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((released 2023-05-31) (handle mh-158-m) (supplement ))
Volume 158
Volume 158
Volume 158
Volume 158
Volume 158
Volume 158
Volume 158
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Volume 158

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Guests on Volume 158

DAVID SETRAN on how American Christians thought about being good parents in the colonial period and in the nineteenth century
VIGEN GUROIAN on how fairy stories serve to nurture healthy moral imaginations in children
MICHAEL DOMINIC TAYLOR on developing an adequate metaphysical framework for understanding the natural world
THOMAS PFAU on how images reveal to us invisible, numinous realities
JASON PAONE on the unknown body of biblical commentary by Thomas Aquinas
MATTHEW LEVERING on why the virtues rather than conscience should be recognized as the heart of Christian moral life

Click here to download a pdf file with the contents listing and bibliographic information about this Volume.

David Setran

“And by the nineteenth century . . . [the home] is the private place of the family. The home is the place in which I find my identity, in which I build a legacy — in which I see the importance of my children and my grandchildren in that way — and certainly lose a little bit of a sense of even the larger Church being a significant player in the raising of children. . . . It is our family blood, you know, not the blood of Christ, that becomes the most central identifying factor . . . which can also lead to a kind of idolatry of the family.”

David P. Setran, author of Christian Parenting: Wisdom and Perspectives from American History (Eerdmans, 2022)

David Setran traces changes in thinking by American parents about nurturing their children in the faith. He looks specifically at the shift between American Colonial households and mid-nineteenth century families. In the Colonial period, parents saw themselves as evangelists and priests, disciplining their children for salvation through worship and catechism. By the mid-nineteenth century, the family became much more focused on creating a nurturing environment, hoping to raise children in the faith by providing a loving home. As a consequence of this shift in emphasis, the home becomes a self-contained private space, the Church begins to lose its role in the formation of children, and household devotional activities become more about establishing close family ties and less about the worship of God. Ultimately, Setran argues, this shift works towards an idolization of the family, where familial blood usurps the blood of Christ.     

Vigen Guroian

“I think the reason why [children] enjoy fairy tales and certain kinds of fantasy literature is not just because they’re interested in the protagonist, the hero or heroine — and how that hero or heroine overcomes dark forces and evil — but because these stories tend to be very concrete. And they seem to have an instinct built in us by the Lord, I think, that it is in the concrete that you find symbols and signs, and they are looking for that.”

Vigen Guroian, author of Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2023)

Vigen Guroian discusses the nature and narrative value of classic fairy tales. Guroian reflects on the power of fairy tales as creators of identity for young children. He claims that children have a great narrative sense and want to enter the stories for themselves by hearing them over and over again. Guroian critiques many modern adaptations of fairy tales for destroying their narrative coherence and power, reducing the stories to a detachable idea or moral. Guroian lists examples of fairy tales that embody both great virtue and narrative value, such as John Ruskin’s “The King of the Golden River,” the Grimm Brothers’ original “Cinderella,” and the theologically sacramental tales of George MacDonald.     

Michael Dominic Taylor

“Metaphysics is a difficult term. On the one hand, you’ve got all sorts of eclectic and obscurantist ideas about what metaphysics is . . . but I still insist on using the term metaphysics because I do think it deserves a retrieval of its original meaning which is simply a reference to our Greek heritage and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. . . . And metaphysics as part of philosophy has always been a question of how to live well. So that idea that metaphysics is somehow abstract or obtuse or gets away from what’s most real couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Michael Dominc Taylor, author of The Foundations of Nature: Metaphysics of Gift for an Integral Ecological Ethic (Cascade Books, 2020)

Michael Dominic Taylor argues that we can only orient ourselves within and toward the natural world by recovering the classical understanding of metaphysics, which, far from being obscure and abstract, is a pursuit of wisdom about how to live well. He explains that every person holds their own metaphysical presuppositions about reality and its functions. In modernity, what is regarded as “real”reality is the pure product of empirical, quantitative science, and thus functions mechanistically. Humans, as a part of nature, are similarly atomically structured and are therefore isolated and self-serving, with personal autonomy as their highest goal. Taylor challenges this selfish, purposeless metaphysics with the sacrificial, self-giving love of Christ. He asserts that this is aided by reclaiming wonder as a positive disposition, one that orients us towards the transcendent reality that lies beyond our own empirical faculties, the reality that gives us purpose and life.     

