#ACTONU – DAY 2 – Teaching

This year’s Acton U has me teaching for the first time.  I’m doing two classes, one on the Fathers of the Church on Usury (which I didn’t really know much about, but seemed like an interesting topic – I go in as a student with the others) and on Augustine’s “City of God” (and – of Augustine – everyone remains but a student).

There are so many good people teaching for Acton (including famous teachers such as Peter Kreeft) that it is a little intimidating.  The participants themselves are pretty high test.  So, I’ll ask my Angel Guardian to help me out, especially on a day when I am distracted by this new encyclical.

This morning, at Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form, on the Feast of Ephrem the Syrian, Doctor of the Church, I reminded people to pray for Christians suffering in Syria… that God will protect them from temporal and spiritual harm… or at least spiritual harm, if it is not God’s will to save them from the rabid animal packs of murders that are killing them.

St. Pauls Epistle reading, common for doctors, was striking today:

Lesson from the secons letter of St Paul the Apostle to Timotheus
2 Tim. 4:1-8
Beloved: I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead by His coming and by His kingdom, preach the word, be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke with all patience and teaching. For there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their own lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables. But be watchful in all things, bear with tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the Gospel, fulfill your ministry. Be sober. [Sobrius esto! Keep your head in the game!] As for me, I am already being poured out in sacrifice, and the time of my deliverance is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will give to me in that day; yet not to me only, but also to those who love His coming.

After Mass I went to a breakfast for some invitees held to discuss the new encyclical.

It was stimulating.  There was some strong and sober talk this morning, as well as some good-natured (though anxious) kidding around about Laudato si‘.   One comment by an Argentinian scholar stuck with me: it was amazing to him that an Argentinian could go one for 44K words without using the phrase “social justice” a single time!

The other day I posted the old fashioned mail chute.  Here’s the other end!

We used to make classy things, to last.


As supper started we were shown the trailer for the new film Poverty, Inc.


If you have a chance to see this… go and take people with you.   Perhaps even have it shown in your parish or get a local theatre to run it.

In the evening we had a talk from Joel Salatin… an edgy choice for an Acton U speaker.  He was engaging and entertaining and he provided food for thought.  However, I thought he went to the zoo on a few points.



A couple ironic moments from the day:

As we were having the breakfast discussion about the Pope’s new encyclical, which comes down hard against air-conditioning, there was a maintenance guy in the room… fixing the air conditioning.

In the evening, we were told about an iPad giveaway for those who would promote the Acton’s resource page about the Pope’s encyclical using social media.  See what Francis says about stuff like that!  You’ve gotta smile.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sonshine135 says:

    Is the mail chute still in use?

  2. rodin says:

    Those mail chutes are a work of art, as well as function. I remember them well even from the time I when I was too small to reach them. Thanks for the memories.

  3. CradleRevert says:


    If you have the time and opportunity, I would love to see a brief blog post about your thoughts on Usury. This is a topic that I’m very much interested in, but I’m still not sure that I’ve nailed down my own views on the subject.

  4. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    Father, if you all have Mass, promise me you won’t sing “City of God.”

    Pretty please.

    [Welllll…. okay.]

  5. benedetta says:

    Quite an interesting program. I would love to hear more about Joel Salatin’s dinner keynote.

  6. KnightOfTruth says:

    I am also interested in what Joel had to say. Did you have a meal that came from his farm? Have visited Polyface (Joel’s farm in Virginia)
    Please say a prayer for us as we are trying to purchase a home site where we can do this and the seller (a commercial property guy) is suddenly playing games that could put it out of reach.

  7. JonPatrick says:

    I also woudl be interested in your thoughts on usury. Something that the Church was very serious about for many years and then suddenly kicked to the curb when it became inconvenient in a more commercial age. The Muslims seem to be able to follow it yet still have a functioning banking system etc. so it must be possible.

  8. robtbrown says:

    Re Usury:

    1. It depends on why someone needs money. I think most moral theologians would consider it morally prohibited to lend money at interest so that someone can eat, have shelter (not merely a blanket on the street), and decent clothing.

    2. In the modern expanding (or at least, inflating) economy, the buying value of currency changes, usually decreasing. Thus, if money is lent without interest, the lender will lose money.

    3. In the US most states, if not all, have usury laws, which prohibit lending above a certain interest rate. I assume that it’s the same in all first and second world nations.

    During the Carter White House years inflation was so high that those laws had to be revised.

  9. benedetta says:

    Thanks for the update on your dinner keynote at Acton U, Father. Yes I wouldn’t be surprised if some of Salatin’s ideas are received as unworkable or in conflict with certain non negotiable principles. At the same time, I think there is quite a lot worthy in his work and experience and commitment that can foster some great new avenues of thinking which is greatly needed in this moment when a lot of the expected paths have failed working families in a big way and the assertion of the status quo is not only ominous but presents not a future and livelihood but threats to a healthy existence instead. I admire Acton’s ability to be open to ideas which could be good. It’s a testament to Acton’s making good use of our faculties of reason, good faith debate, and a certain collegiality and civility that is often completely absent from the typical fora for discussion these days, and I would be interested to hear what Acton U attendees synthesize from their experiences and discussions there on the lessons of Polyface and Salatin’s presentation down the road. Happy trails to all.

  10. Auggie says:

    It’s good to hear that Joel Salatin is free-ranging with some Catholics. I’ve read his book, “This Ain’t Normal,” and thought he’d make a fine Benedictine. Round him up, Fr. Z.

  11. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Robtbrown,

    I think the question of usury needs to be examined again. Credit cards can carry interst rates in the neighborhood of 29% per annum. Interstate banking has made state usury laws pretty much a dead letter. Minimum wage laws have not kept up with the cost of living. While current inflation is almost nonexistent unlike at the end of the Carter presidency the buying power of all but the most wealhy has eroded.

  12. brian91085 says:

    Fr. Z,
    I’m a seminarian at St. John’s in Brighton, MA. I’m looking into writing my Master’s thesis on the development of doctrine in regards to usury within the Church. Do you have any good sources I can look in to. Right now I’m just getting started reading Noonan’s “The Scholastic Analysis of Usury” and McCall’s “The Church and the Usurer…” Any help you can give me would be great. And of course, please pray for my vocation, as I will be entering 3rd Theology in the Fall.
    Also, if any other readers have good sources to recommend, I’d be very grateful.

    [Look for articles by Robert Maloney and a 2012 book by Ihssen ]

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