Thursday 27th November 2014

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

A Book Review . . . Stimulating Conversation And Strong Convictions

August 10, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By MITCHELL KALPAKGIAN

Learning As I Go, by Jeff Minick. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: North Charleston, S.C., 2013, 311 pages. Available at amazon.com.

Imagine sitting at a kitchen table and having a conversation with a native of North Carolina, an elderly gentleman with a lively mind and a bona fide liberal education, a widower with five children and rich life experience, a former bookstore owner and a teacher of Latin, literature, and history to home-schooled students, a person who cherishes family, simple pleasures, and the enjoyment of people, an articulate man of letters with a love of literature and a master of the English language, and a devout Catholic who honors and lives the Christian faith.
This is the impression that reading these essays, letters, and satires makes — stimulating conversation, strong convictions, genuine insights, bursts of laughter, and the warmth of the personal touch.
The conversation ranges over a multitude of topics from the impoverished state of the culture to the polarized political climate of America to the weaknesses of the Catholic Church to the abysmal status of modern education.
As one hears these reflections and constructive criticisms on a myriad of subjects from sexual morality to the importance of reading to the works of Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the mind receives abundant food for thought, extraordinary common sense, intellectual honesty, and the wisdom of the ages. Like Socrates in his quest for truth, Minick makes thinking and learning a labor of love.
Divided into six parts (Letters to the Bishop, The Public Square, Hobson and Uncle Samuel, Notes on Education, Observations, and Books and Writers), the book addresses many of the concerns and issues that touch everyone’s life in the 21st century.
In “Letters to the Bishop,” Joe Ecclesia (the author’s persona) writes to an imaginary bishop about the matters that trouble him the most: the rearrangements before the altar and the position of the tabernacle as potted plants replace candles and transform the holy place before the statue of the Holy Mother into “a miniature garden.” Joe asks the bishop about the meaning of a “gay and lesbian Mass,” and wonders if “a Drunkards’ Mass” and “a Thieves’ Mass” will soon follow.
A man of integrity, Joe speaks his mind and does not belong to “The Keep-’Em-Dumb-And-Dutiful Crowd.”
He laments “those straggling squads of readers and eucharistic ministers who descend every Sunday onto the altar of even the smallest parish” and criticizes the feminization of the chanceries and seminaries that fail to attract noble, manly men motivated by lofty ideals and heroic virtues. Joe finds it contradictory for the Church that provides great comfort for the dying and devotes All Souls’ Day to honor the faithful departed to neglect the great adventure of living an abundant Catholic life: “Why do we hear so few sermons promoting the joys — and yes, the sheer adventure — of living life to the hilt as a Catholic?”
This love of life with its fullness and richness, he adds, needs the vitality that comes from hikes, delicious meals, book discussions, and engaging conversations in the atmosphere of friendship and hospitality. Joe asks honest, searching questions like “How often do we hear manliness praised these days in the Catholic Church? How often do priests offer homilies touting such masculine traits as restraint, courage, duty, and honor?”
Joe is always a thinker, never a “yes man.”
In “The Public Square” Minick turns his penetrating mind to such topics as the elitist prejudice of the mainstream media, especially in its vicious attack on Sarah Palin and its “unmasked contempt” for those who do not subscribe to the liberal ideologies. He concludes, “The American people now fully recognize the reporters and broadcasters for the snobs and liars they are.”
In the essay “How Slaves Are Made,” Minick exposes the absurdity of a statement from the 2012 Democratic National Convention: “The government is the only thing we all belong to.”
