Thursday, February 03, 2005

Report from the Book Front

The first meeting of our reading group was last Wednesday. In addition to my father and myself, there were five young fellows between 19 and 24 from the local college. We decided to have weekly meetings on Thursdays (your prayers appreciated). A couple of meetings will be dinner extravaganzas courtesy of myself. Mostly there'll be coffee and light refreshments.

Not having anything to read tonight didn't stop us from talking. We had a lively discussion that lasted about two hours and touched on topics such as Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, whether man has a natural desire for God, the deleterious impact of the culture on Catholic faith, movies, Aristotle's golden mean, whether a purely-dogmatic conception of the faith is enough, "cafeteria" Catholicism, and why fewer people were eating the ginger cookie bars than the chocolate ones.

Our reading schedule's still a bit haphazard. Because most of our members are feckless college students whose pampered lives manage to coexist with the impression that they have too much work on their hands, we've decided to read a series of short works on a weekly basis and only two longer works to be discussed at intervals. (I've suggested readings from Kung, Schillebeeckx and de Chardin unless a Traditionalist who's interested in the group, but who was absent, starts attending. Think of it as scrawling on a mirror, "Stop Me Before I Modernize Again!" I hope he comes. He knows more about Catholicism than most of us).

For next week, we're reading two chapters from Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson's Paradoxes of Catholicism, "Authority and Liberty," and "Faith and Reason." We're also going to pick two longer novels from the following list of six. Explanatory notes for the selection follow each title. Three are "positive" works, by which I mean they affirm Catholic truth in one way or another. They are:
Canticle for Leibowitz (How does the Church endure? Why does the world hate her?)
The Samurai (What does bearing the imago Dei mean?)
Brideshead Revisited (What's faith? Why are we drawn to it? Why are we repelled by it?)
Three are "negative" stories, either wittingly or (in Rand's case) unwittingly dystopian, which provide an opportunity for examining Catholicism's value by comparison to alternatives. They are:
The Fountainhead (Idolatry, lust and cruelty set within America's civic religion).
1984 (A novel about a future we've avoided).
Brave New World (A novel about a future we're embracing).
We had good suggestions from blog readers. JohnK suggested The Screwtape Letters. I'm hoping he (or anyone else) can help us pick a few favorites from the correspondence to read for one week. The Elinor Dashwood suggested Brideshead Revisited, which is on our novels list. Geoff Horton suggsted Benson's Lord of the World, and since we're reading Benson already I hope he'll be satisfied. Margaret Kalb suggested CS Lewis Till We Have Faces, which I've never read. I hope she can follow JohnK and send in recommended excerpts for us to read. And if anybody wants to send in a "Cliff Notes" on our readings, please feel free and I'll be glad to use ‘em.

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