More on self-sacrifice and renouncing self-will

Self-will is the inclination to do our own will. On account of the corruption of human nature self-will is usually opposed to the will of God and is defined as such by spiritual writers. As heaven is the reward for doing God’s will, detachment is necessary for all. Children must renounce their will to obey their parents; citizens, to abide by the law of the land; and Christians, to become worthy brethren of Christ. Those, however, who seek perfection, must make the holy will of God their own in all things before they can say with Christ, “I do always the things that please him” (John viii.29). In fact, in proportion as we do God’s will we work for heaven, and in proportion as we do our own will we have our reward in its gratification. “Why have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded; why have we humbled our souls, and thou hast not taken notice? Behold, in the day of your fast your own will is found” (Is. iviii.3).

Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way: A Brief, Clear, Systematical Exposition of the Spiritual Life for the Laity, and a Practical Guide Book to Christian Perfection for All of Good Will (New York: Benziger, 1914).

(H/T to Saintly Sages.)


Natural law, family and society

In what natural law theory regards as a rightly ordered society, most people marry, and marriage typically results in children, and lots of them.  This in turn creates a large social network of people known personally to one – lots of brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and so on – on whom individuals can fall back in times of need.  Divorce is stigmatized, so that children generally have stable homes and discipline, and they and their mothers generally have a reliable provider.  Elder family members are looked after by the new generation, just as they looked after that generation when it was in its infancy.  Elder members also find ongoing purpose in helping to raise their grandchildren.  In general, the good of the family takes precedence over the desires of the individual member.  And this subordination of self-interest to the common good of the family makes people more sober and realistic in their expectations, less selfish, and better able to achieve a contentment that is deep and lasting even if not as titillating as running off to begin a second or third marriage.

Contrast that with the contemporary mentality, which regards sex and romance as primarily a matter of self-fulfillment, rather than having self-sacrifice for the sake of children and family as its natural end.  Whereas the traditional arrangements commended by natural law subordinated the short-term interests of the individual to the long-term health of the family, the modern mentality subordinates the long-term health of the family to the short-term interests of the individual.  Naturally, solidarity is weakened [and this weakened solidarity extends to the society as a whole].

Edward Feser, “Liberty, equality, fraternity?“, Edward Feser blog, October 10, 2017.

The martyrdom of Pope Saint Stephen

“I am sorry, Sir, that we interrupted your Mass, but we really do have to kill you because Valerian is our emperor and he says so.”

“Oh, yes,” said Stephen, “I quite see that.”

“But we thought,” said the Minion, “that we could kill you here and now, with your own people, so that you needn’t go back to Valerian.”

“How kind of you!” said Stephen. “May I just go to Confession first?”

“Anything you like,” said the Minions, and they waited while Stephen went to Confession. When he was ready he went and sat on his Pope’s Throne and the Minions came very Politely and cut off his head, and all the people cried. But Stephen went straight to God and thanked Him very much indeed for letting him die so quickly and easily.

Joan Windham, Sixty Saints for Boys, New York: Sheed & Ward (1948).

Random quotes

“Truth implies freedom, because in the regime of freedom an arbitrary authority cannot impose dogmas according to its good pleasure: the human mind is at the same time subject to truth and free because of it.”

Chantal Delsol, “L’idée d’Université”, quoted on Siris, October 10, 2017.

“Wilder Penfield, an early-twentieth-century neurosurgeon who pioneered seizure surgery, noted that during brain stimulation on awake patients, he was never able to stimulate the mind itself—the sense of ‘I’—but only fragmented sensations and perceptions and movements and memories. Our core identity cannot be evoked or altered by physical stimulation of the brain.

“Relatedly, Penfield observed that spontaneous electrical discharges in the brain cause involuntary sensations and movements and even emotions, but never abstract reasoning or calculation. There are no ‘calculus’ seizures or ‘moral’ seizures, in which patients involuntarily take second derivatives or ponder mercy.”

Michael Egnor, “A Map of the Soul“,, June 29, 2017.

“Political correctness is a serious problem, and it has an authoritarian tendency. … It is an obligatory, enforced participation in a fluid, liquefied moral world. We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are ‘including.'”

R.R. Reno, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism“, First Things magazine, October 2017.

Song of the Day

I thought that I’d outgrow this kind of thing.
Tell me, aren’t we supposed to mature or something?
I haven’t found that yet.
Is this as grown-up as we ever get?
Maybe this is as good as it gets.
And the years go by,
But I think the heart remains a child.
The mind may grow wise,
But the heart just sulks, and it whines,
And remains a child.

Everything But the Girl, “The Heart Remains a Child” (1996).

Assorted quotes

It was the girls’ state championship track meet in Connecticut. A Cromwell High School freshman who calls himself Andraya Yearwood and “identifies” as female sped to victory in the 100- and 200-meter races. The 2016 winner, Sarah Hall, now a junior, came in second. She had this to say to reporters after being vanquished by a male runner that the State of Connecticut calls a female runner: “I can’t really say what I want to say, but there’s not much I can do about it.” Her succinct words capture the depth of the perversion that transgender ideology will impose upon us all. We will have to accommodate ourselves to lies, knowing that truthful words will be punished.

R.R. Reno, “The Public Square,” First Things magazine, August/September 2017, p. 67.

We need to get our heads on straight about all this. Political correctness and campus protests are not threats to elite institutions and their promise to the young that they guarantee success. The radical ideologies are part of a choreographed dance. “Unlike the campus protestors of the 1960s, today’s student activists are not expressing countercultural views. They are expressing the exact views of the culture in which they find themselves (a reason that administrators prove so ready to accede to their demands). If you want to find the counterculture on today’s elite college campuses, you need to look for the conservative students.”

R.R. Reno, “The Public Square,” First Things magazine, August/September 2017, p. 68 (quoting William Deresiewicz).

Part of that imperial arrogance in our own day, I believe, is the insistence that we, the empire, the West, America, or wherever, are in a position to tell the societies that we are already exploiting in a thousand different ways that they should alter their deep-rooted moralities to accommodate our newly invented ones. There is something worryingly imperial about the practice itself and about the insistence on everybody else endorsing it. It is often said that the poor want justice while the rich want peace. We now have a situation where two-thirds of the world wants debt relief and one-third wants sex.

N.T. Wright, Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013 (Minneapolis:Fortress Press, 2013) (H/T to The Millennial Star).