Words to remember

"Never doubt in the darkness what you believed in the light."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Requiescat in pace

His Eminence Alfons Cardinal Stickler recently passed away. He was a good friend to the TLM and a devout and wise man. Thanks to Whispers in the Loggia for the article.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A busy Advent

Well, finals are done (gratias Deo). The year turned out pretty well. And it's shaping up to be a busy last few weeks of Advent. Our Choir Christmas Concert, the last in our concert series this year which included an amazing performance by Anthony Kearns, is this Sunday, so that'll take a fair bit of preparation. Gaudete Sunday will take a little bit of work, too. Around the house, there'll be lots of cleaning, though everything is pretty well decorated now. Two good friends have just gotten back from Europe, so it will be great to see them. And with any luck, my temporary agency will be able to find some office which needs help over the holidays.

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent, I think I'll pull double-duty and go to the TLM at the Basilica at 4. It would be nice to make a regular practice of it. I think they will even be saying/singing High Mass there on Christmas morning at 12:30. I would dearly love to go (I'll probably have to beg, it being Christmas morning and all). I'm hoping that I could make the case that we could simply take two cars to the family party, enabling Gramma and Grampa to get an earlier ride home. This would let me drive to Mass and then drive to the party without worrying about making anyone late. Who knows, though?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Of Man's first Disobedience and the Fruit of that Forbidden Tree

It appears that the furor over the Golden Compass is ramping up. Well, it's about time, says I. I can still remember back to the release of the Passion of the Christ, in which all kinds of calls to boycott the movie emanated from the usual suspects (the one Jewish fellow I know who did see the film pointed out "Well, unless Pilate's middle name was Moshe or Shlomo, I don't think it makes much sense to say that the movie makes it look the Jews killed Jesus"- well put.) The tandem phenomenon of Pullman's attack-dog fans coming out and blasting "religious zealots" and "religious fanatics" is, of course, inevitable, but instructive. There's a good discussion of the particulars here.

As much as I can understand and share the impulse to upbraid the film and the books for their anti-Christian message (and we have to face it, even if that message is muted in the film, or is subtle, it is still there- it still informs the major themes of the story, if it can be said to have one other than a rather boringly cliché adolescent resentment of authority in any form), I think some of the best pieces about the hack and his clunky trilogy focus on its literary shortcomings.

To rant a bit, the one name that always comes up in reviews about Pullman's fantasy, aside from the obligatory reminder of how much Pullman loathes (read envies) Tolkien and Lewis, is Milton. The name of the trilogy is in fact a phrase listed from that poet's corpus. What is annoying is when Milton is invoked thematically in explaining the book. The characters in HDM and Pullman himself share but one similarity with Paradise Lost, and that is that they all buy into Satan the Literary Figure's promises of knowledge, enlightenment, and the ability of mankind to set out on his own. But Satan's grand gestures and semi-heroic qualities are altogether absent from Pullman's work. His heroine is a brattly little compulsive liar. Well, so was Satan, but he came off in such a way that I wanted to smack him across the mouth a lot less than Lyra.

It is that two-pronged strategy that will bear the most fruit here: emphasize the anti-Christian aspects of the film and books with the people who would respond negatively to it: that is to say, be sure that this message is getting out in churches and parishes (not during Mass or services, necessarily). Our Baptist brethren are models in this regard, as their ability to get the message out among their churches about films to see or not to see is, so far as I know, incomparable. It is also never a bad thing to be able to say with our Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters "See? One more thing we agree on." (sotto voce: "Now come back home!") But among the more secular moviegoers and wishy-washy Christians, be sure to point out that as a work of fantasy and fiction, it's pretty second rate. Mentioning the chip on the shoulder Pullman bears towards Lewis and Tolkien wouldn't hurt, either; the Narnia movie and the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy both enjoyed immense popular acclaim, so a blowhard who comes out and waxes irate about how "infantile" and stupid those two stories are would rightly garner some suspicion on the part of moviegoers who found those tales beautiful, moving, and altogether enjoyable.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

USCCB document on Sacred Music

Fr. Z. posted a few sections of the USCCB's latest document on sacred music in the liturgy, with his usual keen analysis and insight. The full version of the statement is here

