“psychologists have discovered that some of the most hallowed advice on study habits is flat wrong.” - Click the link to see what does work; you’ll be surprised.

(via Instapaper)

Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits


Pondering Islam and its discontents: “To put all this into a sound-bite, the church’s approach to interreligious dialogue is moving beyond the tea-and-cookies stage, where the point is simply to be polite to one another. Today a more balanced form of engagement is emerging, which promises more substantive, but also more potentially combustible, conversations.”

Another fine column from John Allen, the one writer who makes NCR worth reading.

Pondering Islam and its discontents



Fr. Schall reviews Tracey Rowland on BXVI; not to be missed, and good in the wake of the UK visit to bring home Benedict’s theological vision.

(via Instapaper)

Faith Abides: The Intelligence of Benedict XVI | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.


Money quote: “In the end, Hawking on theology reminds me of ill-informed fundamentalists and their efforts at creation “science.” There’s no actual interest in a broad engagement with the challenges of understanding, just a mulish push to make what one already understands into the key for understanding everything else.”

Hawking and Creation » First Things


Here’s the conclusion of a longer article from Fr. Lienhard on BXVI’s approach to Scripture. Well worth reading the whole thing.

“The theology of the Bible elaborated by Pope Benedict XVI in the course of almost fifty years might be summarized in ten theses.

  1. The word of God must be approached with sympathetic understanding, a readiness to experience something new, and a readiness to be taken along a new path (cf. God’s Word, 116).

  2. A true understanding of the Bible calls for a philosophy that is open to analogy and participation, and not based on the dogmatism of a worldview derived from natural science (cf. God’s Word, 118).

  3. The exegete may not exclude, a priori, the possibility that God could speak in human words in this world, or that God could act in history and enter into it (cf. God’s Word, 116).   

  4. Faith is a component of biblical interpretation, and God is a factor in historical events (cf. God’s Word, 126).

  5. Besides being seen in their historical setting and interpreted in their historical contexts, the texts of Scripture must be seen from the perspective of the movement of history as a whole and of Christ as the central event.

  6. Because the biblical word bears witness to revelation, a biblical passage can signify more than its author was able to conceive in composing it (cf. God’s Word, 123).

  7. The exegetical question cannot be solved by simply retreating into the Middle Ages or the Fathers, nor can it renounce the insights of the great believers of all ages, as if the history of thought began seriously only with Kant (cf. God’s Word, 114 and 125).

  8. Dei Verbum envisioned a synthesis of historical method and theological hermeneutics, but did not elaborate it. The theological part of its statements needs to be attended to (cf. God’s Word, 98-99).

  9. Exegesis is theological, as Dei Verbum taught, particularly on these points: (1) Sacred Scripture is a unity, and individual texts are understood in light of the whole. (2) The one historical subject that traverses all of Scripture is the people of God. (3) Scripture must be read from the Church as its true hermeneutical key. Thus, Tradition does not obstruct access to Scripture but opens it; and, conversely, the Church has a decisive say in the interpretation of Scripture (cf. God’s Word, 97).

  10. Theology may not be detached from its foundation in the Bible or be independent of exegesis (cf. God’s Word, 93).”

(Via Carl Olson.)


Cognitive science revises ideas about studying.

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits


Nice piece by Weigel that puts BXVI’s trip to Britain in context of broader Western Civ. issues

BXVI & the fragility of reason


Politically incorrect, but nonetheless accurate: “The greatest advantage of Huntington’s civilizational model of international relations is that it reflects the world as it is—not as we wish it to be.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: How to Win the Clash of Civilizations


Nice updating and reapplication of Balthasar’s thoughts on razing the bastions, from Homiletic & Pastoral Review; good for Gen-X types such as myself to remember!

“Most of the young people I know here at St. Louis University, for example, pray and worship and serve in a “post-dissent” Church… They are not reacting against anything internally within the Church but only outwardly against the alienating harshness of secular modernism.”

