Stabat Mater

15 04 2011

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.

Salvia Divinorum

18 05 2010

image credit

There are a number of common names for S. divinorum and nearly all are related to the plant’s association with the Virgin Mary. It is known to the Mazatecs as ska Maria Pastora, the leaf or herb of Mary, the Shepherdess. The name is usually shortened to ska Maria or ska Pastora and the sage is also known by a number of Spanish names including hojas de Maria, hojas de la Pastora, hierba (yerba) Maria or la Maria. The Mazatecs believe this Salvia to be an incarnation of the Virgin Mary, and care is taken to avoid trampling on or damaging it when picking the leaves, which are used both for curing and in divination.

via Lonely Goth

“realistic about religion”

7 04 2010

image credit

From the review of a new movie on Lourdes taken from Titusonenine

It has become a tired debating point to think abut religion as being a battle between belief and practice, doxa and praxis. Lourdes brilliantly shows that religion is more usually not about either belief or practice, but an assortment of endless varieties of both…

Many characters in Lourdes don’t seem to have strong views on what they do or don’t believe. The way they relate to doctrine is just not primarily a matter of acceptance or rejection. Belief is therefore less a question of which are true and more one of which matter and why. So, for instance, many pilgrims are sceptical about whether miracles have actually occurred in Lourdes, but what matters to them is that they nonetheless believe God’s grace is somehow at work there. Others are indifferent to most, if not all, of the specifics of Christian belief, but embrace the compassion and support they feel at the shrine…

To respect religion properly we need to appreciate how different people relate to different beliefs in different ways, and that constant, sober piety is the exception, rather than the rule. It was a local priest who once told my father, “the problem with most people is that they take religion too seriously.” Rather fewer Catholics than you might think would be shocked or surprised by that. The rest of us need to understand better why they’re not.

Regina Coeli

4 04 2010

Stabat Mater

26 03 2010

The Virgin as Philosopher’s Stone

23 12 2009

I will propose you a similitude of gold. The ethereal heaven was shut from all men, so that all men should descend to the infernal seats, and be there perpetually detained. But Jesus Christ opened the gate of the ethereal Olympus, and has now unlocked the kingdoms of Pluto, that the souls may be taken out; when by the co-operation of the holy spirit in the virginal womb, the virgin Mary did by an ineffable mystery and most profound sacraments conceive what was the most excellent in the heavens and on the earth; and at length brought forth for us the saviour of the whole world, who out of his super abundant bounty shall save all who are able to sin, if the sinner turn himself to him. But she remained an untouched and undefiled virgin: whence mercury is not undeservedly compared to the most glorious saint the virgin Mary. For mercury is a virgin because it never propagated in the womb of the Earth and metallic body, and yet it generates the stone for us; by dissolving heaven, that is, gold, it opens it, and brings out the soul; which understand you to be the divinity, and carries it some little while in its womb, and at length in its own time transmits it into a cleansed body. From whence a child, that is, the stone, is born to us, by whose blood the inferior bodies being tinged are brought safe into the golden heaven, and mercury remains a virgin without a stain, such as is was ever before.

-attributed to Marsilio Ficino in a treatise on alchemy

The Virgin in a tree

30 11 2009

Some personal notes about apparitions

On June 17, 1992 Anita Mendoza Contreras claimed to have had a spiritual vision of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She had been feeling depressed that day when she visited the oak grove and “had been sitting at the picnic table under the tree praying. A wind came up, and Mendoza looked up and saw the image.” Contreras recalled that the vision arrived in the image of the Holy Blessed Mother, in a sea shell and carrying the image of the Sacred Heart on her chest. The image spoke to her and before leaving left her mark upon the oak tree. When asked why the form of the Virgin (as well as other images sighted later) had appeared on the oak tree Contreras replied that its purpose is “so people don’t kill, don’t hit their wives, don’t abuse their children and to help people find truth.” After the spread of the news that a miracle had occurred at Pinto Lake pilgrims started pouring in from the surrounding areas.

-taken from this website

This occured in Watsonville, CA, which is about twenty miles from where I grew up in Hollister. In 1992, my mother was active in the Legion of Mary in my hometown, and I went to see this image of the Virgin in a tree when it was very much at the height of its popularity. Mind you, I was a particularly crazy and devout thirteen year old at the time, so I think my disposition was to believe above all else. When I got there, however, the skeptical cynic took hold of me once again. As I looked up into the tree, all I saw was a blotch in the wood that to me could have been anything. Yes, like most Catholics, especially Mexican ones, Fatima and Lourdes had to believed out of piety, and Guadalupe out of ontological necessity. But that didn’t look like anything to me.

“That’s not her,’ I said quite audibly, showing once again my penchant for being rather less than diplomatic in very public situations. I seem to remember some rather hostile stares from those within earshot, but I just walked away, not prepared to try to break my neck to try to see in that bark something that I knew was simply not there.

Read the rest of this entry »

My latest article for Inside Catholic

25 11 2009

On Mary, her critics, and Catholic culture

Stuff from around the Internet

19 10 2009

Found at this site. No real comment.

No offense intended to Father, but really, since when have the “average Catholic laity” been obsessed with the meaning of life questions? And while I don’t really agree with the Spaniard, sometimes I can sympathize with the agnostic soundman’s condescension: “you poor naive Americans”. [Remember, I am just as American as all of you. The only difference is that my ties to the “old country” are much stronger.]

Finally, the article Sharing the Real Mary by David Mills. He seems to be a convert asking some deeper questions regarding the relationship between faith and culture. The comments of others are quite interesting, though they range from pious churchwoman-speak, to more sophisticated comments, to one cradle Catholic who says he has no devotion to the Virgin and finds nothing wrong with this. I found the last type of comment very annoying, and just demonstrative of how “naive” and ahistorical American Catholics outside of certain regions can sometimes be. Maybe they need to spend more time in botanicas…