Thursday, August 31


The Stephen Colbert Bridge

This is hillarious...

(And, really, you should watch this)


Religion Enters Russian Schools

4 Russian provinces have made courses in Russian Orthodox Christianity mandatory in Russian schools. Another 11 have made such courses in religion optional. There are 86 provinces/regions in the Russian Federation.

Russian Education Minister Andrei Fursenko also voiced support, saying "schoolchildren must know the history of religion and religious culture".

Why can the society which invented state atheism realize that, but American schools just can't?!

Morning Meditation

"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; we do this, I say, by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also by pointing out the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority -- that is, the faithful everywhere -- inasmuch as the Apostolic Tradition has been preserved continuously by those who are everywhere."

- Irenaus, Against the Heretics, Book III, Chapter 3, ca A.D. 115

(HT: MM)

Monday, August 28


Purchasing a Parish Hymnal: Part II

The ideal ... and the real

To begin the second part of our exploration of purchasing a hymnal, let's look at what an ideal hymnal might contain, and then the real books that are out there on the market.

The ideal hymnal, based on my previous criteria and the comments, would have:
1) Settings of the Ordinary of the Mass
2) Psalmody for the Church Year
3) Hymns and/or settings of the Propers of the Mass, the selection of such varying based upon the parish's needs

The major real hymnals out there on the market:

We'll start with the offerings of the "Big Three" : GIA Publications, Oregon Catholic Press, and World Library Publications

GIA (that stands for Gregorian Institute of America) publishes a wide variety of church music, from the excellent choral and organ compositions of Richard Proulx to the reformed-folk music of Marty Haugen, David Haas, and John L. Bell. Its major hymnals are:

Worship III: The Book that Proulx Built. This classic hymnal contains the entire Proulx/Gelineau Lectionary Psalms for the church year, several classic Mass settings (including the Proulx Community Mass, Festival Eucharist, and adapation of the Schubert German Mass, as well as the plainchant Ordinaries from Jubilate Deo). The hymn selection is vast and fairly comprehensive, with the occasional odd pick but a critical mass of good hymns, without too many egregious textual adaptations. The book has been around for about 20 years, and is probably due for an update sometime after the Missal revisions go into use.

Ritualsong: This is GIA's compromise hymnal, composed of 50% traditional and 50% contemporary music. The Mass settings are equal to those in Worship, with the addition of Proulx's useful Mass for the City as well as some of his plainchant adaptation Masses (Corpus Christi Mass, for example). The hymn selection, due to the 50/50 split, is much spottier, and the revisions are much more prevalent ("All Creatures of Our God and King" and "Faith of Our Fathers" being good acid tests for this phenomenon). Furthermore, the book lacks a complete set of Lectionary Psalms. It contains many but not all of the Proulx/Gelineau works from Worship, spliced in with some Guimont (we'll get to that) and Haugen/Haas settings.

Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition: The first thing to say about this book is, it's beautiful. The cover art is nice, the pages are made of much nicer paper than any other hymnal - GIA clearly put a lot of work into this. It also contains the full set of Michel Guimont's Lectionary Psalms, which are very useful but not as good, IMHO, as the Proulx/Gelineau. Ideally, in a parish that prints worship aids, the two would be complimentary, but there are much worse fates than being "stuck" with the Guimont. The hymn selection is somewhat similar to Ritualsong, but in this case tilted 70/30 towards contemporary. That said, there's enough traditional music to be of good use for many parishes. Mass settings are similar to the other books, with some new contemporary work by Steven Janco that's a step up from much of the rest of that genre.

Oregon Catholic Press, originally the Oregon Catholic Truth Society, is known for publishing the works of the St. Louis Jesuits, innovators of "reformed-folk" in the 70's (for those who scoff, I don't like them any more than you do, but consider that at the time, people were relieved that at least the music was Scriptural as opposed to 60's classics like "Kumbaya" and "The Sadness Song"). OCP publishes a wide variety of missaletes, yearly Missals, and hymnals, but we'll think about primarily about their top-of-the-line hymnal, Journeysongs II. This book certainly has advantages over many previous OCP offerings, but it can't avoid the main OCP disadvantages, primarily the fact that OCP does not license music from its competitors, such as GIA and WLP. While this may seem a relief to those who do not like Mass of Creation, it also means no Proulx or other good GIA composers. On the bright side, Owen Alstott's Lectionary Psalms are quite usable, and OCP's versions of old hymns tend to be substantially more intact than GIA's.

World Library Publications has quietly, compared to its competitors, published much of the mainstream, run-of-the-mill music used in parishes since the Second Vatican Council, primarily Vermulst's People's Mass and Kraehenbuehl's Danish Amen Mass. These have appeared in the Seasonal Missalette, probably the most used of its kind, and permanent hymnals like People's Mass Book. WLP continues to publish both traditional and contemporary music, including works by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel's own +William Ferris and Paul French, as well as Notre Dame folk choir director Steven C. Warner, whose works tend to be superior to others in the "reformed-folk" category. WLP also puts out Christoph Tietze's excellent book of Introit Hymns for the Church Year, fulfilling the desire of many to sing the actual text of the Introit for the opening hymn at Mass.

People's Mass Book is WLP's primary hymnal, and it is probably comparable in some ways to GIA's Catholic Community Hymnal as a solid book that does not provide as many options as some other books. It gives a solid selection of traditional hymns as well as some of WLP's trademarked offerings mentioned above.

We Celebrate is a well-bound softcover hymnal that comes in somewhere between a missalette and a permanent hymnal as far as durability goes. This is a really good bet for those who aren't ready to invest in a permanent book for whatever reason, especially translation-related. It contains a similar selection to PMB, has a solid psalter and is a good bet to have good, very recently composed music. It seems to get better with every edition, and again, it is a good bet for those trepidatious about investing in anything before the the new Missal comes out. The drawback to both WLP books, as with OCP: they don't buy repertoire, for better or worse, from GIA.

A distant fourth place (volume, not quality) in Catholic music publishing belongs to Collegeville (Liturgical Press). Run by the Benedictine Monks in Collegeville, Minnesota, it currently publishes two major hymnals:

The Collegeville Hymnal is a very good hymnal containing a wide selection of hymns yet markedly different from Worship, a good number of Psalm settings, and several Mass settings. The problem with this book tends to be that its selection is somewhat anachronistic, as many of the Mass settings are good but composed at Collegeville and thus largely unfamiliar in the larger music world. The Psalm settings are also somewhat problematic, as they go between different styles and do not provide a consistent set of Lectionary Psalms.

By Flowing Waters bills itself as an English translation of the Graduale Simplex, but to me it is plagued even worse by inconsistencies and by the bad decision of the editors to use the New Revised Standard translation of the Bible, not approved for liturgical use in the United States. This book can be a useful resource to choirs, but isn't going to work as a week in and week out hymnal.

Another good tidbit about Collegeville is that both they and GIA are part of, thus making it possible for GIA customers to photocopy and use Collegeville material, and vice-versa.

The rest of the hymnals on the market tend to come from independent sources, whether they be publishing houses that usually don't publish music or parishes who put together their own hymnal.

The Adoremus Hymnal is the current veteran of this genre (for those wondering, the classic but anachronistic Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles has been out of print for a while and is in limbo as to when the new edition will actually be ready), and it provides a decent choice for a small, fairly homogenous and traditional parish. The Latin-English facing Order of Mass in front is a great touch, and there is a good variety of Mass settings. The hymn selection is also good, albeit small. This hymnal's major deficiency is lack of any Psalms whatsoever. Its purchaser will have to look and license elsewhere for these. The book has also been criticized for using archaic versions of the hymns (such as "Immaculate Mary") that confuse people used to newer but still highly traditional versions.

The St. Michael Hymnal seems to have lapped Adoremus as the traditional hymnal of choice, and understandably so, since they have included the Order of Mass from Adoremus along with a bigger variety of Mass settings and a larger number and variety of hymns. Like Adoremus, its major weakness is lack of Psalm settings, which hopefully will be dealt with in future editions. It also groups the hymns alphabetically, which is annoying for music directors and others programming music since music about the particular season or topic of the week/day is not grouped together - on the other hand, this is convenient for those in the pews if they know the name of the hymn but missed the number (though I would argue providing a textual version of the number whether on placards or in a worship aid is essential in any case).

The Catholic Hymn Book (do not confuse this with the American Catholic Hymnbook, which is a debacle despite its recommendation from Thomas Day of Why Catholics Can't Sing fame) from Gracewing is a hymnal hailing from England, in Anglican-style format with the music on the top half of the page and the text on the bottom. It contains an excellent selection of hymns and chant Mass settings, though again Psalms are an issue. The cost of importing from across the pond may also be an issue.

I have not yet seen The St. Augustine Hymnal, but I welcome commentary from those who have.

In the next installment of this series, we will take a look at the decision, now that we've sorted out some of the factors involved.

Sunday, August 27


Totus Pius

The Popes Pius return to ND... We're jealous, guys.
Orthodoxy Transcends Idealogy

I recently came across a photo of the All Souls Chapel at St. Louis Cathedral; the cathedral is already probably one of the finest in America and may well be the finest. This chapel in particular intrigues me, with its striking, austere black-and-white marble decorated in a manner the cathedral website describes as "Viennese Reconstructionist," which I have never heard of before, but looks like a Sezessionist take on Byzantine. I will have to add to my mental file of good 20th century architecture styles like Art Nouveau, Catalan Expressionism and the like which never got an even chance before getting sadly forgotten by history. Though I'm not so sure I like those odd blank blocky abstracted capitals; a little bit of detail in a restrained manner might do a bit of good up there.

Saturday, August 26


A Stupid and Meaningless Phrase

"The Church should stay out of poltiics."

Amy links to Rod Dreher's recent piece on American politics and religion:

Republican delegates felt much warmer toward union leaders, mainline liberals, blacks, Hispanics, and Democrats than toward feminists, environmentalists, and pro-abortion activists. For their part, the Democrats were more favorably disposed to big-business types, the rich, political conservatives and Republicans than toward pro-lifers and conservative Christians. Of the 18 groups covered by the survey, Christian fundamentalists came in as the most despised, with over half the Democratic delegates giving them the absolute minimum score possible.

Often, so often, we hear the phrase "the Church should stay out of politics."

By which they mean: bishops shouldn't criticize the status quo.

But bishops are no more a member of the Church than I am. I don't have a magisterial role, and am happy to pay, pray, and obey, but bishops are no more "the Church" than I am, or any other baptized soul. When you tell "the Church" to "stay out of politics," what you're really saying is that you don't want me to vote or pay taxes.

Which, at least insofar as taxes are concerned, is not what they mean. But as long as I pay taxes and vote, the Church is involved in politics, in my person and by governmental decree. Nor do such secularists have any right to disenfranchize bishops from their own right to vote, pay taxes, and talk about the issues related to voting.

Friday, August 25


Who are the two most important people in the Ecclesia Militans?


Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido
Mi verso es un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo.

Chorus: Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera, etc.

Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.

Chorus: Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera, etc.

Con los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
El arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar.

Chorus: Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera, etc.

The Gourmet Government


Diamond-shaped emblem in a tropical setting representing frying pan heated over volcano, symbolic of the Island's Gourmet Government. Motto: "Non Nova, sed Nove"--"Not New Things, but New Ways."

[The blazoning is inaccurate by heraldic standards, but I'm quoting here].


"We have an unusual Constitution. It's sort of a Restaurant Government. There are twenty families on the Island, each running a restaurant. We made it a law here that every family shall go to a different restaurant every night of the month, around the village square in rotation. In this way, no family of Krakatoa has to work more than once every twenty days, and every family is assured a great variety of food." [...]

"That's reasonable," I remarked. "But tell me, how did each restaurant get to be so different? You have told me that all of the families come from San Francisco. From what I can see and hear of them, they all seem to be Americans, and yet their houses are as varied and international as the pavilions at a World's Fair."

"We are all Americans here. The international restaurants are built simply to give variety to our days. [...] We Americans all have different inherited tastes [...]. The A.'s run an American restaurant, and serve only real American cooking. You are now eating at the B.'s. This is a British chop house. The C.'s run a Chinese restaurant. The D.'s run a Dutch restaurant, the E.'s an Egyptian [...]."

"What a wonderful place this Island is!" I exclaimed.

~William Pène du Bois, The Twenty-One Balloons, 1949

Thursday, August 24


A eulogy for the "#"

Well, not really. I've been noting of late that some people have been having trouble figuring out how to link to individual posts. I've switched out the former "#" link for the less-ambiguous "Permalink," as you can see at the bottom of the posts. Hope this helps.

A Patroness for the New Evangelization?

Servant of God Claire de Castelbajac

During the same French explorations in which I discovered the Communaute Saint Martin, I also ran across, from the website of one of their parishes, a new Servant of God, Claire de Castelbajac, who I think may prove to be a perfect patroness for the new evangelization. Indeed, her story has a certain "St. Therese meets the 60's" character to it that I think can prove instructive and inspiring to us all, especially young people. Here is the story of a girl who never saw her 22nd birthday, and the remarkable spirituality she has bequeathed to us.
Claire was born into a Catholic family, and in her youth she had several of the "precocious saint" kinds of stories that one finds in the earlier sections of Story of a Soul. Most of these revolved around her First Communion, both excitement to receive it and later regret that it happened at so early an age.
As she grew into adolescence, Claire was very disturbed by the currents swirling around her in the Church. In her frustration, she decided to form a choir. This spirit is carried on today by the Chorale Claire de Castelbajac.
The trenchant part of the story for us really begins when Claire goes off to school in Rome, to study art restoration. There, she was disturbed and tempted by the excesses of late '60's and early '70's youth culture, which of course are still with us today:

I really need your prayers... the more I get to know people, the more it depresses me. I thought Art for Art's sake and Beauty for Beauty's sake, and therefore the sense of the gratuitousness of things, gave people a profundity and something more... Apparently, except for two or three snobs, everyone is interested in what they are doing, and even passionate about it, but after that, plop! The only thing that interests them is pleasure in all its forms. So that depresses me and disgusts me a little. I can't judge them, but all the people I talk to, except for two, are like that. They all more or less live with a «partner»... So I am disappointed... All the boys chase me! Damn it! I don't wear miniskirts... And I even sprinkle with coldness and nastiness those I must avoid. And the more I sprinkle, the more they continue... But what I'm afraid of right now is me, because I am going to tell you everything. I am not encouraged at all by good people, like I was in Toulouse. So sometimes, when I see the people around me, I think to myself that it wouldn't be so bad to be like them... Then I pray, I pray, to have the courage, I could even say sometimes the heroism, to resist, to not have any «boyfriend» (ed. the original Italian word is "gabazzo" - if anyone familiar with the Roman dialect could clarify the implications of this, it would be helpful) before marriage...»

As it turned out, however, Claire could not entirely resist these currents:

My view of things is changing—what will satisfy the thirst for life I have?... Yesterday we went out to the seaside. It was fabulous! All by ourselves to play the fool till the middle of the night... We were so passionately full of life, of independence, of total freedom and the intoxicating feeling of being outside of civilization.»

Rarely do we find in the lives of the saints such poignant examples of frail humanity, even within a life of attempting to live out the faith. Yet Claire was able to repent and turn her life around, after some setbacks:

«I realize the level of vanity and sheer egoism I fell to, under the deceptive name of emancipation...»

This passage is quite reminiscent of some of the things that our late and current Holy Fathers have said about the danger of modern freedom as license, and Claire fought this strugle as we all do. Eventually, she took up work helping to restore the frescoes at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Shortly after, however, she became gravely ill. As she neared death of meningo-encephalitis in 1975 at the age of 21, Claire wrote of preparation for death:

«Do you really think that the ever-growing closeness of death is frightening? I think it isn't. We shouldn't fear death. Death is just the passage from one life—that is just a test, in fact—of joys and little misfortunes... to complete Happiness, in perpetual View of Him Who has given us everything. Death frightening? No, it shouldn't be—but rather, hoped and waited for (so prepared for...)

