Thursday 21st September 2017

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

A Book Review… An Ode To Truth And Beauty

May 10, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, by Anthony Esolen; 2017: Regnery; $27.99.

Anthony Esolen is one of America’s most penetrating cultural critics. Add to that his limpid and flowing style, and this book is the masterpiece we expected it to be.
Out of the Ashes travels comfortably through reminiscences, classical allusions selected with grace and wit, sober critiques of the arts delivered with sagacity and depth — and a hard-headed, no-nonsense willingness to confront modernity’s errors head-on, calling them what they are, articulating them better than their own advocates, and then blasting them into the oblivion that they deserve.
A professor but not a pedant, Esolen conducts us on a journey through the fundamentals of life, faith, family, and society that brims with lucidity and ease. His literary allusions come naturally, shedding just the proper light on the topic at hand; his opinions sparkle and occasionally burn, but only when they need to. Alas, given the ways of the fallen world he examines with such delicate care, his dire diagnoses come early, often, and on target: the perverted spirit of modernity has led the West by the nose to “collapse, not battered from without, but sagging into lethargy and indifference and stupor from within.”
He presents the challenge perceived by Livy, who saw “duty and severity giving way to ambition, avarice, and license, till his fellow Romans ‘sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to the present time, in which we can endure neither our vices nor their cure’.”
Is that the epitaph for our times? While he makes vivid and valiant suggestions here and there, Esolen’s task is not to prescribe but to understand. And Out of the Ashes demonstrates a clarity of understanding rarely seen in our day, offered by a lover of truth to an age that is desperate for it.
Reader, begin at your own risk: This book is not easy to put down. It begins with a sobering thought — we should call things by their proper names. Confucius teaches that, but Humpty Dumpty denies it: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less’.”
Esolen honors Confucius for articulating the first step in our journey towards restored liberty; Humpty Dumpty defies him because he’s interested only in power: “The question is, which is to be master — that’s all,” he tells Alice in Through the Looking Glass.
Who shall rule? Esolen finds our modern masters to be fearful indeed. Orwell’s Memory Hole works overtime: “modernity is all too often the cult of erasure and oblivion. The ancients still had memory.”
But do we? Esolen does his best to remind us.
He devotes several chapters to the rearing and teaching of the young:
“We are incompetent in the ordinary things of life. We divorce more readily than we sell houses, yet for some reason we believe that we possess great wisdom as regards men and women that our benighted ancestors did not possess. We raise sons who are not weaned at age 25, yet for some reason we have contempt for the old institutions that used to turn boys into men. We raise daughters who emulate well-paid whores, but who do not actually make the money that the whores make, and yet we persist in believing that only in our time has a girl had half a chance to live a decent life.”
One cannot condense Esolen — only marvel at the way he sorts things out in a way that makes the reader think, “Say, that’s what I’ve thought all along.”
In fact, Esolen’s chosen task is to remind. To remind us who we are, where we came from, where we are going, and why we are here, as the classical question puts it. With this comes our duty to truth.
“We must not tell lies. We must not even speak the lie’s language.” As Orwell put it, that’s the foundation of tyranny.
The left hates the past because the past is true. Esolen loves the past. We can’t return there, although he revels in painting its simple joys and rewards (not long ago he asked, besides material advances, what has really “progressed” in the past fifty years?). To tell the truth about our past is to tell the truth about ourselves, about life. “If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie.”
So he confronts the liar’s lexicon: “Words like democracy, diversity, equality, inclusivity, marginalization, misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, colonialism, progressivism, autonomy.” All of them crimes against Confucius — and us.
Esolen focuses on beauty because no one else seems to any more. In art, in architecture, in music (including church “music” — that has today so often descended into doggerel and drivel). And he does this beautifully — because we are naturally attracted by beauty, including beautiful prose that invites us to reconsider our age’s flight from beauty with the same keen eye that we espy its flight from truth.

Signposts

And nowhere have we seen the flight from truth more tragically — and criminally — than in the flight from the truth of Humanae Vitae.
In a poignant plea, he observes that “manhood is risky. It must be publicly affirmed, and you can lose that affirmation by cowardice or effeminacy.”
And in Humanae Vitae we see the affirmation of the truth of man and woman by one Pope who did not shirk from that duty:
“Pope Paul VI…predicted that women would become the sexual plaything of man; he did not predict that plenty of women would aid the worst vices of their brothers and use men as playthings in turn. Paul consistently warned that contraception would lead to more, not fewer, children born out of wedlock; even he did not foresee the utter collapse of the family in vast regions of the West. Orthodox Catholics argued that to legalize abortion would naturally increase the numbers of abortions, rather than merely making safer for the mother the abortions that were already performed. Even they did not predict a million to a million and a half dead every year in the United States alone.
“The happy-preachers said that easy divorce would not increase the number of divorces but would only alleviate the pain of divorces that already were going to occur. Even they did not predict that from four to five out of ten marriages in the United States would end in divorce; and nobody at all foresaw what I called the index of familial disruption, that is, the percentage of sexual liaisons of at least a year’s duration that produce a child, whether or not it is allowed to live, and that end in failure. In fact, no one really knows what that evil number is. Marriage is in freefall and multitudes of ordinary people who in any healthy culture would be married and having a fine brood of children now live in a protracted adolescence or in loneliness and disillusionment.”
Yes, the state often foments these evils, while the powerful elites cheer them on. They represent the collapse of man, woman, the family, and the community — to which reality Esolen refers as the polis, to distinguish it radically from the state, from the Leviathan.
And what is to be done? We are pilgrims, returning home, he writes. Is it too much to ask that we come to our senses? This book is full of signposts to lead us on the way. “I am only describing what was and what may again be ordinary human life, with its ordinary joys and sorrows,” Esolen writes. And he does it in a truly extraordinary way.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Popular priest disinvited from Catholic University’s seminary after protests over his LGBT book

