31 08 2009


A la cara de mi hijo
que duerme, bajan
arenas de las dunas,
flor de la caña
y la espuma que vuela
de la cascada…

Y es sueño nada más
cuanto le baja;
sueño cae a su boca,
sueño a su espalda,
y me roban su cuerpo
junto con su alma.

Y así lo van cubriendo
con tanta maña,
que en la noche no tengo
hijo ni nada,
madre ciega de sombra,
madre robada.

Hasta que el sol bendito
al fin lo baña:
me lo devuelve en linda
fruta mondada
¡y me lo pone entero
sobre la falda!

-Gabriela Mistral

Are we all Hindus?

31 08 2009

Over at the OrthoCuban blog, Father Ernesto cites a Newsweek article on how the religiosity of most Americans more closely resembles Hinduism than it does traditional Christian belief. He cites how more Americans would agree with the line of the Rig Veda, “Truth is One, but the sages speak of it by many names”, than they would with the idea of “you shall have no other gods but me”. The Orthodox cleric adds his own reflection saying:

Any of us might claim that we are not Hindu. But, if we are really honest, we need to admit that we chose which part of Christendom to follow rather than letting the Church tell us how to follow. If we are honest, we all need to admit that we probably hold some beliefs and opinions that contradict the “official” beliefs of the group of which we are a part. And, in that contradiction, and in the refusal to change our opinion despite the contradiction, we show the effects of a “cafeteria” view of Christianity.
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String Quartet of the Spheres

29 08 2009

Above: a pirated excerpt from Terry Riley’s work for the Kronos Quartet, Sun Rings

See AG’s review of this work (which we saw at Stanford University last year): Alien Music

Some more Charpentier

28 08 2009

A Pagan Apologia for Petrine Primacy

27 08 2009


When I first read this a year ago, I had to chuckle to myself. I was tempted not to write a post about this, but here I present my gracious hommage to Amercian Catholic apologetics culture.

Why should we listen to the Pope? Because the pagans said so.
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From around the Web

25 08 2009

Keeping it real about religion:

From Prima over at Gregorian Rite Catholic:

…Part of the reason that there are these notable “reversions” is that these people have not really converted (“embraced”) Catholicism.

It’s not simply a case of “assent” to doctrine, which too many converts seem to believe. One also has to embrace Catholic culture. Too many evangelicals have “embraced” Catholicism simply on the basis of agreements on abortion and other bioethical issues. They are not interested in “embracing” Catholic culture or the tradition of the Church. Too many converts assume that they can assent to dogma and then remake the Church in their own image. It’s gnostic. And too many spend most of their time endlessly criticizing and blaming the Church for everything, including their own unfulfilled ecclesial ambitions and their own starry-eyed notion of what the Church was or was not. And while many converts talk endlessly about having found the “truth” or the “fullness of the faith,” they seem to abhor Catholicism when it is incarnated. It’s just not as tidy as they would like. And the comparisons to the greater faith, fervor, community, and discipleship of evangelical Protestantism makes one wonder why they became Catholic in the first place.

2. From Tim Enloe:

For a lot of people, Internet apologetics seems to be like a gigantic role-playing game. They get to swagger around beating their chests because they are Thundarr the Terrible, Sacred Warrior of Truth and Goodness, and they wield the double-edged Unbeatable Mystical Sword of Supreme Rightness as they virtuously battle the nefarious forces of the Evil Lord Falsehood and his Abominable Army of Uruk-hai Orcs. “Aha! Take that! I just rolled a 32 to go with my Ultimate Refutation of All Heresies card! Begone thou dire demons of doubt and deception!” As the poet said, One, two! One, two! And through and through! The Vorpal Blade goes snicker-snack! He leaves it dead, and with its head he goes galumphing back. Let the people rejoice. The kingdom is saved! Truth lives to be attacked – and more importantly, defended – another day!

I forgot, in other words, how deadly serious some people take their online apologetics activities. It’s like the old caricature of die-hard Dungeons and Dragons fans in the 80’s – a lot of people online come to identify the core of their beings and the whole meaning of their faith in Christ with their online combative personas. They come to think that what they do online is a Sacred Mission for God, and that at all costs they must not fail. They come to take the cause of “giving an answer” (the only half-quoted sentence from 1 Pet. 3:15) as a life-or-death thing – if they don’t decisively win this battle on this message board or blog right now by giving an absolutely and plainly irrefutable refutation of the other guy’s “nonsense,” well, then, Truth will self-destruct and they will be left with nothing but doubt and fear and the horrific prospect of having to admit to their legion of adoring fans that this time they have to admit defeat and will have to commit to doing better next time. The resilience of Thundarr’s ego when he faces a potential defeat turns out to be inversely proportional to the verbal confidence he projects at the beginning of his arguments when he thinks nobody could ever possibly get the better of him.

From Michael E. Lawrence, via the Conservative Blog for Peace :

…The “liturgy wars” are the outcome of precisely this kind of thing, a centralized program enacted by a politburo which said, “This is what you must do.” Away with programs! Human existence is messy, and the way out of the chaos of the past several decades will be messy and very much unpredictable. Thomas Day seems to understand this, and so does the pope, who has granted more freedoms than restrictions with respect to the liturgy.

Maybe by “program” people are looking for a declaration of loyalty from Professor Day, a statement on whether he stands with the Thisses or the Thats in the midst of the debate about worship. ”Forget chant and Latin! Do good hymns with organ like they used to do at my old middle-church Episcopalian parlor,” says one constituency. ”No! We must return immediately to Latin and all Gregorian chant and throw away everything else,” another group might claim. Day strikes me as being too wise for this. In the midst of the strife, it’s easy to fall for panaceas, but often the truth gets lost in the fog. I myself have worked in Novus Ordo parishes, in Traditional Rite parishes, and even in Protestant churches. I have visited others, as well. I have heard German Catholics blow the windows out with Grosser Gott; I have heard Mennonites wake the dead with their shape-note singing; I have been moved to tears by the sound of Lutherans singing Ein feste Burg; and on one cold February Ash Wednesday, I heard a Catholic congregation, after years of tra-la-la music, raise the roof singing Agnus Dei XVIII, unaccompanied—and they didn’t even drag. We do not need panaceas. We need culture and common sense. Thomas Day’s book will do much to help us achieve these things.

On the Margins of Theology – I

24 08 2009

altar nino

The phenomenology of the numinous in Catholic devotional practice

(photo found at this site)

During my Internet browsing, I became acquainted with this essay on the work of Orlando Espin, a kindred spirit it seems who has done work in the academia regarding Latino popular Catholicism. The author of the essay is critical of Espin’s work saying that the scholar pits the faith of the clergy against the faith of the popular classes. This excerpt is particularly illuminating in this regard:

I told Shirley that Professor Espin says that popular Latino Catholicism, even in Mexico, has never identified the Virgin of Guadalupe with Mary of Nazareth. He goes further: “Why can’t the Virgen be the Holy Spirit?” Espin wonders. “Is the Mary-Guadalupe identification really the people’s creation and discovery? Or is it possibly a historically understandable, defensive cover, naively (though sincerely) imposed by theological and ecclesiastical elites on themselves and on the people’s symbol system?”

Shirley agrees with Espin about one thing: “None of the people that I know say that it’s the Virgin Mary; they say it’s Our Lady of Guadalupe.” On the other hand, “everybody I know doesn’t separate the two.”

The rest of the essay has a rather snarky and cynical tone, portraying Espin as a scholar profoundly out of touch with the “orthodox” faith of the masses. For the essayist, Espin reads too much Derrida and not enough St. Thomas; he is trying to use religion as a means of subversion when it is really nothing of the sort.

While I can appreciate some of the author’s criticism, I do not think he is being fair to Espin or popular Catholicism in general.

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For questionable hagiographies

22 08 2009

Lal Shahbaz Qalandar once roamed the Indian province of Sindh (now a part of Pakistan) as a missionary of Islam. Most historical details about his life and his teachings have been lost and gave room to numerous legends but what seems to be certain is that Lal Shahbaz Qalandar preached that the very essence of Islam is love: love for God, love for God´s prophet and his family, love for the friends of God and love for each fellow human being.

He gained a reputation of offering heartfelt sympathy and practical help to the ostracized and downtrodden of society and his tomb became a special place of reverence for the poorest of the poor, for members of the lowest castes, for trannies, for prostitutes and for others with a “bad reputation” in mainstream society.