This is profound wisdom, especially at so young an age. My favorite quote of Claire's, however, has to be this passage:
Being a saint means loving the ordinary things of life for God, with God and with His divine grace and strength.
I always thought it was acceptance and not love. This changes everything and is brilliant. That must be where God's joy comes from. Acceptance is a rather neutral feeling, even thought it is better than submissiveness.
But when it comes down to it, love is the only feeling good enough for God. You don't just accept a kiss from your parents, you love the kiss because it comes from your parents.
- to accept is just like saying well, I just got a nasty blow, might as well see the good side and offer it up to God ;
- to resign oneself is like saying this blow annoys me but in any case there is nothing to do about it but to give it up to God.
- to make it an act of love is to say God was good enough to send me this blow so that I can offer it to Him with all my heart for his glory.
Nevertheless, it takes a thick coat of holiness to turn everything into an act of love. »
(17 October 1972, journal entry)

What, then, is the significance of Claire de Castelbajac? I think that she can provide for us a perfect patroness for the new evangelization, precisely in that she suffered so personally from the breakdown in the Church and the culture that necessitated this evangelization. Significantly, she also died in the same year, 1975, that Pope Paul VI issued Evangelii Nuntiandi, a document constantly cited by John Paul II as the founding document for the new evangelization. She suffered, experienced temptation, and returned, and also left us journals of profound spiritual writing. Let us pray that Claire may help us to live and to preach the Gospel, and that perhaps someday she may be raised to the altars as a saint for our times.
More information:
A biographical sketch
Resource page including quotes (some links on this page aren't working as of this writing)

For those of you visiting from Open Book...

Especially those of an architectural bent, please stop and have a look at some samples from various architectural and artistic projects done by yours truly over the past couple of years. Included are a parish church for Episcopalian converts to Catholicism in Chicago, a Tridentine seminary in Wisconsin, an embassy and much, much more.


An Aside on Gothic Deco

I recently visited the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore with the Sober Sophomore as my fearless tourguide, as well as checking out the the old neoclassical Basilica from the outside; it won't be re-opened until after they're finished re-Latrobizing its plesantly stoic interior. (My initial reaction is that it looks too clean and will probably be much more agreeable when twenty years of exhaust fumes have mellowed it a bit).

The tympanum of the front portal of Mary our Queen, Baltimore.

The new Cathedral is an example of a peculiar and once peculiarly popular style, a sort of hard-edged deco take on Gothic which has a way of turning up in odd corners of the U.S. It can vary from the sculptor merely giving a certain chilly Works Progress Administration look to the figures as at Atlanta Cathedral, or a full-blown and surprisingly stripped-down skyscraper aesthetic, like that at, of all places, the cathedral in bucolic La Crosse, Wisconsin. Sometimes, the effect is kitschy Busby Berkeley, but more often than not, it can be quite striking, if one gives it an honest chance.

Christ the King, Atlanta. A strangely small cathedral of a cold sort of gothic, but not without a certain appeal.

While not as satisfying to me as more ornate and historically-minded forms of less radical takes on Gothic, these projects are nonetheless worthy of our consideration, both as period pieces and also as a fascinating lesson in architectural design both pro and con. Chicago has a disproportionately large number of them, as well as deco-izing forays into Romanesque and other styles, and almost all manage to convince as pieces of appropriately well-balanced work, not dependent on novelty but very competent expansions of the tradition down various side-paths otherwise ignored today. It is a bit on the modern side (and that opens a whole other field of questions I've not yet examined), but it is by no stretch of the imagination modernist.

The high rise was a favorite structure to Gothicize at the turn of the last century, and some of that verticality crept into the funkier turns of some of the other takes on modernity--deco, streamline moderne, and various simplified forms of classicism--that have since ended up getting lost in the historical-architectural shuffle. Deco has always struck me as a modern style which fits in more clearly inside the classical tradition, considering its interest in an ornamental language and iconography, and an external expression more in keeping with the traditional past. And while art moderne curves and portholes can be overdone, they have a sort of intriguingly low-key sense of geometric invention which appeals to my baroque side.

At the very least, they're better than glass boxes, and not without a certain charm, even if a whole city block in that manner would undoubtedly overwhealm. In a sense, we can term the more historicizing turns of these styles as a sort of subconscious "classical survival," just as some have spoken of a "gothic survival" that ran under the radar in Renaissance and baroque days. Most architects of the time considered themselves very modern, no doubt, but the subsequent spectrum-skewing weirdness of Eisenmann and Gehry virtually makes them honorary classicists. Certainly churches like Mary Our Queen are Gothic Revival Survival, and, as an organic link to the past (or the closes thing at present), worth our consideration and time.

Cram's most unusual take on the modern is Pittsburgh's East Liberty Presbyterian, with a crossing-tower derived from reverse-engineering the Empire State Building into a Gothic milieu. The result is exotic and rather appealing.

If I may be permitted an aside, it is interesting to note that Cram himself, the premier neo-Gothicist of our age, was quite enamored of skyscrapers and his work got uncharacteristically stark in his twilight years. He himself seems to have made little distinction between deco and what is now simply called Modernism despite the deco tendencies in his late work--which I would argue was less irritatingly revolutionary than he thought. And I mean that as a compiment.

Being experimental, Gothic Deco never quite reached the perfection of a polished style, and may vary from deco modernism dressed up in a thin layer of Gothic--sometimes fun, sometimes mildly silly, and not quite properly ecclesial--to a fully-thought-out and coherent synthesis. In these better examples it is perhaps more useful to consider it not necessarily merely a "modernized" Gothic (even if its makers thought so) but a Gothic of a chunkier, more masculine aspect, avoiding chronological snobbery, either of a historicist or modernist slant. It is not the only "modern" approach to Gothic, as the historical treasure-trove of the period still offers much exploration without necessarily injecting a deco element; at the same time, it is a fascinating approach to this manner of design.

The two best examples of the style are the most strongly synthesized, and are simultaneously the most vigorously hefty and the most Gothic at once. One of them is just a few blocks away from my apartment. I walked by there one afternoon under a dirty pearl-grey sky with the smell of ozone in the air. It's the Episcopalian Church of the Heavenly Rest, a massive and yet surprisingly vertical structure which succeeds in mingling Romanesque mass with Gothic vigor. Something about its fluted spires suggest living rock, or the facets of a spiky crystal, and indeed a few of the blockiest bits on the side indicate bits that never got carved.

The Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York City: a curious but successful blending of chunky Deco and turn-of-the century Gothic.

It's not a church that work work everywhere, of course. It is a stunning piece of work, though one that would best thrive amid the hefty towers of a high-rise city. It is the answer to a very specific architectural and theological question, but it seems to me the right answer in this instance. I could perhaps see some of this approach working in a church dedicated to some military martyr, to St. George, for instance, though somehow the curious titulus of Heavenly Rest suggests a more delicately vegetal art-nouveau evocation of Gothic to my mind. The sculptural program continues this blocky deco trend; it works in the context, but I wonder if perhaps the vigor of the building might not have been more improved had we seen more delicate angelic visages rising from rough-hewn folds in the manner of the cowled tower guardians of Goodhue's St. Vincent's. Still, it holds its own well against its often inhospitable urban surroundings.

The Heavenly Rest from the outside, from across the street at Central Park. Like all good city churches, it dominates in spite of its surroundings.

The second, Queen of All Saints Basilica, stands in Chicago, and is notable for the extremely late date of its completion, 1959. It may well have one of the the last tradition-minded churches built in America until the present revival, and is of a Gothic which has a distinctly twentieth-century feel to it, but at no sacrifice to its iconography, beauty or craftsmanship, or its ability to be taken seriously. It is modern, but not irritatingly or faddishly so. Indeed, its iconographic scheme is a fine example of the (old) Liturgical Movement's concept of "anticipated eschatology"--an iconographic program which serves to highlight the earthly Mass by its representation of the heavenly liturgy. Though the mural behind the altar, of the Trinity in a burst of glory, placed in conjunction with the spire of the reredos, looks a little too much like a graphic of a '30s radio tower to not incite some small amusement in me.

Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago, completed at the astonishingly late date of 1959.

Then there is La Crosse Cathedral, which occupies the opposite side of the spectrum in being more modern than it is Gothic, but nonetheless it manages to preserve a convincing sense of liturgical hierarchy. Architecturally, it's rather cold, but it remains a fascinating period piece. Its sanctuary, spacious and broad with numerous choirstalls and a freestanding altar meant to be used ad orientem, is a model of how a cathedral's chancel should be built (though it could use a big crucifix as a focus), while one of its side chapels, dark, atmospheric and vaulted in black-and-gold is a surprising find indeed for this forgotten and pleasantly real little town. The aesthetic is a bit too stripped, and the distinction between walls and vault somewhat lost in the process, while the vast facade is of a startling blankness which succeeds in impressing more by its size and contrast to surroundings than its intrinsic qualities. The outline is striking, but could bear a bit more filling in. It could get dull after a few days. That being said, photos I've seen of the Bishop's chapel are nothing short of wonderful, and very clearly designed by someone who knew the Tridentine rite well.

