Friday 29 July 2011

Communio - an introduction

One of the great resources of modern Catholic thought is the international review Communio, edited in the English language by David L. Schindler. Founded in the wake of the Second Vatican Council by Hans Urs von Balthasar and Josef Ratzinger with Henri de Lubac SJ and Louis Bouyer, with the support of Karol Wojtyla in Poland (later John Paul II), it has never sold in huge numbers but has had and is having a huge if indirect impact on the Catholic Church through the fact that many of its contributors and editors have been appointed bishops and cardinals, often placed in key positions (Francis George, Marc Ouellet, Christoph Schonborn, Angelo Scola, and of course Ratzinger himself are the most obvious). Communio theology is an expression of the Catholic ressourcement or "back to the sources" movement that partly influenced the liturgical movement and the Second Vatican Council, and is certainly now influencing their interpretation and consolidation under Pope Benedict.

All around the United States there are Communio circles that meet to discuss articles from recent issues, but in the UK there seem to be too few subscribers in any one place to make this viable. Even in the States, many readers find Communio hard going. (Second Spring was founded, in part, to offer a more accessible way into this tradition of Catholic thought.) But if you are seriously interested in creatively orthodox Catholic thought, Communio is indispensable. The journal has a News page which is a good place to start, and this has links to a number of articles.

I have selected several important Communio articles for our own site, which you can find under author in our Articles section linked from the menu at Second Spring. Look for example under Bouyer, Crawford, Granados, Hanby, Henrici, Kaveny, Lopez, Melina, Nault, Olsen, Ouellet,  Schindler (D.L.), Schindler (D.C.), Schonborn, Scola, Sicari - as well as, of course, Popes Benedict and John Paul II. There are also several recent ones on Catholic social teaching to be found in the articles section of our "Economy" site - Abela, Berry, Cloutier, Healy, Schindler (both), and Walker. And for an introduction to Balthasar go here. I hope to write more about Communio and education in the future.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Tolkien - some thoughts

Here are some thoughts on the possible use of The Lord of the Rings by homeschoolers.

The first thing is not to impose the book as a lesson, but introduce it naturally at an early stage. Reading to a child every day, for example as part of a bed-time ritual that can start as soon as the child is capable of gazing at a picture, is the foundation of everything. (You know this already.) In the case of Tolkien, there are books that can be used much earlier than LoR – his Father Christmas Letters, Smith of Wootton Major, and of course The Hobbit – as well as dozens of books by other authors that can be read in conjunction with these, books by the other Inklings, traditional folklore from all over the world, and of course many wonderful passages from the Bible. It doesn’t matter that one is reading a book where the vocabulary is difficult – the meaning of a word can often be gleaned from context, although you should encourage questions and have a dictionary to hand.

When it comes to LoR, reading aloud continues to be important long after the child can read for himself. The sound of the words is important. Spend a bit of time getting the pronunciation of the Elvish words right (the Appendices contain some guidance) – something I never did. The magic is in the language, as Tolkien would be the first to tell you.

Once the story itself has come alive in the child’s imagination, and perhaps after it has been read more than once, it becomes possible to explore a range of topics suggested by the book. Let’s consider Language, Philosophy, Religion, Nature, Geography, History, Mythology, and Art.