The Rev. James Martin, a popular priest who published a book earlier this year encouraging a bridge between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, has been disinvited from giving an address at Catholic University’s seminary. Martin, who was planning…Continue Reading

Latin Mass fans celebrate 10-year anniversary _ without pope

Fans of the old Latin Mass descended on Rome on Thursday for their annual pilgrimage, facing indifference to their cause, if not outright resistance, from none other than Pope Francis. Ten years after Pope Benedict XVI passed a law allowing greater use of…Continue Reading

Pro-gay Vatican adviser gets Catholic group suspended from Twitter

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A faithful Catholic lay apostolate was suspended by Twitter last week after Vatican adviser Father James Martin complained about a tweet that teasingly stated the pro-gay Jesuit had been bested in a theological…Continue Reading

Durbin, Feinstein and Catholic judges

Washington is currently embroiled in one of its “gotcha” controversies, which often arise when minor missteps are blown into major crimes. It’s a game both parties and a variety of activists play whenever they see political advantage in it. The…Continue Reading

Pope issues new directives on revision, translation of liturgical texts

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2017 / 08:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See has released a new “motu proprio” from Pope Francis outlining a shift in the responsibility of local bishops and the Apostolic See for the revision and approval…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke ‘treasured’ work with deceased dubia Cardinal to oppose ‘gravely harmful confusion’

ROME, September 6, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke paid tribute today to fellow dubia signer Cardinal Carlo Caffarra on his passing after a long illness. In a statement to LifeSiteNews, Burke said he was “deeply saddened” by the 79-year-old’s…Continue Reading

Some Personal Reflections on the Late Cardinal Caffarra

As Steve Skojec reported this morning, our beloved Cardinal Carlo Caffarra died today, in Italy. Our hearts are broken over this news since he was such a lovable and charitable and truthful man for us. Just to know that he was out…Continue Reading

Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Day of Prayer Proclamation

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Americans have always come to the aid of their fellow countrymen.  Friend helping friend, neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger — we’ve seen it perhaps more so than at any time, so vividly at…Continue Reading

Bishop Schneider: The Pope who ‘seems to’ permit adultery bears a ‘grave responsibility’

POLAND, August 31, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia “seems to” go in the direction of a pastoral “discernment” that “allows the adulterers to continue in adultery,” says Bishop Athanasius Schneider. The consequences for many could be…Continue Reading

REPORT CARD: Faithful college praised for financial aid; Praying for Notre Dame; ‘Pride Prom’ at Marquette

With college affordability becoming an increasingly prominent (and problematic) issue, Thomas Aquinas College’s recognition by The Princeton Review’s national Financial Aid Honor Roll is especially refreshing. “We are pleased that, once again, The Princeton Review has featured Thomas Aquinas College in its annual guide,”…Continue Reading

JEFFERSON CITY’S CATHEDRAL SCHOOL RESISTS LGBT POLICY

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) – The flagship school for the diocese of Jefferson City has updated its handbook with clear Catholic instruction to counter the LGBT agenda being foisted on schools. Just in time for the new school year, St. Joseph…Continue Reading

Australian priest rips confession proposal as government ‘intrusion’

An Australian priest has called the Royal Commission’s recent proposal to enforce law requiring that clergy face criminal charges if they do not disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional a breach of religious tolerance. Fr. Kelvin Lovegrove,…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Today . . .

Pro-Life Speaker Ben Shapiro Answers Pro-Abortion Student’s Question With an “Epic Takedown”

Popular conservative author and speaker Ben Shapiro continued to impress his audience Thursday at UC Berkeley when he rapidly refuted a young man’s abortion arguments. Shapiro’s speech at the liberal California university drew massive media attention because of the violent protests that have broken out on campus during past conservative speakers’ talks. The university and local police increased security, and several people were arrested Thursday. Inside the sold-out auditorium, Shapiro received a huge applause when…Continue Reading

Cardinal Sarah: Reverent liturgy is essential to fighting the culture of death

ROME, September 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – One of the chief antidotes to a world “marked by the blight of Godless terrorism, of an increasingly aggressive secularism” and an “advancing culture of death” is to restore primacy to God in the Catholic liturgy, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said Thursday. The cardinal was speaking to an international gathering of cardinals, priests, religious and laity at the Fifth Roman Colloquium on Summorum…Continue Reading

Pope to new bishops: ‘Discernment’ means avoiding ‘rigid’ answers to moral questions

