St. Expedite

12 06 2009

And….

expedite

St. Expedite’s statue at the St. Jude Shrine here in New Orleans.


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18 responses

22 03 2012
Anonymous

Thank you, Saint Expedite! Your swift assistance is very much appreciated. I will glorify your name forever!

12 04 2010
Mannen

Does anyone know where or which website I can buy Books about St Expedite.

20 06 2009
Jonathan Prejean

I am also still far from convinced that the Catholicism that Mr. Prejean proposes exists outside the realm of the Internet, perhaps in a few circles of friends, and some very limited media. “Without culture” tends to float into the realm of felt banners, churches that look like parking garages, and liturgical dancing, i.e. it is far from “orthodox” and “faithful to the Magisterium”. These are the people who would ordain women in a heartbeat, get rid of any semblance of a hierarchical priesthood, and they would be the last to spend endless hours on the Internet debating epistemology with their “separated brethren”. Like I said, it seems to me to be an ens rationis, an imaginary club for people who like the facts of history and culture but none of the accoutrements that go along with it. He may just be mistaking his own tastes for a mass movement, since I don’t even think EWTN is like that.

I suppose this is where I see serious dissonance between what you’ve taken me to have said and what I had in mind when I said it. I’m talking about felt banners, the institutional architecture, and the Haugen-Haas music (though not much liturgical dancing, unless you count Fr. Fred’s Barney the Purple Dinosaur procession for Halloween). The people in those parishes aren’t generally heterodox, at least as far as I can tell. They aren’t the far left wackos who want to get rid of the priesthood. Maybe they don’t quite understand the ban on artificial contraception or care about it, but they aren’t actively working to have that changed either. Those are precisely the people that I consider to be sustaining orthodoxy and loyalty to the Magisterium *despite* a functional lack of Christian culture.

I know this will rub lots of people the wrong way, but I think consumerism is actually a good thing for Christianity, just as it is for people generally. I *like* the architecture centered around seeing and hearing rather than “sacred geometry.” I like the music not so much, but I can live with the fact that the kids can understand it and it’s easy for people to pick up. If you give people some relatively basic guidelines on what to do, and then leave people of more or less good will to work with it, then you come out with a more or less good thing. It will never be what a truly unified and holistic cultural engagement will produce. But that doesn’t make it bad.

Heck, like you said, “People then take what they need and feel free to develop it outside the realm of ecclesiastical authority.” Even the “culture” you’re talking about is really the same sort of consumerism, just translated. That’s what everybody does. The “cafeteria Catholicism” is just when you try to rally (or force) others behind your own contradiction of dogma.

Maybe it’s just because my wife is fond our pointing out in response to the various “green” movements that the world isn’t built to last anyway, but I just don’t see in what is essentially the end of culture any great evil. Most culture is, as you pointed out, a longing for God, but if you’ve got the Sacraments and dogmatic orthodoxy, then no matter the cultural form, you’ve got what you need. Nothing else is essential: not poetry, not art, not philosophy, not ballet (and nobody is reading Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus either). If those things aren’t there, we’re no less able to reach God. So while I think it’s a bit sad that the relics of those unfulfilled pagan quests for God are being slowly swept away, as a Christian, I don’t think we need them anymore, and I think Catholicism as lived today is proof.

I’m just saying that the real spiritual need is God, and if God is objectively there, then all of that Neoplatonist stuff, nice as it may be from an aesthetic perspective can go out the window with all sorts of other venerable practices inessential to the faith. It’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either.

19 06 2009
e.

Arturo & Jonathan Prejean:

What are your thoughts on Neuhaus piece, Christ Without Culture?

