Tuesday, September 2
Look carefully: they've got Roman collars on. From the Father Ted TV series.
Eighties Song Parody Ahead
Okay, here and only here: a revision of Jefferson Starship's We Built This City in honor of early music enthusiasts about the struggle between a capella music and choral-orchestral works. Yes, I know, I am a sick, sick man. Eighties Pop and Palestrina...yikes. Blame my father, he listens to it in the car. Starship, I mean. I don't listen to anything written after 1764.
We Built this Chapel
by Vatican Starship (formerly the Sistine Choir)
From their album Knee-Bent in the Pope-la, which also features the Missa super Cyndi Lauper à 6.
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones
Built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
Say you don’t know Condé, or recognize Des Pres,
Say you don’t care who does L’homme armé
Knee-bent at the altar, Venice’s sinkin’ in the night,
Too many Turks gone and beaten up your fight,
Gabrieli plays the bombard, listens to continuo, don’t you remember:
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones
Built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
Someone’s always playing Odhecaton strains,
Who cares, they’re always changing those instrumentation names:
We just want to sing here, knock those sackbuts off the page,
They call us a capella, while modal Ionians stole the stage,
Alfonso’s on organistrum, Praetorius likes continuo, don’t you remember:
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones
Built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
It’s just another Sunday, in a Papal church,
Haugen has the chokehold, and we just got the lurch,
Who counts the notes spaced along the bar,
Who wrecked our organ and replaced it with guitars?
Don’t tell us you like us, we’re just antiphonals
Looking for Palestrina, scholas, not just schools,
(Uncomfortable silence when they realize they don’t have any orchestral backup)
(Uhh…I’m looking out over that Pont Sant’ Angelo on another gorgeous sunny Sabbato and I’m seeing bumper to bumper pilgrims!)
Don't you remember (remember)
(Here’s your favorite camerata in your favorite pizzicato city,
The city by the Tiber, the city that prays, the city that never sleeps).
Vittoria does falsetto, we don’t use continuo, don’t you remember,
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones
Built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones.
We built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones
Built this Chapel, we built this Chapel on polyphones...
The execution of Louis XVI, 1792: today we celebrate other, less famous martyrs of that brutal hecatomb
The Horrors of September or, No, not that Ingrid
Well, if you remember some weeks ago, we ran into St. Magnus of Avignon. Today is his son's feast day. St. Agricola of Avignon is, among other things, patron saint of storks, and of good weather and rain. Nothing on if good weather means no rain, however. Today there's also a whole raft of martyrs of unknown date and provenance with some funky names: St. Hesychius, St. Menalippus, St. Pantagapes, as well as the seventh-century confessor and monk St. Nonossus, as well as two guys named Elpidius, one of whom has the emblem of a vine leaf in winter. There are also, most notably, the Martyrs of September, a group of 191 imprisoned priests and laymen (including Bl. Charles de la Calmette, Count of Valfons), brutally butchered by frenzied revolutionary mobs who broke into their cells in a wave of riots that rocked Paris on this day and the following in 1792 at the height of the Terror. They had refused to collaborate with the Civil Constitution on the Clergy, which would have put the Church under the thumb of the monstrous revolutionary government. They are also memorialized with another feast tomorrow. Let them, and the bloody tyranny they opposed, be remembered. Vive le roi, vive le Foi.
Also have a gander at this Imperial Catechism, showing the way a later despot, Napoleon, tried to bend the Church to his will, leading to the sufferings of another great martyr, this one the "dry martyr" Pope Pius VII.
Today is also the feast of St. Ingrid of Sweden, who has a peculiar resonance with me because first, she was the first Dominican nun in Sweden (go O.P.!), and secondly, Ingrid is a cool name, which reminds me of my favorite (if less than saintly) actress, the redoubtable (and late) Miss Bergman, also Swedish (hey, she played Joan of Arc, doesn't that count for something?) I guess those are hardly earth-shattering reasons to promote St. Ingrid's cultus (which seems to be largely unofficial anyway, and was extinguished by the Protestant iconoclasts long after her death) but still, she seems cool.
Monday, September 1
The Meeting of David and Abigail. Peter Paul Rubens. National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Fun with Sheep and Lighted Candles
Today, we have a rather interesting memorial listed in some calendars, that of the prophetess St. Abigail, wife of King David the Prophet. Old Testament saints are few and far-between on most calendars; in the west, the Maccabean Martyrs were the only so honored in the Tridentine rite (but for some reason were relegated to local calendars in 1969: so much for ecumenism). Farther on back, in western Europe during the Middle Ages, Abel's feast was celebrated on the second of January and Adam and Eve's on the vigil of Christmas. However, in the east, the Old Testament saints were widely honored, and still are in both the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic church year. In eastern-influenced Venice one can find icons of the long-suffering St. Job (sometimes oddly conflated with St. Humphrey the nudist) and a church dedicated to Moses. Indeed, until the most recent edition of the Ramsgate Book of Saints, they were given equal billing with their more recent Christian cousins in the text, with references to St. Isaiah, St. Ezekiel, St. Zechariah, ad infinitum. Incidentally, today is also the feast of St. Joshua, Moses' successor and the first of the Judges of Israel, and also that of another judge, St. Gideon. We seem to be up to our neck in Israelites today, and I think I like it.
In this vein it is perhaps appropriate that St. Anna the Prophetess, one of the last saints of the old dispensation, be remembered today as well. She, in addition to her notable role at Christ's presentation in the Temple with St. Simeon Senex (meaning "old man" in Latin, the root of both senator and senile which isn't a surprise), also watched over the Virgin while She lived in the Temple previous to Her betrothal to Joseph.
More recently, today is also the feast of three different saints all named Giles. The most famous, also called Aegidius, seems to have some sort of weird association with sheep I can't quite fathom. According to one source, in Spain it "was formerly the custom to wash the rams and color their wool a bright shade on Giles' feast day, tie lighted candles to their horns, and bring the animals down the mountain paths to the chapels and churches to have them blessed." Frankly, I feel sorry for the sheep with that whole circus-esque death-defying flaming candles of doom hullabaloo. Among the Basques, today the shepherds return from the mountains and attend Mass with the utmost ceremony with their crooks and their best rams (which must be rather messy), kicking off a big day of processions, dancing, and more sheepish fun.
In England, convicted criminals were presented with a "St. Giles' bowl" of ale before they were hanged. He seems to be another one of those saints invoked against sterility, and is also invoked by people afraid of the night, lepers, the insane, cripples, handicapped people, spur-makers, people associated with sheep and rams in particular, epileptics, those breast-feeding (huh?), breast-cancer victims, and hermits, who probably need someone to talk to anyway. The other two Giles didn't do nearly as much and are rather on the esoteric side of hagiography. The only thing which really distinguishes one from the other is the friendship the Giles from Borgo San Sepolcro had with St. Arcanus, though bear in mind that Arcanus means something close to "obscure" in Latin. There's also St. Constantius today, a former bishop of Aquino mentioned by St. Gregory the Great, which suggests there must just be something holy in the groundwater there, what with a certain plus-sized Dominican being from that general area.
Sunday, August 31
Opening Hymn: When in Our Music God is Glorified (Engleberg)
Gloria: New Mass for Congregations, Andrews
Responsorial Psalm: The just will live in the presence of the Lord, Batastini
Offertory Anthem: All My Hope on God is Founded, Howells
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Amen, Agnus Dei: Mass for the City, Proulx
Communion Hymn: The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, Guimont
Communion Motet: The Call, Smith
Closing Hymn: I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Ellacombe)
Saturday, August 30
Opening Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King (Laast Uns Erfreuen)
Gloria: Notre Dame Mass, Isele
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116, Bower
Litany of the Saints: Becker (OCP)
Offertory Anthem: I Was Glad, Parry
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Amen, Agnus Dei: Mass of Creation, Haugen
Communion Hymn: Gift of Finest Wheat, Kreutz/Westendorf
Communion Anthem: Ego Sum Panis Vivus, Palestrina
Closing Hymn: Lift High the Cross (Crucifer)
On the whole, a beautiful liturgy. Some of the music could've been a little better, but watching seven men dedicate their lives to Holy Cross, the first time I had been to such a ceremony, was quite inspiring. I know several good young (and old) Holy Cross priests, and am confident that these men will continue the recent improvements to Catholic identity here at Notre Dame and elsewhere.
