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St Jerome (340 – 420) My confirmation Saint is Jerome, the doctor of the Church. His pugnacity and attention to Scripture are what...

Friday, October 14, 2016

The "Banker" turned Undertaker St. Callistus

Along the lines of St. Matthew and T.S. Eliot, Today’s St. Callistus the 1st was a repentant banker.  Early on in his life, he squandered the entrusted funds of widows in Rome. 

Sent to the mines to do hard labor, Callistus later encountered the mercy of Christ in his exile and was released on account of his own confession of faith.  As proof of his repentance, he took charge of a cemetery in Rome, which was posthumously named the Catacombs of St. Callistus. 

JPII says of the place:

«I am conscious of the important historical and spiritual significance of these monuments» John Paul II said in a recent address to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology. «By visiting these monuments, one comes into contact with the evocative traces of early Christianity, and one can, so to speak, tangibly sense the faith that motivated these ancient Christian communities... How can we fail to be moved by the humble but eloquent traces of these first witnesses to the faith?». Then considering the goals of the Year 2000, the Pope concluded: «Today attention is focused on the historic event of the Great Jubilee, when the Roman catacombs will again become a favourite place of prayer and pilgrimage... Together with the great Roman basilicas, the catacombs should be a necessary destination for the Holy Year pilgrims».[1]       

From squandering money at the bank for widows to his conversion as an undertaker, St. Callistus could have been remembered merely for the events of his early life.  But he actually was elected Pope in the 3rd Century AD!  Then he was martyred in Rome, not far from where he had been a banker years before.

[1] http://www.vatican.va//jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01091997_p-70_en.html#top

Monday, October 10, 2016

Santa Maria

Coming from Columbus, Ohio I have always admired Christopher Columbus.  There is a beautiful replica of his flagship, Santa Maria, in my hometown and I have boarded it many times for tours, etc.  The Knights of Columbus are named after the Explorer of course and JPII was a staunch advocate of theirs, including in his native Poland.

Rather than try to defend Columbus or the Knights, who are easily defended in the faith, I was impressed a few years ago to see Apocalypto.  This is the story of a native of the new world who was captured and nearly subjected to human sacrifice.  He then escaped, and after finding his family well, views in the distant a ship much like the Santa Maria. 

The question is, were the natives of the New World better off without the Conquistadors like Columbus?  Were they better off with human sacrifice and slavery by dominant tribes?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

T.S. Eliot, St. Matthew, and JPII

On Eliot's Friends

The Ex-patriot poet Eliot worked at Lloyd’s Bank in London from 1917-1925[1].   Upon leaving, he published his more famous Waste Land, but I have come to thoroughly enjoy his Choruses from the Rock.  Especially on this feast of St. Matthew, who was himself called from “el banco” to follow the Word Incarnate, I find Eliot’s story fascinating.   He says in the Rock:

We will build with new timbers/ Where the Word is unspoken[…]/ When the Stranger says: “what is the meaning of this city?/ Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”/ What will you answer? “We all dwell together/ To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?/ Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger./  Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

St. Matthew rose and followed “the Stranger/ the Word”.  Eliot did the same, though in sickness, heartache and feeble attempts at marriage and family life.  He may have known well the words of Jesus: “Those who are well need not the Physician, but the sick do” as his health deteriorated after the death of his father:

Yet the years of Eliot's literary maturation were accompanied by increasing family worries. Eliot's father died in January 1919, producing a paroxysm of guilt in the son who had hoped he would have time to heal the bad feelings caused by his marriage and emigration. At the same time Vivien's emotional and physical health deteriorated, and the financial and emotional strain of her condition took its toll. After an extended visit in the summer of 1921 from his mother and sister Marion, Eliot suffered a nervous collapse and, on his physician's advice, took a three month's rest cure, first on the coast at Margate and then at a sanitarium Russell's friend Lady Ottoline Morell recommended at Lausanne, Switzerland[…] Whether because of the breakdown or the long needed rest it imposed, Eliot broke through a severe writer's block and completed a long poem he had been working on since 1919. Assembled out of dramatic vignettes based on Eliot's London life, The Waste Land's extraordinary intensity stems from a sudden fusing of diverse materials into a rhythmic whole of great skill and daring.[2]

