“This is water”

“This is water”

In 2005, David Foster Wallace delivered what some call “the greatest commencement speech of all time.

Leaving the hyperbole aside, it’s still a damn good speech. It’s both a spirited defence of an education in the liberal arts, and a good example of “philosophical therapy.” (For more on that, try ‘How Socrates could save your life.’)

I read the speech several years ago, and many times since — especially when I’m stuck in traffic — it comes to mind. The fact that Wallace succumbed to a twenty year battle with depression and killed himself in 2008 only adds to its poignancy.

If the speech had to be summed up, Socrates’ famous aphorism comes to mind: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Or perhaps something from Simone Weil on attention: “The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing. It is almost a miracle. It is a miracle.”

Earlier this month, a short film adaption of Wallace’s speech was published online, and its already attracted views in the millions. It’s well worth watching, even if you’ve read the speech already.

One small complaint though. Twice, Wallace denies that he is moralising or preaching, and fair enough. Who wants to be accused of that? (Says the guy who has made preaching his life.)

He goes too far though, in his claim that “none of this stuff is really about morality.” Actually, that’s precisely what this is about. Morality is about choosing the good.

But never mind. That’s a small complaint in the scheme of things. Make time to watch this. It can counteract some of the time-wasting rot you watch on YouTube. (Poor old Teddy. I hope he gets well soon.)

29 Comments

  1. MuMu
    May 15, 2013

    Wallace surely and eloquently identified the problem of the human condition: the default position. Seems he didn’t find the solution. How can we possibly overcome ourselves without grace?

  2. Clare
    May 15, 2013

    I have read your past posts on the topic of homosexual marriage. I’m very unclear with your comments. As a Catholic priest can you please publicly confirm on this blog and state officially that you endorse 100% the following statements from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.

    From the official Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    Chastity and homosexuality

    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

  3. Clare
    May 15, 2013

    Can you state without hesitation that you support all of the above including the statements in 2357 – “basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    I strongly look forward to your response. I have still not heard from you even though I have posted widely on this blog now.

  4. Clare
    May 15, 2013

    Nobody knows how many will be saved. We DO know for a fact that NOT all people are saved or will everybody be saved.

    Do more people make it to heaven or hell? Again we don’t know, although the tradition of the Church – saints, fathers and doctors would argue most do not make it to heaven and choose to damn themselves through mortal sin.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCf8C1Xcpds

  5. Clare
    May 15, 2013

    FOR THE TRUE AND AUTHENTIC TEACHING OF THE CHURCH ON HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE SURROUNDING CONTROVERSY SEE:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcmKHqH56_4

    WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE ISSUE AND BE HONEST AND NOT DANCE AROUND? THIS VIDEO WILL MAKE THAT CLEAR:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCf8C1Xcpds

  6. Clare
    May 15, 2013

    I’m not going to lie. I find many statements and views on this blog and many comments on this blog to be deeply confusing, worrying and troublesome.

    When you are free, can you please answer the following questions:

    (1) How often do you preach on ‘true devotion’ to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the power of Our Lady’s intercession?

    (2) How often do you preach on the intrinsic moral evils of contraception, abortion, lust, immodest fashions, masturbation and fornication?

    NB: the Blessed Virgin Mary said at Fatima that most people go to Hell bc of sins of the flesh.

    (3) How often do you preach or inform your parish about mortal sin and the fact that a single mortal sin will send a person to hell for all eternity?

    (4) How often do you preach or inform your parish that the ONLY way to be forgiven with 100% confidence and certainty of mortal sin is through the sacrament of confession? (perfect contrition alone is never certain)

    (5) How often do you inform your parishioners that unless they confess every single mortal sin since their last VALID confession then their present confession is NOT valid and in fact they have committed the further sin of sacrilege.

    (6) Have you manged to increase the rates of confession in your parish? Have you manged to encourage monthly and weekly confessions?

    (7) Have you been able to get people to return to confession and make a good general confession to ensure they are free from mortal sin and therefore free from going to hell?

    (8) Do you make sure that you do NOT give the blessed sacrament to a person when you are AWARE that they are a divorcee, practicing homosexual, use contraception or support abortion?

    (9) How often do you preach on the fact that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church and outside of Christ (as properly understood of course) and that the Catholic religion is the one and only true religion?

    (10) How often do you tell your parishioners that as faithful Catholics they cannot and must not vote for intrinsic moral evils like contraception and same-sex marriage, since the Church teaches you can never support or give way to an intrinsic moral evil?

    NB: Look up the heresy of americanism.

