It’s Walker Percy Weekend 2018

Greetings from St. Francisville, Louisiana. When I checked into my hotel for Walker Percy Weekend (I live in Baton Rouge, now, 40 miles away), the desk clerk looked at my driver’s license, then said: “You Miss Ruthie’s brother? Lord, everybody loved Miss Ruthie.”

That made me feel so good. Back home. If you want to know why everybody loved Miss Ruthie, here it is.

If you are not a Mars Hill Audio Journal subscriber, well, what’s wrong with you? It’s so, so great. People still stop me to thank me for putting them onto it. Users of iOS can download the Mars Hill app, and listen to some content for free. Ken Myers has produced a special Walker Percy discussion that everyone, not just Journal subscribers, can access on the app. Here’s the script for the introduction:

This is the Friday Feature for June 1st from MARS HILL AUDIO; I’m Ken Myers.

Today is the first day of the fifth annual Walker Percy Weekend in St. Francisville, Louisiana. The website for this unique festival celebrating Walker Percy’s life and work assures potential participants that it will be “intellectually serious but broadly accessible.” We also learn that bourbon will be consumed, although (one hopes) not in quantities comparable to some of Percy’s characters. As I recall, in Love in the Ruins, Dr. Thomas More holed up in a Howard Johnson’s with 15 cases of Early Times.

Love in the Ruins, published in 1971 and a finalist for a National Book Award, bears the subtitle The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World. Percy once commented on the book: “A serious novel about the destruction of the United States and the end of the world should perform the function of prophecy in reverse. The novelist writes about the coming end in order to warn against present ills and so avert the end.” As Ralph Wood has recently written, Percy “doubted the efficacy of a serene Christian humanism. Better to serve as the canary in the coal mine, so as to detect the asphyxiating gas that sickens unto death.”

Ralph Wood has given talks at previous Walker Percy weekends. I’m told he won’t be there this year, but two weeks back, The American Conservative published an article he wrote about Love in the Ruins called “Walker Percy’s Funny and Frightening Prophecy.” Earlier this week, I called Dr. Wood in his office to chat about the article and about Percy more generally. We agreed that Percy’s work is not as well known as it may have been 20 years ago, or at the time of his death in 1990. I asked Wood why he thought Percy has not enjoyed as much attention as another 20th century Southern Catholic writer, Flannery O’Connor.

[RALPH WOOD QUOTE]

Since this weekend is an occasion for concentrated attention to Walker Percy, at least in St. Francisville, we’ve just released a new Audio Reprint: a reading of an article by John F. Desmond called “Walker Percy and Suicide.” The article compares themes in Percy’s fiction and non-fiction with reflections about selfhood in Camus and Kierkegaard. You can purchase that reading for $2 from our website and listen to it through our app or via any web browser.

Way back in 1993, on volume 3 of the Journal, I talked with Jay Tolson, who had just written Pilgrim in the Ruins: a Life of Walker Percy. In his book, Tolson reported that — before he started writing fiction, he read a number of works by Kafka and Dostoevsky, stories about figures who were outcasts in search of spiritual meaning. I asked Jay Tolson if Percy felt himself to be such a figure.

[TOLSON QUOTE]

Jay Tolson, from volume 3 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. Tolson’s Pilgrim in the Ruins: a Life of Walker Percy was the first Percy biography to appear after Percy’s death in 1990. In 1997, Patrick Samway’s book, Walker Percy: A Life, was published. Samway was a guest on volume 27 of the Journal, in a conversation in which we talked about Percy’s relationship with the characters of his books.

[SAMWAY QUOTE]

Patrick Samway, the author of Walker Percy: A Life, from volume 27 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.

By the way, we’ve just released volume 139, and if you’re not currently a subscriber, I invite you to take the plunge, sign up today, and enjoy over two hours of listening to something intellectually serious but broadly accessible. Guests include Simon Oliver, Matthew Levering, and Esther Lightcap Meek, and the overarching theme that emerged in the six conversations was how modern culture obscures the nature of Creation.

On next week’s Friday Feature, I’ll be talking with Jeremy Beer about the late Christopher Lasch. For MARS HILL AUDIO, I’m Ken Myers.

I’m off to the Magnolia Cafe now, where Charlie Clark and I will be hosting a back porch conversation about his Fare Forward article, “The Walker Percy Option.” The event is sponsored by The American Conservative, which is picking up the bar tab. Don’t you wish you were here?

Read more from The American Conservative…

Mother of abuse survivor to sue the Catholic church

The mother of clergy abuse survivor, Paul Levey, may be the first parent and secondary victim to sue the Catholic Church. Anne Levey, who is haunted daily by knowledge of Paul’s horrific abuse by laicised and jailed priest Gerald Ridsdale, said she will be pursuing a case against the Catholic Church because of the pain and suffering caused.

Read more from Sexual Abuse…

Public School Sex-Ed’s Descent Into Madness

On June 14, the school board of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), the tenth largest school division in the United States, will convene and likely approve a number of changes to its sex-ed program, including replacing the term “biological sex” with “sex assigned at birth,” teaching that children aren’t born male or female, minimizing the role of abstinence, and excising clergy from a list of “trusted adults.” Although I am a product of FCPS, as was my mother and a long list of aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of my family, my children will not be attending their local elementary school. The radical sexual pedagogy promoted by FCPS, coupled with its well-publicized laxity in confronting illegal sexual behavior by its staff, has convinced me that my eldest daughter, who will enter kindergarten this fall, would be safer in a private school.