St. Joseph the Workman, La Crosse, Wisconsin. A brooding, stark sort of abstract Gothic; interesting forms in need of some more development.

And then there is Mary Our Queen. Like La Crosse, the interior is more striking than the exterior--indeed, I find the exterior more than a little strange, too reminiscent of the government office building where my father works, down in Florida. It is also a bit less abstracted than La Crosse, if not as studied in its details as the Heavenly Rest. The lines of its nave are most striking and noble in their loftiness, and austere but in a way that doesn't suggest their decoration was undercooked somehow. The high side-aisles continue the tradition established at St. John the Divine by Cram, itself begun as a response to the peculiarities of the site and project, of going virtually all the way to the vault of the nave, producing a pleasantly airy affect distinctly Gothic in spirit.

Mary Our Queen, Baltimore; a late work by Maginnis and Walsh, the architects of the Basilica in Washington.

Spots of elegantly executed polychromy brighten vaults and rafters not unlike Queen of All Saints. Many of the side-altars, tympana and the baldachino are, while very deco in inspiration, are nonetheless astonishingly well-crafted and quite intelligent in their iconography and their liturgical layout, especially considering the late date the project was undertaken. It would be instructive to compare it with another modern-historical hybrid of the same era and place, the massive National Shrine in DC. I've heard every conceivable opinion about the place, from undying devotion to unalloyed hatred, but that's a topic for another day, too.

Lady Chapel, Mary Our Queen. A striking bit of liturgical sculpture. This photograph does not include the curious five-sided tester canopy above.

I've got broad tastes, I admit, but I also find it instructive to consider the pros and cons of every work I enjoy. The vigor of Gothic Deco is the strength, and quite apparent, but the con is that in many cases, the architect was trying a bit too hard to be unique. It is good to strive for innovation within the tradition, but pushing an idea too hard can really ruin it. Better to use a tried-and-true formula if you're not quite sure. In some instances, the inherent angularity provides an interesting new spin on Gothic attenuation, but not everything, especially when it comes to statuary, has to be hard-edged, neo-primitive, over-stylized. As with much art, and much of my favorite work by painters such as van Eyck, the right balance between nature and symbol is the key to successfully expressing the Divine. Now that the flush of novelty has long worn off, it is possible to reconsider such choices, and the whole movement, with the luxuriantly long hindsight of tradition.


The front page article on Wikipedia today is the article on Gregorian Chant. Have a look.

Perhaps we should take a page from Colbert's book and edit said article to read that Chant usage has tripled in the past six months.* "Wikipedia said it; it must be true!"


P.S. There actually is a Vicipaedia out there.

*Lest the Wikimafia come after me, let it be hereby stated that I kid.

St. John Cantius, Chicago. All Souls' Day, 2005.

Wednesday, August 23


Sacred Heart Shrine, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Los Angeles, January 2006

I'm Sick of Waiting

I want to read the pope's post-synodal document on the liturgy... and I want it now.

Feel free to forward my sentiments to the Vatican.

Baptistery, Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore. August 2006.

Tuesday, August 22


Lady Chapel, St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City. June 2006.

Monday, August 21


Literary Feats

Because... I have to brag

We've already talked about the miraculous multiplication of the ice cream cones, when Ven. Solanus Casey turned one into six...

Today, there was a multiplication of Hymnals: I purchased, for 10 cents a piece, no less than six editions of Worship II.

In another Divine gift, a friend gave me an incredible amount of books he no longer wanted... it was amazing:

- Calvin's Institutes
- Radical Orthodoxy (Milbank & Pickstock)
- Epistle to the Romans (Karl Barth)
- Radical Theology and the Death of God
- Foundations of Christian Faith (Karl Rahner)
- The Future of HOpe (Miroslav Volf, William Katerburg)
- With the Grain the Universe (Stanley Hauerwas)
- Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology
- Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
- Christianity and Classical Culture (Jaroslav Pelican)
- Beyond Belief (Elain Pagels)
- The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (Jaroslav Pelican)
- The First Urban Christians (Wayne Meeks)
- The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas
- The Way of Paradox: Spiritual Life as Taught by Meister Eckhart (Cyprion Smith)
- Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings
- Anself of Canterbury, the Major Works
- Works of St. Bonaventure (Parallel English and Latin)

Hurray, books!

If I ran ETWN's Promo Department

SCENE: A church interior. Strangely unhip electronic Reggae-style music is playing. Two women in unitards, of an age and shape when the possession of a unitard is a mortal sin against charity rather than chastity, are cavorting around the sanctuary with streamers.

The music stops, with the abrupt sound of a record squealing.

The camera pulls back to see a seated man wearing a black cassock, white surplice, biretta and a red deacon's stole with the word RED RUBRIC in white. He stands up, thrusts out his hand, a Red Rubric Brand Missal held up proudly. The dancers scatter. Camera pulls in.

RED RUBRIC DEACON: (Jamaican accent) Boo, creepy liturgical dancers! (A priest in a fiddleback chausible holding a covered chalice walks in and goes up to the altar.) Hooray Mass!

Cut to still life of chalice, missal on stand, and paten.

DEACON: (Voice-over, with flashing caption to match) It's Mass! HOORAY Mass!


(Okay, if you don't get the joke, maybe this will help.)

Hagiographic Curiosities

While flipping through the Ramsgate Book of Saints to dig up those specifics on St. Photina the Samaritan some weeks ago, I've found a whole wealth of intriguing hagiographical curiosities, especially in the name department. Some highlights:

Amphibalus (St) June 24
? The supposed fellow-martyr of St. Alban of Verulamium. In the original Act it is only said that St. Alban put on the priest's cloak (amphibalus) and was arrested instead of the priest who had taken refuge in his house--not with the priest. Geoffrey of Monmouth took the word amphibalus to be the name of the priest.

Bean (St) Bishop, Oct. 26
d. p. 1012. Bishop of Mortlach in Banff [in Scotland, not Canada], from which see he was later transferred to Aberdeen.

Bobo (Beauvon) (St) Hermit, May 22
d. c. 985. A knight of Provence, who [...] as a hermit [...] led a life of penance. [...]

Brychan (St), April 6.
? Nothing is known for sure about his life, but in legends he is a saintly king in Wales with a large number of saintly children: the usual quoted number is twenty-four. Other saints are meant to be descendents of him in later generations such as Enoder [...] [Some accounts expand the number to a whopping twenty-four sons and twenty-four daughters, doubtlessly a conflation of grandchildren and great-grandchildren with their number!]

Gonzaga Gonza (St) Martyr, June 3
d. 1886. Having spent a long time in prison, he was put to death by King Mwanga of Uganda. [My all-time favorite saint name ever.]

Grwst (St) Confessor
7th cent. The Welsh saint whose memory is perpetuated by the placename Llanwrst, Clywd. [Pronounced, "Huh?"]

Gwynllyw (St) Hermit, March 29
d. c. Gwynllyw is anglicized as Woollos. He is said to have been the husband of St. Gladys [daughter of St. Brychan, apparently], the father of St. Cadoc, and to have ended his life as a hermit in Wales. [...]

Lucius (St) King, Dec. 3
? d. c. 200. King of Britain. According to a tradition, first heard of in the sixth century, he asked Pope St. Eleutherius (d. c. 189) to send missionaries into Britain [...]. Present-day historians regard the whole story as fictitions: it is in fact based on a confusion with the story of Agbar IX, who was king of Edessa in Mesopotamia. He was also known as Lucius; and he sent to Pope St. Eleutherius for missionaries [...].

Lucy Brocolelli (Bl) Virgin, Tert. OP., Nov. 15
1476-1544. Born at Narni in Umbria, [ie, the town known to the Romans as Narnia. Hence Bl. Lucy of Narnia...]

Manez (Mannes, Manes) (Bl)
Confessor, OP., July 30
d. 1230. Manez de Guzman, an elder brother of St. Dominic, was born at Calaruega. He joined the original sixteen members of the order of Preachers in 1216, and later was prior of St. James's in Paris [...]

Quadragesimus (St) Confessor, Oct. 26
d. c. 590. A shepherd and subdeacon at Policastro who, according to the testimony of St. Gregory the Great, raised a dead man to life. [Mostly I find it a little amusing that his name is essentially a masculine form of the Latin word for "Lent."]

