Tuesday, May 30
Fascinating, and kind of depressing.
The last question worked so well, I have another:
Maria von Trapp mentioned that, in Medieval monasteries, the O Antiphons helped determine what the monks ate in the days leading up to Christmas.
She mentions that for the antiphon "Root of Jesse," they would eat root vegetables, and for Key of David they served Wine, in reference to the keys held by the monk in charge of the wine cellar.
So, does anyone know the rest? (O Wisdom, O Lord of Might, O Dayspring, O Desire of Nations...)
So... Bishops can let people stand when the Liturgy tells us to kneel in order to be "pastoral"... Unless the people don't want to stand, in which case we need to force them to stand and make kneeling a mortal sin, dammit, in the name of being pastoral to people who don't want to kneel! The rest, we'll "invite to leave the diocese." Because... there's too many Catholics in California, anyway.
This bishop better be careful. When Arinze and Benedict hear about this, he'll be replaced by someone like Fabian: it's what the Vatican did to Milwaukee, and what the Vatican did to San Antonio. They'll let this guy do what he wants, and then promptly send someone to un-do it the day he retires.
Today, we took a trip to the local St. Vinnie's, at which place I obtained the following:
- The Year and Our Children (Mary Reed Newland) - 10 cents (!!) (Sorry, Em...)
- Theology of Revelation (Gabriel Moran) - 10 cents
- Good Old Plastic Jesus (My Dad's 4th-grade catechetical text, incidently) - 10 cents (!)
- My Prayer Book (Catholic Devotional from 1908, with approbation by Pius XI) - 10 cents
- The Cross and the Switch Blade - 10 cents
- Shoter Christian Prayer - 25 cents (!)
- Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Altar Edition - $1.00 (!!!)
And from the Eastern Rite:
- Byzantine Office of Matins (!)
- These are My Rites (E. Finn, SJ)
- Greek Orthodox Missal (!!)
- Greek Orhtodox Children's Missal (!)
- Christian Spirituality of the East for Western Man (Doherty)
- Light for Life: the Mystery Celebrated
- Episten Lectionary of the Eastern Orthodox Church
I love Holy Cards. I really do--especially the paper ones (the laminated ones just don't do it for me...). Anyway, I was looking for a Holy Card of St. Joan today, and I realized just how many unusual holy cards I have.
- Prayer to the Wound in the Holy Shoulder
- St. Robert Bellarmine
- St. Blaise
- St. Wenceslaus, complete with horse stepping on Moor
- "All Saints," in one holy card
- Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (the original Patronage of Sacred Heart Basilica, ND)
- St. George... surrounded by Boy Scouts in uniform
- Novena to the Most Powerful Hand
The nomination for "Most Sketchy" Holy Card is one I purchased at an American Shrine, entitled La Diosa del Mar. That prayer, I've never recited.
Then, friends, are the Relationship Holy Cards: one set for boys and girls who are "courting," another set for husband and wife. The back of these cards offers helpful advice.
The Six Rules for Happy and Successful Courtship suggest more or less the same things for boys and girls...
(1) Frequent Holy Communion
(2) Pray to the Blessed Mother
(3) Iminitate Christ/Mary
(5) Be Mature
(6) Esteem the Sacrament of Marriage and the Family.
Girls: Be rich in womanly interests and skills, like cooking, sewing, and homemaking.
Boys: "Grow in the art of conversation."
What advice do we have for married couples?
(1) Show affection
(2) Don't nag
(3) Ask forgiveness
(4) Women: Compliment your husband, it makes him a better husband.
Men: Compliment your wive. It makes hera better cook.
(6) Be sociable and get out of the house
(7) Eat and Drink Moderately
(8) Men: Admit your mistakes.
Women: Dress attractively, and keep your home cheerful
(9) Keep your... (women: household, men:work) problems to yourself
(10) Pray together
Everything I ever needed to know... I learned from a Holy Card?
Monday, May 29
In his autobiography Milestones, Card. Ratzinger spoke of the "Mount of Olives devotions" which occurred in Bravaria in Lent.
What are these?
The Pope at Auschwitz
Friday, May 26
Sorry. Just bragging about my lovely graduation present, a replacement for Babbage, my five-year-old desktop model. He's still chugging along and has served me well during my time at ND, but he's kind of hard to take on a plane. Unlike my still-nameless Lappy. Maybe I'll call it Bridget. I have no idea why. Good Irish name. You know the whole connection, Irish abbesses, technology. (Like tennis and rabbits). It just popped into my head. Now...you'll get to hear from me on the road, in the air, everywhere! You won't be able to get me to shut up!
Thursday, May 25
What happens when you lose a statue of St. Anthony?
~The Sober Sophomore
Anglican Use Conference Update
Urgent Prayer Request
UPDATE: Talk about a rapid response! Not within five minutes of posting do I hear that everything's more-or-less back to normal. Well, she's got a big knot in her forehead for now, but the doctor says she's fine and she's back at home. Fortunately she has a good, hard, Cuban head. Keep praying though, just in case. Plus we're all a little frazzled around here.
Wednesday, May 24
I Advise La Lorenza on Her Post-Graduate Education Plans
Matt (11:01:17 AM): There's always the Medieval Institute at [Notre Dame].
