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It’s a common and easy enough distinction, this separation of books into those we read because we want to and those we read because we have to, and it serves as a useful marketing trope for publishers, especially when they are trying to get readers to take this book rather than that one to the beach. But it’s a flawed and pernicious division. This linking of pleasure and guilt is intended as an enticement, not as an admonition: reading for guilty pleasure is like letting one’s diet slide for a day—naughty but relatively harmless. The distinction partakes of a debased cultural Puritanism, which insists that the only fun to be had with a book is the frivolous kind, or that it’s necessarily a pleasure to read something accessible and easy. Associating pleasure and guilt in this way presumes an anterior, scolding authority—one which insists that reading must be work.

But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being lead into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation. Among my catalogue are some books that I am sure I was—to use an expression applied to elementary-school children—decoding rather than reading. Such, I suspect, was the case with “Ulysses,” a book I read at eighteen, without having first read “The Odyssey,” which might have deepened my appreciation of Joyce. Even so—and especially when considering adolescence—we should not underestimate the very real pleasure of being pleased with oneself. What my notebook offers me is a portrait of the reader as a young woman, or at the very least, a sketch. I wanted to read well, but I also wanted to become well read. The notebook is a small record of accomplishment, but it’s also an outline of large aspiration. There’s pleasure in ambition, too.

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Rebecca Mead, The Pleasure of Reading To Impress Yourself
13 August 2014

Amen. Amen. AMEN.

H/T B.D. McClay

"Arm yourself with prayer instead of a sword; be clothed with humility instead of fine raiment."

"Arm yourself with prayer instead of a sword; be clothed with humility instead of fine raiment."

"To put it differently, the identification of conscience with superficial consciousness, the reduction of man to his subjectivity, does not liberate but enslaves. It makes us totally dependent on the prevailing opinions and debases these with every passing day. Whoever equates conscience with superficial conviction, identifies conscience with a pseudo-rational certainty, a certainty which in fact has been woven from self- righteousness, conformity and lethargy. Conscience is degraded to a mechanism for rationalization while it should represent the transparency of the subject for the divine and thus constitute the very dignity and greatness of man. Conscience’s reduction to subjective certitude betokens at the same time a retreat from truth. When the psalmist in anticipation of Jesus’ view of sin and justice pleads for liberation from unconscious guilt, he points to the following relation. Certainly, one must follow an erroneous conscience. But the departure from truth which took place beforehand and now takes its revenge is the actual guilt which first lulls man into false security and then abandons him in the trackless waste."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth
February 1991

H/T Sancrucensis

"If the tax collector with all his undisputed sins stands more justified before God than the Pharisee with all his undeniably good works (Lk 18:9-14), this is not because the sins of the tax collector were not sins or the good deeds of the Pharisee not good deeds. Nor does it mean that the good that man does is not good before God, or the evil not evil or at least not particularly important. The reason for this paradoxical judgment of God is shown precisely from our question. The Pharisee no longer knows that he too has guilt. He has a completely clear conscience. But this silence of conscience makes him impenetrable to God and men, while the cry of conscience which plagues the tax collector makes him capable of truth and love. Jesus can move sinners. Not hiding behind the screen of their erroneous consciences, they have not become unreachable for the change which God expects of them, and of us. He is ineffective with the ‘righteous’, because they are not aware of any need for forgiveness and conversion. Their consciences no longer accuse them but justify them."

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth
February 1991

This is the most cogent treatment of the problem of conscience and authority I’ve ever read.

H/T Sancrucensis

"…the idea of flourishing as a human being has shriveled to meaning no more than leading an experientially satisfying life. The sources of satisfaction may vary: power, possessions, love, religion, sex, food, drugs—whatever. What matters most is not the source of satisfaction but the experience of it—my satisfaction. Our satisfied self is our best hope. Not only is this petty, but a dark shadow of disappointment stubbornly follows our obsession with personal satisfaction. We are meant to live for something larger than our own satisfied selves. Petty hopes generate self-subverting, melancholy experiences."

Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith (via contrariansoul)

(via onancientpaths)

"The collapse of the liturgy in standard Catholic parishes all over the world has had, and continues to have as we speak, a truly devastating impact of the faith of the ‘common man in the pew’. The neglect of the faith of several of my siblings and nearly all of my old Catholic friends is entirely related to the spectacle of the ‘Mass-as-sociology’, as feelgood-sentimental-coffee-morning-club. The faith of uncatechised Catholics (i.e. most Catholics raised since c. 1965) tends to be undermined by what they experience liturgically, even without especially bad aberrations. In varying degrees of badness, this is the general state of affairs throughout Europe, America, and in my brief sojourns in Asia and South America. Yet, as I said, even without bold aberrations, the merely standard recitation of the ad populum novus ordo has formed millions of Catholics all over the world with no sense at all of the transcendence and the mystery of God, nor of the Eucharist. […] I see [this as] a kind of ecclesial emergency."

Sancrucensis
Gaudium et Spes, with a little bit of Luctus et Angor
15 March 2013

1 note

David Foster Wallace on Anamnesis

"All our religion is but a false religion, and all our virtues are mere illusions and we ourselves are only hypocrites in the sight of God, if we have not that universal charity for everyone - for the good and for the bad, for the poor and for the rich, and for all those who do us harm as much as those who do us good."

"All our religion is but a false religion, and all our virtues are mere illusions and we ourselves are only hypocrites in the sight of God, if we have not that universal charity for everyone - for the good and for the bad, for the poor and for the rich, and for all those who do us harm as much as those who do us good."

3 notes

"Prayer consists of attention. It is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable towards God. The quality of attention counts for much in the quality of the prayer. Warmth of heart cannot make up for it."

Simone Weil

"The Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics arises from the same divine truth as its teaching on poverty and exploitation. The ethics have to do with the intended purpose of humankind and God’s will for our communion with one another."

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The Church’s Split Ethical Focus
2 April 2014

5 notes