Today has no universal feast, but the Martyrology contains 14 entries. Among the highlights:
1. Saints Felix and Adauctus, Roman martyrs who, side by side confessing Christ in chaste faith, side by side made haste as victors to Heaven.
2. Commemoration of the sixty martyrs who, at the colony of Suffetulana in Africa, having destroyed the image of Hermes, were killed by a pagan mob.
8. Saint Margaret Ward, English martyr of Tyburn who was killed uner Elizabeth for helping Father Richard Watson to escape Bridewelll Prison.
From the desk of the Shrine’s Censor Librorum, of sorts
Recently at the Shrine questions have arisen regarding the nature and efficacy of prayer. Of particular concern was the question as to whether or not prayer has any purpose that extends beyond conditioning ourselves to accept God’s will; specifically, does prayer change the world, or just those who pray?
The position has been put forth that our intercessions before God serve simply to prepare us to accept God’s will. This was particularly captured in the opinion that St. Monica’s tears did not really effect the conversion of St. Augustine, for example. However, I would like to address this belief by raising a few points for consideration. If there are any deficiencies in this little reflection, however, I am quite sure our readers will quickly bring them to light ;).
In the 1967 Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina, Paul VI clarifies that the members of Christ’s body efficaciously pray for one another. By “efficaciously,” I mean that God acts in part because of the prayer of these Christians, and would not have acted without their prayers.
“5. For after [Christians] have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord (11 Cor 5:8), through Him and with Him and in Him, they do not cease to intervene with the Father for us, showing forth the merits which they have won on earth through the one Mediator between God and Man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5), by serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His body which is the Church (Col 1:24). Thus by their brotherly interest, our weakness is greatly strengthened…"
"6. The Church… appl[ies] the fruits of the Lord’s redemption to the individual faithful… leading them to cooperate in the salvation of their brothers. The Apostles themselves exhorted their disciples to pray for the salvation of sinners,” clearly, from the full context of the document, with the belief that these prayers would actually call down the graces of conversion.
Thus the Council of Trent was able to declare, in its twenty-fifth session, “it is good and beneficial to invoke [the saints] and to have recourse to their prayers, assistance and suport in order to obtain favors from God through His Son…”
Drawing on Pope Paul’s words, I would propose the following model to understand the nature of intercessory prayer in the Church. In the thread to which I am responding, there was universal agreement that prayer does not change the will of God. Nonetheless, there is a grand difference between the will of God and the state of the world; God can will the world to be one way when in fact the world as it actually exists is very different. I assume that God wants the entire world to be perfected in holiness, but I can tell you that I am not. Because of our free will, God permits the world to exist in a state which He does not desire it to exist. For this reason Our Lord instructed us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth.”
Respecting the dignity of our free will, God waits to execute His will until He can do so through His servants. This is, in a sense, the incarnational nature of Catholicism -- God works through Man, through Christ and His Body the Church. Therefore, it is the work of Christ (His paschal mystery, His passion and death) which makes the will of God real on fallen earth.
For example, before Christ came no one entered heaven. After Christ came, people could enter heaven. God’s will did not change; He always desired to save Creation. But it was not until after the work of Christ that redemption could take place. Before Christ‘s work, God wanted for forgive all humankind; after Christ, God wanted to forgive all humankind. His will did not change, but the reality did. It was only with Christ’s work that God’s will was MADE REAL.
Both Paul VI and John Paul II have in recent years reiterated the classic position that the work of Christ (which is the manner in which God’s will is made real on earth) is carried on and completed by the Church, which is the Body of Christ (cf. Col 1:23-24). As part of the Body of Christ, Christians continue the redemptive work which makes God’s will real on earth. This work consists in work and prayer, so that the works and prayers we offer to God are truly efficacious in making God’s will present. Without the work of the Church (that is, without the work of Christ in His mystical Body the Church), God’s will would not be made real. (Marialis Cultus, 19: “the Virgin-Church becomes herself a mother.... For by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of God.) Therefore, by the prayers and works of the Church, God’s will is realized, and we can truly say that our prayers effect the Kingdom of God and call down real grace and favors, rather than simply preparing us to receive these graces and favors.
In this way, for example, the tears and prayers of St. Monica did, as the Missal tells us, call down the mercy and grace of God.
God of mercy,
comfort of those in sorrow,
the tears of Saint Monica moved you
to convert her son Saint Augustine to the faith of Christ.
By their prayers, help us to turn from our sins
and to find your loving forgiveness.
St. Monica, baptized into the universal priesthood of Christ, served the mediator of Divine Will by her participation in the Body of Christ. It was immutably God’s will to save and bless Augustine, we might say, but it was the work of Christ, through the person of St. Monica (her prayer and tears), which made the will realized on earth. If Monica had not been open to serve as an instrument of Divine Will, can we really say that Augustine would ever have become a Saint? Because of her baptized participation in the redemptive work of God, saying that her tears moved God to convert Augustine is little different than saying that the Passion of Our Lord moved the Father to convert Augustine. Certainly it was always the Father’s will that Augustine be saved, but it was by the work of Christ (and the work of Christ in Monica and as applied by the Church of which Monica is part) that Augustine WAS converted.
A closing thought. At all times, but especially when speaking lofty principles such as immutability and Pauline co-redemption (Col 1:23) we must be careful not to surrender belief in a God who loves us as “abba,” as “daddy,” who really does delight in blessing his children in ways great and small, spiritual and physical. Off the top of my head I can recall two miracles mentioned by St. Therese in her “Story of a Soul.” The first was a Marian vision. The second, however, was a miracle she cherished far more: that God made snow fall on the day of her profession. And why shouldn’t it be the will of God that he loves to indulge even the smallest longings of his beloveds? To suggest otherwise may well approach Deism, which dismissed the active, material affect of God's intervention and intercession in the world as "un-rational."
“We pay God a great compliment when we ask great favors of him.”
PS - I look forward to any comments and criticisms of this post. However, due to the complex nature of the topic, all significant points made in the comment box MUST be backed up by a direct citation from Scripture, Church documents, or the Doctors of the Church. Any post which makes a significant claim without a specific citation risks deletion.
Seaside, Florida, two hours' drive from my home town and five minutes from the water
I'll be at the seashore today, enjoying one last gasp of the Florida sunshine. The town's an interesting one, Seaside, a perfect model of New Urbanist town planning and a modern interpretation of vernacular and classical traditional architecture; it's also where they filmed that wonderful movie The Truman Show.
Yes, I know, I'm going to the beach and I'm talking about houses and "The Cinema." Shame on me.
Anyway, enjoy St. Fiacre's Day in my absence! He's patron of gardening and taxi-drivers, so if you are going to take a cab to the local plant nursery, he's the one to call. He also is patron of hemorrhoids, hosiers, the piles, box-makers (huh?), tile makers and pewterers, as well as sterility, syphilis and venereal disease in general, but let's not go there, shall we? Also, for Sergei Eisenstein silent movie enthusiasts, today is the day the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates St. Alexander Nevsky's memory, but I always kinda have had a soft spot for his enemies the Teutonic Knights (hello, crusaders, big swords, chain mail, crosses...I don't see any problems here...yeah, yeah, I know, they were Germanic interlopers on the soil of Holy Mother Russia, yada yada yada...), so that's something else I'll just set aside for the time being... Incidentally, his son was St. Daniel of Moscow, which might be of interest to at least one member of this 'blog. Oh yeah, and Bl. Bronislava, a hermitess, is on today. She has a super-cool name: girls, why not consider her for your confirmation patron this year? I mean, she's holy, and Polish, and plus, her name makes her sound like she could beat the snot out of someone in a dark alley. What's not to like?
Friday, August 29
Fr. Rutler lets fly on Manichaean Vegetarians at Gerard Serafin's blog. Don't skip over the final sentence--but don't read it if you're eating blueberry yogurt because it stains when you spray it. Don Jim gives a hilarious commentary on my favorite Baroque church (likely to induce a coronary in Le Corbusier). He is right, you know: it is pretty little: which probably makes the claustrophobia even worse. Also, check out another post on Dappled Things concerning the wanderings of St. John's skull(s). Christopher may have had the face of a dog, but from the number of places that claim the Baptist's skull, well, he has had to have had at least three heads (which reminds me of a trippy-but-kinda-cool antique painting I once saw representing the Trinity). No, I don't think I'm going to take that ball and run with it.
