Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Barack Obama

I had a friend from Poland e-mail me this speech from Barack Obama and he asked me some questions that he was hoping for my feedback on. The speech can be found here:


My friend asked me the following questions, which I hope I answer to his satisfaction:

What do you think of it? Is it a hijack of religious language? Is it a Trojan horse into Christian mindset? Or maybe Obama has right to formulate his opinions using religious language? And by using Christian language he is legitimizing it? Or maybe he is rather discrediting it or abusing it?
Before I get started, I would like to say that Obama is quite the rhetorician. He really knows how to speak the talk of the right while not actually buying into anything that it stands for. It is very clear that he is trying to please both sides, saying that our duty is to the progressive ideal while saying it is not fundamentally opposed to having been informed by religion. I will have to say, I can see how easy it is to be carried by his sway, but his colours showed deep down through his clever use of language in an attempt to appease all sides. In fact, I believe the following paragraph illustrates this perfectly:
Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of "thou" and not just "I," resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal
What do you think of it?

As I write this I am still finishing the talk. It is quite intriguing because he puts in many attractive statements, only to follow them with subtle arguments that, if one is not careful, will fall into the razzle dazzle of his smoke and light show.

What was eerie for me was that all I could think about was Fr. Elijah by Michael O'Brien. The politician who was able to convince people of all faiths that they were all right, yet in a subtle way so as they could think that they could still be who they claimed to be. It eerie how similar it was to that book as I was reading this to be completely honest. The man who would bring world peace by bringing an end to division, a division which, at its root (according to the world) is in religion. Religion is what divides, but according to Obama, it is our reason that unites.

It is weird because I read a paragraph and think to myself "right on!" only to follow it up with a "oh, I see where he's going" and quickly see the error of the original excitement. I hope to address the rest of the observations in the remainder of the questions.

Is it a hijack of religious language?

I am of the firm opinion that this speech is a definite hijack of religious language. He is using it all over the place, but that is precisely the point, he is using it. It is funny how at one point he is talking about the universality of morality, while at another point saying that some basic moral precepts are only right for some cultures and not for all.

I really am just amazed about the subtle contradictions. What I am even more amazed about is that I think he is fully aware of the contradictions, but says them because he knows that the average joe will not see these contradictions and see that progressivism and faith are actually the best of buddies and are not mutually exclusive.

One spot I noticed the hijacking to be at its height was at the following:

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors, friends of mine like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like our good friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality.

First I thought to myself "wow, he knows Rick Warren!" After regaining my senses, I looked at this and thought "he is using religious convictions to promote ideals that are not necessarily religious." I can't remember the last time we have talked about the role of budget cuts in our attaining salvation. But that just might be my lack of exposure. He says at one point that we can't have our religious convictions influence our political decisions in matters like abortion and homosexual marriage, while at other points, such as the above quoted paragraph, he is saying we need to exercise our religious faith in the public square. This is ok, of course, because it is in line with the progressive agenda. It seems, in the end, Obama is saying that faith is ok in the public square only when it is in according with the progressive agenda, which to Obama, seems to be the true revealer of all that is true.

Is it a Trojan horse into Christian mindset?

I will be brief here. I will simply say that yes, it is a Trojan horse. He is talking about things that every religious person has a deep concern about and says to them "yes, you are right for having a deep conviction of faith". That is his way in, and he talks the language they talk, but it is through that language that he subtly moves his progressive agenda in. For example, he says "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values." He is using a language that many Christians are accustomed to, the idea of universals. But he seems to think that if it is universal, it is in conflict with religiously based morals, as if religion cannot attain an understanding of morality, unless it is the version he is touting with the progressive flag. 'Nuff said there.

Or maybe Obama has right to formulate his opinions using religious language?

Well, Obama does have the right to formulate his opinions using religious language. However, the question needs to be asked if this formulation is in accordance with truth. I think the Catholics who read my blog would say no, it is not a proper religious infusion into language. The inherent contradictions alone make it contrary to "religious-speak"! The idea that things can be universal, but also relative, and so forth. Yes, he has the right, but is he forming it right? I think he is not.

And by using Christian language he is legitimizing it? Or maybe he is rather discrediting it or abusing it?

I think the first part of this question hits the problem dead on. He is attempting to legitimate his perspective of the issues by throwing in Christian language. By speaking the language many conservatives would use, he is speaking at their level and engaging them in a way I am sure they are not used to by a progressive. Furthermore, he is quick on his feet and subtle, so it is tough to see that he has inherently wrong positions, but he is crafty enough to cover them up with statements that conservatives would like to hear.

I think, however, the second part of the question answers the remainder of the first. In the end, he is hijacking something that is not his. If he is really a relativist, who sees religion informing your public opinion only when it is in accordance with the progressive agenda, then he is definitely discrediting and abusing such a style of talking.

I would like to make one final comment. He sure liked to throw in his Catholic jab. He notes that "a majority" of Catholics practice birth control and are not opposed to the legalization of same sex marriage. First off, I would like to know how he knows that this is what the majority of Catholics do. Secondly, just because the majority does it, doesn't mean it is right. He is saying that the Bishops have to encourage their faithful to oppose birth control and same sex marriage on a personal level, but in the public sphere it can only be the progressive truth. I wonder how the heck you can encourage people to be anti-birth control privately while saying at the same time they are right for practicing it.

I think it is unfortunate that Barack fundamentally falls into so many easy errors. I think it is even more unfortunate, however, that this man has such command of the U.S. public. This man is indeed quite smart, and he knows how to use the right words to speak to the right people. But he uses those words to his advantage so that he can lure people into voting for him, , if he pulled the usual progressive lines, would usually not.

It is interesting what he is saying. He sees the conservative movement as having a control over the majority in the US and he sees that the only way to engage is to speak their language. It is a very brilliant move, I must admit. I just hope that those on the conservative side show that he really is not speaking their language at all. If only Barack could see it.


Environment more important then humanity, say some

There was an interesting article on Maclean's that I read today:


It is discussing the nature of humanity, that the only way to save the environment (and humanity, maybe, if we're nice enough) is to stop having babies.

In fact, some would even go so far as to say "Save the world, kill yourself" (though one of course has to comment about the obvious rebuttals of "well, why haven't you done your part yet?").

Anyways, it just shocks me at what people are saying. They think that because man produces so much carbon just by breathing that he is a threat to the environment. Well, I hate to bust their bubble, but there are things on this Earth that produce far more carbon then Man. I'm not wanting to get into the environmental science issue of this article, however.

What shocks me about it is that there are people in the world who think that having more people is a bad thing. This is a direct attack on the philosophical Principle of Plenitude which states (if you take the Augustinian view of Beauty as a proper way of describing reality) that the more being there is in the created realm, the better it is. That is, a universe that is the most full is the best possible one. If man is meant to yearn for beauty, then to have a world with less of Man, then beauty is no longer an essential thing for man. I think many can agree that a world without beauty will be a world without truth and love, and that is a world, in contradiction with the last line of the article, is explicitly anti-human.


I was having dinner with a friend this evening and it was very fruitful.

One thing we were discussing was, well, the nature of discussion!

Fundamentally, we saw a problem in society that is made very present in every day life and that many people do not realize as being a serious problem.

The serious problem is the culture's unwillingness to enter into dialogue. How true this is in our day to day lives! I blame this on a current of thought that has really permeated modernity in a fierce way. It comes down to the Ockham vs. Aquinas debate of primacy of will vs. primacy of reason. When dialogue is not happening, people are not only unwilling to listen, they are unwilling to engage. When you are unwilling to engage, for whatever reason, you try and figure out a way for your point of view to be engaged. If you are unwilling to engage in an authentic way (that is, through dialogue), then the only other means you have is to impose your will. And thus you cease listening and talking, and instead shout (in a figurative manner, though even then that isn't always the case!) until you impose your will far better then those you are attempting to have a discussion with.

This is, of course, a bit of an oversimplification of the matter, but I think a matter that desperately needs our attention! We see so much the need for engaging, but engagement can only happen in dialogue.

There is a few things that must be recognized in dialogue:

A) That a dialogue means a dual logos, dual reasons, dual logics. Thus, you recognize that there are 2 points of view that do not exactly see eye to eye. But because they are based in the pursuit of truth, then there is always going to be a kernal of truth in both position.

B) A willingness to see the reasonableness of the other position. The desire on both sides, for authentic dialogue, is so that both can come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Truth.

C) Maturity is also needed. Maturity in dialogue is expressed when there is authentic listening and there is no shouting. You cannot simply say "you are wrong" or "you're so stubborn" unless you give a reason!! for that position.

I think all 3 things are lacking in our culture. Relativism is having an especially daunting effect on the nature of dialogue, for if there is no truth, then there is no reason based in truth, and thus no opportunity for dialogue. Instead, relativism brings about the idea of the survival of the fittest.

Anyways, that is just a brief reflection on the nature of dialogue. I would recommend you analyze your day to day life and see if those 3 conditions are being fulfilled in good, authentic conversations. If they're not, then a dialogue will not be flourishing.



