ACS 1001 Catholic Intellectual Tradition Text List

Dorothy Day was an American convert to Catholicism and the principal founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Her life spanned nearly a hundred years and she lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. She was a social activist for most of her adult life and she is under consideration for sainthood. The Catholic Worker emphasizes solidarity with the poor and marginalized, social justice, economic redistribution, disregard for national borders, civil disobedience (and, often, contempt for temporal governments), pacifism and nonviolence. Day’s reduction of Christianity to a lived pattern of daily actions (pray, feed the hungry, clothe the naked) leaves not much room for those things most of us view as essential (no matter how much she listened to the opera on the radio, or read Dostoevsky).  When she died in 1980, the New York Times eulogized her as a "nonviolent social radical of luminous personality." The Long Loneliness is her autobiography, half of which is about her own life, the other half about the founding and development of the Catholic Worker movement. Loaves and Fishes focuses more on the movement and the other personalities involved; From Union Square to Rome is a short, early version of Loaves and Fishes. (Long Loneliness: HarperOne, 2001; $12; 304 pp. From Union Square to Rome: Orbis, 2006; $12; 177 pp. Loaves and Fishes: Orbis, 2003; $15; 221 pp.)

The many works of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) focus on questions of subjectivity, the limits of reason, and the possibility of radical commitment—to faith in God and/or to another human being. Fear and Trembling is his intense study of the story of the Binding of Isaac and the call for a “leap of faith.” In Works of Love, he expounds on the Christian idea of love, explaining exactly why love, in the Christian sense, has always been, and will remain, a grave offense to the world. Kierkegaard does not have an idea of love that is caressing or coddling; it contains "a sadness which broods over life and is tempered by the eternal.” Either/Or is a large study of the ethical conflict between morality and aesthetics; the opening chapters are suitable for ACS reading. (Fear and Trembling: Penguin, 1985; $11; 175 pp. Works of Love: HarperPerennial, 2009; $10; 400 pp.)

 

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), an American ex-pat who became a British citizen and Anglican, was an essayist, poet, and playwright.  He is regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century.  In his poem, “The Wasteland,” Eliot connects the themes of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King with elements of contemporary British society and Western culture, as well as Buddhism and the Hindu Upanishads.  The poem deals with death, disillusionment, and despair in modern life, and draws upon themes from the mythic past.  In his poem “Four Quartets,” Eliot reflects on time, memory, place, symbolism, the universe, and the possibility of redemption.  Murder in the Cathedral, a play in verse (88 pp.), is about the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, for disobeying Henry II.  It deals with issues of church and state, the human pursuit of power and pleasure, martyrdom and heroism, and the search for the meaning of life.  Eliot offers an effective way of culminating ACS 1001, as it pairs well with Shakespeare.  (The Four Quartets: Mariner Press, 1968; $9; 64 pp. Murder in the Cathedral: Harcourt, 1964; $9; 88 pp. The Waste Land: Dover, 1998; $2; 64 pp.)

The many works of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) focus on questions of subjectivity, the limits of reason, and the possibility of radical commitment—to faith in God and/or to another human being. Fear and Trembling is his intense study of the story of the Binding of Isaac and the call for a “leap of faith.” In Works of Love, he expounds on the Christian idea of love, explaining exactly why love, in the Christian sense, has always been, and will remain, a grave offense to the world. Kierkegaard does not have an idea of love that is caressing or coddling; it contains "a sadness which broods over life and is tempered by the eternal.” Either/Or is a large study of the ethical conflict between morality and aesthetics; the opening chapters are suitable for ACS reading. (Fear and Trembling: Penguin, 1985; $11; 175 pp. Works of Love: HarperPerennial, 2009; $10; 400 pp.)

 

Rerum Novarum is a papal encyclical from 1891. It is a response to Marxism and socialism, clarifying the Church’s positions on the dignity of workers (and all human beings), the responsibility of capital, the problems of industrialization, and the role of governments in mediating the conflicts among classes and in promoting the common good. It is considered one the founding documents of Catholic Social Teaching. Its themes were reaffirmed and clarified in subsequent encyclicals, such as Piux XI’s Quadragesimo Anno (1931) and John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus (1991). (Available free online: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html)

A play in verse, J.B. Is a retelling of the Biblical book of Job in a post-WWII world.  The characters deal with immense tragedy, both personal and societal, and attempt to deal with it through discussions with one another and conversations with a bifurcated divinity (appearing to represent, but not exactly representing the Lord and Satan from the Biblical book).  The conclusion presents a rejection of individualism and the ambitions that it inspires, but also rejects the loneliness that is often the response. (Houghton Mifflin, 1989; $12; 153 pp)

 

Playwright and philosopher Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) is considered an early French existentialist. He converted to Catholicism in 1929 and his work addresses the possibility of human beings being in communion with one another despite the distraction and dehumanization of a materialistic and mechanistic society. Man against Mass Society is an intensely Socratic work that diagnoses our crisis, which Marcel identifies as “metaphysical, not merely social.” He also takes up the issues of fanaticism and false egalitarianism, particularly relevant to our own time. (St. Augustine’s Press, 2008; $15; 208 pp.)

A convert to Catholicism, Thomas Merton (1915-68) was a Trappist monk brought to unexpected fame through his spiritual writings and social activism. His spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) is a modern-day Confessions, wherein Merton describes his early wanderings, his dissatisfactions with modern mores and academic life, and his conversion to Catholicism and embrace of the rigid and structured life of a Trappist. New Seeds of Contemplation is his principal work of mysticism. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander and Raids on the Unspeakable feature essays on various subjects: theological, literary, sociological, and personal. (Seven Storey Mountain: Mariner, 1999; $9; 496 pp. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: Random House, 2009; $11; 396 pp. Raids on the Unspeakable: New Directions, 1966; $12; 182 pp. New Seeds of Contemplation: New Directions, 2007; $13; 324 pp.)

H. Richard Neibuhr, Christ and Culture

H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) was perhaps the most important Christian ethicist of 20th Century America. Along with his older brother Reinhold, Niebuhr came to stand for a neo-orthodox (or post-liberal) version of Protestant Christianity. In Christ and Culture (1951) Niebuhr surveys the ways in which Christians have negotiated the tension between Christ, who was without sin, and culture – which Niebuhr defines as the total process of human activity infused more or less with sin (oppression, injustice, etc.). He describes 5 ways in which Christians have negotiated this tension: Christ against Culture, Christ of Culture, Christ above Culture, Christ and Culture in paradox, and Christ as transformer of Culture. He offers Augustine as an exemplar of the transformation model. Of particular value in ACS 1001 is the Christ of Culture model, and then the Christ as transformer of Culture alternative. In the Christ of Culture model religion merely “blesses” mainstream cultural values (perhaps, contemporary individualism, liberal capitalism, multicultural relativism, and so on); there really is no tension between Christ and culture. What Niebuhr sees represented in Augustine is an active engagement in the positive reform of culture into a more humane and just one. The text could be read at the beginning of the semester with the aim of “fitting” subsequent relevant texts into the models, or it could be used at the end of semester as a way to sort the texts read. A reliable edition of the text is the 50th Anniversary edition (Harper & Row, 2001; $13; 320 pp.).

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004) tells the story of John Ames, a Congregationalist minister from the small town of Gilead, Iowa. In the twilight of his life “Reverend Ames” marries Lila, 35 years his junior, and they have a child together, Robert Ames. Knowing that he will not live long enough to see his son grow up, he writes him an extended letter as a way to speak to him beyond the grave. In the letter Ames shares his joys and struggles, his perception of God in the mundane moments and minutia of life, and demonstrates the possibilities of grace in the face of heartache, turmoil, and conflict. Ames’s letter to his young son is the text of Gilead. The novel celebrates the transcendent in everyday life and emphasizes the surprising ways that grace bursts into reality, especially in the broken places. The novel’s autobiographical design connects naturally with Augustine’s Confessions. It is explicitly theological without sermonizing or moralizing, although it touches on moral issues (e.g., abolitionism, segregation). It focuses on the deep relationships forged in a town with a proud history (despite its decline and cultural isolation), which exemplify the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love, 1 Corinthians 13:13) in the context of the mystery of existence. (Picador, 2004; $11; 247 pp.)

Max Scheler (1874-1928), a driving force in 20th century European philosophy, is noted for his work in ethics, phenomenology, and philosophical anthropology (that part of philosophy concerned with the question “what is the human being?”).  In his extended essay, “Ordo Amoris” (1914-1916, originally intended as part of a second volume of The Eternal in Man), Scheler describes the way the human heart, the core of human personality, relates to everything in the cosmos according to a hierarchy of values.  These values are not formal, but register at the level of feeling.  The “order of love” can also be disordered, much as for Augustine: “…any sort of rightness or falseness and perversity in my life and activity are determined by whether there is an objectively correct order of these stirrings of my love and hate, my inclination and disinclination, my many-sided interest in the things of this world” (p. 98).  “Ordo Amoris” would be best read toward the end of the term in ACS 1001.  It can be used, for example, as a development of Pascal, whose argument that “the heart has its reasons” can be seen as a precursor.  It also reads as a counter-point to Hobbes or Nietzsche on the role of human will and sensibility in ethical life.  Scheler’s “personalism” would have a significant influence on subsequent Catholic social thought, notably upon Karol Wojtyła, now Saint John Paul II, who in 1954 wrote his doctoral dissertation on the possibility of constructing a Christian ethics on the basis of Scheler’s philosophy. (Can be read along with “The Idols of Self-Knowledge,” in Selected Philosophical Essays, trans. David R. Lachterman (Northwestern, 1973; $29; 37 pp.)

The Swiss priest Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was among the most eminent Catholic theologians of the 20th century.  A founder of the journal Communio, von Balthasar is noted for his “theological aesthetics,” which, like the theology of Augustine, reserves an essential place for beauty in theology.  Having taken a more critical posture toward modernity (as compared to Karl Rahner, for example), von Balthasar is also noted (alongside Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, and others) for his association with the so-called nouvelle théologie: In contrast to the strict opposition to modernity found in early 20th-century, neo-scholastic thought, these theologians sought a return to the patristic sources of theology as a means of engaging in a dialogue with the modern world.  In Love Alone is Credible (1963), Hans Urs von Balthasar offers a short and accessible answer to the question “What is specifically Christian about Christianity?”  He argues that the answer cannot be reduced to a mysticism, or a wisdom philosophy, but consists in “the self-glorification of divine love.”  In this text, von Balthasar explores not only the failures of love, but also the question of how love must be perceived.  As revelation, as form, as faith and justification, and as deed, love is also the light of the world.  The text can be read late in the spring term as a way of returning to the Augustinian theme of love and as a summary of what is distinctive about Christianity. (Ignatius, 2005; $14; 153 pp.)

ACS 1001 MISSION TEXTS LIST

ACS 1001 instructors are required to choose one text from this list to represent the Christian-Augustinian tradition in the modern world.

 

Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness; From Union Square to Rome; Loaves and Fishes

Dorothy Day was an American convert to Catholicism and the principal founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Her life spanned nearly a hundred years and she lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. She was a social activist for most of her adult life and she is under consideration for sainthood. The Catholic Worker emphasizes solidarity with the poor and marginalized, social justice, economic redistribution, disregard for national borders, civil disobedience (and, often, contempt for temporal governments), pacifism and nonviolence. Day’s reduction of Christianity to a lived pattern of daily actions (pray, feed the hungry, clothe the naked) leaves not much room for those things most of us view as essential (no matter how much she listened to the opera on the radio, or read Dostoevsky).  When she died in 1980, the New York Times eulogized her as a "nonviolent social radical of luminous personality." The Long Loneliness is her autobiography, half of which is about her own life, the other half about the founding and development of the Catholic Worker movement. Loaves and Fishes focuses more on the movement and the other personalities involved; From Union Square to Rome is a short, early version of Loaves and Fishes. (Long Loneliness: HarperOne, 2001; $12; 304 pp. From Union Square to Rome: Orbis, 2006; $12; 177 pp. Loaves and Fishes: Orbis, 2003; $15; 221 pp.)

 

T. S. Eliot, The Four Quartets; Murder in the Cathedral; The Waste Land

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), an American ex-pat who became a British citizen and Anglican, was an essayist, poet, and playwright.  He is regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century.  In his poem, “The Wasteland,” Eliot connects the themes of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King with elements of contemporary British society and Western culture, as well as Buddhism and the Hindu Upanishads.  The poem deals with death, disillusionment, and despair in modern life, and draws upon themes from the mythic past.  In his poem “Four Quartets,” Eliot reflects on time, memory, place, symbolism, the universe, and the possibility of redemption.  Murder in the Cathedral, a play in verse (88 pp.), is about the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, for disobeying Henry II.  It deals with issues of church and state, the human pursuit of power and pleasure, martyrdom and heroism, and the search for the meaning of life.  Eliot offers an effective way of culminating ACS 1001, as it pairs well with Shakespeare.  (The Four Quartets: Mariner Press, 1968; $9; 64 pp. Murder in the Cathedral: Harcourt, 1964; $9; 88 pp. The Waste Land: Dover, 1998; $2; 64 pp.)