Sunday, August 20


St. Peter's Church, Chicago. June 2006.

Triple Portrait of a Young Woman Contemplating the Active and Contemplative Lives. Matthew Alderman. Ink on vellum, January 2006.

The Triple Portrait grew out of a request from a first-year Notre Dame student who was so eager at the start of freshman year to go off to the convent that she asked me to do a portrait of her in her future habit. I thought about it, and I set down to work over Christmas break along with a number of other drawings for friends that you've seen featured here. I also realized that vocation plans can change; and so I transformed my project into an exploration of the uncertainty and potentiality of this moment in her life. While a double portrait might have presented her possible choices as opposing elements, a triple portrait struck me as depicting her choices as two equal alternatives both reflecting some aspect of her developing soul, and an opportunity to make a reference to one of my own favorite works, Philippe de Champagne's remarkable triple portrait of Richelieu.

The active life is represented, in a modern twist, by the subject dressed in a sweatshirt and faced outward, the corpus or the physical, vigorous body capable of doing great things for God. The anima, the soul, is represented as torn between her choice of the active or the contemplative lives, and stares outward at the viewer, self-aware in her choice. The spiritus, which is the term used by St. Paul to represent the presence of God in a particular person's life, is turned inward--a gesture which can have any number of interpretations depending on what the final choice may be, but also represents the inward turning towards things of the soul. She is habited in Dominican robes, and a small convent can be glimpsed in the distance.

As it turned out, my caution was fortuitous, as I found out upon my return that the girl's circumstances had changed over break--and so the portrait changed from an ongoing question to a commemoration of a moment of choice in her life, and of her fusion of the active life with a contemplative soul, the great challenge of the Christian laity.

Friday, August 18


Awesome Blog Name

A braggable name...

(Also check out the post on whether God is made of soap.)


Will there be a Catholic Church in India 20 years from now?

One priest isn't sure. I have to admit I was surprised.

He's right, though, in the importance of the birth rate. The fate of most merged or priest-less parishes, at least in rural areas, was sealed twenty or thirty years before, when those parishes simply didn't have the children to continue.

Thursday, August 17


Oh, What's This?

A flyer from "Catholic Treasures" booksellers. Hmm... what are they selling....

"A LOOK AT WORLD YOUTH DAY: Catholicism or Corruption?"

Oh, please. Rock and roll isn't beautiful, but it isn't Satan. Is it Catholic? Well, gatherings to get prostitutes and tax collectors to simply spend time with Our Lord had better be Catholic, or I've been dreadfully misinformed as to the Biblical nature of Catholicism. And I doubt that many public sinners of that caliber attend WYD...


Huh? Sure, Pius X indulgenced them... but... Paul VI rescinded that indulgence. These people claim to know their stuff? It's ashame they're misleading people into thinking they're earning indulgences, when there are plenty of valid grants...

"EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong"

Ok.... if these people think EWTN is "moderately neo-Modernist," we're really not on the same page. Um, where's the phone? Hi, hello! I'd like to remove myself from your mailing list...

Wednesday, August 16



Murray complains that the law against assisted suicide is supported by a “religious minority” who hold to an outdated moral view that human life is inherently valuable and that children have a legitimate obligation to care for elderly parents.

Some sort of gratitude, that. Do these people not know the concept of love?

Why not just eat their parents, for the nutritional value? That would seem to be the only inherent value left in them, if one accepts such a utilitarian approach to what you and I call the gift of life.

Liturgical Advice....

well, more like ranting, but good, from American Inquisition:

"Perhaps my standards are a bit too high, but being an MC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington has, apparently, spoiled me. Things run smoothly there, even when there are literally hundreds of bishops and thousands of priests present (March for Life Mass, anyone?). Why, then, is it so hard for smaller ceremonies to be run competently? I understand that the Basilica is a church and has a full-time priest in charge of liturgy, but priests ALL conduct liturgies every day, so I guess I don't have much sympathy for someone who can't put something together.

Monsignor O'Connor, in particular, needs a good thrashing. He was constantly running around, doing things. Now, while I understand that, as the MC, he was in charge of the whole deal, I also understand that an MC's job is not to DO everything, but rather to delegate and coordinate. Monsignor does not, apparently, share my understanding.

Other people in need of a thrashing: every single seminarian in the diocese. They were the altar servers for the installation Mass which is, of course, right and proper. Tragically, they were not in cassock and surplice (not their fault, I know- O'Connor deserves another thrashing for that one), but that's not my beef with them. I have a special irritation with seminarians who are clueless when it comes to Mass. I encounter them all the time at the Shrine and they never, ever cease to frustrate me. Why are seminarians so universally clueless when it comes to altar serving? If they didn't do it before seminary, why aren't they doing it there? And if they aren't doing it there, why aren't they taking the initiative to do it at their parish during the summer? People, it isn't hard. Swinging a thurible takes practice, so PRACTICE.

The music selection, though not atrocious, was not particularly good. There were some nice songs here and there, but the communion hymns were gross. I mean, honestly, if I hear Gift of Finest Wheat one more time, I might just throw up."

Never Before

Never before have I wanted to visit Camden, NJ.

But the redeeming Sacrficing of the out pouring of Christ's love to the Father for the sake of our salvation is a beautiful thing.

So is proper choir dress.

Tuesday, August 15


Purchasing a Parish Hymnal: Part I

One of the cornerstones of any good parish music program is the hymnal, or at least the sources from which congregational music is going to be drawn. Exactly how to do this is not always obvious, even for those looking to do the right thing and promote good music. There are so many hymnals, so many music companies, that the choice can seem overwhelming. With a nod to Aristotle Esguerra's Great Catholic Hymnal Replacement Debate of 2002, I set out here to provide some tips on how to start that process. We're going to presume for these purposes a fairly "normal" parish using the 1970 Missal, since indult parishes tend to have different musical needs, and also generally would be likely to have less internal disagreement about addressing them. The first thing to do, as a pastor, music director or parish council (probably all of the above, with the music director hopefully having the largest say, if not veto power) is to ask a few questions about the parish's needs.

1) What does the parish use music for? Is a hymnal necessary? This is a useful question, since frequency of music use is an important factor in terms of whether to buy a permanent hymnal. Caught up in this question is whether Sunday music comes out of the hymnal or out of a printed program/worship aid for each weekend (having a worship aid or at least publishing music information in the bulletin is important, at the very least as a guide, and one can have a part hymnal, part worship aid approach in order to increase repertoire by printing hymns on the sheet and yet keep weekly printing costs low by referencing the hymnal). Does the parish use music for daily Mass? If so, a permanent hymnal is probably a good idea. What sorts of choirs does the parish have? Are the choirs so different that they might require different books altogether? (Spanish Masses and Gospel choirs are a good example of groups that probably need their own book). Is the "contemporary" Mass, if it exists in the main church or a lower church/parish hall? Furthermore, does it use a "folk" style or more of a praise and worship/Christian rock style? (N.B. Don't take my mention of this as a personal endorsement, but rather as an acknowledgement that such pastoral situations legitimately exist and that such music can lead people closer to Christ, even if it is often less than ideal for liturgy). Can the parish afford to buy two or more books to fill different niches, or is budget a priority?

2) Is putting the Sunday readings in front of the congregation a priority? Again, opinions on this vary from place to place. For some, either way is effective, although those who do not supply the readings ought to emphasize good lectoring or the readings may be lost on the congregation altogether. If the answer to this question is "yes," then it's going to be necessary either to provide a permanent hymnal with the readings or a missalette.

3) The musical components of a hymnal. This is an important issue, and one that I think tends to get ignored somewhat. A Mass in the 1970 Missa Normativa is probably going to have three major musical components for the people in the pews (the sung propers, which I of course heartily endorse, being generally reserved to a choir or schola):
a) The Ordinary of the Mass (the Kyrie/Penitential Rite/Sprinking Rite, Gloria, Credo if you're lucky, Sanctus/Benedictus, and Agnus Dei)
b) The Responsorial Psalm (the set for the whole Church year generally being called "Lectionary Psalms") and Gospel Acclamation/Verse
c) Hymns, including proper hymns such as sequences
As we'll see, for a hymnal to ignore or deficiently deal with anyone of these is going to be a serious drawback, and will probably require further licensing and/or reprinting in order to provide the parish with an adequate repertoire.