I was having some excellent conversations this evening with a couple of friends who keep me up far too late on work nights. But it really is too difficult to leave for the discussions are pure, honest, and sincere in their willingness to be open to the truth of the other side. This leads to an authentic search for truth and authentic dialogue happens. It is really a lot of fun (though I'm sure I won't be saying that when I wake up in 5 hours!)

Anyways, there was a point in my discussion tonight that I just could not let pass and had to write it down.

It was to do with Canada and Culture.

We have talked about this a couple times over the past few days, the ideas of what it means to be Canadian and if there really is something called a "Canadian Culture". If there is, why don't we know what it is, and we should go back into history and search it out. If there isn't, is it possible to create one authentically and organically 140 years after the institution of the country?

These are answers none of us have at the moment, from our conversations, and it has at least inspired me to research it at greater depth.

What really interested me, however, was that I also saw Canada being at a crossroads. There is a great hope I see for the future of Canada, and the Church plays nothing but an essential role in this. Where this is coming from is my generation. My generation has had the desire for a true expression of the human person. They have been exploring the riches of the Western Tradition to see this and have found it. Now, my generation is beginning to grow up and take an active role in society.

The question is, can what we see to be a culture worthy of the human person come out of an organic desire in a country that seems to have no unified culturally identity? I think my generation is beginning a great cultural renaissance. They are engaging all aspects of life, from the arts, the intellectual realm, the universities, politics, business, health care, etc. They see that the only way for having a robust and excelling culture is if it is rooted in a faith in God and strong moral conditions. Unfortunately, these are 2 conditions missing from the foundations of a Canadian culture at this point in history.

This just leads me to further pondering, but I will have to do that on my bed as I am passing out! Is it possible to renew a culture if we don't know what our cultural identity is? Is it possible to organically create a true cultural expression? Is there really any hope in Canada? These are important questions that I think we honestly need to ask ourselves.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Underlining Changes

I had quite an in depth conversation with some members of my parish today. It all began with the discussion of Michael Moore's new movie Sicko. I quickly gave a rebuttal against the movie, though I haven't seen it, knowing how slanted his opinions can be. One person was claiming how triumphant the movie is in giving the American system the black eye it so deserves.

I quickly said that the problem is not with the system. If we look at the system and how it works, it is actually the most efficient system. What has happened is that the culture is corrupted, and this leads to a false living of political and economic systems. I said that Americans have known for a long time that there are problems inherent in the culture at the moment. However, the problem is precisely a cultural one in which money and materials things are put in front of people. This is expressed in the day to day lives, in the political system, in the economic system, in how they treat people in their health care system.

This got us on to a huge discussion about the nature of what it means to be Canadian and how there is not a huge sense in that, in that Canadians define themselves through the via negativa, that is, through what they are not instead of what they are.

Fundamentally, what is at the root of this discussion, a point I was constantly emphasizing, is that the problems in Health Care in the US are not just a US problem. It is an expression of a problem in Western Civilization. The problem is the loss of the cultural roots in God and in a moral life. Fundamentally, the West is in a cultural crisis, not a political or economic one.

I gave them the example of Poland. Communism was taking a hold of the country, but it was Divine Providence that a Polish Pope was elected. What JP II started was a cultural renaissance, bringing back the idea of what it means to be Polish. Through this re-identification in a deeper sense of what it means to be Polish, the culture eventually expressed itself politically and economically through the fall of Communism.

This cultural need is something that the Communists saw as a threat, as did the Nazis. It is no wonder that they wanted to destroy Polish history, all that it stood for, all the literary, artistic, musical, philosophical, economic, and political achievements. These were expressions of a cultural identity. The Communists and Nazis saw these things as a danger to the formation of the totalitarian culture it was trying to impose. It is this reason they attempted to destroy their cultural roots.

During his pontificate, even after the fall of Communism, JP II saw the absolute need for a cultural revolution. He saw the deeply seeded materialistic tendencies that were overcoming the Western Countries and begged them to turn their focus on God and not themselves, for it is faith in God that man truly finds his identity.

And so we speak of the cultural crisis in various individual nations, all Western. However, if Western Civilization hopes to defend itself, I think the West itself will need a fundamental cultural revolution and reformation (reformation meaning a turning back to the form of the culture, the culture's essential nature). If the West hopes to survive, it needs to turn back to God and to the moral norms that come from such a faith.

All that we know to be Western are fundamentally rooted in Christianity, no matter how much people choose to deny it. I will give one example. The idea of personhood as we understand it today was not formalized until the 4th century discussions on the nature of the Trinity. The theologians were struggling to find a way to describe how three entities could be of one nature. They took the word persona from Latin, which was originally used to denote a mask an actor would wear, and used it as a means of explaining the Trinity. It was fully formalized in the definition we use today by Boethius as an individual substance of a rational nature. This is rooted in Christianity.

If we cut ourselves off from such roots, then what we hold to be good and true in the West will also be lost. This is why JP II and Benedict XVI have been so insistent on the inclusion of Christianity in the pre-amble to the Constitution of the European Union. Everything that the EU stands for, its democratic ideals, are rooted in Christian thought and a Christian perspective of the world. To not include Christianity in the pre-amble is to say that what the EU stands for is not Christian when in all truth it is.

Let us reclaim our civilization and reform our culture.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A brief observation

I have just begun reading Earthly Powers by Michael Burleigh and I have been finding it incredibly enlightening. The basis of the book is the clash of religion and politics, with a focus on the period from the French Revolution to The Great War.

One thing that he notices is the idea of the State replacing the religion, providing man something to worship and find fulfillment in on Earth. This is all in the introduction and is to be expounded upon later on, but it got me thinking.

We hear all the stories about fire and brimstone from the homilies of the past, and yet it seems to have completely disappeared from the modern mentality of preaching. Whether this is good or bad is not a judgment I am going to make here and now, but simply an observation.

What Burleigh argues for is that the State offers a bringing about of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth through political and economic means, while the Church offers the Kingdom of Heaven, knowing that the only Person who can make that reality of happen is God.

Well, if we look at the trend of homiletics (I am making a semi-generalization, though I of course do know that this is not a universal at all, but simply a trend), we see that we no longer focus on the world to come, on the eschaton. Rather, we now focus on the world. It is as if fulfillment is in our grasp here and now by creating a justly ordered world in which every tear will be wiped away. It is what Voegelin called the "cult of immanency of the eschaton", that is, that the Kingdom of Heaven is present on Earth through this cultish embrace by the State.

This mentality has been felt in homiletics in which we no longer hear of the world to come because it truly is no longer at the forefront of our minds but is rather now replaced with the eschaton of the now. Now, I am of course not blaming the priests for this, but I do think it does call for reflection too.

Do we simply keep our reflections solely on the now, or do we keep our focus on the world to come. Fulfillment in this world or in the next? Which is higher? I know all good Catholics will say the latter. If it is the latter, then I believe we must re-examine our eschatonal (I am making up a word there!) orientation. We must orientate ourselves towards Heaven and the life to come, which will thus witness to this world that though peace and justice are important aspects of this world, they pale in comparison to the Kingdom of God in the world to come. Let us reclaim the eschaton.

And yet more on the Motu Proprio

From this week's Catholic Register:


I found this to be a great and clear articulation of the Pope's intentions behind the subject. It is an affirmation of what has been said here on these pages as well as on many other pages.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Slow Day

Sorry everyone, I've been a bit pre-occupied today, so instead I have a couple links for you to check out:

First, at Catholic Explorers, I was asked to post about my experiences at the Tertio Millennio Seminar, you can find the write up here:


Secondly, at AugustinePoodle, you will find a great post on Biblical Translations a la Fr. Neuhaus, check it out here:


Also, the full post by Fr. Neuhaus can be found here:


Enjoy. I'm going to relax and enjoy a good book (something stimulating) and a not so good book (at least in terms of writing style, I'm going to read some more of Harry Potter).


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oh CanaDUH

I encourage everyone to read this article from Macleans Magazine:


This survey, to me, really speaks volumes of the intellectual crisis in Canada. While the columnist calls the idea of a "literary crisis" a tad alarmist, I am in agreement that we are in a crisis, though I wouldn't call it literary, but rather an intellectual one.

The fact that these figures are so high shows just how dis-engaged Canadian culture is. Perhaps this is why we're so polite, we simply don't know what it means to engage and thus just apologize and thank everyone for anything, not because we know why we're apologizing or saying thank you, but because it's the "tolerant" thing to do. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to engage your ideas and put them to the test of reason", "thank you for your opinion, it has given me a new perspective" (if only Joe Smith knew what perspective was!).

It is not to say that politics are the be-all end-all litmus test of our society's brain drain, but it is a good indicator. And I know what one complaint will be, "America is taking all our smart people". Well now, is America taking them, or are Canadians leaving Canada because they're fed up with the lack of engagement of the country? I would argue that if you talk to anyone, it's the latter. Let us leave America out of it. Most people are simply jealous of the many achievements America has made and so just presume that everything American is bad. Let us stop blaming people and start taking action!