Well, I decided that maybe a doctoral Greek seminar was not the best way to go for someone who doesn't want to be a Scripture scholar. Instead, I'm taking a philosophy seminar on the thought of Soren Kierkegaard. This nineteenth-century Danish philosopher is usually credited with having founded modern existential philosophy and ethics, or at least having developed the concepts that Aquinas laid down for this area. For those interested in John Paul II's theology of the body, Kierkegaard is key to this because existential ethics paved the way for phenomenology, the 20th century school of philosophy upon which the theology of the body is based. From my own perspective, Kierkegaard was an important influence on Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of, if not the greatest theologian of the last century, whom I hope to study in depth. In the class we'll be looking primarily at Kierkegaard's Works of Love, an important work that I read over the summer, not knowing I would take this class - it doesn't usually get regarded as Kierkegaard's most significant work, but my professor seems to think that maybe it ought to be. Whatever the case may be, this class should make an already interesting semester even more so.
Notre Dame graduate William Heyer's proposed design for a new Oratory to St. Philip Neri in Chicago
Traditional Church Architecture Alert
If you like Churches That Look Like Churches, and I do, have a browse around architect extraordinaire Professor Duncan Stroik's portfolio and weep for joy (as opposed to just plain weeping, which is an appropriate response to the work of the Rev. Father Richard "Dynamiter Dick" Vosko). Today, on St. Sabina's feast, check out his plans for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, featured here before, at Thomas Aquinas College, a Spanish Baroque structure with an interior in part inspired by Santa Sabina in Rome. Professor Stroik is a long-standing fixture at Notre Dame, one of the first of the traditional architects to be invited to teach here after architectural genius Professor Thomas Gordon Smith brought about his great classical reforms in the curriculum in the early part of the last decade. Also have a look at the supercool stuff by various architects and students here, especially Michael Imber's designs for Our Lady of Corpus Christi parish in Texas and the proposed St. Philip Oratory for the Chicago Loop, seen above. Sweet! Church building and art may have gotten worse of late, but the tide, hopefully, is starting to turn.
Tomb of St. Ambrose of Milan
Great Churches of the World:
Sant' Ambrogio, Milan
Sant' Ambrogio, the oldest and most important of Milan's churches, was founded in 379 by its titular saint, Ambrose, then the formidable bishop of the city and baptizer of St. Augustine. Today he lies beneath its altar in a dim and solemn crypt. The whole church is filled with the grime and weight of history, making a visit there a contemplative and almost melancholic experience. As you approach it through the arcades of its atrim, the church's facade is low and solid with its great round Romanesque arches and mouldering brickwork, sparsely decorated save for weathered marble spoliae and a few sinister festoons of spiky ironwork. Two heavy Lombard-style square belfries flank the immense triangular gable, dating from the twelfth and eleventh centuries, but seeming even earlier, recalling some tarnished version of the glories of Ravenna. A great octagonal lantern marks the crossing, ringed with delicate arcading. Inside, you glimpse sparks of gold mosaic in the apse amid the darkness. You see the massive tenth-century pulpit that is set atop an ancient Roman sarcophagus, showing both the triumph of the Faith and the inescapability of history, and the death that makes life into history. Wonders stand in the farthest nooks and crannies, like the Sacello di San Vittore, decorated with stiff Byzantine mosaic'd saints in splendid blue and gold.
It is a trip back in time, to Old St. Peter's, to Old St. Peter's after it had stood for a thousand years at the dawn of the Renaissance, and like St. Peter's, the memory of its titular saint is omnipresent. He lies below in a new tomb, placed there after his relics were re-unearthed in the 1850s. It stands in the low-vaulted crypt, in a magnificent and strange glass ciborium framed with magnificent silver angels and arcane Greek inscriptions. Behind the glass lie the dusty, age-picked bones of Ambrose, his mitred skull giving off a strange, varnished gleam in the murky light. Faded scarlet vestments cover in baroque brocade cloth the recumbent corpse, flanked by the even more ancient outlines of St. Gervase and St. Protase, their bare brows crowned with gilded circlets, the golden martyr's palm clutched in what once was a hand. Their relics were discovered during his rule, fitting to lay beside him in death in recognition of his holiness and their bloody witness. And after you leave, there is something strange when you, filled with ecclesial quiet, meditate on his ancient heroism and holiness walking through the teeming, student-crowded Bramante cloisters of the Catholic university that stands nearby.
On this feast of Santa Sabina, why not do the Dominican thing and re-read Dan's account of his visit there as part of our Great Churches series? Of course, very soon I too will be able to give my thoughts on that very same church! I leave for Rome on the fourth of this coming month, and so expect the unexpected with my blogging accounts of my Roman adventures!
Russian nineteenth century icon of the head of St. John
Today is the feast of the beheading of St. John the Baptist. He was decapitated by order of the tetrarch Herod Antipas after being imprisoned by condemning the tetrarch's illicit marriage to the former wife of his half-brother, Philip. Herod himself seemed to take strange pleasure in hearing the Baptist's sermons, but Herodias, his wife, and her daughter Salome, were greatly perturbed by this and schemed to have him killed. The famous story of the prurient dance of the Seven Veils and Herod's rash and criminal oath to his step-daughter are already well-known. The story itself has been told and re-told and had a peculiar (and perhaps somewhat grotesque) resonance among the decadent authors of the turn of the last century, having been celebrated in Richard Strauss's Salome which perhaps over-romanticizes the tale, as well as the strange and sinister illustrations of Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde's own French-language retelling of the story (Wilde himself threatened to defect to France if his strange play was banned in England). The decapitation of the Forerunner also plays a great role in the Grail legends, and of the four Grail hallows (the chalice, the lance, the platter and the sword), one of them, the sword, is almost always said to be that which decapitated him, while in several versions the platter is said to also be that on which his head was placed after his death. He is the patron of the Knights Hospitallers, now known as the Order of Malta, whose three-story building in Rome is considered the smallest sovereign nation on earth.
Today is also the feast of St. Merry or Medericus of Autun, an eighth-century Benedictine whose reputation for holiness became so troublesome he actually ran away from the monastery to become a hermit. He later returned after his brethren discovered his hideout. He is shown in art as an abbot with prisoners and chains near him. He may also be shown experiencing a vision of God the Father or teaching monks. Today is also the feast of St. Sabina, the titular of the Dominican church of Santa Sabina in Rome, and indeed St. Dominic is said to have been greatly devoted to her. The basilica is said to have been built on the site of her house, as before her martyrdom, she was a rich Roman widow who gave over her residence to Christian worship during the persecutions. A patroness of Rome, she also watches over children who have difficulty in walking and of housewives and is invoked against hemorrhage. Today is also the feast of St. Sebbe, King of the East Saxons, the husband of St. Osyth and a hermit after resigning his crown in 694. He is said to be the founder of the first monastery at Westminster. The Catholic Forum saints' calender also lists a saint venerated today named "Hyperdulia," but that has got to be some sort of weird mistake. I mean, really.
Thursday, August 28
According to someone or something called the Truth Laid Bear (oh, now I get it), Holy Whapping is, in the Blog ecosystem, a slithering reptile. Huh. Who'd've thunk it?
Sublimity and Beauty: The Chair of Peter
Towards an Incarnational Architecture:
Part V: A Phenomenology of the Sublime and the Beautiful
Author's Note: Originally, Part V was intended to be devoted to the Trinity, human and divine relationships, and their manifestation in architecture in order to help bring the soul to the ascent through sursumactivity. However, I realize that perhaps I should touch upon this topic first before continuing. [See Parts I, II, III and IV of this series].
Over the last three centuries, a debate has raged in the realm of aesthetics concerning the nature of beauty. The Renaissance spoke of beauty as a fixed, measured, and almost sacral thing, defined by the canons and traditions of the ancients and tempered by the love of God, a thing of contemplation. With the coming of Baroque in the Church, this abstract, almost Platonic view of beauty was replaced by a desire to seek an emotional and intellectual response from the viewer in grasping the whole sum of the building, the concetto or focus of the whole structure, and thus help lead them, by this half-artificial ecstasy, further towards heaven. However, by the time of the Romantics, neither Teresian ecstasy nor quiet Augustinian contemplation was the ultimate goal of art and architecture. Instead, it was to seek out the Sublime.