Only after he passed through the Waste Land (1922) did he stumble upon the Rock (1934).  His wife loved his tenure at Lloyd’s, as it was conducive to family life and stability.  He himself spoke highly of it at times, despite pressure from his communist peers to abandon it (esp. Ezra Pound) [2b].  Unlike other radical poets of those days, Eliot had the combination of business and art at his disposal.  However, the time came in what appeared to be a prolonged conversion for Eliot (not to communism!), immediately following his sickness:

A lucky chance allowed him to escape from the demands of his job at the bank. Geoffrey Faber, of the new publishing firm of Faber and Gwyer (later Faber and Faber), saw the advantages of Eliot's dual expertise in business and letters and recruited him as literary editor. At about the same time, Eliot reached out for religious support. Having long found his family's Unitarianism unsatisfying, he turned to the Anglican church. The seeds of his future faith can be found in The Hollow Men, though the poem was read as a sequel to The Waste Land's philosophical despair when it appeared in Poems 1909-1925 (1925). In June 1927 few followers were prepared for Eliot's baptism into the Church of England. And so, within five years of his avant-garde success, Eliot provoked a second storm. The furor grew in November 1927 when Eliot took British citizenship, and again in 1928 when he collected a group of politically conservative essays under the title of For Lancelot Andrewes, prefacing them with a declaration that he considered himself a "classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion."[3]

He followed the Word from despair to hope.

Not long after the Rock, Eliot also published a Catholic play based on the life of St. Thomas Becket.  Murder in the Cathedral marked the proof of a profound change of his worldview.  It’s no wonder that these later works of his are not recognized in the secular canon.  But in the life of the Church, they are small memorable and instrumental steps in re-uniting the Anglican to the Catholic Church.  St. John Paul II said of St Thomas Becket:

In making my pilgrimage to the shrine of the martyr, Saint Thomas Becket, I sought to play a part in healing the terrible wounds inflicted on the Body of Christ in the sixteenth century. We prayed together there, Your Grace and I, for that wholeness, that fullness of life in Christ which is God’s gift of unity[…] My pilgrimage to Canterbury was motivated by obedience to the will of Christ our Lord who, on the night before he died prayed “that they all may be one”. Today the divisions among Christians require that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome should also be a primacy in action and initiative in favour of that unity for which Christ so earnestly prayed. I see our celebration of Evening Prayer together as a further moment in that ecumenical pilgrimage that Catholics and Anglicans, together with other Christians, are called to make. Our goal is to discover once more that common inheritance of faith which was shared before the tragic sequence of events which divided Christian Europe four centuries ago.[4]

And again, Eliot and JPII intersect in the person of Emmanuel Mounier whom Eliot featured in his 1937 edition of his periodical The Criterion.  Eliot's French Catholic friend, Montgomery Belgion, introduced Eliot to Mounier:

By the January 1937 number of The Criterion (XVI, 63), a very incisive analysis of the fast-shrinking economic middle way is given once again by Montgomery Belgion in the “French Chronicle.” After observing that “To-day the French Right is as revolutionary as the Left,” Belgion points to a corrective third path, to be found in the work of Emmanuel Mounier. [2c]

And the footnote given for the above quote goes on to say:

In “The Need for Economic Personalism” can be found the major influence that Mounier’s work had on Karol Wojtyla’s development of the tenets that would become personalism: ‘Wojtyla and his Polish colleagues read Mounier with intense interest. In Mounier, they found the first philosophical account of the human intellect and intersubjectivity’ [2d]

I also recommend Wyoming Catholic College’s study of Eliot’s life in the light of Christian hope:

In my own life, I remember being at the bank in Westerville, OH when once a week I began to go to Mass at Mt. Carmel-St. Anne's Hospital.  There, I heard the call of the Divine Physician to fatherhood, and within the next nine months my first son was born at that same Hospital.  I was so familiar with the place, that the doctors thought I was on staff there! 

[1] http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/Our-Group/our-heritage/2015-our-milestone-year/250-years-of-lloyds-bank/did-you-know/
[3] http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm
[4] http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1989/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19890930_xxvi-domenica-per-annum.html

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friendship, Chaput and JPII

Update 9/5/16:
A few great points by Chaput, differentiating between loyalty and fidelity,

"The root of loyalty is the French word loi (law).  The root of fidelity is the Latin word fides (trust).  Loyalty is ordered to duty and fidelity is ordered to love.  And real love, as every mature adult knows, is both beautiful and demanding." (213).

