Stravinsky’s Renard

31 10 2008

part 1

part 2

Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat

31 10 2008

AG and I saw this production last Saturday, and it is well worth the price of the ticket. The production is actually a double-bill of Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat, a play/dance spectacle, and the small chamber opera Renard, also by Stravinsky, that takes place in a barnyard. More information can be found at this link.

Philosophical Beastiality

30 10 2008

…What a difference there is between the justification of human free will in Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on Human Dignity and the agonizing sense of responsibility experienced by the Protestant Kierkegaard! The idea of liberty, which allowed man to belong to the higher beings, ends by becoming a crushing burden, for there are no longer any points of reference. As soon as God withdraws into his complete transcendence, every human attempt to examine his design runs into a ghastly silence. This ” silence of God” is, in reality, silence of the world, silence of Nature.

To read in the “book of Nature” had been the fundamental experience in the Renaissance. The Reformation was tireless in seeking ways to close that book. Why? Because the Reformation thought of Nature not as a factor for rapproachment but as the main thing responsible for the alienation of God from mankind.

-Ioan Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance
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Vincenzo Camuso – The Friendly Catholic Mummy of Campania

29 10 2008

Michael P. Carroll, in his book, Veiled Threats: The Logic of Popular Catholicism in Italy, has about a page and a half of text that is well worth the price of the book. Everyone has heard of holy relics and holy souls, but what about holy mummies of Catholic devotion? Well, there’s at least one. His body was found in the church of S. Crisenzio in Campania during a church renovation, but no one quite knows when. No one knows either how anyone found out his name, Vincenzo Camuso. All people know is that he is un’ anima santa del Purgatorio (or an anima sola in the Spanish tradition) who comes to help people in time of need. His body was displayed in the church well into the 1960’s. Sometimes he appears to sick people to heal them (once he even showed in a hospital in the guise of a doctor to perform surgery). Other times he appears to the living to remind people to pray for the souls of the dead. He is certainly one of the most colorful characters of the folk Catholic pantheon.

Be Careful

28 10 2008

Cuídate, Claudia, cuando estés conmigo,
porque el gesto más leve cualquier palabra, un suspiro
de Claudia, el menor descuido,
tal vez un día lo examinen eruditos,
y este baile de Claudia se recuerde por siglos.

Claudia, ya te lo aviso.

-Ernesto Cardenal

Be careful, Claudia, when you are with me,
For any word or gesture or sigh you let free,
Any part of Claudia, the most minor thing
May be the subject of erudite inquiries
And Claudia’s dance may rise again for centuries.

Claudia, I am warning you now.

Bloody Penances

27 10 2008

I completely forgot to talk about the flagellants and other Holy Week traditions in southern Italy, as well as other folk traditions such as the professional mourning women and the dragging on the tongue on the floor. The point that Carroll makes is that the practices shown above in the video as well as other extravagances of Italian folk Catholicism often were introduced by preaching orders during the Counter-Reformation and far from “medieval” in origin. The things that we regard as “most pagan” in traditional Catholicism were often the products of early modern theological insights.

“Poorly Catechized” – Part II

27 10 2008

Michael P. Carroll begins his book, Veiled Threats: The Logic of Popular Catholicism in Italy with an anecdote meant to shock the modern reader. After the Council of Trent, mendicant orders were sent into the Italian countryside to better inform the peasants about the Catholic religion. They were shocked and dismayed about what they found, to the point that they began to call the region, “the Italian Indies”. On what they thought were the essential questions of the Faith, these peasants were hopelessly ignorant. The most shocking incident was when the preachers asked how many gods there are. Some peasants would say three, ten, one hundred, and even more. When asked what a god was then, they would answer that the local priest or boss was a god, or the Pope, or their picture of the Madonna.
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Jesus Malverde – otra vez

24 10 2008

Esto es para mi compadre en el cielo, Jesús Malverde. ¡Arriba Sinaloa, paisa!

On Probability

24 10 2008

When it comes to action, we can never wait until we have an absolutely certain understanding of the entire situation. We only take the path down which we are led by probability. Every “duty” must follow this path; for this is how we sow, sail, make war, get married, and have children. In all these things, the result is uncertain, but we nevertheless decide to undertake those actions which we think have some hope of succeeding….. We go where reason- and not absolute truth- leads us.

– Seneca, On Benefits

I posted this over a couple of years ago now, and recently, I was contemplating it again. Man today seems to want to be like God, and not in a good way. He wants absolute moral certainty that a position or action is the right one when this is simply not possible. That nagging voice that points us in the right direction never provides us with this certainty. We must follow it nevertheless, since we are human beings and not angels.

La Difunta Correa

23 10 2008

Another story, reported in the Golden Legend, relates how [Mary Magdalene] made a pilgrimage to Rome, and after a shipwreck on a desert island saved a child by enabling it to suckle the corpse of its mother for two years.

-Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary

The story of modern Christianity is the story of how one man’s piety can become another’s superstition. For the Church could at one point approve the publication of a miracle in one instance in the Middle Ages, while when a similar miracle happens in more recent times, it is condemned as an impious work of the Devil. A little background is necessary here.
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