March 26, 2008

Looking over my posts for the past three months, I can see I’ve been something of a downer, even for a paleocon. Indeed, re-reading them myself tempts to take to my bed with a couple of warm beagles, a CD of Hildegard von Bingen, and a stiff drink.

But in the Easter spirit, I’d like to offer something positive today”€”news about a terrific intellectual journal edited in Oxford by Tolkien scholar and theologian Stratford Caldecott. Learned in the work of other “€œInklings”€ C.S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers, and well-versed in the smart cultural criticism of Chesterton and Belloc, Caldecott provides a contrarian voice among orthodox Catholics”€”one that takes seriously the importance of “€œjust war”€ teaching, distributism, and internal cultural renewal instead of the confrontations urged upon us by the neocons. Published twice per year, subjects regularly covered in Second Spring include the arts, sciences, technology, liturgy, new ecclesial movements, metaphysics, history, literature, poetry, and the world of books. Indeed, one might call Second Spring a kind of First Things for the peace party.

Here’s a sample from the journal, by religion scholar Carol Zaleski, and her article “€œThe Two Benedicts and the Renewal of Catholic Culture”€:

Europe did not make Christianity, but Christianity did make Europe, and thereby gave us Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Chartres, Giotto, Michelangelo, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Kant, Newton, and Galileo. Christianity was the matrix of natural science, of the first genuine democracies, of the novel idea of universal human rights and universal human dignity, and of a galaxy of humane institutions “€“ hospitals, hospices, hostelleries, schools, public libraries,sanctuaries,shelters and sodalities “€“unparalleled in human history. Yet by a curious alienation from its own roots, Europe is evolving a society and culture that, in Cardinal Ratzinger’s words “€œconstitutes the absolutely most radical contradiction not only of Christianity, but of the religious and moral traditions of humanity,”€ including Judaism and Islam; that proclaims universal rights, but rejects universal reason; that champions individual freedom but violates the freedom of those most vulnerable. A strange miasma has settled over the West, causing us to forget our common stories, artistic traditions, and intellectual patrimony, our neighbours, our kin and ourselves “€“ all because we have forgotten God, because we have trained ourselves to live “€œas if God did not exist”€.

How to recover from this forgetfulness? Should we be devising ambitious programmes for re-Catholicization? What we need, Cardinal Ratzinger said, is not so much new programmes as new human beings. “€œAbove all,”€ he told his monastic audience: “€œwhat we need at this moment in history are men who, through an illuminated and lived faith, render God credible in this world…. Only through men touched by God can God once again touch men. We need men like Benedict of Nursia, who at a time of dissipation and decadence, plunged into the most profound solitude, and after suffering many purifications, reemerged into the light and went on to found Montecassino, the city on the hill where, amid all the ruins, he gathered together the forces from which a new world was formed. In this way Benedict, like Abraham, became the father of many nations.

Conflict of interest alert: This journal is now published by Thomas More College in New Hampshire, where I’m the Writer in Residence. But it pays to have connections; Takimag readers who subscribe through this link will receive a subscription at half price. I hope those of you interested in long-term cultural revival will check out Second Spring.  If you DO subscribe, to get the discount, enter coupon code “€œblog50″€ to get the Takimag discount.


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