Chesterton once criticized the over-used word sublime, saying that saying "It is sublime" was inferior to saying "It is beautiful." One stated, truly, that the person viewing the object felt sublime, rather than appreciating the objective nature of the object, which is beauty, not "sublimity." Herein lies the problem with the search for the sublime that obsessed poets and artists from Wordsworth to Turner and beyond to even the Impressionists: it hinges on feelings, and feelings are notoriously slippery things in a fallen world.
The sublime was a feeling of great awe, sometimes verging on fear; there was a hint always of Thanatos amid the Eros among the Romantics with their invented Gothic claustrophobias and morbid ruinous mansions, from the perversions of Beckford to the grotesqueries of Swinburne. The sublime was, at heart, beneath the sacral trappings, a form of titillation, voyeurism: people wanted to be stunned and shocked. The same emotion that caused people to tramp through the Alps leads people to defy death in the neatly hermetic capsules of thrill rides at amusement parks today.
Awe is a wonderful feeling; however, except in the presence of the Divine it never remains steady. Humanity is fickle, and novelty is the only thing that keeps it thrilled. Thus, as the decades passed, the search for the sublime became an all-consuming search for the latest fads, both decadent and wholesome. It became obsessed with the Zeitgeist, with Impressionism and Art Nouveau riding the crest of popularity until they were forgotten. While at first much beauty came of that search--no man can stand before a Monet and not feel God's hand on his shoulder--humanity became bored with beauty, and soon sought to create the ugliest things possible to further thrill themselves.
This is why the art of our epoch includes sliced cows in formaldehyde.
This is a very difficult conclusion to stomach. Should we simply throw out all the good things that have come from this modernity? Certainly the more rancid fruit of the Sublime can be thrown out without a second glance, Jackson Pollock, Gehry, and whatever performance artist du jour is soaking the NEA. But do we cast Tolouse Lautrec's posters on the bonfire of the vanities, burn Degas's sweet ballerinas at the stake, take a wrecking ball to the Horta house? Are we morally obliged to turn our back on the last two hundred years of art?
Mercifully, no. Monet and Manet still had not fully taken on the consequences of this artistic fall from grace, and the residual ghost of beauty still hung over their works. As the centuries past, Beauty's spirit withered, and thus we got things like Francis Bacon and excrement sealed in jars, and scatological Virgin Maries.
This does not mean that rush, that holy rush of excitement we get when we first glimpse the Grand Canyon or see the mountain valleys at our feet is blasphemous. In art, the sublime is, at its core, still something worthy to seek, as is the beautiful. However, one cannot exist without the other. Pope John Paul II's Christian phenomenology speaks of a subjective response to an objective truth, and both are necessary to understand that truth. The man trained in virtue, to use an Aristotelian trope, will love truth with the intensity of the romantic, and he will see true beauty with the awe of the sublime.
The underlying objective rationality of good art is ratified by our subjective and deep response within our souls. Likewise, the sublime within our souls is given resonance by our scholarly and intellectual contemplation of an object. Faith and reason, justice and peace, ecstasy and silence. The concetto of the Baroque, the iconographies of Gothic: both unite truth and beauty, and only there can we find them in their most pure and complete form. It is to these we must look in the future in our search for an Incarnational Architecture.
The sublime seemingly responds to many things: chacon son gout. Taste is fickle, yes, and it is dangerous to tie it down to the timeless canons of classicism. However, even allowing that our minds, as well as our hearts, are marred by the fallenness of the world, there is an underlying frame to all that is beautiful. The pale Nordic maiden and the Asiatic beauty ultimately have the same harmonies and resonances in their proportions. Every human body follows a divine logic in the way it is knit: they even say that, by the scale of the length of our own feet, each one of us has the ideal height of six feet. Thus, the Renaissance philosopher and architect Alberti speaks of concinnitas, "sympathy and consonance of the parts" (ix, 5), and it is this that ultimately underlies the beauty in the earliest paintings of Lascaux to the last canvas of Gaughin, and especially all that lies between. And this beauty, however flawed, ultimately is a response to our own need for the most perfect "ancient Beauty" that St. Augustine sought.
Thus, it is right and just that we be moved by many different beauties in art, as long as we seek to see the links between them. Homo sum; humani nil a me alienum puto. I am a human being: nothing human is foreign to me. Nothing human is foreign to me because God created it and redeemed it by Himself taking on humanity. Let us search for the sublime, but let us never forget to return to see the beauty that lies beneath it after the thrill has been exhausted.
A detail of Botticelli's St. Augustine
Like Mother, Like Son
Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and I ardently desire your peace.
The feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, bishop, doctor of Grace, father of the Church, is remembered today, following on the heels of his mother's memorialization yesterday. St. Augustine died this day at Hippo in the year 430 after a life full of virtue, prayer and scholarship, as well as his earlier life of debauchery, Manichaenism and a common-law marriage. Like St. Peter, he is living proof that when one is open to the grace of God, all things are possible. He is patron of brewers, sore eyes, and numerous dioceses, including St. Augustine in Florida, Kalamazoo and Superior in Wisconsin. He is the ultimate origin of the epigram, familiar in misquoted form as "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," in reference to his observance of local fasting and feasting customs as he travelled from diocese to diocese. He is also one of the saints depicted in the wall-paintings of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame.His emblem is a flaming heart, recalling his words: Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.
Today is also the feast of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, one of the forty martyrs of England and Wales, executed today in 1628 by being hanged, drawn and quartered. His hand is preserved at St. Oswald's in Ashton-at-Makerfeld, England. His birth name was Brian, but he preferred his confirmation name of Edmund instead. So today, all Edmunds, Eds, Eddies and Brians out there, rejoice in the memory of their patron.
Today we also recall the Egyptian ex-robber, monk and martyr St. Moses the Black; St. Julian of Auvergne; the Elizabethan ex-Protestant cleric Bl. William Dean and a St. Vivian, who seems to be identical with St. Bibiana or Vibiana, formerly patroness of the ill-fated old Cathedral at Los Angeles and invoked to ward off hangovers, which is what ensues after having seen the new Cathedral there.
Apparently this is the most happening place on the Chicago campus.
The University of Chicago has had 473 convocations in its history (one each quarter of the academic year, plus on special occasions). Some students scanned in the texts of all the speeches given at each of these convocations, and were able to do term searches. The words "Plato" and "Aristotle," for example, came up very often, but when they typed in the word "fun"........nothing. For those familiar with Chicago's reputation, this won't come as a surprise, but I find it quite amusing, especially in the face of those who say the Notre Dame administration won't let us have any fun.
Wednesday, August 27
Finally, Gov. Jeb Bush has made an attempt to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case. Keep praying, though, as the Florida court so far doesn't seem inclined to honor his request, and still intend on setting a date for her feeding tube to be removed.
Somehow, though, it sounds to me like the beginning of a joke about a bartender. All for a good cause, of course: restoring the splendid Church of Our Saviour (S-A-V-I-O-U-R) in New York. Sounds like an evening of fun. (I wonder what the liberal equivalent would be, Janeane Garofalo and Gene Robertson eating tofu together to raise funds for the repair of the Taj Mahoney?). I guess it proves that even conversion to Catholicism can't rid an ex-Anglican of his love for martinis. I kid. I make joke. Miss Coulter, you can remove your hand from my windpipe now.
Marcel Duchamp’s Dadaist painting L.H.O.O.Q. I don’t get it, either
The Da Vinci Code Cracked, at Long Last
Carl E. Olsen at Envoy Encore, the "banana republic" of Catholic blogs (according to Mark Shea), finally does all Catholics and historians and Catholic historians a great service by refuting the Übercrap known as The Da Vinci Code. He plans to post even more on the subject soon. Keep it coming. I love a good historical conspiracy thriller as much as the next man, but both the history and the writing and the sanctimonious tone of this ponderous tome were utterly unbearable (robed albino Opus Dei assassins? Gee whiz...). I, much to my regret, wasted an evening in the airport reading it after having exhausted my portable library. You may wonder why I read it in the first place; I'm not sure myself. I was out of books, and stuck overnight at an airport with an indefinitely-delayed plane, and had finished my edifying reading during the wait. Sadly, I didn’t have my backup books, either. So I dropped by the bookstore, I see art, I see mystery, I see some hints of conspiracy and the Templars, and then I think, hey, it’s like Foucault's Pendulum. Hardly. In your dreams, Dan Brown.
