Friday, March 27
The Cruelty of Corbu
It is often wondered aloud why we cannot create a new "modern" Catholic style, a true expression of our own era. Partially it is because of this intellectual, positivistic bankruptcy at the root of the modernistic style. Continuity must be re-established first before any progress or development may be made.More here, along with excerpts from a great review of an apparently and appropriately tedious book, Nicholas Fox Weber's Le Corbusier: A Life.
Though I'd also say that the classical experiments of the last forty or so years are just as "modern," if not more so, than whatever bizarro koolade Rem Koolhouse is peddling. Perhaps something new and different, yet traditional, will spring from its roots, like Goodhue's Gothic sprung from the earlier work of Pugin, Scot and Bodley, or how Comper's unified eclecticism came from everything he saw, but we have to start somewhere, and there is still so much to learn, in terms of design and craftsmanship. The architects working today have the hardest job--which is bringing, effectively, a whole world back to life. And as this culture was brought down not by obsolescence but by willful cruelty, this is hardly archaeologism.
Perhaps the modernistic style might be baptized, but much that made it distinctive, would be washed away in the progress. One problem is its fixation, almost Gnostic, with disembodied ideas and concepts. A painting cannot be simply about paint, pace Rothko; and while a building must stand up, it need not solely be about standing up. Certainly the classical and Gothic traditions have that aspect, as far back as Vitruvius and as recently as Viollet-le-Duc, though at its best, such mechanics were stepping-stones to something better and wilder. [...]
Thursday, March 26
On the Lighter Side of Things
Chesterton once commented that The Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son--apologies to my Orthodox friends, just metaphysically white-out that last clause if you like--is essentially the same thing as saying God is Love, as the love between Father and Son is so strong as to be a whole Person in Itself. Taking that logic to a perilous extreme, let's see whatever deeper philosophical, historical and theological situations we can wrench out of innocuous song lyrics and titles:
All you need is love: The sum of my personal satisfaction is quenched by the eternal procession of the Persons of the Trinity.
L is for the way you look at me: Acrostic interpretation of the abiding charity of God, with mildly Kabbalistic overtones. Possibly originating in an early, cryptic text of Rabbi Gamaliel.
I've got a lovely bunch of cocoanuts: The glory of the Trinity is revealed in the humblest facets of creation. Obviously Franciscan.
Fly me to the Moon : It must have something to do with the Assumption. Right? Right? Work with me, people.
Do you believe in Magic?: Acually one of the messier portions of the Kramer and Sprenger witch-trial transcripts.
Heaven. I'm in Heaven: The Q-source for this text is presumably derived from the apocryphal Assumption of Enoch, in which the biblical patriarch is taken up to heaven in a burning inner-tube shaped UFO, a bit like that scene in Cats.
I Left My Heart in San Francisco: Something to do with relic theft in the early Spanish colonies.
Inagaddadavida: A testament to the utter inscrutability of God equal to the great medieval English classic, The Cloud of Unknowning. Or, in other words, I have no idea what they're saying.
Wednesday, March 25
A Little Late on the Ball...
In case you haven't already seen it, though:
NOTRE DAME, IN, 25 March 2009 — A number of student groups at the University of Notre Dame issued a statement today repudiating the University’s selection of President Barack Obama to deliver its 2009 Commencement Address. The statement criticizes the president’s position on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and other life issues, and chastises University administration for apparently looking over what they termed "fundamental moral principles."Read the rest at their website.
Also, I hear that the Notre Dame Right to Life president, Mary K. Daly, will be on FoxNews tonight at around 10:45 Eastern Time. Do tune in if, unlike me, you have cable!
Tuesday, March 24
Required Reading for Today
In the news everyone's been waiting for, Bishop D'Arcy has announced that he will not be attending Commencement this year. His full statement follows (source):
Concerning President Barack Obama speaking at Notre Dame BONUS REQUIRED READING: Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice has some incisive remarks on the whole situation, both at his blog and at NRO.
graduation, receiving honorary law degree
Sunday, March 22
Thoughts, at last
Some of you have probably been wondering where we’ve been since 4:30 or so on Friday. Speaking for myself, I’ve been winnowing through what’s being said around the interwebs, and waiting, as counseled over at Whispers, for the other shoe to drop:
"Later this weekend, the university -- the crown jewel of American Catholic education -- will announce 2009's winner of the aforementioned Laetare Medal, the Stateside church's most prestigious homegrown honor.And I finally feel ready to say a few words about this whole situation. You might want to top off your coffee before you settle down to read this one, folks, it’s going to be a tad long (though nothing for Matt’s devoted readers, I’m sure).
As Catholicism at its purest tends to favor the "great et et," any sound reaction to today's news might just want to wait until the other shoe drops.
In other words, stay tuned."
Okay? okay. Well, folks, this one is pretty bad, and no doubt about it. Now, on the one hand, of course, I would imagine that Notre Dame, like many other major universities, invites the sitting President as a matter of course. They may not have expected an acceptance any more than usual. I am not pointing this out to excuse the invitation, because, of course, one would hope that there is much thought put into any honor bestowed by the University. I am merely noting that he may not have been singled out particularly. It’s still inexcusable, as they’ve managed to bring scandal to many, as well as marring the exercises by causing many graduates to question whether they can even attend their own commencement in good conscience.
The flaws in the argument having been duly noted, I think that being aware of their rationale can be helpful in voicing our objections. It is true, of course, that we are called as Catholics to engage those with whom we disagree. The problem is that the opportunity for scandal to the Faithful has been ignored, perhaps willfully, by the administration. The argument for inviting him is rather nuanced, if flawed, and it behooves arguments against his coming to be well thought out and address more nuanced points. As a commenter elsewhere noted:
"saying ‘ND thinks it's okay to kill babies!’ fails to recognize the complexity of the situation. Something like ‘ND isn't taking Obama's policies toward life issues into serious enough consideration’ is a much better argument.”
The difference between an ordinary speaking engagement or debate and the honor of giving a commencement address ought to be highlighted, as well as our duty to avoid giving scandal. We are not trying to retreat to the ghetto, and we do need to live in the world, but given the at least potential appearance of endorsing the president's pro-abortion actions, the choice was a highly imprudent one, at best.Of course, that "other shoe" mentioned earlier, the bestowal of the Laetare medal upon Mary Ann Glendon, is a rather interesting wrinkle in the whole affair. I have often said that Notre Dame is a microcosm of the Church in America, for better or worse, and this juxtaposition certainly highlights the "here comes everybody" aspect of the place. Now, as Rocco noted, Laetare recipients are informed months in advance, whereas the Commencement speaker was only secured days ago, so please, no jumping to conclusions about the University covering for themselves; Ms. Glendon was chosen on her own merits.
Now, as to responses: I realize that Notre Dame is representative of American Catholic identity in so many ways, and thus we all (in the US, at least) have a stake in this. First, though, please understand that those of us with a stronger connection to the University really do love her; enough, paraphrasing Chesterton, to smash the whole place for the sake of herself, if it comes to that (though I don’t think we’re there yet). If we get a bit defensive at comments made by those who are less tied up in it, it is likely because we see a lot of smashing and not much love, and we ought always to speak with charity, even of institutions. I’ve read from many people ready to abandon the place to the wolves, but, as her "loyal sons," we just can’t do that, no matter how disappointed we are. Besides, those of us who know her beyond what is said on the blogs know that it’s not a Sodom and Gomorrah situation, with only a few good men worth saving. I’m not being sentimental when I say that the academic and spiritual vibrancy there has transformed the lives of too many people to begin naming.Thus, any sort of protest, public and private, needs to be measured in terms of its effectiveness. I’ve read a lot of word from third parties proposing major protests on the day of the event, and I can understand the sentiment behind this, but it is my strong opinion that any such efforts need to come from within. It’s pretty meaningless to sacrifice someone else’s commencement day, honestly, and I would imagine that even students who disagree with the choice are going to be more annoyed at outside protesters crashing their campus and marring their commencement than anything.
Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; … It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. CCC 1806 (emphasis mine)For those of you who are curious about the mood on-campus, I received an email this morning from a current student with permission to excerpt:
If I may go on a slight tangent about third parties, while I’m at it, I honestly found this passage from the Cardinal Newman Society’s alert to be both condescending and self-aggrandizing: "The Cardinal Newman Society today faxed a letter to Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, notifying him of the scandal." (emphasis mine) Had the wording been "voicing their concern" or even expressing a hope for his timely and strong response, I would have no particular problem with this. The idea that they would somehow need to notify the bishop of these goings-on, however, bespeaks a lack of faith in Bishop D'Arcy's attention to his own flock. Their role in disseminating information notwithstanding, I find their attempts to claim the forefront of this fight, which rightly belongs to those with closer ties to the University, to be disingenuous, at the very least. I wonder if they consulted the local ordinary, or anyone more intimately acquainted with the situation, before establishing an entire website dedicated to this one speech?First off, we were just as blind-sided as everyone else on Friday. Rather than act on the first righteous anger we felt, the students are taking a few days to decide how best to present a unified and effective front. Keep in mind that, as students, we have lots of other demands on our time, and it's just not possible for us to come with a clever, effective strategy in an hour. Rest assured that it is foremost in our minds; we just don't want to take the first outraged, half-assed, counterproductive form of protest that comes to mind.Having established that, I hope it's clear why we're not all thrilled about the prospect of CNS or anyone else coming in to "rescue" us. At this point, it really is best if those groups step back, let the students formulate a response, and be there for support if we need you.There are several Facebook groups dedicated to this protest, whatever form it ultimately takes. One of them can be found here, and I would encourage people - especially students - to join. Besides being the best way to get updates, high group membership is (strangely enough) the kind of thing that news outlets pick up on. Also, ND Right to Life's Collegiate Conference is coming up next weekend, and in light of these recent events, it would be great to have high attendance.Finally, I would ask that people pray for Our Lady's University. Don't pray that it be struck down with divine flames. Don't pray that the poor brainwashed Domers come to their senses and transfer out of there. Don't pray that the good professors come to their senses and go elsewhere. Pray for the Catholic character of this University and for all those who are trying to do what's best at this critical moment.
With regard to letters written to the University, and I do encourage you to write them, please take the time to make them informed, well thought-out, and respectful. As I’ve noted, those who do agree and love the university might get a little defensive at some comments, so how much more will those who are on the fence, or who see no problem at all with inviting the President? I’ve seen blog comments that throw around "facts" such as CatholicTV being one of the few places that doesn’t feature Mass from the Basilica (it does, every Sunday), or that the speaker was announced on the cusp of Spring Break in order to quell criticism (off by two weeks). A little research and sticking to the facts will go a long way towards being heard. And, if I may throw in a pet peeve shared by many fellow Domers, don’t call it "Notre Dame University" or "NDU"; it’s "The University of Notre Dame" (ND for short, of course).As a note to the fellow alums and other Notre Dame Family members who read the blog, as you're well aware from all those 574-631- phone calls on your caller ID, it's fundraising time. I'd like to encourage you, rather than not giving at all, to consider directing any contributions you might have planned to a new pro-life fund started by the Center for Ethics and Culture. The page goes into very specific detail as to why this sort of fund is the best way to assist campus pro-life initiatives, and how the money will be used. I wish something like this had been around when I was a student trying to navigate the funds allocation process. And, of course, tell the University exactly why your contribution is not going to the general fund (but be nice to those poor minimum-wage students manning the phones).
One of the more unique comments I’ve heard in all of this is the hope that the President would be influenced by Our Lady during his time on campus. But really, why should that be such a singular statement? If we truly believe in the transformative power of our Faith, why should that not be our first thought in this whole affair, rather than an afterthought? So, of course, as we work and pray in prudence and charity, let us recall St. Paul’s exhortation not to empty the Cross of its power. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17)
Wednesday, March 18
Paging All Milwaukee-Area Catholic Nerds, or, Bishop Takes Rook
I will be starting work at a new position in Milwaukee, at a rising young Classical firm, in late April. From my meetings with my future superiors and co-workers, I think it will be a really great opportunity for me, and I am also excited about finally being able to live in a place where affordable apartments have separate bedrooms and the commute doesn't involve roving bands of mariachis invading the subway. The many, many friendships I made in New York, as well as the grand old metropolis itself, will make leaving difficult, but from what I have seen, Milwaukee appears a very fine place to live--not too crowded, not too empty, with a very good cultural scene for a city of its size and good food, restaurants and friendly inhabitants. It also appears there are a number of good parishes to choose from--we will pass over the state of the wreckovated cathedral in silence--and I also plan to be in Chicago fairly frequently as well.
I made several very good friends due to the gracious responses I received when I first moved to New York and asked anyone who wanted to meet a Catholic nerd in need of friends and new in town, so I'll do it again this time. I'd love to hear from any area readers or friends of readers who'd like to meet me, and also any tidbits about Catholic life in Milwaukee and Chicago. Please comment in the box or drop me a line at malderman83 (at) gmail.com.