ROME, September 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis told a group of newly ordained bishops that “authentic discernment” cannot be reduced to repeating “rigid” moral formulas to persons whose situations “can’t be reduced to black and white.” Discernment, the pope said, “can’t be reduced to repeating formulas such as ‘high clouds send little rain’ to a concrete person, who’s often immersed in a reality that can’t be reduced to black and white.” He cautioned bishops…Continue Reading

Catholic leaders defend Trump after Pope challenges his pro-life views

September 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life Catholic leaders are defending President Trump against Pope Francis after the Pontiff questioned Trump’s pro-life views, despite the fact that Trump has racked up major pro-life accomplishments during his short time in office. “If Pope Francis is so concerned with the commitment of others to the defense of preborn children, he should consider his own words and actions, as well,” said Michael Hichborn, founder and president of the Lepanto…Continue Reading

Sex, sanity, and beliefs that ‘live loudly’ within us

“I do not know any country where, in general, less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reign than in America.” — Tocqueville, “Democracy in America” Alexis de Tocqueville was the great French chronicler of the early United States.  Nearly 200 years ago, he spotted a basic tension in our national character.  It’s this:  Americans place a big stress on individual rights.  But we’re also big conformists.  The dynamic of self-assertion and fear of being…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Who Were The Colombian Martyrs Beatified By Pope Francis?

By ELISE HARRIS ROME, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) — During his six-day visit to Colombia, Pope Francis beatified martyrs Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve and Fr. Pedro Maria Ramirez Ramos, who provide testimony as the country heals from decades of conflict. Bishop Jaramillo was killed by Colombian Marxist guerrilla forces in 1989, while Fr. Ramirez was…Continue Reading

20 State Attorneys General Lauded… For Opposing Pro-Abortion Judge Orrick’s Gag Order Against CMP

By DEXTER DUGGAN PHOENIX — “It is definitely very encouraging, and it’s great news” that 20 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to oppose the gag order against videos by pro-life investigators, an official with one of the law firms representing David Daleiden and the California-based Center for Medical…Continue Reading

Preparing To Enter Into The Awesome Mystery Of The Mass

By JAMES MONTI For every Catholic, there can be no more important event in one’s spiritual life than Holy Mass. For in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist we encounter our God in a more intimate manner than in any other sacrament, sacramental, or form of prayer. I recall hearing of a modern writer who…Continue Reading

Moral Judgments — Facts Or Opinions?

By ARTHUR HIPPLER (Editor’s Note: Dr. Hippler is chairman of the religion department and teaches religion in the Upper School at Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.) + + + Allan Bloom began his Closing of the American Mind with this memorable observation: “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the…Continue Reading

The Complete Thinker

By DONALD DeMARCO “The Complete Thinker” is borrowed from the title of Dale Ahlquist’s 2012 book, the subtitle of which is The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton. “Thinking,” for Chesterton, “means connecting things.” Ahlquist regards G.K.’s thinking as “complete” in the sense that it deals with a wide variety of subjects and integrates them in…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Professor Josef Seifert… Amoris Laetitia’s “Immense Threat” To The Moral Teaching Of The Church

By MAIKE HICKSON (Editor’s Note: In light of Professor Josef Seifert’s recent essay examining some of the dangerous logical consequences of Amoris Laetitia — an essay for which he was dismissed from his teaching position by the archbishop of Granada — Dr. Maike Hickson of OnePeterFive.com reached out to the Austrian philosopher to ask him some additional questions about not…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Can Division In Worship Bring Unity Of Faith?

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Pope Francis has given authority through a new motu proprio, Magnum Principium, issued this month, to local bishops’ conferences to approve translations of the liturgy from Latin into local languages. By doing so he hopes to accomplish a couple of things. First, as we know by now Pope Francis places full trust and confidence in…Continue Reading

God The Sanctifier Of Men… Other Christs

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 In a previous article, I mentioned that sanctifying grace makes us brethren of Christ. It is, by the way, one more reason to have devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of us, our common Mother. The reason is quite simple to understand: Christ is the Head of the…Continue Reading

The Effects And Fruits Of Anointing Of The Sick

By DON FIER The proper time for receiving the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for a baptized Catholic “has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 1528). However, as we saw last week, the sacrament is not exclusively for those who…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. Please clarify 1 John 5:16-17. Does this refer to mortal sin? What is meant by not praying for one in deadly sin? Isn’t deadly sin a top priority for prayer? — P.S., Indiana. A. The passage in question reads: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Thomas Villanova

By CAROLE BRESLIN Our Lord drew amazing men and women from the population of Spain to protect that country from the ravages that swept through Germany and the Scandinavian countries in the Reformation era. Two events marked by Augustinian monks sparked these events. In Germany, an apostate Augustinian monk who fell from grace led hundreds of thousands into error —…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Simon De Rojas

By CAROLE BRESLIN The subject of this article lived in a time of great saints, great Spanish saints, so it is not surprising that he is little known. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) who wrote the Spiritual Exercises, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) who reformed the Carmelites and wrote The Interior Castle, and St. John of the Cross who wrote…Continue Reading