On the Popular Canonization of Entertainers

12 07 2009


As a follow up from last week’s post, I present to you a few notes on “folk canonization” of singers in Latin America. The first is the already mentioned Carlos Gardel, whose tomb in the Chacarrita cemetery of Buenos Aires is a popular shrine complete with ex-votos thanking the deceased singer for “favors granted”. To be fair, I was reading that such ex-votos only began to appear about thirty years ago, so it may be a more “modern” phenomenon.

One author summarizes Gardel’s appeal with a very succinct formula:

Carlos Romualdo Gardés, conocido como Carlos Gardel, presenta dos de los rasgos esenciales para constituirse en un santo popular: murió joven y dramáticamente.

Carlos Romualdo Gardés, known as Carlos Gardel, has two of the necessary qualities that constitute being a folk saint: he died young and dramatically.

One personal anecdote: the way one porteño friend in seminary spoke of Gardel and his music, I found such a “popular canonization” hardly surprising. And this was in an ultra-correct, Lefebvrist religious house. I am kicking myself now that I didn’t go out of my way to visit Gardel’s tomb when I was down there.

Another Argentine artist “canonized” by the populace is the cumbia singer, Gilda, as you can see from this program on South American television:

According to a report from a couple of years ago from the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, some believe that the tomb of Mexican singer, Pedro Infante, who also died quite young and tragically, is also miraculous. The face of Pedro Infante was grafted onto the early 20th century outlaw, Jesus Malverde, leading to an indirect popular canonization of the singer by those devotees.

I sort of experienced this phenomenon when people in my predominantly Mexican-American hometown “freaked out” when Selena was shot by one of her fans back in the late 1990’s. Since she was a Jehova’s Witness, I don’t think many of her fans “pray to her” the way some Argentines would pray to Gilda or Carlos Gardel, but given another context, such a cultus would hardly be surprising.

Carlos Saura’s Las bodas de sangre

10 07 2009

A film based on the play by Garcia Lorca

On “False Saints”

8 07 2009


It’s good to see my own personal obsessions get wider attention:

An essay on the relationship between the recent death of Michael Jackson and the hound “St. Guinefort”


a Shrine of the Holy Whapping blog post

As one would expect from a blog associated with First Things, we have a very correct, very sober attitude towards the unruly masses who are not as educated as “we” are. As he writes:

In both cases, the cults were propelled by two engines: the ignorance of the people, and the desire to venerate. As with the angels, we are created as creatures of praise. We seem to be hardwired to praise something, to worship anything. Just as we will eat rotten food and filthy water if no healthy food and clean water are available, we will venerate dogs and celebrities if we see no truly worthy objects of veneration before us.
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Common Magic

7 07 2009


Everyone practices magic, whether they realize it or not, for magic is the art of attracting particular influences, events, and situations within human life. Magic is a natural phenomenon because the universe is reflexive, responding to human thoughts, aspirations, and desires; students of cosmology, for example, realize that the universe will correspondingly provide evidence for any theory projected upon it. Because of the magical, reflexive nature of reality, a certain amount of awareness is required, for people attract to themselves what they really desire. People who don’t know what they want ususally attract what they need. This may be a seemingly random series of situations and perhaps unhappy events, destined to jolt them to a higher level of awareness in the long run. Since the universe does respond to our innermost desires, true philosophers have always held that one should be idealistic in spirit and perpetually aim to invoke the highest. People who have a low-minded view of things will discover this reflected in the events of their lives, thus confirming their perspective, while others who are high-minded and invoke the spirit of excellence find themselves capable of attracting it.

-David Fideler, Jesus Christ, Sun of God: Ancient Christian Cosmology and Early Christian Symbolism

On Miracles

6 07 2009


above: from the parish church in St. Martinville, Louisiana

Disbelieve nothing amazing concerning the gods or divine dogmas.

