Archive for Intellectual Formation

Three’s A Crowd

A few months ago, New Scientist revealed that a baby was born earlier this year using a newly developed technique which used DNA from three people, allowing parents with rare genetic mutations to have (allegedly) healthy babies.  The science itself is fascinating, of course, as science often is; another testimony to the creative genius of fallen man.  I won’t summarize the article here as it is short and easy to understand, but will rather point out a couple of ironies. Leaving aside the immoral act of IVF, the Jordanian couple who underwent the procedure couldn’t use the method approved in

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Bird Brains and Screen Junkies

A friend shared a frightening article on social media the other day, on the terrifying effects of electronic gadgets on the minds of young children. Many parents today have a love-hate relationship with tablets, smart phones, computers, and game systems: they see educational benefits, entertainment options, and opportunities to reward or punish, but they also have an instinctive (if not firsthand) sense that time spent on these gadgets is not quality time and fosters ugly attitudes and habits in their progeny. But this article goes further, relating a story of a boy whose early and constant exposure to electronics put him

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The Lost Fine Art of Discourse

I am nearly finished reading the late Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Published in 1985, Postman, an educator and media theorist, lays out a postulation that television had created the latest (at that time) step change mode of public discourse and therefore initiated a resulting negative effect in the culture. As described by Postman, verbal public discourse was superseded by the written word, then subsequently superseded by radio, finally by television. For each of these new communication mediums to take hold and gain popularity, they were required to do two things:

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Practical Catholic Junto Book Now Available!

Friends of the Junto, We are pleased to announce the release on Amazon of the Kindle book, The Collected Writings of the Practical Catholic Junto, containing 23 essays gleaned from our private meetings.  Although some of the essays have been converted to posts on the PCJ blog, many are original works that are published here for the first time. We invite you to read this extended collection of our writing. Thank you for your interest in, and support of, our work. St. Thomas More, pray for us!

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Asylum Living

A good chunk of humanity is insane.  By a good chunk I mean a very big chunk, possibly the majority.  This isn’t hyperbole or poetic exaggeration; I mean quite literally that billions of people in the world are insane.  “Now hold on,” you may say, “a lot of things in the world are in pretty rough shape, but that is going way too far.  Maybe that statement shows that you are the insane one.”  Well, maybe so, but I’m betting my life that I’m not.  And not this piddly earthly life with maybe a few pathetic decades left either, but

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Mercy Is Not Accidental

Mercy as it is here contemplated is said to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune. It is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that although mercy is as it were the spontaneous product of charity, yet it is to be reckoned a special virtue adequately distinguishable from this latter. … Its motive is the misery which one discerns in another, particularly in so far as this condition is deemed to be, in some sense at least, involuntary. Obviously the necessity which is to be succoured can be either of body

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Catholic Grit

A recently published book by psychologist Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance and the Science of Success, seeks to quantify the characteristics that make some innately mediocre people succeed and some innately talented people perform just so-so.  Similarly author Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Whatever It Takes, describes why character matters and how to instill it in our children.  Both works indicate the importance of “grit” in rising above one’s natural place, whether it be physical challenges, intellectual pursuits, business, etc.  Grit itself might be distilled into a set of synonyms:  perseverance, toughness,

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The Whole and the Parts – Teaching the Faith

When I refer to the “faith” in this post, I am speaking of fides quae or the faith which we believe (objective) and not fides qua or the faith by which we believe (subjective).  It’s the content of the faith and not our response to it that is the focus. Growing up, my religious education included both the curriculum used by my parish’s Catechesis program, and the Baltimore Catechism required by my mother.  I don’t remember which curriculum the parish used, but I recognize the content and approach in those used by my children’s school.  The Baltimore Catechism I used, and

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Christianity’s Close Shave With a Scimitar

As Islam’s 1,400 year old assault on the West has been rekindled for some decades now, I decided during a small available window of time to read about a 50-year period of that conflict that I knew little about.  For anyone interested in a fascinating overview of the struggle in the Mediterranean from the fall of Rhodes in 1522 to the battle of Lepanto in 1571, I highly recommend Roger Crowley’s book Empires of the Sea; The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World. At just under 300 pages, it is

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Children (Poorly) Masquerading as Adults

College commencement exercises are beginning, meaning that the silly season of childish campus antics of demonstrations, ridiculous demands to college administrations, and relentless public harassment will taper off over the summer.  The 2015-2016 academic year topped the charts and serves as a preview of the caliber of new workforce recruits we will be dealing with in our workplaces.  From Amherst College, to the University of Missouri to Yale, civil discourse and rational debate and disagreement have been forced to the sidelines in unprecedented occurrences. I ran across an interesting article – here – concerning moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, a secular liberal

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