29 July 2009

Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education, by Stratford Caldecott

In this age of technological advance and overinformation, of the steady proliferation of college degrees (for the qualified and the unqualified alike), higher education has lost something, a certain quality difficult to pinpoint. Stratford Caldecott, in his book Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education, illuminates on this score:
[S]tudents come to a college education expecting nothing more than a set of paper qualifications that will enable them to earn a decent salary. The idea that they might be there to grow as human beings, to be inducted into an ancient culture, to become somehow more than they are already, is alien to them. They expect instant answers, but they have no deep questions. The great questions have not yet been woken in them. The process of education requires us to become open, receptive, curious, and humble in the face of what we do not know. The world is a fabric woven of mysteries, and a mystery is a provocation to our humanity that cannot be dissolved by googling a few more bits of information.
That is precisely the way the modern student approaches his college education—arriving to class, he expects to acquire “a few more bits of information” to add to the storehouse of data he has already gleaned along the way toward the coveted degree, the profession, the salary. And the modern professor obliges. Instead of teaching the arts and sciences as a meaningful whole, the modern mindset splinters them into separate categories made to appear in opposition to each other, so that the yearning for the divine awakened by study of the humanities—of music, philosophy, and the arts—is quashed under the thumb of the scientific hand. This is not as it should be.

Caldecott’s book is, as he confesses, a manifesto of sorts, a guide to rescuing the liberal arts from the deadening grip of postmodernism (essentially heir to the old nominalism of Roscelin and Ockham), which would rather fracture and divide than unify. Recalling the Trivium and Quadrivium of the ancients, he proposes these as inspiration. He also suggests awakening the poetic imagination with regard to science and mathematics, those two subjects of inquiry most often made (by modern man) the enemy of the divine.

But even more than this he offers a more certain way of taking back education from its postmodern captors: the liturgy.

The truly authentic man is the man united to God through prayer and worship. This union extends to his fellow man in one communion of prayer.
Catholic liturgy takes us even deeper than that. It takes us to the source of the cosmos itself, into the sacred precincts of the Holy Trinity where all things begin and end (whether they know it or not), and to the source of all artistic and scientific inspiration, of all culture…. [C]reation, through its very being, gives a kind of liturgical praise to God.
Encountering this one Source, then—and awakening the desire in students to do the same by reminding them of the divine source of all knowledge—is the key to taking back the liberal arts from their captors, and to the re-enchantment of education.

Caldecott’s book may be purchased here.

20 July 2009

How the Rosary Stopped a Rampage

Domenico Bettinelli recounts his memories of the late Monsignor Kerr:
Kevin told us the story Msgr. Kerr told him about that awful night in Gainesville Tallahassee, Florida, in 1978. He said Kerr got the call from the police in the middle of the night to rush out to the sorority house. When he arrived he was told that all but one of the girls in the house were dead or near death, killed by a serial killer who was later to be known to the world as Ted Bundy. After giving those last rites to the dying college girl, then-Fr. Kerr was asked by the police on the scene to talk to the girl who survived unscathed. They wanted to know how she survived the brutal attacks, because Bundy had stopped right inside the door to her room, dropped his weapon, and left without touching her. But the girl would talk to no one but a priest.

When Fr. Kerr approached the near-catatonic girl, she told him that her mother had made her promise before going off to college for the first time that she would pray the Rosary every night before bed for protection; even if she fell asleep praying the Rosary, which she had that night so that when Bundy came into her room with murder on his mind, the beads were still clutched in her hands.

Later, Bundy would tell Monsignor that when he entered the girl’s room, he just couldn’t go on, he dropped his weapon, and he fled. Such is the power of our Mother’s protective mantle.

Vietnamese Catholics Heavily Fined under Revived Communist Two-Child Policy

LifeSiteNews.com reports:
The communist government of Viet Nam is punishing couples with more than two children, a local Catholic news agency reports. Catholic villagers in Thua Thien-Hue province told the Union of Catholic Asian News they are being fined for having more than two children under a revived government two-child policy.

Catherine Pham Thi Thanh, 44, told the service that since 1996, she has been fined a total of 3,800 kilograms of rice for having six children. This represents a significant loss for the family which makes an annual profit of only 700 kilograms of rice from their 1,000 square-meter farm.

Despite the fact that Viet Nam now has a below-replacement rate of fertility - 1.83 children born per woman - the communist government in the early 1960s imposed a 2-child limit for couples. The UN's leading population control group, the UNFPA, has been active in contraception and abortion campaigns in the country since 1997.

In 2000, the BBC lauded the policy for having reduced the overall fertility rate from 3.8 children per woman to 2.3, but admitted that a "degree of coercion" was used to ensure compliance. This included fines, expulsion from the communist party and confiscation of land. The original policy was scrapped in 2003 but revived in 2008 after a 10 percent spike in the birth rate alarmed officials who never stopped "encouraging" couples to have only small families.

But even the UNFPA was reportedly "puzzled" by the revival. "In Vietnam now life expectancy is rising, the fertility rate is decreasing and in the next 20 years many people will be in the senior group," said Tran Thi Van, of UNFPA. "If there's not a sufficient labor force as the population is ageing, the country will face a lot of problems."

Viet Nam is following China and India on the path of demographic imbalance. The combination of ultrasound tests to determine the sex of the child plus abortion to favor boys, has forced the male to female ratio of the population to climb to 112-100 in 2007.

The Union of Catholic Asian News spoke to the local parish priest, Fr Joseph Nguyen Van Chanh, who confirmed that 90 percent of his 1,200 parishioners have agreed to pay fines as a way to be faithful to Church teaching and said that Catholics are taught natural family planning methods during marriage preparation courses.

Some local Catholics, said Father Chanh, are asking for donations from benefactors to support local people with large families.

17 July 2009

What's a little eugenics between friends anyway?

Damian Thompson of the UK Telegraph loudly wonders why the American mainstream media have largely ignored Justice Ginsburg's seemingly pro-eugenics remarks in her recent NYtimes interview. In her words:
Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.
Commentary from First Things defends Ginsburg against the charge, but the comments following the post make a good case that Ginsburg meant exactly what she said.

If you recall, Roe came on the heels of Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, published in 1968, which terrified society with admonitions on its cover like WHILE YOU ARE READING THESE WORDS FOUR PEOPLE WILL HAVE DIED FROM STARVATION. MOST OF THEM CHILDREN, and prophecies within its pages that "[t]he battle to feed all of humanity is over...the world will undergo famines...nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..." He also predicted, among other things, that world hunger would cause the pope to capitulate on the issues of birth control and abortion (Ehrlich's batting average is zero thus far). Far from these wild and inaccurate assertions discrediting him, Ehrlich is still reverenced among advocates of population control, whose motives are often less charitable than they like to portray. In P.J. O'Rourke's words, overpopulation is just another way of saying there's "just enough of me, way too much of you"--the "you" being poor, brown-skinned people who beget poor, brown-skinned children.

You doubt this? Ask one of these advocates if he thinks poor, dirty, crowded, leprous Bangladesh could benefit from a little population reduction. "Probably," would come the answer--yet ask the same about the wealthy, suntanned, bejeweled country of Monaco, whose population density is among the highest in the world at 44,000 heads per square mile (compared to Bangladesh's 2,200 people per square mile), and the answer would undoubtedly be no. If it's strictly overpopulation that's the worry, surely the latter qualifies more than any other place on earth. But who wants to rid the world of the bountiful and the beautiful? Or take booming, buzzing Hong Kong; no one thinks this center of commerce is a trouble spot for overpopulation--yet it has one of the highest population densities in the world at 16,000 heads per square mile, happily packed into those stacks of neon-bright skyscrapers.

And so the real motive behind population control becomes evident: it isn't reduction in general population; it is reduction, in the words of the august Supreme Court jurist, "in populations that we don’t want to have too many of." (To be fair, J. Ginsburg may not have meant what it sounds like she meant.) In short, eugenics--an ugly word for an ugly sentiment--but at least one high-profile feminist has finally come clean (or at least let slip) as to the ugly moorings of the abortion movement.

14 July 2009

I Wear Black on Bastille Day

Vive le Roy!

07 July 2009

Novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel