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Commonplaces

Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.

Issue: Jan/Feb 2021



The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.

T. S. Eliot
Thoughts after Lambeth (1931)


Culture Commonplaces #67 Jan/Feb 2021


Young men, do not be deceived. Don't think you can, at will, serve lusts and pleasures in your beginning, and then go and serve God with ease at your latter end. Don't think that you can live with Esau, and then die with Jacob. It is a mockery to deal with God and your souls in such a fashion. It is an awful mockery to suppose you can give the flower of your strength to the world and the devil, and then put off the King of kings with the scraps and remains of your hearts, the wreck and remnant of your powers. It is an awful mockery, and you may find to your loss that the thing cannot be done.

J. C. Ryle
Thoughts for Young Men (1865)


Christianity Commonplaces #68 Jan/Feb 2021


Truly, it is hardly possible to describe how great are the evils that flow from divorce. Matrimonial contracts are by it made variable; mutual kindness is weakened; deplorable inducements to unfaithfulness are supplied; harm is done to the education and training of children; occasion is afforded for the breaking up of homes; the seeds of dissension are sown among families; the dignity of womanhood is lessened and brought low, and women run the risk of being deserted after having ministered to the pleasures of men. Since, then, nothing has such power to lay waste families and destroy the mainstay of kingdoms as the corruption of morals, it is easily seen that divorces are in the highest degree hostile to the prosperity of families and States, springing as they do from the depraved morals of the people, and, as experience shows us, opening out a way to every kind of evil-doing in public and in private life.

Pope Leo XIII
Arcanum (1880)


Family Commonplaces #69 Jan/Feb 2021


It is one of the strangest ironies of modernity that, under the pressure of technology, the world is becoming more and more "masculinized" and power obsessed, even as in the West, the male's sense of his own masculine identity weakens and grows more confused, and as homosexuality becomes more prominent. . . .

We see today not uncommonly an emasculated maleness on the one hand and a kind of two-dimensional, functional maleness on the other hand, increasingly patterned on the machine and displaying an ersatz machismo shaped by the ambient culture of violence. Parallel to this, the danger is great that modernity will continue to "defeminize" and harden the authentically feminine, as the negative expression of the feminist movement—feminism as ideology—has already managed to do. . . . What I call the "authentically feminine" inclines towards a sensitivity that is intuitive more than analytical, receptive more than aggressive, communal/familial more than individualist/independent. It remains to be seen whether a genuinely feminine influence, such as we can unquestionably discern in many social, educational, political, and humanitarian movements in our day, can survive and flourish in the harsh modern climate. . . .

George Hobson
The Episcopal Church, Homosexuality, and the Context of Technology (2013)


Family Commonplaces #70 Jan/Feb 2021


When I read their discussion of a poem, I feel as if I were reading an account of a great swimming competition in which the author reported only on the temperature of the water.

Harold Bloom
on certain Deconstructionists; quoted in "Remembering Harold Bloom" by Neil Arditi, Jewish Review of Books (Winter 2020)


Education Commonplaces #71 Jan/Feb 2021


They say the Sultan has eight hundred wives. This almost amounts to bigamy.

Mark Twain
writing from Turkey, published in The Innocents Abroad, ch. 34 (1869)


Culture Commonplaces #72 Jan/Feb 2021


Inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. . . .

The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error. . . . Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself. . . . The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home. . . .

Human society in its civil aspects was renewed fundamentally by Christian institutions. . . . Wherefore, if human society is to be healed, only a return to Christian life and institutions will heal it.

Pope Leo XIII
Rerum Novarum (1891)


Family Commonplaces #73 Jan/Feb 2021

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