Saturday 30 April 2016

Thomas Mann and Schopenhauer

Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks. Thomas Buddenbrook suddenly finds a part of a famous book by a famous philosopher (who remains unnamed in the novel), and reads for four hours on end, enraptured, and enthralled: that is the word. "On death and its relation to our personal immortality." Which turns out to be from Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea. This book, and the author in general, turns out to have had a huge influence on the world of art. see John Desmond Peter, Vladimir's Carrot: Modern Drama and the Modern Imagination, at

https://books.google.it/books?id=Sxtwhu9852YC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=%22on+death+and+its+relation+to+our+personal+immortality%22&source=bl&ots=v6enfRd5fx&sig=0Oo67o09QeWlVPepNnUrPuhiQmI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj38__J6LXMAhVVF8AKHZiUAxoQ6AEIITAB#v=onepage&q=%22on%20death%20and%20its%20relation%20to%20our%20personal%20immortality%22&f=false

See also Irvin D. Yalom, The Schopenhauer Cure: A Novel, which seems to be a novelistic life of Schopenhauer, much along the lines of the same author's novel on Nietzsche and Freud (When Nietzsche Wept, 1992). The whole book seems to be available on the net. And I find it fascinating.... So far, all it does is talk about an older man, Dr Julius something, a psychiatrist? counsellor? - and a younger man, Philip, philosophy teacher. Julius has discovered cancer, and is shocked by the thought of impending death. He decides to live as best he can the year ahead of him. He decides to follow up on some unfinished business, one of these being the case of Philip. Philip thinks Julius wants advice how to face death, and loads him with Schopenhauer, the death and Schopenhauer episode in Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. In exchange, Philip wants supervision from Julius so that he can be qualified as a counsellor. Julius agrees, hesitantly, but only on condition that Philip attend a group therapy session: he feels Philip does not have the empathy required in a counsellor. Philip agrees, reluctantly. Where does Schopenhauer come into all this? He does not, or at least, it is not a novelistic life of the philosopher. I had simply read the title wrong. The title is "The Schopenhauer Cure."

Does Schopenhauer and Nietzsche have anything to say to us today at all? And yet I am fascinated by this book.

«He who would be everything cannot be anything.» (Schopenhauer) Alternatives exclude. For every yes there must be a no. 


"When, at the end of their lives, most men look back they will find that they have lived throughout ad interim. They be surprised to see that the very thing they allowed to slip by unappreciated and unenjoyed was just their life. And so a man, having been duped by hope, dances into the arms of death."

He recalled Philip`s words about childhood in the last meeting. No doubt about it: Nietzsche and Schopenhauer had that part right. Julius nodded his head sadly. It was true he had never truly savored the moment, never grasped the present, never said to himself, «This is it, this time, this day—this is what I want! These are the good old days, right now. Let me remain in this moment, let me take root in this place for all time.» No, he had always believed that the juiciest meat of life was yet to be found and had always coveted the future—the time of being older, smarter, bigger, richer. And then came the upheaval, the time of the great reversal, the sudden and cataclysmic deidealization of the future, and the beginning of the aching yearning for what used to be.

Aperson of high, rare mental
gifts who is forced into a job
which is merely useful is like
a valuable vase decorated with
the most beautiful painting
and then used as a kitchen
pot.


[Schopenhauer's father commits suicide.] Every suicide leaves a wake of shock, guilt, and anger in the survivors, and Arthur
experienced all these sentiments. Imagine the complexity of feelings Arthur must have
experienced. His love for his father resulted in intense grief and loss. His resentment of
his father—later he often spoke of his suffering from his father`s excessive hardness—
evoked remorse. And the wonderful possibility of liberation must have evoked much
guilt: Arthur realized that his father would have forever blocked the path to his becoming
a philosopher. In this regard one thinks of two other great free–thinking moral
philosophers, Nietzsche and Sartre, who lost their fathers early in life. Could Nietzsche
have become the Antichrist if his father, a Lutheran minister, had not died when
Nietzsche was a child? And in his autobiography Sartre expresses his relief that he was
not burdened with the search for his father`s approbation. Others, Kierkegaard and Kafka,
for example, were not so fortunate: all their lives they were oppressed by the weight of
their fathers` judgment.


«Nietzsche,” interjected Philip, «once said something to the effect that when we
awake discouraged in the middle of the night, enemies that we had defeated long ago
come back to haunt us.»

Friday 29 April 2016

Salesians and communication

Filiberto Gonzalez Plascencia, our councillor for Social Communications, told us yesterday that Salesians were judged, at a high level seminar going on at the Santa Croce Università, Roma, to be the most accessed Catholic church group in the world - and, more specifically, the Salesians of Spain. The underlying factor is probably that Salesian Spain has managed to unify the whole effort under a single logo. This is not yet true of the rest of the Salesian world.