It is certainly encouraging to read many of the things in the document; the piece, however, is slightly schizophrenic. It makes fine statements about the pride of place given to chant, and how its use should be expanded, and how it should be learned, etc.- but then frequently backpedals. For those who long for a return to an extensive use of plainchant, it's a bit of a roller coaster ride (naturally, I imagine, the feeling is much the same for those who demonstrate a near allergic reaction to chant in the Mass)

One of the interesting phenomena here, though, is the reaction of those opposed to chant. Though a relative newcomer to traditional, orthodox Catholicism, I've seen several examples of the general philosophy these people put forward: they are innovators, who want to shake things up, who want to make changes, who want to seek out and implement alternative points of view, who want to incorporate a wider ranger of cultural elements into the Mass, and who want everyone to feel welcome and participate in the sacrifice of the Mass. Lovely. Here's the odd part, though:

-As for being innovators, shaking things up, etc., that time has long passed for the nouveaux liturgistes. Most of their innovations and reforms already have inch-thick dust about them. And a good number of them seem to young people to be simply mawkish affectation. For my generation, the post-conciliar American silliness which has given us guitar Masses and liturgical dance is old and incomparably out-of-date. We are in perhaps the enviable position of discovering the ancient as the refreshingly novel.

-As for seeking out other viewpoints and incorporating elements of other cultures into the Mass, and wanting everyone to feel welcome, well fine- but could we start seeing a little consistency about this, please? There are too many times to count in which a person complains "Oh, dear, this archaic and antiquated practice is stifling. It practically brings back images of the Middle Ages. I feel my participation in Mass suffers from being subjected to it. O merciful liturgical coordinator, couldn't you do something to make the Church relevant to people today?" And said merciful liturgical coordinator is only to happy to comply, now being able to claim with a face at least half-straight that their "innovations" enjoy "popular support". But when a request comes in for a return to more traditional practices, lo! The shaft! Now this is really so incredible that it deserves an explanation- why, given all these promises of inclusiveness and no Catholic left outside, are the wishes of the traditionally-minded not weighed along with those of the more innovatory? Suddenly that well of sympathy and tolerance for other liturgical practices has gone dry.

It isn't difficult to diagnose the inconsistency. This isn't primarily an issue about any of those fair-seeming principles I mentioned above. Chiefly it is a matter of preference- that is to say, the preference of the liturgist. The question about whether or not the faithful would like a return to some more traditional practices in some areas is rarely asked, and the answer is most frequently stonewall. We do not get so clear a picture of what the people want as what the liturgist wants, insofar as the liturgist serves (manifestly) as the vox populi.

It has been my experience, however limited, that people are generally substantially more receptive to older practices than the liturgist might care to admit. I can remember Midnight Mass last year, when our choir used the settings from Mass VIII "De Angelis" (wrong setting for a feast of the first class, I know, but it's one of the easiest ones for the faithful to pick up on, and it sounds lovely), and our pastor, God bless the good and noble Monsignor, chanted the "Dominus vobiscum" and several other parts of the Mass, much to our very pleased surprise. And the congregation's too, to hear many of them talk about it afterwards.

What I would like to know is, why aren't things like that given a fair shake, too? I don't think I'll get a straight answer for a looong time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Finally, a break

So I decided to take the whole week off, instead of driving back tonight to sit around for one class on Monday. Lazy of me, I know, but as Grandma and Grandpa traveled up for the holidays, it makes sense to spend the time at home.

We got our first real snow of the season, and it was lovely. It stayed off the roads, but coated all the trees and the ground quite nicely; really very scenic. It should be a nice Thanksgiving.

I've once again been subjected to the laughably inept argument that "Hitler was a Christian!" by some atheist copper-plated idiot. This absurdity really has gone on long enough, but there doesn't seem to be a way to counter it. You can try arguing from the tenets of Christianity (e.g. humility, service to others, love, faith, hope, charity, turning the other cheek, whatever) but they'll repeat ad infinitum "But he was raised Catholic! His anti-Semitism came from Christianity! It's Christianity's fault!" etc. etc. Then you try and argue from his own words, using the many instances where he laments the meekness and lack of fighting valor he thinks (wrongly) plagues Christianity. And this is always where things get weird; even when you show statements by Hitler that Christianity was weak, or foolish, or that it would die of its own accord with the state ready to assume its functions, they stonewall. "That still doesn't change the fact that Hitler was a Christian."