4)How extensive is the parish choir program?
This question is important for several reasons, since it will affect how necessary some of the components listed above will be. For example, if a parish's life is centered around a solemn Mass with Ordinaries sung by the choir and anthems or the Propers instead of hymns at Offertory and Communion, reliance on the hymnal will be greatly reduced. Similarly in many such cases, a "house repertoire" of psalms and other service music often exists or builds up through the existence of a successful choir program.
On the other hand, a parish starting from scratch or building a choir program, or one too small to sustain such a program in terms of singers and/or budget, will need to rely much more on what is contained in the hymnal, especially since extra copying licenses may be too much of an expense in these cases.
A corollary to this question concerns the existence and maintenance of a parish organ. If a parish does not have an organ and does not anticipate acquiring a good one in the near future, this is not the death knell for a music program, but it does require certain concessions. A hymnal containing repertoire very much centered around the organ, especially elaborate organ parts, may not be a good idea for such a place - something more chant-based or allowing for a very unobtrusive piano to underlie singing may be a better choice.

As this series continues, I'll follow these questions through the other important issues of what's out there in print, who's making it, what the future holds and more. Commentary more than welcome.


One Lutheran's Take on the Assumption

Blogger Luther at the Movies, on, of all things, the Assumption:
Now, I can imagine some jackanapes turning red in the face, barely able to restrain himself: “Herr Doktor: Wouldn’t it be wiser to remain silent where the Scriptures are silent? Even to engage in such speculation is to tread a slippery slope to Rome or Constantinople, with its elaborate legends about Mary and the saints.”

To which I would reply: “Perhaps, you would like to say to Christ, ‘I always believed your mother was a miserable sinner like me and lies rotting in the ground today.’ ”
Incidentally, I think should Holy Whapping ever start a TV network, we should definitely do a movie review show with Herr Doktor and St. Ignatius, sort of a Luther-Loyola Ebert-Roper sort of thing. Think of the debates! The wackiness! The popcorn-throwing fights!

To arbiters of ecclesiastical tastes, whether Gothic or classicist, the Bavarian rococco may seem just a little too much. I was once told by a young lady (herself feminine and sensible, no tomboy at all), that it was too girly, too bouncy pink-and-white, to really work for her. Other women have said just as much to me when it comes to the more flowery, embroidery-sampler bits of popular piety, the pastel-hued version of Rome's agressive crimson and gold. Sometimes it can make a fellow cringe, for sure, and desire stronger and more ferociously Byzantine Christs. I myself prefer the more sober muscularities of the Roman baroque, expressive the majestic, strong, perhaps even fearsome femininity of Mother Church rather than her more youthful, maidenly aspect.

But Mother Church, and Mother Mary, have their ebullient girlish side, too, for sure, and these explosions of splendid gilding and sentimental cherubs are not without their glories, either, reminding us of the explosions of pure joy deep in the Christian heart. The rococo speaks to that that delirious, giddy, even slightly silly bit of Ecclesia that, when reunited with her heavenly lover on Easter even, declaims the out-of-control extravagances of the Exsultet with its happy faults and rejoicing bees. (It helps that Mass is said in such places, no doubt, by burly, stubborn, and brawny German clerics intoning the Ordinary with stentorian bull's voices, to balance the equation properly between male and female.)

Can we imagine a young Virgin laughing? Perhaps we ought.

We see Mary in her old age at the Assumption, laid out on her deathbed with the heaven-sent palm and the apostles all around her, but we also see her as she was at the Annunciation, a girl, quiet and sober, yes, but still a little slip of a creature who was by today's standards more a kid than a teen--and in spite of that, was ready to take on the burden of the Godbearer with the assurance of Divine Will. Today she is the old woman reunited with her son, and today she is also the sweet young princess poised on the edge of the eve of her Coronation, pure youth, pure femininity, preparing to make that shift to become the reigning queen, and queen mother at that, embued with heavenly glory, the queen standing at the right hand, arrayed in Gold, as the Psalmist says, the presence of whose beauty is desired by the King, her spouse the Holy Ghost.

And yes, in the altarpiece we see above, by Egid Quirin Asam, it does all look a bit theatrical, a bit operatic, a bit louche to twenty-first-century eyes--but God is indeed the greatest showman, the greatest maker of spectacle and theater, who plunged into the action of the play after the characters he created had made an awful mess of things, as Chesterton once wrote, and who reminded us of the showy glory of the body in such festive and seemingly superfluous flurries of glory as the Ascension and the Assumption--superfluous until you recall of the Resurrection of the Dead, the life of the world to come, and the encounter with pure beauty that will accompany it. There ought to be no shame, no theatricality to this divine theater of signs. This extravagance is perhaps not for everybody and all times, but worth our consideration all the same.

So rococo is a bit on the girly side, and a bit theatrical. But it's yet another of the many architectural windows into the interior mind of the Church--at once heavy and masculine as Christ in the tomb, in the Romanesque, as youthful and beautiful as the young apollonian Christ of the Catacombs, as maidenly and mild as the annunciate Mary, or as formidable and grandiose as the woman clothed with the sun. She is all those things, as universal and yet distinctive as each and every of the unique saints that are her children.

Quite Frankly

Some people are bad people.

Especially when they shout down Christians praying in Jesus' OWN language with their vintage 19th century religion.

Monday, August 14


Not Your Average Ring Kissing

What's the "proper proceedure" for kissing the hands of a newly-ordained priest, anyway?

St. Maximilian's Rule of Life for those Consecrated to the Blessed Virgin

1. It is my duty to be a saint and a great saint.

2. For the glory of God, I must save myself and all souls, present and future, through the Immaculate.

3. Before anything else flee not only from mortal but also from deliberate venial sin.

4. Do not permit: a. that evil remain without reparation and destruction; or b. that good be without fruit or increase.

5. Let your rule be obedience_the will of God through the Immaculate_I am nothing but an instrument.

6. Think of what you are doing. Do not be concerned about anything else, whether bad or good.

7. Preserve order, and order will preserve you.

8. Peaceful and benevolent action.

9. Preparation - Action - Conclusion.

10. Remember that you belong exclusively, unconditionally, absolutely, irrevocably to the Immaculate: Whoever you are, whatever you have or can, whatever you do (thoughts, words, action) and endure (pleasant, unpleasant, indifferent things) belong to the Immaculate. Consequently, may she dispose of them according to Her will (and not yours). In the same way it belongs to Her all your intentions; therefore, may she transform them, add others, take them away, as She likes (in fact, She does not offend justice).

You are an instrument in Her hand, therefore do only what She wants; accept everything like a child to his own mother, trust Her in everything.Take an interest about Her, Her veneration, Her things and let Her take care of you and your loved ones. Recognize that everything you have comes from Her and nothing from you. All the fruits of your activities depend on the union with Her, in the same way as She is an instrument of the divine mercy.

O Immaculate, my life (every moment of it), my death (where, when and how) and my eternity belongs totally to you. Of everything You do whatever You like.

"Kolbe is the patron saint of our difficult century." ~Pope John Paul II

"Courage, my sons, Don't you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes." ~Saint Maximilian Kolbe

"The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers." ~ Saint Maximilian Kolbe

"For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more." ~ Saint Maximilian Kolbe

"No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?" ~ From the final issue of the Rycerz Niepokalanej

"Why worry? The Immaculata knows all!" ~St. Maximilian Kolbe

Catholics and Evangelization

I asked one of our commentors, Aimee Milburn, to comment more on Evangelization and Catholics, she being a convert from Evangelical Protestantism. I thank her for her thoughts, and hope that she doesn't mind my reposting them here!

Since you ask me to share more of my thoughts, here they are. Sorry for the length, but there’s not a quick way to explain it.

I had very powerful experience doing door-to-door work. Everything from getting doors slammed in my face to being invited in for pie and hours of deep conversation. Poor immigrants from non-Christian countries were hungry to learn about Christ; lonely people couldn't believe anyone had come to their door and didn't want us to leave. Wealthy people, on the other hand, acted like they thought we came to rob them, and wouldn't even invite us in out of the rain. It was quite a learning experience. The poor are MUCH more open to the gospel than the rich, that is for sure.

The most beautiful experience, which I had several times: leading someone to commit themselves to Christ, in prayer, right in their living room – and watching the transformation that occurs when they do. Most people break down into tears. There’s such a deep longing for Christ inside, and all the walls come down when they finally open up and let Him in. We just present the message; the Holy Spirit does the work. When we find a ripe one, it is really something.

