Friday, August 30, 2002

CCC: Keepa ya hands off!
The received wisdom in the RE Establishment is that the Catechism is too hot to handle for the ordinary layperson and especially for young people. Too complex. It will confuse them. It will scare them away.

Tell my daugher and her friends about it. Last year a small group of high school sophomores and juniors (plus an eighth grade "auditor") met at our house to go through the first two parts of the CCC together. From what I could figure, they seemed to do just fine. We will do parts III and IV this year. I sure hope I don't ruin their faith by exposing them to a clear, systematic presentation of what the Church actually teaches.

Of course, Therese is also reading Chesterton, Sheed and the Imitation of Christ. More ruination in the making.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

My one comment about the Situation
George Weigel says,
It is necessary for everyone now who wishes to be part of genuinely Catholic reform to make unambiguously clear that they accept the definitive teaching of the Catholic Church on these issues. Not to is not an option. Not for bishops, for priests, for laypeople. You can't simply say, "That's a whole bunch of other stuff to be settled later and what we're talking about is who's in charge here." That's not adequate.
I say, "Amen!"
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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Robert M. Pirsig’s classic novel was one of my favorite books in college. This isn’t just one of those 60s-70s hippie books, which hasn’t stood the test of time (like, say, The Greening of America). The philosophical reflections were quite intriguing. There were also a lot of more or less practical suggestions throughout. For instance, I still remember his analysis of what he called “gumption traps” and how to cope with them.

I’m not sure his philosophy would be completely compatible with a Catholic world view. I can’t remember enough of his discussion of Quality to know whether it made any sense or not. Although his criticisms of the great books program at U of C and of Robert Hutchins in particular may have merit, his scathing indictment of the whole western intellectual tradition from Socrates on seems a bit over the top, to say the least. In short, he sides with the sophists against Plato, which I think is dangerous.

The book succeeds best, however, as a suspense novel in which the author struggles with his own mental illness and struggles in his relationship with his 12-year old son, Chris. There are some moments of real terror in the book as various realizations come to the reader. This is why I think the “afterward” that was attached to later editions of the book was a bad idea. First, it resolved things that should have remained unresolved. For instance, the last line in Part IV. Also, it shifted the weight of the book from literature to philosophy and thus undercut the value of the book as art. Pirsig began to think of his message as Important, I suppose, so couldn’t resist telling you what it all means. It changed from a Zen Koan to an Aristotelian treatise. Bad move for someone who doesn’t like Aristotle.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Morning Prayer
The petitions for morning prayer of Monday in the first week of the psalter is introduced with the following phrase: "We esteem Christ above all men, for he was filled with grace and the Holy Spirit. In faith, let us implore him:"

Doesn't that seem a tad Arian to you? I esteem Christ above all men primarily because he is the Incarnation of the Second Person of Blessed Trinity. The Blessed Virgin Mary too was filled with grace and the Holy Spirit. Is she Christ's equal? Doubt it. Here is the Latin, for you Latin scholars. "Christum magnificemus, plenum gatia et Spiritu Sancto, et fidenter eum imploremus." The word "for" is not there, and the word used is "magnificemus," which doesn't quite mean "esteem" and which Mary herself used in the Magificat (at least its Latin translation). It does seem odd even in the Latin that grace and the Holy Spirit are mentioned, but not Christ's divinity. So ICEL was in a sense faithful to the Latin.

Now, if I were writing the liturgy and doing the translation I'd.........................(10 hours of arrogant ranting later)...and furthermore, I'd make sure that the priest......(and so on).

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Catechism starting point
There are three possible starting points for a catechesis–theological, cosmological and anthropological. So, one can start with the question, "Who is God?" Or one can start with creation. Or one can start with the question "Who is man?" The CCC has a clear anthropological starting point, as a reflection of the anthropological turn in 20th century theology (e.g. de Lubac). It begins with the capacity of man for God as made in His image. Revelation of Christ is the appropriate response to that capacity (although the word "response" does not imply that God does not in all things take the initiative).

How does one communicate that in a catechetical setting, especially in a world in which the sense of that capacity and the desire that comes from it is drowned out by the cacophony of modern life? I like the work of Fr. Robert Spitzer and his life principles in this regard.
McInerny's Intro to Metaphysics
It is so refreshing and a joyful experience to see the Catholic intellectual tradition presented in such a clear and accessible manner. Perhaps in a few years I'll be so good a teacher.
Film Noir
This weekend I watched the classic film noir Double Indemnity with Fred McMurray (Steve Douglas the bad guy?!) and Barbara Stanwyck. Then this afternoon I caught a few minutes of a film review program on CBS (forgot the name; has the word "Hot" in it) in which they were talking about the great films of the '70s. They went on and on about how innovative were the dark films of the early '70s, such as The Godfather and Chinatown. Not once did they mention how indebted all those dark films in the early '70s were to the old film noirs of the 1940s. The comparison was so obvious it made me wonder about the credentials of the reviewers. They acted as if Hollywood had never and could never have seen such dark fair. Previous to Midnight Cowboy everything was Singing in the Rain. Of course, they were young, even younger than me. Maybe Gen. X has amnesia about anything that was filmed in black and white.

The value of film noir is that it exposes the real hell that comes from embracing a nihilistic world view. It is an American vision of Nietzsche's philosophy. All these people who get so entangled in evil of their own making have no faith, no hope and precious little charity. Although, perhaps when Neff tells Keyes that he loves him too at the end of the movie, it is the window that opens to let grace in. Neff's concern for the daughter may also have been such a window that allowed him to see Phyllis for what she was, although his response for that revelation was hardly noble.

Keyes, of course, is the real hero.