Monday, September 19, 2005

From "Habit of Being"...

You speak of the Eucharist as if it were not important, as if it could wait until you are better able to practice the two great commandments. Christ gave us the sacraments in order to better practice the two great commandments.

-pg. 350 8/19/59

Friday, August 12, 2005

From "The Habit of Being"...

My inability to handle it so far in fiction may be purely personal, as my upbringing has smacked a little of Jansenism even if my convictions do not...

I like Pascal but I don't think the Jansenist impulse is healthy in the Church. The Irish are notably infected with it because all the Jansenist priests were chased out of France at the time of the Revolution and ended up in Ireland. It was a bad day if you ask me. I read a novel by Sean O'Faolain about the demise of the Irish novel. Apparently someone suggested there wasn't enough sin in Ireland to supply the need. O'Faolain said no, the Irish sinned constantly but with no great emotion except fear. Jansenism doesn't seem to breed so much a love of God as a love of asceticism.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On putting your faith in biblical criticism...

Much of the criticism of belief you find today comes from people who are judging it from the standpoint of another and narrower discipline. The Biblical criticism of the 19th century, for instance, was the product of historical disciplines. It has been entirely revamped in the 20th century by applying broader criteria to it, and those people who lost their faith in the 19th century because of it, could better have hung on in blind trust. [The Habit of Being]

Letter to Betty Hester...

Always you renounce a lesser good for a greater; the opposite is what sin is. And along this line, I think the phrase naïve purity is a contradiction in terms. I don't think purity is mere innocence. I don't think babies and idiots possess it. I take it to be something that comes either with experience or with Grace so that it can never be naïve.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

From "The Habit of Being" - pg. 134...

This is a peculiar thing - I have the one fold, one Shepherd instinct as strong as any, to see someone I know out of the [Catholic] Church is grief to me, it's to want him in with great urgency. At the same time, the Church can't be put forward by anybody but God and one is apt to do great damage by trying; consequently Catholics may seem very remiss, almost lethargic, about coming forward with the Faith. (Maybe you ain't observed this reticence in me.)

From "The Habit of Being", pg. 10...

Leaving the Incarnation aside, the very notion of God's existence is not emotionally satisfactory anymore for great numbers of people, which does not mean God ceases to exist. M. Sartre finds God emotionally unsatisfactory in the extreme, as do most of my friends of lesser stature than he. The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds the emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world appears to be going through a dark night of the soul.

From "The Habit of Being"...

I don't think as you seem to suppose that to be a true Christian you believe that mutual interdependence is a conceit. This is far from Catholic doctrine; in fact it strikes me as highly Protestant, a sort of justification by faith. God became not only man, but Man. This is the mystery of the Redemption and our salvation is worked out on earth according as we love one another, see Christ in one another, etc., by works. This is one reason I am chary of using the word, love, loosely. I prefer to use it in its practical forms, such as prayer, almsgiving, visiting the sick and burying the dead and so forth.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

From "The Habit of Being"

...I am a Catholic peculiarly possessed of the modern consciousness, that thing Jung describes as unhistorical, solitary, and guilty. To possess this within the Church is to bear a burden, the necessary burden for the conscious Catholic. It's to feel the contemporary situation at the ultimate level.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

From "The Habit of Being", pg. 370

The dissecting language [speaking of a Karl Adam book] repels me too; this is what is known as The Pious Style...In some pious writers there is a lot about the Church being the bride of Christ. This kind of metaphor may have helped that age to get a picture of a certain reality; it fails to help most of us...The only places you can really avoid the Pious Style are in the liturgy and the Bible; and these are the places where the Church herself speaks.

from The Habit of Being, pg. 145

The virtue of novenas is that they keep you at it for nine consecutive days and the human attention being what it is, this is a long time. I hate to say most of these prayers written by saints-in-an-emotional-state. You feel you are wearing somebody else's finery and I can never describe my heart as "burning" to the Lord (who knows better) without snickering.

Monday, June 20, 2005

On the Christian writer...

The Christian writer does not decide what would be good for the world and proceed to deliver it. Like a very doubtful Jacob, he confronts what stands in his path and wonders if he will come out of the struggle at all.

Friday, May 13, 2005

On the Importance of Stories...

Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held a knife over Isaac.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"The Habit of Being" 92

For me a dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of restriction.It preserves mystery for the human mind. Henry James said the young woman of the future would know nothing of mystery or manners. He had no business to limit it to one sex.

from "The Habit of Being"

What one has as a born Catholic is something given and accepted before it is experienced. I am only slowly coming to experience things that I have all along accepted. I suppose the fullest writing comes from what has been accepted and experienced both and that I have just not got that far yet...Conviction without experience makes for harshness.

The Habit of 97

Both St. Thomas [Aquinas] and St. John of the Cross, dissimilar as they were, were entirely united by the same belief. The more I read St. Thomas the more flexible he appears to me. Incidentally, St. John would have been able to sit down with the prostitute and said, "Daughter, let us consider this," but St. Thomas doubtless knew his own nature and knew that he had to get rid of her with a poker or she would overcome him. I am not only for St. Thomas here but am in accord with his use of the poker. I call this being tolerantly realistic, not being a fascist.

from The Habit of Being, pg. 570.. could tell them that anybody who wants to be introduced to Catholic fiction will have to start with the French - Mauriac and Bernanos. You can't dispose of a writer with a paragraph about his significance. I couldn't even compose such. You'd just better read them if you aim to say anything about them. The English are Waugh & Greene and Spark (Muriel) & the Americans: Powers, Percy, Wilfrid Sheed...and some would include Edwin O'Connor. I don't know as I've never read him.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

From "The Habit of Being", pg. 503

The hardest thing for the writer to indicate is the presence of the anagogical which to my mind is the only thing that can cause the personality to change. Perhaps even here it changes within what it has been made. But I doubt if anyone ever touches the limits at either end of his personality. We are not our own light.

Against Determinism...

An absence of free will in these characters [in the novel The Violent Bear It Away] would mean an absence of conflict in them, whereas they spend all their time fighting within themselves, drive against drive. Tarwater wrestles with the Lord and Rayber wins. Both examples of free will in action.

Free will has to be understood within its limits; possibly we have some hinderances to free action but not enough to be able to call the world determined. In some people (psychotics) hinderances to free action may be so strong as to preclude free will in them, but the Church teaches that God does not judge those acts that are not free, and that he does not predestine any soul to hell...

I don't think literature would be possible in a determined world. We might go through the motions but the heart would be out of it. Nobody then could "smile darkly and ignore the howls." Even if there were no Church to teach me this, writing two novels would do it. I think the more you write, the less inclined you will be to rely on theories like determinism. Mystery isn't something that is gradually evaporating. It grows along with knowledge.