Wednesday, March 28
Christianity and Conversions
Usually, if we think of Muslim conversions to Christianity at all, I instinctively assume that they are conversions to Protestantism, as for the last three decades Protestantism has been the more vigorously mission-oriented branch of Christianity. This video, with all the credibility that a randomly-discovered YouTube video has, claims that in Egypt, at least, many conversions to Christianity take place through Coptic churches, which I found very interesting.
Tuesday, March 27
A Great Rose
John Paul the Great now has a rose bred in his honor, the John Paul II rose. It is cultivated at the Vatican.
Says one vendor,
"One of the finest white hybrid teas of all time, the Pope John Paul II rose produces luminous, large white blossoms that boast up to 50 petals... luscious fragrance, robust growth and outstanding bloom form. A vigorous New Generation rose."
I thought the last line was (unintentionally) appropriate.
10% of net sales go to causes that were near to the Pontiff's heart.
Quran Cited in German Court Ruling
No good comes from justifying human-rights abuses from religious texts, though that is not the only alarming aspect of the story.
More at a blog new to me, Christian Culture Journal.
Here's a lovely shot from flickr.com of Weltenberg Abbey, a gem of the Bavarian Baroque. It strikes me as example of the style which has, to my eye, a more robust and even masculine feel to it, rather than the pink-and-white one more normally associates (rightly or wrongly) with the period. The genius of the Baroque is revealed here by the dramatic and inventive use of hidden light to create, in the altarpiece, a very literal window into heaven that silhouettes the silver-and-gold silhouette of a mounted St. George.
What Gothic suggests, in a hieratic or diagrammatic way, through gilded backdrops reflecting heavenly light, Baroque literally incarnates through the use of light itself as a medium. Highly-ornamented it is, but every element of it is there for a reason, and intimately related to the hierarchy of light, decoration and materials that revolves around the fixed point of the high altar.
Dappled Things - in Print!
Bernardo, the head honcho of the operation, writes:
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Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík; the Marble Church, and Grundtvigskirche, Copenhagen
The Hallgrímskirkja, [more here, if you parlez le Icelandic: www.hallgrimskirkja.is], a Lutheran church named after the seventeenth-century poet-cleric Hallgrímur Pétursson, is a rather striking structure, despite its massive and perhaps even oppressive plainness. It is one of those buildings, like the equally titanic if far more exuberant Sagrada Familia, that I am not sure what to make of, and not sure I really want to imitate or even can, but am glad exists. The interior is an interesting, if extremely stark, art-deco spin on Gothic--far too plain for my tastes, due to the lack of mediative moldings and such detail, but certainly intriguing in terms of space. The apse cries out for a high altar, though. It reminds me of that supremely odd-looking and faintly frightening Hanseatic Gothic-deco extravaganza, the Grundtvigskirche in Copengahen, which resembles nothing so much as an old radio. Like its Icelandic cousin, it's intriguing, if a little weird, and the Gothic interior verges on an astonishing--if rather chilly--brilliance.
Such stark designs are not necessarily the ideal for most Catholic churches, but offer very good ideas for a builder looking to achieve great results with limited means.
And while we're on the subject of Scandinavian church architecture, I must put in a good word for the marble church in Copenhagen, which looks like it could easily be equally at home in Rome's Piazza del Popolo, or the Superga's chubby cousin. Unsurprisingly, it's my favorite of these three.
Images via Flickr
Monday, March 26
From P.J. O'Rourke, The Bachelor Home Companion
"Why does everything come in Giant Size, King Size, and Holy Roman Empire size boxes? A package of macaroni as big as a Japanese car is not what I need. I don't understand unit pricing. There's the price, the unit price, the sale price, but what does the [theologically-themed expletive] thing cost?"
Sunday, March 25
San Gregorio dei Muratori
It appears that they've also finally entered cyberspace with their own blog, F.S.S.P. in Vrbe, which pleases us immensely. What follows are a few of the more POD photos they've posted of the doings in this noble, if rather minute, chapel. I look forward to many more.
Requiem for a fellow priest, with a most noble and yet affectingly humble catafalque.
New Year's Day Benediction.
The Game of Ecclesiastical Conquest?
This game, which seeks to "unlock the secret of how men become Pope," looks either interesting or nauseating. On the one hand, it promises "historical accuracy." On the other hand, the comical representation of clerical garb (a mitre with choir dress?) and a link to Dan Brown's website make that promise, um, less than promising.
A Homemade Lenten Array
Now that I have a real home altar to serve as a focus for devotion, I'd given some thought to veiling it during Lent. I have no purple bedsheets, for obvious reasons, so the only thing I could use was a large white bedsheet. It made perfect sense in this case to resurrect the old Sarum custom of the off-white Lenten Array, though perhaps without the red stencilwork. The Lenten Array was up throughout all of Lent, but the current Roman custom is to keep the veils off until the fifth week of Lent--today. Plus, while fasting from images is a worthy devotional practice, I'm not going to stare at a white bedsheet for forty days. So this afternoon, I prayed a little, put up the Lenten Array, and got ready for Passiontide.
Maybe a bit of an affectation, but I think it has a certain dignity.
Thursday, March 22
Priests! The Tridentine Mass Needs You!
Matt Alderman in this Month's Touchstone
Yes, those are boys, they just need haircuts. And yes, I know half of you will hate the chasuble, and the other half will love it. And both sides in the debate have valid points. I'll simply say it's wild and crazy, and leave it at that; I don't mind wild and crazy from time to time. (Fiddlebacks fall under the category of "things I don't really mind, but might have been done somewhat differently if I'd been in charge"--along with Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, the New York subway system, several European national anthems, and the Empire State Building. So they're in good company)
And surely we can all agree on the higher meaning of this practice, i.e., that the world needs more white fur tippets. (I kid, I kid. But the world does need more of them.)