 

Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling; Works of Love

The many works of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) focus on questions of subjectivity, the limits of reason, and the possibility of radical commitment—to faith in God and/or to another human being. Fear and Trembling is his intense study of the story of the Binding of Isaac and the call for a “leap of faith.” In Works of Love, he expounds on the Christian idea of love, explaining exactly why love, in the Christian sense, has always been, and will remain, a grave offense to the world. Kierkegaard does not have an idea of love that is caressing or coddling; it contains "a sadness which broods over life and is tempered by the eternal.” Either/Or is a large study of the ethical conflict between morality and aesthetics; the opening chapters are suitable for ACS reading. (Fear and Trembling: Penguin, 1985; $11; 175 pp. Works of Love: HarperPerennial, 2009; $10; 400 pp.)

 

Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (aka Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor)

Rerum Novarum is a papal encyclical from 1891. It is a response to Marxism and socialism, clarifying the Church’s positions on the dignity of workers (and all human beings), the responsibility of capital, the problems of industrialization, and the role of governments in mediating the conflicts among classes and in promoting the common good. It is considered one the founding documents of Catholic Social Teaching. Its themes were reaffirmed and clarified in subsequent encyclicals, such as Piux XI’s Quadragesimo Anno (1931) and John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus (1991). (Available free online: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html)

 

Archibald MacLeish, J.B.

A play in verse, J.B. Is a retelling of the Biblical book of Job in a post-WWII world.  The characters deal with immense tragedy, both personal and societal, and attempt to deal with it through discussions with one another and conversations with a bifurcated divinity (appearing to represent, but not exactly representing the Lord and Satan from the Biblical book).  The conclusion presents a rejection of individualism and the ambitions that it inspires, but also rejects the loneliness that is often the response. (Houghton Mifflin, 1989; $12; 153 pp)

 

Gabriel Marcel, Man against Mass Society

Playwright and philosopher Gabriel Marcel (1889-1973) is considered an early French existentialist. He converted to Catholicism in 1929 and his work addresses the possibility of human beings being in communion with one another despite the distraction and dehumanization of a materialistic and mechanistic society. Man against Mass Society is an intensely Socratic work that diagnoses our crisis, which Marcel identifies as “metaphysical, not merely social.” He also takes up the issues of fanaticism and false egalitarianism, particularly relevant to our own time. (St. Augustine’s Press, 2008; $15; 208 pp.)

Jacques Maritain, The Person and the Common Good

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) was a leading proponent of the neo-Thomist school of philosophy in the first half of the 20th century.  In The Person and the Common Good (1946), he offers a concise and vigorous response to various “modern” ways of defining the human individual in opposition to the common good.  Following Aristotle and Thomas, Maritain develops the idea that “the good of the city is more noble, more divine than that of the individual” (p. 86).  Maritain argues that the good of the person, the human essence, cannot be construed in opposition to the common good, but at its limit, is that common good.  He further claims that in the Church, the common good is not a practical good to be realized, but a subsisting good to which to adhere.  As such, the common good, “is the very life of God” (p. 86), and thus intrinsically linked to the beatific vision.  This text works well in dialog with texts of modern political thought, such as Hobbes or Rousseau, with authors such as Pascal or Nietzsche, or as a compliment to the texts of Catholic social teaching.  (University of Notre Dame Press, 1973; $14; 100 pp.)

 

Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain; Raids on the Unspeakable; New Seeds of Contemplation

A convert to Catholicism, Thomas Merton (1915-68) was a Trappist monk brought to unexpected fame through his spiritual writings and social activism. His spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) is a modern-day Confessions, wherein Merton describes his early wanderings, his dissatisfactions with modern mores and academic life, and his conversion to Catholicism and embrace of the rigid and structured life of a Trappist. New Seeds of Contemplation is his principal work of mysticism. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander and Raids on the Unspeakable feature essays on various subjects: theological, literary, sociological, and personal. (Seven Storey Mountain: Mariner, 1999; $9; 496 pp. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: Random House, 2009; $11; 396 pp. Raids on the Unspeakable: New Directions, 1966; $12; 182 pp. New Seeds of Contemplation: New Directions, 2007; $13; 324 pp.)

