“In His will is our peace.” This is a line from the third canto of Dante’s Paradiso that really struck me this week. Since returning my Christian faith eight years ago, this simple bit of wisdom has rung true time and time again. Herein lies the secret to earthly happiness. Peace is the tranquility of order, wrote St. Augustine; and ordering our lives properly begins with ordering our lives according to the will of God, the one who knows all and loves without limit. Furthermore, interior peace begins with accepting God’s providential will in ever cirumstance of life that lies outside of our control. If you need some more convincing, read He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, the memoir of a spiritual hero who spent some twenty-three agonizing years in Soviet prisons and the labor camps of Siberia.
I’m loving a book by William Barrett, called Irrational Man: A Study in Existentialist Philosophy. This book has been widely recognized as one of the most finely written introductions to existentialist philosophy ever written. The book takes a wide-scoped approach, focusing primarily on European existentialists, from Jean-Paul Sartre to Blaise Pascal, and as far as I can tell thus far, takes a commendably balanced approach.
I recently came across Wendell Berry’s poem entitled, “How To Be a Poet.” The poem is simple, but deceivingly so, and really renewed in me a deep desire to find solitude on a regular basis, and live a more contemplative life. It also instilled in me a renewed awareness of my dependency on God in all things.
I can’t help with agree with Cardinal Sarah that we live within a “dictatorship of noise.” I also think Kierkegaard (speaking of existentialist philosophers) who offered that if he were a physician and could offer one remedy for societies ills, it would be silence. Berry is one such writer today who understands modern man’s need for exterior and interior quiet. For more of Berry’s poetry, check out his New Collected Poems.
In our home, over the past few weeks, we’ve been listening to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major quite a bit. This also happens to be one of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s favourite classical pieces. It’s a happy bit of music that we like to play in the mornings especially.
I watched the Coen brother’s Fargo recently and thought it was really good. I was especially impressed with Frances McDormand who played “Marge” and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Fargo was hilarious, tragic, and deeply philosophical all at once, especially putting in display in a provoking way the contrast between between good and evil. The Coen brothers’ use of the grotesque to “wake us up” to deeper realities at work in the world was reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor’s works, as Bishop Barron remarks upon in more depth here.
Also, be sure to check out my new book Just Whatever: How To Help the Spiritually Indifferent Find Beliefs That Really Matter, published by Catholic Answers Press.
This book is jam-packed with passages of wit and wisdom from many of my spiritual mentors, including Blaise Pascal, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Frank Sheed, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Blessed John Henry Newman, St. JP II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Bishop Robert Barron.
Here’s what people are saying about my new release:
“I’ve engaged lots of atheists over the years but in my experience, the spiritually indifferent outnumber them at least five to one. And that latter group is much harder to evangelize. Most atheists at least care about the God question. But how do you make inroads with someone who isn’t at all interested in religious matters? It’s a vexing question, but now we have our desperately needed guide. Matt Nelson’s book shows how to awaken interest in even the most spiritually lethargic person and guide them to the Big Questions of life. This is Pascal’s Pensées for the twenty-first century!” – Brandon Vogt, founder of ClaritasU and author of Why I Am Catholic (And You Should Be Too)
“In today’s highly secularized society where religion does not seem to matter, it is easy for Christians to feel overwhelmed and be led into thinking they do not have answers to the countless objections people have toward the Church. Matt’s clear and simple explanation of the good reasons for our faith will provide readers with well thought out responses.” – Andre Regnier, Founder of Catholic Christian Outreach Canada
“Many of us have converted to the Catholic Church; others were born into the Catholic faith and accepted it without question. But as time passes and the world entangles us the fervor can wane for the convert and the certainty can dissipate for the cradle Catholic. What is the spiritual medicine for these ailments? Matt Nelson’s new book Just Whatever is the doctor’s prescription. Read this book, learn from an experienced fellow pilgrim and get back on track, fervent for the Truth.”
– Steve Ray, Catholic apologist and author of Crossing the Tiber