Razing generational bastions


(via Sandro Magister)

Q: Your Holiness, I am Mathias Agnero and I come from Africa, specifically from Côte d’Ivoire. You are a pope theologian, while we, when we are able, read only a few books of theology for formation. It seems to us, nonetheless, that a fracture has been created between theology and doctrine, and, even more, between theology and spirituality. The need is felt for study not to be entirely academic, but to nourish our spirituality. We feel the need for this in pastoral ministry itself. Sometimes theology does not seem to have God at the center and Jesus Christ as the first “theological locus,” but instead has scattered tastes and tendencies; and the result is the proliferation of subjective opinions that permit the introduction, even in the Church, of non–Catholic thought. How can we keep from becoming disoriented in our lives and our ministry, when it is the world that judges faith and not the other way around? We feel “off center!”

A: You touch upon a very difficult and painful problem. There really is a theology that wants above all to be academic, to appear scientific and forgets the vital reality, the presence of God, his presence among us, his speaking today, not only in the past. Saint Bonaventure distinguished two forms of theology in his time; he said: “There is a theology that comes from the arrogance of reason, that wants to dominate everything, to turn God from a subject into an object that we study, while he should be the subject who speaks to us and guides us.”

There really is this abuse of theology, which is arrogance on the part of reason and does not nourish faith, but obscures the presence of God in the world. Then there is a theology that wants to know more out of love for the beloved, is stimulated by love and guided by love, and wants to know more about the beloved. This is true theology, which comes from love of God, of Christ, and wants to enter more deeply into communion with Christ.

In reality, the temptations today are great; above all, the so-called “modern vision of the world” (Bultmann: “modernes Weltbild”) is imposed, which becomes the criterion of what is claimed to be possible or impossible. And so, precisely with this criterion that everything is as it always has been, that all historical events are of the same kind, the very novelty of the Gospel is excluded, the intervention of God is excluded, the true novelty that is the joy of our faith.

What should be done? I would say first of all to the theologians: have courage. And I would also like to express great thanks to the many theologians who are doing good work. There are abuses, we know that, but in all parts of the world there are many theologians who truly live by the Word of God, nourish themselves on meditation, live the faith of the Church and want to help make faith present in our day.

And I would say to theologians in general: “Do not be afraid of this phantasm of the scientific!” I have been following theology since 1946; I began to study theology in January of 1946, and so I have seen almost three generations of theologians, and I can say: the hypotheses that at that time and then in the 1960’s and ‘80’s were the most new, absolutely scientific, absolutely almost dogmatic, in the meantime have become outdated and no longer apply! Many of them appear almost ridiculous. So have the courage to resist what is apparently scientific, not to submit to all the hypotheses of the moment, but really to think on the basis of the great faith of the Church, which is present in all times and gives us access to the truth. Above all, also, do not think that positivistic reason, which excludes the transcendent – which cannot be accessible – is true reason! This weak form of reason, which presents only things that can be experienced, is really an insufficient reason. We theologians must use the greater form of reason, which is open to the greatness of God. We must have the courage to go beyond positivism to the question of the roots of being.

This seems of great importance to me. So, it is necessary to have the courage for grand, broad reason, to have the humility not to submit to all the hypotheses of the moment, to live by the great faith of the Church of all times. There is no majority versus the majority of the saints: the true majority is the saints in the Church, and we must orient ourselves by the saints!

Then, to the seminarians and the priests I say the same thing: consider that the Sacred Scripture is not an isolated book: it is living in the living community of the Church, which is the same subject in all centuries and guarantees the presence of the Word of God. The Lord has given us the Church as a living subject, with the structure of the bishops in communion with the pope, and this great reality of the bishops of the world in communion with the pope guarantees for us the testimony of permanent truth. Let us trust in this permanent magisterium of the communion of the bishops with the pope, who represent to us the presence of the Word; let us trust in the life of the Church.

And then we must be critical. Certainly theological formation – I would like to say this to the seminarians – is very important. In our time, we must know the Sacred Scripture well, partly because of the attacks of the sects; we really must be friends of the Word. We must also know the currents of our time in order to respond reasonably, in order to be able to give – as Saint Peter says – “reasons for our faith.” Formation is very important. But we must also be critical: the criterion of faith is the criterion that we must also use to view theologians and theologies. Pope John Paul II gave us an absolutely sure criterion in the catechism of the Catholic Church: here we see the synthesis of our faith, and this catechism is truly the criterion for seeing where there is an acceptable or unacceptable theology. Therefore, I recommend the reading, the study of this text, and so we can move forward with a critical theology in the positive sense, meaning critical of the fashionable tendencies and open to the true novelties, to the inexhaustible depth of the Word of God, which reveals itself as new in all times, including in our time.


