Monday, May 28, 2007

A New Blog

I hereby establish the Civis blog. I'll begin with an explanation of the title.

Civis is the Latin word for citizen. This blog is about life in the world, about civic responsibility. I write in a Christian context. My address is laicus, meaning layman, because this blog is about what it means to be a Christian layman, with citizenship in both the earthly and the heavenly kingdoms. But lay, because I believe the earthly kingdom is the primary responsibility of the laity. It is the vocation to which we are called; and it is not the responsibility of the clergy. They are called to care for the supernatural order. But we are called to care for the natural order; and there is indeed a natural order, a real order, that needs both our care and our attention, to discern what that order is and to allow it to be what it is. This is the vocation of the laicus.

Civis is Latin. It expresses my commitment to the Latin tradition, meaning three things. First, the Catholic tradition. But that calls out, second, to the pre-modern tradition. Perhaps the central distinction between the modern and the pre-modern traditions is that the old tradition believes the order of things is given; we are responsible to cultivate it, but we do not create it; and in it we find our creator. The modern tradition replaces the Creator with man. This points to the third reason for a Latin title: Latin bespeaks universalism, a kind of citizenship that is particular, to be sure--because citizenship is necessarily particular--but which is not nationalistic, not bond to the English world or the French or the German, but to the broader catholicos, the universal order, established by God and most fully evoked in the Christian West.

Finally, civis evokes civitas, the pre-modern understanding of the political order. The civitas is a city, an actual community of men. The modern "state," by contrast, is both abstract (the government as distinct from the actual world of people) and distant from the world of natural communities (the national state rather than the city, in which real people live in real communities). Civis represents my commitment to the political order as a living, breathing extension of real human communities, where people meet on the street, buy and sell from one another, see each other's faces, and live a truly human life.

Thus begins the blog Civis-Laicus.