Category: Virtue

In a short video that recently went viral, Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington offers some spontaneous career advice to a group of young actors.

Although the setting is informal and his remarks are off-the-cuff and unrefined — sure to beg questions among theological nit-pickers — his general view aligns rather well with a healthy approach to Christian stewardship.

Watch the video here:

In keeping with the theme of “All is Gift” that runs throughout Acton’s new series, For the Life of the World, Washington emphasizes that we are created to be gift-givers, and that our gifts are not to be neglected due to our own idleness and fear, and neither are they to abused for our own personal privilege or gain: (more…)

AllamericanArmy and Navy have met for battle on the football field 114 times. The two service academies have played big time college football for well over a century. Navy leads the series by nine games and holds the current and longest winning streak at 12 games. Army hasn’t won since quarterback Chad Jenkins led the Black Knights to a 26-17 victory in 2001. That game was played just a few months after 9/11 and many of those on the field would soon lead men in combat and a few would make the ultimate sacrifice.

In All American: Two Young Men, The 2001 Army-Navy Game and The War They Fought in Iraq , author Steve Eubanks tells the story of Chad Jenkins (Army) and Brian Stann (USMC) on the gridiron and their multiple combat deployments to Iraq. The patriotic fervor that swept the nation after 9/11 was extended to the football field, as Army and Navy were wildly celebrated and cheered by opposing fans and teams.

The game in 2001 had raucous pregame speeches from General Norman Schwarzkopf for Army and Senator John McCain for Navy; both men are alumni of the service academies in the military branches they served. Eubanks does a superb job of capturing the emotion and meaning of the game for the cadets and midshipmen. Everybody understood that after graduation, many of these young men would soon be sent to the field to fight and sacrifice in defense of their country. (more…)

Calvin_Coolidge_and_Israel_Moore_Foster“The Power of the Moral Law” is the title of an address delivered by Calvin Coolidge at the Community-Chest Dinner in Springfield, Massachusetts on October 11, 1921. Published in The Price of Freedom, the text is only available online through Google Books.

Coolidge’s main point in his remarks was to reinforce the truth that it is prosperity not grounded in a deeper meaning that threatens our American Republic. Displaying his conservative thought, he challenges materialism of government interventionists and reminds proponents of business and the market that material success alone is insufficient. True progress must have a deeper foundation.

There are many lines that stand out in his address, but perhaps few stand out more than this simple sentence: “Ideals and beliefs determine the whole course of society.” Currently, we see this playing out powerfully in our culture today. The ideals that have held our Western and American civilization intact for centuries have largely eroded. Ideals and commonly held standards, especially in the academy, are attacked as backwards and oppressive.
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On The Catholic World Report, Acton’s Michael Matheson Miller offers a personal reflection on the recent canonization of Pope John Paul II.

There were pilgrims from all parts of the world: Spaniards, Australians, a remarkable number of French (including a couple whose five young children wore matching jackets), a large group from Equatorial Guinea were also matching with commemorative traditional garb marked with images of Pope John Paul. I saw Slovaks, Americans, Nigerians, Lebanese, Italians, and legions of Poles young and old, waving red and white flags and holding banners. More than one million Poles came to Rome to see their native son raised to the altars. A risk-taking American couple had brought along three of their children, including a five-month-old in a baby carriage. At moments it was unnerving to stand in such a crush of people, yet despite the multitude, nearly everyone kept their calm and minded their manners. It was no European football match.

The love that John Paul II evokes has long perplexed journalists. George Weigel tells the story of a reporter who was stunned to see ninety thousand people in Denver’s Mile High Stadium chanting “JP II We Love You!” She attempted to explain away the faithful as “Vatican plants.” There is an attractiveness about sanctity that doesn’t fit into our normal categories. Perhaps this is why it is easier for the media not to deal with it.

I think we love John Paul II for a very simple reason—because, as St. John says of Christ, “he loved us first.”

Read more of “The Love of Saint John Paul II” by Miller on The Catholic World Report.

