Root work

19 04 2010

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I thought that this was an interesting article:

ANCIENT BELIEFS STILL ALIVE IN GEORGIA

Practitioners claim to offer supernatural help,
but often at steep prices

When drug agents kicked in the door of Minnie Pearl Thomas’ trailer at 5 a.m. on March 12, 1999, in the tiny community of Allentown, they walked into an eerie scene.

On the dresser in her dimly lit bedroom they found an altar. On the altar burned several candles. And on the candles were fastened written notes, asking for the spirits’ help with love, money and protection from the law.

The agents were not surprised. They knew that Thomas had been to a root doctor.

It was root work. Since the earliest days of settlers and slaves in this country, the practice, which is akin to voodoo, has flourished in the South. Even in the year 2000, when modern technology has superseded the old ways and Southern culture is becoming more homogenized, root work still thrives out of view from mainstream society.

The candles were not the only root work in Thomas’ house.

Peppers were scattered in [the] space above the ceiling.

Powder was sprinkled around the door.

As they rousted the sleepy Thomas and arrested her for trafficking in crack cocaine, they learned about the powder.

“She said it was Law Stay Away powder,” said Wilkinson County Sheriff Richard Chatman.

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The Rise and Fall of Neo-Thomism – part I

19 04 2010

Leo XIII to transcendental Thomism

In my life as a Catholic, it has veritably all been a game of “the more you know, the less you know”. You go through most of your life thinking that such-and-such is traditional, only to find out that it is less than a hundred years old: a drop in the bucket in the vast well of human history. The obsession of the Catholic Church, even prior to Vatican II, was an obsession for novelty, which was often compensation for the shame Catholic scholarship felt before that bitch goddess we know today as “historical scholarship”. Having not paid attention to what was really thought and believed, we found that what we had been doing and saying for centuries was all the fruit of novelty. And the only anecdote for novelty was more novelty. God forbid that we should actually stay the course.

In my own life, nothing has more tormented me in this regard than the all-too-modern Catholic obsession with the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Like a finicky child told to eat his vegetables, I was made quite scrupulous through finding that, for me, understanding the thought of the Angelic Doctor was work, but not in the good sense. Years in the local town library slaving through the thick volumes of the Summa and hours suffering through seminary classes on the difference between the agent and possible intellects made Aquinas no more palatable to me. But surely, the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII in the encyclical Aeterni Patris was not wrong in officially making the Doctor of the Church’s moderate realism the “official” Catholic philosophy? In true quixotic fashion, I failed to realize that the rest of the Church had moved on, primarily because that which Leo XIII had seen as a bulwark against the “dictatorship of relativism” (to use another phrase preferred by a Vicar of Christ) really wasn’t very “Thomistic” at all.
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