NOVELTY OVER GOODNESS
Today's librarians apparently believe the only way to get kids to read is to sucker them in with books about television characters, or worse.
A STAUNCH DEFENDER OF THE WESTERN CANON
Bloom understands that literary study, in contradistinction to cultural studies, is, and ever will be, an elitist endeavor in the service of aesthetics.
THE THRILL IS GONE
I’ve come to realize that Lucy Beckett is right: Milton is no Christian. That is, he gets it wrong and, worse, seems not to know it.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #55
David D. Jividen
In the many stories of saints who followed their inspirations despite the seeming impossibility of what God was asking them to do, He was the source of life for these souls.
LOVE DURING WARTIME
Williams, an influential British theologian and accomplished man of letters, was best known as a principal member of the Inklings.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #53 & #54
Penance is man’s pitiful part in cooperation with grace, an extreme method necessary to combat the difficulties posed by the passion and the pride of man.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #52
Kristin Lavransdatter’s story shows that following our own desires brings pain but also that God remains with us and draws us into His love and service.
Michael S. Rose
Although we have more books available to us than at any time in history, fewer and fewer of us read great literature, distracted as we are by screens.
WHAT SEEMED ABSURD IN 1962 NOW APPEARS FRIGHTENINGLY QUOTIDIAN
The book seemed absurd when it appeared in 1962. Sixty years later, lipstick-wearing men, sex changes, and overzealous population controllers are common.
ON SPEAKING WITH AUTHORITY
Thomas H. Hubert
Kierkegaard’s concept of “the Apostle” influenced Percy’s presentation of character and theological insight in his fiction.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #51
Edmund B. Miller & Monica Blaney
Willa Cather, in Death Comes for the Archbishop, offers a clear literary portrait of a man who sees the divine in the ordinary.
The citizens of Oceania are not only stripped of human freedom and basic rights but so dehumanized that each individual lacks any semblance of human dignity.
OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH PETS HAVE GONE WRONG
Our relationships with animals have gone wrong. What is tolerable in a few Mrs. Pumphreys is horrifying when it becomes common practice.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED #50
GKC asserts that Jesus was not merely one of many great figures in history; rather, He is at the center of all history: past, present, and future.
If we continue to cede our lives to Hollywood and tech, we will fall prey to consumerism and become a vacuous people concerned with little more than our own amusements.
The world Ishiguro describes is not some far-flung future driven by fantastic technology still on the distant horizon; it is recognizable as our own.
Swift’s struldbrugs inspire consideration of the abiding human passion to prolong life indefinitely. But by losing our mortality, do we also lose our humanity?
A certain scientific consequentialism claims that the “end” of medical experimentation (the advancement of science) justifies any “means.”
All of us, regardless of our wealth or circumstances, are presented with choices that lead either to our happiness or to our ruin.
Lewis, as a man, a scholar, and a writer, recognizes the perennial threat of dehumanization, including the misuse of science.
Artists are prophetic because they see and experience what those at a distance take longer to see.
Does the international pharmaceutical industry indeed use destitute black Africans as guinea pigs for its clinical trials?
ON THE SOCIABILITY OF EDUCATION
People require outside influences to educe their latent talents, to cultivate the manners and morals that produce civility and intelligence.
Is it ever appropriate to change human nature, even if ostensibly for the sake of improving the quality of life for a great many people?
Honest, humble, Christ-like priests serve on the front lines of a multi-millennia war against evil, defiantly waving the banner of Christ.
HOW ARE YOU USING YOUR QUARANTINE TIME?
When reading great literature, especially the great books, we find the virtues of love and forgiveness front and center.
Achebe centers on the clash of civilizations between his native Ibo culture and Christian missionaries who established colonial government in Nigeria.
Language should reflect reality. If it doesn’t, what possible limits could be placed on misleading, manipulative language?
Brown believes he can dabble with the Devil just this once and then return to Faith spiritually unscathed and continue his earthly pilgrimage to Heaven.
Markheim is confronted at the scene of his crime by a mysterious “visitant” who seems to be giving him advice on how best to escape being caught.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #49
Edmund B. Miller
Man’s efforts are lost if they are not embedded in and do not proceed from the eternal perspective, without which they remain fragmented impulses.
Chaucer satirizes the hypocrite and the fraudster, especially he who uses his talents -- like preaching -- for his own gain.
Shelley’s novel can be read as a validation of the family, marriage, and natural human values in contrast to the overreaching desires of the prideful scientist.
Huxley articulates, through an engaging narrative, the underlying philosophies that in any century will dehumanize us and lead us away from God and all that is truly good and beautiful.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #48
F. Douglas Kneibert
The Imitation is the finest work of Catholic spirituality. Thomas à Kempis’s voice speaks to us today with the same authority that his monks heard nearly six centuries ago.
Willa Cather understands there’s a bleak side to the Romantic ideal of the American dream, a critical misinterpretation that the dream focuses on you rather than on others.
A ROUND OF VISITS ACROSS DECAYING CHRISTENDOM
We travel under the pretense of being receptive, really looking for what we think we already know. Yet we are occasionally genuinely surprised.
Should we try to repair our imperfections using our human ingenuity and genius? In other words, should man aspire to control nature, to play God?
Poe uses the doppelgänger motif as a physical manifestation of Wilson’s conscience and ultimately shows the demise of a man who, blinded by his sins, kills his own conscience.
Then as now, opinion makers try to reduce those who testify against Church corruption to resentful reactionaries working out their revenge.
For the original vampire slayers, most of them nominal Anglicans, the efficacy of Catholic sacramentals and the Sacrament quickly becomes apparent.
Once Faustus takes possession of Mephistophilis as his servant, it becomes apparent that the Devil isn’t so much serving as manipulating him.
A KERYGMA FOR THE UNCATECHIZED
The loss of spiritual paternity within contemporary Catholicism is profound.
ON GENERATION X'S WANDERLUST
The family preserves and perpetuates those manners, morals, and ideals that are true yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
LOVING & HATING ARIGHT
AMASSING CREDIT IN THE TREASURE HOUSE OF MERIT
SALVATION IN SCIENCE? TRIUMPH IN TECHNOLOGY?
Man's passion to redress his felt grievances against nature becomes, as the Marquis de Sade showed us, a desire simply to outrage nature.
TO LIVE WELL & ENJOY BEAUTY
AN ABERRATION ? AN OXYMORON ?
Andrew M. Seddon
JESUS CONTRA JACQUES
The truth of the Incarnation and the Mystical Body of Christ offers both hope for loved ones lost and an exemplar to be emulated in our relating to the dead.
EVIL FOR EVIL'S SAKE
SHAKESPEARE, RACINE & CATHOLIC DRAMA
THE VIRTUE THAT SAVED CIVILIZATION
ALL THE CHURCH'S A STAGE
Macbeth, Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Falstaff, Henry IV — are these immortal portraits of sinful humanity not the very crucible of Shakespeare’s art?
LESSONS FROM LITERATURE
Righteous anger is a fire that inflames the heart to take action, enkindles the conscience to call evil by its true name, and purifies the mind to speak the truth.
ECHOES FROM THE PAGES OF A BOOK
Francis J. Manion
The main themes of "The Betrothed" include the mercy and forgiveness of God and the corruption caused by love of wealth and worldliness in society and the Church.
Anne Barbeau Gardiner
Lust is not beautiful, and no rhetoric can make it seem so. In "Sonnet 116," Shakespeare reminds us of what love really is: "the marriage of true minds."
WHAT HAS HISTORY REVEALED?
What can we say, if anything, about the Bard's religious and political views and how, if at all, are they woven into the plays themselves?
IS IT MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN THE TRUE & THE GOOD?
James G. Hanink
"Every consonance or harmony, every concord, every friendship and union," Maritain writes, "proceeds from the divine beauty…which gathers all things together and calls them to itself."
ACCIDENTS & ESSENCE
Satire plucks a bone from the body of meaning and tradition, and laughs at how ridiculous and useless the bone looks by itself.
Chene Richard Heady
GKC did believe creation and its Creator are good, but not that the majority of people would always choose rightly or that any merely human structure would endure.
Kerouac was “not ashamed to wear the crucifix of my Lord... I believe in beatitude and that God so loved the world that he gave his own begotten son to it.”
Joseph T. Stuart
Had they met, the English writer and the French philosopher would have had an interesting exchange of ideas over a nice cup of tea.
VITAL WORKS RECONSIDERED, #19-21
See how three authors — in varying degrees of sympathy with, or hostility toward, Christianity — expressed their conception of the basic struggle between good and evil.
The culture of the home raises the conduct of human life and measures it by the highest standards, not the lowest common denominator.
ENCOUNTERS WITH GOD
She believes a good fiction writer intuitively adopts a sacramental and liturgical view of creation and is therefore able to portray the spiritual in the ordinary.
NEITHER UTOPIAN NOR CYNICAL
"No man will be found in whose mind airy notions do not sometimes tyrannize and force him to hope or fear beyond the limits of sober probability."
STRUGGLE FOR THE AMERICAN SOUL
James Fenimore Cooper's 'The Last of the Mohicans' is the birthright of every American; it helps to explain who we are to ourselves.
BATTLE STRATEGIES OF THE SEXES
Alice von Hildebrand
Literature offers many examples highlighting the fact that, in very subtle ways, men can be victimized -- even “tortured” -- by the fair sex.
DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY, YOUR TIME, YOUR MIND, OR YOUR BODY
The modern world's temptations are especially designed to dupe the young and to enslave them by money, indebtedness, entertainment, and sex.
Belloc is a thinker and writer of enormous importance. Whether as an essayist, poet, historian, social critic, or novelist, what he wrote is always of interest.
A classic attains permanent reputability not because it proves useful to one regnant ideology or another, but because it presents us with a unifying vision of nature and man’s place in it.
What must be closely examined is what the Potter series says about good and evil, and what defines each.
A LOST ART?
The cultivation of leisure, friendship, good cooking, and delightful storytelling are never learned if everyone is too busy or too lazy to be host or guest.
WHAT MANLINESS IS REALLY ALL ABOUT
Gentlemanliness flourishes when women hold men to high standards, expecting them to be magnanimous, civilized, and chaste.
DISCIPLES OF JAQUES, NOT JESUS
Our rewriting of the great drama of life, which should proceed like a mysterious tale full of wonder and engagement, is a sad soliloquy.
CULTIVATING THE MORAL SENTIMENTS
The truly human needs are the very things not absolutely necessary for mere survival: dignity, respect, gratitude, and kindness.
THE FIRST MODERN MAN: NOT MARX, BUT MONTAIGNE
Today sensitivity is a virtue, stimuli are irresistible, environment is determinative, and we prefer our chicken frozen and wrapped in plastic.
ESCHEWING TRENDY SPECULATION
While he lived, from first novel to last, he enjoyed an immense audience, an international audience drawn from all classes, including the royal family.
Good books aren’t highways or avenues of mass transport. They’re foot trails, the kind that are traveled single file or not at all.
GRASPING THE UNIVERSAL THROUGH THE PARTICULAR
Brownson argues that Man grasps the universal only through a particular (and inevitably divisive) set of loyalties, as opposed to a watery eclecticism.
John J. Reilly
Predictive Scripture differs from the odd example of human prescience in that it tells us the eternal significance of events to which it alludes.
BEYOND NOVELS AS A FORM OF DIVERSION
Ed Block Jr.
The novelist calls characters into being and prods them forth toward a closure which, once reached, turns all that came before radiant with meaning.
ECCLESIASTICAL COMEDY AS DEEPENED COMEDY
Powers once remarked that he views the human condition as essentially comic, and that writing about priests complicates or deepens the comedy.
OPPORTUNISM & FEAR AMONG THE INTELLECTUALS
James J. Thompson Jr.
Those who know Waugh only through his novels might be surprised to learn that he entered the Church as early as 1930.
CHRIST & NEIGHBOR
John C. Cort
A people, such as the Russians, who have produced and who still honor writers like Gorki, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy deserve to be regarded with respect.
When Thomas Hardy’s "Jude the Obscure" was published, Victorian England was hardly ready to accept that novel’s story of a love affair between cousins.
In every Percy novel there is a complex, religiously sensitive yet also modern and scientific sensibility at work.
Bruce L. Edwards Jr.
Endo seeks to foster and exemplify such religious concepts as sin, redemption, and resurrection in his characterization and plot.
The world is wolfish, devouring, full of evil, Silone knew — yet, good will and love are also constantly in evidence: God’s gift to us.
Although Murdoch’s characters have banished God, they have yet to rid themselves of sin, guilt, and evil; God is dead but Satan thrives.
The opening struggle for a New Jerusalem is naturally beyond anyone’s ken. A novelist, perhaps alone among us, has the capacity to make compelling guesses.
CHRISTIAN CLASSICS REVISITED
St. Francis was that rarest of revolutionaries: one impelled by love rather than by hatred veneered with the catchwords of brotherhood.
Carl R. Schmahl
Good fiction uses the events and tensions of everyday life on one level to draw us deeper and deeper into the writer’s perception of truth or reality on another.
Political activists of every stripe distrust Percy, for none of them knows exactly where to peg him.
Cheever is a melioristic figure in contemporary literature. But whether such a tatterdemalion figure can be “baptized” is another matter.
At times Christian writers have entered that exclusive realm where profound insight into the wisdom of Christianity joins artistic merit to produce fiction of a higher order.
Waugh never attempted to palliate his sins or weasel out of their consequences; he believed in the fallen state of man because he clearly discerned his own bent nature.
ON DOROTHY L. SAYERS
Rosamond Kent Sprague
The work of Dorothy Sayers is very much all of a piece; she was a thinking and believing Anglican throughout her literary career.
From first to last, The Whimsical Christian provides the unadulterated pleasure of watching the workings of a powerful Christian mind.
The expense of maintaining our own illusions of godliness must finally crush our spirits or turn us back to God.
- Karl Keating