On Relics

27 02 2009

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At this time, [Giovanni Castoldi] requested for his personal use one of the skulls of S. Orsola’s virgins as well as twenty-four teeth “in order to make a corona of gold”… Corona in this case might refer to either a necklace or a rosary. The fact that modern audiences might find it hard to imagine the highest-ranking religious official in Milan wearing a necklace or using a rosary made out of human teeth is an indication of how different our attitudes have become from those that prevailed in the Counter-Reformation Church.

-Michael P. Carroll, Veiled Threats: The Logic of Popular Catholicism in Italy





The modern war against folk religion

26 02 2009

India Kashmir Festival

I see the stigmatization and destruction of traditions like the Last Wednesday as manifestations of a fundamental and (in my eyes) very sad shift in the history of Islam. This shift first of all came to be due to a process of defining Islam as a uniform, static and stagnant fixed (cultural-religious) “identity” which did not yet exist in the so called classical times and then, under political domination of exploiting powers, privileging the culture, traditions and interpretations of affluent Muslim social elites in close contact with colonial institutions over the culture, desires and perspectives of the “common people”… Stigmatizing Folk Islam, in my eyes, is not a natural outcome of our search for “the Truth”, be it Islamic or otherwise. It is not a natural outcome of a wish to establish better spiritual standards in the lives of human beings. It is… a voluntary and deliberate choice for a cultural/class based chauvinism and a step towards a methodology of pure destruction, and I deem both to be antithetical to any possible conception of better spiritual standards and a search for “the Truth”.

Leyla Jagiella

I have made this point at times on this blog, and from what I am told by Muslim acquaintances, it is the Salafi/Wahhabi trend in Islam (one of the tendencies that in its extreme form likes to declare jihad and blow up “infidels”) that pulled / is pulling a “Vatican II” in the Muslim world. These are the same people who tear down the shrines of the saints, condemn the use of talismans against the evil eye, and seek strict interpretations (which are in reality historically conditioned) of Islamic law in order to create a purer religion. It is driven by the paranoia of a reactionary ideology hemmed in by modernity which seeks to attack modernity with its own hermeneutic tools.
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On Christian Conscience

26 02 2009

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As a seminarian, I first read the text of the trial of St. Maximus Confessor, and it always struck me as a very challenging text. As you may know, the context of the trial is that St. Maximus is being accused in the trial of treason since he refuses to sign on to the doctrine that there is only one will or energy in Christ. At one point, the saint is asked some very pointed questions. I here produce the relavent excerpts:

Will you [Maximus] be saved and all others be lost?” To which he replied, “The three young men who did not adore the idol when all others adored it did not condemn anyone. They did not attend to what belonged to others but attended to this, that they did not lapse from true worship. Likewise, Daniel, when thrown in the lion’s den, did not condemn anyone who did not pray to God in accordance with the decree of Darius, but attended to what was his own role, and he preferred to die and not offend God than to be afflicted by his own conscience over the transgression of the laws of nature. Thus it is with me as well; may God grant that I neither condemn anyone nor say that I alone am saved. But I prefer to die rather than to have on my conscience that I in any way at all have been deficient in what concerns faith in God.

I think we have to realize that in the end we will be responsible only for ourselves. Many times, our preoccupation with matters of ecclesiastical importance is a useless distraction: worrying about things that are not really our business anyway. I think this should be kept in mind first and foremost when discussing Church matters.





Super Flumina Babylonis

25 02 2009




Mal’ Occhio

24 02 2009

Somewhat related is the following quote from Couliano’s Eros and Magic in the Renaissance :

Ficino remains of the same opinion as Plato and Galen: in the act of seeing, “the internal fire” is externalized through the eyes, mixed with the pneumatic vapor and even with the thin blood that engendered spirit. That theory is confirmed by Aristotle himself, who relates that menstruating women who look look at themselves in the mirror leave little drops of blood on its surface. This can only mean that it is the thin blood brought to the eyes along with the pneuma.

See also this post on the existence of the evil eye in Mexican culture.





Koranic Recitation

24 02 2009

Somewhat related, I found the following poem on a new blog that you all need to visit. Here is a taste:

When in a vision I saw
A mullah ordered to paradise,
Unable to hold my tongue,
I said something in this wise:

‘Pardon me, O Lord,
For these bold words of mine,
But he will not be pleased
With the houris and the wine.

He loves to dispute and fight,
And furiously wrangle,
But paradise is no place
For this kind of jangle.

His task is to disunite
And leave people in the lurch,
But paradise has no temple,
No mosque and no church.’

-Muhammad Iqbal





San La Muerte

23 02 2009

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San La Muerte is the masculine equivalent of Santa Muerte in Mexico, this time having his origins in the northeast of Argentina. He probably has much more to do with indigenous belief than the cult of Santa Muerte. Speculations as to his origins range from his being the spirit of a Guaraní king who was given the task of being the Grim Reaper to a renegade Spanish friar who went native and was found dead in his cell after being imprisoned by ecclesiastical authorities. In any case, the cult to him is quite old and in places enjoyed unofficial sanction from some church officials. One man speaks of his grandfather’s devotion to the saint on this website (my translation):

There was a time, not more than thirty years ago now, when my grandfather would bring the little saint to church to have a Mass for him every 20th of the month. That would happen every month until one day they stopped it. I believe in all humility that it was a mistake for the Church to discriminate against us. We really don’t see the harm in believing in a saint who defends the poor… He would have to be accepted since he doesn’t do evil, on the contrary. And I’ll tell you more, before my grandfather found the saint, he didn’t even know how to make the Sign of the Cross, and towards the end of his life he prayed two hours when he got up and two hours before he went to bed for those who were praying for the intercession of San La Muerte.
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On Faith and the Mass Media

20 02 2009

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A Reply to Daniel Mitsui

I find Daniel Mitsui in general to be an insightful man, though I don’t always agree with him. He is one of the few people that I have encountered who has a similiar view of the Church and modernity as I have, though we differ starkly on some very key issues. In this light, here is a reply I sent privately to Mr. Mitsui to one of his latest posts, The Eucharist and the Mass Media :

I just read your essay on the Eucharist and the mass media, and as you suggested, I will tell you my thoughts about it. Truth be told, I didn’t feel particularly affected by it since I have never been prone to thinking that pixels are the real thing, nor have I ever mistaken a multi-media experience for a “spiritual” one. I don’t listen to Gregorian chant on a CD or an MP3 player, I have never watched a televised Mass with the idea that I was “participating” in it, nor do I think that mass media is especially healthy for religion. As I wrote in my last post, I think the media was largely responsible for the last Pope being able to “rule” (not necessarily govern) the Church by photo-op, and the fact that the mass outpouring of “devotion” after his death has subsided quite a bit (the euphoria of “santo subito!”) demonstrates that religious mass media is just as fleeting as any other kind.
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Morton Feldman : The Rothko Chapel

20 02 2009

The last part of the piece





Eastern Catholicism – Part II

19 02 2009

And one from Father Moses: