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 Fr. Oswald Baker on English, thinking and behaviour 
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Joined: Sat May 20, 2006 8:21 am
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New post Fr. Oswald Baker on English, thinking and behaviour
Fr. Oswald Baker : Loose English Loose Morals

“Our faith, that is the triumphant principle which triumphs over the world.”

Our English language is peculiarly susceptible to grammatical errors and other similar misuse. To master correct English usage is a task which should occupy the entire period of our schooling. Correctness in expression and correct thinking are interdependent. Slovenly expression is linked with slovenly thinking, and slovenly, loose thinking leads to loose living. Though it is not of course the only cause, the decline of our language has undoubtedly contributed to the decline of morals. Consider the imprecision, debasement and perversion of the words “love” and “charity”. As recently as twenty years ago a stir was caused by the publication of a booklet containing the assertion that “love cannot be confined to a rigid pattern”. Such statements would cause no stir today, when morals, in the universities and generally, have deteriorated steeply. All such degenerate thinking, leading to degraded living, is what St. John means by “the world” – “our faith, that is the triumphant principle which triumphs over the world.” Our faith proclaims that in consequence of original sin, human nature is corrupt. Every area of our nature is vitiated by an inclination to abuse. Eyes, tongue, nervous system, eating and drinking, sensuality – all tend towards excessive activity. Our nature tends towards what is flattering and gratifying to our senses and passions, rather than to what is noblest, purest, highest and most beneficial. It is a lifelong struggle for every individual to maintain the vigour and supremacy of our will over our lower impulses. That proposition is not fashionable or popular. When good people hate our faith it is because they have not understood it. When evil men hate it, it is because they understand it only too well. That has been constantly exemplified ever since the opposition to the early Church’s commendation of virginity.

Our education is a lifelong process, and the whole of true education is preparation for the Beatific Vision, the vision and possession of God in heaven. Early education is woefully deficient if it prepares a pupil only for his natural life on earth and worldly success, to the neglect of his soul and his essential purpose in life, which is to gain the eternal happiness of heaven. To recognise that authentic purpose of our existence and to live one’s life accordingly demands both clear thinking and character formation. We need the intelligence to understand what matters most in our daily living, and strength of character if we are to bolster and discipline our frail, wayward human nature. The aim of true and adequate education is to develop the good qualities God has planted in our nature, and to uproot the evil tendencies which come of original sin. The adolescent has to learn what is morally good, to choose what is good, to persevere in what is good. Fundamental to a correct approach in education is the acknowledgement of our fallen state, and our continual need of God’s grace. Outside the Church, that is widely denied. Many outside the Church consider knowledge itself sufficient to make a student virtuous. They are the campaigners for "marriage" instruction in school as just a natural science, without any training in prayer, virtue, or mortification to strengthen the will. In a genuine education, religion is never just another subject in the time-table. It is a formation, a way of life, influencing every sphere of study and every moment of the day. It is useful to know the various physical sciences, but much more important to know the God Who put them into operation. It is interesting to investigate how the universe works, but infinitely more important to be aware of God Who makes it work. It is helpful to know astronomy, but much more helpful to know Him Who places the stars in all their glittering glory in the vast meadowlands of the heavens. It is an advantage to acquire a knowledge of literature, but of the greatest advantage to know which literature is wholesome. Neglect religious instruction and you leave the adolescent without any foundation upon which to build character. Train a student to be clever enough to earn a living, to make money, relegating God to the background of life, and moral flabbiness will inevitably ensue. In a world that has lost sight of man’s true dignity, only a Catholic formation can keep before us our true dignity as children of God, and our destiny as heirs to our Father’s Kingdom and the company of the saints.

Sermon for Sunday 6th May 1984.

Sat Jun 10, 2006 12:38 pm

Joined: Sat May 20, 2006 11:46 pm
Posts: 728
Location: Western Washington, USA
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Pax Christi !

Our English language is peculiarly susceptible to grammatical errors and other similar misuse

Very timely, thanks John ! I am, ( not to sound prideful :) ) the biggest offender of this ! ( mea culpa). It is sobering to make account of what we write, especially when it is about our Holy Faith. Adding that fact theology is a science, with proper terms and expressions, exact wording is fundamental to this subject.

Anyone, who is the Patron Saint for grammer?

Saint Thomas Pray for us !

In Christ our King,

Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:58 pm

Joined: Wed May 17, 2006 10:53 pm
Posts: 156
Location: Ohio, USA
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May I add the following from Father Edward Leen, C. S. S. p., D. D.?


PRECISION in the use of words has largely become a lost art. The sound intellectual habit, prevalent in the Middle Ages, of carefully deeming one's terms and delimiting the range of their application, before developing a theme or engaging in an argument, made for clarity of mind. The decay of this logical approach to all writing and all discussion is accountable for the almost universal confusion of thought so painfully evident in these latter days. It is quite common to find persons who have received a University 'education' (so called), and yet who, when questioned, will reveal an incomprehension of the exact sense of words and phrases that are in common use. The slight apprehension they have of the meaning is enveloped in a fog of vagueness compact of the chance associations that may have attached themselves to the terms or group of terms they employ. If a nice or discriminating sense of the exact meaning of words is a sign of a cultured man, cultured men have become rather rare.

In these days a speaker or writer of precision labours under a serious disadvantage. He cannot communicate his thoughts, since hearers or readers seize very imperfectly and very inadequately the meaning of the spoken or written word. Giving a somewhat unexpected turn to a rather slang expression, it can be said of vast numbers nowadays, that, literally, they have 'the foggiest notion' of what is offered to them in speech or print. "It constantly happens that persons themselves unaccustomed to think clearly, or speak correctly, misunderstand a logical and careful writer and are actually in more danger of being misled by language which is measured and precise, than by that which is loose and inaccurate." ( Ruskin, Modern Painters) Hence comes the curious paradox of our times wherein it has come to pass " that a man who uses accurate language is more liable to misrepresentation than one who is careless in his expressions. We may assume that the latter means very nearly what we at first suppose him to mean, for words which have been uttered without thought may be received without examination." (Ruskin, again) Argument is wasted on men who are incapable of grasping the force or application of the terms used. Fine distinctions are lost on them, because the penumbra of vagueness with which, in their minds, many words are enveloped, habitually shades over into a similar vagueness enveloping such other words as are like to the former in meaning.

Inaccuracy in language, springing, perhaps, originally from loose, unanchored thought, and becoming general, necessarily tends to deepen that mental confusion that has been its source. The most striking, as the most depressing characteristic of the modern world is a widespread intellectual chaos. Speech should be the expression of thought, and thought should be the intelligible reflection of reality. But now speech, even when most earnest, has become but the vocal manifestation of feeling, emotion, sentiment, prejudice, 'wishfulness', and the like. When the voice of truth is raised from time to time, and sends forth its message from the citadel of truth, its sounds are utterly drowned in the tumult of clamorous unreason.

--What Is Education?

Sat Jun 10, 2006 7:29 pm
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