Foucault was weird and paranoid but at least it didn't take itself so seriously: plus it was written by someone with an attention-span longer than a ten-year-old. It also may have been anticlerical but it pretty much smeared everyone and had a serious undercurrent of self-critical satire regarding our own age's fixation with hidden plots and secret societies, something the deadly dull Da Vinci desperately needed. Plus, heck, Umberto Eco is a real intellectual instead of a pseudo or a posseur. It got to the point I was so bored with Da Vinci I started doodling in the end-pages and writing sarcastic remarks in the margins, something I never do. Amy Welborn has already done her best to point out the book’s numerous shortcomings in her on-target review, while the boberia was so bad has even managed to get a refutation in the secular press, which comes as a great relief. Finally. Mr. Dan Brown, please, before you write another horrible novel with yourself as the thinly-disguised "hero" and go off on another tangent on the frickin' sacred feminine, please remember we Catholics invented it. Ever heard of the Virgin Mary?
St. Monica. Icon by Lu Bro.
Mothers Know Best
A blessed St. Monica's Day to all and sundry, especially Andy on his birthday and confirmation name day (well, in pectore, at least). St. Monica of Tagaste is living proof that a persistent mother is always heard, by both God and her son: her prayers and supplications after seventeen years of sadness and struggle finally led her son, St. Augustine, to become a Catholic after a long stretch as a Manichee (a long stretch in which he even fathered an illegitimate child, Adeodatus, who later was himself canonized). She also secured the conversion of her pagan husband, Patricius, who died shortly after being baptized in much happiness. St. Monica herself overcame many problems of her own, including what seems to have been a youthful addiction to alcohol, as well as the insults of her servants and finally perservered to attain the crown of heaven as the prize of all her sufferings. She is, among other things, patroness of alcoholics, victims of verbal abuse and disappointing children.
Rather interestingly, yesterday (not today as I thought) in the Carmelite calendar, was the Feast of the Transverberation of the Heart of St. Teresa of Avila. I feel bad I missed the bus. Today is also the feast of the Persian St. Anthusa, who was sewn into a sack and thrown into a well. Also today we remember St. David Lewis, a priest-martyr of the Titus Oates plot in England; as well as the Welsh hermit St. Decuman; St. Margaret the Barefoot, another patient mother and husband; St. Ebbo of Sens; Bl. Ebbo of Hamburg; Bl. Dominic of the Mother of God, a Passionist apostle to ninteenth-century England; and St. Gebhard of Konstanze, who has the singular attribute in art of a skull wearing a papal tiara. Today was also recalled in some calendars the spurious "Little Saint Hugh" of Lincoln, the less said of whose legend, probably the better. He is not to be confused of his full-size counterpart, St. Hugh of Lincoln, who was a bishop who had a pet goose who liked to eat from the sleeve of his robe.
Tuesday, August 26
Cryptology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Here you can find a fascinating article on the origins of secret codes developed and used during the Renaissance. As someone who is not very good at figuring out cryptologies but finds them fascinating (I spent a good part of my afternoon experimenting with Abbot Trithemius of Spannheim's polyalphabetic tabula recta), this is a very interesting and informative article, detailing everything from substitution codes to messages hidden in musical notation, knot cyphers and even a primitive form of binary encoding! Most ingenious. Enigma has got nothing on these guys.
Moretto da Brescia. Allegory of Faith. c. 1530. In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg
From Cardinal Ratzinger: "For the early Christians, there was no difference between what today is distinguished as orthodoxy and orthopraxis, as right doctrine and right action. Indeed, when this distinction is made, there generally is a suggestion that the word orthodoxy is to be disdained: those who hold fast to rigid doctrine are seen as people of narrow sympathy, rigid, potentially intolerant [...]. Such a [distinction] would have been incomprehensible and unacceptible for those in the ancient Church, for they rightly understood the word "orthodoxy" not to mean "right doctrine" but [...] the authentic adoration and glorification of God. They were convinced that everything depended on being in the right relationship with God, on knowing what pleases Him and what one can do to respond to Him in the right way. For this reason, Israel loved the law: from it, they knew God's will, they knew how to live justly and how to honor God in the right way: by acting in accord with His will, bringing order into the world, opening it to the transcendent." Thus Ratzinger.
Oh, from the otherwise unremarkable comic strip Kudzu today. The local Protestant preacher's amateur baseball team is facing off against some Catholic monks.
PREACHER: Those Trappists are a bunch of big show-offs!
PLAYER: They're disciplined, all right--you mean the Gregorian infield chatter!?
PREACHER: The illuminated stat sheets!
The Martyrdom of the Theban Legion. St. Alexander of Bergamo, commemorated today, was a member, though he escaped their torture only to relent and lay down his life for Christ soon afterwards. From Jacopo Pontormo's painting (1531) at the Pitti Palace, Florence.
Today is one of those days on the sanctoral cycle where there are so many possibilities, it's hard to pick a favorite. There are numerous early martyrs commemorated today. Among others, there's St. Alexander of Bergamo, who is associated with the legendary Theban legion of St. Maurice; St. Ireneus and St. Abundius of Rome, who was drowned in the Roman sewers; St. Adrian of Nicomedia, husband of St. Natalia and patron saint of arms dealers, soldiers and butchers; and the relatively late St. Victor of Cerezo, who was crucified by the Muslims in North Africa around 950. There's also St. Gelasinus of Heliopolis, a Phonecian actor stoned to death on stage (while in a bathtub, no less) in 297 (tough crowd), who sounds eerily like yesterday's comedic convert, Genesius of Rome. We also recall Bl. Thomas Percy, martyred under Elizabeth in 1572 and the bishop Bl. Vyvain of York, who died more peacefully before him in 1285. On the calendar today is also St. Teresa of Jesus Journet e Ibars, a Catalonian nun and foundress from the nineteenth century who is patroness of people rejected by religious orders, old people and pensioners. On the Russian Calendar, a post-schism monk with the unfortunate name of Adrian of Uglich is recalled today, though he also has a feast-day on something called Cheesefare Sunday. We also, more importantly, recall the martyred Pope St. Zephyrinus today, an early pastor of the universal Church who endured the ridicule of heretics, the fall of Tertullian to the Montanists, and the persecutions of the Romans. A most noble pontiff.
And here's the list of classes that will be keeping me busy:
PLS 341: Fine Arts TH 9:30=10:45
PLS 343: Mechanics/Life Sciences MWF 8:30-9:20
PLS 347: Ethics MW 11:00-12:15
PLS 381: Great Books Seminar III TH 1:05-2:45
THEO 610A: Advanced Greek MW 3:00-4:15
Directed Readings on the Enyclicals of John Paul II: TBA
Monday, August 25
Today we had combined choir rehearsal for the opening school year Mass, including practice of a version of "All Creatures of Our God and King" that replaces all instances of the phrase, "O Praise Him," with another "Alleluia." Besides simply being unnecessary and a shot at the faterhood of God, the change also causes the song to make no sense. The verses are addressed as a command to those "all creatures" to praise God; as far as I can tell, "Alleluia" is not an imperative verb, and certainly not with respect to the subject of the command. The whole affair is pretty ridiculous, especially since we do the real, non-inclusived version of this hymn at Easter each year - it seems that the whole student body (or faculty) can't deal with this. Appealing to the lowest common denominator, or most easily offended, is one of my pet peeves in youth ministry, and it does creep into the atmosphere here at times. In the first category, place our constant use of the "Mass of Creation" at schoolwide Masses, when there are plenty of other well-known or easily learnable settings out there.
Anonymous the Elder, I'm terribly sorry about the delay in my response about Theology of the Body below. Things have been a bit crazygonuts around here. I've written some more thoughts on the subject. Fellow Whapsters, please feel free to chime in at the comments box under the post entitled "They're Using Coconuts!"