I think the main obstacles to people knowing how to share their faith is fear and inexperience; and for many Catholics, ignorance of their faith. My evangelical program was great because it dealt with all three. We went through a 12-week training where we studied a manual that outlined the basics of our faith, practiced how to approach people with each other, went out with trainers to observe them in action, and only gradually took over and began doing it ourselves. We stayed in the program for three months, going out once a week, then were invited to come back for the next term and train others, which made it what you call a "reproducing ministry." I was a trainer in the program, and left others in my place when I moved on.

Since coming into the Catholic world, I’ve thought a lot about developing a similar program for Catholics, but with a distinctively Catholic content and focus; and use it as a feeder for RCIA (I think it’s terrible that a 2,000 family parish might have only six people in RCIA, all of them already Christian - and this is the norm). One thing I know: people who know how to share their faith, and experience the effects of it, tend to become some of the most on-fire Christians around. It’s marvelous, and I think would do much to reinvigorate parish life and get people involved and on fire.

I’m a graduate student in theology, in the evangelization and catechetics track. Last fall, one of my professors was Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). When he heard about my idea, he was skeptical that it could be applied in a Catholic context. But after I wrote a term paper on the idea, in which I developed a tentative model for Catholics, he loved it and thought it might be doable after all.

Catholics up to just a few decades ago used to go door to door regularly. A few still do occasionally, such as Legion of Mary. At the Theology on Tap meeting I mentioned above, I spoke to Abp. Chaput for a few minutes afterwards about developing a program for Catholics, and he spoke wistfully of how, when he was a boy, Legion of Mary always went door to door. He said he would love to see it happening again, in some kind of parish-based program that could spread to other parishes.

I’ve thought about developing and testing some kind of model program for my thesis; in the meantime I’m reading a lot of literature on missiology and evangelism in a post-modern context, which is changing my ideas somewhat. I’ll be in the information gathering stage for the coming year; but after that will begin work on my thesis for real.

Glad I ran into you guys – it’s encouraging to know others are thinking about this, too. Catholics are the original evangelizers of pagans. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do it now.

I would like to see such a thing started, as well. One of the drawbacks of St. Blog's is also one of its strengths, that we're all spread across the country and the world. But I do wonder if St. Blog's could be a resource, one of many, in starting a couple concrete groups of such a thing...

Sunday, August 13


You're Royalty!

A pretty-cool article on genealogy.

It also mentions something that I read from Don Jim, that European Royalty is related to Mohammed:

Yet there is no good evidence demonstrating that Isabel, who bore one son by Alfonso VI, was the same person as Zaida. So the line between Muhammad and the English monarchs probably breaks at this point.


Query for our Readers

Ever brilliant as they are:

As I'm aware, flowers are placed before the BVM after Communion at Nuptial Masses.

At what point in the Mass were flowers placed before the BVM in the Tridentine Mass?

You Haven't Read Anything Weirder

At least, I hope you haven't.

Saturday, August 12


Groundhog Day

Feast of Saint Clare........Feast of Saint Clare
One of the many amusements of jumping between calendars for daily Mass.

Friday, August 11



To spread the Gospel is, of course, the Christian mandate. And, while I completely agree with St. Francis that we should "preach the Gospel, use words when necessary," I think that Catholics are prone to use that adage as a way to avoid talking about the Faith with people who have absolutely no idea what it is. While I think we're getting much better at rehabilitating fallen-away Catholics, or welcoming into the Catholic Fold people who already ardently love Our Lord, we're still crumby at introducing Christ to people who have no idea what Christianity is.

So, how to do that has been a matter of reflection for me recently. I thought this was interesting:

Q: How can we speak evangelistically to people today? Is it different from how we spoke to former generations?
A: Much of our evangelism here in the United States was developed in a context of Christendom, in which just about everybody knew the basic information of Christianity and were favorably disposed to it. Evangelism got people to act on what they already knew and, in a sense, already passively believed. You could call people to commitment relatively quickly. You could also use pretty forceful persuasive techniques. In dealing with postmoderns, you're dealing with people who do not know the basics of Christianity. If anything, they have a negative idea of what Christianity is. So it makes no sense to them if you come on too strong and quickly ask for a commitment. We should count conversations rather than conversions, not because I don't believe in conversions, but because I don't think we'll get many conversions if we keep emphasizing them.

Q: So what does evangelism to postmoderns look like?
A: We [Protestants] have become good at boiling the gospel down into little four-step outlines. Modern people love diagrams; it's all about engineering. But postmodern people feel that truth comes as a mystery, a story, and a work of art; truth is more like poetry than engineering. This forces us to ask if we have a clear understanding of what the gospel really is. If, for hundreds of years, we have turned the gospel into a problem-solution mindset or series of arguments, we must ask how that may have distorted our understanding of the gospel. In many ways, the modern evangelical gospel is a message about how to not go to hell. When you step back and ask if that's really the gospel from Jesus' perspective, it's pretty hard to answer yes

(All of which continues to suggest, to me, that while not identical with the Catholic mind, the post-modern mind can be much more sympathetic to the Catholic than was the Modern)


Q: What questions might people ask of Christians?
A: Many would ask, "Is Christianity good, and can it make me into a better person, or will it make me a jerk?" They ask that because when they think of Christians, they tend to think of people who are narrow-minded, judgmental, arrogant, and angry. And they think, "Wow, I really want God, and I'd rather be a Christian than a Buddhist or a Muslim, but Christians look like jerks. I don't want to become like that."

And I think there's a lot of truth to that..

Feast of St. Clare

Check out Chiara's Reflections.

Domus Dei

A visit to St. Mary of Perpetual Help, Chicago

Drive into Chicago on any of the expressways feeding into it, particularly the Dan Ryan/Kennedy combination (I-90/94) or the Stevenson Expressay (I-55), and you'll undoubtedly see a lot of churches, of various designs - Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, etc. Sometimes the view contains false hope - the promising Saint Martin's, which greets Chicago Skyway traffic to the city with beautiful statuary of Saint Martin and the Beggar, is now a Pentecostal church, stripped of its interior woodwork. But sometimes that view pays off, and it leads the traveler to interior and exterior beauty. This is certainly the case with St. Mary of Perpetual Help.
St. Mary's looms over the skyline of the Bridgeport neighborhood on the near South Side with its three domes, most notably the largest one that sits over the nave. These domes are all quite visible, at something of a distance, from the Dan Ryan and Stevenson Expressways. Bridgeport, a busy residential and industrial neighborhood which sits between the old Chicago Stockyards area (now an industrial park) on the south and the ever-expanding residential developments to the north toward Little Italy, is very much a neighborhood of churches, having had at various times Irish, Lithuanian, German, and in this case Polish, churches, among others. Around the corner from St. Mary's, one can find the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross, which builds caskets and hosts retreats and bed and breakfast guests, and with which this parish shares a daily Mass schedule.
The interior of St. Mary's is a combination of Baroque, Romanesque and Byzantine elements, all of which work together well to form a unity within diversity. The altar area, pictured below, showcases this combination, with Byzantine iconography in Romanesque arches around a Baroque altar.

I attended a vigil Mass at St. Mary's, and was impressed by what seemed to be a close-knit parish, and one that also seems to possess an excellent program. The music was comparable to what one would find at the Vigil Mass at Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, including excellent organ playing with improvisations on the tune St. Denio ("Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise," which was the opening hymn) and a good a cappella rendition of Proulx's Corpus Christi Mass (not my favorite of his Mass settings, but certainly respectable).

Below are some more pictures from the parish:
Our Lady's Altar, with Saint Veronica in the foreground:

O.L. of Perpetual Help Altar:

St. Joseph's Altar:

St. Barbara:

Thursday, August 10



Points off for the unconvincing portrayals of Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The Sober Sophomore and I once heard the noted scholar Dr. Ingrid Rowland (who is herself rather Kircherian herself in her fascinatingly eclectic and free-ranging approach to scholarship, and, to quote Steve Martin, "might do anything at any moment") describe this engraving at a lecture on Fr. Kircher's role in the iconographic program of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers. The old fellow was an inveterate prankster, fond of practical jokes with his speaking tubes and Rube Goldberg contraptions, and used to fly a dragon-shaped kite over the Roman College inscribed FUGITE DIVINA IRA, or, FLEE THE WRATH OF GOD, in order to spook the Dominicans down the street at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Mostly, people tended to ignore anything weird going on over at the Roman College--sort of like UFO-cum-weird experimental aircraft sightings at Area 51 or the like today.