My cousin Mary blogs in memory of my Mom, Ellen, who passed yesterday. I haven’t in me to write just now but this is something special.

[UPDATE: Mary’s original blog post is offline, so I’ve reproduced it below from my saved copy.]

Aunt Ellen is my mom’s older sister….but I remember her in her 30’s! From the day I can remember, I heard stories of them, along with their two brothers, growing up. The first story I can remember about my Aunt and me was when she convinced my mom to give me baby cereal. I was never satisfied with formula, so Aunt Ellen told my mom to give me a little cereal. My mom was nervous, but tried it, and I spit it out all over the place. Well, I guess a few weeks later, my determined Aunt sat across from me and shoveled the cereal in…..there’s a picture of her sitting across from my high-chair with her feet propped up on the chair, feeding me baby cereal….with half of a smile on her jaw set face. I ate cereal everyday after that. That’s how I would sum her up…..Aunt Ellen had grit, but with a smile….

Aunt Ellen was a nurse, but when she decided to go to nursing school, some advisor told her she’d never make it in her chemistry class, she’d flunk out and never make it as a nurse. You know what? She got a 97 in that class….and spent the rest of her life caring for others….with grit, determination and a smile.

Aunt Ellen came to every one of my brothers and my special events, even though she was 4 hours away…usually a snowy 4 hours away. Every single one. Upon arrival, she’d take out her suitcase, and call out a “Hellllooooo!” as she was coming up the stairs. Grit, determination and a smile.

When I was little, my aunt and uncle had a dairy farm. I loved going there to visit! I remember exactly the way the house looked. I remember my mom and my aunt staying up into the wee hours talking. I remember the barn cats, and how my aunt would try not to become attached to them. She had a house cat named Buttons, and a black dog named Daisy, but according to her, she was not taking in any more animals. She had done that once, feeding a stray barn cat she eventually named Whitey, and eventually Whitey was hit by a car. She said absolutely never again. A few months later when we were up to visit again, I saw a black cat hanging out on her front porch, sunning itself in an old chair. Another barn cat…and Aunt Ellen was so determined to not get attached to anymore strays, she named the cat “Trash” (perhaps thinking the name would give her the distance she needed?), but the cat did get a name…..and got a few square meals, and some cuddling on the sly….everyday. I remember stealing the last sips from her coffee cup….I think she secretly left the cup on the kitchen table for me. I remember that Aunt Ellen was never the “hurried” kind of woman, although if she put her head down and started walking, you better walk fast…..she got around quick! I remember climbing around the hay barn, and going to see the cows. I remember the smell inside the milk house (which still remains a favorite, comforting smell to me). I remember my mom and my aunt trading romance novels….and when I got old enough, I “borrowed” hers too. I also remember my aunt breaking up many barn fights between her two teenage sons….Aunt Ellen was probably around 5'4", and her boys are a bit over 6 feet. You know what she did? With grit, determination, and occasionally a sly smile, she’d separate them with the pressure hose…turn it on full force too….but it worked!

Eventually, my aunt bought a piece of property, and then had a house built on it a few years later. Not being well-off by any stretch, she had someone build the house, but then finished a lot of the detail work herself, and I mean a lot of the work. Grit and determination. She loved to garden, and always had a million different kinds of flowers growing out front. She had two cats named Sophie and Tasha, and would ring a huge old cow bell at night when she wanted them to come in…and they always did.

We spent many Christmases together, usually her trucking down to our house while hoping to avoid the snow of upstate NY. As we all got older, we got together less often, but she always sent down a special Welsh bread called Barb-wreath (?) for Christmas. So yummy!

Aunt Ellen always had herself “put together” too. She always wore lipstick, and I remember her always doing her hair, using gel or hairspray that I sometimes played with in her bathroom when I visited. For some reason, I remember she was a fan of white heeled sandals as well…..She always had her jewelry on and her outfits put together….but it’s so funny because she wasn’t caught up in herself or how she looked at all. Just honest self-respect. She was always looking out for others first….

