David Ancell's Virtual Home

What About Philosophy?

  /   Saturday, September 30, 2023   /   Comments(0)

In my last post, I wrote about how we needed to consider the practical aspects of how one will learn to practice his or her chosen profession and make a living while receiving a classical education.  There’s another side of the coin that I want to present here.  If I have a choice between my kids studying advanced calculus in high school or studying philosophy, I want them to study philosophy.  I don’t want them to waste time with asinine questions like “How do you know the sky is blue?”  Rather, I want them to learn to think.  I want them to gain wisdom.

Many people accuse religious believers of just believing what they are told and not really thinking.  If they weren’t serious, it would be hilarious!  Such people should see the ridiculous groupthink that nonbelievers seem to accept without question these days.  I grew in my critical thinking skills by leaps and bounds when I took more time to study my Catholic faith, especially in the field of apologetics.

The groupthink is precisely what I don’t want my kids to fall for.  I want them to have at least a basic understanding of the aims of their life and why they should attain them.  I don’t want them to settle for the superficial.  As for how I know the sky is blue, my answer would be “I don’t, and I do not care that I don’t.”

Category: Catholic, Response


What About Making a Living?

  /   Saturday, September 30, 2023   /   Comments(0)

Let me start by saying that I am very much opposed to utilitarian education.  In fact, I would even go so far to say that, if you think that the purpose of getting an education is to learn how to make a living, then you don’t have a proper Catholic view of education.  I definitely don’t think that we should be educating people with the end of college, which may land in the trash bin of irrelevance at the rate we are going.  We should be forming the person.

I’ve been interested in writings that advocate for a return to Catholic education.  I read with interest the book entitled Renewing Catholic Schools:  How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age.  The book clearly advocates using a classical model of education, forming a community, and making God the center of everything.  These are all aims that I would support.

However, whenever I encounter someone writing about this, there is one thing I find missing.  At some point, people need to learn a skill that they can use to earn a living.  They need a skill that makes a contribution to society.  At what point is this taught, and how?  While I’m no fan of the career mentality of our society, the fact is that many of the professions that are practiced in the world are needed.  Where would we be without doctors, engineers, electricians, plumbers, etc?  So, while I am in total agreement that education should not be utilitarian, I think it’s important that advocates of classical education address the practical questions that arise from their writings.

Category: Catholic, Response


An Easy Way to Get Some Catholic Reading In

  /   Thursday, August 31, 2023   /   Comments(0)

In order to be able to fully live the faith, doing regular Catholic reading is vital.  We really need to be filling our mind with the things of God, and reading is one of the primary ways in which we can do it.  However, I’ve had a number of times when it has been very hard to find time to read a good Catholic book. I’ve found an idea that I want to share that may be helpful to people in that situation.

There are a number of good solid books with short chapters (or sections of chapters.  They are usually pretty easy to read, and even in a pinch, it’s often possible to read these one section at a time.  Here are a some examples:

I’m sure there are a lot of others out there also.

Anyway, to make it easier to have it with you whenever you have a moment to read, I’d actually recommend having them on your phone and/or tablets as e-books.  They are usually less expensive that way, and you can have a number of books on one device.  If you choose to do this, I highly recommend buying them as ePubs directly from the publisher rather than going with Amazon, Nook, or Kindle whenever possible.  Avoid anything sold as an Adobe Digital Edition like it’s bubonic plague.

The reason for this is that books bought with the services mentioned above contain digital rights management (DRM) copy protection.  It limits you to reading the book on their proprietary software (except for Adobe Digital Editions, but you are still more limited even here than with a non-DRM ebook).  More importantly, however, is that your rights to read the book are dependent upon your account on a particular server.  The publisher could pull the plug on your rights to use the book easily.   With today’s cancel culture, who knows when some woke company employee will decide that they don’t want to keep providing access to a Catholic book.  With a plain ePub, you can download the file and back it up and install it on anything that can read an ePub file.

I’ve been able to get more reading in doing this. It does mean that, when I do this, I’m reading lighter reading, but at least I’m able to do something.  Recently, I’ve been doing this while also working on a longer or more complicated book just to allow me to maximize the amount of reading that I can do.

 

Category: Catholic, Resources


Explicit Lyrics

  /   Tuesday, August 22, 2023   /   Comments(0)

Sometimes I like to poke fun at something while also asking a question. You see, it has long been my decision not to buy music that is labeled as explicit lyrics. I might buy a non-explicit song off an album that was “stickered,” as I used to call it, but I would avoid the actual songs with the label. However, in looking through some recent music, I’m not so sure what to make of it anymore.

Now, I have to wonder what constitutes explicit lyrics and if I can even use that standard. Take the song, for example, named I’m Offended by John Rich. It’s labeled as having explicit lyrics. The only line that I can find in it that contains profanity is when he talks about how he prays to God and says to the atheist something like “You don’t believe he exists, so why are you so p*****?” I hear that word from people who don’t use other cuss words on a number of occasions.

Another curious example is the now-famous song “Try That In a Small Town” by Jason Aldean. He starts talking about how one day “they” are going to round up all the guns and says “That s*** might fly in he city . . .” Well, maybe you could argue that one shouldn’t play that for one’s kids, but that’s hardly explicit lyrics in my mind. In any event, I found that there is a clean version from Jimmy Levy that says “That stunt might fly in the city.” It has a little different sound to it, but it’s obviously the same song.

What makes the labeling of “Try That in a Small Town” more interesting is Oliver Anthony’s now famous “Rich Men North of Richmond.” I counted four uses of the “s” word, and it’s not labeled as containing explicit lyrics. Honestly, I have a bigger issue with the way he uses the words “Lord” and “God” in the song than the profanity itself. It just goes to show that there may not be a standard that is being applied here.

The funniest thing I saw on an online store was this album being labeled as explicit: Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia. No, I am absolutely not joking.! This album is literally Gregorian Chant, but one of the songs was listed on two different music services as having one song with explicit lyrics. The name is “Sequence Ave Maria . . . Virgo Serena.” Search for it if you don’t believe me. I really don’t think the Benedictine Monks are dropping F bombs in Latin.

As a disclaimer, I’ll add that this info is accurate at the time of this writing as I know that sometimes the labels get changed. However, my point is that, while there is a lot of music labeled as explicit that is clearly garbage, the label itself might not be much of an indicator of anything in particular anymore. It’s worth checking out the lyrics online to see if they really are or aren’t offensive and making the decision from there.

Category: Response


And Then There Was Summer . . .

  /   Saturday, May 27, 2023   /   Comments(0)

If you have kids, and they are not already on summer break, they probably will be soon.  I’m pretty grateful to have made it here.  It seems we push academics pretty hard around here, but I think it’s good to take a step back.  Academics are not the only way to learn, and for many things, they are not the best means.  They certainly should not be treated as the ultimate key to success.

This is our chance during the summer for the kids to learn what they can’t learn as well in a classroom.  The kids may go to summer camps or mission trips (not to mention vacations), and these are good.  Even just taking time to socialize with each other provides a great opportunity.  I hope to take my sons out on some bike rides during the summer just to get them out and active.  All of these are valuable opportunities that we don’t want to lose.

I think of this when I remember that there was a drive in my home town to increase the length of the school year by 20 days.  It was touted as a great opportunity to improve education in our town.  I don’t think that was really the case, and I still don’t think so.  I’m ready for my kids to experience more out of classroom growth.

Category: Uncategorized


God Has a Plan, but Is It That Simple?

  /   Saturday, May 13, 2023   /   Comments(0)

For many years of my life, I’ve heard people say “God has a plan.” Some people say that there is no such thing as a coincidence. Well, I do believe God has a plan, but it seems to me that people who throw these phrases out seem to have forgotten that we are not marionettes that God has been keeping on a string. We really do have free will, and I find it difficult to fathom that God gives us free will but didn’t really intend for us to have any agency in our lives, even in accomplishing his plan. To think so would to suggest that God has intended every aspect of our lives to be some kind of decoding scheme where we are constantly trying to decode the one exactly right thing that God wants us to do.

To me, there have to be some things that are coincidental. If I run into a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, did God arrange the meeting? He might have. However, it’s still possible that both the friend and I simply made decisions in our free will to be at a particular place. This doesn’t preclude the action of God at all. He could then work in a myriad of ways through this. In fact, nothing happens that God doesn’t at least permit, and he did permit the meeting. This is why we can “accept all things as coming from God.”

We have an interesting example of God’s providence in our free actions that is found in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary – the Visitation (Luke 1:39-56). Mary is informed of her calling to be the Mother of Our Lord by an angel. Joseph is told in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, and he is also told when to take the family to Egypt. However, in the Scriptures we do not find Mary having been commanded or even suggested to visit Elizabeth. She hears of Elizabeth’s pregnancy from the angel, and off she goes.

Through this, God does a work that begins with Mary’s greeting of Elizabeth. The infant John the Baptist leapt in the womb of Mary. Theologians tell us that John was redeemed in the womb of Mary. While God didn’t tell Mary to go to her relative as far as we can see, he allowed it and then worked a great work through it. We don’t know what would have happened if Mary had chosen not to go, but I would presume that she could have made that choice without having offended God.

Another thing to consider is that God can even use our sins to do the great work he wishes to do. This doesn’t mean we should sin so that God can work through it. However, if you look at the linage of Jesus, you will find that not everyone in his ancestry was amazingly holy. Even Bathsheba, with whom King David committed adultery, was in the linage (not to mention King David himself). Obviously, our sins are not willed by God. There is no way that God arranged for sin to be committed, though he may allow it with the intention to accomplish a greater good.

With all this being said, it is impossible to deny that God had definite plans for John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and King David. They had a definite calling that was made clear to them. All of them, especially Mary, had major roles to play in the salvation of the world. The will of God was definitely made manifest, and it will be in our own lives in the way God intends.

However, I think more could be said about our free will and the agency we have in accomplishing God’s plan. I don’t claim to have figured out how it works. I doubt we will figure this out this side of eternity. What I do know is that God created a real world and gave us a real role in it. God may even allow us our preferences in many circumstances. Our own choices may shape the way God accomplishes his will. However, we know that we can do nothing without God and his grace.

Category: Spirituality


Yes, We Can Mourn

  /   Sunday, April 30, 2023   /   Comments(0)

In the last few months, I’ve learned of a number of deaths of people who were all within 10 years (either older or younger) of my age. Some I had worked with. One was well-known in at least some Catholic circles. Another one, a wife and mother who was about 9 years younger than I am, I didn’t know at all. Her husband’s tweets just happened to appear on my Twitter feed.

Yes, I know they will rise again. Their families know this, too. All of them were of some kind of Christian faith. After all, in the Catholic Church, we are in the midst of a 50 day celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Still, I don’t think it’s right to deny the tragedy of their deaths.

The thing is that death was not part of God’s original plan for us. The fact that it happens is not really a natural part of life as I have been told by people. It’s an outrage. It is a sad reality of our human condition wounded by sin.

Jesus himself was not unmoved by this at all. In fact, go read John 11:1-44 where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. There is a notable verse (verse 35) that says “Jesus wept.” Jesus, who knew that he was going to bring him back from the dead in just a few minutes, wept over his death.

So, if Jesus wept at the death of someone whom he knew he was going to bring back to life in a few minutes, surely he is not unmoved by what has happened to all of these people at too young of an age. It’s true that he permitted it for the good of their souls. It’s true that they will rise again, and we know it. However, the fact is that all of their families now have to spend the rest of their time on earth without their loved ones. God is not unmoved by their sorrow, and neither should we be.

With this being said, I would encourage everyone to pray for anyone whom you hear is dying. It has been placed on my heart to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for a number of people whom I heard were dying, only to learn of their deaths soon afterwards. After they die, pray for the repose of their souls. This is especially important if they are not Catholic as their family will not be aware that they need to do this, and probably won’t. Of course, don’t forget to pray for the comfort of their families that they will know the love of God during their time of mourning.

Category: Spirituality


Life to the Full

  /   Sunday, April 30, 2023   /   Comments(0)

I just love the ending to the Gospel reading for today’s Mass. Jesus said he came so that we might have life and have it to the full. It’s a great reminder when our culture is constantly telling us that Christianity is oppressive or hateful. It’s also a great reminder when we are tempted to sin and maybe questioning why we can’t do what we are tempted to do. If Jesus came for us to have life to the full, then anything we try to do that offends him is not part of living life to the full.

Virtue is known to lie in the middle way. That means that virtue often lies in between two vices. One of them would to be to indulge our appetites, whatever they may be. We may experience some kind of pleasure like this, but it will be empty. We will become a slave to our passions. Ultimately, we will be so soft that we won’t be able to accomplish anything worthwhile.

However, there are plenty of people in our culture who are caught in the opposite vice, and maybe we have been at some point. We are caught in this when we are constantly working and constantly busy and fail to enter into his rest. Human beings are not machines and are not made to be continually working. Time needs to be taken for us to worship Our Lord, to be with the people around us when we aren’t trying to accomplish something, and to get some wholesome recreation.

Jesus will show us, even in the most difficult times, how we can live joyfully and live life to the full. Sometimes it requires more trust than others. Of course, the real fullness of life will come only when we are with him in Heaven. There we will know perfectly the fullness of life that he came to give us.

Category: Spirituality, Uncategorized


Parents’ Rights in Education

  /   Friday, March 31, 2023   /   Comments(0)

I’ve seen on the news lately that the House of Representatives passed a parents rights bill concerning our schools.  It passed with all Democrats opposing the bill.  Some Republicans also oppose it, but I saw that at least one of them did so, not because he opposed parental rights, but because he opposed additional federal regulations in education.  For the people who did oppose parental rights, and I believe a lot of the naysayers do, one must ask why someone would oppose this?

There are many important concerns about what is being taught in public schools these days.  However, I would say there is a deeper issue that I haven’t heard much about.  If parents are not competent to know the educations needs of children, who is? How is it determined?  To answer these, or similar questions, we need to first answer this – who is education for, and what is it’s purpose?

In order to know what a child needs to know, we need to know the fundamental purpose of the knowledge.  Otherwise, we are aimlessly shoving academics at our kids with no real end in mind. This is something we really need to think about.

With this being said, I can’t think of anyone who would be better suited to direct the purpose of education than the people who love the kids the most.  They certainly will know and understand their kids better than education system bureaucrats.  Besides, if a set of parents messes it up, they mess up only their own children. The bureaucrats have the potential to cause an entire town, state, or maybe even the whole country to be poorly educated.

And besides, is there really an objective standard of what needs to be taught in a school?  How is it determined?  Are there things better taught by other means (I’ll say absolutely there are.)?

We’ve really got to think about these things.

 

Category: Catholic, Response


My Take on Gun Control

  /   Tuesday, March 28, 2023   /   Comments(0)

If you have seen the news lately, you will have heard that we had a school shooting in Nashville. These things are always horrible, but this one was especially awful because it took place in an elementary school. I just can’t imagine what would bring someone to the point where they wanted to do something like this.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to be one of the parents who gets the call that this happened to one of my kids at school.

Of course, here in the United States, it’s met with a “we have to do something attitude,” or, more precisely, “the government needs to do something.”  Well, of course we do.  One of those things that is often proposed is gun control. I don’t think I’ve written much about this on my blog.  To be honest, I’m not someone who really likes guns, but I have mixed feelings about gun control laws, and am probably more against them than in favor of them.

For me to favor anything, I need reason to believe it’s going to make a difference.  If any proposal isn’t accompanied by study of how the perpetrators got their hands on their guns and how their proposal will curb that, then I will write it off as an emotional reaction.  The last thing we need right now is an attempted solution based on a typical American emotional reaction. Someone may respond to this “Well, come up with a better one.”  However, I would leave open the possibility that some “solutions” may be worse than doing nothing.

However, I would not oppose reasonable laws that would help curb the problem of guns getting into the wrong hands.  While the people behind them are the ones really responsible for the killing, the guns are a rather convenient tool for them to accomplish their aims efficiently. However, the guns can also be a convenient tool for protecting oneself against such an aggressor.  For that reason, I also want law-abiding citizens who are willing to pass necessary (and I emphasize necessary) safety measures to be able to obtain them.

To put it the way a former co-worker of mine once said “We need more gun laws because the criminals are not heeding the ones we have.” There are plenty of guns already in circulation in this country.  If they were all of a sudden banned, then the only people who would turn in their guns would be the law-abiding citizens.  It may have some effect on the criminal element because people can be stopped in their tracks if a gun is found, but that effect could be negated by another problem.

That problem is best illustrated by the problem of “gun-free zones.” We see lots of establishments that have signs saying that guns are prohibited.  Does that keep us safe?  It may keep us safe from accidents.  It also allows someone who is found to have a firearm to be stopped without having to wait for him to discharge said firearm.  However, people with criminal intent are not going to obey those signs.  In fact, declaring a “gun-free zone” will even send a signal to someone with criminal intent that, if he shoots, there will likely be no one who can shoot back.

So, I don’t think the problem is solved by the simple passage of some ban of certain types of firearms.  The unintended consequences may be worse than our current situation. While I don’t want mentally ill or criminally minded people to be able to obtain guns, I also don’t want them to have easy targets to hit.

In fact, as kind of a side note, I fully support having armed security in schools. This may scare some people. Keep in mind that this should be properly trained, armed security, not just anyone with a holster.  You might say that this won’t really solve the problem.  I’d agree, but only in the sense that giving someone food to someone on the brink of starvation won’t solve his ultimate problem. It’s not that I like the atmosphere of a school with tighter security.  Rather, it’s just that we need to do something to stop the aggressors who are planning their attacks right now.

Just as we don’t want the hungry person to starve while trying to solve the underlying problem, neither can we let kids die while the underlying problems of school shootings are solved.  This is going to require taking a good, hard look at ourselves and our society to see what we have become. We need to do this even though we will never completely solve the problem in this world.  The ultimate solution is something we cannot and should not try legislate, which is to turn to Christ and his Church.

Category: Social Commentary


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