Bottum and "Beyondism"
Bottum's key point seems to be this:
There’s beyondism’s invariable bait and switch. In religious circles, Fr. Rolheiser is by no means the most egregious (that would be Tony Campolo or Jim Wallis), but he ends where all beyondists end: selling one side in the name of overcoming sides. The left needs to see that the right has all the best techniques for extending and maintaining a position, while the right needs to see that the left has all the best positions. Now can’t we all get beyond our pesky divisions?The problem with this post is that I'm not sure exactly what Bottum is trying to prove. He seems to leave us with what I take to be a nihilistic conclusion, that is - everyone has an a classifiable agenda, so deal with it. Since I don't take Mr. Bottum to be a nihilist, I don't think he's trying to say this, but I do have to object to the apparent conclusion. This is especially true since I've been trying to carry out a discussion about getting beyond traditionalism qua "ism," and generally getting beyond liberal and conservative in the Church. By Bottum's standards, this would seem to be a hopeless project, since presumably, by this argument, I would be trying to import some kind of agenda into the project.
But ultimately, within the Church, ideological categories fall apart, because the truth is beyond ideology. Interestingly, Bottum quotes Rolheiser citing Cardinal George on liberal Catholicism, and Cardinal George has precisely been a champion of getting beyond these divisions in the Church. Now, certainly, in attempting to get beyond false distinctions, we have to be very honest about how these distinctions have been formed, and in so doing we must strive precisely to be fair to both sides while trying to remain apart from their ideological commitments. Yet I think this is ultimately possible, at least within the Church and while keeping the discourse on a theological level. Ideological infiltration may be inevitable in political discourse, but I think theological discourse, if carried out properly, has a chance of avoiding it.
Thus, I think getting beyond distinctions is precisely getting beyond "ism," so "Beyondism" is a word that I don't think has much necessary use. But I do think it is increasingly necessary, both in Church and secular politics, to find truthful and courageous ways of getting beyond distinctions and asserting that there is another way.
Gothic New York II - The Riverside Church
Rockefeller supposedly hoped to create a free-church rival to St. John the Divine just five blocks south; and the congregation's liberal outlook fit well with his own, which also lead to an equally unconventional decorative scheme at the posthumous Goodhue-designed Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, which features a facade crowned with statues of Christ, Socrates, and, if I recall correctly, Buddha. Had Goodhue lived, some think he might have gotten a shot at Riverside--which is instead designed in a more conservative, literalist form of Gothic revival, despite the extraordinary tower--and perhaps even Rockefeller Center, which would have been far more stunning had it resembled the architect's own quasi-Art Deco work for the Nebraska Capitol.
The twenty-odd storey bell-tower rising above Union Theological Seminary, magnificent in its stunning unreality.
Another view of the main tower.
The twelve apostles around the main door. The Einstein statue is, I think, somewhere up where the twenty-four elders of the Apocalypse usually are in such compositions, though I've never looked for it.
Before the south wing was built, the tower faced out onto a mini-golf course.
The skyscraper church, or at its least the high-rise variant, was a bit of a fad back in the thirties. Ralph Adams Cram turned down a job for a congregation of Methodists intent on building the greatest church in the world when he discovered their definition of greatness meant putting a parking garage in the basement and a hotel above. Riverside, however, just has its enormous ring of bells and a range of offices in its tower.
Gothic New York - St. John the Divine
Figure of St. Joan of Arc and a bishop-saint at St. John the Divine.
Liberal arts or virtues or something, with an apostle or P.G.T. Beauregard look-alike down below.
Another, stranger detail: a pillar-base carved with what appears to be the Kabbalistic tree of the Sefirot.
Wednesday, March 21
Westminster Cathedral, You're Bringing Me Down
"For a man so skilled in administration, and well-used to the intricacies of negotiation, it is strange that he had consulted neither the Benedictines nor the Westminster secular clergy before making some of these pronouncements. His first plan was that the Benedictines from Downside should open a new monastery at Ealing in London, and from there serve both the pastoral needs of the local Catholics and the liturgical needs of the new cathedral; they would also say Mass, preach, and hear confessions. The parish attached to the cathedral, however, should be served by diocesan secular priests, so that there would be two sets of clergy using the building and carrying out pastoral duties there. Possibilities of friction and resentment seemed almost built into these proposals. The Benedictines accepted the proposals initially and a small number of monks moved to Ealing in 1897.
[The author then mentions out the English Benedictine "missionary oath," which effectively meant most priests of the order did not live a monastic life in the normal sense of the word, and thus, a purely liturgical role in the cathedral might be difficult to square with the reality of the current form of their apostolate.]
"The Cardinal began to have doubts about his proposals, perhaps because of the concern which members of his Chapter were expressing about possible clashes of interest. [...] To avoid this, he made an amazing next move: he approached the French Benedictines at the famous abbey at Solesmes (who were truly monastic and, moreover, renowned for their plainsong) and offered the position at Westminster to them - and without consulting the English Benedictines at all!"
~Peter Doyle, Westminster Cathedral: 1895-1995.
[After a year of rather complex maneuverings, and a belated attempt to explain to the English Benedictines that they were out of a job, the project simply had to be scrapped, for reasons doubtlessly apparent to the reader by now.]
However, the church builder must face budgets these days, and while starkness is hardly to be praised, making a virtue out of the necessary plainness brought on by the expenses of building is much to be admired.
Photo by Fra Lawrence, O.P.
In that spirit, I suggest you study the splendid simplicity of the image above, Sir Ninian Comper's uncharacteristically restrained ciborium design for the (Anglican) Cowley Fathers' Bodley-designed chapel at St. Stephen's House. A similarly simple and splendid chapel was designed by Cram late in life for their foundation in Boston.
Photo by Fra Lawrence, O.P.