    • MuMu
      May 16, 2013

      Clare, I can understand your alarm and frustration at the dearth of clear preaching on morals these days. Back in the good ole days of the Tridentine Church, the kind of preaching you extol rained thick and fast from the pulpits. But then, every Catholic sitting in the pews knew the meaning of “mortal sin”, contraception being a grave evil, etc. This style of preaching was appropriate under the circumstances.

      Now the priest’s job is much, much harder. It’s amazing that the congregation has gotten there in the first place. If he used the style of pre-V2 language today it would be like dropping a nuclear bomb on them. Most Catholics haven’t a clue because no one has taught them faith and morals when they were children. They have to be treated with great sensitivity.

      Further, in a Church suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from the crimes of largely homosexual priests, the priest has an incredibly difficult task in framing his words. He’s supposed to preach on the scripture of the day, a mercy for most, I would have thought.

      The guys who railed fire and brimstone from the pulpit were sometimes the same ones who assaulted the altar boys. Our good priests wear the sackcloth and ashes.

      I suggest that instead of accusing Fr John – whom I know to be a good, orthodox young priest – you might instead pray for him and all priests. Do a bit of fasting and penance. This could very well change your perspective to one of compassion.

      • Cathy
        May 16, 2013

        I heard a very good sermon from a priest at Mass recently. He simply stated that instead of pointing the finger at Bishops and Priests who have not seemed as strong as they could be and take out your rosary and pray for them. They are continuously attacked because they have consecrated hands, and are also a shepherd for their flock, the Deil hates them and will do anything to tip them over. Pray for Bishops priest and religious that they have the courage to stand up and fight the good fight, because without Gods help we are nothing.

  7. MuMu
    May 16, 2013

    And another thing: it is parents’responsibility to teach their children about the faith and it is the grave duty of adult Catholics to inform themselves about not only the basics of faith and morals, but to try and get a mature perspective on the state of the world, the Church and how they can effectively evangelise.
    As I recall, our discussions on Fr John’s blog about homosexuality have largely been attempts to understand and show compassion – I doubt conversion would come about otherwise. It’s a given among the posters here that the things you mention are wrong. The question is, what are the best ways to “admonish the sinner” and “instruct the doubtful”?

    • Cathy
      May 16, 2013

      Ah yes it is the duty of a parent to teach their children in matters of faith, however how many parents get their kids baptized just to get them into the catholic school system and you never see them at Mass?We are dealing with a third generation of people who do not understand even the basic teachings of the church, this is because of Bishops taking a soft line and not overseeing the Catholic education that now has been high jacked by liberal modernists who take a Protestant view. If parents do not have a firms support of Catholic education they become complacent and loose the faith. Pray that our Bishops make firm decisions in leading their flock.

  8. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    Very sound comments MuMu.

    However, if we are honest, the comments and content of the blogs went far beyond mere compassion and DID avoid expressing the authentic teachings of the Church on the matter.

    Once cannot separate charity and truth. They must be intrinsically linked. To preach compassion under the guise of charity without affirming the strong condemnation and abomination of same-sex marriage and homosexuality is wrong.

    Once must extend compassion to help a sinner in their private struggle with sin, but never make comments which imply that their sin is ok or give them false hope that their sin may one day be accepted as no longer sinful in the Church.

    As for responsibility, certainly a parent has the duty and faithful Catholic needs to be making reparations for the sinners and modernistic heretics in the Church. However, to say well lets stop saying bad things about the poor clergy is ridiculous.

    The attack on the clergy from Satan applies to faithful clergy Cathy. They are attacked precisely bc they stand up and preach that contraception is an intrinsic moral evil when 98% of their congregation contraception as the statistics show and get told off for having sermons that are too long.

    These faithful clergy like Cardinal Burke are the the heroes of the Church who Satan is trying to fight.

    Satan is not worries about the modernistic priests who want to preach the falsehood that people are born gay or that its normal. As the laity we must and should continue to expose priests who do not take up their cross and spiritual duty.

    During the Arian heresy, 1/3 of all the Bishops, and some historians say over half went into serious heresy. It was the laity who stood besides St. Athanasius in maintaining the divinity of Christ.

    We must pray for modernistic priests yes. However, we must also be willing to explain their errors and failings to them in love and charity. The second spiritual work of mercy is to admonish the sinner. Never forget that . Remember what Christ did to the Pharasees and St. John the Baptist.

    Certainly, we must make the 3 pm hour of mercy and pray the divine mercy chaplet, but we also need to heed the advice of St. Augustine who said work as though everything depended on you and pray as though everything depended on God.