Matt (11:01:33 AM): When you graduate from that, they do a special ceremony that involves hitting you with books.
Matt (11:01:40 AM): And shouting 'liber' or 'volumen' or something.
Lauren (11:01:59 AM): LOL.
Lauren (11:02:03 AM): Liber.
Lauren (11:02:11 AM): Also -- what?? [G]
Matt (11:02:20 AM): That's what I heard.
Matt (11:02:24 AM): I have nooooo clue.
Matt (11:02:42 AM): It's arcane, it's esoteric, it's ritualistic, it makes no sense--ergo, it's cool.
Tuesday, May 23
Academic Garb is the Bomb.
A short history and explanation of academic robes.
I'm Falling Down on the Job
...since, as head vexilologist (flag nerd) at The Shrine, I did not know that Montenegro (the nation, not the guy who wrote the theme music for I Dream of Jeannie) has not only finally gotten around to moving out of the condo she's been sharing with Serbia since Yugoslavia disappeared, but she's got a rather splendid new flag, and she's had it since 2004. Though she only declared independence on the 21st of this month, so that's not too bad, I guess. (The big problem now is sorting out who owns which Beach Boys records).
I've had a soft spot for Montenegro's flags ever since I was a child, what with the lion and the double eagle and the crowned "HI" on their old war flag which was really the Cyrillic cypher of some prince or other named Nicholas. (Краљ Никола I Петровић Његош, if you want to get technical). In retrospect, I think it would have made a more dignified replacement for the inevitable "Hi" on that creepy TV screen Mr. Rodgers used to have, the one he used to show educational videos about bathroom fixtures. (Really. You know me well enough to know that's actually pretty believable).
What makes this even more interesting is that it's one of a goodly number of former Eastern Bloc republics who have taken to adopting the old monarchic insignias of pre-Communist days. Russia and Serbia have already done this, and have taken up the old Byzantine double-headed eagle as well. Bulgaria has, as well. Montenegro's changed hers around a little bit, but the general theme's the same. This isn't so strange, as the aristocratic Republic of Genoa long had a crown on its coat of arms, and turreted mural crowns have long been a symbol of republican city-states. I will conclude by suggesting that the U.S. should pick up on this trend by re-introducing the ducal corno of the Republic of Venice, not to mention wigs and ceremonial umbrellas. Entertaining headgear always makes politics much more relevant.
To Quote Terry Pratchett, I Aten't Dead
Translation: That means we're all graduates here at The Shrine now. Em now has a shiny new diploma she can call her own and I can put B.Arch. behind my name and wear a purple tassel (there is no way I'm calling it lilac, buddy) on my cap if ever the mood strikes me to dress up as Professor Grover from Sesame Street. That being said, The Shrine's gonna keep on going as always. About the only change anyone plans on making is re-writing the subtitle slightly to fit current circumstances. And maybe a bit more regular posting since I now have my weekends (what a concept) back!
I've got some more thoughts on graduating and what I want to do with the rest of my life which I hope to post soon... Fortunately, I have a pretty good idea as to what that is right now, and it includes the certainty of gainful employment.
Thursday, May 18
Is this for real? It reads like a spoof.
A priest friend of mine summed up the ecclesial chaos of the 1970's: "It's all about sin, Drew. It's all about people justifying their behabior to themselves." The heresy, the sacriledge, the abandonment of religion.
That maxim came to mind just now--
"Rich DVC actor happy to believe anything that dilutes the moral challenge of Jesus--er, that Jesus was married."
"Why, I bet Jesus had 1 kid, a 3-car garage, and a little place along the Sea of Galilee to get away. Jesus was just like me--I'm just like Jesus!"
Then again, if I were making millions of dollars defaming Someone Who preached that the rich enter heaven like a camel passes the eye of a needle*... well, I'd want to dilute his prophetic witness, too.
Because, usually, when it comes to sacriledge and heresy... it's all about justifying sin.
* This is a parable where historical context is important, actually. I read an explanation that an "eye of the needle" was slang for small holes cut into the sides of city walls. In order for a camel to pass through an eye of the need, the owner would have to unburden the camel, removing all of the possessions it was carrying. The message thus becomes less one of hopelessness for the salvation of "the rich," but rather--continuous with other Gospel incidents--a command to give alms to an extreme of generosity, because... "you can't take it with you."
Wednesday, May 17
... "Because anything less is just Episcopalian!"
Extensions are both man's best friend and worst enemy. On the one hand, being granted a reprieve on a paper can mean the difference between a D and an A-B. On the hand, it also extends the pain and suffering.
Anyway, I finished for the year a day or two ago, with a 27-page paper proposing the affectus / intellectus debate surrounding mystical union with God surfaced in the late Middle Ages, whilst being completely unknown to Augustine, because Augustine and the late Medievals ultimately held varient epistemologies of God. Well, we'll see.
So, naturally, I've spent most of the last few days not thinking thoughts theological. Actually, I just bought a nice Spanish Guitar CD and an OK Yodelling CD :)
Right. Thoughts non-theological. So, the Government has decided to build a freakin' huge fence between the States and Mexico.
I have very mixed thoughts about this. I must observe that anti-immigrationism (if the president can say "strategery"...) is a solidly W.A.S.P-y preoccupation, and, since immigration tends to Catholicize the country or at least de-Protestantize it, has very Know-Nothing associations, viewed historically.