Thomas Pfau

“Plato ultimately realizes, especially in the Sophist, that the idea of truth that is utterly self-contained — a kind of kernel or cocoon that is in no way susceptible [to] any kind of interpretation — would ultimately cause philosophy to grind to a halt. In the end, all truth must be . . . mediated in some form. And this is where images actually become quite crucial.”

Thomas Pfau, author of Incomprehensible Certainty: Metaphysics and Hermeneutics of the Image (University of Notre Dame Press, 2022) 

Thomas Pfau asserts that images are a necessary and uniquely gifted means of realizing truth in creation. Plato’s awareness that all truth must be realized through mediation provides the foundation for refuting iconoclasm: while not coinciding with the prototype it depicts, an image nonetheless fulfills it, after the model of Christ's incarnation. In this way, the visible image must be an anticipation of the divine; otherwise visible creation becomes the antithesis of divine truth, putting creation at odds with God. Pfau describes how images do not merely factually render their meaning, but instead, like truth, always reveal more than could have been predicted — a new facet of the reality of the prototype. Images, then, are harbingers of truth, sacramentally calling us to participate in their beauty and to know, differently now than before, what it is they manifest.     

Jason Paone

“[Aquinas] thought that, of all the gospels, John’s gospel peers deepest into the mysteries of Christ’s divine nature. And that’s sort of at the center of his understanding of what scripture does and what scripture reveals. It reveals God and God’s saving work in the world. And Christ is sort of the epicenter of God and God’s saving work in the world. And specifically, Christ as the son of God — Christ as divine. [Aquinas] says the gospel of John is most attentive to Christ’s divine nature. Whereas the other three gospels are symbolized by terrestrial animals — a man, a bull calf, and a lion — John is symbolized by an eagle because he flies highest in peering into the divine nature of Christ.”

Jason Paone, editor of Thomas Aquinas, Selected Commentaries on the New Testament (Word on Fire Academic, 2022)

Jason Paone discusses the insights readers can obtain from reading St. Thomas’s biblical commentaries. Paone explains how many scholars overlook St. Thomas's commentaries as they study his philosophical and theological works and appropriate his wisdom in the interest of confronting aspects of modern thought. But Paone argues that St. Thomas’s Summae are best understood in light of his spiritually rich biblical exegesis. Paone focuses especially on St. Thomas’s love of the Gospel of John, which he views as a microcosm of all the Gospels — portraying Christ as the source of grace (as in the New Testament collectively), the power of Christ’s grace (emphasized in Paul’s epistles), and the effect of that grace (summarized in Revelation). Paone explains how reading St. Thomas’s commentaries can give readers a feel for the saint’s personality, rhetorical flair, and Christocentric vision that underlie all his work.     

Matthew Levering

“Over the past decade, I’ve noticed that, in the popular sphere, at least, there seems to be less and less appeal to conscience. Conscience itself seems to be fading itself a little bit. Even in the theological realm . . . sometimes you find people avoiding the word conscience and it’s just kind of like, ‘do your own thing.’ . . . It’s really becoming ‘do your own thing’ in an open way, whereas before they could camouflage it a little bit with the word conscience, but now they might just talk about discernment, or experience, or the arc of history, or something else.”

Matthew Levering, author of The Abuse of Conscience: A Century of Catholic Moral Theology (Eerdmans, 2021)

Matthew Levering describes how pre-Vatican II moral manuals resulted in readers pushing their freedoms to the limit of law, fostering a minimalist morality. Levering explains that this approach to the moral life ignores the glorious, charitable life in Christ, and does so largely because it has lost a proper view of the conscience. For Levering, the conscience delivers Divine Law, which must subsequently be enacted by a charitable prudence. In this way, conscience is not mere individual discernment, but is the Law to be followed in order to grow in virtue. This view of conscience also rebuffs the Existentialist movement toward personal authenticity. Levering argues that conscience centers the individual on Christ, not one’s own personal desires or feelings, and drives humans towards their proper end, rather than sanction their worldly whims.