Catherine of Siena

Silvio shared 3 points during the mass this morning, feast of St Catherine of Siena, patron of Italy:

  1. She was the 25th child; her twin died at birth. She would have surely not seen the light of day in our times, with our culture of use and throw, and abortion.
  2. She was twice rejected by her formators. The need to always respect the mystery of each vocation.
  3. She was illiterate, but her letters helped bring the pope back from Avignon. 
The gospel this morning was Mt 11,25-30, the Jubelruf: Blessed are you, Father, for having revealed these things to the little ones, and not to the wise and learned. 

I was struck very much by the promise of rest: Come to me, all you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden light. 

Formation, articles



Vedi sito dell’Istituto Superiore per Formatori dove ci sono degli articoli molto interessanti della rivista 3D sulla formazione: www.isfo.it

Saturday 23 April 2016

Manenti, Comprendere e accompagnare la persona umana

Alessandro Manenti, Comprendere e accompagnare la persona umana. Manuale teorico e pratico per il formatore psico-spirituale. Roma: EDB, 2013.

Highly recommended by Maurizio Verlezza.

Sunday 10 April 2016

12 modi per sopravvivere senza aria condizionata


1.      Tieni le finestre chiuse (Chiudete le persiane, i vetri, le tende:potrà sembrare banale ma la maggior parte del caldo entra dalle finestre e prendere questo accorgimento vi permetterà di abbassare la temperatura interna di qualche grado, specialmente se avete le aperture della casa rivolte a sud e a ovest.)
2.      Chiudi le porte di giorno, aprile di notte (È meglio tenere le porte chiuse tra una stanza e l’altra della casa per mantenere all’interno l’aria fresca. Apritele invece prima di andare a dormire così che il fresco possa circolare tra gli ambienti)
3.      Abbina ventilatore e ghiaccio (L’aria provocata dal ventilatore non è abbastanza fresca? Prendete una ciotola un po’ capiente e riempitela di ghiaccio, quindi posizionatela davanti alla ventola. Il vapore gelido del ghiaccio si unirà all’aria e in questo modo verrà espanso dal ventilatore in tutto l’ambiente)
4.      Rinfresca il letto (Attenzione al tipo di lenzuola che usate: è meglio dormire in quelle di cotone che rimangono più fresche. Riguardo al cuscino invece , uno imbottito con grano saraceno che non trattiene il calore del corpo e rimane dunque un appoggio più fresco)
5.      Imposta il ventilatore da soffitto in senso anti-orario (Non tutti lo sanno ma il ventilatore a soffitto va regolato stagionalmente. In estate le pale devono girare in senso antiorario per direzionare l’aria verso il basso e creare una brezza fresca)
6.      Pensa alla temperatura del corpo (Non preoccupatevi di rinfrescare solo la casa, anche la temperatura del vostro corpo è importante. Bevete bevande ghiacciate, applicate un panno bagnato su polsi e collo, vestitevi leggeri)
7.      Accendi le ventole dopo la doccia (Dopo una doccia non dimenticate di accendere la ventola del bagno per eliminare l’umidità. La stessa cosa vale in cucina dopo che si è cucinato per mandare via il calore)
8.      Cuscini raffreddanti (Per dormire sonni tranquilli potete utilizzare un cuscino raffreddante da mettere sotto la testa. Fate la stessa cosa coi piedi con cui potete utilizzare anche una bottiglia d’acqua fatta raffreddare in freezer. Terrà freschi voi e il letto)
9.      Apri le finestre di notte (Se la temperatura esterna tende a calare in serata, aprite le finestre di casa e create una corrente. Ricordatevi di chiuderle il mattino prima che l’aria si scaldi nuovamente)
10.   Rifletti sulle lampadine (Anche le lampadine contribuiscono a scaldare l’ambiente. Sappiate però che quelle fluorescenti compatte riscaldano molto meno di quelle a incandescenza)
11.   Non accendere il forno (Se proprio dovete cucinare, magari evitate di farlo con il forno a 200° gradi. Meglio il barbecue, all’aria aperta, anche se stare alla griglia può non essere del tutto piacevole)
12.   Fai investimenti a lungo termine (Se tutto quanto detto prima non basta è il momento di fare investimenti a lungo termine, come per esempio comprare pellicole isolanti da applicare alla finestre. Oppure più semplicemente mettete qualche tenda o pianta in più)

The man from Nefasit

On the road from Dekemhare to Asmara: near Nefasit

Somewhere in these rugged mountains, on the way from Dekemhare to Asmara in Eritrea, there lives a man who has lost both his hands, and is blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. His family is in the village of Abba Petros, sdb, who told me the story. This man asked the government of Eritrea for a piece of land where he could raise bees and make honey, and being an ex-soldier, he was granted a piece on the mountains, which is where he lives now, raising bees. He cooks for himself, eats with a spoon, drives a car up and down the mountain roads (he's had his share of accidents). And when asked by Abba Petros how he felt, he said: Blessed. I feel blessed that God left me one eye and one ear, and I am happy. 

Someone might argue with that theology, but you can't argue with the fact that this man is happy - when he has so little reason to be. 

It is amazing how much happiness I saw in my short visit to Eritrea. 

Saturday 9 April 2016

Some important paragraphs in Pope Francis' "Amoris Laetitia"

Inside Pope Francis’ Statement on the Family

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN APRIL 8, 2016
In Pope Francis’ long-awaited apostolic exhortation — “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love” — he urges church leaders to serve as nurturing pastors, not as rigid enforcers of doctrine. Related Article
In Pope Francis’ long-awaited apostolic exhortation — “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love” — he urges church leaders to serve as nurturing pastors, not as rigid enforcers of doctrine. Related Article
Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press
Paragraph 79

An Appeal for Greater Empathy

“When faced with difficult situations and wounded families, it is always necessary to recall this general principle: ‘Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations’ (Familiaris Consortio, 84). …. while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition.”
Laurie Goodstein, National Religion Correspondent:
Pope Francis is instructing priests to practice discernment rather than judgment in dealing with the messy realities of people’s lives. Discernment is a spiritual practice taught by the Jesuit religious order to help guide a person through life, and Francis is the first Jesuit pope.
Paragraph 202

Lessons From Married Clergy

“The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families, where small communities, ecclesial movements and associations live in harmony … ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families. The experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon.
Francis cites the value of “a married clergy” in the Eastern Catholic (“oriental”) churches that permit priests to marry. This may raise some eyebrows. Is he open to a married clergy for the Roman Catholic Church? If so, he doesn’t say more.
Paragraph 203

Broader Training for Priests

“Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage. Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences. Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability. There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry.”
The selection and training of seminarians for the priesthood has frequently come under scrutiny in recent decades. Here Francis is asking seminaries that focus largely on doctrine (which is more common in the developing world) to broaden their approach.
Paragraph 226

Encouraging Young Couples

“Young married couples should be encouraged to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores. Yet it also helps to break the routine with a party, and to enjoy family celebrations of anniversaries and special events. We need these moments of cherishing God’s gifts and renewing our zest for life.”
Paragraph 237

Reviving Injured Marriages

“At times, all it takes to decide that everything is over is a single instance of dissatisfaction, the absence of the other when he or she was most needed, wounded pride, or a vague fear. Inevitably, situations will arise involving human weakness and these can prove emotionally overwhelming. One spouse may not feel fully appreciated, or may be attracted to another person. Jealousy and tensions may emerge, or new interests that consume the other’s time and attention. Physical changes naturally occur in everyone. These, and so many other things, rather than threatening love, are so many occasions for reviving and renewing it.
Paragraph 250

Denounces Antigay Violence

Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided,276 particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.”
The phrase about avoiding “unjust discrimination” against gay people comes straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but the instruction to avoid “aggression and violence” is new.
Paragraph 251

Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage

“In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, ‘as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ It is unacceptable ‘that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex.’”
This text was taken from the final report of the bishops synod in 2015. Many of the bishops at the synod were from developing countries, and they are irate at foreign governments and aid organizations that insist on equal treatment of gay people as a condition for financial aid.
Paragraph 252

On Single Parents

“Whatever the cause, single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families in the Christian community, and from the parish’s pastoral outreach. Often these families endure other hardships, such as economic difficulties, uncertain employment prospects, problems with child support and lack of housing.”
Paragraph 283

Questioning ‘Safe Sex’ Message

“Frequently, sex education deals primarily with ‘protection’ through the practice of ‘safe sex.’ Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance.”
Paragraph 300

New Route Back for Divorced Catholics

“If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases,’ 335 the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.336 Priests have the duty to “accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop. Useful in this process is an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and repentance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves: how did they act towards their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; whether or not they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party….”
Paragraph 308

A More Attentive Church

“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.’”

Formation and the affective dimension

From Amoris Laetitia, a call to help seminarians - formees - to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences.
Paragraph 203

Broader Training for Priests

“Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage. Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences. Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability. There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry.”
The selection and training of seminarians for the priesthood has frequently come under scrutiny in recent decades. Here Francis is asking seminaries that focus largely on doctrine (which is more common in the developing world) to broaden their approach.

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