Blogging through Pope John XXIII: A Crucified Life

“O sweet Jesus, grant me true love, the love of the Cross, not of those heroic crosses whose splendour nourishes self-love, but of those ordinary crosses which we bear with such repugnance, of those crosses which appear every day in our lives and which are found at every hour along our path – opposition, failure, abandonment, obstacles, adversities, coldness, impatience, rejection, scorn, bodily infirmity, mental depression, silence and aridity of the heart. Only then I shall I know that I love you; though I may not feel or know this, it will be enough. – O sweet Jesus, may your will always and without exception be fulfilled in me!”

- ‘Offering of a Crucified Life,’ Father Lintelo (found stapled to Pope John XXIII’s typed notes)

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: A Change in the Method of Holiness, The Roots of Vatican II

The scene is a dark, cold night in 1962. October 11 in St. Peter’s square in Rome. Following the first session of Vatican II, streams of people gather underneath the balcony of St. Peter’s chanting, hoping, that Pope John XXIII will appear and bless them. ‘The Good Pope’ they call their father now, because of his easy and friendly manner. The crowd cheers as he comes out to the balcony and begins to speak. “Dear sons and daughters,” he begins, “I feel your voices! Mine is just one lone voice, but it sums up the voice of the whole world. And here, in fact, all the world is represented here tonight. It could even be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above, it might watch this spectacle that not even St Peter’s Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness.” Thus, in a word, John XXIII indicates the momentous movement in history that excites the Catholics below. He speaks tenderly: “When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: ‘This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.’ And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a word of comfort. Tell them ‘The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.’” The people below erupt in cries of affection as John XXIII walks back into the papal apartments.

This man whom the crowd saw was evidently a tender man, freely showing his familial affection for his spiritual children. But when we read, in The Journal of a Soul, that this Pope made a habit of scathing and scrupulous self-examination in seminary, how can we understand the disparity between the two characters? The spiritual journey of Angelo Roncalli is mapped out for us and shows exactly the progress from a loving but fearful seminarian to a tender and fatherly Pope for all of Christendom. In fact, the change that took place helps to explain the spirit of Vatican II, and the ideals which informed it. John XXIII did not wake up one morning and arbitrarily decide to invoke a council. Continue reading

Friedrich Hayek and Hobby Lobby

Intercollegiate Review Online graciously published one of my essays in their “Student Voices” section. An excerpt:

As a deluge of furious Twitterees were mistakenly web-razing the @SCOTUSblog and clergy distributed condoms in a “creative, faith-based protest” of the SCOTUS decision, Friedrich von Hayek was quietly clapping in his Viennese grave while the United States’ highest court shifted America into reverse on her road to serfdom. As voices were raised and veins bulged over the newly discovered “right to contraceptives,” Hayek was reminded of something similar he had seen in Germany and Russia: was not this tendency towards government solutions and centralization similar?

See the full piece here. Continue reading

“The Good of Government” – Roger Scruton

“This does not mean that conservatives are wedded to some libertarian conception of the minimal state. The growth of modern societies has created social needs that the old patterns of free association are no longer able to satisfy. But the correct response is not to forbid the state from intruding into the areas of welfare, health care, education, and the rest, but to limit its contribution to the point where citizens’ initiatives can once again take the lead.” – Roger Scruton


Roger Scruton

Here is an excellent piece by Roger Scruton, who is coming to my university – Ave Maria University – this coming year. I’m not quite sure I agree that the basis of government is solely the spontaneous bond of affection and friendship – perhaps there is something deeper, or less emotive?

But the piece on the whole is excellent, and a good indication of where conservatism needs to go in order to become a positive vision. As per the usual conservative piece, Scruton’s least clarified part is his idea of what the welfare state should be. ‘Less than it is, not non-existent.’ But what does that mean in the concrete?

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: #3 Study is an Asceticism of Desire

Angelo Roncalli studying as a boy.

Angelo Roncalli studying as a boy.

Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, was decidedly not an intellectual. He wrote, “I must avoid certain enthusiastic ideas which, however excellent in themselves, are yet harmful at certain times because they distract the mind too much.” Studying for Angelo, especially as a seminarian, was for the greater glory of God – something to be sanctified. Every aspect of life was seen in relation to his duty towards Christ. No part of himself – not his desires, studies, or piety – were outside of this context.

In The Seminary at Bergamo we find Angelo composing his journal as a zealous 19 year old seminarian, committed to his virtues and duties as a seminarian. His journal opens with his own “Rules of life,” a personal appropriation of the ascetic rules handed to the best students in seminary. Two sections read:

     “Always allow sufficient time for study when you are at home.

