Saturday, August 24, 2002

"Ballad of the White Horse"
It seems to have been quite a common belief in the Middle Ages that God in fact wanted Christendom to win military victories against pagans and Moslems. We not only have Alfred being encouraged by the Blessed Mother to go and lick the Danes (although the footnotes indicate that Chesterton made this vision up), but we have Lepanto, which Chesterton also memorialized, and Joan of Arc, who was memorialized by Mark Twain--and the Church.

It seems so hard these days to have the mind set that expects God to help us with temporal victories. We have become accustomed to think God doesn't work that way. This affects many things. For instance, I think in the minds of some (including myself sometimes), God is not actively working for a temporal victory in the battle against abortion. We've grown accustomed to expecting the long defeat. We can't imagine that there would ever come a time when the general population would abhor abortion so much that it would be as illegal and socially unacceptable as slavery. It also, I'd say, affects our, or at least my, attitude towards the War on Terror.

In a lighter vein, maybe the reason Notre Dame doesn't win any more is that people have stopped praying for and expecting victories. It is not, as Notre Dame magazine suggests, because they have been emphasizing scholarship for the last couple of decades. Now you know the real reason for my interest in this subject.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Strunk and White comment on blogging
Well, not exactly, but see their comment labelled "Do not affect a breezy manner."

The volume of writing is enourmous, these days, and much of it has a sort of windiness about it, almost as though the author were in a state of euphoria. "Spontaneous me," sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the hordes of unispired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius.

Yikes! Maybe I should delete this before N.O. sees it.

I have one question though: Considering what they said about enclosing parenthetical expressions between clauses (You don't need to if the expression doesn't interrupt the flow of the sentence too much.) why is there a comma before the "these" in "these days?"
Comments, anyone?
By the way, there IS a comments feature on this web log at the bottom of each post. Don't feel shy.
A Name Change
I hope this doesn't throw off you three readers, but I've changed the name of this web log slightly to reflect my desire to broaden the scope of my comments. The focus will still be on classic Catholic thought, but now my reflections will range more broadly, although I probably won't be quite as topical as the Great Blogs, such as are listed to the left. To give an example of why I'm broadening my focus, I recently had quite a discussion with a friend about the Catholic/Jewish document from that subcommittee at the USCCB, but none of my reflections wound up on this blog because they didn't seem to have anything to do with classic Catholic literature. Now I'd go ahead and post on it, but certainly from the perspective of, for instance, Galatians and Romans. Also, I still intend to blog on all the great reading I'll be doing this year.
Summer Reading poll
Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, on HMS Blog is taking a poll to see what summer reading most impress you. Despite the fact that I finished my dissertation, I did almost no summer reading. I did read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, as I've mentioned before, which is a great book. Otherwise, what have I read? I tried to read the Fr. Brown Omnibus, but for some reason just couldn't get into it. My sons picked it up, though, and read it with abandon. For my 10 year old it was quite a step up from The Hardy Boys. My family is reading The Lord of the Rings aloud. We have a rule that no one can watch the movie until they've read the book, so my wife, who hasn't read the whole thing, is being read to from The Two Towers so she can see the movie when it comes out in December. I started to read The Princess Bride by William Goldman (who, as it turns out, also wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), but for some reason never finished it, even though it was proving to be more funny and entertaining than even the movie. Everything else I just read bits and pieces of. As mentioned below I'll be doing some big time reading this school year.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Upcoming Attractions
One of the things about being a teacher and a homeschooling father is that you pretty much know your reading several months in advance. So, here is what you have to look forward to as far as reflections through June of 2003:
  • Classic texts on the Trinity from SS to Rahner and beyond

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • Documents of Vatican II, esp. LG, SC, GS, and DV

  • Poustinia, by Catherine Doherty

  • Map of Life, by Frank Sheed

  • Splendor of the Church, by Henri DeLubac

  • Interior Castle, by Theresa of Avila

  • Reed of God, by Caryll Houselander

  • Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam

  • Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis

  • Confessions, by St. Augustine

  • Everlasting Man, by GK Chesterton

  • The Long Loneliness, by Dorothy Day

  • Divine Comedy, by Dante

  • Don Quixote, by Cervantes

  • Les Miserables, by Hugo

  • Silence, by Endo
I'm not saying I'm going to read every one of them, but I will at least skim them.
How Come Percy is So Smart?
I was just glancing at the chapter in Walker Percy's The Message in the Bottle called "Symbol as Need." I was completely struck by the high level of discourse he was able to achieve in this essay. He speaks of Suzanne Langer and St. Thomas with a familiarity that belies his lack of formal philosophical training. From Pilgrim in the Ruins, which I read years ago, I know he spent the 50s studying semiotics and aesthetics, but it is clear he wasn't a dilettante. I think this is why his novels are so good. He has thought deeply and systematically about the things he is trying to present in the novels--and clearly from a faith perspective. It is amazing also how he can present these ideas for the popular reader not only in his novels but in, for instance, Lost in the Cosmos.

Can the Church produce a Percy these days?