Celebrate St. Lawrence......

(photo credit: the town of Boerne, Texas)
....By renting out the WORLD'S LARGEST GRILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For those who find this humor at all tasteless, blame St. Lawrence himself, who started one of Christianity's oldest running jokes by telling his tormentors, "Manduca, iam coctus est," that is, "Eat, now it is well done" and forever becoming associated with barbecues.

This is the title page of a later edition of the polymathic savant Fr. Athanasius Kircher's 1656 work the Itinerarium exstaticum, a fascinating work in which the good Jesuit (here called Theodidactus) is guided through the solar system in a fantastic dream by his guardian angel Cosmiel. That's Cosmiel there with the wings, incidentally. It's right up there with Max Kolbe's speculations on rocket science as the genre of Catholic armchair space exploration goes; indeed, Kircher's universe is not only nearly Copernican, with sunspots, moon-craters and plenty of un-Aristotelian sublunar elements in distinctly translunar locations, but also one where there's room even for life on other planets!

Wednesday, August 9


Awesome Religious Order

A few weeks ago, in the midst of studying for the summer French exam, I came across the website of a fairly new religious community in France, the Communaute Saint Martin. As you'll be able to tell quickly if you click on the link this is a young order, with probably the most advanced website I've seen for a religious community.
As far as the community itself goes, they combine very well the charism of good, traditional liturgy and evangelization. The liturgy celebrated above is a well-done Missa Normativa, and they combine this with evangelization efforts centered around pilgrimages on foot through the countryside - a good way, I'd say of fostering prayer and community for young people. They function by putting themselves at the service of the bishops and thus lightening the load for taking over diocesan priests by taking over clusters of parishes - such as Font Romeu. They have also been entrusted with the World Center of Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory, which I hadn't previously realized existed. Basically, I think these guys give a good sense of how to proceed in evangelizing youth, which they seem to be doing effectively in a French Church climate so often embittered by much fiercer battles between more fringe liberal and conservative Church groups than we even find here in the U.S. - and that's just the people that go to church, with the added struggle of combating European religious apathy.

Tuesday, August 8


A Shoutout.....

To Holy Name of Jesus Church in Providence, R.I. which is kind enough to link to the Shrine. Holy Family possesses a healthy diversity, as it is home to both the indult Mass in Providence and a large Gospel Choir. Check it out if you're ever in Providence, which also has excellent Italian restaurants in the Federal Hill neighborhood, probably my favorite "Little Italy" in the U.S. Andino's in particular has the best Chicken Francese I've ever had. While we're on the topic, Providence also has a significant Dominican presence, most notably at Providence College, which I'd recommend to the parents and seniors out there looking for a good, smaller Catholic school. Providence recently built St. Dominic Chapel, which I find to be an excellent example of a more "modern" chapel that stays true to tradition. I think our commenter Matt (not to be confused with Matthew of the Holy Whapping, of course) might appreciate its effective use of modern materials in conveying a sacred space. I've been in there and found it quite nice. Providence College also has a Liturgical Choir, which is a braggable name for a choir. They were next to our Notre Dame Liturgical Choir group at the Papal audience in Rome in 2003, which is itself braggable.

Borges y yo

I happened to be in the men's restroom at the Virgin Records store on Union Square this evening, a rather sordid place I resorted to only from being in extremis, and noticed amid the quite astonishing tangle of graffiti and second-hand stickers that nearly covered every inch of the place, including the mirror, that someone had scratched a little circle in the tile at my elbow and scribbled "El Aleph" above it.

Sadly, I did not see all the mirrors on the planet or convex equatorial deserts, or even any measely tigers, afterwards.

Eight Men Receive the Habit of Saint Dominic

Just had to share the picture, I'm bursting with pride and joy right now.

All right, boys; Vade Praedica!

(UPDATE: There's a video, too!)

Nephew of the Son of the Return of Did the Renaissance Really Happen?

Dan Mitsui has been kind enough to respond to my latest entry in our pleasant debate. I hope to come up with a response by later this week, possibly Thursday when I'll probably convene the Baroque Cabal in the Kircherianum (my apartment) for a little bit of a chat. I'm only about halfway through Dan's comments, but have to thank him for responding to this undernourished question in Catholic art today.

Several brief remarks I'd like to make, not quite germane to the debate, but nonetheless linked to it:

1. Regarding the religiosity of the artists of the post-Medieval era, in contrast to their forbears: I can't speak of Michelangelo, but Bernini was quite devout, and went on long Ignatian retreats, and Guarini, often described as having Gothic sympathies within a Baroque understanding of art and architecture, was a priest. This hardly proves the superiority of their work, but it does show that to take Michelangelo as the archetype of the post-Renaissance Catholic artist does not include quite everyone. Also, while the "rock-star" artist is principally an Italian invention, they were not unknown in the early Renaissance/late Gothic north in some measure--or at the very least, while less egotistical, they held a fair amount of prestige above the usual image of the anonymous medieval master craftsmen which they supplanted.

2. Iconography: I understand the importance of the iconographic element in Catholic art, and am largely in agreement with it. But I'd really appreciate a more clear definition on what Dan means by iconography for the purposes of the debate, as I think he narrows it somewhat unduly in his distinctions between rhetorical and iconographic. Is this ideal Western tradition a set canon of types that may be added onto as new feasts are decreed? Who determines it? What if different conventions disagree with one another? Is it a set of rules, or a guiding ethos? An ethos which informs and balances and restricts outright invention, encourages innovation, and avoids too much stiffness? I am inclined to say only the latter will prevent an eventual slide back into decadence, or take account of the various orthodox theological approaches which have sprouted up since Trent.

3. Trent: For that matter, I am in agreement with Daniel about the relatively enervating effect Trent had on the art of the time, the result being more didactic and less truly incarnational and sacramental; I do also think that things got better fairly quickly and bounced back by at least 1610 when it comes to architecture and sculpture, if not in the matter of Baroque painting, which never quite got back that vitality. I also agree we lost a lot of wonderful liturgical practices then--but we also got a standardized universal liturgy (excepting a few special cases) which prevented a lot of very odd flotsam and jetsam getting caught up in the nets of the Church. It's a tradeoff, and how to perhaps take the inventiveness of the Middle Ages with the security of Trent is a good question indeed.

4. The Body: The Renaissance really got the human body down well, if you're looking simply in terms of draftmanship. I get tired when people make fun of the Middle Ages because of the apparent naivete of their anatomical skills and am inclined to think it was partially a deliberate stylistic choice, but I do think that the best Christian art should express spiritual realities but not shy away from the incarnational aspect. Some early medieval art is a little too disembodied in its diagrammatic renderings of the human form, to the point the vital immediacy of the Incarnation is muffled. (Even my beloved van Eyck has a disinterest in some instances in really trying to get the structure of the body right under the clothes of his subjects, with results which are occasionally distracting. This is not the result of a lack of skill, but mostly an aesthetic choice, I think.) I think that to avoid excessive animalism and an excessive interest in the body, the lessons of Orthodox iconography are worth preserving and fostering and continuing, and their differing approach is a salutary corrective to more naturalistic approaches. But I do think a naturalistic element, or a balancing of naturalistic and iconographic forces, has a place in the mainstream of Christian art.

5. The East. We must be careful when advocating a system of iconography similar in framework if not style similar to the East. We often assume that Orthodoxy's practices are automatically older than that of Rome's. In liturgy, the Roman--that is to say Gregorian-Tridentine--is often older. (Indeed, the iconostasis only reached its present form in the 15th century). In terms of the basic shape of church art, it is true that the Greeks have retained the tradition in outline; but there have been periods of experiment (the 16th century on Crete comes to mind), of comparative decadence (18th century Russia), of synthesis (19th century Russia, often with intruiguing results), and many other moments backwards and forwards. There has indeed been a certain stability in style, but one must recall there is also a good deal less interest in doctrinal development in the East, at least in the way Rome understands it.

6. Notre Dame. I'm not so worried about the layman confusing classical and Gothic, or confusing classical and traditional; I can say this as someone who has a fair amount of familiarity with the way non-architects respond to Notre Dame work. I'm more concerned about laymen (other than Daniel, who knows his stuff, and, of course, my learned readers and friends) confusing the choices of the 19th century Church for our entire precious heritage of art, whether it be Gothic, Romanesque, or Baroque. We still have much work to do.

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