Cultivating more openness for a life with a sense of God

Following Pope Francis’ suggestion that Catholics turn to Dante’s Divine Comedy for inspiration in the coming Year of Mercy, Rod Dreher, whose How Dante Can Save Your Life has just been published, reflects at on the dangers of living our lives thinly, with no sense of God.

He warns of the dangers of closing ourselves to the possibility of sudden moments of recognition, “when you come to yourself and realise who you are, who you are not, and what you are supposed to do.

“You won’t have all the answers, necessarily,” he continues, “but you will have the one answer that you need, and that will put you on the path that will lead you to the others. It’s what happened to Dante when he became self-aware in the dark wood, and realised that he could not carry on like this, and needed help.”

Explaining that we cannot plan for such moments, though we can cultivate a stance of openness to them, he says: “A key part of my journey to healing through reading Dante was learning how persisting in my attitudes was closing my eyes to anagnorisis — that is, to the recognition of the beauty and the goodness around me. I was blind, and I was wilfully so.”


A world of supermen

Stephen J. Greydanus and Fr Robert Barron grapple at and with the Hollywood blockbuster of the moment, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Mr Greydanus notes how concern for the lives of ordinary people is more prominent in Ultron than Avengers Assemble, “perhaps in response to criticism of DC’s Man of Steel on this point”. While he said he appreciates this, he remarked coming out of the theatre that “it would be nice if at least some of the civilians had personalities”.

While Mr Greydanus is unsure how to take the villain’s “God talk”,  Fr Barron is convinced that attempts to discern Biblical themes are misguided, the film reflecting, he thinks, “an affirmation of a Nietzschean view of life”.

Noting how at a key point the villain “utters Nietzsche’s most famous one-liner: ‘what does not kill me makes me stronger’”, Fr Barron argues that Ultron is “chock-a-block with Ubermenschen, powerful, wilful people who assert themselves through technology and the hyper-violence that that technology makes possible”, the most remarkable instance of this being a man-made saviour, “the coming together of flesh and robotics, produced by the flexing of the all too human will to power”.


Lessons not learned

Speaking of assertions of our will to power and mastery over nature, Caroline Farrow writes at and about a woman who, having agreed to be a surrogate mother for a same-sex couple, changed her mind because she wanted to keep her child.

“This case epitomises the commodification of children inherent in surrogacy,” says Ms Farrow, who says: “In a case which ought to have every single self-identifying feminist screaming to the heavens for justice, a woman has had her one-year-old baby daughter removed from her and handed into the custody of two men, on the grounds that she was causing her harm, not only by horror of horrors, breastfeeding, but also committing the cardinal sins of sometimes co-sleeping with her infant and carrying her about in a sling, at the advanced age of 15 months.

“Catholics continue to be attacked by those supporting same-sex parenting for the way some religious sisters behaved in giving away their babies to richer, more stable couples and not allowing the child to bond with the mother, which caused years of heartbreak for so many,” she observes, “and yet this is exactly what is being advocated here.”