I find this striking insofar as cuts to the quick of much of Jesus' own critique of his contemporaries.  It also speaks of St. Faustina's image: Jezu ufam tobie.  Loyalty can be done for all the wrong reasons, as in adhering to the illogical conclusions of Roe v. Wade in America.  Fidelity, on the other hand, clings to the trustworthiness of a Person, the Son of God.

This makes all the difference in the world for Wojtyla's approach as well; since without trust, there is no sympathy down the road, and vice versa:
Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills (Trust & Sympathy) → Virtue of Hope (Trust & Sympathy)

A few lessons I've learned from the Capuchin Archbishop Chaput after reading his Render Unto Caesar:

Evangelization should accompany friendship
  • If it does not then the friendship is not genuine (190)
    • The reason being that Christ himself is the 1st love and Cause of friendship
  • An aspect of missionary activity should also be involved (193)
His main premise is that "the Gospel spreads by personal contact and friendship" (190).  It is hard to argue against this, seeing as how many saints were close friends: Ignatius and Xavier, Francis and Claire, to name a few.

But what exactly mission would have to do with a potentially insular relationship like friendship would be a harder sell.  For this reason, immediately following his statement on friendship, Chaput references JPII's Centesimus Annus:

We need to root the social dimension of our Catholic faith, and everything else we do, in God's love, which is the fuel for our mission of evangelization.  Pope John Paul II reminded us that Catholic social doctrine, at its root, is missionary.  It is 'an instrument of evangelization'. (193)

When I speak of friendship on this level of evangelization I am often met with a major misunderstanding and offense.  "You mean friends aren't those I choose to 'just get along' with?" and, "there needs to be some kind of agenda when it comes to spending time with my friends?"

My answer, for theirs and for one's own sake, is "that's correct, friendship is for evangelization and mission too".

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wojtyla y Amistades

Differing definitions of friendship: “people who hang out together”, “people who just get along”, “share each other’s interests”, etc.  Rather than friendship, I would classify these explanations under what Karol Wojtyla called in Love and Responsibility: “sympathy”[1].  Sympathy certainly has a place in many relationships, but it is not true friendship.

Wojtyla draws his definition of friendship unmistakably from St. Thomas Aquinas[2]. While sympathy plays an initial and later supplemental role in fostering friendship, it is ultimately the will according to Wojtyla and Aquinas which sustains friendship.  Even more specifically, the will as gifted with hope in turn provides for true friendship.  Placed in sequence then, ideal friendship between persons runs this course:

Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills → Virtue of Hope   

Far too often today, “friendship” remains on the sentimental and sympathetic level.  And unfortunately, Wojtyla indicates in romantic relationships especially, “As soon as sympathy breaks down they often feel that love too has come to an end”[3].  Yet, the other danger, in which Wojtyla seems to differ from Aquinas, is that when friendship grows cold it must be supplemented by sympathy[4].  As in the case with marriage, a “union of wills” does not necessarily provide for a successfully long-term relationship.  Likewise, Daniel Schwartz notes about Aquinas’ view of friendship that the virtue of hope must be active in addition to “conformity of wills”[5].      

The necessity of sympathy is a given as it fosters many relationships anyway, strictly based on “subjective intensity”[6] of encounter with another.  Hope, on the other hand, does not reveal itself as necessary until the temptation towards distrust begins to creep into relationships.  That is to say,

uncertainty about what a friend or potential friend wants and desires can be an obstacle to friendship. And the same goes for certain sorts of uncertainty about what a friend will want and desire in the future. In chapter five Schwartz discusses, first, Aquinas's view that we should presume good of others, unless there be evidence to the contrary, and hence that we should presume that people mean what they say, other things being equal and unless there be evidence to the contrary. (Schwartz calls this a ‘presumption of authenticity’.) Second, Schwartz tries to show how hope, for Aquinas, can be an aid to friendship, by being a cause of friendship, by sustaining friendship, and by warding off the ‘destructive social impact of despair’.[7]

So again, Wojtyla appears to differ from Aquinas in this respect by supplying sympathy as a ‘cause’ of friendship while Aquinas supplies ‘hope’.  But as I have indicated elsewhere, St. Thomas Aquinas does not exclude emotions from the dynamism of love as many suppose he does!  Rather, Aquinas’ proposal of hope as crucial to sustaining friendship includes the emotions and sympathy just as Wojtyla would not exclude the virtue of hope either.  The following sequence continues to apply to both Wojtyla and Aquinas’ view, though I would note a supplement of sympathy moreso in Wojtyla’s approach:

 Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills (& Sympathy) → Virtue of Hope (& Sympathy)

This sequence would readily agree with Pope Francis’ more recent insistence on the necessity of tenderness in relationships, or more aptly named “mercy” which Aquinas deemed as God’s most potent attribute! 