“[The seminarian] must therefore never pursue his studies or do good works with a worldly end and intention in view.”

Continue reading

Atheism, Dialogue, and (Sir) Michael Novak

I’m doing research work on atheism for Ambassador Michael Novak this summer and I ran across this delightful little interview between Drs. Gary Gutting and Louise Antony, philosophy professors at Notre Dame and University of Massachusetts, respectively. I came across this little gem from Louise Antony, defending his atheism:

“It is disrespectful, moreover, to insist that someone else’s belief has some hidden psychological cause, rather than a justifying reason, behind it. As a “lapsed Catholic,” I’ve gotten a fair amount of this sort of thing myself: I’ve been told — sometimes by people who’ve just met me or who have never met me at all but found out my email address — that I “only” gave up my faith because (a) the nuns were too strict, (b) I wanted to have sex or (c) I was too lazy to get up on Sundays to go to church.

I believe I have reasons for my position, and I expect that theists believe they have reasons for theirs. Let’s agree to pay each other the courtesy of attending to the particulars.”

I’ve been reading Novak’s books on atheism, belief, and the experience of nothingness, and been very happy to find that he celebrates the validity of atheist’s experience. He writes in “A Time to Build,” “Those few who are serious about their atheism or their belief require one another.” (p. 45) Continue reading

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: #2 – Pope John XXIII: Key to Vatican II

Journal of a Soul

In 2014, I will be blogging through Pope John XXIII’s Journey of a Soul. Each Monday I will post a reflection on the previous weeks selection. Feel free to keep pace reading by picking up a copy here. I am borrowing Leah Libresco’s method of blogging through Pope Francis’ book because I am scared at the prospect of never writing a review until months later, when I finish reading the volume.



“If we are to understand the bold direction given to the Church by Pope John, we must enter into his interior solitude.”

- Fr. Giulio Bevilacqua, childhood friend to Pope John XXIII (p. xxv)


In 1895, when he was 14, Angelo Roncalli began writing in his journals and did not stop until he, as Pope John XXIII, was 81, shortly before his June 1963 death. His habit gives us the unique privilege of witnessing his spiritual growth leading up to and during his papacy. To my knowledge there is not such another continuous documentation of a Pope’s interior life.

Our Saint Pope John XXIII was born Angelo Roncalli in 1881. He was raised in Sotto il Monte, a small village located in Lombardy, Italy. He received communion at age 7 (a young age at that time), was confirmed at 8, and at 10 entered the minor seminary founded by St. Charles Borromeo in Bergamo, Lombardy. There he was formed by a cloud of holy priests who taught him to dearly love the Gospel and “its supreme lesson of the Beatitudes.” (p. xx)

Angelo Roncalli was guided in his life by a deep, often strict, personal desire for holiness and purity of soul. He made a youthful vow to never deliberately intend a venial sin. Coincident with this vow was his constant attention to pastoral and moral matters. Such pastoral care was perhaps behind his later desire, as Pope John XXIII, to address all priests in a letter (Epistola ad Clerum Universum) to be released upon the close of Vatican II Council. He had intended to piece the letter together from his personal papers but died before this was possible.

Continue reading

Blogging through Pope John XXIII: Journal of a Soul

Comrades,Journal of a Soul

I am part of a program called “Blogging for Books,” in which I exchange reviews for free books. Rather than feeling like an intellectual prostitute, it can be quite nice. I lucked out and received a copy of John XXIII’s autobiography Journal of a Soul. But because I did not want to wait for months to post a review, I have decided to copy Leah Libresco’s method of blogging through Pope Francis book. So, I will be working through the sections of Pope John XXIII systematically and posting my thoughts and reflections on each section as they come.

There are 10 sections in his journal, chronologically ordered: In the Seminary at Bergamo; In the Seminary in Rome; The Year of My Ordination as Priest; Secretary to Mgr Radini Tedechi, Bishop of Begamo; The War / Spiritual Director of the Seminary at Bergamo / Rome, in the Service at Propaganda Fide / Episcopal Consecration; Papal Representative in Bulgaria; Papal Representative in Turkey and Greece; Papal Representative in France; Cardinal Patriarch of Venice; Pope. After these sections there are his letters, spiritual testament, reflections on the holy rosary, and some prayers – which are grouped by subject and not by year written. I will be posting a reflection every Monday, having found some time in the week to read the selection.

Continue reading


Our willingness…

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Richard Lewontin,