I cannot recall the first time I heard the name of the Japanese author Shisaku Endo. It may have been at the same time that I learned that he was being described as the “Japanese Graham Greene.” Greene has been a favorite novelist of mine since my senior year at Xavier, the Jesuit high school in Manhattan, so I became interested in Endo and proceeded to read several of his novels. The first was “Silence.” After reading that excellent novel, I was hooked.
LATELY I HAVE been thinking about the nature of story in relation to the Catholic faith. Perhaps it is because two of my favorite writers, Mary Gordon and Alice McDermott have either had a novel recently published (Gordon) or about to be published (McDermott). Maybe it is because of the film festivals I moderate, or the adult education course on the Catholic novel that I have moderated for many years. I am always looking for films or novels that might stimulate serious reflection on what it means to be human. Often a film or a novel can touch people more deeply than a lecture or a philosophical or theological text in a book.
WHEN I WAS invited a few months ago to give a lecture on Walker Percy’s novel “The Moviegoer” (New York: Vintage International, A Division of Random House, 1960, pp. 242, $12), I felt that I was sufficiently familiar with Percy’s thought that I did not need to do much research.
Ninth in a series
FOR VARIOUS REASONS I recently have been thinking about self-love and trying in my mind to distinguish it from the sin of pride.
Eighth in a series
ONE OF MY favorite insights among the many that I have received from personalist philosophers is their reflection on how person is a “we” term. What I am referring to is the view that the way I relate to myself influences how I relate to others, and the way I relate to others influences how I relate to myself. The way I express this to my students at St. John’s University is by saying something like the following:
Seventh in a series
IN ONE WAY or another people try to put unity and order into their lives. Peter Berger, in his excellent book, “A Rumor of Angels,” argues that human beings’ propensity for order is a “hint” that we are imitating a Creator Who has brought into existence an ordered universe. Life without order and purpose would be chaotic.
A habit that some Catholics have is asking friends to pray for them or for a loved one or for some special intention. It’s a wonderful habit.
Fifth in a series
TEACHING A COURSE on the philosophy of personalism last spring semester has proven to be a real blessing for me. The students’ reaction to the course was similar to mine. All of us had the feeling that we could go deeper and deeper into the meaning and the mystery of personal existence.
Third in a series
I HEARD a lecture by a prominent Catholic theologian who confessed that when she started teaching theology she used novels to stimulate the interest and the imagination of her students. Because I teach a philosophy course at St. John’s University that is based on Catholic novels, I was not surprised when she confessed that her course was a success. I have often found philosophical and theological insights in novels, plays and films.
Second in a series
REFLECTING LAST semester on the insights of personalist philosophers such as Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel, Emmanuel Mounier, John Macmurray and Father W. Norris Clarke, S.J., in a course entitled “Personalism” at St. John’s University, I came to see in a new way how inspiring some of the insights are. I think the insights have helped me to see more deeply into Christian mysteries by helping me to see more deeply into the mystery that a human person is.