And, because none of us (except 1/128 of me) has any native claim on the land anyway, my gut instinct is generally that immigration into America is both good and something we have a moral obligation to support.
This makes me sincerely support legalization of illegal immigrants, especially when one realizes how terribly a person with no governmental protection can be abused by the anti-humanitarian tendencies latent in American capitalism.
Sed contra, there is one difference between democracy and mob-rule, and that difference is defference to the Law. I'm tempted to channel Javert: "the Law is not mocked." To hold the Law in contempt, or worse, to form new citizens with a contempt for the Law, lays the groundwork for mob-rule over democracy, and that cannot be.
So, I'm rather torn over the issue, but I tend to think--as distasteful as a huge wall would be--that legalizing the immigrants here, while enforcing existing legislated border regulations in the future, is the best answer, and so far as I believe that, I'm surprisingly pleased to see the Senate doing (for once) what I might have done.
Tuesday, May 16
Iste movie has gotten poor reviews from critics.
So I just got the following email:
We may immediately issue a warning, temporarily suspend, indefinitely
suspend or terminate your membership and refuse to provide our
services to you if we believe that your actions may cause financial
loss or legal liability for you, our users or us. We may also
take these actions if we are unable to verify or authenticate
any information you provide to us.
We inform you that your eBaY account could be suspended
if you don't re-update your account information. To resolve this
problems please use the link below and re-enter your account information.
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Thank you for your patience in this matter.
Regards, Safeharbor Department (Trust and Safety Department)
eBaY Inc. Please do not reply to this e-mail as this is only a notification.
I'm tempted to give them my credit card information just so they can take the English as a Second Language follow-up course..
Things I Learned Watching the Remake of The Poseidon Adventure
A bunch of us went out to watch Poseidon at the theater to celebrate a pal's birthday. I think the consensus can be summed up by the fact that at the end, when the music swelled and the survivors got rescued by the helicopter and the screen cut to black, we all burst out laughing.
We all thought it schlockily amusing, though I'm not quite willing to admit it to the elusive pantheon of the likes of Destroy All Monsters or They Saved Hitler's Brain. It was acceptibly awful, if not a Crow T. Robot-worthy masterpiece of badness. Still, it was not without some instructional content. Some of these are mine, though I can't take credit for all these conclusions:
1. Bare crosses (the kind you see in Dick Vosko renovations) can be surprisingly useful.
2. Ordinary people have extraordinary capacity in their lungs and can stay underwater for about ten minutes at a time without suffocating, unless they are the tragic doomed illegal immigrant character.
3. Poor stowaways typically dress like they're about to go clubbing.
4. If you're going to get secretly engaged, reveal it to your father right before you're all about to die.
5. There are large and very flammable cylinders of compressed air just lying around the bottommost part of a ship.
6. Passengers inside of a capsized ship must risk all sorts of perils, such as surprisingly bad CGI.
7. When in a crisis situation, it's better to end up with a bunch of Thomists than a group of Utilitarians.
8. Those useless "you-are-here" diagrams in places can be decyphered while upside-down, in low lights and while you're knee-deep in water.
9. Waiters are apparently expendable, but their girlfriends are not, or at least get a decent boo-hoo when they die.
10. Titanic wasn't that bad, after all. At least the costumes were pretty.
11. From the previews: Anne Hathaway now has black hair, and also the Inquisition has been re-established as the fashion journalism industry.
12. The best people to have with you when a ship is sinking are Rudy Giuliani and...the guy from...um...Stealth?
13. Also, Christine Daaé is Giuliani's daughter.
14. A movie at least has some redeeming features when they're compositionally restrained enough to omit a scene where they go back into some burning hellhole for a beloved family pet at the expense of women and children.
15. The comparison of flash-fire burns to rice paper is apparently a valid analogy that would just normally come up in conversation without a script-writer to think it up.
16. The movie definitely would have been better with Leslie Nielsen, because we'd have known they were kidding. Or, perhaps Tom Cruise in a cassock.
17. While we're on the subject of Tom, is it just me or does anyone find it creepy that the girl in Mission: Impossible III is essentially a clone of Katie Holmes? What do they do, keep backup copies in cold storage in the subbasement of Warner Brothers?
18. From the previews: Someone thinks that it would be a good idea to make a movie about illegal Japanese parking-garage automobile racing. Or something.
19. From the previews: Apparently, Anne Hathaway the actress and Anne Hathaway the wife of Shakespeare are two different people. I did not get the memo. My guess is that it all goes back to Jane Seymour.
Catherine the Valiant
Hothead Cardinal de Montalais (Victor Saenz) and the clever Cardinal Lagier (Robert DeBroeck) scheme in the papal antechamber.
Mother Catherine (Joanna Emilian) confronts her archenemy, the nefarious Cardinal Flandrin (Joseph Jaskierney).
The Pope (Jon Buttaci), weak but well-intended, is moved by the good saint's entreaties to return to the Eternal City.
The cardinals find they're losing traction with the Supreme Pontiff.
An a-moral warrior bent on conquering Italy, the Duke of Anjou,(Ian McDole) and his ally, Countess Ursina Sforza (Elise Wetzel) want Catherine out of Avignon. Or else.
