Friday, August 02, 2002

Eastern and Catholic
Even though I know intellectually that the Eastern Church Fathers are every bit as Catholic as, say, Frank Sheed, I don't think of them as Catholic in the same way as I do people like St. Thomas Aquinas. I'm especially struck by the impact that Aquinas (and scholasticism in general) has had on the texture, so to speak, of Western Christian literature. There is a post-Aquinas way of being Catholic that has the feel of an innovation of sorts. I assume this is kind of a development, but I can understand to a certain extent how the Orthodox would be suspicious. They prefer writers that still feel like the old guys. Maybe Henri de Lubac et alia were trying to recover that feel.
I also think that the legacy of John Paul II will have the same kind of transformational impact on the feel of Western Catholicism that Aquinas did.
Lake Wobegon Days Christian?
An interesting perspective. In Christian literature : an anthology , edited by Alister E. McGrath
(Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), the last piece is from Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days. Now, I like the book and it is true that Keillor was raised a Christian, but I would not characterize LWD as Christian, exactly. Any more than Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is and for much the same reason. The first piece, by the way, is the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians.

Leaf by Niggle and Marriage
It occurred to me today as I was rereading Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien that it is primarily about marriage. Now, I know that Tolkien always spoke about applicability of a story, thus leaving it to the reader to apply it to himself, but I really got the sense this time that Tolkien himself was talking about his marriage. First, there is the fact that Niggle isn't married. But he is frequently "harrassed" by his only close neighbor, Parish, into doing things for him, thus distracting him for his work. Then, there is the comment about "bread rather than jam" when Niggle is in the Work House. It is clear that we let the things that we want to do (jam) get in the way of what we ought to do (bread). It is easy to get jealous of the demands of marriage and family when you'd rather be blogging. Yet, if we concentrate on the bread like we are supposed to the jam will come as a gift. Or if it doesn't, we will fine more pleasure in the bread. Finally, there is the discovery by Niggle when he finally enters the land of the Tree that he cannot finish his own creative project without the help of Parish. Because Parish knows about tree, plant and earth things that Niggle doesn't . This is like the complementarity of marriage. He knows that "This place cannot be left as my own private park." He knew he had to share it with Parish or it wouldn't be complete. This is such a formula for good marriages. I think this work should be part of a marriage prep course. Read three times.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Classical Catholic Literature
When I say classical Catholic literature I want to make it quite clear that I include theological and spiritual classics, not just literature. In fact, considering that I am a theologian by trade, I assume I'll focus more on the former than the latter. One never knows where the Spirit will blow, however. I could talk about Tolkien all day.
Bad Catholic Fiction
The All But Dissertation blog has a great discussion about why so much "Catholic" fiction is bad, while bad or non-Christians write such great stuff. This has always baffled me. Of course, the best Catholic literature is by Percy, Tolkien, Undset and O'Connor. I think wannabe Catholic authors should emulate them. Show, don't tell has always been the watchword of good writing, at least according to the writing magazines (which I used to read).

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Saints Who Made History on the Church of Sinners--Kinda Applicable to Our Current Situation
Maisie Ward wrote a wonderful book called Saints Who Made History in which she discusses the lives and influences of saints in the first five centuries of the Church. The introduction is excellent. She discusses, specifically, the necessity of giving a full picture of saints, including their sinfulness and weaknesses, in order to fully understand our total dependence on Grace. Unless we can fully accept the Church as a Church of sinners, we cannot fully accept it as the locus of the influx of grace in the world. She points out that the Church itself is the center of the struggle between good and evil in the world, therefore the sins of its members will be even greater than the "average" human being, just as its glories will be greater. This is very enlightening in our current situation. She also points out that we will always be attacked by pagan potentates, such as Stalin and Hitler, just as the early Church was persecuted by Nero and Diocletian.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Garden of Eden in Wisconsin
I was able to combine enjoyment of my two favorite Catholic Classics this weekend, the Psalms and the Book of Nature. We went camping at Perrot State Park in Trempealeau, WI, on the Mississippi river. On Sunday morning I walked from our campsite to a picnic bench near the Interpretative Center that overlooks Trempealeau Bay facing west. Before me the Trempealeau river wound its way through the islands that fill the bay on its way to the River. To the left Mt. Trempealeau arose, looking dark bluish green in the shade of Brady Bluff. Above it was the waning moon, three-quarters full. The air was filled with the sounds of cardinals, blue jays, crows, redwing blackbirds, and many twittering birds that I could not identify. The bluffs across the river toward Winona were semi-shrouded in a brownish-purple haze. I sat their reading the psalms from my Christian Prayer book. The Psalms were from Sunday, Week One, so I was able to meditate on the Canticle from Daniel. "Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord; Praise and exalt him above all for ever!"
At one point a large flock of small birds arose from the island in front of me and flew off to the north. "All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord!" Later I looked up from my book to see Mt. Trempealeau suddently glowing bright green as sunlight peaked over Brady Bluff.
A question that occurred to me as I was reading the psalms was what would the Israelites have thought if they had suddenly been transported to this location from their semi-arid hills in the Holy Land. A city near Trempealeau considers itself the location of the Garden of Eden. I find it hard to argue.