Cahiers Péguy

18Dec/103

Franzen’s Freedom, Judaism, and Pope Benedict

Posted by Fred

I saw a nicely-scoped article on the novel Freedom yesterday: "Jonathan Franzen's Jewish Riddle." With all of the topics raised and wrestled with in Freedom, Joshua Furst examines the novel's significant interest in the varieties of contemporary Judaism. This examination brings him to the conclusion that "As each of Freedom’s heroes eventually discovers, the only socially responsible stance one can take, if one is to find a way out of our current quagmire, is Secular Humanism, which of course has its roots tangled deep in the history of Jewish thought." Of course, Franzen is too good of a writer for things to be this simple. Instead, this theme forms a kind of hypothesis, which butts up against the relentless cries of human needs and desires. Walter, the environmentalist and zero population growth advocate, wants children again with his young admirer. While Patty Burgland reconciles her family, not everything else is so neatly accounted for. And on a macro level, the many obsessively detailed statistics which Walter surveys (e.g. the impact of housecats on migratory songbirds) describe a real problem that with no clear solution in sight: increased global consumption on a planet with finite resources.
Confronting this problem, Walter sees no greater enemy than the pope. I wonder what Walter would make of Pope Benedict XVI's interview, Light of the Word. No doubt, taking a cue from the media he would be pleased to see the pope moving toward some agreement with him on condoms. But I have in mind, chapter 4 of Light of the World, in which the pope addresses the environmental crises:
"Meanwhile, in view of the threatening catastrophe, there is the recognition everywhere that we must make moral decisions. There is also a more or less pronounced awareness of a global responsibility for it; that ethics must no longer refer merely to one's own group or one's own nation, but rather must keep the earth and all people in view.
To this extent a certain potential for moral insight is present. But the conversion of this into political will and political actions is then rendered largely impossible by the lack of willingness to do without. After all, this would have to be implemented in national budgets and finally carried out by individuals, which then in turn leads to an unequal burdening of various groups."
Benedict goes on to make the case for an authority who can move the individual person to make sacrifice (which "becomes an acknowledged value for his life"). The pope proposes that the Church is the authority who can appeal to the individual. There are of course other possible solutions. In Freedom, one solution is to hold a concert to make childlessness cool. And while Benedict is critical of "eye catching events", Franzen doesn't seem to put much faith in them either.
Beyond the Jews described in the article linked, there is also an Evangelical woman who is as driven to consumption as everybody else, but irksome in her self righteousness. It would seem then that secular humanism is less of a solution to the problem and simply the way things are: religion being an escape or a denial of the global scope of contemporary problems.

I saw a nicely-scoped article on the novel Freedom yesterday: "Jonathan Franzen's Jewish Riddle." With all of the topics raised and wrestled with in Freedom, Joshua Furst examines the novel's significant interest in the varieties of contemporary Judaism. This examination brings him to the conclusion that "As each of Freedom’s heroes eventually discovers, the only socially responsible stance one can take, if one is to find a way out of our current quagmire, is Secular Humanism, which of course has its roots tangled deep in the history of Jewish thought." Yes, but Franzen is too good of a writer for things to be this simple. Instead, this theme forms a kind of hypothesis, which butts up against the relentless cries of human needs and desires. Walter, the environmentalist and zero population growth advocate, wants children again with his young admirer. While Patty Burgland reconciles her family, not everything else is so neatly accounted for. And on a macro level, the many obsessively detailed statistics which Walter surveys (e.g. the impact of housecats on migratory songbirds) describe a real problem that with no clear solution in sight: increased global consumption on a planet with finite resources.

Confronting this problem, Walter sees no greater enemy than the pope. I wonder what he would make of Pope Benedict XVI's interview, Light of the World . . . 

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17Dec/105

Péguy: “after Jesus, without Jesus”

Posted by Fred

In Generating Traces in the History of the World, Msgr. Giussani quotes Charles Péguy's judgment:

"For the first time, for the first time after Jesus, we have seen, before our eyes, we are about to see before our eyes a new world arising, if not a city; a new society forming, if not a city – modern society, the modern world. A world, a society in formation, or at least assembling, growing, after Jesus, without Jesus. And the most terrible thing, my friends, we mustn't deny it, is that they have managed. What gives a capital importance to our generation and to the time we live in, my friends, is what puts you at a unique watershed in the history of the world, is what puts you in a tragic, unique situation. You are the first. You are the first of the modern men, your are the first before whom, before whose eyes this has happened, and you have caused to happen, this singular work, this foundation of the modern world, this establishment of the intellectual party of the modern world" (qtd 100-101).  

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22Nov/101

Christ the King, the king of his life

Posted by megan

Miguel_ProThis past Sunday we celebrated the feast of Christ the King, the culmination of the Church’s entire liturgical year, and on Nov. 23 we remember the martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. whose death came only two short years after the very first Feast of Christ the King.

Blessed Miguel Pro was a Mexican priest in a time of great revolt and religious persecution. Consequently, it was also a time of anti-clerical hounding based on a militant enforced atheism. This turmoil left many religious and priests with no option but to flee Mexico’s borders or take the Church underground. Fr. Miguel Pro S.J., only 36 years-old, fearlessly continued serving the poor, the destitute and the oppressed. As he biked from town to town, it was only a matter of time before he was eventually identified as a Roman Catholic priest and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Fr. Pro was able to evade authorities for nearly a year as he continued his ministry, but on Nov. 23, 1927 he was caught and immediately sentenced to death without trial.

Mexican dictator, Plutarco Calles, sought to use the priest’s death as a public example of the fate of any Christian and ordered that a professional photographer document the event. He wanted every countryman to see the gruesome death he too could face for proclaiming faith in God.

A firing squad and crowds were efficiently assembled and as his last request, Fr. Pro was brought before the people to pray in silence for two minutes. Upon rising, he said to the firing squad, “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, You know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.”

He was offered a blindfold, but declined. Instead, with a rosary in one hand and a crucifix in the other, he outstretched his arms as Jesus on the cross and said in a firm, unshaken voice, “Viva Christo Rey!” “Long live, Christ the King!”

The next day, as the priest’s lifeless body was carried to the cemetery, nearly 10 thousand Mexicans risked their own lives to accompany it, courageously passing in front of the dictator's house. They chanted Fr. Pro’s words throughout the somber walk. “Viva Christo Rey! Viva Christo Rey!”

Copies of the execution photo with Fr. Pro’s arms outstretched spread madly across the country and were immediately banned. People everywhere knew the power of his words and the power of his witness.

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31Oct/100

Dia de los Muertos art a reminder of living church

Posted by megan

En el Tren

Neuberger Museum of Art DEAD AND ALIVE “En el Tren,” etching and aquatint on amate paper, is among the works by Nicolás De Jesús in his show, “The Irony of the Skeletons,” at the Neuberger Museum of Art. (NY Times)

A current New York art exhibition of works by Mexican painter and printer, Nicolás De Jesús, depicts grinning, active skeletons partaking in daily life. The exhibit, which coincides with Dia de los Muertos, not only portrays the Mexican holiday, but in an indirect way, our life as Catholics.

How easily we forget that to encounter one another we must also encounter generations, cultures, life and eventually death.

The beauty of Catholicism is that it knows no boundaries — it is not defined by centuries, continents or current events.

Possibly even more beautiful? Our faith allows us to formulate a worldview that seeks to find the humanism, see the whole and in turn, search for Christ in everything.

Read the article, "Smiling Skeletons, With Lives to Lead and Issues to Raise," HERE

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29Oct/102

Urgency for conversion of others, of self

Posted by megan

Recently, a fellow member of the Catholic Press and I were greeted with an unexpected religious grilling of sorts while visiting at a St. Paul coffee shop.  While the scenario was not one out of the ordinary, the questions that followed me home weighed heavier than they ever had before.

The woman, a local event planner, had noticed one particular article among an abundance of newsprint covering our table. A front-page story highlighted the proposed Archdiocesan closing and clustering of many parishes prior to any formal announcement.  She was convinced that if she were commissioned to orchestrate a large fundraiser, there would be no need for such drastic measures. We both assured her, at the time, it was nothing more than speculation and likely had to do with a variety of issues, not entirely limited to financial reasons.

Immediately, she inquired whether or not we worked for the church. How could we possibly know more than the newshounds of the greater metro area? Well, where did you go to school? St. Thomas. What did you major in? Catholic Studies. Oops, all it took were our wry smiles and subtle nods of the head for the floodgates to her years of Catholic inquiries to come pouring out.

An hour later, mentally exhausted, we left having fielded everything from Church teaching on contraceptives to celibacy and each hot button issue in between. Feeling a bit defeated in the certain inadequacies of our responses, we packed up to leave. Upon exiting the establishment, we declined another party's invitation  to sign a petition in support of gay marriage.

Our two opportunities to witness that day left us feeling insufficient and a bit like the minority. It prompted us to ask why, despite all of our logic and reason, no matter how fundamentally we may present the faith, our efforts can seem so futile.  Furthermore, we wanted to know, why don’t people just get it?

Perhaps the more pressing question: Why don't I?

The morning’s encounters remained at the forefront of my thoughts all two and a half hours of my drive home that day. The question on my mind? Is this what it means when Carron speaks so frequently of changing the I first?

I know it must be so, but what am I to do in the interim with the sense of urgency that I have for every person I encounter to fall in love with the faith as deeply as I have?

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