Who are Anglo-Catholics?

Who are Anglo-Catholics?
Part I
Sermon Preached at the Anglican Church of the Transfiguration
Phoenixville, PA.
Timothy K. Lent, Ph.D.
7 June 2016

 The Meaning of “Anglican”

In the Prayer Book, there are references to the word “Catholic.” For instance, in the Apostles’ Creed, Anglo-Anglicans confess their belief in “The Holy Catholic Church.”1 Another example is the Bidding Prayer, which refers to “Christ’s holy Catholic Church.”2 Still another example is the prayer for God’s “holy Catholic Church.”3 The Prayer Book, then, teaches Anglo-Catholics that they are members of the Catholic Church.

Who are Anglo-Catholics? They are Anglicans. The word “Anglican” means “English.” Thus, Anglo-Catholics are Christians who have an English liturgical and theological heritage. They can trace their beliefs back to the Church of England. Anglicans may or may not be Episcopalians, for although Episcopalians are Anglicans, not all Anglicans are Episcopalians.

The Meaning of “Protestant”

The Anglican Church is “Protestant,” but only in the legal, historical sense of its meaning from Maryland in 1780, when the title was proposed and adopted by the Episcopal Church to distinguish it from the Roman Catholic Church. But the word “Protestant” itself is often too simplistic in attempting to describe Anglicans. E. J. Bicknell, an Anglican scholar, explains why:

“The popular antithesis of Catholic and Protestant is often misconceived. All true protest against error is based on a knowledge and love of truth. A Catholic love of truth is bound to protest against all error that limits or denies the truth.”4

The First Meaning of “Catholic”

When the Eastern and Western bishops met together at the Second Ecumenical Council, the First Council of Constantinople (381 A. D.) to write the second part of the Nicene Creed, they used the word “Catholic” to describe the Church, saying, “And [we believe] on one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”5 In church history, the first meaning of “Catholic” referred to the Undivided Church of the East and West, which was united in a common faith.

Typically, Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, accept the teachings of the Undivided Church, the Church of the first millennium of church history. From the Day of Pentecost, when the Church of Christ was born, to the Great Schism in 1054 A. D., the Church was truly Catholic: one in faith and doctrine, even though there were liturgical differences between the Eastern and Western Christians.

The Second Meaning of “Catholic”

Must Anglicans be under the authority of the pope to be Catholic? Not necessarily! Although all Roman Catholics are Catholics, not all Catholics are Roman Catholics.  For example, millions of Christians in the Orthodox Church are not under the authority of the pope. But that does not mean they are not Catholics. In fact, Orthodox Christians are Catholics. But they would not regard themselves as Roman Catholics. Similarly, Anglicans are Catholics but they are not Roman Catholics.

The English Rite of the Church

There are several Rites in the Church. For example, Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea (circa 256 A. D.), writes,

“[C]oncerning the celebration of Easter, and concerning many other sacraments of divine matters, … there are some diversities among them, and … all things are not observed among them alike, which are observed at Jerusalem, just as in very many other provinces also many things are varied because of the difference of the places and names. And yet on this account there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church.”6

A Rite, then, refers to a form or worship (liturgy) of a group of people who belongs to a certain ethnic or geographical location. Anglicans are a Western Rite, namely, an American, English Rite, deriving their liturgy from the Church of England. Liturgies from different Rites in the Church can be translated into the English language. But the Anglican Liturgy is truly English, because it comes from English-speaking people in England and America.

The Catholicity of the English Reformers

In the 16th century, there was a Reformation in the Church of England. However, the intent of the English Reformers was not to start a new Church but to return to the faith of the primitive Church, the Undivided Church. Anglican liturgical scholar Stephen A. Hurlbut, referring to the English Reformers, wrote, “Their appeal in matters of liturgy as well as theology was to that which was Catholic as opposed to Roman, and to the early Fathers as opposed to medieval scholasticism.”7 In other words, the basic thrust of the English Reformers was to be Catholic, but not necessarily Roman Catholic.8

In at least two respects, Anglo-Catholics are Reformed Catholics, following the tradition of the English Reformers, not the Continental Reformers, such as John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. First, Anglo-Catholics “deliberately retained the title ‘priest.’”9 In other words, they retained a sacerdotal ministry, accepting the Catholic teaching on Holy Orders, particularly, an ordained priesthood and apostolic succession.

Second, the center of worship for Anglo-Catholics is the altar, not the pulpit; the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ by the priest, not the sermon.10 Of course, reading and preaching the word of God are important to Anglo-Catholic worship. However, the most important aspect is receiving the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. As Jesus himself says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54, NIV).

The Third Meaning of “Catholic”

Anglo-Catholics are constantly reminded that Christ has founded the Catholic Church and that they belong to her when they confess, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “We believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Thus, Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, because she is “from ever tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9, NIV). The Gospel is to be preached “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Matthew 28:19). The mission and ministry of the Church are universal in scope and, therefore, the Church is Catholic.


1The Book of Common Prayer, 1928 American ed. (New York, N.Y.: The Church Hymnal Corporation/ The Church Pension Fund, n.d.), p. 15.

2Ibid., p. 47.

3Ibid., p. 37.

4E. J. Bicknell, A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, 3rd. rev. ed. (New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co. Inc., 1955, 1961), p. 247.

5“The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed,” in The Second Ecumenical Council: The First Council of Constantinople (381 A. D.). 2016. Translated by Henry Percival. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Buffalo, N.Y.: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1900). Revised and edited by Kevin Knight. New Advent. [Web:] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3808.htm [Date of access: 6 June 2016].

6Firmilian of Caesarea to Cyprian of Carthage. 2016. Epistle 74, 6. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (Buffalo, N.Y.: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1886). Revised and edited by Kevin Knight. New Advent. [Web:] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/050674.htm  [Date of access: 6 June 2016].

7Stephen A. Hurlbut, The Liturgy of the Church of England Before and After the Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1941), pp. 1-2.

8Edward Lambe Parsons and Bayard Hale Jones, The American Prayer Book: Its Origins and Principles (New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937), p. 29.

9E. J. Bicknell, A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, op. cit., p. 336.  The reason the New Testament did not use the Greek word for priest (hiereis) to describe Christian priests was “… to avoid confusion with the Jewish and pagan priesthood” (ibid., p. 335). Cf. Claude Beaufort Moss, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology (New York, N.Y.: Morehouse-Gorham Co., 1943, reprinted 1949), p. 287:  “The Continental Reformation rejected or dropped the principle of apostolic succession (except in Sweden),” that is, bishops, by virtue of their consecrations, are successors of the apostles, tracing a straight link back to them throughout history.  But the English Reformation retained apostolic succession.

10Claude Beaufort Moss, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, op. cit., p. 290.

The Meaning of Human Equality, Part II: Susan B. Anthony’s Understanding of Equality

Susan B. Anthony

Introduction: Unequal Treatment of Women under the Law

In the 18th and 19th centuries in America, women were excluded, for all practical purposes, from the meaning of the phrase “all men are created equal.” For instance, only men could vote. Only men owned property. Men, not women, had control of the money they earned. Men, not women, could be educated in college. Women were treated as the property of men. For such reasons, the Women’s Suffrage Movement began in the 1850’s, with Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906) as one of its most prominent leaders. She argued that women are not inferior to men and should be included in the meaning of the phrase “all men are created equal.”

On November 5, 1872, Anthony’s belief in equality was tested in Rochester, New York, when she voted in the presidential election. A couple of weeks later, on November 18, she was arrested for voting illegally. At her trial on June 19, 1873 (the third day of her trial), she was found guilty of breaking the law. Before her trial, she would travel, speaking to audiences in Monroe and Ontario counties, arguing for women’s rights, particularly, their right to vote, quoting the Declaration of Independence,

“‘All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’”

Anthony’s Explanation of the Meaning of “All Men are Created Equal”

Anthony explains the meaning of “all men are created equal,” saying,

“Here is no shadow of government authority over rights, nor exclusion of any from their full and equal enjoyment. Here is pronounced the right of all men, and ‘consequently,’ as the Quaker preacher said, ‘of all women,’ to a voice in the government. And here, in this very first paragraph of the declaration, is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for, how can ‘the consent of the governed’ be given, if the right to vote be denied.”

By the words of the Declaration of Independence, says Anthony, “kings, priests, popes, aristocrats, were all alike dethroned, and placed on a common level politically, with the lowliest born subject or serf.” Thus, the Declaration affirms the equal rights of all human beings. Women, argues Anthony, are human beings and should be placed with men on “the proud platform of equality.”

Arguing from the equality of all human beings in the Declaration, she confirms its truth by quoting the Preamble to the Constitution of the United State, which, in part, says,

“’We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and established this constitution for the United States.’”

In other words, Anthony maintains that the same theme of human equality in the Declaration is affirmed in the Constitution. However, instead of phrase “all men are created equal,” the wording of the Constitution is “We the people of the United States.” As Anthony writes,

“It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union.”

According to Anthony, for the United States of America, a democratic-republic, to deny women the right to vote is to change the very nature of the government itself, making it “an oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household.” Such a government, Anthony asserts, makes “all men sovereigns, [and] all women subjects.”

Anthony’s Reply to the Male Pronouns Argument

Next, Anthony replies to the argument that because of the wording of the Constitution and State constitutions in America, only male citizens can vote. She introduces and answers the argument as follows:

“But [if it] is urged, the use of the masculine pronouns he, his and him, in all the constitutions and laws, is proof that only men were meant to be included in their provisions. If you insist on this version of the letter of the law, we shall insist that you be consistent, and accept the other horn of the dilemma, which would compel you to exempt women from taxation for the support of the government, and from penalties for the violation of laws.”

Her reply is a reductio ad absurdum argument, making it evident that the government would certainly not allow women to be exempt from paying taxes and breaking its laws. For Anthony, “he” includes “she” and “his” includes “hers.” Her point, then, is that constitutional documents apply to men and women. Thus, women are persons, citizens of the United States, equal to men under the law and, therefore, have a right to vote.

Justice Hunt’s Verdict at Anthony’s Trial

At Anthony’s trial, Justice Hunt, without a word from the all-male jury, pronounced her guilty of breaking the law. He then gave her an opportunity to speak before the court. She replied, in defiance of the verdict,

“Yes, your honor, … you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government.


“Your denial of my citizen’s right to vote, is the denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law, therefore, the denial of my sacred rights….”

After repeatedly attempting to silence Anthony, Justice hunt imposed on her a fine of $100.00, plus “the costs of the prosecution.” But she refused to pay it, calling it “unjust.” She condemned the government’s “man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison, and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government.” Then, in defiance of Hunt’s ruling, she said,

“I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.’”

The “Fight” for Women’s Rights to Equal Treatment under the Law

For Anthony, it is one thing for a government to make splendidly abstract statements, such as “We the people of the United States” and “all men are created equal,” but it is quite another for that same government to recognize and apply the inclusive and universal meanings of such statements to all its citizens, including black and white men and women. Women’s rights, of course, are human rights. However, the advancement of human rights often involves much struggle. By her own experience, Anthony recognized that and, therefore, concluded her speech to the citizens of Monroe and Ontario counties, saying,

“[W]e propose to fight our battle for the ballot — all peaceably, but nevertheless persistently through to complete triumph, when all United States citizens shall be recognized as equals before the law.”

Roughly 47 years later, and several years after her death in 1906, Susan Anthony and Women’s Suffrage Movement finally prevailed on August 18, 1920, with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, in part,

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

In honor of Anthony’s long, arduous efforts to advance the right of women to vote, the United States Senate calls the Nineteenth Amendment “the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.” Unfortunately, the ratification of the Nineteenth and Fifteenth Amendments did not, once-for-all, settle the issue of all American citizens being able to vote, because in some States, many African-American women and men were still denied the right to vote. That leads me to stress still another point, which is that the advancement of human rights is an ever-evolving struggle to be recognized and treated as human beings. Hence, on August 4, 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act and on August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed it into law, so that citizens of any color, in any State, have the right to vote.

Indeed, all men and women are “created equal,” but they certainly are not treated equally. That is why the struggle for human rights, which is the struggle to be treated as human beings, will continue as long as humankind inhabits the earth.

The Meaning of Human Equality, Part I: Abraham Lincoln’s Interpretation of the Phrase “All Men are Created Equal”

Abraham Lincoln

What the Phrase Means

On 26 June 1857, in Springfield, IL., Abraham Lincoln explained the meaning of the phrase “all men are created equal,” after listening to a speech by Senator Stephen Douglas in which he excluded Blacks from its meaning. But according to Lincoln, “the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men.” For Lincoln, then, all humans, regardless of their color or gender, have equally the same nature, namely, a human nature. In other words, they are equal in being humans. In short, Lincoln’s interpretation of the phrase is inclusive, while Douglas’ is exclusive.

Then Lincoln goes on to say, according to a reading of the context of the Declaration of Independence itself, that it

“defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal — equal in ‘certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This they said, and this meant.”

 In fact, a little over a year later, in his Seventh Debate with Stephen Douglas on 15 October 1858, Lincoln reaffirmed that the phrase “all men are created equal” refers to all human beings, not just Whites.

What the Phrase Does Not Mean

On 26 June 1857, Lincoln proceeds to explain what “created equal” does not mean, saying,

“they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity.”

For example, in a foot-race, the person who is faster than I is superior to me as a runner. However, he or she is not superior to me as a human being. Similarly, a person who is smarter than I is superior to me in intelligence. However, that person is not more human than I.

Also, as Lincoln observes, equality does not mean that human beings must be the same in all respects. Although my neighbor and I are equally human beings, his or her color may not be the same as mine. That, however, does not make him or her inferior to me as a person. Rather, it only means that he or she is different from me.

Lincoln realized that the abstract or general meaning of “all men are created equal” is different from its concrete, particular, historical meaning, which a government often fails to live up to its treatment of its citizens. Thus, Lincoln says that the authors of the Declaration

“did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”

The phrase “all men are created equal,” then, applies, as Lincoln says, “to people of all colors everywhere.” Unfortunately, not a few Founders of the United States failed to live up to the Declaration’s words. Thomas Jefferson himself, for example, who was primarily responsible for writing the Declaration, owned slaves. But the failure of the Founders does not mean that the words “all men are created equal” are not true. Rather, it means that its words, through a political process, must be enacted and enforced by the government.

In other words, while the meaning of “all men are created equal” does not change, it must be applied, as Lincoln asserts, to new historical circumstances, such as the one in which he found himself in 1857, namely, slavery. Hence, he says,

“The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use.”

For example, after the American Civil War, Congress adopted the Thirteenth (1865), Fourteenth (1868) and Fifteenth (1870) Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. The Thirteenth, adopted before President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, abolished slavery in the United States; the Fourteenth recognized that Blacks or former slaves, being born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens; and the Fifteenth recognized they have the right to vote. Those three amendments are the political, legal and practical application of the truth that “all men are created equal.”

Minute Meditation: “Strength to Love”

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Agape: Greek for Will-Love or Choice-Love

The title of my minute meditation is taken from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book Strength to Love. In particular, it is drawn from Dr. King’s analysis of the meaning of the Greek word agape, which, in the New Testament, is translated “love.” I call it “will-love” or “choice-love” to distinguish it from romantic or erotic love and sentimental love.

It is a weakness, requiring no kind of strength, to hate someone. Hate is spontaneous, impulsive. It is, in a word, easy. It is taking the “path of least resistance.” Hate involves no inner struggle, no challenge, to will another person’s good, often despite himself or herself.

But love requires hard work. It is a choice, a difficult, arduous task, to will another human being’s good. That is not always easy. Think about it for a moment: Is it easy to love those who want to hurt you? Is it easy to love those who are “unlovable,” having betrayed your trust and trampled upon your values? Is it easy to love those who malign you? Is it easy to love those who do not love you or, even worse, hate you? Not at all!

Love, then, is not a weakness. It often involves a great deal of inner strength and struggle to choose to love those who hurt you, oppose you and even wish for your destruction. The ethic of love was displayed magnificently by Jesus of Nazareth. It is also called “the way of the cross.” It is the way his followers are supposed to live.

Comments on Jeffrey M. Schwartz’s Book “Brain Lock”​

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Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Required Reading for Fall Semester, 2019

Philosophy 2000: Encountering Ethics

Timothy Lent

As a theologian, I have been intrigued by the teachings of Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a research psychiatrist at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). In particular, I have read his book Brain Lock several times. With each reading, I have perceived a certain spirituality emerging from it, but not in the sense of a spirituality from a traditional or organized religion. Of course, in his book, Schwartz was writing about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), not spirituality.

The Difference between the Mind and the Brain

Nevertheless, I detect at least three spiritual or, perhaps, philosophical intimations from the book Brain Lock. First, Schwartz presupposes that a person’s mind is not the same as his or her brain. In other words, the mind is more than a person’s brain. For example, Schwartz teaches that an obsession (an unwanted, disturbing thought) comes from a person’s brain. However, his or her mind did not choose to have the obsession.1 For Schwartz, mindful awareness is the “I” or mind within a person that becomes aware of the brain’s unwanted thought.2

The Difference between the Will and the Brain

Second, Schwartz presupposes that the will, a person’s power of choice, is not the same as his or her brain. Schwartz teaches that a person’s will has more power than the unwanted thoughts from his or her brain. As Schwartz says, “Obsessions don’t take over your will,”3 forcing you to act against your choice.4

For Schwartz, then, there is a difference, as he says, “between your will – your wholly internal spirit – and your unwanted, intrusive [thought].”5 The will chooses (a spiritual or immaterial act) not to act on the obsession or unwanted thought, saying, “I will not do this.”6 Therefore, for Schwartz, the obsession “is not your will, not you, … and it won’t take over your spirit.”7

Spirit’s Power to Change Matter or the Brain

Third, Schwartz presupposes that the human will, that is, the spiritual or immaterial faculty of choice, has the power to change the brain itself. How? For Schwartz, when an unwanted message from a person’s brain occurs, he or she should choose not to listen to it. Instead, he or she must refocus, that is, get active, doing something worthwhile, useful or enjoyable. Schwartz calls a person’s choice to refocus “behavior therapy.” According to Schwartz, a person, by changing his or her thinking and choosing to behave contrary to an obsession, will, eventually, change the physical structure of his or her brain.8

Clarification of Possible Misunderstandings

Please note: I am neither trying to make Jeffrey Schwartz into a Christian nor a member of any organized religion. In fact, I don’t even know if he subscribes to any particular religion. I am, however, pointing out that for Schwartz, a person is more than his or her body and brain.9 There is, for Schwartz, a spirit within a person’s body, that is, an immaterial dimension, consisting of the mind and will. Schwartz is, in philosophical terms, a “substance dualist” or “dualist-interactionist.” He even goes so far as to declare his belief in some kind of Spirit, Higher Power or Supreme Being, saying, “God wired the human system.”10 Schwartz, then, wittingly or unwittingly, enters into the age-old debate: Is there a human mind that is separable from the brain?


1. Jeffrey M. Schwartz with Beverly Beyette, Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior (New York, N.Y.: First Regan Books/ Harper Perennial, 1996, 1st paperback ed. 1997), p. xxxv.

2. Ibid., p. 11.

3. Ibid., p. 14.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid., p. 42.

6. Ibid., p. 43.

7. Ibid., p. 42.

8. Ibid., pp. 70, 71, 74, 75.

9. Cf. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, You are Not Your Brain (New York, N.Y.: The Penguin Group, 2011).

10. Jeffrey M. Schwartz with Beverly Beyette, Brain Lock, p. 76.

Beatitudes for Moral Virtue

The Moral Development of the Human Person as the Imago Dei

Blessed are those

who pursue worthwhile goals,

for they shall find purpose in life.

Blessed are those

who love someone,

for they shall discover the deepest meaning of life.

Blessed are those

who endure hardship for believing in a righteous cause,

for they shall develop moral character.

Blessed are those

who refuse to degrade another human being,

for they shall ennoble themselves.

Blessed are those

who care about the needs of the poor and underprivileged,

for they shall be spiritually rich.

Blessed are those

who feel all alone in standing for justice,

for they shall be sustained by an Invisible Power.

Blessed are those

who are not controlled by money, possessions and pleasure,

for they shall remain in control of themselves.

Blessed are those

who are passionately concerned about a worthwhile issue,

for they shall overcome the indifference of others.

Blessed are those

who are passionate about living for something meaningful,

for they shall make a meaningful difference in the world.

Blessed are those

who will not compromise their values,

for they shall maintain their integrity.

Blessed are those

who don’t give up on themselves, even when everyone else does,

for they shall be vindicated.

Blessed are those

who are more concerned about upholding moral principle than gaining wealth and privilege,

for they shall remain true to themselves.

Blessed are those

who will not allow another person to “walk all over” them,

for they shall develop moral boundaries.

Blessed are those

who do not tolerate every kind of behavior,

for they shall be morally strong.

Blessed are those

who follow the dictates of their conscience rather than the demands of the crowd,

for they shall encourage others to be themselves.

Blessed are those

who speak truth to power,

for they shall change the world for the better.

Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy in a Nutshell: There are no Accidental, Meaningless Human Beings

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“[H]uman existence,” writes psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “can never be intrinsically meaningless.”1 In other words, you were born for a reason. That may be hard to understand, because many people do not even know why they exist. You are meant to be alive. If it were not so, then you would possibly be dead already. But since you are reading my article, you are, obviously, alive.

However, you are, according to Logotherapy, responsible for finding a meaning to your life. That is thrust squarely upon you, not someone else. There is, then, a rightful place for you in the world, as if it were made for you alone. To accept that view, however, requires a faith-commitment, an existential “leap of faith.” Such a commitment cannot be proven logically or reduced to a logical argument. Therefore, take a leap of faith, that is, keep on seeking until you find a meaning to your life. After all, if the search were not worthwhile, you would not be looking for meaning in the first place.

If that, too, fails, then consider another possibility for a meaning to your life, which Dr. Frankl calls “self-transcendence,” a moving away from self-absorption, self-preoccupation, or moving away from focusing all your attention on yourself. In other words, the meaning of your life is directed to others, helping them find meaning in their lives.

Every day, every hour, indeed, every second, life is a choice, either unconsciously or consciously, to live. Despite life’s many uncertainties, you are responsible – either to your own conscience, to others or even to God, or in all three respects – for staying alive. And you will do that much better with, rather than without, a meaning to life. As Frankl writes, giving advice to those who have not, at the moment, found a meaning to their lives,

“[T]ry to be patient and courageous: patient in leaving the problems unresolved for the time being, and courageous in not giving up the struggle for their final solution.”2


  1. Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, trans. Richard and Clara Winston, 3rd ed. (New York, N.Y.: Vintage Books/ Random House, 1986), p. 44.
  2. ———-, The Will of Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1969, 1st printing 1970), p. 95.