4 minute Mass

30 01 2019

Looking up things for the last post, I came upon this video of the complete Mass of the schismatic church of Palmar de Troya. As you can see, it’s four minutes long. Read the rest of this entry »

Malachi Martin

28 01 2019

I have been really enjoying listening to Dr. Taylor Marshall’s podcast and I highly recommend it. One of the latest on the deceased former Jesuit and novelist Malachi Martin in particular sent me down memory lane. Specifically, I’d like to jot down a few things about what it was like to be a Catholic traditionalist in the mid- to late 1990’s, during the time of “Internet 1.0”. I realize that having lived through those things as a young man colors my views of the Church in the current year, particularly when it comes to the current scandals. Read the rest of this entry »

The Tenderness of Vision

27 01 2019


Hadot Reads Plotinus

[Plotinus] gently accepted the multiple levels of our being, and all he tried to do was reduce this multiplicity as much as possible, by turning his attention away from the “composite”. For him, it was necessary that mankind learn to tolerate itself.

-Pierre Hadot, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision

Plotinus is without a doubt the father of mysticism in the Western world. His language, elan, and depth have been imitated by countless Christian mystics, and his ideas of knowledge as turning within into oneself continues to influence all spiritual seekers from the cloistered Carmelite nun in traditional habit to the New Age ex-hippie in a yoga class.  Plotinus can be exceptionally beautiful to read, but his is often a hollow beauty, a beauty that is inaccessible, fleeting, and of little application to daily life. Pierre Hadot, in his book on Plotinus, seeks to plant the third century…

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Words without Music

25 01 2019

Philip Glass’ most recent autobiography, Words without Music, was a bit of a disappointment to me, and a bittersweet read because I realized that, in a sense, I have sort of moved on from his music. Longtime readers might remember that Glass was one of my first big musical obsessions as a teenager. I even wrote a review of Music in Twelve Parts for my high school newspaper of all places. Glass got me through some pretty rough patches. I remember specific pieces that accompanied me through certain episodes in my life, how I was hunched over listening to early Philip Glass coming out of my boombox cranked to full volume, and how I would go out of my way to see Philip Glass’ music live when his ensemble was in town. Even my lukewarm appreciation of his opera Appomattox at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco was still a memorable experience nonetheless.  Read the rest of this entry »


24 01 2019

The Chequer-board of Nights and Days

I’ve written about angels before, in different contexts.  Here I want to address the most basic question about angels, to wit:  Do they exist?  My answer, not to leave you in suspense, is “yes”, but it will require a bit of unpacking to get there.

Part of the reason I write this is that a periodic interlocutor on another blog I frequent habitually argues that “angels” are to be understood not as separate beings, but rather as manifestations or perhaps appendages of God.  An “angel of the LORD”* is no more an individual entity than my hand or foot is.  I disagree with this, but there is some ground for this assertion.

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Ite ad Joseph

23 01 2019

I saw online a recent argument about the modern cult to St. Joseph in the Catholic Church, with many defending the idea of Joseph being a young virgin as the definitive pious opinion. The issue of the cultus of St. Joseph is a complicated one that intertwines the historical needs of modernity with the manifestation of supernatural power. St. Joseph was named Patron of the Universal Church and second only to the Virgin Mary herself. In South America, the priests would often give us spiritual conferences revealing the intense theological debate especially in Spain before the Second Vatican Council about whether St. Joseph had experienced his own “immaculate conception,” or if he was purified in the womb of his mother and when, etc. The intense devotion that led to his insertion into the Roman Canon is still seen when the reformers kept his name in but made the entire Roman Canon optional, including the names of all of the long-revered Roman martyrs. Read the rest of this entry »

Witches of America

21 01 2019

Alex Mar’s book on modern day witches didn’t inspire me to look further into a pagan revival in our contemporary context. If anything, it sort of reinforced my previous ideas of how we’re all living in one massive consumer survey, it’s just some people’s tastes are more “interesting” than others. Mar takes us on a journey through various contemporary schools of “witchcraft” such as “Faery,” Wicca, Celtic Neo-Paganism, and perhaps her most dramatic encounter, the Ordo Templi Orientis. In these spiritual quests, she stumbles upon various problems facing those seeking the sacred in a de-sacralized society: the issue of paying for initiations, the logistics of holding ceremonies in rented hotel spaces, and the intersection of magic and modern relationships. The “human story” was thus probably the most interesting element of the book, but that may not be saying much. Read the rest of this entry »

We are all modernists now

18 01 2019

This OnePeterFive article caught my eye because it reminded me that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin exists. Mainly I think of Teilhard as a bad memory recalled during the hangover over what was the 20th century. The man represented an optimism and naive belief in science that few share now. Ask anyone now if humanity is processing to an Omega Point and you would probably just receive a blank stare.

The other aspect of the article that I disagree with is the idea that Teilhard was unique in talking out of both sides of his mouth, namely, saying things in an ambiguous way that could be interpreted as orthodox, and then asserting that they are orthodox when pressed. Most of the heroes even of “conservative Catholics” did that, from Hans Urs Von Balthasar to Yves Congar (who famously relieved himself outside the building of the Holy Office, which not even Teilhard did, I believe). One accusation of the article was that Teilhard discarded the supernatural, but he wasn’t the only Jesuit to do so. While Humani Generis may have been directed at Teilhard, it was also directed I believe at Henri de Lubac, later Henri Cardinal de Lubac, who believed the supernatural was the creation of decadent Thomists during the Counter-Reformation. Of course, the article mentions only in passing the praise of the Pope Emeritus for Teilhard, which sort of throws a wrench in the whole “Jesuit conspiracy” tie between Pope Francis and the controversial theologian.

At the risk of repeating myself, I have believed for a while that Catholicism is entirely too much of a “man-centered” religion to begin with. Maybe we lost the language of Faith a long time ago, but quibbles over doctrine now seem to be an exercise in public relations and political maneuvering, and that’s about it. The OnePeterFive article under-emphasizes that the rehabilitation of Teilhard has been happening for decades, and it isn’t even news really.  As I’ve discussed recently, being Catholic in 2018 is an exercise in “How far back do you want to forget?” But the question then sort of becomes: Is there anything left to remember?

Hart on Plotinus

17 01 2019

Plotinus gave exquisitely refined expression to the ancient intuition that the material order is not the basis of the mental, but rather the reverse. This is not only an eminently rational intuition; it is perhaps the only truly rational picture of reality as a whole. Mind does not emerge from mindless matter, as modern philosophical fashion would have it. The suggestion that is does is both a logical impossibility and a phenomenological absurdity. Plotinus and his contemporaries understood that all the things that most essentially characterize the act of rational consciousness—its irreducible unity of apprehension, its teleological structure, the logical syntax of reasoning, and on and on—are intrinsically incompatible with, and could not logically emerge from, a material reality devoid of mind. At the same time, they could not fail to notice that there is a constant correlation between that act of rational consciousness and the intelligibility of being, a correlation that is all but unimaginable if the structure and ground of all reality were not already rational. Happily, in Plotinus’s time no one had yet ventured the essentially magical theory of perception as representation. Plotinus was absolutely correct, therefore, to attempt to understand the structure of the whole of reality by looking inward to the structure of the mind; and he was just as correct to suppose that the reciprocity between the mind and objective reality must indicate a reality simpler and more capacious than either: a primordial intelligence, Nous, and an original unity, the One, generating, sustaining, and encompassing all things. And no thinker of late antiquity pursued these matters with greater persistence, rigor, and originality than he did.

The rest here

Mighty Mexican Mothers: Santa Muerte as Female Empowerment in Oaxaca

16 01 2019

On an old theme of this blog.

Most Holy Death

smkatecover1As the sole female folk saint of death in the Americas, Santa Muerte has a special appeal to women, especially disprivileged Mexican mothers . In the piece below anthropologist Dr. Kate Kingsbury* considers the contours of devotion among rural women in coastal Oaxaca.

-Rural Oaxaca, the outskirts of Pochutla, Mexico

When we got home one night two scorpions awaited us inside the house. One was in the knife holder, in the middle of 6 blades. The most lethal jackknife of all: a black, flailing malignant barb that looked eager to slash and envenom its victim. The handle of an umbrella was thwacked down on it by my other half, as I stood shocked, shaking, until its exoskeleton exploded, exuding a mephitic liquid that had ants frenzied as they supped on its guts.

The following day I saw sweet, unassuming sixty-seven year old Señora Angelica and invited her for a cup…

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