By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

College Quotes Part 10


(The original Spanish is followed by the English translation.)

. . . Se ha de imaginar el sermón del summo y verdadero capitán que es Christo nuestro Señor . . . encomendándoles . . . a deseo de oprobios y menosprecios, porque destas dos cosas se sigue la humildad; de manera que sean tres escalones: el primero, pobreza contra riqueza; el segundo, oprobio o menosprecio contra el honor mundano; el tercero, humildad contra la soberbia; y destos tres escalones induzgan a todas las otras virtudes.

Ejercicios Espirituales, 1548 

. . . One must imagine the sermon of the greatest and true Captain who is Christ our Lord . . . entrusting them [his followers] . . . to a desire for dishonors and disdain, because from these two things comes humility; in the manner of three steps: the first, poverty over riches; the second, dishonor or disdain over worldly honor; the third, humility over pride; and from these three steps all the other virtues follow.

Spiritual Exercises, 1548

Comment: Yes, it's hard. But often our greatest freedom in a frustrating situation is to choose humility and put our pride "in our back pocket," so to speak. Upon choosing humility, great peace, contentment, and freedom arise, often immediately. We put aside our resentments and anger. We observe the world calmly and move forward on our way to better things. We have refused to take the bait of offended pride and so emerge whole to reap the blessings of another day. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

College Quotes Part 9

BaptismImage by birmingham_lms_rep via Flickr
(Theologically Corrected/Edited for Catholics)

Thus it is said: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation." (I Pet. ii. 9) Thus all who are Christians are priests; those whom we call priests are ministers chosen from among us . . . .

16th century

Comment: I have taken this kernel of truth out of a larger quote that theologically contradicts the Catholic belief in an ordained, sacramental, ministerial priesthood in apostolic succession. 

But what remains after my heavy editing is soundly Catholic: all who are baptized are priests, whether men, women, or children, all of whom are members of the common or baptismal priesthood. For Catholics, the ministerial priesthood is then set apart in a special sacrament of holy orders in apostolic succession to serve the rest of us. 

We too often forget the baptismal or common priesthood; it's worth recalling often. It's worth recalling that the common priesthood of all the baptized is a perfectly Catholic doctrine. The laity need to recall their baptismal dignity as priests, and ordained priests also need to recall the priestly dignity of all the baptized whom they serve.

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College Quotes Part 8

Aquinas Summa 2Image by philobiblon via Flickr

. . .  laws may be unjust in two senses. One involves being in opposition to human welfare . . . or also . . . from their form, for instance when burdens are assigned unequally within a group, even if they be ordered to the common good. Now, these are instruments of violence, rather than laws; as Augustine says On Free Choice (I, 5): "That which is not just is evidently no law."

Summa Theologiae, 13th century

Comment: It's revolutionary. What happened in America in 1776 is prefigured here. You can also see here the requirement of equal protection which is part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a requirement which ensures that groups in similar circumstances are treated equally. Notice the strong words labeling unjust laws as "instruments of violence." Here are modern constitutional democracy's blatantly Christian roots. Of course, ultimately the view of Aquinas and Augustine is traceable to the Bible (see, for example, Acts 5:29).

It is also of interest to see Aquinas quoting Augustine. All indications are that Aquinas revered Augustine and even referred to him as "the Theologian." So it is just silly to try to make them theological competitors. It is usually mediocre, insecure "followers" who try to project such competition into the past.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

College Quotes Part 7

Boethius imprisoned (from 1385 manuscript of t...Image via Wikipedia

Consolatione Philosophiae, 525 A.D.

"What an obvious mistake to make--to think that anything can be enhanced by decoration that does not belong to it. It's impossible. For if there is anything striking in the decoration, that is what is praised, while the veiled and hidden object continues just the same in all its ugliness."

Comment ("C"):  Focus on your personality, not on your accessories.

". . . honor is not accorded to virtue because of the office held, but to the office because of the virtue of the holder." 