Let us begin engaging people and actually giving them an education. Let us stop defining being Canadian with hockey, beer, and Tim Hortons. Materialism is not the way to defining what it means to be Canadian, let me assure you!

While I was stuck in London I met another Canadian who seemed to put his life on beer and swearing. The unfortunate thing is, however, that this is not uncommon. People in Canada do not think. I know I am making a generalized statement, because I am obviously thinking right now and giving reasons for what I am saying. But the sweeping majority simply do not care about thinking. In fact, many men actually identify with the stupid-man character on so many TV sitcoms. It has now become the status quo that if you are like the men on TV, then you are a real man. I'm sorry, but real manhood is not that, I hate to burst the bubble.

It is time to stop this cultural pacifism and start getting engaged. Perhaps we can start at a level all people can understand, though. Let us put on each box of Tim Hortons a line from the Constitution Act, or on a can of beer a name of a Prime Minister with their face. Perhaps we can still educate this country before it falls into intellectual nothingness.


No Faith in Reason

I had a rather long e-mail discussion with someone today about how it seems that in Victoria and in Canada in general there is a certain complacency towards what the Church teaches. Many say "I believe it" but stop there and refuse to engage to come to a deeper understanding of the truths of the Church.

This seems to me to be thoroughly un-Catholic position. If you look at the great Saints, they attempted to understand God to the best that their abilities allowed. They yearned for Him and wanted to know Him to a greater extent, even those Saints who weren't as smart as the great Doctors of the Church.

What is the result of the Church in Canada? We have adapted ourselves to pacifism, fideism, and just a general desire to not engage the Church in what She teaches so that they can come to know Christ more deeply.

I am not saying that we are all called to be great intellectuals, not all are called to that. But there is a reason why the Church has always valued the Saints, because they have used their gift of reason as best they could. There is always a reason. That is the beauty of the Church. St Peter writes "Be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is within you". We must be prepared to give the reasons we are faithful to the Church and Her teachings! In fact, our faith is a reasonable faith because the Logos IS Reason! Reason became incarnate in the world, He gave meaning to the world.

Now I do not think that this pacifistic fideism is a result of the Church and Her teachings, but rather a result of the Canadian culture in which we live. There is a false view of tolerance in which relativism runs so very deep. And this creates an idea that if we are to be tolerant, we cannot subject a person's most deeply rooted beliefs to the test of reason. This leads to a lack of desire to wanting to engage our gift of reason on that front and thus on all fronts. Fundamentally, Canada has lost her faith in reason.

It is this idea that reason is primary in man that we need to rejuvenate in Canada. We need to show everyone that there is joy and beauty in desiring to know God in a deeper manner. We need to show that our faith IS reasonable. We need to reform the Universities, bring about journals to discuss public issues on the public square, we need think tanks, we need to engage the culture. We need to show the culture to beauty of reason and the joy that comes out of it. There is a reason there are not great achievements as of late in Canadian culture. When a culture loses its pride in reason, it loses its sense of beauty and excellence. When a culture does this, it begins its downward spiral towards destruction.

Look at the great Renaissance's of the Middle Ages, specifically the 9th and 12th centuries. These are times in which the gift of reason was seen as the central means for expressing man's love for beauty. It is this that created great cultural achievements. It is time for a new renaissance, a renaissance of reason. Let us not have history look at the 21st century as a time of cultural decay, but of cultural renewal in which the culture brought about a change in all aspects of society. Let us regain our faith in reason.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Liturgical Continuity

The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal. - Benedict XVI - Summorum Pontificum

I have been finding the discussion on the Motu Proprio (MP) by Benedict XVI rather interesting. I will admit to my excitment at its release while I was in Poland and eagerly read it with joy.

That being said, I think that many people have been taking the norms of the MP too far. It has been a bit to my shock to hear of many people, including many who are rather large names in the Church, now suddenly calling for it to be in place in all places, as if it ought to be the ordinary rite for the Church, as if it is holier then the Pauline expression of the Rite. This has ensued in the seemingly sudden dismissal by many people of the Paul VI missal, as if it has been decided that the Missal has been unsuccessful because of so many abuses done with that Missal.

People are expecting Bishops to implement norms so that it is in place in all parishes and getting all people to learn Latin so that they can all attend the Roman Rite according to the Missal of John XXIII. This is not what Benedict has in mind, I believe, with the MP.

The MP has been issued for 2 essential reasons. The first is expressed in his explanatory letter about the wanting to heal divisions within and outside the Church. Along in that first reason is the fact that many people are simply attached to that older expression of the Roman Rite and wishes to allow people to worship in that manner, for an older expression of the Rite is never forbidden.

The second reason is expressed in the quote from above. It is his hope, I believe, that there is a sort of "dialogue" between the 2 expressions of the Rite so that in the end the Pauline Missal, which is the ordinary expression of the Rite, can come to a true and proper expression according to the intentions of the Council Fathers and Paul VI. The Pope, in the end, sees the Missal according to Paul VI as the means for unification in which, once properly expressed and abuses cease, Parishes can live a Christian life in accordance to the Law of Prayer. Orthodoxy only comes from Orthopraxis.

So, I do hope that there is a Mass according to the Missal of John XXIII in all Dioceses around the world, so long as there is interest within that Diocese. This is not meant to be imposed on the people, as the Pope rightly expresses. I hope that there is one here in Victoria, simply because I wish to experience that Mass and see what riches it has that can still help in the organic growth of the Paul VI missal.

Finally, I would like to make one final note. It seems to me that many people want to go back to the old expression of the Rite because of the abuses that have happened over the past 40 years. This reactionary position is wrong headed according to Benedict in the explanatory letter. He says that the Pauline Missal has a theological and spiritual richness, and, like I said, this will come out througha "liturgical dialogue". You cannot say you want the Johannine Missal because the Pauline one is spiritually inferior. The Pope is saying that this is a position that is not theologically tenable.

So, I pray that the reactions will begin to slow down and that an authentic implementation of these norms will take place when necessary.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Retributive Justice, Self-Defense, and Just War

While at Tertio Millennio, George Weigel gave an extra lecture on the just war tradition.

In that lecture, he mentioned the 6 criteria for ius ad bellum, which is Latin for Justice of War. These 6 categories are necessary to be fulfilled prior to engagement in order to justify the engagement in war. Without one category fulfilled, then it cannot be considered just.

The 6 criteria are:

1) Just Cause
2) Competent Authority
3) Right Intention
4) Reasonable Chance of Success
5) Proportionality of Ends
6) Last Resort

Criteria 1 - 3 are what are considered "Deontological", that is, one is duty bound for the sake of moral truth to fulfill them. 4 - 6 are considered "prudential" in that they are prudential judgements, that is, it is up to the competent authority or authorities to make a judgement based on the information they have whether or not these conditions can be met. There is no universal means to make the judgements for that, it is not a methematical formula that is universal, but is something that needs to be exercised once the deontological criteria are considered fulfilled.

Now, it is criteria 1 that is of particular interest for me. There are 3 possible categories that this criteria can be considered fulfilled:

a) Punishment for evil
b) Defense against aggression
c) Recapture of something wrongly taken

However, it is generally assumed by most people that the only justifiable category is (b).

I don't agree with that statement and see (c) as a justifiable category as well, depending on the seriousness of the theft of property. If Country A steals a toaster oven from Country B, I would hardly say that is justification for going to war!

However, I do have a problem with (a). I do not see punishment for evil as a justifiable category, no matter how evil the action is. This is where people will immediately ask the question of "how is it possible to justify attacking a defenseless people against a tyrant?". I do see helping defenseless people defend themselves as justifiable, but not within the category of (a).

To talk about this, I would like to make a distinction. Many people say that when someone does an evil act, they forfeit their dignity. This is true, but not in a complete sense.

It is here that a distinction in dignities needs to be made. The most basic type of dignity is the dignity based at the core of a person's being, the dignity of being the Imago Dei. This is what is called "Ontological Dignity" (a term that Fr. Williams, LC, termed. Ontology is the study of being). There are other types of dignity, though, such as moral and societal dignity. Anything that is under ontological dignity is considered to have the ability to be forfeited. This is because moral and social dignity are given to you and can be taken away. They are earned from your equals in your society.

Ontological dignity, however, is something that you receive personally from God. It is therefore something that is not in the realm of man to take away. Thus, punishment for evil, according to JP II's anthropological outlook, can never amount to taking an individual's life away, no matter how evil his actions, because of the ontological dignity that is within him and is a gift from God. He has, however, forfeited other dignities which is why a tyrant, for example, would go to jail because he no longer has the societal dignity to be a member of society.

What this is leading to is that (a) is not a justifiable category. However, the explanation for (b) can be expanded. At this moment in time it is seen in the terms of self-defense in a self-contained sort of way, that a nation can only defend itself and cannot interfere in affairs that do not concern it.

I believe, however, that (b), since it speaks only in terms of defense, can be expanded to the idea of defense on behalf of others who are not able to defend themselves. For example, the situation in Darfur could be seen as a just cause as the people need to defend themselves but are unable to and so need an outside force to defend them on their behalf. I see no contradiction in (b) fulfilling this need for action. It used to be seen that, in the case of Darfur, it would be justifiable because of the actions certain people are taking and that they need to be punished for their actions. Now it can be seen instead in the light of defense and bringing an end to an unjust situation with the only possible means (if all non-military means have been attempted of course).

That is my brief reflection on the idea. I'm also now half asleep so if something doesn't make sense it's because I was falling asleep typing this.


I'm Back!

Well, I finally made it back safe and sound. I have one post I will make this evening and then will proceed with unpacking and cleaning my room (I forgot that it was fully of boxes before I left).

The plan for the evening is to get to bed early!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tertio Millennio - Reflections

As promised in my previous post, here are my reflections on the course.

When Mr. Weigel invited me to this course in September, I was a little blown away. I am no one special, and, truth be told, I hadn't been Catholic very long, just about 3 years at that time. But God plants purposes in things that we don't know, and I accepted the gift with great graciousness, despite my lack of being able to grasp that I was actually going to go.

I came to this Seminar with very high expectations. But I was also prepared to be dissapointed as usually when one has high expectations, they are not met nor for that matter surpassed.

I realized, however, at that opening dinner, that my expectations were going to be surpassed beyond my wildest dreams. My excitement was justified, and my hope was fulfilled, which brought me a great joy.

This fulfillment can be described in a line that Fr. Neuhaus used in his homily on the last Wednesday of the Seminar. He said, "If you come away from this seminar realizing that you know how much you don't know, then this seminar has fulfilled its goal". Indeed, I have realized how much I don't know. It is tremendously humbling. Not only in the intellectual realm either, but also in the spiritual and cultural realm as well. I know that there is a lot I don't know, and how grateful I am to know this!

Let me begin by talking about the intellectual portion of the seminar. I will have to say, I was blown away over the past 3 weeks. Deep down in my heart, I have a great yearning for these pursuits and it was amazing to be put in an environment where this can be fleshed out. Not only are the classes fun and interesting, but they are challenging, in the way that you realize you don't know, and you want to know more about how much you don't know. Every instructor gave great insights into things. More importantly, though, is that they also took a personal interest in us and were wanting and desiring to interact with us.

The second is the spiritual. A seminar in which Mass is the center part of the day is a seminar that has its heart in the right place. With pilgrimages to some of Poland's greatest shrines, starting off the day with prayer, and so on, it really makes you realize how much you don't know about the spiritual life being exposed to a rich history of Saints who have been through the trials of faith before us. It is a truly humbling experience.

Finally there is the cultural aspect. Again, this is a richly embrassed aspect of the course, it is very sacramental, very Chestertonian. And this is a good thing. It realizes that being Catholic means being social, being able to relate with one another as much as possible. It is important to build friendships, have discussions, and enjoy the gifts of God's creation.

It is in the cultural aspect that a deep reality was revealed to me, along the lines of knowing how much I don't know. Perhaps one of the greatest things that I need to work on is how to be social. I know that I don't know how to be social, at least in the ways others have been here. It is not to say I have not been social, in fact, I've been throwing myself in almost every opportunity to do so! But hearing others speak about their rich experiences of being a Catholic made me realize just how much in the beginning I am (I have only been a serious Catholic now for just over 3 and a half years). And this is good, it shows me that there is no rush in experiencing everything, because things are only beginning. I appreciate that greatly. I do wish to work on this, of course, because it is impressive to see people the likes of Brian, for example, being able to hold great and fun conversations all out of his experience of Catholicism. It is great because it is an experience of truth, so the conversation is always universal.

I would like to end, however, by saying this. Though I have been emphasizing the realization of knowing how much I don't know, there is one final thing, and perhaps this is the most important, in which I have taken away.

I have taken away that God has created me for excellence and I should settle for nothing less. This means that I am called to live a life of excellence according to my vocation and situation in life and to bring excellence out of that through the grace of God. At lunch on the last day, I was asking George about engaging deep-seeded anti-Americanism. And it was discussed quickly, but the most important thing was that he affirmed in me an observation I was making, that there are no think tanks that seriously engage government and society, there are no lobby groups that lobby for life issues in a deeply engaging way, there are no socially conservative religious journals to bring ideas to society to be engaged, there are no institutes for the training of the young generation who yearn for truth and who wish to shape society. This is all missing in Canada, at least in an engaging manner. And it made me realize (after talking to others) that it only takes one person to get the ball rolling. Whether or not that is me is a completely other question, only God knows what is in store for me. But if God gives me the opportunity to promote the Truth to the world in various forms, then I know that it is my duty to follow that call and I will follow it. I have taken away, in the end, the idea that God has created me (and everyone else) for excellence. If you live a life of excellence, it will catch on to others, and things will change, but always, in the end, by God's grace and love.


Thursday, July 19

Well, I do have some time so here is the final update of the Tertio Millennio Seminar.

It is, at the moment, 1:30am and it has been quite the day.

The morning began with George Weigel's talk on Europe and the Crisis of Cultures. It was a good talk and largely a lot of what he says in the Cube and the Cathedral. However, it was very fascinating to hear again as I was quite enthralled with the book when I read it and so to hear to arguments that Europe's high culture has been infected with Atheistic Humanism was quite nice to hear.

After that we had the Question and Answer period with Fr. Maciej, Fr. Neuhaus, and George Weigel. It was quite nice. Most of the questions revolved around the course itself and the how they expect it to impact the students and so on and so forth. It was a nice, refreshing, and relaxing way to end the lectures. At the end we gave them a standing ovation for the excellent work they all had done, and it was well deserved indeed.

A group of us then went to Orient Express for one last meal. A side note; Orient Express is where they have a very addictive Wiener Schnitzel. We invited George to have lunch with us and it was quite nice. Fr. Neuhaus also made an appearance and it was a good and relaxing lunch. One interesting thing did happen, and it is a trend in Europe. This interesting thing was the lack of willingness on the part of the waitresses to make change. They see it as an annoyance rather then as part of their job. It was really quite funny to witness it at its extreme this afternoon.

I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Had some ironing to do, did a bit of reading, and just sat around for a while and it was quite nice.

We then headed off for the final Mass as a group, all decked out for our final dinner. It was hot and crowded, but it was centered on Christ in the Eucharist in the same Chapel where we began 18 days ago. Fr. Maciej made a note about how intensive this all has been, and indeed it has been. It is hard to believe it has all gone by so quickly.

After Mass we went for the final dinner which was delicious. Many great conversations were ensuing and many pictures (and toasts at individual tables) were happening. After the main course, it was "graduation" time. George had a bit of an anecdote about me and my being Canadian and made a wise crack about green martinis. We received his book "The Cube and the Cathedral", a certificate affirming we have done this course, as well as a nice print of our group photo and a rosary that was blessed by JP II. It was very awesome. After the professors had left, 4 of us had been asked to do impressions and so, before we left, we were getting them ready and it was a lot of fun.

We then got back to the priory for the closing party! There is a lot of beer, vodka, wine, pop, juice, and snacks and it was quite an awesome atmosphere. We began the night with what is a Tertio tradition, impressions of the faculty. I was privileged to do the impression of George Weigel, which I did get on tape, though I will hold that for myself for his sake :). There were also 2 great impressions of Fr. Neuhaus and a great impression of Steve White, who is George's assistant. There was great conversations, some dancing, and just a relaxing way to finish off the course.

The next post will be my reflections on the seminar in general. But for the daily updates, this is it. I do hope, however, that those who have discovered this blog will continue to check it out over time. I will be taking a couple days off to re-coup from it.

God bless!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday, July 18

Today was, sadly, the last full day of lectures.

It began with a discussion on Eccumenism by Fr. Neuhaus. He had some interesting things to say about the history of eccumenism and it is very evident that this is an issue dear to his heart, and it is a great thing to have a desire for, and this was evident in his talk today.

The second talk was on Human Dignity by Fr. Williams. It was an excellent lecture, probably, in my opinion, his best. What I really enjoyed about it was the ideas that love is a requirement and prerequisite of justice and that justice can only be fulfilled with a proper understanding of love. This was all built out of JP II's anthropological personalism that was just outstanding. Essentially, without love, justice turns against itself and becomes injustice. I don't want to say too much simply because I would spend WAY too much time on this. Needless to say, it was a fabulous lecture.

After that a group of us went for lunch with Fr. Neuhaus. It was great, we discussed, largely, the idea of the Catholic University and Catholic Higher Education. He didn't stay too long, but there were great discussions before and after he left as well.

After that George Weigel offered an optional lecture on Catholic International Relations Theory which was great. The stuff he had to say about just war I think most people there had heard before. What was really great was the discussion that ensued from his lecture in which it ended up being a class discussion on Just War and the Capital Punishment for an hour and it got heated in a good way and, I think, was quite productive.

After that we had Mass and Fr. Neuhaus gave an excellent homily. He talked about our roles once this course is over, that you know you have authentically learned something when it makes you realize how little you know. He discussed the necessity of keeping in touch with each other, praying for each other, and working to act as leaders and future intellectuals and it was a very motivating homily, expressing, I think, what they hope to be the fruit of the course.