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Milwaukee Festivals
Every summer Milwaukee has several ethnic festivals at the beautiful Maier Festival Park in the old Third Ward, including in no particular order: Asian Moon Fest, Polish Fest, African World Fest, German Fest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, Mexican Fiesta and Indian Summer Fest. And there is an Arab one, but I can't remember what it is called. We also have the justly famous Summer Fest and, a late entry, PrideFest (Don't ask and I won't tell). And don't forget Bastille Days, which is (irony abounds) held in front of the Cathedral instead of at the Festival Park.

I've only been to three of the fests, German, Italian, and Irish. Irish is the only one we've gone to every year since we moved ot Milw. in 1995. It is a screaming blast. Irish Dancing, fiddling, singing, Gaelic all over the place, caeli dancing, red hair contest, bagpipes (Scottish and Irish), harps, banjos (have you ever heard Irish banjo?). I especially like it when Natalie McMasters makes it (she didn't this year). I also was impressed by a group called Celtic Spring, which is a dad and his five kids playing Irish fiddle and dancing (sometimes at the same time). They're from Southern California.

This year, as you may have picked up in even the secular press, Irish Fest featured a Mass celebrated by our soon-to-be-installed Archbiship Timothy Dolan. He was invited by Fr. Mike Maher, S.J. (whose family is one of the Big Promoters of all things Irish in Milw. and therefore IrishFest) before he even knew he was going to be archbishop.

My point is that Irish Fest seems to have more intrinsic energy than either German Fest or Festa Italiana (both of which I enjoyed thoroughly, but how many Frank Sinatra impersonators can one listen to? Of course, some people say the same thing about jigs.). Interestingly Irish Fest doesn't seem to be too infected by the neopaganism that is so evident in much of the Irish renaissance. Maybe that is the influence of the Mahers. I don't know.

You'd think German Fest would be really more popular and energetic than Irish Fest in Milw., but it doesn't seem to be so. I'll have to go to some of the others to see what kind of energy they have. Of course, Irish, Polish, Mexican and Italian have a Catholic flavor that the others lack. I suppose there is some Bavarian influence at German Fest, but it is telling that they have an ecumenical prayer service rather than a Mass. Irish Fest, Polish Fest, Festa Italiana and Mexican Fiesta have a Mass.

Note of gratitude
Thanks to the following for the plug! Blog from the Core, Catholic Blog for Lovers, Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club, Flos Carmeli, Shawn Tribe, Mark Shea and anyone else who has mentioned this web log on their page.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Pop culture
Why do we like it so much when there is so much good good stuff out there? Why do I, for instance, continue to watch Voyager reruns (Voyager!, not TOS, not even TNG!) instead of sitting down with Augustine's Confessions, or even a little Conan Doyle? Aak!

Maybe it is because I've entered into a Tachyon field and the time/space continuum is experiencing a temporal distortion because the Earth is passing through a nebula that is only 1000 meters wide which renders me mentally challenged. Ya think?

Monday, August 19, 2002

Rich Young Man
I dread homilies about the story of the rich young man because they invariable begin with, "Of course, this reading does not mean we are all called to radical poverty...." And then they often emphasize that it is not material poverty that is important, but spiritual. We have to let go of anger, or some other deadly sin. I beg to differ. I think this reading is all about attachment to material possessions and power.

First of all, I don't think you should ever tell Americans that material dispossession as a spiritual act is not a good thing. I think we are plain drowning in material possessions that are preventing us from focusing on the One Thing Necessary and keeping our eyes on that which is above. I know I am.

Second, I think we are all called to radical dispossession. That, I believe, is what the fundamental principle of Catholic social teachings, the universal destination of goods, is all about. Whatever we have in our possesssion is given to us for the benefit of all, especially the poor, period. If we enjoy them ourselves it is because in some way that self-enjoyment is for the benefit of all. For instance, we all need recreation (although certainly not as much recreation and entertainment as we Americans get, me included).

I think many Americans (and many Europeans) are blinded to the real plight of the poor people of the world by preoccupation their possessions and their entertainment.
Mozarabic Rite
Two of the priests here have faculties in the Mozarabic Rite. This is the ancient western rite proper to the Cathedral of Toledo. It was not suppressed after Trent, nor is it today. It was celebrated faithfully by the Catholics during the Muslim occupation of Spain. Right now it is still said in Latin at the cathedral, but a vernacular translation has been made, with the hopes that its use will spread throughout Spain. They have also revised it in accordance with Sacrosanctum Concilium but I don't know the details on that.
I've been to two celebrations of it. One was a ferial day, and so was somewhat simple. It still feature beautiful Latin chant from a Mozarabic choir from Chicago. The other was on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, which is one of the biggest feasts on their calendar. It is celebrated in the Spring some time, but I can't remember exactly what day.
The emphasis of the rite is on the Cross. There is a significant difference in all parts of the Mass. For instance, the Mass begins abruptly with an opening prayer and the Liturgy of the Word without any preliminaries. The Our Father is said by the priest one petition at a time. After each petition the people respond "Amen." There is a very large section of petitions at the Offeratory similar to our Good Friday service. They also have a much stronger sense of the presbyterium (sanctuary) than we do in our post-Vatican II liturgy (something I hope we can regain).
Sure is nice to pray the Mass in Latin.