The latest recommendation by the county’s Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee builds upon other sex-ed trends in FCPS, where “oral sex” is introduced to kids as young as 12. Thirteen-year-olds, meanwhile, are told about “anal sex” 18 separate times in one year’s worth of lessons. I understand why: the proliferation of pornography accessible to our youth has made sexting and increasingly aggressive sexual activity ubiquitous problems for FCPS and school districts across the country. Studies have shown that a majority of pornography depicts violence against women. As the adage goes, “monkey see, monkey do.”

Still, the committee’s recommendation to remove clergy from the list of “trusted adults” is ridiculous, given that FCPS has been dogged by illegal sexual activity by its employees for years. In March, a Sandburg Middle School teacher was charged with possession of child pornography. Last year, a former girls’ basketball coach at Lake Braddock Secondary School was accused of sexually harassing players—the school administration kept him on staff for months after the allegation was raised. A 2016 investigation by the local News4 I-Team discovered that the response of FCPS to multiple teachers accused of sexual misconduct—with students, no less—had allowed those educators to keep their teaching licenses for years after the offenses. A Bailey’s Elementary School teacher was arrested in 2015 and charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy between 2004 and 2010.

FCPS has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of responsibility with our children, maintaining a policy towards sex offenders more relaxed than my local Catholic diocesan schools, while introducing children to sexual practices fraught with health dangers. Why should I trust a school system that perpetuates the demonstrably false narrative that public school educators are more trustworthy than priests, pastors, or rabbis? It’s bad enough that one day my children may attend colleges that permit, if not encourage, the kinds of risky sexual behavior depicted in Jon Krakauer’s 2015 best-selling book Missoula. Without a proper education, they’ll lack the maturity to navigate these treacherous waters as 12- and 13-year-olds, let alone as college freshman. As Cicero warned, “the enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.”

I suppose I’m not terribly surprised by the increased abasement of the school district that educated me. When I was in tenth grade, a ninth grader at my school attended a party where she got drunk and was persuaded into a compromising position by upperclassmen. Those boys (who to my knowledge were never punished) took pictures and sent them to a popular local radio host, “Elliot in the Morning,” who spoke about them on-air. The girl was, of course, humiliated and ended up transferring schools. I think she even changed her name. (As an aside, how has that DC101 disc jockey avoided legal scrutiny? He spoke publicly about viewing what amounts to child pornography!) We’ve certainly come a long way since 1999. With handheld, Internet-accessible phones now ubiquitous among our children, how could things not descend into even more alarming harassment, abuse, and misogyny?

FCPS still boasts an impressive educational pedigree. As their website notes, the class of 2018 has 223 National Merit Semifinalists, and Fairfax County high schools are recognized annually by the Washington Post as some of the most challenging in the United States. Yet as C.S. Lewis warned, “education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Teaching kids just entering puberty about how to “properly” use contraception and engage in safe anal sex can only be classified as a first-rate education in delinquency. Most American public schools have lost sight of Aristotle’s important maxim: “The happy life is regarded as a life in conformity with virtue…not spent in [sexual] amusement.”

Excluding my children from a public education is a hard decision for me, as I would think it is for many families—these are the institutions that have inculcated American ideas and ideals for generations of our citizens. I spent every year of grade school except kindergarten in the same public school district, which had an indelible impact on my socialization into our culture as well as on how I think and view the world. Public school districts also continue to employ huge numbers of our citizens: FCPS is the third largest employer in the state of Virginia. My mother spent more than 30 years in the system as an occupational therapist, from which she herself graduated in 1972. I was so inspired by my public education experience that I worked as a substitute and then a full-time high school history teacher, as well as a high school tennis coach.

Though I am a product of public schools and still take pride in my education, I won’t send my kids there—not as long as I can afford to send them elsewhere. Given the Catholic Church’s robust security policies in the wake of the early 2000s sex scandal, my kids are safer in my parish’s elementary school. My decision will stand until our public school systems—enduring what has become a nationwide sexual crisis—adopt policies that resist, rather than capitulate to, the worrying trends wreaking havoc on our families and our children.

Casey Chalk is a student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College.

Read more from The American Conservative…

Frank Varischetti All-Star Football Game is June 29 in Brockway

Thirteen players who received all-state recognition headline the rosters for the third annual Frank Varischetti All-Star football game in Brockway on Friday, June 29. The teams consist of graduated seniors from the class of 2018 who were nominated and selected by the respective leagues’ head coaches. The AML includes Bradford, Brockway, Curwensville, Elk County Catholic, Kane, Ridgway, Cameron County, Coudersport, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Sheffield and Smethport.

Read more from John Williams…

Michael Gerson: The massive failure of Christian political leadership – Tue, 29 May 2018 PST

Identity politics and tribalism have grown on top of this.” Ryan went on to talk about Catholic social doctrine, with its emphasis on “solidarity” with the poor and weak, as “a perfect antidote to what ails our culture.”

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