PS. As to Dolan, I don't know if this trade of architect for hierarch was in the fine print of the deal he signed (I'm thinking of renting his U-Haul once he gets here), but my fellow New Yorkers, treat him well, as I am sure he will make for a worthy Cardinal Archbishop.
Tuesday, March 17
Danny Boy Like You've Never Heard it Before, and Thank Goodness for That
Happy St. Patrick's day to one and all...and many, many apologies to our Irish readers.
Victor Vasnetsov 1848-1926
Friday, March 13
Some Images of Early 20th Century American Liturgical Architecture
The turn of the last century was a true golden age for liturgical design in the United States. I have discussed the work of Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue, and Cram's exertions in promoting a return to traditional forms of worship among Anglicans and nonliturgical Protestants, but there were dozens of lesser masters, such as the Irish Catholic immigrant Charles Maginnis, a former Cram employee and sometime president of the American Institute of Architects, whose breadth of work rivals that of his master, and many more local figures whose names are even less well-known today--John T. Comes, Frank R. Watson, Charles Klauder... It is also striking to note the work was not uniformly Gothic--as evident by the exuberant Mexican Baroque altarpiece proposed for a Cuban project above, as well as numerous Romanesque, classical and even faintly Plateresque examples. Neither were the styles chosen evenly 'historical' or archaeologic in their composition, often incorporating in their massing a hint of the skyscraper.
The consistent quality of such work is, nontheless amazing, as are the many unlikely or unheard-of places where these churches and chapels still stand. Here follows a selection of illustrations from a number of works, but principally the two publications American Churches, from 1915, and American Church-Building of To-Day, from 1929, both wonderful chronicles of this moment in architectural time.
Tuesday, March 10
A Shrine Exclusive - Photos from the Dedication of Thomas Aquinas College's New Chapel
As you know, we've been updating you on the progress of Duncan Stroik's designs for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity on Thomas Aquinas College's campus for some time now. But the big day has come, and liturgically and aesthetically, it looks to have been quite the blowout from the photos we have received. The new chapel is a work of noble beauty, elegantly decorated with marbles, paintings and an elaborate baldachin inspired by Bernini's masterpiece at St. Peter's. This is a major event.
Congratulations to Mr. Stroik on the completion of his magnum opus and Thomas Aquinas College their far-sighted patronage of their beautiful new chapel. Remember, this all started long before Pope Benedict and the hermeneutic of continuity, yet it is certainly the true embodiment of the concept. It can be done. Who knows, perhaps the dedicating celebrant, local L.A. archbishop Cardinal Mahony, picked up some decorating tips for his cathedral from the experience. Hope is, after all, a theological virtue.
Also, three-and-a-half years ago, the summer I worked for Duncan Stroik, I helped pick out the lamp that now hangs in the open-air narthex of the church. So there's a tiny, tiny bit of me in the finished product, too.
Friday, March 6
A Counter-Proposal for a Shrine on the West Coast
Some time back, D Mac over at the wonderful Creative Minority Report did a piece on a distinctly disappointing proposal for a west-coast shrine to the Divine Mercy. Note the picture above. While mildly traditional--cruciform plan, check; domes, check; crucifix, check; rose-window, check--the design lacks all of the subtlety of detail and proportion associated with the Church's heritage of art and architecture. I will not offer an extensive critique of the proposal here, but simply pause to say it continues to frustrate me how many ostensibly-traditional large-scale projects are handed off to firms with no recognized background in the field of ecclesiastical design.
The problem is not that it is hard to get beautiful churches built, but that the wrong people seem to end up getting the commissions. Oakland and Los Angeles were, of course, going to go modernistic no matter what, but Houston Cathedral could have been a masterpiece if handled by someone with a greater openness to traditional design, rather than settling for a mediocre pseudo-traditionalism. Bad architecture costs just as much as good architecture; even a simple building can be handled well if an architect can know how to strategically place details and use proportion to his advantage. The handsome, brilliantly-handled austerity of late German Gothic comes to mind, as does the simple adobes of the Southwest and the geometric neo-Byzantine of Otto Wagner.
I ran up the following series of sketches below in the matter of a few hours last night, though I had been mulling over the problem on-and-off for a few weeks now in my spare time. The first is somewhat of a fantasy in the manner of Wagner and Plečnik (officially the most unjustly underrated architect of the twentieth century), drawing on the long tradition of centralized church-planning that is associated wih shrines and martyria, while the second design, with accompanying plan, is a bit more realistic and worth pausing over. It is derived from some of Bertram Goodhue's late forays into a modernized form of California Spanish Revival, particularly his initial drafts for the Los Angeles Public Library, and is intended to be cost-effective by its relatively simple detailing, and suitably local in precedent. We have discussed Goodhue--and Cram's--interest in the Spanish Baroque here in the past, though here it is rendered in a somewhat more modernized late-Goodhue idiom.
