There are two brief sections in David Brooks’ provocative book “The Second Mountain” (New York: Random House, 2019, pp. 346) that I found deeply disturbing and also challenging. They have led me to examine my life as a priest and as a professor.
I first came upon the word “acedia” while reading a book about culture when I was a student in the major seminary. It’s not a word that I hear my contemporaries using. In fact, except in this column, I don’t use it much either. My understanding is that the word means spiritual sloth or apathy. Persons suffering from acedia either have no interest in things spiritual or are unable to be excited or enthusiastic about the direction that their lives are taking.
Faith & Thought
I don’t know how many years I have been reading David Brooks’ column in the New York Times. My guess is that it has been close to five years. I also watch Brooks every Friday evening on the PBS News Hour as he discusses the week’s events with syndicated columnist Mark Shields. His comments are almost always illuminating.
I recently came upon two statements by atheistic philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, which would have convinced me, if I needed convincing, of the importance of reading great literature. What we read can profoundly influence our image of ourselves and our image of God.
One of my friends once told me that he preferred reading history to reading novels. As he explained why, I thought he saw history as dealing with truths and fiction as dealing with a world created by the novelist. I understood how my friend felt, but I had to disagree with him. If novels do not deal with truths, then what good are they?
When I was a student in the major seminary many years ago, I read Edwin O’Connor’s novel, “The Last Hurrah,” which years later was made into a film that was directed by John Ford. The film was good, but the novel is much better.
Preparing a series of short lectures on the Catholic novel for NET/TV has been a rewarding experience for me. Going back over novels that I have read many years ago, at least one back in high school, is like renewing old friendships.
Faith & Thought
I just finished reading what I think is an important, recently published book by Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.
Faith & Thought
Since writing last week’s column about Pope Francis’ consistent ethic of life and his hope that we can transcend a “throwaway culture,” which disregards the value and dignity of each individual person, and create a culture of encounter, I have been thinking about how important the word “encounter” has become in the way that I think about God, myself and my neighbor.
Faith & ThoughAnyone who reads this column regularly knows that I am an enthusiastic supporter of Pope Francis and his vision of the church. I find Pope Francis’ insights and his hope inspiring. Throughout my life I have been inspired by some wonderful leaders of the Catholic Church, but in my heart Pope Francis holds a special place.