Saturday, October 02, 2004
Sackings all around, I think, are in order.
If the link up above does not work, try this:
Can be bought here:
Sharing treasures with a loved one is one of the most intense pleasures of being human. The feelings of union, commonality, and like-minded brotherly love that one gets from bringing someone deeply loved to see some place, some painting, or to appreciate some person that is dear to oneself is, I think, universal.
I know that, for me, there is a deep sense of satisfaction in bringing someone I care about to Concord's Old North Bridge to experience the place. There is a sense of loving sharing in saying, "This is a place I care about deeply and want you to come to love it, too. It is my special place that I am sharing with you." There is the hope that the place will evoke in the heart of the loved one the same sense of its "specialness" and that it will become for them also a special place.
Readers of Evelyn Waugh will understand this. Recall the discussion of the "low hole in the wall" that Charles Ryder is seeking at Oxford, and which he finds, very imperfectly, with Sebastian and at Brideshead? He gets there a glimpse of the secret place for happiness. For Sebastian, time alone at Brideshead, with no one more annoying than Nanny Hawkins about, is that low hole in the wall. He brings Charles there to share it with him, but Charles inevitably becomes enmeshed with the rest of the Flytes, at least in Sebastian's me-against-them-all attitude.
This is what George Weigel is striving to do in Letters To A Young Catholic, when he shares some of the special places and people of the Catholic World that he has discovered with a putative young person discovering the Faith ab initio. Weigel takes us to a myriad of locations and introduces us to many people and things that have about them the quality of Waugh's "low hole in the wall."
Except, that these places and people are also examples of the "straight gate" and the "narrow way" of salvation, these "antechambers of Heaven," or places on the border between Heaven and earth, as Weigel calls them. This means that these are not just special places for Weigel, but special places consecrated by God in a unique manner to show the way for many.
The diversity of Weigel's antechambers of Heaven is breathtaking and demonstrates that the word "Catholic" does indeed mean 'universal". To be Catholic is to "universe-minded," to find God, as He is everywhere in all men, in many places. Weigel takes us to four continents and introduces us to dozens of people, both living and . We travel with him to youth Masses in Central Europe, to London pubs, to Nazi-and-Bolshevik-occupied Krakow, to the parishes of 1950s Baltimore, to grand English country seats, to the catacombs containing the burial place of Saint Peter and other Christian martyrs under the Vatican, to a stark monastery in the Sinai desert, to Chartres Cathedral.
The people we meet in these special places are as strikingly diverse as the places themselves. We meet vibrantly faithful Polish young people of several generations, including a young man who thought he might become an actor, but instead became the greatest pope of the 20th century. We briefly meet the convert Evelyn Waugh, and spend more time with the characters he created in Brideshead Revisited, the greatest Catholic novel of the 20th century. I for one gained new insights into the development of characters there from his discussion (and Brideshead is my favorite book, one that I just finished an annual re-read of a few weeks ago).
We meet Father Jerzey Popieluszko, the priest-martyr of the Solidarity Movement. We glimpse the people whose faith and desire to build a worthy home in their town for a relic of the Blessed Virgin Mary led to the creation of the greatest Gothic cathedral in the world, Chartres. We discover anew Saint Thomas More through dialogue from Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons, and perhaps understand this great martyr far better than any amount of staring at Holbein's portrait would ever allow.
Weigel allows us to encounter G.K. Chesterton and his literary dopple-ganger and friend Hilaire Belloc at the Cheshire Cheese pub in London, carousing, grousing, and swapping stories. We find Catholicism alive and well in 1950s Georgia in the heart and words of Flannery O'Connor, as well as in the work of the unknown desert monk who wrote (the technical term for the creation of an icon) the Christos Pantokrator, perhaps the greatest of all icons.
The people Weigel wants us to meet do all sorts of fascinating things and all of it is in the spirit of worshipping God. Samuel Johnson wrote that man is seldom more ly and productively employed than when he is earning his living. Well, the exception to that is when he is worshipping God.
We relive Michaelangelo's creation of the Sistine Chapel's Creation paintings on the ceiling, and the Last Judgment on the altar wall, which can only be fully appreciated now after the extensive renovations of the last two decades have revivified them. We are reminded of The Agony and the Ecstasy, which I suspect is one of Weigel's favorites.
We see some of the intriguing spiritual and intellectual journey of John Henry Cardinal Newman from atheism, to evangelical protestantism to High Church to Anglicanism, to Rome. And, deliciously, we encounter him at Birmingham Oratory, where his rooms and things are just as he left them.
And we encounter the gritty as well as the grand. We see religious of various denominations squabbling endlessly over the Holy Sepulcher. We are among the Poles oppressed by the Nazis, and then by the Communists, and travel through the grey, soul-deadening monotonous results of Communist city-planning. But we also visit a monastery where each bare cell occupied by a monk is enlivened with a fresco painted by Blessed Fra Angelico.
Most importantly, we explore a milieu of the Faith that lived vitally until about the time I was born, was seemingly shattered beyond hopes of recovery, and now may be bursting forth in at least partial restoration.
Weigel begins his book with a look at the Baltimore parishes in which he grew up in the '50s. It was an experience that was common to most urban Catholics before about 1960. Regular examination of conscience and confession, parochial schools run by nuns, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, O Salutaris and Tantum Ergo, wearing dress clothes for Mass every Sunday, collecting for the foreign missions, meatless Fridays, and CYO sports and activities were the hallmarks of a faith experience I and the members of my age cohort just missed.
I don't imagine that Weigel's youthful experience with the Church was perfect. There is no thing run by man or built by him that is perfect. I am sure there were many flaws. Those places built with immigrants' pennies, as Dom Bettinelli has said, are often worth just that. There were priests who raced and mumbled through the Latin of the Mass, as though they got a prize for the fastest Mass. Some people were totally disengaged from the Mass (my own Mother--old enough to be Weigel's mother, too despite the decade and a half age difference between us--until the day she died, always got through the Mass praying her rosary and not paying a mite of attention to the prayers, readings, Gospel, or sermon). The state of biblical knowledge was probably pretty low, especially regarding the Old Testament. And it was certainly distracting and detracting from the main, public Mass if there were private Masses going on at the side altars, and people coming and going from the confessionals during Mass. And of course there was the problem of raging clerical cronyism.
All of these things, and maybe a dozen more that I have not thought of, probably justified some reform. Perhaps, in a time of incredible strength in the 1960s, it was time for some prudent reform. Perhaps the Canon could have been cut short, the Last Gospel excised, more response Masses said, the responses broadened, so that the congregation always (in Latin) joined in the Pater Noster, the Credo, the Gloria, the Agnus Dei, the Sanctus, and the Kyrie, preaching could have been improved, an Old Testament reading added, and all readings given in the vernacular only.
That would have been reform. There would have been opposition to even that, of course. But if that had been all that had happened, most would have accepted it willingly enough, and thee would not have been such great shock.
Instead we got revolution imposed from above, a sweeping away of so much that was good in both the liturgy and in Catholic life to get at a few faults. That revolution, coming before, during, and after the sessions of Vatican II, and acting in its so-called "spirit" swept the Latin out (even when the rubrics still allowed it), swept monks and nuns out of their habits, their cloisters, and their orders, swept the Real Presence almost out of the door of the church, if you judge by where the tabernacle is placed in most modern Catholic "worship centers," swept willful individualism in, and ordered liberty out (combining phrases of Weigel and Russell Kirk here), swept the discipline of midnight Matins out of the Liturgy of the Hours, and replaced it with the Office of Readings, that can be said anytime the community feels like it.
It broke down the whole of the Catholic milieu that George Weigel grew up with. Suddenly, it was alright to skip Mass (since sin was practically abolished), to go there dressed as you would for a very informal date, to ignore confession, to take the Sacrament every week without scruple, to divorce and annul and forget about efforts to rebuild troubled marriages, to not send the children to parochial schools, or to not give them any religious instruction whatsoever.
And what replaced the old milieu that Weigel knew was pap. The priest, instead of acting reverently as an alter-Christus became Monty Hall or Phil Donahue, asking who in the congregation was having a birthday, who was visiting, asking for, and getting rounds of applause for these mundane milestones.
Anything demanding, "harsh," or hard-edged disappeared. Penance was banished with meatless Fridays. Sin, the y carnage of Christ's Passion, the reality of the devil and his angels, , judgment, and hell all suddenly went out of fashion. We became "Resurrection People," too good to worry about eternal damnation.
We see today a thoroughly corrupt post-modern culture that has been allowed into the Church, that has corrupted some people in the Church wholly, and that has corrupted all of us to some extent.
And while that corrupt and decadent culture invades the peace and sanctity of certain members of the Church, it rules the world outside entirely. The dominant theme of Western culture since at least 1946 (and maybe earlier) seems to be the "freedom" to copulate with whoever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. It is something that has become deeply embedded now, with roots going back to Rousseau, Casanova, and de Sade in the 18th century, nurtured by Darwin, Freud, and Marx in the 19th century, and its evil fruit is being havested now in the age of Kinsey and Masters & Johnson, Derrida, and Madonna.
Weigel hints that there may yet be a remedy to this seemingly uncontrollable degeneration of liberty into license, this wild reckless triumph of the Id.
That way is found in traditional Catholic social teachings, in Pope John Paul II's concept of the theology of the body which builds on traditional concepts and presents them in a new way without yielding an inch, and in the Eucharist and a restoration of Catholic devotion, in understanding and coming to grips with the "democracy of the dead," a phrase he borrows from Chesterton, for the understanding and emulation of our ancestors through tradition.
Freedom rightly understood and utilized, ordered liberty (Russell Kirk's phrase), liberty without license, and with a good coloring of traditional Catholic understandings of human freedom and how it is used are what Weigel is pointing us to. The radical notion of freedom for freedom's sake (the freedom to do whatever you please, whenever you please) is absurd. Why bang a way in an untutored and undisciplined manner at a keyboard and make discordant noise, Weigel asks, when we could use our freedom for training and practice in order to produce good music that enriches both the performer and the listener? And it is Catholic moral teachings and concepts of freedom that are the discipline and training that allow for a productive and livable society.
We today are the survivors of the deluge that Louis XIV said would come after him (and it surely did, starting with the philosophes and the French Revolution). We are the remnant left standing after a catastrophe, shocked, stunned, bewildered, with much debris that must be cleared before we can rebuild.
A revolution, more precisely several revolutions working together and feeding off each other, have upended various parts of human life, seeming to sweep away much in their coursing, cursing torrent. While the enthusiasts for such continued perversities as destroying unborn human life, destroying marriage, destroying Western culture, destroying the liturgy, destroying tradition continue to sprint down Pall Mall with bloody butcher knives in hand seeking the next victims, we in the wake know them for what they are: Satan's unknowing, unthinking, uncaring legion of minions.
And while we avoid their continued depredations, we have a task before us of rebuilding the damage they have wrought. We must pick up the pieces and decide how best to restore a tolerable humane, Christian civil social order. What means are we to use to remedy the disorder and ugliness that reigns?
Weigel tells us. He shows us the means in action. He takes us to a Catholic parish in the American South, where, since 1960 or so, there had been declining numbers in in the pews, declining seriousness of Catholic worship, declining catechesis, and declining parish life generally. The appointment of a former atheist as pastor in 2001 brought an instant turn around. Within an hour of his arrival, the tabernacle, which had been pushed off to the side, was restored to the center of the reredos, much as my own dear late Pastor Father Dan Flaherty did at St. James in Salem. Quickly too, the hymnals, probably filled with the collected works of Haugen and Haas, disappeared. Chant was brought back into the (Novus Ordo) Mass. Parish life took on new life. Worship became more beautiful, dignified and , yes, a word people have become very squeamish about, "holy." The parish church refills with congregants.
This is the same message that Michael Rose told us of in Goodbye, Good Men, that those dioceses where the Faith was still taught in a dignified and seriously orthodox manner were healthy, had plenty of priests and plenty of people in the pews. It works down at the parish level, too, where those parishes that practice "Catholic Lite" wither.
Weigel gives us further hope for the future. He takes us to a Mass for Polish youth, where we find teenagers who are there not just because they have to fulfill the requirements for confirmation so that they can marry in the Church (and never be seen again). On the contrary, the faces of these young Poles reflect enthusiasm, awe, and respect. These kids know that being Catholic is not just something you do on Sunday, like being a Univeralist, or a Christian Scientist, or a Presbyterian.
They know that there are consequences to ideas. They know that two of the most wicked of man's ideas took power in their country, and oppressed and murdered their parents and grandparents. Their grandparents played Chopin to maintain a remnant of Polish national culture in the face of Nazi oppression. Their parents prayed 20 years ago with Father Popieluszko before his body was beaten to a lifeless, bloody pulp and then tossed in a river by the agents of the Polish communist government in a vain effort to silence the Truth.
They know that the Faith is a real thing, which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They know people who stood up for the Faith against oppression. They know people who lived like John Paul II in the shadow of tyranny. They know that the concept of doing whatever you please, whenever you please, with whoever you please is just as disordered as the bad ideas that murdered their families. They embrace the Faith when all around them, the culture says, religion does not matter, Christianity is outmoded and dying, the teachings of the Catholic Church on morality are a waste of time and an annoying restriction on "freedom."
I found Weigel's choices of people and places to introduce apt, and share enthusiams for many. I want to become acquainted with the ones I do not know well (Flannery O"Connor I only know from the quip, recounted in context here, that, if the Eucharist is just a symbol, then "the hell with it").
Perhaps in later editions, and I hope this book will sell well enough to justify further editions, he can include a letter on Catholic charitable works. I was a little disappointed not to encounter Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta or Damien of Molokai, or to see Catholic social programs in this country that, without government, perform the corporal works of mercy while instilling the Catholic faith (perhaps there are none and they have all gone as secularist as Catholic Charities). I would have also have liked to see at work those who are devoted to the Real Presence, those working to promote a renewal of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in parishes and chapels and Eucharistic shrines all over the country and the world.
But what Weigel has done in this short book is wonderful. Letters is not just for the young. It is fitting and proper, dulce et decorum, for people of all faiths, of all ages, and of all political persuasions, who are interested in encountering the Catholic World in history and at work in today's society. Weigel shows us that there are many places where Heaven and earth almost touch, that there are many places where the thirsty soul may be refreshed.
Buy it. Read it. Absorb it. Give it.
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and to guard, to rule and to guide.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Anyone seen it?
Saint Thérèse, you who are in love with Jesus, you were filled with passion for the Gospel and the Eucharist. Revive in me a thirst for the Word of God. May it light my path on this "little way" of trust where, with you, I take the elevator of love. May your motto "living in love" free my deep desire. In this way, like you, all I want is to love Jesus and help others love Him.
Saint Thérèse, you who are embraced by the Holy Spirit, you have become the Spirit in my prayer and my actions. Prepare me to welcome the Spirit humbly in the little things of every day with Mary, who smiled at you in your time of testing. May your hope inspire me in times when I am not able to love.
Glory be to the Father
Prayer for Vocations
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, you who have been rightly proclaimed the patroness of Catholic missions throughout the world, remember the burning desire which you manifested here on earth to plant the cross of Christ on every shore and to preach the Gospel even until the end of the world. I ask you, according to your promise, to assist all priests, missionaries, and the whole Church of God. Help us to implement the new evangelization which our world and our diocese[s] so badly need. Pray for us that Jesus will inspire in the hearts of our youth a burning desire to serve Him as priests, sisters, and missionaries so that the Gospel may radiate anew to dispel the darkness of sin and death.
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Doctor of the Church, pray for us.
The home page image of Recta Ratio: The Yahoo Group reflects this feast day.
What a great idea for a candidate who needs to be perceived as a stronger leader: let's hold a summit and let the French dictate US national security policy.
When people think about that, it will increase the pile-up against Lurch/Thurston Howell III.
So, like Mondale in 1984, Kerry may have won on style, and may have been the more polished speaker. But my expectations for Bush in that regard were not high.
Most of the accounts and after-the-debate polls seem to say that Bush did what he had to do to show that he remains in charge of things, and that he is a strong leader with a better grasp of how things really are. In contrast, in 1984, President Reagan had some real slips that gave the whole first debate to Mondale. In fact, that first debate was a near disaster for President Reagan, yet he won in a landslide.
When it comes down to it, Bush will make sure that we keep killing the bastards over there, rather than them coming here to kill us. Kerry will retreat and let the cheese-eating surrender monkeys dictate our national secuity policy.
Put that way, there is no choice.
Four More Years!!!!
Thursday, September 30, 2004
The great housecleaning continues.
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
I came in tied for 7th, according to the criteria set out in the test (use of certain pre-selected SAT-calibre words). Blogging collegue Mark Shea came in 9th. In the Typepad category, the very famous best-selling author Amy Welborn came in first.
I had no idea until I happened upon the link today, thopugh it was dated August 28th.
That 790 Verbal SAT score was not in vain! Thanks Mom and Dad (may they rest in peace)!
War in the Middle East? Check.
Volcanic Eruptions? Check?
Anyone seen 4 scary-looking guys on horseback?
Maybe I'd better run, not walk, to a confessional ASAP.
You can be sure there is more to it than that, but I think that, with so many members of the hierarchy finally stepping out of the Democrat Party at Prayer tent, and finally, after 30 years and tens of millions of legally murdered little babies, getting serious about holding pro-abortion Catholic pols accountable for the carnage their votes allow, the laity is also moving against that party.
This poll has some interesting internals.
Atheists and agnostics back Kerry 2-1. That kind of speaks for itself. I'll bet pagans and wiccans back him, too.
"Notional Christians" support Kerry by a wide margin. No big surprise there.
Evangelicals, non-evangelical born-agains, and Catholics are backing Bush. Also, no big surprise.
Jews, I would guess, are in the Kerry camp, but probably not by such a large margin as they used to be, because the Administration has been very much fairer towards Israel than the Clinton Administration was.
God Bless the USA and free enterprise!
Apparently, the team will stay in the the National League. And it will probably renew the Senators' name, which had previously been held by the teams that are now the Texas Rangers and the Minnesota Twins.
The fans in Montreal have really failed to support the team adequately. Attendance has been averaging less than 10,000 per game (just a little over 5,000 at the last game) . The team has had no owners in 2 years. There is no question that a move was inevitable.
The Baltimore Orioles can't be very happy about the idea. A rival MLB team 40 miles away. It is to them like moving the Oakland As to Providence would be to the Red Sox.
But it is still nice to think about another team along the East Coast, even if it is in the wrong league, that league where they make the hapless pitchers go through the motions of trying to bat, instead of letting a proper hitter take their place.
This is under the category of avoiding judgment ("Judge not, lest ye be judged").
Michaelmas was a quarterly rent day in England and Ireland. It is the start of the university term at both Oxford and Cambridge. Presents and feasts featuring geese were very much the custom at this time of year. Roast goose with sage and onion stuffing would go down very well right now, I can assure you.
We have the absurdity, due to the Migratory Birds Act, of having lots and lots of geese around the Boston area year-round making a great nuisance of themselves, and no ability to harvest them. The recent mild winters and the fact that many people feed them have led thousands and thousands of Canada geese to make Boston their permanent home. And yet, because of the law (designed to protect migratory birds (not birds that live in one area year-round) no one can harm these creatures, who would be quite savory main courses on the plates of thousands of families.
So, roast a goose for Michaelmas, so long as it is not a Canada goose.
Signifer Sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam.
For some odd and inexplicable reason, Blogger has decided to put all my links at the bottom of the page after the text of the blogs.
Blogger has gotten worse and worse since the big switch of a couple of months ago. Now it takes a full 5 minutes (using a fast connection, no more dial-up modems) to go from the Dashboard to the Create A Blog page. And a seeming eternity to publish posts.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Why Call To Action's comments were sought in an article on the Latin Mass, I have no idea. Why not Catholics For a Free Choice? VOTF? We Are Church? The answer would have been the same from any of them.
Monday, September 27, 2004
One of the men, who immigrated to America in 1975, said the abuse began when he was 12 after his family was befriended by Dupre. The man claimed the abuse lasted until he began dating a in high school.
Dupre allegedly took him on out-of-state trips and to Canada, and bought ography with the boy in Connecticut. Dupre is then accused of starting to abuse the other boy, and would sometimes give them wine and cognac before initiating . The second victim says he was abused until he was about 20.
The alleged victims agreed to remain silent, but say they kept in touch with Dupre after he was appointed bishop in 1995. One of the men says he continued to receive birthday and holiday cards from Dupre, who also would send him money.
Some bishops may have had more pressing reasons for going softly in regard to pervert priests. Some may have been perverts themselves.
Gigantic portions of delicious turkey, stuffing, gravy, and all the fixings, great clam chowder, their own root beer, ice cream made on the premises, and all just a stone's throw from the Lake.
My parents and I dined there every year in the 1970s and 1980s on our annual New Hampshire foliage trip. I have more recent happy memories of the place, too. The quality is superb. And the place is crowded, especially during the Columbus Day Weekend.
So far, this looks to be an incredible year for New England fall foliage. What better way to enjoy Fall in New England than to preview Thanksgiving?
I'm sure we know where Syria has these fellows. Why not silence the, "So, where are the WMDs?" dolts and stage one or more commando raids that kills or captures these guys before they actually build something for the Iranians that might make it too dangerous to take down that enemy state.
Doing it now, if possible, would be a nice way of showing that Saddam did indeed have specialists working on WMDs, which would not be a bad thing to demonstrate before the election.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
I really lament the loss of the Portrait of America Poll, which I found to be an excellent resource 4 years ago. Relying on Rasmussen and Battleground is OK. But...
So far: excellent!
I can't get the hyperlink thingee to work, but you can buy it here:
The Sox magic number for the AL Wild Card will be just 2 in a few more minutes.
But don't they still have to beat the Yankees, in series in which the Yankees will have home-field advantage the most, to get to the World Series?
Can they do it?
Keep them in your prayers.
We are expected to get some rain from it on Tuesday.