El Greco, St. Louis of France with His Son Philip III; at the Louvre, Paris
A happy (and slightly belated) St. Louis's Day to all, especially Franciscans, Missouri residents, and French kings in our audience. St. Louis IX, son of Bl. Blanche of Castille (whose strong personality irritated him), was a noble paragon of Christian monarchy, a friend of St. Thomas Aquinas, an exemplar of chivalry in his crusading spirit, and notable for his humility. After building the gem-like court chapel of Ste. Chapelle to house the holy relics of Christ's passion he brought back from the Levant, St. Louis walked in procession in sackcloth, bearing the reliquary on his shoulder. St. Louis also once said, to an impious courtier who posed him the question of whether it would be worse to be a leper or a mortal sinner, "he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise." Thus St. Louis. He died today in the year 1270 at Tunis on the Barbary coast, and is invoked by parishioners of the archdiocese of St. Louis, barbers, builders, button makers, construction workers, Crusaders, dying children, those in difficult marriages, distillers, embroiderers, French monarchs, grooms, haberdashers, hairdressers, hair stylists, kings, masons, needle workers, parents, parents of large families, prisoners, sculptors, sick people, soldiers, stone masons, stonecutters and tertiaries. Charpentier wrote a splendid hymn in his honor entitled Dies Tubae. St. Louis was also the patron of a shortlived Spanish mission, San Luis de Talimali, situated near my hometown of Tallahassee, which was burned to the ground in 1704 by British soldiers and their Creek allies.
Today is also the feast of St. Genesius the Comedian, the noted legendary martyr who converted to Christianity while on stage in the midst of a pagan Roman farce mocking the Church. He is patron of, among other things, comedians, torture victims, and lawyers, which perhaps suggests the Church has a bigger sense of humor than that She is usually credited with. Today is also the feast of St. Genesius of Arles, another martyr; the nun St. Hunegund; St. Joseph Calasanz, founder of the Piarists; Bl. Maria of the Translation of the Holy Sacrament, from Argentina; and lastly the Constantinopolitan nun St. Patricia, whose blood is preserved in Naples and liquefies miraculously around the time of her feast-day. Naples and environs are a site of many blood relic prodigies; the most famous is St. Januarius, whose blood liquefies several times yearly. In addition to St. Patricia's, the blood of St. Pantaleon kept at Ravello (also, unfortunately, the adopted hometown of Gore Vidal) changes from brown to red on his feast-day. I actually saw the blood with my own eyes on my travels; it is kept in a glass phial and remains liquid much of the year, a dark, murky brown, and dew often fogs the upper part of the container. It is a strange thing to see.
A Dominican, a Benedictine and a Baptist preacher are all fishing in a boat in the middle of a small lake. Around noon, the Dominican says, "I'm hungry. I think I'll go to shore and get a sandwich." So he steps out of the boat, walks across the water and goes to the shop on shore. A few minutes later he comes out with a sandwich, walks across the water, sits down in the boat and starts eating.
A while later, the Benedictine says, "I'm thirsty. I think I'll go to shore and get a coke." So he steps out of the boat, walks across the water and goes to the shop on shore. A few minutes later he comes out with a coke, walks across the water, sits down in the boat and starts drinking.
The Baptist preacher starts thinking to himself. "All denominations are equal right? If they can do it why can't I?" He says, "I need some more bait." So he steps out of the boat, and sinks like a rock.
While he's under water, the Dominican leans over to the Benedictine and says, "Do you think we should tell him about the stepping stones?"
The idea couldn't be better: "For those with serious Hobbit habits longing to venture into Middle Earth for more than a few hours, New Line plans to screen all three films back-to-back-to-back on December 16 in a daylong marathon that will carry over with The Return of the King's global release on December 17."
The timing couldn't be worse... finals week.
I must be obsessed, because I'm still trying to figure out if I could possibly swing it. Who needs to study anyway, right?
Thanks to Dom Bettinelli for the link.
On a side note, shouldn't the trailer be out by now?
Sunday, August 24
After a rather extended blogging hiatus (it's kind of tough when one's computer is packed up somewhere), I have returned to The 'Bend. Since attending the much missed 10:00 Basilica Mass (see Dan's post below), I've been shelving my beloved books, hanging up my Pope on a Slope poster (You know you're a Catholic Nerd when...), and just making the place homey in general. At any rate, my new and improved blogging (now with ND news!) should be picking up again in a day or two. Until then, happy St. Bartholomew's Day!
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Indiana (Televised on Hallmark Channel)
Opening Hymn: Joyful, Joyful We Adore You (Hymn to Joy)
Gloria: New Mass For Congregations, Andrews
Responsorial Psalm: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Proulx)
Alleluia: Murray, OSB
Offertory Anthem: Cantique de Jean Racine, Faure
Sanctus/Memorial Acclamation/Amen/Agnus Dei: Proulx, Mass for the City
Communion Hymn: Take and Eat, Joncas
Communion Motet: Ego Sum Panis Vivus, Palestrina
Closing Hymn: In Christ There is no East or West (McKee)
Saturday, August 23
St. Rose of Lima. Bartolome Esteban Murillo, undated. Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Madrid.
And a happy St. Rose of Lima's day to St. Blog's Parish, especially to all Dominican tertiaries, to Emily on her middle-name-day and to the three generations of Rosas among my relatives. St. Rose, baptized Isabel, was given her more well-known name at Confirmation, a sacrament dispensed to her by none other than Bishop St. Turibius de Mogrovenjo, and later went on, after founding the first social work institutions in Peru and receiving invisible stigmata and a mystical marriage from Christ, to become the first canonized Saint of the Americas, proclaimed in 1671 by Pope Clement X. In addition to being patroness of Peru, Central America, the Americas, Latin America, florists, embroiderers, needleworkers, South America, and the Phillipines, she is also the patroness of those ridiculed for their piety, a protectress I'm sure my fellow Whapsters can appreciate. Check out this image of her from Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
Today is also the feast of a St. Zaccheus, who may either be the Gospel figure or the martyred deacon Zaccheus whose feast day is more typically celebrated with his cousin Alphaeus on November 17. Today is also the day which recalls St. Ebbe or Aebbe the Younger, an abbess of a double monastery at Coldingham in Scotland, who with her nuns was burned to death by Viking raiders on 2 April 870 after she and her charges had mutilated themselves to escape being raped. Lastly, today is the feast of Bl. James of Mevania (or Bevagna), a Dominican friar known for his life of strict poverty and has the peculiar honor of having been beatified (or at least having his cult confirmed) by two popes on two separate occasions. Well, why not?
Karl Rahner, Hans Kung and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger all die on the same day, and
go to meet St. Peter to know their fate.
St. Peter approaches the three of them, and tells them that he will interview each
of them to discuss their views on various issues.
He then points at Rahner and says "Karl! In my office..." After 4 hours, the door
opens, and Rahner comes stumbling out of St. Peter's office. He is highly
distraught, and is mumbling things like "That was the hardest thing I've ever done!
How could I have been so wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into
Heaven, a testament to the mercy of Our God.
St. Peter follows him out, and sticks his finger in Kung's direction and "Hans! You're
next..." After 8 hours, the door opens, and Kung comes out, barely able to stand.
He is near collapse with weakness and a crushed spirit. He , too, is mumbling
things like "That was the hardest thing I've ever done! How could I have been so
wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into Heaven, a testament to the
mercy of Our God.
Lastly, St. Peter, emerging from his office, says to Cardinal Ratzinger, "Joseph,
your turn." TWELVE HOURS LATER, St. Peter stumbles out the door, apparently
exhausted, saying "That's the hardest thing I've ever done..."
Friday, August 22
Coronation of Mary by Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1461), 1454.
Regina Coeli Laetare, Alleluja
Today we remember the Queenship of Mary, promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1954 in his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam: "[T]he Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation." And furthermore, he tells us, "We ask that on the feast day be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon this is founded a great hope that there may arise an era of happiness which will rejoice in the triumph of religion and Christian peace. Therefore let all approach, with greater confidence than ever before, to the throne of mercy and grace of our Queen and Mother, to beg help in difficulty, light in darkness and solace in trouble and sorrow." Thus Pius. As a member of the Knights of the Immaculata, who make the consecration to Jesus Christ through the Virgin, I can think of no more fitting devotion.
Today is also the feast of St. Gunifort of Pavia, an Englishman martyred at Pavia in unknown times and circumstances. His legends resemble that of the curious figure of St. Richard the King from Lucca, and by no means should be confused with the spurious "St." Guinefort who seems to have been a greyhound (why do I keep bringing that up? Because I am incorrigible).
Today we also recall St. John Kemble and St. John Wall, two of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who were executed for their alleged complicity in the trumped-up Titus Oates plot in 1678. Also on the calendar today are St. Sigfrid of Wearmouth, a Benedictine abbot who died this day in 686 and St. Arnulf of Eynesbury, a hermit who seems to have been forgotten about the turn of the last millenium and may actually be identified with St. Arnulf or Arnold of Metz, the patron saint of beer and protector of brewers.
Lastly, today is the feast day of the ninth-century churchman St. Andrew of Ireland, sometimes called Andrew of Fiesole or of Tuscany. He seems to have been an Irish travelling-companion of St. Donatus of Fiesole and later his archdeacon or the restorer of the abbey of San Martino in Mensula. In art, he is portrayed as a deacon curing a paralytic girl. Sometimes he is shown appearing to a sleeping priest; with his sister St. Brigid miraculously transported to his death-bed by angels; or with an Irish wolfhound at his feet. (What is it with dogs and saints this week, anyway?) His cultus is largely confined to the environs of Florence.
Nonetheless, our primary joy today flows from Mary: Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluja!
Thursday, August 21
"Show Thyself as a Mother!": The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard, by Alonso Cano, 1650, in the Prado, Madrid
"I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
"I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?"
--Canticle of Canticles v, 1-5
"They're Using Coconuts!"
In thiiiiiis corner, Mark "The Albino Mole Rat" Shea... In the otherrrrrr, the corpse of His Grace the late Archbishop Marcel "Not Marcel Marceau that Stupid Mime Who Was Probably a Heretic Anyway" Lefevbre... Fr. Johansen has a splendid look at the major Rad-Trad smackdown going on at Mark Shea's blog concerning Theology of the Body and Greg Popcack. I don't have the strength anymore to follow it myself as it's all too depressing, but his more humorous digest of the latest round of shouting-matches sounds about right. Suffice to say, my position is thus: Lefevbre, if you mess-a with the Theology of the Body, I break-a you face, even if you're speaking in flawless Latin and surrounded by lovely clouds of incense. However, I lack the initiative or energy to throw myself against Mark's wild detractors.
I realize that not all who attack the Theo of the Body are Lefevbrists, and not all Lefevbrists necessarily dislike the Theo of the Body...but the attacks have been coming from a RadTrad quarter...so sorry if my snap judgement is given to stereotyping. Whatever the case, Fr. Johansen manages to cheer me up. An excerpt:
"Don't you eroticize the Blessed Mother! She didn't have breasts. The Lord was nursed by a bird which gave him to drink milk from a Blessed Coconut. I read about it in the visions of Grunhilde of Thuringia. I have a deep devotion to the Holy Coconut of Nazareth."
I wonder what they'd make of the Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard? Come on, people, we're Catholics, not a bunch of body-hating Gnostics! Haven't we handled all this already? Anyway, tough crowd. I imagine they'd probably burn us at the stake over St. Flutius.
By the way, for the record, I see nothing wrong per se with being monarchist...but, come now, crowning the Duke of Orleans King of America? That nouveau-riche upstart? You want a Hapsburg in charge. Jeez. Come on, you know, Charles the Fifth, Maria Theresa, they knew their stuff...
I mean, come now, an Orleanist? You ever heard of Louis-Philippe with that idiotic umbrella--
(Sound of duct tape being placed over Matt's mouth. Assorted mumbling).
Angels, Good, Bad and Ugly
After introducing you to St. Uriel the other day, I think it only appropriate to dispense more esoterica from my mental treasury of Angelic lore. Particularly the story of the Council of Rome that lead to Uriel's temporary excision from the calendar, as well as the more permanent removal of several other angelic figures.
While I have a great love of obscure and arcane scraps from the realm of Catholic legend, the trouble with angels is that their seizure by various occult groups has made most tradition about them difficult to sift through, as sometimes the source of many of these pious traditions is somewhat murky. Even a dictionary on the subject written by the usually-trustworthy Catholic Matthew Bunson (of Our Sunday Visitor and well-known for his eclectic encyclopedias on the Papacy, vampirism, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes) too readily dips into dubious sources. For example, I discovered in his book the other day that someone had identified the angel "who encamps around those who fear [the Lord]" from Psalm xxxiv as Midael, a high-ranking officer in the heavenly army. Unfortunately the source of this was Francis Barrett's 1801 work The Magus, whose name alone sounds toxic.
Still, with a watchful eye, one can sift the folklore from the pseudo-magical nonsense. St. Uriel, having been rehabilitated from his condemnation and a constant in all lists of the seven archangels, is a good place to begin. His name means "fire of God" and some have called him both a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim, one curiosity of some of the archangels being their apparent ability to belong to several choirs of the heavenly host simultaneously. Other accounts call him the heavenly choirmaster, angel of music, and regent or prince of the sun.
St. Uriel's personality in legend and literature is one of great submission to the Divine will. He'll endure just about anything. Milton, in Paradise Lost himself praises his sharpness of mind and sight, while the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter reports that such was his devotion to God's will that he was able to watch over Hell without flinching, thus keeping an eye on the devil's machinations. The Sibylline Oracles report that on the day of Judgment he will shatter the gates of Gehenna and call out its inhabitants to their final condemnation. He also seems to have been the cherub who guarded the gate of Eden and the angel who wrestled with Jacob.
But what about his companions? We know there are seven archangel, for sure. Beyond that point, it gets confusing. The Catholic Encyclopedia also names Sariel, Idzikiel, Hanael, Kepharel and Jeremiel or Remiel as possible candidates. At Palermo, in addition to Uriel, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Shealtiel, Jehudiel and Berachiel are commemorated on April 20 as yet more members of the Seven. Consulting lists compiled by St. Gregory, pseudo-Dionysius and other theologians throw in even wilder names such as Chamuel and Zadkiel and further bury us under a confusing angelic morass.
In that morass, there's a few fun tidbits. Jeremiel, for example, may act as bailiff on Judgment Day. Chamuel might have comforted Christ in the Gethsemane and wrestled with Jacob (though he will have to fight St. Uriel for that legend). Zadkiel spared Isaac on Mount Moria and seems to be in charge of the choir of Dominations.
Now what happened to the other de-comissioned extra-scriptural Angels I spoke of previously? On October 25, 745, a synod was convened at Rome by Pope St. Zachary, who feared that the devotion given to many of these angelic figures was growing wildly out of proportion, and that their role in faith had to be further defined. Given the modern-day manias concerning Angels and auras and spirits, perhaps this does not seem as paranoid as it might at first glance. The result was to re-ground the faithful and set the stage for the golden age of Angelology which would come under such commonsensical individuals as St. Thomas Aquinas. This is not to say that there weren't a few interesting legendary casualties along the way. On the whole, though, excepting St. Uriel, the most interesting thing about the rest of this de-haloed crowd are their names.
The angels, besides St. Uriel, who were removed from the calendar in 745, were Tubuas, Inias, Simiel, Raguel, Sabaoc (or Sabaoth, misspelled by me as Sadoc) and Adimus. On the whole, most of these names have little legendary associated with them.
With a few exceptions. Raguel seems to have been the angel who took Enoch to heaven. Where, a preposterous Hebrew legend relates, that patriarch was transformed into the "Lesser YHWH," the ridiculously powerful angel Metatron. Yes, I know, metaphysically impossible. I don't know, I just work here. Raguel himself, the "friend of God" has a few tales associated with him, being in charge of watching over his fellow angels' behavior like a sort of one-man Internal Affairs Department, as well as being in charge of the motion of the Earth. He also is known as Rasuil, Rufael or Akrasiel, which is doubtlessly very confusing for him. Pope St. Zachary had his suspicions and had him axed from the calendar, and he would know, wouldn't he?
Besides him, legends are pretty sparse about the outcasts. Inias (not "Sadoc" as I thought earlier) is known in popular folklore for his reaction to his demotion, not for anything he did before. He was the one whose "means of striking back is to disturb the sermons or profound speeches of churchmen by performing a loud and particularly obnoxious episode of flatulence."
So maybe we didn't lose too much but a handful of funny names and some methane. St. Uriel is respected and back on the calendar and still a big deal in parts of South America. And he's about the most interesting one in the bunch. Though maybe invoking Inias might come in handy after going to a Mexican restaurant. On the other hand, doubtless his duties have been taken over by St. Bean the Great of Mortlach.