    Therefore pray hard, but also work hard to overcome the worst heresy the Church has ever seen – moderism which is the synthesis of all heresies.

  9. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    MuMu, for me personally I prefer the norvis ordo. Both are equally valid, however I prefer the norvis ordo bc its easier for me to pray along and mediate.

    The problem is 90% of norvis ordo masses are not done with reverence or properly. They also include protestantized ceremonies and music which although not an abuse reduces the reverence of the mass.

    However, when you find a norvis ordo done with reverence its simply amazing. I can only find one in my area. Its almost like a completely different mass. Really, its just like the Latin Mass but in English.

    There is very good reason to be positive in this area, bc most of the new priests coming out of seminary are orthodox and are bringing back the reverence into the mass.

  10. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    MuMu, I am very compassionate and constantly preach divine mercy, but preaching divine mercy without the need for a firm purpose of amendment is futile and redundant since no mercy can be shown where there is no degree of contrition.

    Therefore MuMu, rather then merely take the easy way out and say lets just keep things easy and calm and focus on mercy and avoid any controversies over standing up and saying homosexuality is a mortal sin we need to save souls.

    This requires both expressing the mercy of God, but then admonishing the sinner in a charitable way and explaining to them in love why they are putting their souls at risk.

    Really, if you reflect on this you will see you are the one who is not being compassionate (although I can see you are sincere and dong it out of ignorance) since you are not helping a person save their soul. You dont scream at them or engage in a protestantized hate speech, but rather you freely and confidently affirm the Church’s teaching on salvation and sin. The reason why the Church has been so weak in stopping same-sex marriage from destroying the souls of so many is bc many in the Church conveniently try and take your position. Lets just focus on an inclusive, compassionate and loving Christ and lets not talk about the stuff that people are going to yell at us about.

    MuMu, what is mercy without mortal sin and the risk of hell? What is God being merciful about? What exactly are we being thankful for?

    That’s why we need to charitably and in love admit to people that homosexuality is a very severe mortal sin and if they are embracing their homosexuality they are in an ‘objective’ state of mortal sin and must have recourse to penance where they will be washed and untied of their sins. We must encourage them to continue no matter how many times they fall YES. We must always show them love knowing how hard struggling with sin is YES. We must never encourage scrupulosity or any type of view which might make them think that the mercy of God will only last a certain amount YES. We must assure them no matter how many times they sin or how sinful they are if they go to confession they will be forgiven YES. We must be gentle and kind YES. But NO we must not avoid preaching on the immorality of homosexuality.

    There is a fine apostolate – Courage – which is helping the many great victim souls struggling with this affliction to live out the Church’s teachings. We must urge everyone to get in touch with Courage. However we must not sugar coast sin or pretend it does not need to be fought.

  11. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    MuMu, also lets not fall into using a straw man accusing me of something I did not do.

    Sure, I am direct, since using a combox requires clarify, but I am not attacking your parish priest.

    I am doing two things which I made clear. Several actually.

    Certain things he stated, I flat out disagreed with. Secondly, I found his other comments very ambiguous and lacking in direction and clarity. So thirdly, rather then launch into any straw man myself I post a series of questions to Fr. John. The first one which is really the key is asking whether he can affirm 100% agreement with all the paragraphs I posted form the Cathechism. I asked that bc his comments may have given the appearance that he does not strongly affirm para 2357 but since that might just be my reading I asked for a clarification and did not launch into any straw man attacks.

    If Fr. John can agrees with the teaching off the Church this is not difficult at all and will take any time and clear up any matters.

    Secondly, I posted a series of questions, which I think are important. It needs to be quotes that these set of questions are different to the one on the Catechism. These questions are pastoral and even if Fr. John cannot say he does any of those 10 things it would not make him unfaithful or a heretic, although it would certainly mean he needs to reflect whether he is focusing on the salvation of souls. Point is its not an attack on his faithfulness.

    The first question is therfore more important.

    MuMu out of curiosity do you think Fr. John can say without any hesitation whatsoever that he 100% supports and affirms and advances para 2357 of the Catechism which teaches that:

    “…Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    If your answer is yes then great. All we would need is a strong confirmation from Fr. John. If not, then we need to flesh this issue out. Im sorry if that bothers you and you would prefer to pray the Rosary, but it must be done.