[1] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility.  “From Sympathy to Friendship” 88-94ff Ignatius: San Francisco, 1981.

[2] Aquinas’ own definition surprisingly differed from Aristotle’s: Justice was essential to Aquinas’ view of friendship whereas to Aristotle, ‘when men are friends they have no need of justice’ (Nicomachean Ethics 1155a 26).

[3] Ibid, 90.  See also Wojtyla’s ‘Libidinistic’ Interpretation (61).

[4] Ibid, 91.  See also Wojtyla’s ‘Rigorist’ Interpretation (57).  Pope Francis has also termed sympathy as ‘tenderness’.

[5] Daniel Schwartz, Aquinas on Friendship, Oxford University Press, 2007, 189pp.,

[6] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility.  “From Sympathy to Friendship” 90

[7] Michael Rota, University of St. Thomas reviews: Daniel Schwartz, Aquinas on Friendship, Oxford University Press, 2007, 189pp.

Although originally 2 different posts I have combined these under common theme

A group of friends drawn initially together by the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, included: Max Scheler, Edith Stein, Hedwig Martius, and Roman Ingarden. There were many more great minds in the following of Husserl (including Heidegger and Von Hildebrand) but I find the relationships of these four significant on the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross because of the effect that they had on the person of Edith Stein and her legacy.

Max Scheler, for his part, is credited by lecturer Benjamin Gibbs as having empowered Stein “to take religious ideas and attitudes seriously for the first time since her adolescence”[1] In Stein's own words, Max Scheler had almost mythic status:

One’s first impression of Scheler was fascination. I have never encountered the phenomenon of genius so clearly in any other person. His large blue eyes seemed to radiate the light of amore exalted world. His features were handsome and noble; yet life had left some devastating traces in his face.[2]

It's interesting to note, that Husserl and Scheler authored philosophical works which provided an alternative to 'psychologism' or the scientific pretentions of psychology.[3] Since Freud's work would have been popularly widespread in their day, I can only guess as to why they would be formulating a much more sound phenomenology than the be-all/end-all discipline of psychoanalysis.  I have written elsewhere of Scheler’s refutation of psychology and was unaware that this was also one of Husserl’s tenants of Phenomenology.  Indeed, Gibbs notes that this point was one of the first things that drew Stein to Husserl.  Gibbs notes, “Edith studied psychology at Breslau University for four semesters. By then she had become discontented with psychology’s lack of a scientific basis”[4] What is meant by “science” here is simply an ordered, logical basis in accord with reality.  Something she found much more apparent in Husserl’s Logical Investigations.

Besides Scheler, Stein found lifelong friends in Hedwig Martius (later Conrad-Martius), Roman Ingarden and Adolf Reinach (and his wife Anne).  Though Hedwig decided to convert to Lutheranism, it was in her family library that Edith found the Life of St. Teresa of Avila.  Famously, though the exact details are lacking, Edith’s own words relate:

For twelve years Carmel had been my goal, since the summer of 1921 when the Life of our holy mother Teresa came into my hands and put an end to my long search for the true faith.[5]

Her friend Roman Ingarden, a Polish philosopher from Krakow, would later become a teacher of Karol Wojtyla.  The two friends corresponded about numerous topics, both philosophical and personal.  Gibbs notes that both Ingarden and another professor named Hans Lipps may have been romantic interests for Stein,

According to Hedwig Conrad-Martius – Edith’s philosophical colleague and friend Hans Lipps. But her love for him was not reciprocated; at least, it was evident that Lipps didn’t want to marry her. Another object of Edith’s affections may have been Roman Ingarden, to whom she wrote over 150 letters, mostly reporting the details of her work with Husserl. In one letter Edith addressed Ingarden as ‘Mein Liebling’ – ‘my dear’.  But he returned to Poland early in 1918 and married a school doctor the following year. Edith wrote congratulating him on his marriage, and asked him to burn any personal letters from her that he might have kept.[6]

Roman Ingarden would have been the teacher to relay Max Scheler to the young Karol Wojtyla in Poland.  Gibbs notes, “The future Pope wrote his Habilitationsschrift on the ethical theory of Max Scheler”.  Through Ingarden as well, Wojtyla must have been introduced to the person and though of Stein.  He too would later canonize her as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. 

It’s fascinating to trace how the friendships that arose from the initial followers of Husserl made a tremendous impact on history, even to the degree that Karol Wojtyla would adopt much of the thought of the Phenomenologists.  However, a sad note is the subsequent break of Husserl with his students as he distanced himself especially from Stein on account of her being an ambitious woman in a “male profession”.  His own thought became more and more disjointed, whereas his students carried the integrity of the Göttingen school far beyond his reach. 

Benjamin Gibbs study of Edith Steins life, to which I refer often here, does not claim to cover the entirety of her story and makes no mention of her sister Rose’s journey to Carmel with her.  What he intended to do was to collect previously untranslated German letters of Stein, as well as include her unfinished Autobiography, Life in a Jewish Family, as major sources in the corpus of Stein’s life (because only the popular but imprecise memoir of Teresa Benedicta as written by Sr Teresia Renata Posselt was available as yet).  He does well to fill and blanks in her life, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the network of philosophers who influenced her ultimately toward Catholicism. 

A final note regarding Stein's "friendship" with Husserl.  It lacked "sympathy", even though Stein herself attempted to reconcile "empathy" with Husserl's discipline in her own painstaking work on the subject.  Their relationship only reflected the "conformity of wills" aspect of the following sequence (although the conformity of Husserl's will is questionable):

Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills → Virtue of Hope  

Indeed she often refers to him as "the master", which unfortunately reveals a master/slave dynamic at work, especially since he would not allow her to become his peer professionally and kept her at the level of secretary.

On the other hand, her longstanding friendships e.g. Roman Ingarden did reflect this sequence:

Sympathy→ Conformity of Wills (& Sympathy) → Virtue of Hope (& Sympathy),

and she found that they too disagreed with Husserl.  Her work with empathy turned out to be the last scholarly chance for Husserl to change his thinking, and unfortunately he did not.



[1] Gibbs, Benjamin. ‘My long search for the true faith’: The Conversion of Edith Stein. www.carmelite.org/documents/Heritage/gibbsconversionofstein.pdf, May 2012 p.12. It's important to note also that Gibbs mentions often how Stein was not an atheistic philosopher in principle, she merely 'stopped praying' at one point in her young life, and she did not begin again until interacting with brilliant philosophers in Gottingen, Germany.

[2] Stein, Edith. Life in a Jewish Family, An Autobiography. translated by Josephine Koeppel, OCD. http://www.sistersofcarmel.com/edith-stein-life-in-a-jewish-family/ 1933­

[3] Gibbs, Benjamin. ‘My long search for the true faith’: The Conversion of Edith Stein. www.carmelite.org/documents/Heritage/gibbsconversionofstein.pdf, May 2012 p.7. “For Edith, the attractive features of Husserl’s phenomenology were:(1) Husserl’s repudiation of the scientific pretensions of psychology, and of ‘psychologism’ -

the error of conflating the formal sciences of logic and pure mathematics with the empiricalmethods of psychology.”  Psychologism is essentially the belief that psychology can explain all phenomena.


[4] Gibbs, Benjamin. ‘My long search for the true faith’: The Conversion of Edith Stein. P.6  Edith herself says, All my study of psychology had persuaded me that this science [phenomenology] was in its infancy; it still lacked clear basic concepts; furthermore, there was no one who could establish such an essential foundation. On the other hand, what I had learned about phenomenology so far fascinated me tremendously, because it consisted precisely of such a labour of clarification and because, here, one forged one’s own mental tools for the task at hand. (LJF 222)

[5] in die Hände gefallen war’. The translation in Posselt (2005) renders the German incorrectly as ‘had happened to fall into my hands’, thus appearing to support Posselt’s claim that Edith came across the book by chance. (ESGA I, 350; cf. Posselt 118).

[6] Gibbs: Letter of 1948 to Fr John Oesterreicher, in Never Forget, ed. W. Herbstrith (ICS 1998), 266.