Promesantes

3 08 2010

An interview of the director of a documentary on the shrine to la Difunta Correa in Argentina.





Some First Things stuff

29 07 2010

First, a political post I can finally get fully behind:

I too have a fervor—a fever, in fact—for political inactivity. I want to be part of a movement that makes electoral politics so boring that rather than having term limits, we’ll need laws requiring politicians to serve their full term. I want to join a party that make politics and government work so dull that political journalists and elected officials dream of leaving their fields for the exciting worlds of actuarial science and telemarketing.

I want to thrown in my lot with others who want to throw a wet blanket over politics and whose desire is to dampen the enthusiasm for all forms of political activity. I want to consort with citizens who are willing to arrest the ardor, dash the devotion, sap the spirit, and zap the zeal from anything that remotely resembles political enthusiasm. I want to create a new party, dedicated to the mastery of the art of anti-propaganda and committed to the conscientious devotion of alert inactivity.

I consider myself to be profoundly a-political, yet with sensibility of a European-style social democrat. As an ex-Trotskyist, I am well aware of the tendency of my fellow ex-Trotskyists (Burnham, Irving Kristol, etc.), to become right-wing hacks after leaving the movement. I have sought to avoid being an apologist for the capitalist leviathan without being under any illusions that the international working class shall be the human race. I still sing the Internationale to myself sometimes. I think it’s pretty catchy, especially if you can sing it in three languages.

I suppose now I am a Platonic republican.

Also, I found this post that I put in my “gangsters need God too” file regarding the Calabrian mafia:

According to a report in Britain’s Telegraph, Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of the Calabrian Diocese of Locri-Gerace has written an open letter to the bosses of the ’Ndrangheta—the Calabrian Mafia—“imploring them to stop using holy shrines for their initiation ceremonies.” The bishop, says the Telegraph, decided to speak out “after more than 300 alleged mobsters—including the 80-year-old ‘Godfather’ Domenico Oppedisano—were arrested in a police blitz earlier this month.” The Telegraph article is accompanied by a screen capture from an Italian police surveillance film showing Oppedisano “being ‘sworn in’ under a statue of the Virgin Mary at Polsi near Reggio Calabria.”

I think one difference between Italy and Latin America is that Italy was more “clericalized” in its Catholicism than Latin America. On the one hand, the clergy had more supervision over what the people did, so the symbols that people employ even in expressing their “folk Catholicism” are the same as those of “clerical Catholicism”. On the other hand, people will employ those symbols in the exact same way that the Latin American, “un-clerical” Catholic does. In this case, while mobsters in Mexico will pray to Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte for success in their criminal endeavors, the Italian mobster will use an image of the Virgin Mary for the same purpose. Also, even such figures as St. Jude or St. Dismas will also be used for these less than Christian purposes. So the whole idea of a “folk saint” may itself be a construction, for even “approved” saints will be used for unapproved intentions.





Again on “committed Christianity”

22 07 2010

…the Christian of the future will by a mystic or will not be at all.

-Karl Rahner

Joseph Komonchak is a smart man. I enjoy reading his posts on the Commonweal site. I know that he is older than me, and I know that he sees things quite differently. I suppose in the post cited above, I was most impressed by how well he was able to crystalize everything I dislike about the “new Catholicism” in such a short post. I especially was appauled by this Yves Congar quote:

We have not yet sufficiently communicated, or developed, the positive biblical grounds on which a new chapter in the history of the Church has really begun, in continuity, however, with the living tradition of the Scriptures, the Fathers, and the classic centuries. The fate of the Church, it seems to me, is more and more tied to a spiritual and even a supernatural life, that is, to a Christian life. I think that today the only ones who can stick it out [tenir le coup] are Christians who have an inner life. In Tridentinism, there was a kind of conditioning (in a non-pejorative sense); there was a sort of enveloping, of a framework that one entered or stayed within, whereas today…, it is impossible, I think, to maintain a Christian life without some kind of inner life. And here I like to cite a rather curious remark of Fr. Emile Mersch, that Belgian Jesuit who did so much for the theology of the Mystical Body: “It’s because they lack a skeleton that certain animals surround themselves with a carapace.: Today I think the great carapace of Tridentinism has in great part dissolved, flaked off in some way, so that the need for a kind of inner frame is very urgent.
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The stupor of modern life

20 07 2010

AG and I love to watch and discuss the show, Mad Men. So I was pleased to find the following essay by Heather Havrilesky concerning the upcoming fourth season of the show (found through the Conservative Blog for Peace). Cutting through the excessively florid prose that almost borders on pretentiousness, I found that the following passages capture why this show appeals to a certain educated sector of the American public:

Americans are constantly in search of an upgrade. It’s a sickness that’s infused into our blood, a dissatisfaction with the ordinary that’s instilled in us from childhood. Instead of staying connected to the divine beauty and grace of everyday existence — the glimmer of sunshine on the grass, the blessing of a cool breeze on a summer day — we’re instructed to hope for much more. Having been told repeated stories about the fairest in the land, the most powerful, the richest, the most heroic (Snow White, Pokémon, Ronald McDonald, Lady Gaga), eventually we buy into these creation myths and concede their overwhelming importance in the universe. Slowly we come to view our own lives as inconsequential, grubby, even intolerable.

