Off-the-cuff comments on Catholic philosophy

20 12 2010

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a Thomist. That didn’t work out. It didn’t help that I read Descartes and Sartre in middle school, but even if one could conclude that their epistemological skepticism is a non-issue, an invented game with an agenda, one cannot escape having to address that method of philosophizing. If you read the popular Thomists of last century, they get bogged down in those questions, and it didn’t help that many of them were sympathetic to Husserl and Co., even if they tried to use phenomenology to break out of le songe de Descartes. John Paul II, for all of his pretend orthodoxy, was just as much a child of this philosophy as Heidegger or Derrida. These epistemological questions are an issue because even their opponents have made them an issue.
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The Rake’s Progress

30 07 2010

I am pretty sure this is from the production that my wife and I saw at the San Francisco Opera a couple of years ago now.





On the margins of theology – X

24 06 2010

The Horseman of Divine Providence (Conclusion)

Pues bien: la iglesia, como institución, está en el mismo caso. Yo le pediría que no trataran de institucionalizar a Malverde; es un santón y un héroe del pueblo; no traten de arrebatárselo de las manos; la realidad es que está allí, la gente lo quiere, le tiene y lo más maravilloso es que hace milagros.

(The Church, as an institution, is in the same boat. I would ask that they try not to institutionalize Malverde. He is folk saint and a hero of the people, they should not try to take him from them. The reality is that he is around, the people like him, they keep him, and most marvelous thing of all is that he works miracles.)

These are the words Óscar Liera puts on the lips of a doctor in his play, El Jinete de la Divina Providencia. The subject of the 1980’s Mexican play is a fictional ecclesiastical investigation of the miracles of Jesus Malverde, the deceased bandit who works miracles from beyond the grave. In this special ten part series regarding the prevalence of “popular Catholicism” in many societies, I thought it a good quote to tie many ideas together. Here, there is not so much a stark opposition between institution and spontaneity, high and low religiosity, but a juxtaposition of what emerges in the life of believers and the rules imposed from above. In other words, we speak here not of an exclusive situation, but of a complementary one. That which is in the margins of religiosity is just as important as officially sanctioned doctrine and praxis, though it is not necessarily superior to it.
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Cultural Catholic serendiptity

25 05 2010

image credit

“I’m looking for a 100 committed Catholics. Are you one?”

Uh, no. I am lucky to get out of bed for Mass on Sunday morning. (He must be selling something.)

I click anyway.

When one considers how vastly different our modern society is when compared with the society in which our parents and grandparents lived, as recently as the 1950s, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this “interesting” time in which we live is an epoch that is between goodness and evil and, it would seem steadily drifting away from the former and toward the latter.

Okay. Now I know he wants money.

You and I cannot stand by in silence as challenges mount. We must take our places in this struggle and peacefully do our part in the cause of truth.

How much is it going to cost me?

This is why I need to find 100 comitted Catholics [what’s with this guy and typos?] who will stand with me in “fighting the good fight” by becoming a member of the Envoy Institute of Belmont Abbey College…

By becoming a member of the Envoy Institute — you can do it today for as little as $10 per month (about the cost of lunch for two) — you will directly participate in the Envoy Institute’s robust outreach to our culture, you’ll directly help preserve the Catholic identity and faith of countless Catholic young people…

Where do I sign up? Wait a minute! No thanks.

I close the browser.

*************************************

Of late I have been dissecting all aspects of cultural Catholicism: the imagery, the laziness, the Voodoo of making deals with God and then breaking them. For most of my sentient life, I have counter-posed Catholicism to the world, even though that was not how I was raised. I was raised a church-going, cultural Catholic. Catholicism primarily informed the rhythm of life in a very low key way. While I went from crazy fundamentalist to strange spiritual seeker, reversion to normal life has driven me to choose once again the Faith of my childhood. While some people con-vert, and others re-vert, I think at this point I am in the process of di-verting. As I have put it before, how can I keep the Faith without the Church being all up in my business?
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Santa Muerte video

28 03 2010

Featuring some of my old haunts





Judica me, Deus…

28 01 2010

Sometimes the real life friends I have chosen to make say the darndest things. I had a half-Mexican friend who, after many twists and turns in life, had decided to finally embrace Protestantism. One time, we went out for pizza. While talking about modern Christianity, the conversation turned to how modern Christians tend to regard God as some plush toy they display prominently in a curio cabinet. God loves you, He’s not going to get mad at you. He is perfectly harmless. To this total lack of seriousness, the failure to take seriously the vengeful God of the Bible, he said:

“God is Santa Muerte.”
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…that you see yourself in seeing me

6 01 2010

Estados de ánimo

A veces me siento
como un águila en el aire.

-Pablo Milanés

Unas veces me siento
como pobre colina
y otras como montaña
de cumbres repetidas.

Unas veces me siento
como un acantilado
y en otras como un cielo
azul pero lejano.

A veces uno es
manantial entre rocas
y otras veces un árbol
con las últimas hojas.
Pero hoy me siento apenas
como laguna insomne
con un embarcadero
ya sin embarcaciones
una laguna verde
inmóvil y paciente
conforme con sus algas
sus musgos y sus peces,
sereno en mi confianza
confiando en que una tarde
te acerques y te mires,
te mires al mirarme.

-Mario Benedetti





St. Joseph’s Cord

10 12 2009

[Originally posted here]

AG, as you may well know from reading her blog, is from New Orleans. Her family hails from a small city some ways away called Opelousas. You can read more about her memories of going to this place here, as well as on other parts of her fine blog.

Her parents were recently in the Bay Area, and her father regaled us with many tales of growing up in a sharecropping family in the Louisiana countryside. Being Creoles, they grew up speaking both French and English, and now having met his mother, I can say that I really don’t know when that gentle woman is speaking English and when she is speaking French. (She makes a fine gumbo, though.) And of course, they are Catholics to the core.

Mr. G told one story in particular that intrigued my sense of the unusual and the extraordinary. As in other places in rural communities, doctors were few and far between. People had to rely on other means of healing in order to cure their ailments, sometimes even in emergencies. Mr. G. told me about “treaters”, people who could pray over people and make them better. One story in particular highlighted the role of these people in that community.

The G. family had an old dog that had the useful habit of attacking and chasing away snakes. Usually, it was quick and agile enough to get out of the way of a snake when it would strike. One time, though, it was not quick enough, and a poisonous moccasin bit the dog in the face. The dog’s face began to swell up and it became mortally ill.

Not wanting to lose the dog, the family called the grandfather who was known as a treater. One of the main tools of a treater in that community was the St. Joseph’s Cord, the image of which you see above, and prayers that go along with it can be found here. After this treater recited the prayers of the St. Joseph’s Cord, the dog became a little better. After three days, the dog’s face returned to its normal size and he was up and about again as feisty as ever.

I thought this story was quaint and uplifting for a variety of reasons. I have always been puzzled in the Gospels as to why Christ could not perform miracles in places where there was little faith. I don’t think an easy answer can be given to this question. Maybe this is why the miraculous is so scarce in our day and age. For the miracle is often the result of faith sown in love, and love is the bond of all things, and it can do all things. As we see in this story, it can even cure a lethal snake bite. In this sense, loving prayer can be considered magical.

being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land

(do lovers suffer?all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad?only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

-do lovers love?why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools,all’s well

-e.e. cummings





On Forgetting

9 12 2009

Poema LXXI

Hasta en tu modo
de olvidar hay
algo bello.

Creía yo que todo
olvido era sombra;
pero tu olvido es
luz, se siente
como una viva luz…

¡Tu olvido es
la alborada borrando
las estrellas!…

-Dulce María Loynaz

(Even in your way
of forgetting there is
something beautiful.

I used to believe that all
forgetting was shadow;
but your forgetting is
light, it feels
like a living light…

Your forgetting is
the dawn erasing
the stars!…)





On the Church and Language

3 12 2009

Or: On Pizza, Beer, Machine Guns, Transliterated Greek Words, Argentine Sedevacantism, Taxi Cabs and Other Attractions of My Theological Freak Show

This essay was originally posted here

Sometimes I think that there is no such thing as Roman Catholicism. Rather, there are Roman Catholicisms. My religious experiences with Mexicans and Argentines seem so far removed from any conversations about religion that I have in this country among “non-Latins”. There is an antiseptic, dry quality to everything that is said in the United States about the Roman Catholic Church. This quality even penetrates to the fringes and extremes of any Catholic phenomenon in this country.

When we were occasionally let out of seminary in Argentina, I would sometimes be able to go into the actual city of Buenos Aires to see the sights and take a break from the usual diet of gruel and water. A few times, I went out with my best friend Nico, another bohemian who had no business being an SSPX seminarian, to spread clerical terror in the land of the porteños. One of my favorite things to do was to go to San Telmo, the old part of the city, and have some beer and pizza. Now, Argentine pizza is different from the pizza we have here: it is much less greasy, the crust is thicker, and it has less of a sense of being a type of fast food. And it goes wonderfully with a nice Argentine beer.
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