I'm sorry I have to part after leaving that image in your head. Never mind.
A Further Apology to Chris over at Maine Catholic, Socio-Religious Gender Problems of Fifth-Century Egypt and some remarks on various St. Alans
Chris, I have to apologize for my semi-humorous treatment of your patron saint over here on his last couple of feast days! St. Christopher deserves better than to be confused with Rin Tin Tin, and there are plenty more legends associated with him than just having a dog's head. Though I still think those icons are kinda cool. Incidentally, the Vatican never culled him completely from the calendar. Unlike the hatchet-jobs done on St. Catherine and St. Barbara, he was removed to local calendars, which vary from nation to nation, diocese to diocese or province to province.
By the way, what's so bad about keeping St. Apollinaris Syncletica on the calendar? I happen to be quite fond of the old girl (presuming she existed, of course). The scary thing is I knew about her before you ever mentioned her on your blog. Funny about all those cross-dressing Egyptian hermitesses, that seems to have been a common problem back in the fifth century. Or even the eleventh, if the Cistercian martyrology is to be believed. Anyway, back to reality.
One more thing about Chris's patrons, since he mentioned he knew of no St. Alan for his middle name. There happen to be several canonized or beatified men named Alan or Alanus: I hope this cheers you up! Here they are:
St. Alanus or Almus of Melrose (d. 1270), a Cistercian abbot at Balmarino in Scotland whose feast is celebrated on June 28.
Bl. Alanus de Rupe or Alaine de la Roche (c. 1428-1475), a Dominican confessor with a popular but unconfirmed cultus and who was noted for spreading devotion to the Rosary and whose feast is given as Sept. 8.
St. Alanus of Quimper (5th cent.), a bishop whose feastday (Oct. 26) is shared with that of St. Alorus, another bishop of Quimper, and of little certain is known besides the antiquity of their liturgical cultus.
And lastly, there is St. Alanus of Gascony (7th c.), a Benedictine monk and founder of the monastery at Lavauer in France, whose feast is celebrated on Nov. 25.
"Saint Beppi," workaholic Russians and Our Lady of Knock
Today is the feast of St. Pius X, Pope, a great man whose holiness in no way should be clouded by the unfortunate schismatic associations that have clouded his name. St. Pius X is the latest pope to be canonized (1954), after his namesake St. Pius V, who had been raised to the glory of the altar in 1672 by Clement X. He was a man of humble origins (with the nickname of "Beppi"), the son of a mailman from Riese, and his humility carried over even when he had risen to the Apostolic See. His papacy was marked by a landmark devotion to the Eucharist, encouraging daily reception, as well as his well-known motu proprio on Church music, Tra le Sollecitudini. On the whole it concentrates on polyphony and Gregorian chant, two pillars of the reforms since encouraged by Vatican II, though perhaps not followed through as much as we would like. Pius X once wrote that preparation for Holy Communion was crucially important and said, even after he died to take the young communicants before his tomb, for "even there, I will bless them." He also coined the phrase "summation of all heresies" for Modernism and authorized the famous Oath against it. He died, it is claimed of grief, on August 20, 1914, fearing the destruction of the First World War.
Today is recalled also Our Lady of Knock, the famed Irish apparition well-known for having been completely mimed, or at the least, wordless. It occurred at 8 PM on this day (also a Thursday) in 1879, and was approved by the local archbishop as worthy of devotion in 1936. We also remember St. Gilbert, a French Benedictine monk of Soissons, later Abbot at Valenciennes, persecuted by a wicked count. While little is known of him, why not read something from the pen of his most famous namesake today? Today is also the feast of St. Bernard (or Giovanni) of Tolomeo, founder of the Olivetan Benedictine congregation. Today is also, in the Russian Orthodox Church, the feast of St. Abraham of Smolensk, sometimes called the "Venerable Abraham the lover of work, of the Kievan Caves." If only we could be all lovers of our work as well!
Wednesday, August 20
This is actually from Monday's Office of Readings, but it's something like 1500 years old, so what's a couple of days, really?
From Saint Gregory the Great:
"Holy men beset by tribulation must endure the assaults of those who use violence and verbal attacks. The former they resist with the shield of patience, but against the latter they launch the sharp arrows of true doctrine. In both types of fighting they win the day through the wonderful arts that virtue bestows, for with wisdom they teach the wayward while showing a courageous contempt for outward hostility; the straying sheep they set on the right path by their teaching; the attacker they suffer and overcome."
How's that for marching orders? (I always did prefer the term "Church Militant" to the rather boring "Pilgrim Church") Even amongst the warfare imagery, though, there's also a pertinant reminder to use prudence in our evengelization and to speak the truth in love, which can be all too easy to forget when Prostestants, liberals, and the culture in general start calling Mom names.
My favorite part of this passage, though, is the assurance that we will "win the day" through virtue, wisdom, and courage. Something to remember in the dark days of our culture.
The Muscular Sadness of Tomas Luis de Victoria
CD Review: Tomas Luis de Victoria. Requiem: Officium Defunctorum, 1605. Gabrieli Consort and Players. Deutsche Grammophon GmbH.
By far, the Requiem of Tomas Luis de Victoria, is the best of the Gabrieli Consort's musical offerings. Which is why, with all that marvelous intensity, it is almost unbearable to listen to. It is perfect recording of a perfect work, capturing a deep, powerful and beautiful sadness. The Requiem is a pure work of Renaissance genius embued ever-so-subtly with the first emotional stirrings of the dawn of the Baroque age. In particular, two pieces stand out, a splendid Taedet animam meam that introduces the Requiem mass proper, an extract from the Matins that would have preceded the burial of the Empress Maria of Austria, and the remarkable quadripartite Absolutio that would have been performed immediately after the liturgy to the accompanying polyphonic singing of the Libera me domine. In between are plenty of marvels as well, combining the openness of Spanish polyphony with the luxuriousness of the Italian school, as well as a majestic chanted Dies Irae.
These two motets, at beginning and end, in particular are expressed with remarkable vigor and power, a muscular, palpable sadness. Once again, the Gabrieli Consort excells at setting the scene for these pieces, providing the physical feel of the Requiem service by accompanying the singing with continuo provided by a dulzian (an archaic form of bassoon), sometimes called a bajon. This was a custom at Spanish Imperial funerals, as records of the time testify, and gives the work a degree of color and realism lacking in other more monochromatic recordings. Such attention to detail is genius, and the genius of Victoria is worthy of such care.
These realistic liturgical touches bring us back to the first time the Requiem was sung. The origins of the Requiem, published in 1605,lie in the remarkable funeral of Empress Maria of Austria, the daughter of Charles V and wife of Maximilian II. She had retired to Spain in 1581, spending the end of her days at the Convent of the Descalzas Reales, where she died in 1603. Victoria, the Empress's choirmaster at the convent, wrote the music for her obsequies. It was a splendid scene, as a manuscript preserved in the Biblioteca Nacional at Madrid tells us.
At the Vigil, according to this account, "...all the servants of Her Majesty [were] dressed in mourning capes, their heads covered with hoods... The royal chapel was hung with black velvet and damasks, as also were the pillars of the church crested with escucheons of the Imperial arms. In the centre, the sumptuous catafalque was supported on a frame 18 feet wide and 54 feet high without counting the Imperial crown at its pinnacle... [F]rom the corners of the catafalque sprung four spires with four candlesticks, each made of gratings of square wood filled with lights, being two thousand surrounding it; at the corners...stood mace-bearers with cowls, black cloaks, and maces of gilded silver..." The Vigil lasted from two to five in the afternoon, being followed the next day by three solemn Pontifical Masses, the final one being the Requiem, celebrated by the Bishop of Zaragoza, concluded by a pangyric in her honor and the incensation and absolution of her remains. "[W]ith this were concluded the royal obsequies of Her Majesty, which were the most solemn and sumptuous there have ever been in Spain." It is a testament to Victoria that you can see the Imperial obsequies in your mind's eye, for the music is truly worthy of such magnificent funereal pomp.
This recording would make a splendid addition to any CD library. Listen to it, meditate on it: this isn't just Gregorian for the bubble bath. This is a window on earthly grief transfigured by heavenly glory.