C: I chose this quote when I was in my twenties, a very long time ago. Have the years confirmed its wisdom! Since that time, I have known and know judges without any judgment whatsoever. Never confuse an office or a position with genuine worth. In many cases, there is an inverse or negative relation between the requirements of an office and the worth of its occupant. (Book II)

"Imprudence may deceive itself, but it cannot alter the true value of things, and the ruling of Socrates that it is quite wrong to assent to falsehood and conceal truth forbids me either to hide truth or be party to untruth." (Book II)

C: Thinks of so many instances of deception and fraud (many not involving money at all, but rather character) that have damaged so many of us. The deceptive can count on the fact that eventually all is revealed.

"But it is said, when a man comes to high office, that makes him worthy of honor and respect. Surely such offices don't have the power of planting virtue in the minds of those who hold them, do they? Or of removing vices? No: the opposite is true. More often than removing wickedness, high office brings it to light, and this is the reason why we are angry at seeing how often high office has devolved upon the most wicked of men--why Catullus calls Nonius a kind of malignant growth, in spite of the office he held." (Book IV)

C: Well, we see this truth on a daily basis. Many seek to falsely flatter as sycophants those who hold office in the hope of gaining some favor or some reflection of social prestige and status or in the hope of eventually succeeding to the occupation of the same office. Yet, many voters on many occasions fall for the false flattery. Think of the politicians obviously caught with their hands in the cookie jar who get re-elected--it does not just happen in places like Detroit or D.C. It also happens in politically conservative Republican territory. The great lie is that electoral success automatically equals worth. It doesn't. It never will.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

College Quotes Part 6

Paul Missional Volunteer via Flickr

"There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death."  Romans 8:1, 2

Comment (hereafter "C"): Here is the Pauline charter of freedom from the slavery of the old law. Here is the New Exodus. Now what does this freedom mean? It is freedom from anxiety, from fear, from inferiority complexes, from isolation, from egotism, from arrogance, namely from all the things that lead us to the harm of self and others that is sin.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

C: Once free from one slave-master, do not look for another. 

"For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ." Philippians 3:3-7

C: If Paul no longer gloried in his ethnic background or his ancestry or the achievements of his "career," then why are we so foolish and obtuse to still be attempting the same?

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:28-29

C: Yes, the Greeks and Romans developed notions of rights for a class of privileged free citizens. But radical equality based on a common human dignity that encompasses all ethnicities, both slave and free, both male and female, is traceable to Christianity as a development of Judaism. That radical equality arises from the fact of being human, not from legal rights that a state deigns to grant.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

College Quotes Part 5

Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of the Gospe...Image via WikipediaNow, we come to the Master of the Universe in our series of quotes compiled by an earnest college student long ago:


1.) And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Mark 10:42-45

Comment (hereafter "C"): Now, please explain to me why the diametrical opposite of this leadership model is followed by so many of my fellow Christians. It's as if this text is non-existent.

It would also be a boon to any organization, whether Christian or not, if this model of leadership were taken more seriously. 

2.) And he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath . . ." Mark 2:27-28

C: Now, if this standard applies to, of all things, the divinely instituted sabbath which has been so crucial for Jewish life and worship through the centuries, could it not also apply to considerations of Christian liturgy? In the end, is not the liturgy also made for man and his transformation and rest and not man for the liturgy? 

3.) "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them: for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven."  Matthew 6:1

C: I am afraid I think of this verse when I see how much fuss some clerics in some sectors of the Church make about the gorgeous character of their vestments. Frankly, such fuss seems a bit effeminate to me.

4.) "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." Matthew 6:5

C: The closet devout narcissist is a reality many have likely seen firsthand. Sometimes the lust for being center stage is suspiciously similar to forms of megalomania.

5.) "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before him." Matthew 6:7-8

C: We should not give sermons in the guise of prayers. Let's practice a preferential option for concise prayers.

6.) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy an faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!" Matthew 23:23-24

C: In the original Greek, the word translated above as "justice" can also be translated as "judgment." In other words, you can't neglect "judgment" either. 

How does this saying complement the command "judge not that ye be not judged" in Matthew 7:1? 
I propose the following: we must not neglect good judgment or discernment, but we must avoid faulty judgment. Only grace building on a healthy nature that learns from experience can enable us to carry this off.

The unforgettable phrase "straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel" is widely applicable to so many things. This saying--one of my favorites of all time-- is like a hit-man making sure he is well-groomed before he does his work. You can think of many other applications that are less dramatic and more common but no less disturbing.

7.) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Matthew 23:27

C: This is good advice when dealing with all manner and types of people. One crucial area of application is that of deciding whom to marry. The English proverb makes the same point: not all that glitters is gold. The wisdom literature of the Bible also recommends: test before befriending.

8.) "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10:25

C: This saying may well be the most practically ignored biblical saying in history. Certainly, this saying must mean that becoming rich is a goal we should not pursue, at least directly.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Collection of College Quotes Part 4

EpictetusImage by philobiblon via FlickrHere is the next entry in the series.

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things. Thus death is nothing terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our own notion of death, that it is terrible. 

When, therefore, we are hindered or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves--that is, to our own views. It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach others for this own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself.

                  Enchiridion, c. 138 A.D.

Comment: How often have I been irked by some frustration but, upon thinking further, realize it may be a very good thing for the frustrating event to have occurred? How often do I want things to go perfectly for others when, in fact, some people do need a jolt? These realizations occur more and more.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Collection of College Quotes Part 3

Micah 6:8 - Temple Emanu-ElImage by pchow98 via Flickr

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the 
Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8 (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament)(bold added)

Comment: Religious rituals, ceremonies, liturgies, and other externals without the above requirements will do no one any good.
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New Doctor of the Church: St. John of Ávila

Retrato de Juan de Ávila.Image via WikipediaHere is the Wikipedia link. Notice that he was of Jewish converso descent, as was Teresa of Ávila. Our Rhode Island friend sends us another link with a more general discussion of the process of declaring Doctors of the Church. With due respect to thousands and thousands in ivory towers around the world, this is the doctorate that really counts (tongue in cheek!).

Here is an excerpt from one of his letters translated from the original Spanish:

If we feel weak, let us rely on God, and we shall be strong: for those who confide in Him “shall take wings as eagles and not faint.” (Isaias XL. 31.) If we know not what to do, let us trust in our Creator, and He will be our Light; for, as Isaias says, “who is there amongst you that hath walked in darkness and hath no light? Let him hope in the name of the Lord, and lean upon his God.” (L. 10.) Holy Scripture also tells us: “They that trust in God shall understand the truth.” (Wisd. III. 9.) Let us place our hope in our heavenly Father when we are in trouble, and we shall be set free from it, as David, speaking in His name, says in the Psalms: (XC. 14.) “Because he hoped in me I will deliver him.” . . . . Believe me, God can overcome all our doubts and temptations.

Juan de Ávila, Letter XVII, reprinted in Letters of Blessed John of Avila, translated and selected from the Spanish by the Benedictines of Stanbrook ; with preface by the R.R. Abbot Gasquet. Published 1904 by Stanbrook AbbeyBurns & Oats in Worcester,London, p. 109 (bold added) (available for free at the Open Library at

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Monday, August 22, 2011

College Collection of Quotes Part 2

Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy...                       Image via WikipediaHere is the second installment of my series of quotes that I found of interest as an earnest college student many, many years ago. Today's quote is from Aristotle.

We may thus conclude that virtue or excellence is a characteristic involving choice, and that it consists in observing the mean relative to us, a mean which is defined by a rational principle, such as a man of practical wisdom would use to determine it. It is the mean by reference to two vices: the one of excess and the other of deficiency. It is, moreover, a mean because some vices exceed and others fall short of what is required in emotion and in action, whereas virtue finds and chooses the median. Hence, in respect of its essence and definition of its essential nature virtue is a mean, but in regard to goodness and excellence it is an extreme.

              Ethics, 335-322 B.C. [bold added].

What still strikes me most about the above quotation is that virtue is not a tepid, neither hot nor cold, state of being, but is rather a qualitative extreme. It is interesting to compare this Aristotelian notion with parts of the Gospel's teachings on morality, the Gospel which also presents virtue as a qualitative extreme, as in the Beatitudes.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

World Youth Day Madrid Videos

Here is the Vatican YouTube link. Below is one example of what is available. The Almudena Cathedral is the cathedral of Madrid situated directly across from the Royal Palace.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Poetry Blog

An amazingly talented friend of mine has her own poetry blog; I met her at the recent Latin poetry workshop, but her poetry is in English. Please visit here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A College Student's Collection of Quotes to Ponder

Cropped image of a Socrates bust for use in ph...Image via WikipediaWhile cleaning out old boxes in the basement, I came across something that earnest college students do: I found a collection of typewritten quotes that, as a college student, I was moved to collect on various legal size sheets of paper. I am amazed at the persistence of my interests. The interests of youth are for many the father of the adult man or woman decades later. Some people I recall were very materialistic and status-seeking, they seem to have ended up that way. Some were, let us say, promiscuous, and seem to have ended up with no credibility or honor. You do seem to reap what you sow, decades later. That's why our decisions and preferences in youth are dramatically important, although certainly reversible.

So I will reprint here my earnest college quotations from great thinkers, quotations that struck me during those years and that I still find striking. I begin with Socrates:

[I]f . . . you were to acquit me on those terms [i.e., that he stop practising philosophy] I would say: "Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy, to exhort you and in my usual way to point out to any one of you whom I happen to meet: "Good Sir, you are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess so much wealth, reputation and honours as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul?" Then, if one of you dispute this and says he does care, I shall not let him go at once or leave him, but I shall question him, examine him and test him, and if I do not think he has attained the goodness that he says he has, I shall reproach him because he attaches little importance to the most important things and greater importance to inferior things. I shall treat in this way anyone I happen to meet, young and old, citizen and stranger, and more so the citizens because you are more kindred to me.

Apology, 399 B.C.

[My private college quote collection did not cite the exact modern sources from which the quotes were taken. All that was documented was the title of the original work. Since I cannot reconstruct those modern sources used decades ago, the above is the best I can do for citation purposes.]

Over 25 years later, I still love the above quote and fully embrace it. Maybe, one day Congress will erect a monument in D.C. and have this quote inscribed in full on marble for all Americans to contemplate.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

World Youth Day Begins This Tuesday the 16th

An illuminated night time view of Madrid, Spain
Update: For more coverage, see this EWTN link.

Madrid is ready for the beginning of World Youth Day 2011. For complete coverage of the event, beginning this Tuesday, August 16th, and lasting through Sunday, August 21st, see the links below.

For complete news coverage, see the WYD-Madrid website at this link:

You will also find the recently established Vatican news portal of use during these days:

¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva Madrid! Let the fiesta of faith, joy, and hope begin.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Uncertain Market Times

The New York Stock Exchange, the world's large...Image via Wikipedia
The news is full of uncertain economic times, as it has been since 2008. Money issues have a way of getting the attention of people, even when more important issues, such as matters of honor and character, get consistently indifferent short shrift.

The wisdom of Christianity, and also of some other traditions, teaches that personal contentment should be immune to money issues. The Gospel message is to focus on true treasure, not on silver and gold. Paul remarks at one point how he has learned to be content both in plenty and in need. That's the peace that eludes so many of us. When you just have to have a granite countertop in the kitchen to be happy, then it is clear that you are on the wrong track.

As an economist, I, of course, am interested in the stock market as a leading indicator of future economic health. I want people's material lives, especially of those unemployed, to get better and not worsen. Yet the most important market is the "character market" which measures true personal greatness, a greatness not based on dividends or portfolios but rather on what you do daily to lift others up.

This character market never closes. This character market charges no fees and has no barriers to entry. This character market is one where everyone can win simultaneously and always. This character market is not a competitive zero-sum game. In addition, the returns of the character market are immediately redeemable and potentially infinite, inexhaustible, and endless. We should ponder our personal rise and fall on the character market more than we do the rise and fall of financial markets. A Christian way of putting the matter is this: the agape market is the crucial market for both present and future contentment.

Here is a related quote to ponder:

Personal greatness is about potential and influence. It is not about how powerful a position you may achieve [the world is littered with elected officials or business leaders who lack any trace of personal greatness] or about how many people you may supervise or have in your "camp." Real greatness is about how much of your personal potential you actually achieve and how positive an influence you have upon people in your life.

Tim Lavender, Achieving Personal Greatness (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002), p. 8 (bold added).

The crucial Christian footnote to the above excerpt is this: your personal potential is your potential to be another Christ, another Jesus, to others. That's the reliable gold standard in uncertain times.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Unmentioned STD

Marriage in America in 2010Image by GEEKSTATS via Flickr
See media link.
I recently saw a pamphlet on the subject of "sexually transmitted diseases" in the lobby of a local government office. I read it and was struck by the exclusive focus on the biological or physical dangers of unmarried sex. Never once did I see (or recall seeing) any reference to the emotional and psychological effects of sex divorced from life-long, exclusive commitment.

All of which led me to think outside the conventional "box": isn't "unspousability" (the inability to sustain marital emotional intimacy) another STD?

Unspousability is the "Unmentioned STD" whose effects can be present even if you have managed by luck or caution to evade the biological STD's about which the pamphlet warned. The secular culture ignores the "Unmentioned STD"; while, often, even religious people downplay it because of the certainly real and true possibility of forgiveness, mercy, conversion, and renewal.

Yet, even forgiveness, mercy, conversion, and renewal (which are indeed real and true possibilities) cannot remove all of the factual, non-theological consequences of our past patterns of behavior. You can be forgiven, but still remain, for all practical purposes, stunted by your past actions. The sad example that comes to mind is that of the child molestor who in spite of conversion and forgiveness will never be invited to become the director of a kindergarten. No sane parent would tolerate that.

Likewise, not every potential spouse will find certain past patterns of behavior acceptable when freely and knowledgeably choosing the partner to whom one will entrust one's heart for life. We need to recall the perdurability of hard, real-life consequences even for the forgiven and converted. That recollection is a strong incentive to avoid the problematic behaviors in the first place. The conventional listing of STD's leaves out a major one to fear, one that can stunt a person's future as much as the physical threats can.

Update: Take a look at this outrageous Fox News link which actually recommends that college students have fun by "hooking-up," which is defined as having sex with someone you don't really care about. The advice to hook-up is presented as a normal, non-controversial alternative for intelligent young people.

Fox News is not conservative at all; it merely reflects the crassness of modern American society, a crassness that has now been at full throttle for at least 40 or so years. This instance is a strong reminder that Christians should avoid becoming too closely and automatically associated with everything that is supposedly "conservative." Stick to the truth and be highly skeptical of political labels. This crassness also reminds me of the recent Rupert Murdoch hacking scandal in Britain. Murdoch, as most know, is the owner of Fox.
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Latin Poetry for Your Enjoyment (with English Translations)

A 4x4 segment panorama of the Coliseum at dusk...Image via Wikipedia
I recently enjoyed attending a workshop in composing Latin poetry led by Cambridge University Professor David Money. The participants came from as far as Australia and Rome. Some of the participants have chosen to share their poems online.

These poems are the works of neophytes and novices; all errors in meter or word choice or syntax, if any, are the sole responsibility of the individual poets, not of the very highly talented academic who led the workshop. Here is the link to the Versiculi ("Verses") blog, if you care to take a look at this attempt to revive the writing of Latin poetry on a wider scale. The composition of Latin verse was a staple of classical education for centuries. Who knows? It may come back.
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