The cardinals enlist the Pope's ailing father, the Count de Beaufort (Matthew Alderman) to shame the Pontiff into staying.
Catherine tries to reach out to the old man.
Our two romantic leads, Catherine's ward Margherita (Morgan Cullen) and her would-be crusader Count Vincenzo (Joey Caudle), try to reunite after a tragic misstep on Vincenzo's part.
Anjou disarms Vincenzo and tries to make him his prisoner.
And lastly, with the lovers reunited, the papacy saved and Anjou rendered powerless, Margherita and Mother Catherine share a quiet word about life.
"Mother Catherine," says the young girl, enthralled to have her sweet Vincenzo back, "have you ever been in love?"
"Margherita mia," replies the saint, with the crucifix behind her, "I have always been in love!"
Monday, May 15
As long as we're promoting conferences around here...
Nowhere else will you see Kimberly Hahn, a G.K. Chesterton impersonator, a Whapster or two, and an entire fieldhouse full of Catholic booksellers all in one place!
Today, May 15, is the last day to pre-register, but you can still sign up at the door.
Saturday, May 13
25 Years Ago
25 years ago today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Pope John Paul II was shot.
Our Lady, at Fatima, between May 13 and October 13 of 1917, had predicted that unless penance was done, Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. She had predicted, we know now, that unless penance was done, the Pope himself would be shot and killed.
25 years ago today, the Pope acknowledged by all as precipitating the end of Russian Communism was shot. He was, however, not killed: just as the gun fired, the Pope had suddenly leaned forward to look at a girl holding an image of Our Lady of Fatima. Because of that sudden movement, the bullet missed its exact target, and the Pope's life was saved; his mission to the world continued another 24 years, witnessing indeed the end of viable Communism and fighting in many ways the other materialist errors Russia had spread throughout the first world.
Attributing his deliverance from the attempt on his life to Our Lady of Fatima, he had the bullet shot by the assassin inserted into the crown of the statue of Our Lady at Fatima itself. Today, that statue made a pilgrammage to the exact spot where the Holy Father was shot, and the above plaque was place at that same spot by order of Pope Benedict XVI.
It is Benedict XVI, in fact, who officially interpretted the famous Third Secret of Fatima when it was released by John Paul II a few years ago. The contents of this secret, and Benedict's commentary on the secret, have precipitated John Paul's widespread acknowledgement as "the Fatima Pope," the pope through whom Our Lady's intercession before Christ the King won the epic battle for humanity that was the 20th Century. Though society and the Church continue to recover from the deep wounds of that century, with each passing day there is less and less doubt that recovery is precisely what we are witnessing today.
Friday, May 12
For those of you new to the blog, the Anglican Use Society promotes the Pastoral Provision, a papally-approved canonical process (John Paul tested, John Paul approved) by which former Episcopalian parishes can be brought over en masse to Rome while preserving the legitimate diversity of their liturgical traditions. For that matter, it also has the additional luster of being the only form of the Roman Rite currently in use which has a decent English translation.
I'm actually one of the speakers. I will be giving a presentation on my penultimate project as a Notre Dame architecture student, a hypothetical design for an Anglican Use city parish in Chicago, in a manner which squares with the conference's theme, "Conversion to Catholicism." I hope to discuss in particular the way the building symbolically points back to the Anglican Use's mingled Roman and English roots.
While I'm not listed yet on the schedule--there was a last-minute re-shuffle--you can have a gander at the rest of the the rest of the speakers at the Society's website. I'll be presenting the evening of Monday the 5th, 7 PM. The slot before Cardinal Dulles. I'm not boasting--it's just the way things worked out. It's a great honor--and a little daunting, too. I guess that makes me the warm-up act for the Cardinal. It's just a relief I'm not coming after him!
It's the Swords...
Thursday, May 11
Another New Church
Here's Duncan McRoberts's splendid design for Holy Redeemer Church, Vancouver, Washington, currently at the fundraising stage.
I was recently told that there are 10 members of the graduating class entering Holy Cross' novitiate next year. In addition, I'm aware of ten others graduating this year who are, or are very seriously contemplating, beginning studies in dioceses or other orders.
Say a prayer of thanks and a prayer for these young men!
Clarification: I ought have said 10 men were entering formation with Holy Cross, not the novitiate proper. My bad :)
"Uh... Just what I've...always...um...wanted, Hugo. A giant crayon drawing of a ninteenth-century revolutionary. Brilliant."
(thinking) Ah, dang it, I knew I shouldn't have ordered the Big Gulpee Coca-Cola before one of Chavez's five-hour speeches...
A new all-time low in post-Soviet world Marxism: Hugo Chavez and Italian politician Fausto Bertinotti attempt to enter the World Ballroom Dancing Competition Finals as a publicity stunt.
"Now all you gotta do is...hunch all up on yourself, pretend you're holding a mystical orb in each hand and... DeVito. DENIRO! DELUISE!!"
Fromt the monthly newsletter of Resurrection Episocopal:
Read the prayer intentions for the month of May.
Continuing the Parade of New Church Designs
A lovely little neo-Romanesque church from HDB/Cram and Ferguson in Boston, planned for Farragut, Tennessee. Immensely charming, and managing to turn the inevitable budgetary constraints into a stylistic virtue.
By the way, if you haven't been over to Duncan Stroik's webpage in a while, it'd do you good to take a trip. He's added a lot to his portfolio of late, showing a wide variety of projects and styles. In particular, I have to blow my own horn and point out St. Mark's Parish--since last summer when yours truly was working for him, I got to do most of the watercoloring on the two perspectives shown.
Drudge Report is currently running
with the headline
"CHURCH DAMNS DA VINCI"
about the Greek Orthodox Church, in Greece, saying that it "does not call on people either to see or not to see the film, or to read or not to read the book ... but it is sure that those who do will see the lies and reject its riduculous content."
This is a design for a new Catholic church planned for Leawood, Kansas, by Columbus-based Meleca Architects, with the assistance of liturgical consultant Dennis McNamara of Mundelein. It's quite intriguing...especially because it's one of the more unabashedly neo-baroque of the current crop of classical churches being built today. Check out those volutes! The domed baptistery! My only quibble is the porch seems a bit deep on the side, That being said, the design is quite striking and represents a very promising contribution to the present liturgical revival.
Papier mâchè tiara tip: The Society of St. Barbara.
The ICRSP Does it Again!
The supremely awesome (to use the canonical term) new bishop of Kansas City, Robert Finn, has recently re-opened Kansas City's shuttered oldest church as a special Latin Mass parish. With himself as pastor and none other than our buddies at the Institute of Christ the King as the staff. As is their typical practice, the Institute's taking on a bit of a white elephant as the church needs a fair amount of renovation (I think the building's not open yet, and masses are being held at a neighboring parish), but knowing them, they'll pull it off. Info on mass times and donations can be found here.
Wednesday, May 10
The Best Response to The Da Vinci Code I've seen of late
Ralph McInerny, erstwhile director of Notre Dame's Jacques Maritain Institute for Thomistic studies, has been honored with his own institute.
The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies is opening with the heady goal of tackling modern-day problems with, in part, time-tested reasoning.
It is affiliated with Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
Return to Planet of the Karolingian Ordo
Even if you don't have time to submit your own proposal, feel free to chime in on the various discussion threads that are now percolating over at The New Liturgical Movement. It may seem odd to some to spend time coming up with draft proposals but I think it a fine springboard for thought. It spreads awareness of liturgical issues, and at the very least, may influence the generation of young Catholics who may eventually have to help deal with such an issue as liturgical reform in the future. At the very least, it teaches you a bit about the old and new rites, and the question of how to integrate organic development with the necessary central authority needed to prevent liturgical chaos and, ahem, (Scott Hahn-esque pun ahead) mass confusion.
*I don't really like the name any more, since it's somewhat dubious Latin, but it's sort of stuck. At the time I thought Karolingianus would be the Latin adjective for Karol, i.e., Karol Wojtyla, JP II. I chose this because Iohannopauline is too long and Wojtylian just weird. Turns out it's really more like Karolianus (or Carolianus) or suchlike... And don't tell me Latin doesn't use Ks. I will spell it Kalendarium until the day I die.
I mentioned not long ago, I think in this blog, that France has the second highest birthrate in Europe, I believe 1.79 or higher (replacement being 2.1).
Germany, of course, has the lowest, with almost 30% of German women choosing to be childless.
Were I to speak to the writers at the L.A. Times, I would adamently point out, however, that though I am "aghast" (to use the story's words) at Germany's dislike of children, I am not a "religious fundamentalist." I strongly encourage the entire news media to re-discover that "fundamentalism" is
(1) A specific movement within Christianity
(2) A American Protestant movement, which in its principles of subsuming the discoveries of honest science to Biblical literalism is distinctly un-Thomistic and un-Catholic. It was John Paul II's conviction, the Catholic conviction, that the Scriptures do not contradict good science which allowed him, and most Catholics, to confess that "evolution is more than a possibility."
I suppose someone might argue that the word has "taken on" the meaning of "someone who actually believes their religion is true," but in an age when we are so careful to avoid even slightly pejorative language, I would think that journalists would attend to the way in which this usage is not only inaccurate, but unappreciated.
Though I have to admit the worst case of ignorance in religious labelling in journalism which I have ever seen was the dubbing of jihadists as "born-again Muslims," a ridiculously oxymoronic title indicating that the author has neither read the Gospel of John nor has any basic hold on the tenets of Christian belief and vocabulary.
Tuesday, May 9
FSSP Requiem for John Paul II, Rome, 2005
I love it. I mean, black vestments, suitably mournful skulls and bones, a tiara (!), ad orientem liturgy, incense, massed banks of candles, maniples, a subdeacon, and an enormous and slightly jury-rigged catafaque crammed into Rome's tiniest church? And asking for the repose of the soul of the great John Paul II?
Boys and girls, it doesn't get any more Piously Over-Devotional than this.
Unpublished letter to the Observer
"So, what of Eve Ensler’s play? By all means, let students read (though not enact) it. But let them look into those scenes only with the right Virgil at their elbow, one who will teach them that what they see there is a grotesquely misdirected eros, a strangled cry from a living hell."(Read the full letter)
This debate has truly amazed me in terms of the level of Catholic intellectualism at this University. Just when I think the problem has been attacked from every possible angle (Gnosticism, The New Springtime), one of our esteemed professors comes up with yet another intelligent facet from which to view the problem. This is a complicated, nuanced issue, and as such demands nuanced, well-thought-out responces. I think perhaps the greatest sign of hope here at Notre Dame is that we have faculty who are so well equipped to provide answers to this problem, and problems of the modern age in general.
Sunday, May 7
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine.
Photo by M.E. Walter from an idea by Matthew Alderman.
So, the Sober Sophomore and I were out last week with friends and we got into a bit of a shutterbug mood. In short order, the two of us were trying to find the perfect allegorical still-life arrangement of a glass of Murphy's, a friend's rosary, and a couple more things. Here's the result. Read the Amazing True Story behind it over at her place. It was a team effort, though it was she who got the angle right in the end!
If at some point one of us writes The Great Notre Dame Novel, this thing is going on the cover.
Saturday, May 6
Is the election of Benedict XVI re-vitalizing the Church in Germany?
"There seems to be a rebirth of the faith in Germany, some observers say. The number of students of theology and of adult baptisms is increasing, as is that of Catholics returning to the Church.
Meanwhile, the number of those leaving the Church is decreasing, reveals a study carried out by Vicente Poveda Soler, correspondent of the main German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).
Benedict XVI's papacy "has been amply analyzed by the press as an important step in the total rehabilitation of the country 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Hitler's suicide and the end of World War II," said the journalist.
The most significant change is that the Pope has passed from being regarded as "guardian of the faith" to "pastor."
In Germany this climate of restoration of confidence in the Church and its Holy Father has been translated in an increase of interest in religious topics and a marked decline in the number of those leaving the Church.
In 2004 there were 101,252 defections recorded; last year that number dropped by a third, Poveda said.
The name [Benedikt] has moved from 50th to 37th place in terms of popularity."
One hopes that it is revitalizing the faith; it seems so. There is unanimous agreement that Ratzinger's election is rehabilitating Germany, helping it to step out of the shadow of Nazism and other ideologies, which Ratzinger himself so profoundly (and elegantly) decries. It was not hard to detect the divine providence working behind the sudden election of a Pole, at the right place and the right time to end the hold of Communism on Europe and in the world. One almost detects the same providence moving in Benedict's election, rehabilitating a Europe disillusioned with the ideologies it has given up, but adrift in search of something to embrace in their stead.
That sound you heard was the author of Inter Sollicitudines rolling over in his grave. Or, on the absolutely opposite end of the spectrum, Marty Haugen's head exploding.
Actually, I'm very pleased by this development, and it really shows the depth of our Pontiff's love of sacred art and also the depth of his connoisseurship. I've always loved Mozart's Coronation Mass, even if my own liturgical music tastes tend towards the Renaissance and the early Baroque (Palestrina, Victoria, Gabrieli, Biber), just before the phenomenon of the orchestral mass, Godzilla-like, really got out of control. It is good to be reminded that the stretch between Palestrina and the reforms of the 1910s was not one vast wasteland. (For the record, while well-intentioned, Inter Sollicitudines also caused a good many problems--the Cardinal of Prague, for instance, used it as an excuse to disband church orchestras and failed to foster scholas in their place). We often forget that much polyphony performed a capella today was at times accompanied by some low-level instrumentation (shawms, sackbutts, and in Spain, occasionally the double harp and, quelle scandal, the guitar*), with perhaps the notable exception of Rome, where the papal choir sung unaccompanied throughout all of the Renaissance.
The orchestral Mass, at least in its classical incarnation, is sometimes hard to really jive with the liturgical realities of either the 1962 or 1970 Missals. At the same time, knowing that somewhere someplace this marvelous stuff is still being performed in church is very heartening. While it would be completely out-of-place in any parish but St. John Cantius in Chicago, or St. Agnes in St. Paul (with its glorious weekly Hadyn Masses), it's perfect for a big celebration in St. Peter's, where I've always felt unaccompanied chant and polyphony tend to get accoustically lost in the cavernous grandeur of the place. You really need something big and wonderfully bombastic to work on the scale of St. Peter's. Should one of my seminarian friends ever be named Pope I will insist that he do Biber's Missa Salisburgensis at some point, a remarkable, grandiose piece of music that is not only quite elegant in a mid-Baroque sort of way, but also astonishingly loud. This is purportedly to compensate for the horrid accoustics of Salzburg Cathedral, for which it was written. If one gets enough trumpets and kettledrums together, it's possible.
That being said, I'd imagine a normal choir getting through a fully orchestral Mass is kind of a once-a-year sort of thing, a liturgical endurance contest like Easter Vigil. It's good to do it now and then, even if it is perhaps not the rubrical norm. It's nice to know it's still possible, and it is good to foster it, now and again.
I must admit a certain bias here regarding the way the Vatican handles its liturgical selections, and mention my long-running feud with the Sistine Choir. I love scholas and chant choirs, but the Sistine boys have never particularly impressed me much. I also tend to prefer female sopranos to boys, and I know this is probably, historically speaking, a liturgical no-no. Though given the scarcity of boy choristers these days, the issue is probably a dead letter. Anyway, the Sistine Choir's chant is serviciable, but whenever they perform modern polyphony, which seems to me whenever I end up at the Vatican, it sounds pretty much like endless, pointless keening on the order of "oooo oooo ooo OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Call me insular, but give me the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir any day.
Unaccompanied polyphony and chant remain the ideal for a properly "liturgical" mass (and there are plenty of shorter instrumentated masses from the days of Gabrieli which would also work and which ought to be revived, though the big problem there is finding unemployed sackbutt virtuosi to fill the loft), but there's a whole lot more out there in the Church's treasury of music. I'm grateful that Benedict remembers that and is happy to share it with us.
*My policy with liturgical guitar music is to permit it if it's over 400 years old. This tends to prevent the most serious problems.
The Second Nocturne, Fifth Lesson: Constituisti terminos eius.
Photograph. March 2006. Matthew Alderman.
Friday, May 5
Humor in homilies?
My answer to this sort of thing is the Philip Neri Protocol: jokes in homilies are perfectly okay...they just have to actually be funny.
Incidentally, there's a longstanding tradition of telling jokes in Easter Sermons (the apparently infamous Risus Paschalis), as this informative entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia will tell you:
This strange custom originated in Bavaria in the fifteenth century. The priest inserted in his sermon funny stories which would cause his hearers to laugh (Ostermärlein), e.g. a description of how the devil tries to keep the doors of hell locked against the descending Christ. Then the speaker would draw the moral from the story. This Easter laughter, giving rise to grave abuses of the word of God, was prohibited by Clement X (1670-1676) and in the eighteenth century by Maximilian III and the bishops of Bavaria (Wagner, De Risu Paschali, Königsberg, 1705; Linsemeier, Predigt in Deutschland, Munich, 1886).The idea isn't a bad one on the surface--though I wonder what grave abuses crept in? The only thing I can think about is the question the jokes pose regarding of the relationship of the Limbo of the Fathers in regards to Hell (whether the Devil was really running around down there, but come now, that's a bit of a nitpick), but the basic truth of Christ pulling a fast one on Satan's still at the heart of the whole thing. And that's worthy of plenty of laughter.
"The ignorant public ... should take no direct part in determining who should be the candidate for public office."
--Francisco I. Madero, Mexican "progressive"
Today is Cinco de Mayo, the commemoration of the battle of Puebla in 1862, when the forces of the anti-clerical government of Benito Juárez turned back an expeditinary force of debt-collecting Frenchmen, at least nominally, on the side of a coalition of disgrunted Mexican Catholics and other conservatives. These in turn would eventually accept the leadership of Maximilian Hapsburg, himself idealistic, slightly out of touch and even liberal on occasion, crowned as a puppet Emperor for the unscrupulous Napoleon III. In time he would come to an extremely tragic end.
It's hard to know what to make of the various misfortunes that have plagued this proud Catholic nation through much of her history. I can't help feeling great sympathy for the doomed, murdered Maximilian, and his even more tragic wife, Carlotta, though their backer, Napoleon III, was a parvenu adventurer of somewhat liberal leanings himself, less concerned with Mexican Catholicism than getting his claws into Latin America, as was purportedly France's manifest destiny. Among his sole redeeming features were his taste for flashy uniforms, having inspired a very funny Offenbach aria, and his exquisite, fashionable young wife, Eugénie de Montijo, herself a far more devout churchgoer than he was.
At the same time, the entire French occupation of Mexico was a disgrace, a foreign intervention that scuttled whatever credibility native Mexican conservatism had left in the wake of the weathervane president Santa Anna, himself alternately liberal and conservative as the wind blew. What can one say about a man who actually staged a coup against himself? Maximilian's execution was barbaric, the whole episode tragic, but also as a Catholic solution to Mexico's woes, it was also breathtakingly misguided. Poor Maximilian didn't realize it until it was too late.
When we consider Mexico's history, in the light of the material success of her more northerly neighbor, there's always the subconscious stereotyped conclusion that her Catholicism brought her to this pass. Protestantism has become so identified with the democratic or parliamentary processes in the popular imagination (despite the writings of St. Robert Bellarmine and the tireless struggle against Communism waged by the late great John Paul), that it's hard to know how to respond. However, the issue's far more complex than such a cop-out to the Black Legend would have it. It is important to realize that it is not the Church that has held back Mexico--but almost always those who held back the Church, on either side of the spectrum, that have held back Mexico.
A hundred years before the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock and imported their peculiarly dour form of culture to North America, there was a great civilization in the Valley of Mexico. Certainly, the Aztecs perpetrated cruelty on a nightmarishly massive scale, and their art shows some of the hardness of their hearts in its disturbing, rectilinear glamour, but to call them backward would miss the point. They were no clod-hoppers. As Chesterton once said of the Maori, their predilection for mass human sacrifice had more to do with the decadent end of a culture rather than its barbaric origins.
That being said, they became fairly good Christians pretty fast. Through Our Lady of Guadalupe they went from 30,000 ritual murders a year to zero. Within a few decades of the Conquest, Mexico City had its own university, a grand cathedral, and a governing elite of Spanish hidalgos and Hispaicized Aztec aristocrats. While Spanish Mexico's apparent caste system of peninsulares, criollos and mixed-race peons on the bottom has attracted much comment (and to say there was equality in New Spain would not be true), in the early days Mexican and Incan nobility were on par in the New World with their Spanish counterparts. Indeed, it's this equality that led to their eventual extinction, intermarrying into the Spanish nobility until they effectively vanished. There's still a Duke of Mocteczuma in Spain, incidentally.
At the height of the viceroyalty, Mexico City was probably the greatest metropolis on the continent. I don't have any statistics, but I doubt anything in America got close to being nearly as culturally exciting until New York really took off during the Industrial Revolution. While isolated by distance and terrain from European culture, it was far more cosmopolitan than one would have expected. Mexico had an excellent crop of scholars and poets such as the nun Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz,who was herself an avid student of the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher, a scholar of the Roman College and a friend of popes and princes. The composers, theater-managers and choirmasters of Mexico City produced works on par with Handel and Monteverdi (or at least exceptional provincial equivalents) while our Puritan ancestors were still singing rude hymns in clapboard churches. There were plenty of problems, squalor and abuse, for sure, but at the same time, it's a perverse joke to suggest that Mexico's flaws are the result of some spurious "developing nation" status (as if she were born yesterday), or that the Church is somehow the primary factor of holding back that development.
The troubles of 19th and 20th century Mexico are not the result of an over-dominant Catholic culture. It's the whole problem of the ancien regieme in France when a local church, often effectively run by an interfering crowned head, gets roped into supporting the status quo, which may or may not need some measure of low-key quiet reform. Still, the Whig stereotype that it is only Protestantism that has brought democracy and capitalism to the free world neglects the examples of wheeler-dealers like the Venetians and the Medicis, and the popular rights of the free cities of Germany, and even the Magna Carta, a document which outlined rights born out of a purportedly obscurantist feudalism.
It didn't help things in Mexico that Spain had never really had a head for business as a result of being governed for 800 years by a military aristocracy that frowned on work that wasn't done on the battlefield. On top of that, she farmed out her jobs in the New World to Spanish-born nobles who bolted as soon as independence was declared, taking all the government savvy with them. One can hardly blame the Church for either of these.
Mexico's manifold tragedies of the past two hundred years have amost wholly been wrought by agnostics and outright atheists. Santa Anna, who mostly believed not so much in God as in himself and who conservatives only turned to out of despiration, if at all. Porfirio Díaz, the positivist, progressive liberal who thought so much of himself as to step all over the democratic process and sold his country to foreign speculators in a get-rich-quick mentality. There was the dimwitted idealistic oligarch Madero--a mystical Berkely-educated vegetarian. And at last, the disgusting barbarity of the subsequent Mexican Revolution which produced martyrs on an almost Roman scale. We see not Catholics kowtowing to despotic authority, but liberals stepping all over constitutionalism for their own oh-so-enlightened ends. It is rather as if one blamed the Patriarch of Moscow for the rise of Stalin.
Admitted, Maximilian's conservative supporters did not have all the answers and many of the answers they had--including putting a total stranger at the helm of government--would have backfired in the long run. Maximilian himself would have made an odd poster-child for a happy Catholic Mexico. Perhaps a truly constitutional monarchy or a less anti-clerical, more tradition-minded republic might have helped. It's hard to say. At the same time, at least they knew the Church had to figure into the equation. And it is not the Church, but her brutally-suppressed absence as a humanizing force, that has led to the sad, bloody and ultimately preventable epic which has characterized much of Mexico's early twentieth century, and whose ramifications are still being worked out in quieter ways today.
The Third of May, 1808
I wanted to post on this subject earlier this week, but forgot. May 2-3 mark, respectively, the date of the first great uprising against the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, and the bloody reprisals that followed, as seen in the phantasmagoric image above by Francisco Goya y Lucientes. As someone who had an ancestor--or possibly an ancestral relative, the family copy of the Dictionary of Cuban Biography is back at home, so I can't check for sure--involved in the fighting, and who also can't help feeling some solidarity with these warriors of Spain against the despotic forces of French rationalism, it seems only appropriate to pause and remember the fallen of that day here on the Shrine.
Thursday, May 4
Børk Børk Børk
Wednesday, May 3
Where they valid?
The question surrounds the intention of the ministers, given that the intention of the Sacrament is to provide pastors for the Church, "whereas" the intention in these ordinations seems to be to provide pastors for the Church . . . that really tick off the Pope.
I think that sounds dubious, but I wish it were so. It would be very satisfying to say, "So what if you didn't ask us, we don't think they're bishops anyway." It would also galvanize the Chinese laity in a way which, probably, would not be favorable to the Patriotic Association.
But... Their immediate intention really was to supply a bishop to a flock. What is more, episcopal ordinations with very political overtones by factions of the Patristic era were not, so far as I know, challenged as to their validity. The Church's sacramental intention usually quite minimal. It seems to me that their intention to provide a pastor for the flock, even if the person of that pastor is intended as an affront to Rome, meets that minimum.
I'd really appreciate prayers for a family friend, whose three-week-old baby boy is in critical condition. Thanks in advance.
From 0 to 16+ Seminarians in slightly over a year?
Tuesday, May 2
The above, Our Lady of China, erstwhile Our Lady of Peking, is one of my favorite images of Our Lady. I've aspired for some time to purchase a picture of it; but, I can't find one anywhere online.