I think of her as the family peacekeeper. Aunt Ellen was the glue for her family and extended family after Grandma and Grandpa died. She always made an effort to patch things up, make a phone call, try to arrange small get-togethers. Not once did I ever hear her say a bad thing about anyone….unless it was true. She didn’t gossip, at least, not around us. She always tried to give the benefit of the doubt to people, but…..she was nowhere near naive. If she had something to say, or you asked for an opinion….she’d give it to you…straight up. But then, that was the end of it. She said her peace, which was usually true, and then that was that and she’d put it behind her.

A funny story:

Somewhere in my late teens or early 20’s, we went to stay with Aunt Ellen. I shared the pull out couch with Aunt Ellen, while my parents took her bedroom, and my brother shared a room with my cousin. Aunt Ellen snored so loud that night! And I mean LOUD. She could whip my dad’s butt in a snoring contest any day….and that’s saying something. And I had no idea one could snore so loud, that it would literally make the bed shake….I now know it is most definitely possible. I stuck my head under pillows, then doubled the amount of pillows. I stuck tissues in my ears, and then put my head back under the covers….no help. I was now hot, suffocating, and going deaf from the decibel level in the room. I ended up moving to the bathroom around 2am, and sleeping on the bathroom floor that night with a blanket. It was still like a train was coming through the house, even from the bathroom, with the door shut…..just maybe the next track over. I never told her this though. I think the next morning I said I had a stomach bug overnight and just wanted to be close to the bathroom…..

4 years ago, Aunt Ellen got very sick with a very unusual bug that put her in a coma for weeks, and a nursing home/rehabilitative center for months. At the time, we didn’t think she would live…but with some grit and determination….she sure did. For as sick as she was then, she came back from the brink, completed a major amount of therapy, and made a mostly full recovery, with just a few residual effects. The following year she was back buzzing around, taking care of her family, doing her gardening, and planning some house renovations. Amazing.

Her family, especially her grand kids meant more to her than anything. It was obvious in the way she cared for them, helped put them on the bus, got them together in the mornings when their parents were working, cooked meals for them, helped with school, and she did it all happily and with a smile…even though she was just as busy. She loved it! I particularly remember the tea parties she used to put on for her granddaughter. Whenever she talked to my mom in those days, she would speak about having “tea with Sea”.

There are so many memories I have of Aunt Ellen, I wish I had the space and time to write them all down, but I know I won’t forget any of them either. She was a special woman, a gritty, kind, sunny and honest lady, and an awesome Aunt…..

……..In Memory of Ellen Williams……. 10/13/42- 5/26/10



The money quote is the subtitle: “Sure, It’s Big. But Is That Bad?” Still, I’d much rather have the Google of 2010 than the Microsoft of the 90s.

Regulators Are Watching Google Over Antitrust Concerns -


Online Fandom  » Why, despite myself, I am not leaving Facebook. Yet.: “The rewards of Facebook are concrete and immediate. The costs are abstract and ideological. When I try to balance the two, the rewards win, but that is because of my friends and despite Facebook. It is not evidence that Facebook is acting appropriately.”

Catches the point perfectly!


This column will change your life: Are you an Asker or a Guesser? | Life and style | The Guardian

So many social and professional interactions make more sense now…


The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand « Jason Calacanis

Persuasive argument that Facebook is a net negative to the wider development of the Net, and untrustworthy, to boot. Summarizes the reasons many tech figures are deleting / deactivating their accounts and moving their fan or marketing pages elsewhere (cf. Leo Laporte among others).

Too bad that so much of mine and Emily’s social network is bound up with Facebook, but it’s definitely enough to deter me from expanding my own or my department’s presence there.


Ace of Spades HQ: “Newsweek’s chief competitor wasn’t The Economist.

Newsweek’s chief competitor was actually People Magazine.”

(Via Instapundit.)


Here On The Island - by Lewis Napper - A Scholarly Critique of the Style, Symbolism and Sociopolitical Relevance of Gilligan’s Island

Every so often, my love of pop culture is vindicated as with Warcraft and Philosophy, Gospel according to the Simpsons, etc. This is one of those times.


Good analysis.

The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash - Charlie's Diary


“Much of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong.”

Science vs. Religion: What do scientists say?