There are two tricks in the architect's bag when it comes to solving such problems: the first is a very careful and discrete use of form highlighted with small but telling detail, the second an intelligent use of color. The first of these is very strikingly shown here, and despite the monastic whiteness of St. Stephen's, Comper often used the second in many other projects of his. (Though here, we see a similarly subtle use of light and darkness; reflected light or a pleasantly ecclesial murkiness can cover a multitude of architectonic sins.) Everything is well-modulated, with simple but well-studied outlines that suggest the resolution of a more complex mental process, rather like Borromini's more highly geometrical but equally low-budget versions of Baroque. (Indeed, the column details remind me more than a little of Borromini's fondness for cherubs.) The stone table-altar altar is somewhat unconventional for what I know of Comper, and not suitable for a large parish church, but well-scaled to the small and delicately-balanced composition that is this chapel.
Fr. Martin Fox Wants to Know "Who Else is Using Latin?"
Tuesday, March 20
We've replaced the bishop on the left with British actor Rowan Atkinson. Let's see if anyone notices.
Smile! You're on the Apostolic Camera!
It was an undeniably awkward moment when, in an attempt to compliment the Italian president, Putin suggested he bore an uncanny resemblance to the father on Everyone Loves Raymond, a point President Napolitano refused to concede.
Vot do you mean, you left ze traveler's checks on ze night stand? How vill we get Moose und Squirrel now?
Monday, March 19
Feast on St. Joseph's
Do yourself a favor today: stop by the local Italian pastry shop and pick up some zeppole, the Official Food of St. Joseph's Day.
Don't say you gave sweets up for Lent: Jesus wants you to honor His father and Mother. Is it my fault that God wants me to eat dozens of Italian cookies today?
O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen
Either way, he reports the following, from the Italian media..
Benedict XVI will "free" the Tridentine Mass... The Pope’s "Motu Proprio", which should be promulgated between the feast of the Annunciation (25 March) and Easter, is ready. The text is highly protected ("blindatissimo" = "very heavily armoured"); but according to leaks ("indiscrezioni") from a very good source, it ought to reverse the present situation.
I wouldn't expect it on a major holy day: B16 doesn't seem to work that way.
What Makes a Parish?
This post, a Muslim reflecting on the Jewish community life of Hasidic Jews, was interesting to me.
It reflects simultaneously the very strong cultural identity of Orthodox Jews, which gives them a very religious-centered social life even when their actual practice of religion is in crisis, and the desire (expressed by a commenter) for the same kind of social closeness in mosques.
All of which reminds me of a discussion Lucy and I had yesterday about Catholic parish life--which, I think today can comprise both ends of this spectrum. In the South, people are used to the local church being a primary venue of socialization, and so Catholics (following Protestant example?) can tend to form all sorts of social clubs at their parishes and be much more active in church life. Indeed, Catholicism is blossoming in the South, as has been maintained consistently by Amy.
In the Midwest and Northeast, you get much more of a mixed bag: if you're in a small Midwestern town, well, you already know everyone in your parish since it's a small town. Here the parish may not be a route of socialization in forming new relationships, but it does lead to a close parish community. In the ethnic areas of the Northeast, or the Polish areas of Chicago, nationalities bind together worshippers who come from Catholic cultures. We're also seeing this happen with Latinos, as they bring the beautiful integrity between Catholicism and their cultures to America. This is an example of the parish being a means of socialization, but you have to share the culture for that to happen.
So then we get to the megaparishes of the Midwest and Northeast. You can attend such a parish for five, even ten years and never meet anyone, unless you go out of your way to do so, or volunteer for a committee--but a parish can only have so many committee members.
So this is my question: imagine you're faced with such a megaparish. You'd like the parish to be at least one way mode of socializaiton---you'd like to have friends through church. What do you do? Rather than hearing people insist that such a megachurch is "the St. Cunigunda family/faith community," what steps can members take to make it feel like one?
I think the best idea I've heard would have to be inviting the couple next to you over for doughnuts after Mass, and ask only that next week they also invite someone else to their house for doughnuts after Mass, and the chain reaction goes from there. Obviously there are some drawbacks: you would have to be a bit of an extrovert, and it would probably be awkward to do unless you were a married couple inviting over a married couple. I read about this idea in a book that describes it working very well, and if it hadn't worked I might be skeptical that it could.
The Weather, on EWTN
Tip of an impressively-tufted cardinational zucchetto to All 2 Common
The Impressively-Tufted Cardinational Zucchetto of the Marionite Patricharch of Antioch
"Drew! Drew! It cannot be! The other day, I was in Syria, and I saw a cardinatial zucchetto--with a tuft!"
Well, your alarm is justified, certainly--as we know, the Pope, when belatedly granting the cardinals the right to use the biretta, specifically denied them the Tuft, as he himself did not make use of the tuft and thus, by its denial to his closest advisors, symbolized their special relationship. To see a tuft on a zucchetto, then, is all the more bizarre! However, since you were in SYRIA, you saw no mere cardinal, but a true Patriarch who also shares cardinatial rank. As such, he has the right to determine his own vestiture. I have to say, I like his choice.
Click here for enough eccentric ecclesial headpieces to make James Noonan tremble!
Sunday, March 18
Why Are Muslims Attracted to Christianity?
(1) The narrative and instructional power of the Gospels themselves
(2) Dreams and Visions (mentioned here before)
(3) Christian Love, especially as expressed in charitably works
(4) Balanced socialization among the sexes, which by the strength of God's loving grace in our hearts does not (as Muslims fear it would in Islamic contexts) degrade into sexual license
I was most surprised by #3, since I've heard rumors of all the rest in a number of places. But, to hear them speak of it, Muslims never stop giving money to other members of the Ummah--certainly, Saudi Arabia gives millions and millions to build huge mosques in places like Ohio and Italy. Perhaps this giving fails to touch the lives of the truly needy. Hmm. Don't know enough to say.
Friday, March 16
No commentary is necessary, or even possible.
AKA: Handsome Anselm
Anselm of "Count 'n' Bury"
Powers: the power to preserve rectitude of the will for its own sake
Weaknesses: vulnerable to Gaunilo's™ Perfect Island® attack
Notes: The manufacturing process has painstakingly increased the perfection of these toys by giving them the property of existence. A consequence of the toys' high quality is that they are so expensive that they can be paid for only with money that is both fully divine and fully money.
There is nothing new under the sun
The idea of a safe receptacle for an unwanted infant is not new. In 1198, Pope Innocent III was dismayed by the number of newborns caught in the nets of fishermen on the Tiber River.
He ordered the first Medieval "foundling wheel" — a rotating platform located in the wall of a church that allowed women to anonymously leave their newborns.
Today's version, located at a hospital in one of Rome's poorest districts, resembles a large ATM.
It features a heated crib behind a glass hatch. Electronic sensors alert doctors when a baby is dropped off.
The juxtaposition of such similar stories over 800 years apart forms an interesting study, simultaneously, of some of the better and worse aspects of human nature.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.
Some Catechesis is Bad; Some is just...
I think that is an exagerated claim.
Allow me to reproduce, in full, chapter 25, which offers the text's reflection on:
- The Last Supper
- The Crucifixion
- The Divinity of Jesus
- The Mass
Theme 25: Jesus Dies on the Cross and Reveals Himself as the Son of God
Whereever he went, Dr. Carlson was called by the Congolese "Good Dr. Carlson." He had come as a doctor and missionary to serve a population of over 100,000 people in one province of the Congo.
He came to the Congo for the first time in 1961. Struck by the sufferings of thousands of people who had no doctors, and impelled also by his love of God, he deceided to leave his home in California and settle in a tiny Congolese village called Wasolo. In Congoloese, Wasolo means "the village at the end of the world."
There in a small hospital Dr. Carlson began to care for the sick who came in large numbers. Dr. Carlson had to work as long as 18 hours a day. Although he was very over-burdened, he remained cheerful and was happy to live among the Congolese people.
That year a serious rebellion broke out in the country. The small village was taken by bands of rebel troops. They placed Dr. Carlson under arrest. They accused him of being a spy for the United States. He was tried and condemned to death.
Dr. Carlson was imprisoned with several other persons, and while awaiting the day of his execution he remained calm and tried to strengthen and encourage the other prisoners. He prayed with them.
One morning guards took the prisoners out of their cell and made them get into a bus. They did not tell them where they were going. The bus broke down on the road. While it was being repaired they heard a call for help: "Someone is sick. The doctor! The doctor!" The soldiers allowed Dr. Carlson to go to the sick person. He cared for him as well as he could.
On seeing him do these things the other prisoners were astonished at his generosity. They said to one another, "How could he really be a spy?" Dr. Carlson would merely answer, "I am a missionary and a doctor and nothing else."
The prisoners did not know why they were being moved. The reason was that the rebels who imprisoned them had to retreat before government troops. Before fleeing they shot and killed their prisoners. The government troops arrived a few minutes afterward, but it was too late.
This happened on November 24, 1964. A short time before his tragic death Dr. Carlson had written to his relatives and friends in the United States, "Pray that in the midst of all our trials we may be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ."
KEEPING THE WORDS OF JESUS
Take it and eat. This is my body which will be given for you (Matthew 26:26)
Drink all of you from this; for this is my blood, which will be poured out for you (Matthew 26:28)
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was. (John 13:1)
A man can have no greater love then [sic] to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
I THINK IN MY HEART
Jesus gave me his life that each of us might have eternal life.
Before he died, he gave us the gift of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.
Why do we call Jeuss our Savior? We call Jesus our Savior because by his life, death, and resurrection he delivers us from sin and leads us to a new life.
What did Jesus do at the Last Supper? At the Last Supper Jesus praised and thanked his Father and offered his life for the salvation of all persons.
Don't get me wrong. I admire this Dr. Carlson immensely. But, I can't help but be astounded that a 4th grader using this text in 1975 would know more about Dr. Carlson than about the Last Supper, divinity, death, and Eucharist of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. And, if Dr. Carlson was the Chrisitan which the book claims, he would be more offended than I.
Wednesday, March 14
The Catholic Illustrators' Guild
Stamford Pontifical Mass
The site: St. Mary's, Stamford, a magnificent early twentieth-century Gothic structure.
The High Altar.
The bishop at the throne.
At the Offertory. To those unfamiliar with the rite, the subdeacon is the one on the left, wearing a humeral veil to muffle his hands while touching the sacred vessels, while the deacon stands on the right. With the bishop or priest they constitute a ritual triad familiar throughout a great part of Church history.
The Elevation of the Host. The custom of raising the chausible is a memory of the ancient practice of decorating a priest's vestments with rich gems and brocade; such heavy robes were often difficult to move about in. Now, it is not a practical matter but a noble gesture of ritual courtesy.
The Elevation of the Precious Blood. Note the torchbearers, who are permitted in both the most solemn forms of the old and new rites.
At the Peace. The equivalent of the modern sign of peace, the Pax was restricted to the most solemn occasions, and only among the clergy. It was a graceful ceremonial embrace which could easily be introduced into the more familiar 1970 missal form of mass without contravening a single rubric, and would be much more preferable and affecting than the scrum of handshakes that usually breaks out at this point.
At the Post-Communion. The three sacred ministers, bishop, deacon and subdeacon, stand in line as the celebrant sings the final collect; here we see most clearly illustrated the principle of ceremonial hierarchy.
Tuesday, March 13
Tradition and Traditionalism: Unrealistic Expectations
As Drew and I have noted, the "smackdown" approach from Rome did not work in the early twentieth century, and it's certainly not going to work now. Furthermore, corrective measures have already been taken in this regard through documents such Liturgiam Authenticam and Redemptionis Sacramentum. At this point, such detail work is more the responsibility of those working on the local level than of clarion calls from above.
This leads towards the next point in my critique of "traditionalism" as such, which is unrealistic expectations. For many traditionalists, there can be no peace unless the Church admits 1) Vatican II was a mistake that we can all forget about and 2) the 1962 Missal is objectively spiritually superior and conveys more grace than the 1970 Missal. A form of the latter was actually stated by one of my critics, arguing that I had to address this important assertion which he took to be necessary for any discussion of these issues.
The fact is, neither of these propositions hold water, for several reasons. First of all, the Church had gone centuries without a comprehensive re-examination of the Tridentine model of the Church, and was long overdue in getting to this point, largely due to various historical events that prevented such a thing from happening any earlier. Secondly, tied in to this, there was a legitimate need for some kind of liturgical reform, and indeed this was begun in an official way during the pontificate of Pius XII. The time had come for a move towards what Andrew Greeley calls a more "medieval" model of the liturgy in which legitimate differences could be allowed, and in which the question of the vernacular could be reopened after the Reformation pre-empted earlier attempts to look at the question, yet Trent left the door open for an exploration.
Furthermore, the actual documents of Vatican II are orthodox statements of the Faith that are both continuous with the tradition yet also seek to move that tradition forward in important ways, such as the document on religious freedom. The chaos that followed after the Council, both in the Church as a whole and especially in the liturgy, had more to do with pre-existing issues both in the surrounding culture and in the Church on the local level than with the Council itself. I would point especially to an over-emphasis in previous times on the fixed nature of the Church and the Mass, such that any insinuation of change opened the floodgates since it was so hard to comprehend any change that introducing the idea of change meant everything was up for grabs.
We have spent 40 years with the growings pains of the Council and of the early reception of the liturgical reforms (much of which had more to do with the time between 1965-70 than with the 1970 Missal itself). Yet we are making progress at moving past the trivial approach that was often taken to reform, but the way towards this progress is gradually changing the discourse, and this is precisely what the Pope is continuing to do. At this point, a take-no-prisoners approach would simply turn this issue into a back-and-forth tug of war between different sides, as Ephrem at NLM has pointed out.
This brings us, then, to the rumored motu proprio concerning the Tridentine Mass. One of the things that has worried me about a potential motu proprio authorizing greater use of the Tridentine Mass is the potential misreading of such a document in such a way as to think it is authorizing separatism, especially in the theological senses that we have discussed. I also fear the mentality of thinking that the Tridentine Rite is the solution, rather than part of the solution to our liturgical woes. The agenda here is integration, not restoration.
The fact is, any motu proprio will come precisely to discourage separatism, and to encourage the reintegration of the Tridentine Mass into the life of the Church. This is precisely so that the average parishioner will no longer associate it with the "ism" portion of traditionalism, but rather will view it as an important part of the Church's heritage that was unfortunately forgotten and misrepresented on all sides in the chaos of the 1960's and '70's. The ultimate goal, I think, perhaps in 50 years or so, would be a new Missal that integrates the best of the 1962 and 1970 Missals, whose options would extend from something like a reverently celebrated Missa Normativa combining Latin and the vernacular, to something looking more like a Tridentine High Mass.
This is, I think, what the Pope is up to with the new Apostolic Exhortation and ultimately the motu proprio, and this whole discussion on tradition is precisely an attempt to open up some of the important issues in moving forward. In the meantime, I think we need to look forward with hope that recent dark days in the Church are increasingly behind us, and that extremism will continue to give way to a better appreciation of the necessity of tradition and progress in the Church.
The Exhortation: Full Steam Ahead
- 1 Peter 5:1*
Like a good Catholic nerd, I read the Exhortation this morning before Mass at my parish. (Today's Mass count: approx. 75 people in a town of 2,000, 1/3 of which is Catholic; cf. previous reflections on how get a lot of your parish to daily Mass.)
As you know, the Exhortation for the most part has not taken upon itself to decree changes to the Missal or the General Instruction. Does this mean the document is of no consequence to the "reform of the reform?" The answer to this must be a resounding "No": Cardinal Ratzinger, in his books on the liturgy, gave much of the intellectual foundation of the "reform to the reform" simply by pointing out the problem, offering an alternative vision, and letting this vision grab the attention of Catholic intellectuals and youth. The reform of the reform is impressive for its success thus far given that it has not, for the most part, been promoted by sanction or decree, and yet it not only exists but grows. Indeed, the weakness of the original liturgical reform was that it was done by decree, and in light of this the strength of the reform of the liturgical reform is that it has, among the laity, people who are actively concerned, committed, and, er, participating in promoting it.
The Exhortation plays an important role in this movement, then, by codifying Ratzinger's ideas on liturgy into the written magisterium of the Church. He gave the reform of the reform much of its steam by expressing these ideas in popular books; it can only continue to pick up steam now that these ideas are more fully incorporated into the magisterium. The momentum of liturgy seems, from my vantage, to be clearly swinging in favor of a this reforming of the reform: by this exhortation, will it not continue to pick up speed, and continue to be desired by the people and priests themselves? Certainly, creating an environment in which the Church wants the "reform of the reform," though this takes longer than reform by fiat, is more effective in the long run. It may be less satisfying than a glorious smack-over-the-head delivered to those with whom one disagrees, but glorious smacks-over-the-head are not effective in the long term. How many people, pining for a liturgical smack down akin to Pius X's smack-down against "Modernism," are willing to concede that Modernism dissapeared consequent to being "smacked down?"
I did have some questions about the exhortation. The Pope, on the day he signed it, told the Roman clergy:
"It will help in personal as well as liturgical meditation," said the Pope, "as well as in the preparation of homilies and celebrating the Holy Mass, but it will also guide, illuminate and help revitalize popular piety."
By "preparation of homilies," I took him to be referring to a the creation of a collection of patristic commentaries on preaching, which I remember being mentioned at the time of the Synod. I did not find any reference to such a thing in the Exhortation. Perhaps I was wrong?
Also, the Pope spoke of "revitalizing popular piety," but in reading the document there is only reference to Eucharistic devotions like Corpus Christi and the 40 Hours.
The question then remains: is this document the final document in Pope Benedict's liturgical project of reforming the reform--to wit, will Benedict issue textual or rubrical changes to the Missal? It does not seem that he broadened the scope of the post-Synodal exhortation beyond what post-Synodal exhortations do: presenting the Synodal recommendations of which he approved--and providing golden theological teaching on why he exhorts us to follow these recommendations of the Synodal Fathers. Amy is doing an excellent job unpacking many nuances in the document: will these hints provide the foundation for further work in reforming the Reform by means of forth-coming authoritative decrees or actual adaptations to the Missal? By suggesting that he may change the location of the sign of Peace, perhaps Benedict exposes the intention to issue exactly such a textual and rubrical reform--but, perhaps not. It simply remains to be seen.
After Mass today, I met one of the seminarians for my diocese--a reverent guy my age, also in love with the Church. These future leaders of the Church have had their hearts moved and formed by the exhortations of Cardinal Ratzinger and Benedict XVI, and it is precisely to loving and willing hearts that exhortations are recieved and by them are enacted. This exhortation, then, is a seed planted in the heart of those who want to reform the liturgy and the Church, and it is precisely the desire to reform the Church, it seems to me, which is the way to effect a reform of the Church that is sincere and lasting. Reform of the Church, then, begins in the reform of the heart--and in exhorting the willing heart. It is easy to call such Christian exhortation "ineffective" because the effects take time to come to fruition: but is that ineffective governance, or is it good psychology? Reform by fiat, which is not also reform of the hearts of Christians, waits only until the cat is away to quickly decay.
*The First Papal "Exhortation"!
Monday, March 12
On a More Serious Cinema Note
Meanwhile, this week, the Music Box is showing a restored print of Becket, starring Richard Burton, several times a day. While it's no A Man For All Seasons, it's an enjoyable, if long, costume drama with a Catholic flair. Worth seeing on the big screen.
At the Movies
I'm not sure whether to say "awesome!" or "This gives art films a bad name."
I just hope the competition wasn't marred by ninja and pirate battles......
Friday, March 9
Ideology and Charity
Christ suffered for you,
and left you an example
to have you follow in His footsteps
He did no wrong,
No deceit was found in his mouth;
When He was insulted,
He returned no insult
When He was made to suffer,
He did not counter with threats,
Instead He delivered Himself up,
To the one who judges justly.
The goal of all Christian life, and all Christian discourse, is ultimately faith, hope and charity. Thus, everything we do or say must be done precisely in imitation of Our Lord and for the sake of our souls, and the souls of others. Inasmuch as this is the case, Christianity is inimical to ideology. For ideology, ultimately, any score against a rival ideology is a triumph - any hilarious barb, any exposure of sin, anything that can bring down someone else's ideology and life up mine. For ideology, charity is bracketed - I am charitable to those who are "good," but for those who are "bad" - whether they be family, friends, priests, bishops, Cardinals, Popes - there is no need for such pleasantries. Rather, these people must be brought down at all costs.
For this kind of ideological discourse, the political dimension of life in the world is paramount. Within the Church and without, my need is to score political points, to mock the "other" and impose my ideology. Thus, everything is seen in terms of reciprocity - if x is unwilling to do something for me, I prepare myself to take the same approach to them if and when the advantage becomes mine. If someone treats me or others like me badly, I am entitled to resent this, and to look forward to the day when I exact revenge.
For Christianity, however, human relations are not ultimately political - they are ultimately theological, and this makes all the difference. In Christian life, charity is precisely non-reciprocal - I must love the Other as God's creation, regardless of what he does to me, how poorly he treats me. This does not, of course, prohibit fraternal correction, which is of course often necessary - but it does put the burden on me to do so charitably and to presume good will on the part of the other unless it is manifestly demonstrated otherwise. Even if it is otherwise, to expose this in an uncharitable or unnecessary manner, where no realistic good can come out of my action, is tantamount to detraction. I would be better off offering time in prayer rather than putting down ink or type that will serve no purpose except to bring down and mock.
This attitude with respect to reciprocity and charity is precisely why I am so insistent that Christianity excludes ideology. Whatever our opinions, they must always be expressed in charity and in such a way as to build up the whole body of the Church. Furthermore, when things go "our" way we must cast away from ourselves any tendency towards triumphalism or "getting back" at those who may have treated us dismissively or otherwise poorly. Rather, we ought to say a Te Deum and proceed in treating our neighbors with love and openness, even if they never treated us this way. Otherwise, we open up an endless cycle of backbiting and mutual hatred that leaves no one happy and that leaves no room for charity. Let us, then, imitate the example of Christ in the 1 Peter canticle I quoted at the beginning, and love others with no expectation of return. In so doing, we can open ourselves to the true joy of the Christian life that casts out all hatred and bitterness.
You know you're a Catholic Nerd when...
(Also, I hadn't seen Ann Arbor's new chapel. Wow.)
Thursday, March 8
Poland tackles Low Birth Rates
Wednesday, March 7
Tradition and Traditionalism: The Theological Critique
Now I would like to turn towards a theological critique of traditionalism, one which I have implied is stronger and in some ways more important than the liturgical critique. Essentially, this critique stems from my plea at the end of the first post that we be able to have the Tridentine Mass and Vatican II and newer theological movements in the Church. Why these don't seem to go together is an important question, embracing not only the personal opinions of those who attend indult Masses, but also seminary formation and the ability to have healthy relationships with the Church at large.
Essentially, the problem here agains boils down to my charge that traditionalism qua "ism" tends towards freezing the life of the Church at a specific point of time, usually in the 1950's or earlier. This is the case in many ways liturgically, but it is especially so theologically. For traditionalism, "Modernism" is a live issue and neo-Thomism reigns supreme. Any newer theological movements are subject to the suspicion of Modernism, and accountable to neo-Thomism. In order to see why this is the case, it is important to go back in time and see the problematic.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Aeterni Patris emphasized the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas as exemplary, and ordered it be taught throughout the whole Church. The reasons for this are many and various, having to do with political and theological issues of the time which are largely forgotten. That being said, in so doing, Pope Leo gave almost all theological impetus within the Church to the so-called "neo-Thomists," a Jesuit-led (at the time) group that sought to critique modern philosophy by the standards of Thomistic philosophy, seen as the philosophia perennis - in other words, common sense. Implied in this was that Thomistic philosophy was the only grounds upon which could build a theology. Build they did, constructing theological manuals for the training of priests in the seminaries according to this Thomistic philosophy. As a result of this, neo-Thomism became the dominant theological ethos in the Church, with such other 19th-century figures as John Henry Newman and Johan Adam Mohler largely left outside of official Church theologizing.
30 years later, the Modernist controversy erupted in the Church, centering around two figures - George Tyrrell and Alfred Loisy. Tyrrell and Loisy were indeed theologically problematic figures, and were thus condemned under St. Pius X. Unfortunately, St. Pius' encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis and its labeling of Modernism as "synthesis of all heresies" often had a theologically stifling view within the Church, with its call to set up theological tribunes which often became places in which to carry out diocesan politics rather than serious theological investigation. The accompanying "Oath Against Modernism" continued as a requirement for theology teachers right up until the Second Vatican Council.
All of this was the backdrop against which new theological movements began to develop in the twentieth century, many of them picking up from Maurice Blondel, the French philosopher accused of Modernism but cleared, and the Jesuit Joseph Marechal, who did important work on mysticism and other theological topics. By the 1930's, the ressourcement movement had begun to take root in France, with Jean Danielou, Henri de Lubac, and others working to retrieve manuscripts and produce new translations of the early Church Fathers. Meanwhile, Marie-Dominique Chenu and Yves Congar, both Dominicans, began to challenge neo-Thomism's reading of Thomas, arguing that Thomas ought to be read more as a theologian and more in terms of his sources beyond Aristotle, such as Dionysius the Areopagite and especially Augustine.
At this point, many "conservative" (a word I use advisedly) theologians of the time, notably the Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, became very upset at the speculations of the ressourcement movement, especially de Lubac's work on nature and grace. The encyclical Humani Generis, though not mentioning de Lubac by name, led to a backlash against the nouvelle theologie that continued into the Second Vatican Council itself, where these theologians were finally vindicated by the bishops and the Council documents.
The problem with neo-Thomism and the notion of philosophia perennis, to put it shortly, was that it was asked to do something it simply could not do. By basically arguing that using St. Thomas and Aristotelian philosophy to knock down arguments of modern philosophers it simultaneously failed to really engage these philosophers on their own terms. In so doing, it resulted in students who were able to refute what they thought they knew of, say, Kant or Nietzsche, but not necessarily to refute someone who knew those philosophers in a fuller way. Furthermore, by abstracting Thomas' philosophy from its sources and from his fundamentally theological project, the approach failed to give an adequate account of Thomas' own genius and engagement with the problems of his time. I think that the reappropriation of the "historical Thomas" by Gilson, as well as the approaches of de Lubac and Balthasar, give one a much greater appreciation of Thomas' fundamental outlook, and thus put the modern-day scholar in a much better position to do what Thomas did rather than simply repeat propositions of Thomas.
Traditionalism's theological agenda, then, is to juxtapose this narrative with the narrative of the liturgy, and thus to see the culmination of both these theological movements and the movements for renewal in the liturgy as a disaster, coming either as intrinsically part of or as at the very least a bad effect of the Second Vatican Council. As a result, both the nouvelle theologie and in some cases Vatican II itself, are seen as responsible for the crisis of liturgy and Church life that followed shortly upon the heels of the Council. Upon such a narrative, the natural response is seen to be a return to neo-Thomism, presumably the support structure for healthy Church life and liturgy, as opposed to ressourcement and its ushering in of ecclesial and liturgical chaos. Thus, preaching, seminary formation, and othere areas in which theology enters the life of the Church must meet these "traditional" standards.
This, I believe is a fundamentally incorrect presupposition. The traditional Roman liturgy, extending back as it does into the early centuries of the Church, has not ever relied upon a single theological foundation, and certainly not one as historically late in coming as neo-Thomism. Furthermore, the liturgical problems coming out of Vatican II are not easily attributable to one source, whether it be the liturgical movement, the nouvelle theologie, or even Vatican II itself. They are rather attributable to a whole swirl of social and cultural issues whose power was perhaps underestimated by some at the time (not least those who thought nothing in the Church needed to change!). As a result, I think it actually does harm to the cause of the traditional form of the Mass to attempt to latch it on to a certain theological structure, especially one erected in the late 19th century. This would seem precisely to validate the claim that the Tridentine Mass is simply for those nostalgic for another time, rather than a liturgy that can speak to us now.
Furthermore, by embracing (or at the very least not scorning as Modernist) the nouvelle theologie and the work of related theologians like von Balthasar, those sympathetic to the traditional Mass can gain a greater voice in the theological mainstream of the Church, which I would argue is something much to be desired. Now, more than ever, we need a theological "center" position in the Church where conversation can be had by all who wish to be there, rather than choosing an apocalyptic "remnant" mentality either of the right or the left. Those who take part in the Tridentine Mass can and should be there, but not by making assertions about Modernism on the part of those who do not share their views. Even if they wish to continue arguing in favor of neo-Thomism, it needs to be tempered by the realization that a plurality of theological approaches enriches the Church, and did so notably in the time of St. Thomas himself (I'm thinking in this case of the great but very different approaches of Thomas and Bonaventure).
The problem, then, is not so much neo-Thomism and the manuals as the attempt to cling to them as the only possible bulwarks of orthodoxy. To do so is to take an overly narrow view of orthodoxy that both leads to the alarmism of "Modernist!" charges and to take an anachronistic reading of the history of theology. This kind of approach ultimately handicaps one's ability to have a conversation with the broader Church, and to win others over to causes dear to one's heart. Thus, I would argue that tradition without "ism" must embrace and not fear new theological developments - indeed, there is no need to fear the likes of de Lubac or Balthasar, as if they are going to take something away from St. Thomas. Rather, they open up new worlds of theological riches that enhance the life of the Church, and are certainly fully compatible with celebration of the Tridentine Mass.
This is especially important for priestly formation, because we do not need priests for the 1950's, we need priests for now. To rely too exclusively on manuals and older textbooks as if they were somehow the only way to preserve orthodoxy and liturgical purity is a severe mistake, especially because it seems clear that those texts did not work back then. The crises of the 1960's were due in no small part to inadequate intellectual formation for priests due preicsely to an over-reliance on such books. This is not to critique manuals as such, but rather their exclusive use as theological resources. Thus, it is important especially for those training priests to say the Tridentine Mass not to make this category mistake and assume they must be using old textbooks to get good theology. Rather, embrace orthodox new theology, such as that of the Holy Father, de Lubac, or Balthasar, so that your priests can engage with the Church of the present day. This, I think would bear abundant fruit for the Church as a whole and especially for the future of the Tridentine Mass, by opening it up to new audiences and freeing it from an artifically imposed theological captivity.
Tuesday, March 6
The NAC seems to have won what Rocco is calling the "Ontologically-Superior Superbowl." Well, the guys aren't ordained yet, but, it's a cute name.
I didn't recognize anyone I knew, though.
A Worthy Charity
Children Waiting Everyhere provides physical and spiritual nourishments to AIDS orphans in Uganda. To date, the charity has: built a water tank, started tea plantations, expanded the vocational school, provided medical care, started a Montessori school, and taken the children on field trips. All this is done in the context of raising children deeply rooted in the Catholic faith.
Only the French
The Louvre is setting up a branch in Abu Dhabi, and the French are very upset.
I assumed they'd be upset because French taxpayers would be contributing to the new museum, or perhaps upset because the art in the Abu Dhabi branch would be less accessible to the French public.
Actually, the controversy is because the French government will make money in the deal--some $524 million.
This, according to critics, amounts to using France's artistic heritage for basely commercial ends.
"Our museums are not for sale", proclaims an online petition signed by 4,700 people - including many curators, art historians, and archaeologists.
I wish the Spansih had the same qualms about their cathedrals. I remember having to pay admission to see anything more than the daily chapel where Mass and confessions were said/heard. Of course, the cathedrals need to pay for the upkeep, but, well, whatever.
I don't know if the government blocks all blogspot URLs, or if we really did get singled out.
It would be kinda cool if we did.
Tuesday, March 13: "Sacrament of Love," the post-Synodal Exhortation on the Eucharist, will be released.
Sunday, March 4
St. Clare, incidently, is Patroness of Television.
God Save the Dauphin, Balthazar of Bhopal
Balthazar Napoleon de Bourbon, a jovial Indian lawyer and part-time farmer, has always been fascinated by France. Framed pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the palace of Versailles implausibly decorate his house in a dusty, bustling suburb of the central Indian city of Bhopal. He gave his children French names even though he has never set foot in France.
This Indian father-of-three is being feted as the long-lost descendent of the Bourbon kings who ruled France from the 16th century to the French revolution. A distant cousin of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, he is alleged to be not only related to the current Bourbon king of Spain and the Bourbon descendants still in France, but to have more claim than any of them to the French crown.
The Royal heads of Europe are excited at the possibility of new relatives, in part because it distances monarchy from colonialism:
"This is the cherry on the cake. Mr Bourbon is head of a decent, dignified, middle-class Indian family. They look so Indian and yet bear this name. When you look at them, it seems incredible. The more unbelievable it is, the more I believe in it."
[The Indian dauphin] has long had a brass plaque above his front door reading "House of Bourbon" with the fleur-de-lis crest of the French monarchy. His wife runs the neighbouring school for local children, called the Bourbon school. The family is Catholic and keeps Bourbon relics, including a sword, in their home. He said he felt "a sense of pride" when contemplating the picture of Versailles on his wall.
Saturday, March 3
New Chapel is Newly Renovated
Here is a picture of the chapel as originally planned, slated for completion in 2003:
But, the Vatican today released the following photo of the Redemptoris Mater chapel:
If you compare the two, you will notice--very significantly--that not only has the originally-planned square altar in the Online Tour been replaced, but it has been replaced with a traditionally proportioned altar bearing six candlesticks and--is it really?--a tabernacle.
Update: This post has really gotten around. Thanks to all who linked to it.
Shawn at the New Liturgical Movement observes,
"Incidentally, a reader sent a picture of this same chapel from a year ago, and it has exactly the same altar setup, with the same tabernacle, 6 altar candlesticks, etc. That at least eliminates this as a "one-off" for this particular Lenten retreat."
Secretly, that had been my worry--that the nice arrangement was pro tempore. This makes me happy. Not as happy as the upcoming Post-Synodal Exhortation, though..
Thursday, March 1
Pontificalpalooza at St. Mary's, Stamford - The Follow-Up
So, did anyone make it to the Pontifical Tridentine Mass in Conneticut last weekend? I'm curious to get some firsthand reports from readers. I've gotten a handful of amazing photos and a few emails aready, but as always, the more, the merrier. I'll be posting the pics soon, I hope.
And once again, any photos of that splendid church itself, would be greatly appreciated!
The Heralds of the Gospel
Bishop Jenky Podcast!
I've often thought that Bishop Jenky would make a fantastic spokesman for the US Bishops. It's not often one hears a priest who so emphatically expresses what a joy it is to be Catholic through the way he preaches his homilies, not just his words, but the enthusiasm in his voice.
Note for those who have never seen Bishop Jenky: just picture St. Nicholas as you listen. (i.e., fat, bearded, jolly, but still quite capable of socking heretics in need of it.)
"Cardinal Ratzinger dixit amat magna mater ecclesia, sed quid veritas est?"
(The above is awful Latin, but a quote from the amazing papal attack ad featured during Papal April by the Daily Show.)
Or, until now. I'm stunned! I never, ever imagined that this could happen. (/sarcasm) It's just as well, because no one in Europe actually believes the EU is democratic, so the EU might as well stop going through the motions that it actually is democratic. Not that rule by secular hegemony is a bright prospect, but, at least there's an increasing level of honesty about the whole thing.