Capriccio espagnole

29 01 2010

An infectious Rimsky-Korsakov piece that has grown on me through the years.

Judica me, Deus…

28 01 2010

Sometimes the real life friends I have chosen to make say the darndest things. I had a half-Mexican friend who, after many twists and turns in life, had decided to finally embrace Protestantism. One time, we went out for pizza. While talking about modern Christianity, the conversation turned to how modern Christians tend to regard God as some plush toy they display prominently in a curio cabinet. God loves you, He’s not going to get mad at you. He is perfectly harmless. To this total lack of seriousness, the failure to take seriously the vengeful God of the Bible, he said:

“God is Santa Muerte.”
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This week’s Church stuff links

27 01 2010

The first is a perceptive essay on the Vox Nova blog on the recent decision of the Diocese of Phoenix’s decision to extend the time of marriage preparation from six months to nine. The blogger writes:

What bothers me most about this though is the continued clinicalization of marriage (and most other social problems.) The idea is prevalent out there that divorce is principally a personal failure. As such the prescriptions are the usual better catechesis, more maturity etc. Concomitant with this is the romantic notion that our grandparents and great-grandparents were better catechized and more mature. This is of course nonsense. People are getting married almost a decade later than they were 5 generations ago. (Please don’t reference the WWII generation as it was aberrational due to WWII taking place.) And while I would love to claim an extraordinary piety existed in the older generations, the saying that all babies take 9 months except the first has deep roots. Some are called to marriage, and, with others, marriage calls them. A church will throw a baby shower for a poor and unwed mother, but the church will make that mother wait 9 months and learn NFP if she deigns to ask it to marry her.

The next comes from the curmudgeonly Gregorian Rite Catholic blog, in an unlikely citation of Garry Wills:

“Tribal rites, superstitions, marks of the Catholic ghetto–and, all of them, insignia of a community. These marks and rites were not so much altered, refined, elevated, reformed, transfigured, as–overnight–erased. This was a ghetto that had no one to say ‘Catholic is Beautiful’ over it. Men rose up to change this world who did not love it–demented teachers, ready to improve a student’s mind by destroying his body.

“Do we need a culture? Only if we need a community, however imperfect. Only if we need each other.”


27 01 2010

A scene from the film by Paul Schrader

On sunrise

26 01 2010

The Sun Never Says

All this time
The sun never says to the earth

“You owe

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the

translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift

On plaster saints

25 01 2010

Originally posted here:

When I visited the shops around the National Basilica of the Virgin of Lujan in Argentina, I couldn’t believe some of the kitschy statues I encountered. Some were badly painted and of poor quality. Others were just outright grotesque. Since we do not live in a Catholic country, religious art is monopolized by the official Church or reputable companies. In traditional countries, street vendors often sell religious art to make a living on the sidewalks in front of shrines or in random places in a city. My former abbot told me that in Greece, you can even buy your icons and pornography from the same stall…

After my encounter with these poorly made statues, I was overheard to say, “no wonder people become Protestant!” My aesthetic snobbery was unable to tolerate these poor examples of sacred art. Now I am beginning to see the error of my ways once again.
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22 01 2010

You are the sonnet
That the morning utters:

Silent, singing,
The incessant rustling
Of birds in the branches.

You are the song
That lifts up my feet,
Period of longing,
Period of sighs-
Sweet blade that
Plunges into memory
And cuts away all
That bends in sorrow.

You are the hue of
The sky in spring-
The light that glides off
The streams that
Gallop over stones.

You are the muse,
The recitation,
The singer,
And the tear-

All of this you consume
In your gentle eye-

And I fade away,
Lost and lifted up
In morning’s prize.

Prayer to Black Hawk

21 01 2010

From the book, The Spiritual Churches of New Orleans:

Black Hawk, be a watchman on the wall.
Prop me up every time I fall.
Whet their tongue, like a sword and bend their bows to shoot arrows at
their bitter words.
Teach their hands to woe.
Let the Lord shoot at them with arrows that seek evil after my soul.
Revenge me, O God, in the power of Black Hawk.
Black Hawk, be a protector from all hurt, harm, and danger.
Be my keeper and shield me and bless me when I stand in need.
Shoot out thine arrows and destroy them in Jesus’ name.

Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:
Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:
That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.
They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?
They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.
But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.

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All the Church news that’s fit to print

20 01 2010

The thought of Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx is examined in this rather perceptive article in the New York Times about the Church in the last seventy years.

I thought this quote in particular to be the most pertinent:

Like many Catholic theologians who influenced the council, Father Schillebeeckx had reacted against the neo-scholastic theology that the church adopted in the 19th century as a bulwark against hostile modern ideas. Distilled from the thought of Thomas Aquinas but frequently handed on without any examination of Aquinas’s writings or their medieval context, this neo-scholasticism articulated the faith in series of abstract concepts and propositions presented as absolute, ahistorical and immutable.

Father Schillebeeckx found alternative intellectual resources in modern phenomenology, with its meticulous attention to the actual experience of consciousness. And by studying Aquinas in his medieval context, he recovered a Thomism that expounded the presence and mystery of God in far less rationalistic and conceptual ways than did its neo-scholastic versions.

Of course, a lot of these thoughts are rather broad generalizations. But for me, they articulate again that, in many ways, the Catholicism of the pre-Vatican II Church was not all that old. Such things as frequent Communion, Gregorian chant, militant reactionary social teaching, and Baltimore Catechism-style formulations of the faith were just as much a product of modernity and its scholarship as the thought of Loisy or the public services of Taizé.
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On thought

19 01 2010

Maimonides is not aiming for the solution, the answer. The basic features of his reason are discipline and passion. Thinking and the act of knowing are no less important for him than that which is thought; thinking is holy. He emphasizes over and over again that he does not want to erect a system of philosophy, he merely wants to pave the way to the knowledge of God. He does not focus on inventing original elements of thought. He lives in the intoxicating wealth of the universal sciences, he is filled with experiencing and understanding this magic.

If logic fails in the face of religion, Maimonides considers it lazy to settle down comfortably in faith, in tradition. He is aware of the limits of reason. But to live in the kingdom of reason is an imperative for him. He does not care to build his home on the narrow borderstone of ignorance. Reason, for him, is not a hiding place to store all doubts; it is located in the kingdom of God, albeit not at the center but on the border.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel, Maimonides