We then went for dinner where there were further discussions on the Just War and the Death Penalty and then some of us went for a drink on top of a hotel that gives a great view of the square and got to say by to Fr. Williams.

Now it's time for bed so that I can be prepared for the upcoming day. Tomorrow begins with a lecture by George Weigel on, I think, the future of Europe, followed by a Q&A period for the professors. After that some of us are going for lunch with George Weigel and then it's the closing dinner and party until the wee hours of the morning. I may or may not do an update tomorrow, depending on how much free time I have, if I don't, I'll do one on Friday evening (Pacific Time) or Saturday.

God bless!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jesus of Nazereth and First Things

While I was here I was discussing First Things with Fr. Williams, LC, and he brought to my attention a review of Benedict's book "Jesus of Nazereth". He warned me that it was not a good review, but decided to give it a read anyways.

For those of you who have a subscription to First Things, you can find the review here:


If you do not have a subscription, then usually you can access the journal through your local public library.

Anyways, I found this review to be particularly dissapointing because he missed the entire point of the book. I am still not finished it, but have read enough of it to get a good understanding of what Benedict is hoping to do with it, affirm the position that Christ is the focal point of history and that we look through the lense of Chrsit to have an understanding of what the Gospels and History have to say.

Anyways, below you will find the letter I wrote to the Editor of First Things.


In Benedict and the Biblical Jesus, Richard B. Hays attempts to give a critical review of the Pope's book. Besides, did not the Pope say that he wanted the book to be published outside of his magisterial authority to engage in discussion?

While I am in agreement that this is a good and worthy thing to do, I believe that Richard B. Hays misses the point of the book in a grave manner.

At one point, Mr. Hays states by quoting Benedict in his desire to take his convictions of faith as the starting point for reading the texts with the aid of historical methodology. The problem, however, is what follows. Mr. Hays states that the problem with this is that this is contrary to the historical-critical method, that taking the position of faith seeking understanding is fundamentally opposed to the historical-critical method.

And it is here that Mr. Hays misses the point entirely. It appears that Mr. Hays was wanting to book to be something it was never intended to be, an engagement by a prominent Catholic theologian with modern issues in the historical-critical school, using the same principles and methods that this school uses.

Over and over he expresses his displeasure with the fact that Benedict does not address this modern issue and that modern issue in the historical-critical school. Instead, he says that Benedict is too old fashioned, dealing with problems that are out dated and have nothing to do with the modern debate.

I would like to challenge that position of Mr. Hays. I believe that Benedict does indeed address the issue of the historical-critical method, but not at the modern position. It seems, instead, that Benedict takes the same position of the neo-patristic exegete, Msgr. John McCarthy. This position is that the problem with the historical critical method is based in its roots, for it builds on presumptions and false axioms that are contrary to a proper theological approach to the Bible. This does not negate understanding the historical situation, but that is not what the historical-critical method is all about.

Instead, Benedict deals with the problem head on, but in a subtle manner, as per his style. When one reads any of his writings, it is important to see what he does not say, for it is there that his view is expressed at its fullest. He never expresses it full out, but he actually confronts the historical-critical method at its very root. The historical-critical method, in the end, states that the reason such saying or event is in the Bible is because that event or saying or action is historically determined by the circumstances said person, event, or action was in. Secondly, it denies completely that God has any role in history, as expressed even by Mr. Hays. The idea of taking the position of faith first is fundamentally contradictory to the historical-critical method. What Benedict is addressing here is the backward position of the historical critical method. This is why (to Mr. Hays' dismay), Benedict adopts a high-Johanine Christology; because Christ is the author, source, and summit of all history, and it is through the lense of faith in Christ that we are to view history, we are not to view Christ through the lense of history.

Fundamentally, the Pope does deny the validity of the historical-critical method based on the understanding that Christ is the historical event through which we view all of time and reality. This is the point that Mr. Hays missed, and this is why the book was not what he expected it to be.

Tuesday, July 17

Hello Everyone yet again.

Only 3 days left of reflections on the day.

I would also like to welcome the sudden surge of Ontario readers. I heard from Anna, the fellow Canadian in the course, that there have been some of her family reading the blog, welcome.

I also know that there are other new readers who are coming constantly and I have no clue who they are, but welcome too!

A brief sidenote, I will say that this is a blog that I usually use for social commentary, as well as philosophical and theological writings. I do wish to continue this once the course is over (so those who come here for those things, that will continue after I return). All the newcomers are more then welcome to continue to read this after the seminar is over.

This morning begain with a talk by Fr. Neuhaus on Jewish-Christian relations. He gave a historical overview of the relations and the Church's theological positions of Jews. Essentially what he said was that Christians are "grafted into" Israel and that the Church is the fulfillment of Isreal and where the fullness of God's promise is revealed, but that Jews are a part of this.

After that we had Fr. Williams on the nature of the Dignity of the Human Person. I found this discussion particularly interesting. What I appreciated most was the distinctions he made, particularly in the nature of dignity. What he said was that some ideas of dignity are received from various sorts of societies and relationships, what he called "moral dignity". There is, however, a deeper sort of dignity, what he calls "ontological dignity", that is, dignity that is inharent in man's very nature, in his very being (for those who don't know, ontology is the study of being). I found this interesting as it sparked a discussion in class as well as on the bus later today about Retributive Justice and Just War. To me, it seems that if the Church takes the position of Ontological Dignity, then the only time the death penalty is justified is in the nature of defense, based on a good grounding in philosophical anthropology. Anyways, this started off a discussion in class between Fr. Williams and George Weigel; and George, as many know, takes a position of retributive justice in that some times it is justifiable in the nature of the death penalty to satisfy justice, which I disagree with in regards to Fr. Williams' position of Ontological Dignity. Mr. Weigel thinks that by commiting certain acts man "removes his dignity", but I think this is in a moral sense and not an ontological sense. Anyways, Mr. Weigel will be discussing this tomorrow in an extra lecture about Just War and the Death Penalty (it is optional but I will definitely be there).

After that I went for lunch with some friends and Fr. Williams and we discussed a review of Pope Benedict's book in First Things. Both Fr. Williams and I are in complete agreement that this review misses the point. I know Fr. Williams is writing a response and I am going to attempt a response as well.

After lunch it was off to the Divine Mercy Shrine. It was a bit rushed again unfortunately so it was rather tough for the experience to be prayerful. Thankfully for me I had been there before, but it is another reason to go again. We had a Sister of Mercy give us a brief talk on Saint Faustina and Divine Mercy and it was quite good and, again, it was great to see the joy in her. Very inspiring.

After that we came back and we went to dinner and had a great dinner. I sat with a wonderful couple here at the seminar and Fr. Maciej and he is so approachable and great to have discussions with. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Now I am ending the evening with reading and am hoping to write my letter to the Editor for First Things later.

God bless you all!


Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday, July 16th

This morning started with my not wanting to get out of bed. I was home late last night as I am sure many read, but still managed to get up in time for the lectures and what not this morning.

Anyways, the first lecture this morning was by Fr. Williams on the nature of Human Rights. It was a good talk giving us many distinctions as to the nature of rights and which rights are fundamental, secondary, instrumental but not necessary, and so forth. I look forward to tomorrow's lecture on the Dignity of the Human Person by him.

The second lecture was by Fr. Maciej on the history of the Church and it's encounter with politics and its view of Democracy. It was much better then his other ones I found.

After that a bunch of us went for lunch at a cafeteria style restaurant. The food was ok, but it was cheap! Chicken, potatoes, a coke, and a bottle of water for abour $5 Canadian!

After that I came back and read for a while and took a nap.

We then left for the Archbishop's Residence to have Mass in the chapel there. Unfortunately Cardinal Dsiwicz is on holidays, but we were given permission to use the chapel for Mass. It is the very same chapel where JP II was ordained a priest and where he wrote so many of his writings as Archbishop and where he would pray and say Mass as Archbishop. It was quite the moving experience. People didn't want to leave to say the least.

After that was dinner at a very good restaurant and got the opportunity to sit with Fr. Neuhaus and discuss various things with him about many different issues. It was nice.

Now I just sit back and relax for the rest of the evening.

I should say too that it was EXTREMELY hot today. The high was 38 degrees Celsius, and it is supposed to be like this the rest of the week. Thankfully the Priory is made out of stone and cement, so it keeps heat out quite well and is really quite cool.

I'm going to go read for the rest of the night and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I will be going the the Divine Mercy Shrine which I am quite looking forward too, I very much enjoyed my time there last time I was here.

It is hard to believe I will be home on Friday. It has gone by so fast! But I do look forward to seeing everyone, I just hope I'll be able to recover from jet lag really quickly.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday, July 15th

So today was an incredibely relaxing day.

I started the day off with Mass at the English Parish which is only a 5 minute walk from the Priory. Fr. Williams, LC, gave an excellent homily about the need for simplicity in love in how we deal with our neighbours. After Mass I came back, changed, and went for lunch with Nick, who is a Seminarian at the North American College in Rome. It was a very nice lunch at a great Italian place here. The funny thing from lunch was that a bird pooped on my head (we were sitting outside in the square).