-the third Pythagorean symbol

Two blogs that I read, from two entirely different people, have had posts on miracles recently. The first comes from that rather snarky Lutheran blogger who says what all Protestants think but don’t feel they can say, Josh S. In his post on miracles, he basically takes the “minimalist” position: the miraculous only exists to sustain and establish the Word of God, which is faith in Jesus Christ; the only thing of any importance:
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On Free Market Faith

4 07 2009


Picked this one up over at Owen’s blog, from the editor of Commonweal, Paul Baumann. Some excerpts:

…Where once it was widely assumed that modernity and its handmaiden “secularization” would kill off religion, the reports of God’s death turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, Micklethwait and Wooldridge assure us, “the very things that were supposed to destroy religion—democracy and markets, technology and reason—are apparently combining to make it stronger.” Europe was wrong, and America right. Irreligion in Europe is the anomaly, and the “hot religion” (namely Evangelical Protestantism) of the United States is the future. “American-style religion” is very much here to stay, and on the whole that is a good thing—especially for business…

God Is Back traces this church model to the revivals or “awakenings” of the nineteenth century as well as the pragmatic outreach and organization of the Methodist Church, once the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. We follow Evangelical Protestantism’s ups and downs like a stock price, from Prohibition and the Scopes trial to George W. Bush and right up to the current moment. (The crestfallen reaction of conservative evangelicals and Catholics to Barack Obama’s election gets little attention, however.) Faced with the challenge of marketing faith in a postindustrial society, contemporary American “pastorpreneurs” have turned to sophisticated business models for inspiration and instruction. As God Is Back notes, Willow Creek Community Church, the famed Illinois megachurch, boasts two MBAs on its large administrative staff, and an operation that caters to virtually all the needs of its members, from food courts to addiction counseling. “Willow Creek,” the authors write, “is based on the same principle as all successful businesses: putting the customer first.” It is a principle they see being followed by Evangelical, Pentecostal, and even some Catholic churches around the world.
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To the Muses

3 07 2009

Daughters of Jove, dire-sounding and divine,
Renown’d Pierian, sweetly speaking Nine;
To those whose breasts your sacred furies fire
Much-form’d, the objects of supreme desire:
Sources of blameless virtue to mankind,
Who form to excellence the youthful mind;
Who nurse the soul, and give her to descry
The paths of right with Reason’s steady eye.
Commanding queens who lead to sacred light
The intellect refin’d from Error’s night;
And to mankind each holy rite disclose,
For mystic knowledge from your nature flows.
Clio, and Erato, who charms the sight,
With thee Euterpe minist’ring delight:
Thalia flourishing, Polymina fam’d,
Melpomene from skill in music nam’d:
Terpischore, Urania heav’nly bright,
With thee who gav’st me to behold the light.
Come, venerable, various, pow’rs divine,
With fav’ring aspect on your mystics shine;
Bring glorious, ardent, lovely, fam’d desire,
And warm my bosom with your sacred fire.

-Translated by Thomas Taylor

The Slave of the Koran

2 07 2009

I am the slave of the Koran
While I still have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad,
The Chosen One.
If anyone interprets my words
In any other way,
I deplore that person,
And I deplore his words.

-Jalalu’ddin Rumi

The above text came as a bit of a surprise to me when I found it. After all, this is Rumi we are talking about; well-loved by poetry fans, spiritual seekers, and agnostics everywhere. This is not some closed-minded mullah who demands obedience to religious precepts, but someone who talks about love, mysticisim, and the ultimate inability to know God through human knowledge.

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Quote of the Week

1 07 2009


From the Gregorian Rite Catholic blog:

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, the then archbishop of Milan and future Pope Paul VI, went to that final meeting of the Central Commission and said that mercy, charity, and Christian witness — not anathemas and condemnations — were the way to reach the modern world. Realizing that Cardinal Montini spoke with the authority of the Pope, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, one of the Council’s more conservative voices and Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (today called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), was heard to murmur: ‘I pray to God that I may die before the end of the Council — in that way I can die a Catholic’ (Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories, Twenty-Third Publications, 2003, 6).

I feel his pain. Seriously.

Pillar of Fire

1 07 2009

The opening of the ballet by Antony Tudor