Williamson_Free_Trade_SchoolOne of the benefits of a Christian theology of work is that it frees parents up to encourage their children to pursue various employment-related vocations that cultivate creation, rather than prod them to waste a life in the unfulfilling pursuit of the American Dream. Our obsession with the American Dream, as a means of achieving a life of comfort and ease, has distracted us from the fact that the world’s economy doesn’t need adults simply with college degrees so much as it needs people with skills. Real skills. Skills that contribute and facilitate human flourishing. Traditional college settings can serve as a wonderful opportunity for some to cultivate their minds, hearts, and souls, but it is important to remember that trade and technical schools do the same as well.

I was more than happy, then, to learn of The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Media, Pennsylvania, a wonderfully dynamic option to traditional university education that focuses not only on the formation of skills needed in the marketplace but also on the formation of moral virtue.

The school has a fantastic history. According to the school’s website, “on December 1, 1888, Isaiah Vansant Williamson, a Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, founded The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades. His purpose in founding the School was to provide financially disadvantaged young men with the opportunity to become productive and respected members of society.” It was out of Williamson’s commitment to human dignity that he launched the school after seeing a generation of disadvantaged young men in danger of sabotaging their own futures and lacking a vision for how they could contribute to the common good. Here is the mission of the school:
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tenth-200In our modern era, the ancient sin of covetousness primarily manifests itself in three forms: greed, theft, and arguments about inequality. The greedy selfishly desire to acquire what others have, thieves illicitly acquire what others have, and equality advocates want the government to redistribute what others have.

It would be unfair, of course, to assume that all critics of inequality are driven by covetousness. But if you stripped away that sin as a motivation, the number of people who care about inequality could be fit into an Occupy Wall Street drum circle.

Imagine if we all took a vow to shun covetousness, especially when advocating public policies. Garett Jones suggest we do just that, with his proposal for the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club:
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John Turturro

John Turturro

Fading Gigolo,” a movie starring and directed by John Turturro, is apparently a sentimental look at the world of prostitution. NPR says the film keeps ” the mood light even as the filmmaker is gently tugging the plot in other directions, to look at loneliness and longing and heartbreak.” Turturro himself says that sex workers are rather like social workers (which should thrill  social workers):

I think there are positive things about what sex workers do. I know and consulted people who have been in that world, and it’s interesting on a human level that people sometimes go to these people for reasons beyond just sexual contact – maybe they’re looking for solace, or other things, and sometimes they are truly helped. I also think there’s a real exchange that goes on in these situations, whereas in so many other professions there isn’t.

He says a lot of other idiotic things that I won’t subject you to here; feel free to read the entire article if you must. (more…)

Acton Institute President and Cofounder Rev. Robert A. Sirico spoke with Neil Cavuto this afternoon on Fox News Channel, discussing recent polling data indicating that our culture’s skepticism toward political leaders has grown once again. You can check out the interview below.

Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor had a brilliant but short literary career. She died in 1964 at the age of 39 due to complications from lupus, yet managed to leave behind a legacy of keen insight into the human condition of sin, in ways some considered repulsive. Her best known story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, is a morality tale of stiff adherence to “good.” O’Connor manages to turn upside-down the moral code of the seemingly “good” people in the story while asking the reader to question religious beliefs that seem to be useful and right, but in the end, fall dismally short.

George Weigel, in the Denver Catholic Register, discusses O’Connor Catholic faith and how it can enlighten Holy Week. Saying she was not one for “cheap grace” or the “smiley-face” form of Christianity, Weigel asks the reader to meditate on a letter O’Connor wrote in 1955 to a friend.

…Flannery O’Connor looked straight into the dark mystery of Good Friday and, in four sentences explained why the late modern world often finds it hard to believe:

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.”

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adhdCultural progressives often talk about something called “hegemonic masculinity.” By this progressives and feminists mean the standards we use to determine what an ideal man is in a particular culture. Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson, in The Gendered Society Reader, describe American hegemonic masculinity this way:

In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports . . . Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself–during moments at least–as unworthy, incomplete and inferior.

With this definition, progressives and feminists are on what seems to be a campaign to “dismantle” any sense of “American” masculinity. Additionally, part of the mission is to redefine all of America’s problems in terms of what males, especially white males, have done to ruin society. As many have argued before, the first step in solving social ills is to pathologize boyhood and numb it into oblivion.

Esquire Magazine recently ran a story titled “The Drugging Of The American Boy” which highlights the seemingly settled disposition that developing masculinity is something to be diagnosed as ADHD and, therefore, a problem to be solved. The article cites this data:
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