I came back, washed my hair, and subsequently read articles and books for about 5 hours straight, with a 20 minute nap in there. It was VERY nice. I read a review of BXVI's book Jesus of Nazereth from First Things that Fr. Williams wanted my opinion on, and, to say the least, it was a horrible review and the reviewer totally missed the point of the book.

At 7:30 I went for a glass of wine with a couple of the students and then went for dinner with Steve, Bracey, and Nick at a great restaurant here in Krakwo. Nick, Steve, and myself were out until 2am this morning discussing things and enjoying Polish beer. It was a good time.

The weather today was also really awesome, though incredibely hot, but such is life. I am now going to run to bed because I have to be up in less then 6 hours.

God bless


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday and Saturday

I was out way too late on Friday night, so I didn't get a chance to update yesterday, so I'm going to do 2 days in one post.

Friday started off with Fr. Richard John Neuhaus discussing Centissimus Annus. He had some GREAT insights into the nature of economics. His greatest thing that really stuck out to me was his idea that economists look at economy as a pie in which the rich have most of the pie. This, however, is not the Catholic position. The Catholic position is that there is an unlimited amount of wealth to be created, and that poverty, at least in first world countries, is not a result of the rich suppressing the poor, but of lack of access to the ability to be creative in an economic context. It was very insightful.

Then we had Fr. Maciej Zieba do another talk. Again, the language barrier was a bit of an issue and it made for the lecture to seem a bit...long. However, he had again some great insights into free economy. It was amazing how this man is so very against Social-Democratic ideals. Talking to a lot of Polish people, actually (who have universal health care) are against it because they see the problems it causes and the top heavy system it creates. They wish that, at least, there could be a 2 tier system like in the UK.

Anyways, after that I took the afternoon off. There was an optional tour with the theme of "Medieval Krakow" and, though I am a hardcore Medievalist, I decided against it as I needed some time to rest. So I sat back, checked my e-mail, did a bunch of reading, and took a nap. After that we had Mass and then went out for dinner. After dinner a bunch of us went with Fr. Williams to play some pool and it was a LOT of fun. I didn't get home till almost 2am. Again, the beauty of being with a Professor is that it is ok to be out past curfew :).

This morning we left for Czestahowa at 9:15. We got there at about 12pm and had a quick lunch. I got a chance to see the Black Madonna. We had a tour guide, but it was only for about 1 hour and then we had about one hour to do our own thing. Needless to say, we didn't get very much time there which is REALLY unfortunate as I would have appreciated the opportunity to pray more there. I also needed a bit of time to run around and get some souvenirs as I had planned for that place to be a place to get some souvenirs and, well, I spent a lot of money on Religious Articles today.

After that we went to a cloistered Dominican Sisters convent for Mass in which Fr. Williams gave a great homily about trusting in God's plan and not always having to search for a reason but to just trust in God's will because He only wills what is good. After that we had dinner at the convent which was delicious and had an opportunity to talk to the Sisters through the grill (since they're cloistered). It was a great joy to see the pure joy (pure as in they really live a purity of heart that is outstading) and it is something I have never really seen before. They were laughing and making jokes all the time and it was great.

On the way back I talked with people on the bus, read something that Fr. Williams gave me to read, and just enjoyed the ride. Upon our return a group of us went to to the square to have ice cream and beer. We came back early tonight because we are all tired and were out late last night.

Tomorrow a bunch of people are going hiking to the Tetra Mountains. I have decided against this as I need to start resting up since I get back to work on the 23rd! Tomorrow I've got 2 plans; go to Mass at 10:30am and do a bit more souvenir shopping. Reading will also be included in the day, but the plan is to simply just relax and take it easy. I have a feeling that the last week is going to include a lot of nights out and so I need to prepare my body for the late nights.

Thanks for the notes everyone! I do hope to hear from you all still. It'll be nice to see you all when I get back! I can't believe I get back into Vancouver on Friday already! It has been going by way too fast. This has been very spiritually relaxing and nourishing, though it has been physically exhausting at times!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday, July 12

Hello again.

This morning started off with the first of the lectures from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. For those who don't know who he is, he is the Editor and founder of First Things as well as a major voice in engaging the world of ideas in the public square. Anyways, today he talked about "Evangelium Vitae". I was expecting an exegesis on the encyclical, but it was more like a homily on the culture of life. It was good though, and it gave me the opportunity to listen more then to have to take notes which was really nice for a change.

In the second lecture Fr. Maciej gave a lecture on the Church's view of economy and the history of it. Again, he was a bit tough to understand, but his content was good, whatever was on the slides. I asked him about the section in Centissimus Annus with regards to Capitalism. He stated that there is a necessary reading of it as "especially" (JP II is talking to new Democracies). Especially, however, does not mean only, but that it is presumed that capitalism, in the positive sense that JP II defines it as, is a proper way of going about achieving economic ends. There was much more, but that was an interesting point I found.

After that was lunch which had to be quick so I grabbed a slice of pizza. We then went for the JP II "Death March" by George Weigel. It is the death march because it is a lot of walking all over the place. It was a nice walk and got to see some of the places that JP II was at through out his life.

After that I went back to the priory and read some more of "Theology and History" by Von Balthasaar. Then there was Mass and dinner. Dinner tonight was DELICIOUS, there was a great cheese sauce on the chicken which was just out of this world. There were a lot of great discussions about the nature of war and the role of economics in helping create greater access to health care.

After that I went and made some phone calls to people and then headed to the chapel for adoration which was wonderful. We followed that with Compline from the old breviary and was all in Latin, and we sung it all, and it was in the stalls where the brothers pray, so it was all in all great actually.

After that we went for a drink and stayed out until 1:30am (we can stay out past curfew when we're with George's assistant I think...:) ). We had many great discussions there as well.

All in all another great day, what can be expected though? And now begins the home stretch as there is now but one week left in the course...*sigh*.

Hope all is well with everyone and I would love to hear from you all!

God bless!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I almost forgot

As time goes on, I am getting more and more ideas of books to buy. The problem of coming to a seminar like this is that you are surrounded by many book lovers. You talk about a subject and you give people ideas and they give you ideas and, well, it's going to get expensive for the pocket book, but I will appreciate the insights for sure. Every new instructor we get, they have books that are published and one wants to get their hands on all of them!

Also, as I said, I will have lots of notes when I return. One thing I have been very happy about is the language that I will need to engage the public square in the future. For example, George Weigel gave yesterday a distinction between "plurality" and "pluralism" and even defined pluralism according to a true understanding of how a society with pluralities ought to interact. Anyways, it is of a great value to have and will be going over my notes over and over again I am sure. I think I mentioned it yesterday, but I am seeing why this course is brought about, to encourage the next generation to engage the public square, to have the tools necessary so that one can see how the square can be engaged in one's own country. I have ideas of how to do this for Canada, and, Annette, it has to do with what we discussed before I left. Stay tuned everyone...:)

I do think, actually, that we REALLY need think tanks and that we need to create a culture that wants think tanks around to propose ideas and engage ones we see as false. Ideas have consequences, this is why JP II was a Pope of ideas, he saw the effects of ideas on his country, and so proposed new ideas to free his people, and look what happened. So now it is just a point of figuring out how to create a desire for such think tanks...


Wednesday, July 11th

Hey everyone.

So this morning started off with Mass which meant having to wake up a bit earlier then usual. We usual have Mass at 6pm, but had to have it at the start of the day because of our trip to the Salt Mines later on in the day. The priest was talking about work and prayer (being the feast of St Benedict today) and he ended his homily with a phrase on a plaque of a friend of his "God's coming, look busy". I thought that was pretty funny.

Anyways, after that we started our first lecture with Fr. Thomas Williams. He is the Dean of Theology at the Legionnaries of Christ University (name is skipping my mind at the moment) in Rome. He is an awesome guy. VERY personable and very smart and just very fun, we had some great conversations today. Anyways, his area of specialization is human rights. He began what he had to say about them in the first lecture today and they were pretty insightful. I know, too, that he will continue to build, that it takes a bit of time. Anyways, the more I hear Latin distinctions, it makes me realize how much I need to learn the language in its fulness. The idea that the word that is lating for "duty" is the same word for "debt" is really cool. Anyways, it will be very interesting to see what he has to say in regards to human rights.

The second lecture was alright. Fr. Maciej is a very smart man (was listed by the Communists as the 8th most dangerous intellectual in Poland). However, though I know he fully understands English, when he speaks it, it is a bit broken and so it is tough to get some serious stuff out of it. Thankfully most of the info is on the power point slides he uses so that helped. Today he talked about the nature of "ideology" and how the Church is not an ideology. It sparked a discussion among us about how much morality the State is allowed to legislate which many of us continued over lunch. Some of us then talked about the idea of the nature of beauty and a Theology of Aesthetics and how they are both essential to the nature and mission of the Church and how we have gotten away from that. My brain is getting filled with good conversations and lectures to say the least!

After that we headed to the Salt Mines. It was pretty much the same as before, but was neat to see. We then went for dinner and we had perhaps the greatest pork I have ever had. There were great conversations at the table and Fr. Williams and I were cutting down Notre Dame a lot (Meredith, one of the students, went there). It was a lot of fun.

One other thing I did today was spout off my idea about the relation between the Incarnation and God's creative act. It received a relatively great reception from the people I proposed it to and they said it was an interesting idea, so it is something I am hopefully going to continue to pursue over the next couple of years (it will take a lot of research!).

That's it for now, I am going to relax for the last small bit of the evening and read and then hit the sack. Tomorrow Fr. Neuhaus gives his first lecture and I am extremely excited for it. By the way, by Friday, I should have gone through both notepads and for the last week will probably have to resort to my spare paper that I brought with me (thanks be to God for that!).

Hope all is well with you all!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday, July 10th

Today was interesting.

Started off this morning with a talk on the Church's stance on Democracy by George Weigel and what he calls the "disentanglement of the Church", that is, the fact that the Church no longer runs temporal State affairs and that this has helped the Church. To be honest, it was a good lecture and there were many notes, but it was stuff I had heard before, though not all of it, but a lot of it.

After the coffee break there was another talk by George Weigel on 14 Theses on the Church and the State. This one was much more substantial I found and had much great content.

Listening to that lecture it made me realize more indepthly why he has this course. He sees the problem, that people are not engaging ideas. A proper tolerance (which is something I argued in my paper for the application) is meant to be an accepting of people while engaging their ideas. This is not what is happening in Canada and so our society is falling. Anyways, the point of this course (or at least one of the central ones) is to help those who are still in a position to learn to have the tools necessary to engage the culture and to see that engaging it is necessary. Things are engaged more in the US then they are in Canada and that can be clearly seen by the number of think tanks that exist in the US, while I can think of only a couple that exist in Canada. Ideas shape societies, and when Ideas aren't entering a dialogue, then it becomes basic assertion of will, which is not what Democracy is about. We need to engage the Canadian culture more, we need more think tanks and we need to renew the proper idea AND purpose of the University (that the University is a place for an exchange and growing in understanding of ideas, not a trade school).

Then we had a quick lunch and then it was off to Auschwitz. I'll be honest, I tried to get out of it, only because going there once is plenty enough. I don't really have much to say about it. After going there, I am still thinking that once was plenty, and that 2 times there is more then enough. It is a tough place to be.

That's it for today!

God bless


Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday, July 9th

Hey everyone.

So today was another awesome day (would any day be NOT an awesome day here?).

The morning started off slow. I was really tired. It seemed a lot of walking tires you out and so, even after 8 hours of sleep, I was exhausted when I woke up and REALLY didn't want to get out of bed. But I got up anyways (yes, FJ, be surprised).

Anyways, I skipped breakfast this morning and went straight to class. Today was Prof. Hittinger's last lecture which was really sad because his lectures are outstanding, though, to say the least, quite dense (in a good way, there is a LOT of content). He talked about JP II and Social Doctrine. Essentially what he was arguing was that JP II saw the shift in the world's point of view. Before the war there was a false understanding of the State and Society, and the Church responded to that with her Social Doctrine, hence why every Pope since Leo XIII and onwards have started their pontificate with a Social Encyclical. But JP II didn't do that, he broke the trend. He started off his Pontificate with "Redemptor Hominis" - Redeemer of Man. What JP II saw was a shift in the modern problem. The biggest danger was no longer the State and societies (what Hittinger calls N+1 unities, oh, and by the way, societies are persons).

Anyways, the modern problem was now anthropological, that there was a false understanding of man that came from the enlightenment. He made a great point (one that I know I have held as well as most here) that JP II was a Pope who understood the implications of ideas. They seem abstract but they really do effect things. The Englightenment took up the Creation story from Genesis and stated that what man did to distinguish himself was not something that was given to him a priori, but was something he willed for himself. He willed to be different from the animals, it was not something universal that God gave him and this trickled all the way down to our modern times and so JP II answered that with his definition of man. This is why you can't read JP II without understanding in its fullness the Theology of the Body.

Quick sidenote, Hittinger argued that Humanae Vitae is not first and foremost about contraception, but about whether or not man has dominion over his own body. Really interesting stuff. Anyways, I talked to Hittinger after class and we were discussing a few things and he told me he had a zip drive with a couple of .PDFs on it. One is his book that is being published in September, the other is an article he published. I am still going to buy the book when it is released, but he said these 2 .PDFs have EVERYTHING he said in class and more so I am really looking forward to looking them over.

The second lecture was by George Weigel on the 2 notions of freedom and it was excellent. He got to the root, and it was an affirmation of what I was reading into when I was reading the Free Society Reader in preparation that, essentially, the modern struggle about who man is is rooted in the Ockhamist Thomistic debate of the 13th and 14th century. Thomas had a "freedom for excellence" ideal in which reason/truth are the root of God and man, while Ockham had a "freedom for indifference" idea in which will and powerful assertion of the will is primary in God and man. Again, fascinating, though I noticed traces of stuff he had to say in Victoria.

After that it was lunch and I had it by myself today. After that I came back to the priory and hung out with some of my friends for a while. We then had discussion groups which were OUTSTANDING today. We went over time and the discussion was really excellent and I really enjoyed it. I noticed most of the problems the Pope is pointing out in Centissimus Annus are really apparent in Canada and that if we want Canada to survive in is in desperate need of change.

After that was Mass in which Fr. Maciej gave a great homily about how we ought to be joyful everytime we hear the words "the Word became flesh", just like the women who touched the cloak of Christ and was in fear and trembling, we should have the fear of God in us, and that if we don't jump for joy everytime we hear this, we have something wrong and really need to change.

Dinner was good. To be honest, I didn't enjoy the food that much and so ate very little. But the discussions were great. Steve White, George Weigel's assistant, myself, Ryan, and Brian were have a great discussion about the nature of vocations in which Steve told us how he finally came to discern marriage. Excellent discussion. Then we went into the next room to see everyone singing and we stuck around for about an hour singing a bunch of songs and having just an outstanding and amazing time. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and enjoyed the company a lot. I have some video to show upon my return.

And now I've returned from yet another excellent day to prepare for tomorrow. Tomorrow is the trip to Auschwitz in the afternoon after the 2 morning classes and a quick lunch. To be honest, not looking too forward to it, it's a pretty depressing place, but the group is going and so I will go again.

God bless you all!


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday, July 8th

Well, today has been an AMAZING day.

First off, I woke up to a perfectly sunny day.

A group of us met up and went to St Giles Church which is a parish in town that does a Mass in English at 10:30am on Sundays here in Krakow. It ended up being what we called the "George Weigel Mass". We mean that in a good, loving sort of way. It is just that he did everything, the readings an the singing, hence it has been named the "George Weigel Mass".

After Mass we headed back to the Priory. By the way, for those of you who don't know, we are staying in the Dominican Priory here. Anyways, at 12pm we headed for the train station. Myself, 2 Poles, and 6 Americans went to take the Pope train to Kalweria Zabredowske. The first amazing thing is that they actually have a "Pope Train". It is the actual name. It is a train that takes you to the various places in and near Krakow that were important in the life of JP II. It is also a very nice train! And it only costs 6$ Canadian round trip.

Anyways, we headed to Kalweria Zabredowske and it was an amazing time. We started off with walking from the train station uphill to the Basillica. It was tiring but worth it. We got lunch and then went to walk. We went to the gift shop first because I wanted to get a map of the chapels. This is a pilgrimage spot that has 42 chapels layed out across some 8 kilometers to mark Christ's walk in His passion. It is amazing. Last time I was there, I only got to see a couple of chapels, though this time we got to see about half. It was quite wonderful. We spent 4 hours total in Kalwaria Zabredowska. After that, we began our way to the train station with a small stop for ice cream. Then we got on the train and headed back home. We got home and at 8:30pm we went for a late dinner to Da Pietro which is an excellent Italian Place in the Old Square. We had great conversations which included MANY Monty Python quotations including a thing or 2 from Faulty Towers and we left at 11pm.

Today has been the perfect Sunday. The weather was perfect, the company was great, lots of time for prayer, great food and beer and just overall relaxing, restful, and fun. We all agreed that today was just out of this world.

I hope you are all well and so forth.

God bless


Saturday, July 07, 2007

I almost forgot...

Krakow is celebrating its 750th Anniversary as a legally installed city. So the town is decked out in Medieval banners and Medieval displays all over the town. Needless to say, it is quite impressive. We get a tour of "Medieval Krakow" next Friday and I am really looking forward to that. It is quite the year to be here. The place is packed on the weekends too. They say there are about 10,000 people in the small old town section of Krakow at the busiets points. It is insane here at night! But it is great.

Ok, I should go to bed, it is 1:15 in the morning!


By the way

Many people who have been to Tertio Millennio before have said that it is a life changing experience. I have, however, heard that MANY times before from people about all sorts of things and it was never the case.

However, it is the case with Tertio Millennio. It is life changing. The people here are mature, fun, holy, smart, everything you could want in a person. The entire atmosphere is one of growth and encouragement.

When we arrived for the opening remarks by George Weigel he said "congratulations. You are here because you are the future leaders of the Church and the world." He didn't say you may be, or that he hopes you will be, but that you are going to be. That is not a statement to be taken lightly and, to be frank, can only take that as from him as a judgement on us based on what he sees in us. Some, of course, will do this in smaller ways and some in more global ways, but it is the fact that he sees us all as leaders and the whole course is meant to build on a seed that he sees within us that God has planted there. It is a very humbling thing to hear, to be completely honest. But it is this principle that changes one's life because it makes you see the decisive direction as to how you can exercise this leadership. It gives you the opportunity to really get to know God more and thus to know yourself more.

That being said, for any young adult who is reading this, I highly encourage you to apply next year for the Seminar. You may get in, you may not. But it is worth a shot. They may say "you were really good but we can't get you in this year, try next year", so try it. There is just too much good stuff to not want to take advantage of such a great opportunity. Plus, when you apply, you can guarantee that your application will be read by Mr. Weigel himself. So give it a shot, it will change your life!


Saturday, July 7th.

Hello everyone.

Today has been one of those relaxing days, thanks be to God. Last night I relaxed with some reading and got a decent night's sleep.

The morning started off with a bus ride. We got to a small, wooden Church that was made in the 14th century and was stunning really. So that was quite nice.

After Mass it was back on the bus. After a bit of a trip we got the river (the name has skipped my mind) which is between the Tertra Mountains. It was a beautiful trip. Lots of photos were taken. We were on these small boats for about 2 hours and 15 minutes. It was beautiful and relaxing and just plain wonderful. Not too much to say, it was just beautiful and relaxing.

After the boat ride we got back on the bus and then headed to a restaurant near the river. The food was pretty good, especially the mushroom soup in the bread bowl. While we were there, they hired a renaissance choir of about 10 people to sing for us many renaissance style songs. It was absolutely gorgeous!!!

After dinner it was back on the bus and many great conversations on the way back to Krakow. I went out for a beer with many others and am now here, relaxing a bit before tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Mass at 10:30. It is a free day tomorrow, so many of us are going to Kalwaria (where there is a major Marian basillica) and Wadowice (where JP II was born) at 12pm. We are taking (and I am very serious about the name!) the "Pope Train" there. It is something new. Last time I was here you had to take a bus, but now you can get there by train. So it should be another relaxing day and we will be back in Krakow for 8pm.

That is pretty much all from here. It has been a lot of fun since last night. As I've said before, they balance 3 things quite well at the Seminar: prayer, learning, socializing. All three are essential aspects to the seminar and they are greatly balanced. It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the end of the first week of the seminar and that I have been gone for over a week now. To be quite honest, it feels like I've been gone a lot longer (in a good way though). I have enjoyed the community so much here. The young adults in this course have been especially wonderful and mature and are greatly balanced personality wise. I have been hanging out with a core of them a lot and we really enjoy each other's company a lot it seems. All in all it has just been wonderful and I am going to be very sad when it is all over because this has been what I've been searching for for so long. I will, though, embrace and enjoy every minute that is given to me.

I forgot to mention yesterday that in the course of 4 days I went through an entire pad of paper that was given us by the Tertio Millennio Seminar (when I arrived they gave us a shoulder bag, a pen, and some Tertio Millennio stationary, which will make for great souvenirs too!) So I have one more pad left and then it is onto my paper that I brought.

I am keeping you all in my prayers.

God bless


Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday, July 6th

Hi everyone.

Today's isn't going to be extremely exciting.

This morning we learned about the notion of love and its historical roots in the thought of JP II. There was some interesting Thomistic and Aristotelian lines of thinking about the 4 kinds of love that I hadn't heard before, as well as a very different way of going about it then C.S. Lewis does. It was by Fr. Kubczek and it was excellent as always. I will be ordering his book on the philosophical anthropology of JP II quite soon.

After that was coffee break followed by a second lecture by Prof. Hittinger on Catholic Social Doctrine. Again, it was very profound. He has a book on this stuff that I, again, will be getting. It just blew my socks off...literally. The persecutions the Church went through in the 18th and 19th century, well, I don't think Catholics know about them and about how many Catholics have actually been martyred. He likened it to the Holocaust in that it was the same course of action, a systematic and intentional extinction of Catholics. It is amazing what the Church has been through in regards to this. Also, he talks about the political nature of the Sacred Heart (it is quite fascinating) Marian apparitions, and how every encyclical a Pope has put out on the rosary has been social in nature. Quite amazing.

He also talked about the history of the idae of subsidiaridy. We talked about it in group discussion alongside the notion of private use and private property. Fascinating discussions ensued to say the least. I discussed it over with him at dinner and asked him what he thought about the state of Canadian Health Care in regards to this and he said, really, it does defy the principles. He said that yes, Health Care is a public good, but that, for reasons of better access and for incentives in order to become better at its service, some public goods are held in private. Examples are food and education. These are both public goods for everyone to have access too. But just because it is a public good does not necessitate that it ought to be held by a public agency. Imagine if the State was in charge of food and distribution! And education is provided by the state, but it is also provided privately too, though more so in the States then in Canada. So, fundamentally, you cannot use the argument that because it is a public good that it must be held in public for there are many clear examples against this.

Dinner and lunch were excellent today where, again, many awesome conversations ensued. Sometimes they're not that intellectual either, we just sit back and relax. There has been beer every day because it is so amazingly cheap here. It comes out to be about $2.50 for a half liter of beer here. We have gone out for drinks many times already over the week and it has been a great and relaxing way to end the days!

Now I am going to spend the rest of my evening tonight relaxing with a good book. We are going for a boat trip down a river in between a bunch of mountains tomorrow which should be quite nice and am looking forward to it. I will get someone else to bring their camera though, I don't trust mine.

So, all in all it has been a great opening week. Lots of great education mixed in with great conversations and a lot of fun. It has definitely confirmed my yearning for further education, this has been where I have been thriving and just enjoying it so much.

I hope all is well with everyone else!

God bless!


Thursday, July 05, 2007

A quick update

Hi everyone, I have to try and be quick with this update.

Anyways, yesterday was great. We began the day with a lecture by Fr. Kubjac on the philosophical anthropology of JP II. This man is supposed to be the world's more foremost figure in the study of JP II's philosophical and theological anthropology. The lecture blew my mind! I couldn't take notes fast enough. In fact, I'm going to try and purchase a digital recorder of some sort while I'm here because the lectures are really that good!

At the end of his lecture I asked him about how JP II found that a theologian can only be a phenomenologist in a secondary sense and never a primary sense and if he could explain that. He said that, in response to people like Max Scheler, that they weren't phenomenological enough, which blew my mind. One example was that Max Scheler doesn't talk about the experience of "I will" as he though that the will was nothing truly real, but a result of emotional experiences. Amazing stuff.

In the second lecture we had Prof. Russell Hintinger. This man is a genius, seriously. He is so smart that he speaks at extremely abstract levels and was talking about the ontological nature of society. My notes explain it all and I will be more then happy to share this stuff with everyone. He really got started at getting to the route of what JP II meant by the "subjectivity of society".

For lunch we attempted to celebrate the 4th of July with the Americans by having hot dogs and hamburgers. Unless you're in England or Germany, do not try this, it will not be successful, the burger was discusting. I went off with a couple of the seminarians to have some real food and we had some great discussions and I bought a Polish Jersey fro 30 Zloties (which equates to about $10 Canadian!).

After that we had discussion groups. I didn't particpate too much in this one as it was a large discussion about the role of the EU (came out of discussing Centissimus Annus). Anyways, I don't know much about it, but do hope to read up on it one day.

In the evening we went for dinner. Followed by dinner myself and some other students joined Stephen White, George Weigel, and Prof. Hittinger for polish vodka and cigars. It was good vodka, though I think I had one shot too many. I didn't get drunk or anything that evening actually, but it hit me this morning!!!

After that Zane, myself, Brandon, and Stephen White went to a bar for a beer and discussed the seminar, lots of various topics, and an intense discussion about free will, the hierarchy of goods, and how it relates to vocation in terms of one's freedom.

Quickly today we started off with Fr. Kubjac again and it was again an amazing lecture and we had Prof. Hittinger go into the history of the Church acting and understanding "societas". It was an amazing lecture. It brought in the Cluniac Reforms and the Investiture conflict so I was especially excited! Again, too much in these lectures to be able to get across what has been said. I have used now just more then half of my first notepad that they gave me.

We had a quick lunch at a place near the Dominican Priory and then went on a tour of Wawel Castle and Cathedral, St Mary's Basillica, and a bit of the town. Was nice but a bit long and it has tired me out.

We are about to have Mass and then it is off to dinner yet again and then I think I'm just going to hang out here tonight and read and relax, no beer or vodka today!!!!

Thanks to those who have e-mailed me and hope to hear from others soon! To those who e-mailed, I will do my best to get back to you soon, now I'm off to Mass.

I guess it wasn't such a quick post after all!

God bless