  12. Cathy
    May 16, 2013

    I think you need to be corrected.
    To say bad things about clergy and gossip amoung yourselves about them is not a good thing at all, not to mention that all ordained Bishops and priests come under attack at some stage because they are consecrated men called by God, the devil has a very jealous attitude toward them as he will never have consecrated hands because he is a fallen angel.
    Your non charitable attitude toward priests be they faithful or not is quite alarming, I have stood up for the faith by correcting liberal modernist priests before, however respect of their priestly office is necessary otherwise you will turn the objective of the message sour. If one has a problem with a priest regarding church teaching, take it up with the Bishop, if that fails go higher again, but above all pray for them and the job they do.

    • Clare
      May 16, 2013

      Cathy, its sad you feel it necessary to misrepresent what I have stated which is the first part of your comment. The second part I can overlook bc clearly it is based on ignorance.

      Regarding the first part, I never said any bad things about any priests or gossiped or said detraction or calumny was acceptable. You need to be very careful with these accusations Cathy, bc you may be falling into making a Calumny against me here.

      To disagree with a person is not to gossip or Calumny them as Fr. John may tell you. For example, there are many open and non-doamatic areas of theology which people have different views on. If Fr. John has a different view say of the assumption of Enoch to me and where Enoch went does that mean he is gossping or being uncharitable to me. Of course not thats just ridiculous. Just bc a person disagrees with you does not mean they hate you, are promoting gossiping or are bad mouthing a person. What does it mean then? Shock horror – it simply means they disagree with you.

      Now certainly I dont take anything you said personally, but merely for your own benefit be very careful when you make personal accusations and judgments about the motives and state of intentions of another soul.

      Secondly, Church history as well as the documents of Vat II make it very clear the laity are permitted to raise concerns and in fact Vat II was nicknames the Council of the Laity for that reason. It really gave us a healthy voice to ask questions.

      Finally, clearly out of ignorance you do not realize the state of affairs in the Church. Don’t make light of the attacks on the devil. To some extent of course we are all attacked by the Devil bc he wants our soul in hell. But you clearly understand there is a qualitative different to the attacks on people like John Vianney and Padre Pio and unfaithful clergy. So lets not try and avoid speaking the truth here in fear of people not liking us.

  13. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    Cathy, before your passions lead you to make any further Calumnies against me perhaps watch the views I posted and let me know what you think of them. That may help us have a more reasoned discussion.

    • Cathy
      May 16, 2013

      No offense intended, just pointing out that consecrated men, Bishops and priests are under constant attack, and never underestimate the power of prayer.

  14. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    Cathy, no need to apologize which I assume is what you were trying to do. I dont take offense to any comments made in passion no matter how much of an ad hominem they may be.

    I also know you are a faithful Catholic and your comments were a reaction to your emotions – a reflex actions. I was pointing them our for the benefit of your soul. Calumny is very serious bc its almost impossible to make restitution for such a sin.

  15. Cathy
    May 16, 2013

    Pope Francis on prayers for clergy.
    http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/15/pope_francis_at_mass:_bishops_and_priests_need_prayers_of_faithful/en1-692314

    Authority and Apostolic succession is more sound advice .

    • Cathy
      May 16, 2013

      Are you telling me my sins?

      • Clare
        May 16, 2013

        My comments were very clear. Accusations as to the motives and intentions of another soul is very serious business, and you need to avoid making a calumny against another person for it is very serious.

    • Clare
      May 16, 2013

      Another straw man. I never said my comments are magisterial.

      However unlike you I did quote from magisterial documents.

      Furthermore another straw man since I in fact clearly said praying is important but that alone it is futile.

      • Cathy
        May 16, 2013

        I’m done with this Convo.
        Bye
        PAX

      • Clare
        May 16, 2013

        Cathy, do you mind if I ask your age?

      • Clare
        May 16, 2013

        Cathy, the nature of a discussion is to dialogue. Its not to hear what you want to hear.

        When you have a discussion you will have people who do not agree with you.

        You should not be averse to discussion merely bc you may hear things you do not want to listen to.

  16. Clare
    May 16, 2013

    Why? I think its an important issue. Let’s not make our passions, emotions and pride get in the way Cathy.

    Why not watch the videos I posted – especially the one on homosexuality and the teaching of the Catholic Church and lets discuss it.

    Controversial issues are always going to generate heat. Lets not be on our high horse but rather humble ourselves and answer questions rather then run away from them or make accusations and avoid them. Ive tried to answer every point made to me. Thats the only humble thing to do.

  17. Yujin
    May 16, 2013

    Wow – just read these comments.

    This comment has been redacted. Please keep it civil!
    ~ Fr John.

    • Clare
      May 16, 2013

      hahaha ok mate. Why dont you highlight which points you disagreed with and then we can discuss them.