How can a rational animal created in the image of God and endowed with a free will and the capacity to love reduce himself to a creature of the state? Using common sense, Minick states simple self-evident truths: He belongs to God, to the human race, to his ancestors, to his wife and children, to the past, to his work, and to the Catholic Church. He does not owe servitude to the government: “The government belongs to us….I pay them money through taxes.” Though government may consider citizens as the subjects of the state, “it is nonetheless the master who pays the servant.”
Wise men like Minick are not fooled and quickly detect nonsense.
In “Hobson and Uncle Samuel” an older man passes on his wisdom about romance, love, and women to a nephew in need of prudence. He warns him about disillusioned, embittered “crazy ladies” indoctrinated by feminist ideology and duped by the propaganda that “they could have it all: a prestigious job, a wonderful and loving husband, children who adored them, a beautiful home.”
He cautions Hobson about many educated women who consider themselves superior to men. He advises him on the protocol of courtship and the chivalry of gentlemen. Uncle Samuel does not let popular culture or the media cheapen the beauty of romance and the magnificence of marriage.
He explains “What Women Want From Men”: first, manners and respect (“A practice of basic manners will so startle the women around you that they will give you a second, and even a third, look”). Second, humor (“Bring a smile to a woman’s lips, bring her laughter, and you will be well on your way to winning her heart”). Third, the personal touch (“Put aside the iPod, click off Facebook, and ask out the woman you wish to date face to face”). Fourth, the use of the eyes (focus the eyes on a woman’s face and show a sparkle when gazing into them). Fifth, fearlessness (“Be bold. Allow yourself to fall in love. Become a romantic”).
In a culture that avoids, postpones, or fears marriage or substitutes “living together” for the real thing, Minick dares to speak of the adventure of this glorious chapter of life with a sanity that is glaringly absent from popular culture. Reminding Hobson that women desire attention, value speech and communication, and deserve the courtesy of gentlemen, Minick gladly plays the part of the old bird who teaches young birds how to fly.
In “Observations” he offers many incisive points that identify the boorishness of modern habits lacking propriety, good taste, and refinement. In the essay “Adolescent Adulthood” he argues that a large percentage of adults do not act grownup but dress, talk, and behave as teenagers.
These adults dress inappropriately in public, even attending Mass in sweat suits. They “live only for pleasure and entertainment” and talk of “nothing but restaurants and wine tastings.” They indulge in alcohol, soap operas, and greasy foods and live the life of consumers. They stoop to the lowest common denominator and live in a state of lukewarm mediocrity, devoid of all the virtues that distinguish adults.
He even offers advice on “how to behave like a grownup” — a more basic lesson than how to get ahead, how to make money, or how to be successful.
Observing “fat women and fat men in sweats, jeans, and shorts” in shopping malls, he explains that the first rule is “to avoid dressing like a slob except in the privacy of your own home.”
The second rule is to have a sense of propriety and “to dress up rather than down on all occasions.”
The third rule is to talk like an adult and not only avoid obscenity but also speak in complete sentences and not copy the language of adolescents with empty interjections: “He was, like, you know, the best.”
Throughout these articles Minick keeps before his audience the highest ideals as the true standards of living.
The fourth rule is for adults to exercise restraint and self-possession in the traditional ways taught by the virtues of modesty, patience, humility, stoicism, or custody of the tongue rather than stoop to the crassness, brazenness, and exhibitionism that are often on display. Adults show strength when they practice the neglected virtues of “silence, a holding back, a stoic approach” rather than erupt with emotional displays and fits of anger.
The fifth rule is a sense of responsibility, duty, and service that puts the needs of others first before personal desires. Adults accept suffering and inconvenience and “offer themselves in sacrifice to others.”

Living Well

This theme of raising expectations recurs throughout the book both for the old and the young. He warns the young of the dragons that endanger their education, the “electronic beasts under the guise of pods, pads, and phones, game and laptops, emails, and Facebook” that rob them of the time for serious reading and a life of the mind.
He counsels the young to study history, to read great literature, to beware of the glib use of the term “crisis” as used by politicians for self-interest, to acquire courage and to study and practice the other virtues, to view life as an adventure, and to live their faith.
He exhorts both young and old to live well, not merely to exist and to consume; to distinguish between the way things are and the way things ought to be; to think and know the difference between education and indoctrination.
Never pandering to the young or compromising principles, Minick speaks coherently, consistently, and eloquently of the wisdom of the human race and the perennial truths of the Catholic faith as a light for all people to follow in all ages:
“To avoid being sheep, to avoid being herded about aimlessly by politicos, rumor mongers, and the windy opinions of our age, we must raise as our banners the ancient verities of the human spirit.”
In short, this is a most enjoyable book that features a lively mind, a human voice, a lighthearted touch, a cornucopia of food for thought, and a prescription for sanity.

+    +    +

(Dr. Kalpakgian is a professor of humanities.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Chaput: It Isn’t Possible To Be Pro-life And Simultaneously Forget The Cries Of The Poor

Interview with the Archbishop of Philadelphia who is preparing to receive the Pope for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015: defending the unborn child is a vital part of the social doctrine of the Church. We need to…Continue Reading

Homosexual Activist Organization in New York Receives Catholic Grant

Washington, DC—The Lepanto Institute issued a report exposing the activities of an organization which received a $35,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  According to the report, the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) launched its…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Church teaching on sexuality must be clarified, and only Pope Francis can do it

In an interview with Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTE, one of the Catholic hierarchy’s most outspoken defenders of life and family and the Church’s sexual moral teachings again indicated Pope Francis needs to “clarify” that divorced and remarried Catholics, and active…Continue Reading

Pope Appoints New Bishop For Gary, USA

(Vatican Radio) The Holy Father has named an Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, Donald J. Hying as the new Bishop of Gary, USA. He succeeds Bishop Dale J. Melczek, whose resignation Pope Francis accepted upon having the age limit. On Monday…Continue Reading

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  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 subscribe 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 145 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

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope At Santa Marta: Depression And Hope

2014-11-27 Vatican Radio   (Vatican Radio) Reality can be ugly, but despite the suffering, corruption and indifference in today’s world as Christians we must hold our heads high in hope said Pope Francis at Mass Thursday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Basing his reflections on the Readings of the Day, Pope Francis spoke of the fate of the two cities…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Europe is like a poplar tree that needs nourishment

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday told European leaders that the development of today’s societies and their peaceful coexistence require constant reflection on the tenets that form the basis of Europe: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  Like a tree, Europe also needs care and nourishment for healthy growth.  In a wide-ranging speech to the Council of Europe…Continue Reading

Pope Urges A “lonely” “Self-absorbed” Europe To Recover Its Soul

pope671

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called on a “haggard” and “lonely” Europe to recover its role as a world protagonist, its identity as a defender of the transcendent dignity of man, the poor, the migrant, the persecuted, the old and the young, to recover its soul: Christianity. Emer McCarthy reports: In a lengthy address– the first of two on his one…Continue Reading

Pope at Santa Marta: Everything For The Lord And Others

pope669

(Vatican Radio) When the Church is humble and poor, then “it is faithful” to Christ, giving all it has for the Lord and others, leaving nothing for itself said Pope Francis at morning Mass in  Casa Santa Marta Monday. Pope Francis based his reflections on the Gospel of the Day which recounts the episode of the poor widow who gives…Continue Reading

Laws Of Association And Their Contravention

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY Contra Thomas Hobbes and his fictional state of nature, it is the family that is nature’s first form of association, for only within the family can human life survive. It is within the context of the family that the infant is nourished and for years provided with his basic needs, food,…Continue Reading

Are City Folks Less Christian?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK Are the people who live in America’s cities less Christ-like than those who live in small towns and rural areas? Michael Rossmann, a Jesuit scholastic (a member of the order, not yet ordained a priest), does not say that, not in so many words. But he comes close. Rossmann is now…Continue Reading

Giving Thanks

By DONALD DeMARCO The word “thanks” is etymologically rooted in the word “thought.” With this in mind, G.K. Chesterton could say: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Chesterton had a genius for expressing expansive ideas in a concise way. Many of his…Continue Reading

Changing Their Tune

By PHILLIP DEAN (Editor’s Note: Music has always been especially important to Phillip Dean. Gifted as a singer and musician, the high school sophomore leads a Wednesday night youth band at his Rock Hill, S.C., church. And, though he completes his academic coursework online from home, he played for the last four years in the…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “The Birth Control Pill: Unintended Consequences”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a CD containing hundreds of patient information pamphlets showing that the most common methods of birth control are abortifacient in their actions, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Preparing A Way

By FR ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 2 Peter 3:8-14 Mark 1:1-8 In the first reading today God speaks to Isaiah telling him to give comfort to His people. This message comes at the end of a long period of suffering for the people of Israel during which their sins were expiated. Now…Continue Reading

Pope Francis’ Address At Colloquium . . . Complementary Is At The Root Of Marriage And Family

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address in the Vatican at the opening of the “Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman,” November 17-19. In his talk, the Holy Father stated: “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Some Bishops Are Beginning To Find Their Voice

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK In recent weeks the Pope hosted the “Humanum” conference in Rome. In his remarks of welcome he clearly reiterated his commitment to the right of children to have both a mother and a father while stating that marriages and families cannot be redefined by or subject to manipulation by ideologies. (See p. 4B of this…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

Reading And Interpreting Scripture

By DON FIER We ended last week’s installment by launching into a discussion on a question of critical importance: “How is Sacred Scripture to be read and interpreted?” The significance and the relevance of this question become apparent if one examines findings outlined in the 2012 “Status of Global Mission” report, a publication of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Catherine Labouré

By CAROLE BRESLIN A miracle is a sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or to testify to someone’s sanctity. During His life on earth, Jesus performed many miracles. Miracles did not end with Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. They have continued to be performed throughout the history of the Church.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading