Roman Catholic priest, thinker, writer, speaker, and editor and founder of First Things journal Richard John Neuhaus died yesterday. In his honor, First Things reposted his essay “Born Toward Dying” that you may wish to read. It is a mix between near-death autobiography and a somewhat Christian version of the Phaedo. I was fortunate enough to have met him once after a talk that he gave at the John Paul II Cultural Center a few years ago. May his memory be eternal!
I commented upon the passing of Neuhaus in a letter to a friend yesterday in which I marvelled at the lights in the darkness of our inane times. We should be ceaselessly grateful for such luminaries:
When I consider how unworthy our era is of any blessings, it is humbling to think of how many shimmers of truth and sanity have manifested in the world during the past century. Considering just mainly English and French speakers, the list is impressive—to name just a small sample: Gilson, Lewis, Maritain, de Lubac, Popovich, Elliot, Orwell, Chesterton, Danielou, Voegelin, Lossky, Aron, Berry, Kirk, Anscombe, Tolkien, Plantinga, MacIntyre, Strauss, Findlay, F. O’Connor, von Balthasar, Bozell, Schmeeman—not to mention several hierarchs, including the present and preceding Roman pontiffs. Anyway, it is probable that the culture and population at large are the worst that they have ever been in the history of civilization. Never before have so many believed in so much that was so wrong. Nonetheless, it is also possible that we have not had the same level of insightful and wise thinking and discourse in the West, on the part of a growing minority, since the Renaissance. Several centuries of diseased modern ideas have given us both sets of facts. Perhaps, there is hope for the West.
Whenever you get caught up in a fit of desperation, wondering where are our Cappadocians, our Ciceros, and our Thomas Mores today, just consider those names and the thousands like them who have maintained nous in an anoetic age.