EXCERPT:

Now, as a matter of historical and sociological fact, Christianity is never to be found apart from a cultural matrix; Christianity in all its forms is, as it is said, “enculturated.” In relation to a culture, the Church is both acting and being acted on, both shaping and being shaped. What then do I mean by suggesting this sixth type, Christ without culture? I mean that the Church—and here Church is broadly defined as the Christian movement through time—can at times adopt a way of being in the world that is deliberately indifferent to the culture of which it is part. In the “Christ without culture” model, that indifference results in the Church unconsciously adopting and thereby reinforcing, in the name of the gospel, patterns of culture that are incompatible with her gospel.

BTW, arturo, nice comments; although, it would’ve been nice if you dedicated a post to it rather than merely placing it in the comments section. It was that good even though I don’t necessarily agree with all of it or even, for that matter, with some of the aspects that Jonathan himself spoke about. Still, I believe these are issues that might necessarily require us to pick of in certain detail.

19 06 2009
Arturo Vasquez

The real danger for Americans, especially Americans on the Internet, and to some extent Europeans, is that they tend to mistake their own malaise for THE malaise. If one reads Gaudium et Spes, one can barely keep a straight face, since it reads exactly the same as an OAS report for the state of the Americas c. 1964 (i.e. before all the brutal dictatorships started putting the smack down on leftist movements). It was one very “progressive”, very optimistic reading of modernity, one that was so simplistic that the likes of Derrida, Foucault, and postcolonial theory were right to shoot it to pieces. “This is the problem / This is how we react to the problem”. Things are just not that simple.

I am also still far from convinced that the Catholicism that Mr. Prejean proposes exists outside the realm of the Internet, perhaps in a few circles of friends, and some very limited media. “Without culture” tends to float into the realm of felt banners, churches that look like parking garages, and liturgical dancing, i.e. it is far from “orthodox” and “faithful to the Magisterium”. These are the people who would ordain women in a heartbeat, get rid of any semblance of a hierarchical priesthood, and they would be the last to spend endless hours on the Internet debating epistemology with their “separated brethren”. Like I said, it seems to me to be an ens rationis, an imaginary club for people who like the facts of history and culture but none of the accoutrements that go along with it. He may just be mistaking his own tastes for a mass movement, since I don’t even think EWTN is like that.

Americans at the beginning at the 21st century live in a very unique cultural and technological bubble, and the error would be to mistake that bubble for the human condition. Humans have always had a sense of needing divine helpers, of being scared of the diseases that will kill their children, of the thunder and lightening. The fact that our first impulse is to take our children to the doctor, look to our mind-altering medications, or turn on the television is not the norm for most people even today, and it was certainly not the first reaction of our ancestors. It is not the reaction that sparked our Faith. On the other hand, I have consistently pointed out the pitfalls of “Catholic culture”: Catholics have believed and done things in the past that even I would have a hard time being comfortable with (and I am pretty open to anything). In some ways, not having “a culture” is a good thing.

The other aspect is that in many parts of the world, the traditional elements that I address here are developing, just not in ways that most “conservative” Catholics in this country would find “orthodox” (and even I would find a lot of them unorthodox, full stop). Go to your friendly neighborhood botanica, and you will see statues of the Virgin and St. Michael next to Santa Muerte, Negro Felipe, and various Buddhas and Hindu statues. Pentecostalism continues to explode in Latin America, even in its Catholic “charismatic” avatar ( I should know, I grew up with it). There are also “unorthodox” cults such as those in Brazil and Venezuela (Umbanda, Candomble, Santo Daime, culto a Maria Lionza, etc.) And the cult to Santa Muerte is really a Catholic offshoot in Mexico, with some New Age stuff thrown in. The difference between this religiosity and that which came before it only indirectly has to do with modernity in that the Church no longer has the cultural hegemony over society that it once had. People then take what they need and feel free to develop it outside the realm of ecclesiastical authority.

So “disenchanted modernity” may have hold of the white suburbs in Texas, but to mistake it for the universal condition is culturally myopic. What is to be done? I think in these things, one is better off reading the Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius than trying to make a Catholic Potempkin village of one’s own. After all, at bottom, as I say, I am a Neoplatonist in philosophical persuasion. It is up to those who chose the philosophical life, or merely end up contemplating the mysteries of why we are here, to find what it is to live a virtuous life, a life of contemplation. That I believe is open to everybody. In true post-Plotinian Neoplatonic fashion, however, I see culture as not being the enemy of such contemplation, but of being its encoded embodiment that articulates a true philosophy even if we do not realize it. We don’t need to speak it, for it speaks us. Proclus said that to speak is a hieratic act. Buried in all human life are the seeds of that which transcends the human. That is what I seek in even the concerto, the ballet, the book of philosophy, or even the roadside cross commemorating a tragic accident.

And by the way, that article is wrong: more people were flocking to the statue of St. Jude than the statue of St. Expedite in the St. Jude Shrine in New Orleans, at least when I was there last.

18 06 2009
e.

Adrian,

Apologies; however, if I may, from personal experience as well as based on historic precedence, it has been far more so the case that it is vile ignorance that contributes to and, indeed, gives rise to outright heresy than anything else.

So often have I myself been witness to in my own lifetime how people ignorant of doctrine, church history and the great ecumenical councils reproduce the very same heresies as in the days of the early church, not being aware that such errors were (and have been repeatedly) committed even before their time.

I guess Ecclesiastes got things rather precise; that is, nothing new under the sun.

18 06 2009
Adrian

I ain’t no Protestant. I’m just trying to speak up for the masses of poorly educated Catholics whose understanding of doctrine was weak-to-non-existent but were every bit as Godly as St. Tommy Aquinas.

18 06 2009
e.

Oh please — the very thing that kept genuine Christianity from devolving into outright heresy and, furthermore, provided sufficient protection therefrom were the tools of early Christendom that was very much responsible for much of the doctrines, including that of the Trinity, which modern (supposedly) christians like yourselves take very much for granted.

No wonder the frequent and endless fragmentation into many divisions of Protestant sects that has become the hallmark of your schism from Rome and, eventually, from each other into some hopeless barrage of never-ending Augustinian puritanism that even the great Catholic saint himself would have felt such remarkable shame and disgust.

18 06 2009
Adrian

If the average Catholic 400 years ago were asked to explain, say, the relationship between God the Father and the other Persons of the Trinity, it would take about 10 seconds before they talked themselves into some kind of unspeakable heresy.

In these more sophisticated times, with widespread literacy, Catholic radio stations and all the rest, it would probably take a full minute before they wandered into tritheism, Arianism or some other error. That is the Chuch as it really is.

When the missionaries of old converted the barbarian peoples at the fringes of the crumbling Roman world, they would baptize armies en masse in rivers, or entire kingdoms through the conversion of a pagan king. These people weren’t really getting a top-notch doctrinal education. St. Patrick’s trefoil is probably the most sophisticated Trinitarian lesson they ever got.

If you want systematic theology to be the matrix of your religion, I suggest the Calvinist Power Points of Pastor Mark Driscoll, they’re all on You Tube.

18 06 2009
e.

“I would say that scholasticism, systematic theology and formal apologetics should be tolerated and even encouraged as colorful superstitions…”

Clearly, you have no conception; indeed, are very ignorant of just what scholasticism and most especially systematic theology is all about.

To actually regard the work of Aquinas and his lot, indeed, even the more assuredly noble scholastics of a bygone age, as nothing more than fabric of superstition is to be well-steeped in stupidity as well as in ignorance.

You probably should immediately remedy that since your modernist innovations might get the best of you as it did in your latest comments.

18 06 2009
Adrian

I would say that scholasticism, systematic theology and formal apologetics should be tolerated and even encouraged as colorful superstitions, whereas the real coherent science of Christianity is the verified thaumaturgical and salvific power of prayer and repentance within the Church. Otherwise the vast majority of unlearned Catholics, living and departed, are screwed.

18 06 2009
Jonathan Prejean

P.S., that universality I mention is really a diminished sense of the poetic, which is tied up tightly in culture as you mentioned. There’s a reason that poetry has diminished drastically as an art form. It doesn’t translate well, precisely because it works as poetry best in its original context. Who esteems poets (or even learns about them) anymore? I say that as the friend of an honest-to-God poet (http://sethabramson.blogspot.com/) who has had two collections published and won prestigious awards, knowing full well what he had to suffer to reach that point despite having incredible talent.

18 06 2009
Jonathan Prejean

I fail to see, however, how one can have any real sense of vicarious satisfaction or defend the cult of the saints without having a real concrete example in the sufferings of the souls in purgatory and actually praying to the saints. I don’t see how one can divorce doctrine from its original context and create a system akin to Rudolf Carnap’s logic in which we create symbols devoid of any sort of mystery or historical context.

I don’t say that there is a separation at the level of individual experience or even the family, but at the collective level of a holistic society.

In the article on St. Expedite quoted above, however, I see more continuity than a modern phenomenon. I think that is the attitude that most people have had towards the saints through the centuries, and it proves the perennial character of that which many people would write off as an anachronism. Things are not as dire as they sometimes seem.

I agree with what you say about St. Expedite, but that’s my point. The universal and the perennial dominates, not particular cultural expressions of those universals. Specifically, in the knowledge economy, those aspects that are both universal and communicable (or translatable) dominate. The cultural distinctives are being washed out. I also agree that the Church both played a part in it and accepted it, and that it isn’t “dire” in the sense of facing some serious problem, as if we have to save or restore the culture before it is gone. At this point, we simply have to accept that it is gone and live accordingly, likely through crafting a fuller notion of our individual experiences through greater introspection and contemplation rather than trying to appeal to (or to create) some holistic culture.

“Grassroots Catholicism,” families and parishes oriented around some basic, common, and universal principles, seems to be the order of the future. That isn’t great compared to the good work that Christianity might have done, but it’s not nothing.

18 06 2009
Jonathan Prejean

I don’t know what a “sacred culture” means in that context. Sacredness, holiness, is being set apart from the world. “Sacred culture” would simply mean exactly what I’m saying: an increasing degree of remotion from the profane except in terms of dogma. As far as I can tell, that has been the consistent pattern. Antioch (and to some extent, Greek philosophy generally) was forever diminished by Arius and Nestorius; Alexandria, by the Monophysites; Byzantium, by the monothelites then the iconoclasts.

The “winning paradigm” as it were was Scholastic theology, which is essentially concerned with dogmatic theology in the context of the philosophia perennis, those most universal aspects of dogma. While there is some homage to tradition in a cultural sense there, it ultimately does not require it, as the Counter-Reformation aptly demonstrated when the state itself was corrupted. Finally, modernism, as an attack on culture itself, left the Church as essentially a purely counter-cultural and “set apart” society. While I agree with that sense of “sacred culture,” I think it is worth mourning what could have been but for sin. Whatever cultural affectation we create or preserve now is inessential window dressing.

I’d say Josef Pieper was right to say that only Christianity can preserve culture, but I think he was wrong in thinking that even Christianity could preserve a culture in the context of certain societies, where the doctrine of “total work” is not just a way of viewing the self but “total utility” is a view of the world itself. While it is fitting for man to craft a culture around a supernatural end, it is not essential, and it is possible for the weight of man’s sin to irreversibly deprive us of something proper to our dignity, just as societies allow injustice and other evils. Thus, “from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matt 13:12b). And there we have left only what is most basic: the Sacraments, along with liturgical music that seems only better for its absence, architecture fit for institutions rather than houses of God, and mass-produced everything, i.e., the very minimum of contact with the culture.

Credit Vatican II for recognizing the surrounding culture and admitting that there really wasn’t one in establishing the Novus Ordo. But I think we should keep in front of us that this is a social punishment for not keeping view of God in our culture, one imposed on the remnant and the world alike. To speak of these things as problems or circumstances that we can somehow correct through diligent action is simply an attempt to evade justice; we simply have to do our time until the eschaton for our collective sins. God will make us suffer for this one way or another, as justice demands. We survive, yet to speak of these that survival as “development” or “reinvigoration” seems wrong to me. They are in a very narrow sense, precisely the sense that puts the weight on doctrinal correctness in the practice of individuals, but they are a great loss in many ways.

We need to keep in mind that what we have left is what we have left for a reason and that we have been put in the “School of Hard Knocks” for irretrievably failing to maintain the Christian kerygma as a way of life at various points in our history. Tradition in the sense of cultural forms is in that sense a far fuller way of transmitting Christianity, but we squandered that, and now we just have the sort of doctrinal orthodoxy according to the basic and universal aspects of humanity, just translated into many languages (which language itself is a basic human feature).

Maybe we just judge these things differently, but I find it hard to see how that kind of universality is preferable to the sort of catholicity practiced in the earliest days of the Church, where the collegiality was sufficient for docile acceptance of authority. In the Council of Jerusalem, there was a willing and open incorporation of doctrine, but it has become increasingly more severe and costly over time.

18 06 2009
Arturo Vasquez

I have a hard time seeing a Catholicism devoid of any social superstructure based that determines how a person should see and interact with the world. Indeed, I fail to see where exactly “the Church has made the same tradeoff in terms of increasing formal knowledge at the cost of cultural/traditional modes relatively constantly over time.” I think I have only seen such a Faith on the Internet: modern, “loyal to the Magisterium”, well-catechized, etc. Indeed, I am beginning to think that a “sophisticated, orthodox Catholic” is purely an ens rationis. Most “good Catholics” I know have been involved in all kinds of bizarre and “questionable” things: Lefebvrists, apparitions fanatics, crazy charismatics, venerators of Santa Muerte, etc. Not only do I think an “orthodox” Catholicism “faithful to the Magisterium” and devoid of culture is not viable, but I also think it is virtually non-existent.

Doctrine itself is poetic, and set in a very particular social and historical context. I fail to see, however, how one can have any real sense of vicarious satisfaction or defend the cult of the saints without having a real concrete example in the sufferings of the souls in purgatory and actually praying to the saints. I don’t see how one can divorce doctrine from its original context and create a system akin to Rudolf Carnap’s logic in which we create symbols devoid of any sort of mystery or historical context. Catholicism used to make people accept its culture just as Islam makes people accept its culture even today. It does not try to “culturally contextualize” praying towards the Kaaba, or talk about how celebrating the martyrdom of Hussein is not essential to their Faith (for the Shia only), or how Ramadan can be forgone due to “cultural circumstances”.

The current Church’s reaction to modernity was only one path out of many it could have taken, and not necessarily the right one. The far more interesting question is whether the Church had any part to play in the destruction of its own culture, and I think I have pointed out on this blog that its part was not at all minor. In the article on St. Expedite quoted above, however, I see more continuity than a modern phenomenon. I think that is the attitude that most people have had towards the saints through the centuries, and it proves the perennial character of that which many people would write off as an anachronism. Things are not as dire as they sometimes seem.

17 06 2009
Jonathan Prejean

It’s very unlike you, Jonathan.

I didn’t say that to disparage doctrinal orthodoxy. Indeed, my point was that at the end of the day, there may be nothing else left. But it is a culture-killer to be sure. In every major heresy, there was a long-standing Christian culture that was declared erroneous and eventually died or separated. It happened with Antioch (first Arianism, then Nestorianism), Alexandria (monophysitism), Byzantium (monotheletism and iconoclasm), and those are only the most venerable havens of tradition. I don’t blame dogmatic orthodoxy for the problem; it was a disordered adherence to culture and tradition “as it was taught to us” without reasoned scrutiny that required authoritative resolution. But when cultural forms get out of hand, they have to be pruned, and that always involves loss.

My point wasn’t that these things are a threat to the Church, but that they limit what the Church can realistically do as part of the culture. To the extent culture is “sacred,” it is no longer profane. Dogma is a way of reserving thought forms to the sacred and excising the profane. The more dogma there is, the less compatible the Catholic life is with the ordinary day-to-day life of the culture. We have essentially reached the point with the “take what you want” culture that there is barely any cultural mooring left.

As part of that process of separation, we have also separated ourselves from a good deal of culture that was in the past Catholic but now can no longer sustain itself as against the cultural pressure around it. We have to cut it off, because it is too vulnerable to attack, not necessarily for the older generation but for the ones to come. Almost no one I know has maintained the cultural practices of their own grandparents, so those cultural practices are simply going to die off, and the Church is even encouraging their death by the use of the Novus Ordo to prevent gangrene.

17 06 2009
e.

“…just as a dogmatic, authority-based Christianity necessarily kills cultural transmission as a means of Tradition.”

Could these truly be the words of the self-titled “Crimson Catholic”?

It’s very unlike you, Jonathan.

Besides, personally, I believe that such dogmatic, authority-based Christianity is amongst the very vehicles which tends to preserve and, therefore, maintain the very authenticity of an entirely more sacred culture, a more authentic Christianity, if you will; that ‘Catholicism’ which remains to this day even in spite of the many enemies that dwell within and without the walls of the Church that strives ever so belligerently and even, in some cases, with such ferocity, to destroy it.

17 06 2009
Jonathan Prejean

The patron saint of hackers!

“I’m not a big believer in the saints, but St. Expedite is another whole story — he’s so good he’s scary,” said freelance computer support consultant Kathy Dupon, a resident of New Orleans. “My clients were forever paying me late until I taped a card with the saint’s picture behind my mailbox as a joke last year. Now my checks almost always arrive on time.”

Watching the “information economy” disassemble and assimilate even a cultural icon like St. Expedite is morbidly fascinating. One of these days I’ll have to write about how the commitment to a knowledge-based economy necessarily destroys the very concept of culture, just as a dogmatic, authority-based Christianity necessarily kills cultural transmission as a means of Tradition. Once communicable concepts are necessarily locked into a definite, transmissible form, the very idea of a unifying, holistic culture is dead and gone.

I do credit V2 with finally realizing that cultural transmission was a dying, dysfunctional organ and replacing it with an artificial transplant (i.e., the Novus Ordo) that functioned better in view of the complete annihilation of culture in the developed world. It is, perhaps, an opportunity of a sort to be pioneers of a new Catholicism built around family and friends, centered in a unified dogmatic authority, rather than any unifying culture. But I can’t help but feel a little sad that we have squandered so much to sin since the time of the Apostles that we barely even have a human society left.

Some call it “development,” but it’s really just preservation, replacing a natural organ with an artificial construct, useful for the purpose of preserving the function but never quite the same. We’ve had to cut so much out of the Body of Christ, replacing it with a Nicene Creed here and a filioque there, that the Church now is an elderly lady, who nonetheless retains that eternal glimmer of her old dignity and beauty. It’s odd to me that people tend to look to the Church as a miraculous Fountain of Youth for culture, as if the wealth of Her Tradition were some infinite repository of mundane culture. ISTM that the Church has made the same tradeoff in terms of increasing formal knowledge at the cost of cultural/traditional modes relatively constantly over time. I don’t expect a Catholic culture, and frankly, I don’t have one.

I suppose I rely on papal authority as the last stand of Catholicism because I truly believe that doctrinal orthodoxy is all we have left. I have no cultural connection even to my own grandmother’s Sacred Heart pictures that I remember from my childhood. If doctrine isn’t sufficient for Catholicism, then I have nothing to pass to my children. Certainly, a hacker’s prayer to St. Expedite is not an inheritance of tradition or a longing for something culturally higher, but hackers’ prayers are all I have. I wish people could understand that Vatican II was not so much a condemnation of the past as an acceptance of people like me, who would never have been Catholic without it.

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