Meanwhile, the American dream itself — a house, a job, a car, a family, a little lawn for the kids to frolic on — has expanded into something far broader and less attainable than ever. Crafty insta-celebrities and self-branding geniuses and social media gurus assert that submitting to the daily grind to pay the mortgage constitutes a meager existence. Books like “The 4-Hour Work Week” tell us that working the same job for years is for suckers. We should be paid handsomely for our creative talents, we should have the freedom to travel and live wherever we like, our children should be exposed to the wonders of the globe at an early age…

While “Mad Men’s” detractors often decry the empty sheen of it all, claiming that it has no soul, clearly that’s the point. The American dream itself is a carefully packaged, soulless affair. This is the automobile a man of your means should drive. This is the liquor a happy homemaker like yourself should serve to your husband’s business guests. As absurd as it seems to cobble together a dream around a handful of consumer goods, that’s precisely what the advertising industry did so effectively in the ’50s and ’60s, until we couldn’t distinguish our own desires from the desires ascribed to us by professional manipulators, suggesting antidotes for every real or imagined malady, supplying escapist fantasies to circumvent the supposedly unbearable tedium of ordinary life.
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Patron saint against huffing

10 07 2010

image credit

A great article and video from the New York Times concerning the cult of street youths in Mexico City to St. Jude via TitusOneNine





A Cruz y Espada

5 07 2010

More on las Morismas de Bracho. This half hour film shows more footage of the 10,000+ person mock battle in Zacatecas, Mexico to commemorate the victory of the Christians at the Battle of Lepanto. This is often performed in honor of St. John the Baptist. In Spanish without subtitles (sorry).





On two headed statues

5 07 2010


Notes on the sacred and profane

Above: Las Morismas de Bracho – Mexican Catholics having too much fun

It is public knowledge that in the town of Villar, now uninhabited, there lived a girl who had one body and two heads with complete faces, and that one spoke or sang and the other replied, and as proof of the truth of this they saw and it was public knowledge that in the chapel of Saint Dominic there was a statue of a body with two heads carved from wood, and it was there a remembrance of that remarkable phenomenon among other holy images of wood that about twenty years ago [from 1578] more or less, were taken out by permission of the Church, because it was indecent for it to be there, and afterwards the statue was lost.

-found in William Christian’s Local Religion in Sixteenth Century Spain

Is the Catholic Church finished?

Such was the question that a commenter echoed on Commonweal. In that thread, the answers from various commenters are quite informative. These people aren’t exactly the ones to give predetermined, curt answers.
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On the margins of theology – X

24 06 2010

The Horseman of Divine Providence (Conclusion)

Pues bien: la iglesia, como institución, está en el mismo caso. Yo le pediría que no trataran de institucionalizar a Malverde; es un santón y un héroe del pueblo; no traten de arrebatárselo de las manos; la realidad es que está allí, la gente lo quiere, le tiene y lo más maravilloso es que hace milagros.

(The Church, as an institution, is in the same boat. I would ask that they try not to institutionalize Malverde. He is folk saint and a hero of the people, they should not try to take him from them. The reality is that he is around, the people like him, they keep him, and most marvelous thing of all is that he works miracles.)

These are the words Óscar Liera puts on the lips of a doctor in his play, El Jinete de la Divina Providencia. The subject of the 1980’s Mexican play is a fictional ecclesiastical investigation of the miracles of Jesus Malverde, the deceased bandit who works miracles from beyond the grave. In this special ten part series regarding the prevalence of “popular Catholicism” in many societies, I thought it a good quote to tie many ideas together. Here, there is not so much a stark opposition between institution and spontaneity, high and low religiosity, but a juxtaposition of what emerges in the life of believers and the rules imposed from above. In other words, we speak here not of an exclusive situation, but of a complementary one. That which is in the margins of religiosity is just as important as officially sanctioned doctrine and praxis, though it is not necessarily superior to it.
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Fundamentalism and modernity

14 06 2010

Editorial note: I’m unavailable until Thursday. Posts will continue to appear, but this blog is on auto-pilot

I highly recommend the article, Rush Hour of the Gods by William Dalrymple (found via the Western Confucian blog). The article makes many counterintuitive points that I think any student of modern religion needs to take into consideration. While his analysis of Islam in south Asia was known to me, his analysis of modern Hinduism was particularly informative. Such an “ancient religion” is really not so ancient all things considered, and modernity has come to shape it just as much as it has contemporary Christianity.

My own exercise here is to compare and contrast what is going on with Hinduism and Islam in India with the long evolution of Catholicism in Latin America. In both cases, nationality, technology, scholarship, and the media are striving to define what Catholicism, Islam, and Hinduism are on a national and international scale, often in contrast with more local manifestations of these faiths.
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On the margins of theology -IX

10 06 2010

Notes on holy criminals and sacred banditry

…et nos quidem iuste nam digna factis recipimus hic vero nihil mali gessit et dicebat ad Iesum Domine memento mei cum veneris in regnum tuum et dixit illi Iesus amen dico tibi hodie mecum eris in paradiso

Above is a video about a French man executed in Chile. Unlike some other examples of the veneration of executed figures in the Catholic world, the murderer Emile Dubois showed no signs of repentance when he was executed in early 20th century Valparaiso, Chile. Another example, a little more recent, also in Chile, was that of the “Jackal of Nahueltoro” , who was executed for the crime of killing a woman and her daughter in cold blood. Though showing real signs of reform, he was executed in accordance with the death sentence handed down to him. In the latter case, at least, people felt that the man’s crime was a product of the corrupt social order where education and opportunity for self-improvement were not offered to the man until it was too late. With Dubois, however, not only was he a cold-hearted murder, but he refused to repent at the gallows, rebuffing the priest by saying: “I will confess to God Himself, not one of His representatives”.
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