You will note there is very little actual ornament, save at key points such as doorways and the crown of the dome, leaving the decoration to the simple, sculpted forms of the buttresses and massing itself. There is some similarity to a number of public and private buildings being built in Florida at present, as well as the work of George Washington Smith. I imagine the design as stucco, predominantly white or beige, or even a pale roseate color, with grey stone trim at strategic points and a mosaic dome in a greenish-blue with geometric patterning; the dome's tiling would probably most resemble the Pima County Courthouse in Tucson in overall mood. I have avoided curves where possible--they tend to cost more--only using them for maximum effect, the same with sculpture. The use of stucco also prevents the occasionally oppressive affect of large stretches of unrelieved brick, and would provide a splendid canvas for the long shadows of afternoon and evening along the structure's flanks. The last drawing, after the little sketch of the floorplan, are some half-thought-out variations on both schemes.
Ultimately, it is not a matter of money, but what the architect does with it. Every new church can either be a test-case for tradition or a concession to contemporary mediocrity. Why settle?
Thursday, March 5
"Ça n'existe pas."
Otto Wagner's unrealized proposal for Berlin Cathedral, 1891. Source.
Special Effects By: The Moderator of the Church of Scotland
Tuesday, March 3
Matins at the underwater monastery of St. Hunley and all Submersibles.
(Pressurized diver's helmet tip to friend Sam.)
Monday, March 2
Thy Holy Supersoaker of Syracuse
While many things, such as peacock feathers, find their greatest final end in their liturgical consummation, nonetheless water guns are not among those things.
Looking at the picture...
... I couldn't help but be grateful that knowledge of obscure Baroque liturgy is uncommon. This is certainly an instance in which familiarity with the Rituale Basileense of Urbani VIII, with its benedictiones sclopetorum atque bombardarum (blessings of rifles and canons), not to mention the benedictio pulveris et globorum, plumbeorum, & ferreorum (blessing of gunpowder and bullets, whether of lead or iron), would only have made matters worse. But, with great power comes great responsibility.
Exorcizo vos creaturas Pulveris (Globorum, plumbeorum, & ferreorum) jaculatorii per Deum + vivum, per Deum + verum, per Deum + factum, & per sanctissimam Trinitatem, Patrem, + & Filium, + & Spiritum sanctum, & per Deum, qui omnia creavit ex nihilo: qui rebelles angelos de coelo ad inferos praecipitavit: & per Jesum Christum filium ejus, Dominum nostrum, qui daturus est praedestinatis feliciter regnum aeternum, & reprobis damnationem: & per omnia nomina sancta Dei vos conjuro, & exorcizo, & per omnia modo dicta, ut sint in defensionem nostram, & Ecclesiae Christi, ac in dissolutionem omnium praestigiorum, maleficiorum & superstitiosarum illusionum corporis humani: ita, ut nihil impedire valeat, quo minus per has creaturas Dei, inimici nostri, & Catholicae fidei hostes offendi, penetrari, & superari valeant. Per eum, qui venturus est judicare vivos & mortuos, & saeculum per ignem. Amen.
Ash Wednesday at the Vatican
Mary's Aggies: Annual Lenten Mega-Post
While I'm posting it a little late, I nonetheless invite you to read through Shrine friend Marcel's the annual Lenten mega-post at St. Mary's Catholic Center (Texas A & M).
What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a season of conversion. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday (this excludes Sundays, which are not part of the 40 days) and ends on Holy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum, the three holy days before Easter.
So why aren't Sundays part of Lent?
This is because Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days.
Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you do not have to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! There are some others that believe that Sundays are a part of Lent, but I do not agree with their take. Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays.
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well. * "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16) * "and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)
So, why do people "give up" things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.
Got any suggestions?
First off, pray about what you are going to do for Lent. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual practice of Lent. Then find a few things that you feel called to do. Don't do too much or too little. Stretch yourself, but don't pick things you won't stick to.
If our readers would share their own suggestions for spiritual disciplines during Lent -- no need to specify that this is what you are actually doing, lest you will thereby have already received your reward! -- please, post them in the comments box.