 

H. Richard Neibuhr, Christ and Culture

H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) was perhaps the most important Christian ethicist of 20th Century America. Along with his older brother Reinhold, Niebuhr came to stand for a neo-orthodox (or post-liberal) version of Protestant Christianity. In Christ and Culture (1951) Niebuhr surveys the ways in which Christians have negotiated the tension between Christ, who was without sin, and culture – which Niebuhr defines as the total process of human activity infused more or less with sin (oppression, injustice, etc.). He describes 5 ways in which Christians have negotiated this tension: Christ against Culture, Christ of Culture, Christ above Culture, Christ and Culture in paradox, and Christ as transformer of Culture. He offers Augustine as an exemplar of the transformation model. Of particular value in ACS 1001 is the Christ of Culture model, and then the Christ as transformer of Culture alternative. In the Christ of Culture model religion merely “blesses” mainstream cultural values (perhaps, contemporary individualism, liberal capitalism, multicultural relativism, and so on); there really is no tension between Christ and culture. What Niebuhr sees represented in Augustine is an active engagement in the positive reform of culture into a more humane and just one. The text could be read at the beginning of the semester with the aim of “fitting” subsequent relevant texts into the models, or it could be used at the end of semester as a way to sort the texts read. A reliable edition of the text is the 50th Anniversary edition (Harper & Row, 2001; $13; 320 pp.).

 

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004) tells the story of John Ames, a Congregationalist minister from the small town of Gilead, Iowa. In the twilight of his life “Reverend Ames” marries Lila, 35 years his junior, and they have a child together, Robert Ames. Knowing that he will not live long enough to see his son grow up, he writes him an extended letter as a way to speak to him beyond the grave. In the letter Ames shares his joys and struggles, his perception of God in the mundane moments and minutia of life, and demonstrates the possibilities of grace in the face of heartache, turmoil, and conflict. Ames’s letter to his young son is the text of Gilead. The novel celebrates the transcendent in everyday life and emphasizes the surprising ways that grace bursts into reality, especially in the broken places. The novel’s autobiographical design connects naturally with Augustine’s Confessions. It is explicitly theological without sermonizing or moralizing, although it touches on moral issues (e.g., abolitionism, segregation). It focuses on the deep relationships forged in a town with a proud history (despite its decline and cultural isolation), which exemplify the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love, 1 Corinthians 13:13) in the context of the mystery of existence. (Picador, 2004; $11; 247 pp.)

 

Max Scheler, Ordo Amoris

Max Scheler (1874-1928), a driving force in 20th century European philosophy, is noted for his work in ethics, phenomenology, and philosophical anthropology (that part of philosophy concerned with the question “what is the human being?”).  In his extended essay, “Ordo Amoris” (1914-1916, originally intended as part of a second volume of The Eternal in Man), Scheler describes the way the human heart, the core of human personality, relates to everything in the cosmos according to a hierarchy of values.  These values are not formal, but register at the level of feeling.  The “order of love” can also be disordered, much as for Augustine: “…any sort of rightness or falseness and perversity in my life and activity are determined by whether there is an objectively correct order of these stirrings of my love and hate, my inclination and disinclination, my many-sided interest in the things of this world” (p. 98).  “Ordo Amoris” would be best read toward the end of the term in ACS 1001.  It can be used, for example, as a development of Pascal, whose argument that “the heart has its reasons” can be seen as a precursor.  It also reads as a counter-point to Hobbes or Nietzsche on the role of human will and sensibility in ethical life.  Scheler’s “personalism” would have a significant influence on subsequent Catholic social thought, notably upon Karol Wojtyła, now Saint John Paul II, who in 1954 wrote his doctoral dissertation on the possibility of constructing a Christian ethics on the basis of Scheler’s philosophy. (Can be read along with “The Idols of Self-Knowledge,” in Selected Philosophical Essays, trans. David R. Lachterman (Northwestern, 1973; $29; 37 pp.)

 

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone Is Credible

The Swiss priest Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) was among the most eminent Catholic theologians of the 20th century.  A founder of the journal Communio, von Balthasar is noted for his “theological aesthetics,” which, like the theology of Augustine, reserves an essential place for beauty in theology.  Having taken a more critical posture toward modernity (as compared to Karl Rahner, for example), von Balthasar is also noted (alongside Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, and others) for his association with the so-called nouvelle théologie: In contrast to the strict opposition to modernity found in early 20th-century, neo-scholastic thought, these theologians sought a return to the patristic sources of theology as a means of engaging in a dialogue with the modern world.  In Love Alone is Credible (1963), Hans Urs von Balthasar offers a short and accessible answer to the question “What is specifically Christian about Christianity?”  He argues that the answer cannot be reduced to a mysticism, or a wisdom philosophy, but consists in “the self-glorification of divine love.”  In this text, von Balthasar explores not only the failures of love, but also the question of how love must be perceived.  As revelation, as form, as faith and justification, and as deed, love is also the light of the world.  The text can be read late in the spring term as a way of returning to the Augustinian theme of love and as a summary of what is distinctive about Christianity. (Ignatius, 2005; $14; 153 pp.)