Leyla Jagiella, who posted this with the video above concerning the miracles wrought by this “Muslim saint”

I was telling a priest about my research one day, and, after recounting the story of St. Martin of Tours and the spurious martyr, I remarked that Mediterreanean Catholics seem to have been venerating social bandits for some sixteen hundred years. “Yes, and they’ll keep doing it as long as the Vatican only canonizes members of religious orders and goody-goodies!” was the unexpected response. The point is a good one, especially given Mexico’s strong class system, its traditional anticlericalism, and its deep suspicion of bureaucracy, be it secular or church related.

-James S. Griffith, Folk Saints of the Borderlands: Victims, Bandits, and Healers

I don’t necessarily agree with the priest. I don’t think that folk bandits need to be canonized to play a part in the lives of the people in the pews. There is a certain synergy between official and “folk” culture that best works when the realms are separated.

That being said, I have found that there is a tendency to reduce the cult of the saints in Catholicism to the “Catholic citizen of the month” club. I felt this especially in the policies of the last Pontiff to canonize as many people as he could from different “walks of life”. This wasn’t really a move of populist leanings, in my opinion. It was more a PR move to prove that anyone could be a clericalized, Catholic goody-goody. As I have written previously, Vatican II did not so much “empower the laity”, but rather clericalized them.

Concierto para bandoneón y orquesta

21 08 2009

A piece by Astor Piazzolla. Here is the last movement, though I am not crazy about this particular performance of it. I still think, however, it was the best concerto written in the 20th century.

On putting the genie back in the bottle

20 08 2009


The Holy Office presides over the entire church and curbs everyone with its interventions: this supreme, inflexible Gestapo whose decisions cannot be questioned.

-Yves Cardinal Congar

This was written in the personal journal of the wayward theologian before the great awakening and “new Pentecost” known as Vatican II. He also said regarding his superiors “not getting” him: “I am not a man of the tragic, but it is painful to be the victim of stupidity.” A professor in seminary, also a Frenchman, once read me a line from Congar’s memoires about how the Dominican saw it fit to express his displeasure at the Holy Office by relieving himself on the side of its building in Rome. A great start for the “New Evangelization”, I must say.

He was far from being the only one who was in trouble with the law in those days. Hans Urs von Balthasar used to get through his classes in seminary by putting wax in his ears, sitting in the back of the class, and reading St. Augustine instead of listening to the lectures. Dom Beauduin had one of his monasteries suppressed for playing too much ecumenical footsy with some questionable people. Chenu was removed from his school of hip theology, Le Salchoir, and so on. And we need not say much about even our present Pontiff and his youthful, theological indiscretions.

The problem with revolutionaries is that they make notoriously bad governors, as students of Third World history can no doubt tell you. For Papa Roncalli, at one time accused of having questionable affinities to some bad books, waltzed into the Holy Office soon after his election and wrote large on his file, “I am not a heretic”. Indeed, la tradizione sono io. But what is to stop all of those “progressive Catholics”, those who believe that artificial contraception is okay, that women should be elevated to the rank of priest, and so on, from aspiring to do the exact same thing as Congar, and get a new, shiny red hat out of it? Indeed, even the “conservatives” of the Church are children of revolution, sticking their finger in the crack that they themselves pounded into the dyke. If Congar, von Balthasar, Chenu, and Co. didn’t give a hoot about ecclesiastical authority prior to the Council, why should “enlightened” Catholic theologians give a hoot about it now? Revolutionary snowballs are very difficult to stop. As I cited on one of the first on-line essays I ever posted:

In articles about Pope Benedict XVI, much has been made of his experience of student unrest at the University of Tübingen in 1968. Many see that experience as the best explanation of the apparent intellectual about-face that turned the young progressive theologian of the Second Vatican Council into the poster-child of conservative reaction in theology and in church politics. There is something to this, and Joseph Ratzinger was not the only European intellectual to have been deeply affected by the excesses of the fascists of the left at the time. (We all know the definition of a neoconservative: a liberal who’s been mugged.)

Scramble as they may, but these intellectuals, having bought into the revolutionary paradigms of development and progress, will not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. They have let the genie out of the bottle, and I doubt their ability to put it back in.