ll provide just a taste, primarily with some excerpts from The Porch and the Cross commenting on the lectures of one Musonius Rufus (c. 20 – 101 AD), teacher of Epictetus, called by some “the Roman Socrates,” and by me, a “profound pro-life philosopher.” (The following excerpt is a summary from Chapter 3: A Legacy of Sanity in Need of Rediscovery, commenting on Musonius’ own lectures presented in detail in Chapter 2: Lessons for Learning, Loving, and Living):

Lectures 12–16: On Learning, Loving, and Living Life

I would wager that it is these lectures that might most surprise modern readers, even well-read Christians and students of the Stoics, revealing how this ancient pagan Stoic philosopher, guided by God-given natural reason, became such a profound, pro-family, pro-life philosopher. Bullet-points below summarize some of Musonius’s most fundamental and striking statements on human sexuality, marriage, procreation, abortion, contraception, and large families, complete with comparative references to paragraphs within the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  • Only sexual acts carried out within the bounds of marriage and open to the procreation of life are morally right (Lecture 12; cf. CCC 2360–2366, 2390–2391).
  • Among the most serious illegitimate sexual practices are adultery and homosexual acts. Both arise from lack of self-control, and homosexual acts are intrinsically opposed to nature (Lecture 12; cf. CCC 2380–2381, 2357–2359).
  • The chief purpose of marriage is that a man and wife will live together and have children (Lecture 13; cf. CCC 2366–2367).
  • Marriage is founded upon mutual love and care “in sickness and in health” (Lecture 13; cf. CCC 2360–2361—and traditional Christian wedding vows).
  • The marriage bond of partnership and union is admirable and beautiful (Lecture 13; cf. CCC 2362).
  • Anyone who works to destroy marriage destroys family, city, and the human race (Lecture 14; cf. CCC 2209–2211).
  • Lawgivers were wise to prohibit abortion and methods of artificial contraception (Lecture 15; cf. CCC 2366–2367, 2370–2372, 2270–2275).
  • Large families are great gifts from God (Lecture 15; cf. CCC 2373).

From this group of lectures we most clearly see that, as for John Donne 15 centuries later, for Musonius Rufus no man (and no woman) is an island. Every Roman Stoic was raised in a family and would agree with the words of the Catechism that “the family is the original cell of social life” (2207). We are all parts of the body of life and have no right to sever or prohibit the growth of other parts. Indeed, we will find personal fulfillment when we do our best to make that body that gave life to us continue to grow and thrive.

And here’s a concluding bon mot from Musonius on the glory of large families, followed by a couple from the Stoic philosopher Hierocles (2nd century AD) :

What a great spectacle it is when a husband and wife with many children are seen with their children crowded around them! No procession conducted for the gods is as beautiful to look at, and no ritual performed solemnly for a sacred occasion is as worthy of being watched, as is a chorus of many children guiding their parents through the city, leading them by the hand or otherwise caring for them. What is more lovely than this spectacle? What is more worthy of emulation than these parents, especially if they are decent people? What other people would we join with so eagerly in praying for good things from the gods? What other people, indeed, would we help obtain whatever they might need? -Musonius Rufus, Lecture 151

Hierocles speaks of the joy that our parenthood brings to the parents who gave us our life:

For the procreation of children is gratifying to them; because, if we should suffer any thing of a calamitous nature prior to their decease, we shall leave our children instead of ourselves, as the support of their old age. But it is a beautiful thing for a grandfather to be conducted by the hands of his grandchildren, and to be considered by them as deserving of every other attention. Hence, in the first place, we shall gratify our own parents, by paying attention to the procreation of children. And, in the next place, we shall cooperate with the prayers and ardent wishes of those that begot us. For they from the first were solicitous about our birth, conceiving that through it there would be a very extended extension of themselves, and that they shall leave behind them children of children, and have to pay attention to our marriage, our procreation, our nurture. -Hierocles, How We Ought to Conduct Ourselves to Our Kindred

Notice that for Hierocles, interaction between grandchildren and grandparents is “kalos,” a “beautiful” thing. Indeed, he says the same of marriage between one man and one woman. And to those who would argue against bearing and raising children, Hierocles has this to say:

Moreover, it appears that every one who voluntarily, and without some prohibiting circumstance, avoids marriage, and the procreation of children, accuses his parents of madness, as not having engaged in wedlock with right conceptions of things. It is easy to see, that such a one forms an incongruous opinion. For how is it possible that he should not be full of dissension, who finds a pleasure in living, and willingly continues in a life as one who was produced into existence in a becoming manner by his parents, and yet conceives that for him to procreate others is one among the number of things which are to be rejected? -Hierocles, How We Ought to Conduct Ourselves to Our Kindred

The philosophy of ancient Stoicism, as we’ll address in later chapters, is making a resurgence today as a practical guide to living. For now, I’ll note that it remains to be seen to what extent the reasoned Stoic embrace of the sanctity and beauty of marriage between one man and one woman, and the fruits of their union in terms of large families, will ultimately be embraced or rejected in our time.

Copyright 2016 Kevin Vost


Kevin Vost holds a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) from Adler University in Chicago. He has taught psychology and gerontology at Aquinas College in Nashville, the University of Illinois at Springfield, MacMurray College, and Lincoln Land Community College. He has served as a research review committee member for American Mensa, an organization promoting the scientific study of human intelligence, and as an advisory board member for the International Association of Resistance Trainers, an organization that certifies personal fitness trainees. Dr. Vost can be reached through his website: www.drvost.com.

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Gerard M. Verschuuren: Science Does Not Give Us a Moral Compass

Monarch Butterfly on a FlowerQuite a few animals have a built-in compass. We don’t exactly know how it works, but it does work. It lets monarch butterflies migrate south in the winter and then back again; it lets honey bees find their nest back; and it lets homing pigeons return to their home. But human beings do not have such a compass, so they can go easily off track. Humans need special artificial tools to help them go in the right direction—tools such as a magnetic compass or a GPS device. But on moral terrain, such tools will not help much to find the way. That’s why we can easily get lost in moral dilemmas, unless we have also some kind of moral compass.

I love science—it has been so good to us most of the time—but science is not going to give us a moral compass. Science deals with the way the world is, not how the world ought to be. The way things are does not tell us the way things should be. So science cannot really be our moral compass. In fact, morality is about something that is outside the scope of biology, actually beyond the reach of science. Morality is about good and evil, right and wrong. Closely related to matters of right and wrong are the moral concepts of rights and duties. Rights are something other human beings morally owe us and ought to do to us; duties are something we morally owe other human beings and ought to do to them. Somehow duties and rights go hand in hand and have a natural reciprocity. The duty of self-preservation comes with the right of self-preservation; the duty to protect life goes with the right of life’s protection; the duty to acknowledge human dignity involves also the right to claim it; the right to live implicates also the duty to live.

Science in itself is blind to all of this, so it cannot possibly discern anything that is on its “blind spot.” Therefore, science cannot control morality, but it is actually the other way around—morality ought to control science instead. Nazi-doctors such as Joseph Mengele show us what happens when morality does not control their scientific research. Morality can interrogate science, but science cannot question morality—it is beyond its reach.

It is for this reason that science cannot ignore morality. And yet so many scientists do. Since many medical doctors know more about biology than about morality—because the latter is usually not taught at medical schools—this makes them think that everything that is biologically possible is also morally permissible. As a matter of fact, bio-scientists have been trained and indoctrinated to look at life as a purely molecular phenomenon. Well, molecules can be big or small but not moral or immoral. Besides, scientists have been trained and brainwashed to put any morals aside and do their research in a so-called “morally neutral” way. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly protests (CCC 2294): “It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications.” Even Albert Einstein realized this when he spoke of “the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.”

VERSCHUUREN-Lifes-Journey-full-388px-600pxThis is one of the reasons why I wrote my latest book, Life’s Journey: A Guide from Conception to Growing Up, Growing Old, and Natural Death. It describes life’s journey the way biology sees it, but then uses our moral compass to judge matters of life and death that surround these biological stages of life—issues such as abortion, transgender, addictions, genetic testing, euthanasia, and death. A human body is more than a bag of genes, enzymes, or hormones. Therefore, this book discusses each stage of life’s journey in two parts: a part about its biology and a part about the moral, philosophical, and religious aspects of it.

I don’t think we should always give biologists and physicians the last word. In this book they get the first word and set the right tone, but it is my strong conviction that there is more to life than what scientists tell us when they dish out their scientific facts. I tried not to be too much of a scientist for philosophical minds and not too much of a philosopher for scientific minds. I deeply believe they can learn from each other. One cannot be without the other. We need facts before we can reflect, but facts without reflection are meaningless. To make the right moral decisions we need the scientific facts combined with sound moral guidelines. That is exactly what this book does. I know you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Copyright 2016 Gerard M. Verschuuren

“Monarch Butterfly on a Flower” by AcrylicArtist (2015) via Morguefile.

GERARD M. VERSCHUUREN is a human geneticist who also earned a doctorate in the philosophy of science. Now semi-retired, he spends most of his time as a writer, speaker, and consultant on the interface of science and religion, creation and evolution, faith and reason. His most recent books include What Makes You Tick?: A New Paradigm for Neuroscience (Solas Press, 2012); The Destiny of the Universe: In Pursuit of the Great Unknown (Paragon House, 2014); Five Anti-Catholic Myths: Slavery, Crusades, Inquisition, Galileo, Holocaust (Angelico Press, 2015); and Life’s Journey: A Guide from Conception to Growing Up, Growing Old, and Natural Death (Angelico Press, 2016).

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The Way of Beauty as Graduate Theology Textbook

CLAYTON-The-Way-of-Beauty-200-px-300pxThe Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, part of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley University in California, is offering a new Certificate in Theological Studies for working artists which features David Clayton’s The Way of Beauty as a core textbook. This Masters-level certificate is designed to help artists “augment their expertise with a specialized focus in the relationship of the fine arts to Catholic worship and culture.”

Students will be taught how, through philosophy and theology, to evangelize the culture using their unique creativity without compromising core principals of traditional Christian culture. The courses will focus on the relationship of sacred art to sacred liturgy, the philosophical and theological foundations for the anthropological and transcendent aspects of art, and will provide the basic principals for using the fine arts as a vehicle for preaching the gospel to the contemporary culture.

The four courses needed to complete the Certificate in Theological Studies program with a specialization in Sacred Arts are:

1. Foundational Principles of Catholic Liturgy and Worship

2. Liturgical Piety: Anthropological Foundations of Catholic Worship

3. One Elective offering from any advisor-approved Religion and the Arts course. (These are the courses particularly that will have practical elements, such as painting.)

4. Christian Iconography

To learn more about this certificate or David Clayton’s The Way of Beauty, visit David Clayton’s website.

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