Friday, March 23, 2012

Integritas Seminar VIII

The Integritas program gathered for its penultimate seminar last night, on "Paths to Holiness." In anticipation of our upcoming retreat to the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani, we read selections from Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain and New Seeds of Contemplation. We also read some of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, and excerpts from G.K. Chesterton's lives of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi. Prof. David Fagerberg of the Theology Department led the discussion, which focused on asceticism. He made a distinction between monastic asceticism, which is taken on as a specific vocation through vows, and liturgical asceticism, to which all Christians are called by virtue of their baptism. The lives of a contemplative monk and a young mother might look very different, but both equally require the practice of asceticism. 'Asceticism' comes from the Greek word askesis, which is a bodily activity of discipline and training that also affects the mind. Prof. Fagerberg explained that there are many paths to holiness, but all of them involve asceticism, training our souls to love God above all else, by disciplining our disordered passions and appetites. He emphasized that nothing in the created world is inherently bad, but through our fallen human nature we routinely abuse good things, misusing them and putting them to bad purposes. It takes discipline and self-control to use the goods of creation appropriately.

One student made a connection between liturgical asceticism and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching that we discussed in earlier seminars. By controlling our desires and refraining from excessive consumption, there will be enough resources available for all in need. Also, just as all are called to practice asceticism by virtue of their baptism, all are called to personally live according to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

We look forward to our retreat to Gethsemani April 13-15.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rally for Religious Freedom

This Friday, March 23, there will be a nationwide rally for religious freedom.  At various locations across the country, people will gather at noon to protest the HHS mandate and stand against the violations of the First Amendment.

There will be a rally here in South Bend at
Jon R. Hunt Plaza
211 N. Michigan Street
"Thousands of Americans of all faiths will be participating in these peaceful rallies, organized by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society to oppose the new mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that requires all employers provide free contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, even in violation of their consciences."

For more information about the rally, and for a list of other locations, visit

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The right to worship v. religious freedom

Our diocesan Office of Catechesis is hosting a lecture entitled "The Right to Worship and Religious Freedom: What's the Difference for the Church?" by Fred Everett, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of the Office of Family Life, on Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m., at Blessed John Paul II Center, 1328 West Dragoon Trail, Mishawaka. It is a free event, but registration is required. Email to register.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TODAY: Virtue and Emotion in Aquinas

Today at 4 p.m. in DeBartolo 118, Rev. Nicholas Lombardo, OP will deliver a lecture entitled "Virtue and Emotion in St. Thomas Aquinas." Fr. Nicholas is a 2010 winner of the Templeton Award. He teaches at Catholic University of America. Please join us.

Diocesan Marriage and Family Conference

The Fort Wayne-South Bend Annual Diocesan Marriage and Family conference will be held at McKenna Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame March 24. Presenters will include Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Fr. Bob Lengerich, and Fr. David Mary Engo, FFM. Through a combination of plenary sessions and workshops, this conference will explore the Church's rich vision of marriage and family life as it relates to topics such as the theology of the body, family prayer, the family and work, the family as the domestic church, raising teens and dealing with issues such as infertility, divorce and homosexuality. This conference is for adults of all ages and circumstances--married couples, couples preparing for marriage, single parents, college students, clergy, pastoral ministers and anyone else interested in enriching their understanding of the vocation of marriage and family life. To view the conference schedule and register, go to the Notre Dame Conference Center's website.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TODAY: The Cost of Conscience

Today, Friday, March 2 at 4 p.m. in McKenna Hall Auditorium, Prof. O. Carter Snead of the Notre Dame Law School will deliver the Clarke Lecture in medical ethics, entitled "The Cost of Conscience." Reception to follow.

Integritas Seminar VII

Last night the Integritas program held its seventh seminar of the year, on 'Virtue and the Good Life,' led by Prof. Brad Gregory of the History Department. The texts for the seminar included excerpts from the first book of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, Wendell Berry's essay "Feminism, the Body and the Machine" and also his poem "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front."

Through these readings, we explored Aristotle's and Berry's shared conception that the good life for humankind is one that achieves happiness through pursuing the good, cultivating virtue, and living as fully integrated individuals, led by reason and respecting our physical limits. They also both believe individual good to be inseparable from the common good: since humans are social animals, the good life is to be understood as one in which an individual fulfills one's responsibilities to other community members and also benefits from their companionship.

Aristotle examines these ideas principally in the context of a city-state, but Berry sees the family economy as the fundamental context for developing virtue and attaining happiness. Berry identifies many ills of our industrial age, in which quantity and efficiency are the ultimate values and materialistic concerns have crowded out all other values. Work, food production, education, and even sex have become industrialized. As a consequence, marriage has become not the commitment to mutual care and help for the bringing up of healthy children, but rather a tenuous relationship that "has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided." Consumption, not self-sufficient production, characterizes industrial households, and very few choose to live in a radically different way that could truly call into question the values unconsciously adopted in our quest for convenience, consumption, and ease.

The students engaged in an extended conversation about the role of technology in all of this, fully aware that their lives especially have been inextricably intertwined with more technological gadgets than in any previous age. One student observed that Berry's attitude to technology is that it is to be considered "guilty until proven innocent" because of its tendency to make our work more unconscious, cerebral, and effortless, thus contributing to greater disembodiment and disintegration of ourselves as individuals.

Everyone liked Berry's poem and its command to "everyday, do something that won't compute," and its call to upend the materialistic values of our age. Like Aristotle, Berry recognizes that their is intrinsic value to the actions that our age dismisses as "whimsical," since the goal of life is not productivity or efficiency, but rather happiness.