There is only so far source information and real historical fact will go with the modern atheist mind; it really is becoming a religion unto itself, defended with all the fervor (and ironically with even more irrationality than it condemns in its detractors) associated with religious conviction. It's becoming clearer in this day and age that there really are people who preach secular tolerance, but actively and constantly work to eliminate religion from people's lives. The frightening part is that such a crusade is carried out by men and women whose thinking is utterly illogical and motivated by a vitriol towards the religious which is downright scary.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

This is heartening


It's nice to have one's own Pope telling you to start going against the grain. I think it's also of great comfort that His Holiness knows what sort of pressures college students are subjected to.

This also emphasizes how counter-cultural it is to try to adhere to the teachings of Christ in this day and age. It seems that so many institutions are geared towards indoctrinating attitudes which are antithetical to Christian life. Schools tell you to get ahead, but they will also tell you that your moral scruples are yours alone and that no other person would be expected to follow them. They will tell you that it is almost evil to have unprotected sex, but they would never think of discouraging sexual activity at all. They will preach tolerance of all beliefs, but then they will tell you that your particular beliefs are not compatible, and in fact are directly opposed to, human reason. And it's becoming evident that the Catholic students are getting fed up.

It's not a huge movement, really, but it is noticeable if you pay attention. More and more teenagers and young adults are starting to reject the relativist and religiously and morally apathetic philosophy which has held Western civilization in a death grip for the past 40 years. They're starting to raise their voices in support of traditional Christian morality, for the use of the Tridentine Latin Mass, for priests who are trained to preach the Gospel and instruct them in the faith, not to cop out and tell them that God loves you. Certainly He does; but that particular theme has been over-emphasized of late to the detriment of the concept that humans themselves have an obligation to live in the ways He taught us. God is forgiving, but He is certainly not permissive.

And it's actually a little funny to see it happen... where their forebears would leave the Church or stop caring because they found it boring, stuffy, oppressive, and absurd, the children of that generation are finding their faith to be alive, enlightening, uplifting, and beautiful.

Don't get me wrong; it would take generations of people like that to be able to rid our civilization of that 1960's mindset which has so plagued the West; but the roots are there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Inaugural Post

My first post here, hope everything goes well!

This is meant to be a blog for me to put my thoughts out there on a few issues, the biggest one being Catholicism and the Christian faith. To that end, theology, religion, and philosophy will be big here, but so will politics, culture, art, and whatever else I decide to talk about.

One of the big stories in the news is the visit of the Saudi king to His Holiness Benedict XVI. In terms of practical solutions, I'm not sure what will come of this, if anything. But what it does do nicely is disprove a lot of what the Pope's naysayers whine about; after all, many of them are still whining about his quotation of Manuel II Palaiologos in regards to the contributions of Mohammed to history. His Holiness appears to have left these folks in the dust; not only did his visit to Turkey turn out quite successfully, he managed to get the Saudi king to visit him and it sounds like he may even be able to arrange a visit to the Patriarchate of Moscow, a dream of his august predecessor John Paul the Great. And the increased co-operation between the Roman Church and the Greek Churches is also heartening; Chrysostomos II, the Archbishop of the Cypriot Church has been very positive in this regard.

And on top of this, the rift in the Episcopal Church USA appears to be widening almost daily, with many of the more traditional Episcopalians now looking towards Rome. I do feel somewhat bad about this; it is heartbreaking to good Anglicans to see their church being so violently torn up. But many are beginning to realize that the schismatic attitude is ultimately self-defeating; one can break away again and again until the church is so fragmented that it's not even recognizable. And for all the problems faced by modern Catholicism, this isn't one of them, as there will always be Papal authority and the Magisterium to fall back on.

Anywho, tomorrow is the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, one of the four Roman basilicas, so that will be fun.