Wednesday, 30 December

18:00

Prayer for the Jews: Letter in the Tablet [LMS Chairman]

It has sadly become an established media narrative that references to the Church's relations with Jews, and the Vatican II document on the subject, Nostra aetate, must include an attack on the Traditional Mass. This was on display a few years ago in the disgraceful CTS pamphlet about 'Catholic Traditionalism' by Raymond Edwards (thankfully, no longer in print), but has been taken to new lengths in connection with the 50th anniversary of Nostra aetate. A really deplorable article in the Jewish Chronicle makes an unambiguous connection between Pope Benedict, the Traditional Mass, and antisemitism - though the article displays such a poor knowledge of the issues that I am more inclined to see the author, the historian Dr Geoffrey Alderman, as a victim of misinformation, rather than as a perpetrator of it.

The Jewish Chronicle has chosen not to publish my letter in reply. I can't imagine they have any interest in the Traditional Catholic liturgy; instead, they may rather like the narrative of Jewish-Catholic reconciliation after Vatican II, which my letter questioned by stressing the elements of continuity.



Now Christopher Lamb, The Tablet's new Rome Correspondent, has found another Jewish commentator, Edward Kessler, the founder of the Woolf Institute, willing to describe the Prayer for the Jews as 'a problem'. As with Alderman, I don't blame Dr Kessler for his reaction: after all, even a specialist in Jewish-Christian relations wouldn't necessarily be well-informed about the details of Catholic liturgy. It is the question he was asked which is the real problem, since it is part of an attempt by liberal Catholics to fight their intra-Church battles using Jewish indignation as a weapon. This indignation is something they have themselves nurtured, protecting it, like a candle flame, from the gusts of information which, by setting things into a wider context, could too easily extinguish it.

The Tablet has published my letter (in the 2nd Jan issue): here it is.

It is an irony that Christopher Lamb reports (‘View from Rome’, 19/26 December 2015) at this time of year, on misgivings about the ‘Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews’ found in the Extraordinary Form Good Friday liturgy. Before the next edition of The Tablet is delivered, your priest readers will have prayed, fervently, I assume: ‘may the Jewish people accept you [sc. Christ] as their awaited Deliverer [Latin: Messiah]’, in the Morning Prayer of the Ordinary Form Liturgy of the Hours, on 31st December.

These same priests will redouble their zeal for the conversion of the Jews at Easter, praying every day for a week, starting on Easter Sunday’s Evening Prayer: ‘Let Israel recognize in you the Messiah it has longed for.’

The Christmas season would seem an appropriate time for readers to consider whether sauce for the Extraordinary Form goose is also sauce for the Ordinary Form gander.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, Latin Mass Society

And here is Christopher Lamb's original news item.

ANYONE wishing  to describe the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council ought to have the Church’s more positive relationship with Jews fairly high on their list. Last Friday, the Vatican published a new document on the topic to mark 50 years since the council’s Nostra Aetate declaration. The new text said the Church does not support any “institutional mission” to the Jews, one of the delicate points of Christian-Jewish dialogue. But if this is the case, why does the old rite of the Mass still include a Good Friday prayer titled “the conversion of the Jews”? In 2008, Benedict XVI rewrote the prayer for the Tridentine liturgy which asks God to “illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men”. Speaking at the new document’s launch, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, admitted the title of the prayer was a problem but defended the content saying it must be understood eschatologically (a prayer for the end times). Edward Kessler of the Woolf Institute, Cambridge, was less equivocal, describing the prayer as a “problem”.   

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17:09

A good day to arrive at St Thomas's hospital [The hermeneutic of continuity]

2015-12-30_02-41-53

Above is a good "My View for a While" photo, to use an expression coined by Fr Z. I'm on the 7th floor of St Thomas's hospital, opposite the Palace of Westminster. I arrived here yesterday on the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, after whom the hospital is named: it goes back to within living memory of the holy Bishop and Martyr.

Today the consultant surgeon brought me the very welcome news that the waiting is over and tomorrow morning, I am to go under the surgeon's knife. Do remember me in your prayers - indeed thank you for all the prayers you have offered already. Several priests have very kindly offered their Mass intentions for me over the past couple of weeks and I am most grateful for that. If you have scheduled Mass intentions, a memento would be much appreciated.

On a practical note, general visits are not encouraged. If all goes well and there are no complications, I'll be in the intensive recovery unit for a bit, then gradually clearing out my lungs and staggering around until I reach the exit criterion which is walking up some stairs, apparently. The normal estimate for that is 5-7 days. Thanks be to God, I have sisters and a deputed logistics team to look after necessary supplies - spare pyjamas, newspapers, good coffee, Puligny Montrachet, you know the sort of thing.

Once I'm back and resting, and fit enough to sing the Preface, I'll sit back and direct arrangements for a solemn High Mass in thanksgiving to the Lord if He decides to give me some more years to make reparation for my sins and help a few people get to heaven. The subject of meditation today in the book that I am using (from St Alphonsus, of course) is "The Shortness of Life", beginning with the verse "All flesh is grass." That was most comforting.





13:30

Καθολικός διάκονος Year end round-up [Καθολικός διάκονος]

At the end of the year I usually pick what I think is best post for each month in order to provide an end-of-year wrap-up. As always, I don't consider my homilies when I make my picks. Below you will find my 2015 selections:

January- UPDATED:The predictable provocations of the Pope of Rome

February- How do I evangelize?

March- The Cathedral of the Madeleine: Farewell, but not goodbye (not the best, but the most significant; for best I'd choose Beginning anew each day is grace)

April- Divine Mercy: from competition to complementarity

May- Balthasar & Dante: compassion and a sacrament sans grace

June- In the wake of Obergefell

July- Seeking clarity about heaven and hell

August- Approaching milestones

September- Brief reflections on Pope Francis's visit

October- Metaphysical dialectics vs Sophiology

November- Cultural resistance and creative subversion

December- Waiting for Gandalf on the eve of the Jubilee of Mercy

If you have a favorite Καθολικός διάκονος post or two from the past year, please feel free to share by leaving a comment.

12:46

Benedetto XVI parla del Natale, dei falsi profeti e della salvezza "a basso prezzo" nella catechesi del 20 dicembre 2006 (YouTube) [Il Blog di Raffaella. Riflessioni e commenti fra gli Amici di Benedetto XVI]

LINK DIRETTO SU YOUTUBE Grazie al lavoro della nostra Gemma ascoltiamo un'altra chicca straordinaria del Magistero di Joseph Ratzinger. Il 20 dicembre 2006 Benedetto XVI tenne, nel corso dell'udienza generale, una catechesi sul Mistero del Natale il cui testo è consultabile qui. In particolare: "“Il Signore è vicino: venite, adoriamo”. Con questa invocazione la liturgia ci invita, in questi

10:39

Social Alienation [The Paraphasic]

(This is now my fifth post prompted by TNT's American Revolution-themed post-apocalyptic alien invasion family drama, Falling Skies.  I guess I've enjoyed writing about it.  This post is based on thoughts related to Ben Mason, the middle son.  More about the connection in a subsequent post.)

1.  In Division One of his great work Being and Time, Martin Heidegger sets out a phenomenology of human intersubjectivity.  "Phenomenology" in Heidegger's philosophy is an analysis of the way we experience and observe things: the experiential ground level on top of which all the relationships and distinctions of life are superimposed.  "Intersubjectivity" is just a fancy word for the fact that individual humans relate to each other as fellow persons, and (most importantly) communicate with each other, so that the interior life of each is known (to some extent) to others, and individuals live in a network of social relationships.

2.  Heidegger points out that much of our socialization happens in the context of an anonymous super-person, "das Man" (normally translated "the they", as in "they say"), which functions as a regulative idea about what is to be done or not done, what is expected, what is reasonable, etc.  Just as the orientation of a workshop toward a set of goals determines the significance and placement of tools in the workshop, and the understanding of behavior within the workshop, in a similar way our understanding of "das Man" determines the significance of different gestures and behaviors, and establishes a set of expectations surrounding ourselves and other people.

3.  This underlying sense of what "people" are like in general, or what "society" expects, or what "everyone" thinks, functions not as a discrete concept, but as a (generally unexamined) "horizon" which surrounds and frames our experiences of people, and guides our interpretation of them (including ourselves).

4.  The notion of "das Man" and the hermeneutical dimension of human intersubjectivity (or "being-with", as Heidegger calls it) — the way social expectations and regulative ideas about "people" affect communication and relationships — has generated a lot of philosophical and sociological literature.  Emmanuel Levinas famously sets up the whole notion of being-with against Heidegger and calls for an ethics of radical alterity, in which the personhood of others is allowed to remain distant without being subsumed under a horizon of (individual or communal) social expectations.  (Then again, maybe this isn't what Levinas is about — I never really understood what he was saying.)

5.  I mention all this stuff about phenomenology and intersubjectivity because I want to talk about an interesting aspect of human self-understanding.  I wrote something a few years ago:

The craftsman experiences the consumption and use of his produce as a kind of love: by loving what he has made, people indirectly love him (since his likeness is in the works of his art, however indirectly). It follows that commerce can be a kind of friendship.
There the connection between commerce and friendship was made by way of the analogy that exists between an artisan and the objects of his craft.  But there's a more obvious point to be made here, which is implied in Aristotle's notion of the "useful friendship".  In relationships of commercial exchange both parties perceive the actions of the other as somehow beneficial to themselves. Thus the relationship takes on the nature of a friendship, which is characterized by mutual goodwill.   This is always true, even if there is a lack of equity in the perceived benefit, and even when the goodwill is minimal.  The result is that, in a society dominated by commercial exchange, where economic relationships are the most universal and most widespread kind of social bond, those who have no place in that web of economic relationships, and do not participate in commercial exchange (whether through labor or trade), experience a kind of social alienation.

6.  If Heidegger is right about the way social expectations form a contextual horizon within which which we understand ourselves, others, and human relationships (and of course he is), this applies not just to manners and habits of communication, not even just to moral standards, but also to the construction of each person's understanding of himself, in relation to das Man.  A sense of worthlessness tends to infect people who are unemployed, regardless of their objective accomplishments or good habits, simply because of the way their understanding of personal worth relates to the network of economic relationships in which most people participate.  I believe new mothers sometimes struggle with this experience.  Participation in the network of commerce imparts value.  Removal from that network removes value.  These are not facts in themselves, but features of our self-understanding based on the common notion of "society" (das Man) against which we judge ourselves.

7.  One of the great moral themes of the past two centuries has been the Courage of the Outsider.  We love seeing figures who suffer because of their voluntary exclusion from the fold, for the sake of their own sense of mission or morality.  In the past two decades, a new theme has swept in, parallel and opposite: the rule that no one should need to be an outsider.  The conflict of these two closely held moral principles creates a cultural paradox: we want there to be courageous outsiders who flaunt social norms and expectations, but we want to eliminate the cultural resistance which makes outsiders courageous figures.  So we end up with a large number of people who treat flaunting cultural expectations as a hip identity trait, without real social cost, and therefore without any real moral distinction.

8.  The fact that marginal or outsider status has become both a privileged moral position and a clarion call for the rectification of the injustice of being an outsider, has created an incentive for individuals and groups to identify themselves as marginal and exploit the moral high-ground for the achievement of their political/social aims.  This maneuver doesn't work for everyone, though, and here is an interesting point: in a culture that celebrates outsiders and considers outsider status unjust, the only people who can authentically inhabit the space of the post-Enlightenment Heroic Outsider (in its traditional form) are marginal figures who are not recognized as deserving marginal status.


There's more to be said on this topic, but I'd like to pause here for now.



10:14

Is the Pope a Christian? [Laodicea]

One cannot help wondering, after the sermon for the Feast of the Holy Family that he gave on Sunday. According to the English version on the Vatican’s web-site, he said at one point:

At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51). This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little “escapade”, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it {per questa sua “scappatella”, probabilmente anche Gesù dovette chiedere scusa ai suoi genitori. Il Vangelo non lo dice, ma credo che possiamo supporlo.} Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience.

Presumably the pope means the Creed when he says it on Sundays. But what does he mean by it? These words suggest that he is in the habit of interpreting it in a Nestorian fashion.

The Remnant’s petition to the pope to change course or else to abdicate is here.


09:15

A Certain Kind of Insanity [The Paraphasic]



(A Character Sketch)

Simon had a hard time in college.  He spent part of his time cultivating academic ambitions, part of his time trying to distract himself from work by socializing, part of his time attempting to accommodate the peculiar intellectual habits of his peers, and find a way to be himself around them, part of his time bitter and angry, and much of his time exhausted.  He was exhausted from living so close to so many people his own age, from the difficulty of finding privacy, and from perpetually failing to complete his assignments for class.  He was bitter because he was convinced of his own intellectual inadequacy, and at the same time because he was convinced of the absurdity of the surrounding environment.

What were the dominant forces in Simon's life?  Loneliness, Ambition, and Despair.  But that's not all.  It's really hard to explain what was going on with Simon, because Simon was as much of a person as you or I, and had just as much self-awareness and just as much desire to be self-critical and reasonable and to find a good footing.  In this way, perhaps it is impossible to describe what Simon was like, what his interior life and personal orientation were in those years.  Too much like trying to draw the limits of a cloud as it billows through the sky.

But I want us to think about Simon's loneliness.  Simon had friends, to be sure.  He had people he talked to on a daily basis, from back home and at school, and he got along well with these people.  But even if he got along well with them, there was always a sense of separation from them— a sense that they were not really trustworthy, and could not really know him as he was.  This became a theme with Simon in those years, one that had not existed with him previously.  He was very much pre-occupied with being really known, possibly because he so meticulously regulated his own self-expression.

One of the things Simon talked about and thought about incessantly during his first years of college was the problem of being really known as a person, and the concomitant problem of being loved.  How is it possible to love someone as they really are, when who someone is is unavailable, because of their interiority. And Simon gradually became convinced that it was impossible to be known, and impossible to be loved, or to really love others, except in some mystical/transcendental way, based on a total suspension of judgment in the face of the unknown.  And that sort of love would hang on a kind of choice, a leap of faith, which happened beyond the bounds of reason or objective fact.  The more Simon thought about this set of issues, the more convinced he was that knowing other people was all based on a radical openness to the Other, and a blind choice based on faith and groundless good will.

Simon's loneliness stemmed from these two things: first a sense of ideological and intellectual separation from his peers, which made him uncomfortable being free with them, and created a certain degree of internal tension.  (The reasons for this sense of separation are too complicated to catalogue.)  Second, his peculiar understanding of intersubjectivity and the requirements for friendship.  It seemed impossible for Simon ever not to be alone, because he was manifestly alone in his college life with his peers, and because it seemed like any alternative to that was basically impossible.

08:01

Meet the Most Vulnerable: What We Can Learn from Refugees [The Jesuit Post]

I met Mapenzi in a puddle of tears. She rents a small shop on a strip of single room stores on a busy street near downtown Johannesburg. During the day, she sets up a table outside the shop and sells candy for pennies each. Her eldest daughter sits in a plastic chair and offers to braid hair for a small fee.

Mapenzi is one of the thousands of refugees in South Africa. Her story is tragic and heartbreaking. It’s hard to hear, but it’s important that we hear it. When Pope Francis calls us to serve the “most vulnerable,” he is talking about Mapenzi.

* * *

Fact: There have never been more refugees in the world than today. In 2015, the United Nations officially recorded the largest number of refugees in human history. As we know from news stories coming from Syria, the global spike in refugees is particularly tied to conflicts in the Middle East. But the number of refugees has grown in many other parts of the world as well.

I spent several months of 2015 working with refugees in South Africa, several thousand miles south of the Middle East and Europe. Despite its distance from conflict zones, there are over 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa alone. That’s enough to fill a basketball arena fifteen times over. The refugees come to South Africa from a variety of countries, cultures, and contexts. Many people flood the border from unstable neighboring countries, especially Zimbabwe. Others flee the violence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or threats of terrorism in Somalia. Still others seek to escape ethnic and religious persecution from other African countries. As with most refugees across the world, many of the refugees in South Africa are Muslim.

The global refugee crisis has moved many people to respond. Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) is an international organization founded by the Society of Jesus in 1980 at the request of then-Superior General Fr. Pedro Arrupe. In South Africa, JRS works with the diverse multitude of urban refugees, who settle in major cities. The main country office for JRS is in Johannesburg, a city of five million people (roughly the size of Philadelphia). The people of Johannesburg face the strain of cultural and ethnic divisions.

JRS offers emergency assistance, livelihood training and support, and advocacy for the thousands of refugees who come to their door looking for help. I spent my time working with home-based care nurses who address health concerns, provide referrals for medical treatment, and make visits to those who are sick.

* * *

JRS Office in Johannesburg

JRS Office in Johannesburg

When a refugee arrives at JRS for the first time, an initial assessment is conducted. What is his immigration status in the country? Where has she come from, and how long has the individual been in the country? What are the person’s needs? It’s an introduction to the story of each refugee. While going through old files, I came across a “vulnerability index” that used to be included in the initial assessment. It was a simple questionnaire (Y/N) used to score and rank the vulnerability of a refugee. “Yes” answers are tallied on the side and a total amount is given.  Is the refugee…

        -Female?

        -Single?

        -Sole Caretaker for Dependents?

        -Unemployed?

        -Health Issues? (e.g. HIV+)

        -Financial Issues? (e.g. school fee debts, paying rent)

        -Victim of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence?

A “yes” to any one of these questions suggests a higher level of vulnerability for a refugee in a foreign country. The index was an attempt to quantify vulnerability to help in prioritizing limited resources.

My time at JRS was dedicated to working with those who would have checked “Yes” in the last entry on the index: victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). On the index, it might as well have been renamed “All of the Above,” because nearly all those whom I encountered that were victims of SGBV answered “Yes” to every other question on the vulnerability index.

Meet the most vulnerable. Here are two of their stories.

* * *

Meet Aafreen. Her husband was killed by the militant terrorist group al-Shabaab in her home country of Somalia. Fearing for her life and the life of her children, Aafreen took her five boys and her disabled mother and fled the country.

After journeying by foot and bus through Kenya and Tanzania, she reached a port city on the east coast of Africa. Desperate to reach a stable country to settle, she paid a smuggler to pack herself and her family into a shipping container bound for South Africa. They were enticed by the country with the most robust economy on the African continent.

Aafreen’s two-bedroom apartment is shared by two families (not two people — two families). She has no job, so she tries to make money by cooking small snacks and selling them on the street. She suffered a setback recently when her oven and stove broke. She can’t afford to fix it. She owes school fees for her children, but how is she supposed to pay those?

Our conversation vacillated between friendly banter punctuated by her booming laugh and mile-wide smile, and heavy moments when words were harder to find and tears filled our eyes. She had a story to share.

Aafreen caught a bus on her way back from downtown Johannesburg one day. She wasn’t the only passenger on board, but it quickly set in that something wasn’t right. The other passengers on the bus, all men, seemed to know the driver. They were talking quietly and firmly with one another. Something was off. Within a few blocks, the taxi took an abrupt turn down a secluded street. Aafreen was restrained by the male passengers. They held her down as the driver sexually assaulted her.

Aafreen had come to South Africa to escape the threat of violence from terrorists in her home country. Now she is a single mother of five without work, traumatized by a taxi ride home. She has suffered from sexual violence.

Check “All of the Above.”

* * *

Meet Mapenzi, mentioned at the start. Her village in the DRC was burned down in the midst of the civil war that has plagued the country for years. Fleeing the burning buildings and the ensuing firefight, Mapenzi was separated from her husband and two of her sons. To this day, she doesn’t know if they are dead or alive. It’s been years and she hasn’t heard a word from them.

Mapenzi escaped the fire with her two daughters and youngest son. They immediately fled the country and made their way south before eventually settling in South Africa.

I met Mapenzi outside her shop on a crisp, sunny day as she was selling her candies. Within just a few minutes of conversation, tears began streaming down her face. It was so clear that she was weighted down by her past and the daily struggle to survive and support her family.

Mapenzi's Shop

Mapenzi’s Shop

She pointed to the shop behind us: a space that is only about 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep. When the sun goes down, she explained how they pack things back into the small shop, lock the door, and lie down on the floor. Mapenzi sleeps there with her three teenage children and two infant grandchildren: they basically sleep on top of one another. A gas-powered camping stove heats the canned food they eat once a day.

Mapenzi got the small shop from the kindness of a Nigerian storekeeper who has since fled South Africa. Her new landlord is demanding rent payments of over $100/month. Mapenzi can’t come close to paying that amount (she makes a few dollars a week if she’s lucky). She hasn’t paid school fees for her children in years; her eldest recently completed high school, but her diploma was withheld due to unpaid fees. Unfortunately, employers and colleges require diplomas. Mapenzi can’t afford a piece of paper to buy her daughter opportunity.

Both of Mapenzi’s daughters have been sexually assaulted. Her eldest daughter, Priscilla, was raped in South Africa and gave birth to a baby. She’s pregnant with her second child, but her boyfriend was recently deported to Nigeria.

Mapenzi’s younger daughter, Chance, was kidnapped when she was just 13 years old. She was missing for three months. The kidnapper was a local man- a neighbor- who kept her locked in a back room of his property. She was raped repeatedly over those three months before finally escaping. The local police took a statement, but collected no evidence and made no arrests. Chance gave birth to a boy a few months later. The trauma is overwhelming: she barely speaks.

Mapenzi and her family: the most vulnerable.

Check “All of the Above.”

* * *

The author with JRS home-based care nurse Marcelline Sangara

The author with JRS home-based care nurse Marcelline Sangara

Aafreen and Mapenzi are not alone. They were among the dozens of women I met this past summer who had suffered acute trauma from sexual assault. And they number among the thousands (more likely, millions) of refugee women who have suffered from sexual assault.

Sexual assault occurs in the home countries of refugees that are ravaged by civil war. It occurs in transit as refugees make their way across borders seeking a safer home. It occurs where refugees settle, with dreams of a safer life shattered by sexual violence.

Each of them has a story. A story is hard to capture by a simple index. Perhaps that’s why JRS tossed aside the “vulnerability index.” How can you capture life’s challenges and hardships in a short list of yes or no questions?  And for those of us half a world away, how can we respond in the way that Pope Francis challenges us to? It begins with listening. The stories of Aafreen and Mapenzi are hard to hear — and that’s precisely why they’re important. Hearing their stories can move us to grow in compassion. The injustices of the world need to be exposed for change to happen.

We know too that the refugee crisis reaches us here in the United States. Immigrants journey across our southern border, and our politicians debate the acceptance of Syrian refugees. We are bombarded with different characterizations — usually unfavorable — of immigrants and refugees.  The stories of Aafreen and Mapenzi put names and histories to the countless faces we see on TV.   

Aafreen and Mapenzi shed light on why refugees migrate in the first place. These are not stories of criminals or terrorists setting out to spread violence to new countries. These are the stories of people fleeing violence and persecution, in hope of a better life. This is the story of countless immigrants to the United States over the centuries — including most all of our forebears. 

There are countless Aafreens and Mapenzis around the world. They are at our door, knocking. Will we ignore their pleas, or will we have the courage to meet the most vulnerable?    

–//–

All photos are courtesy of the author.

07:47

Morality? [The Paraphasic]

I've been talking a lot about "morality" in fiction, and I even invented a term to describe a particular way of portraying "morality".  But there's a problem here: many people who might read this won't even know what I mean by the word.  Most people tend to think of morality as a set of rules about what isn't allowed.  Others tend to think of morality as a set of abstract rules that are applicable universally to human decision-making.  Both groups tend to think of moral deliberation as debate over the correct course of action in some hard case.  (The classic example of this is the Trolley Problem.)

"Morality" as I'm thinking of it (and I'm not alone in this) is much less about abstract universal rules (whether the Ten Commandments or the Principle of Utility) than habits of behavior, the regulation of emotions, and the ranking of priorities.  Morality is about what makes people good, and what makes people good isn't conformity to a set of abstract rules, but the perfection of their humanity.  So, what perfects humanity?  To put it vaguely, it's good habits, proper priorities, self-control, and observing justice in relation to others.

So when we talk about moral education in film, we're not talking about commendations of abstract rules, or portraits of difficult cases.  Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is a great illustration here.  The film provides a series of impossible alternatives and moral dilemmas for the characters to solve, but has virtually nothing to do with the practice of virtue.  In this way it manages to throw a spotlight on moral casuistry while teaching us next to nothing about the perfection of human nature or the cultivation of good habits.

People often gripe about how boring morally good characters are.  I've never understood this idea.  Perhaps it comes from the notion that moral goodness is primarily a negative characteristic: it describes almost exclusively the things someone does not do, the rules he does not break, etc., and beyond this perhaps it has a suffocating veneer of smiley humanitarian benevolence.  Granted, this idea is very unappealing.  But the real moral hero isn't a bland, "straight laced do-gooder", it's the person who dominates all his inclinations, confronts every situation with thoughtfulness and a readiness to suffer for what's right, and maintains equity in all his relationships according to their kind.  This sort of morality doesn't constrain, and isn't negative — it liberates, and it provides greater scope for the cultivation of the distinctive excellences of the individual by supplying him with all the power of a well-conditioned will and a patient mind.

07:00

Why Should Men on Earth Be So Sad Since Our Redeemer Made Us Glad? [The Rad Trad]

A happy Sunday within the octave of the Nativity to all!


04:29

2015 in review [One Mad Mom]

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 91,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


02:06

Cultural resistance: the time is now [Καθολικός διάκονος]

Since, at 49-50, I am (finally) reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkein with my 10 year-old son (we read The Hobbit last year and we're working on The Fellowship of the Ring right now) I wanted to "get to know" Tolkein a bit better. To that end I began reading Mark Horne's J.R.R. Tolkein.

Horne writes about a club, founded while Tolkein was in his last year at King Edward school in Birmingham, just prior to his going to Oxford: Tea Club and Barrovian Society (T.C.B.S.). This group, all of whom, except Tolkein and Christopher Wiseman, perished in the Great War, strikes me very much as the precursor of the Inklings.

What grabbed my attention in Horne's account of the T.C.B.S. was his description of the kind of cultural resistance in which Tolkein and his companions sought to engage. It is, I believe, precisely the kind of resistance we need to engage in now with even greater fervor, especially with the fine arts and the humanities coming under such fierce assault. It seems obvious to me that this assault seeks to further erode our humanity by speeding up the arrival of an even less humane society by further eviscerating culture.

One aspect of the approach of the T.C.B.S. that I think extremely important is that its members agreed that their approach not be moralistic:

The vision of the T.C.B.S. was anti-secular and yet non-moralistic. To take one example, when Wiseman, Smith, and Gilson once met at a time Tolkien could not be with them, they complained together about how George Bernard Shaw and Henrik Ibsen had ended Victorian moralism in drama but left a vacuum. Ibsen had produced what were considered scandalous plays because they showed how immorality could and did sow destruction in respectable households. Shaw was influenced by Ibsen and wrote plays of social criticism.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien as young man


The T.C.B.S. saw themselves as a response to such artistic trends. They would produce creative works that would "re-establish sanity, cleanliness, and the love of real and true beauty in everyone’s breast," according to G. B. Smith. Yet, as biographer John Garth has written, "Despite the crusading language, the TCBSian cultural and moral manifesto did not involve telling people what to do." This would be a lifelong commitment on the part of Tolkien, one that eventually brought him to change his mind about George MacDonald, whom he loved as a child, and decide that he was but an "old grandmother" who delivered sermons rather than stories. The T.C.B.S. moral vision was to invite the world to a meal instead of preaching at them
Such resistance is not stodgy in the least and is defiantly non-ideological.

A fine example of this is a recent piece on the 24/7 blog by Peter Greig, "The Defiant Hope of Rock Anthems...". In his post, Greig discusses the depth of some of the more meaningful contemporary music. In particular, he writes about U2 and Patti Smith performing together Patti's "People Have the Power" in response to the terror attacks in Paris last November.

In my view, Grieg, rightly describes Smith's song as "a 1988 punk-rock reworking of various eschatological longings for peace and justice expressed by the prophet Isaiah - see chapters 11 and 43, for example." Such "reworkings" are not rare. As with any art form there is good and bad, beautiful and horrendous, and everything in between.

Artists, like Patti Smith, U2, and others, work on the basis of a lot of assumptions as to what their listeners know. Painting with a broom, many cultural commentators blame all contemporary artists for this lack of knowledge. But that strikes me as quite wrong. In fact, I believe the opposite is the case: artists like Smith, U2, and many others working in the musical, literary, visual, and plastic arts do all in their power to conserve and hand along all that is worthy, often making worthwhile contributions of their own. Consider U2's song "Vertigo"- it begins: "Unos, dos, tres, catorce!" [not quatro]. Does this refer to first part, second book, third chapter, fourteenth verse = Exodus 3:14?

In any case, I think the task that lies before us is restoring and (dare I say?) even deepening our cultural/religious awareness. As we enter the new year, the relevant question for us, as it was for Tolkein and his young friends about 100 years ago, ought to be, How do we engage creatively?

01:10

Remarks on Galadza on Byzantine Liturgy [Opus Publicum]

Fr. Peter Galadza, whose thoughts on Byzantine liturgy I have discussed before, delivered an interesting talk at last year’s Sheptytsky Institute conference, The Vatican II Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, entitled “Full, Conscious, and Active Participation: The Influence of Vatican II’s Liturgy Constitution on an Eastern Catholic Worship Aid.” The “worship aid” in question is The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology of Worship which has become the normative liturgical text for English-speaking Ukrainian Greek Catholics. Throughout the presentation, Galadza draws attention to the anthology’s attempt to promote greater lay participation in the services through congregational singing while also highlighting the book’s focus on proper spiritual preparation for the Divine Liturgy (prayer, repentance, and fasting). He also notes places where the book presents abbreviated forms of lengthy Byzantine services such as the Vesperal liturgies for Nativity and Holy Saturday in an attempt to entice more parishes of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) to begin serving them. Despite expressing general satisfaction with The Divine Liturgy, Galadza offers some sobering remarks about the considerable distance the UGCC still has to go (at least in North America) before it truly recaptures its authentic liturgical heritage.

As an opening critical remark, let me be clear that I do not use The Divine Liturgy myself, nor do I have any plans to. While I applaud the book’s editors for giving UGCC parishes a “one stop shop” liturgical text as opposed to expecting them to possess all two-dozen liturgical books necessary for a complete run of the Byzantine office, many of the renderings are foreign to my ears and some are—by my “conservative lights”—rather unimpressive. But no translation is perfect. There are certainly many constructions in my English-language Eastern Orthodox books that are off balance and confusing; I’ve just grown accustomed to them. My larger concern about a text such as The Divine Liturgy is that will become the “final volume” for the UGCC in North America, thus normalizing its contentious abbreviations of certain landmark Byzantine services which many Orthodox parishes in the United States continue to serve despite mixed attendance.

On the other hand, Greek Catholics face a steeper uphill battle than the Orthodox when it comes to reinvigorating their liturgical culture. Eastern Catholics living in the West have long had to “compete” liturgically with their Latin brethren, resulting in significant pressure to eliminate “extra” services and shorten the Divine Liturgy. What is “better”: To serve a truncated form of Matins every Sunday or no Matins at all? Is shaving 45 minutes from the Vesperal Liturgy for Holy Saturday “worth” giving to the faithful a service rich in Old Testament readings and classical hymnography? Admittedly, in a “perfect world,” such questions wouldn’t be asked. We are a long way from that state, however. To his credit, Galadza recognizes this and is trying to do the best that he can under suboptimal conditions.

These are all minor quibbles, really. Where I really part company with Galadza is with respect to his apparent interest in developing new musical settings and choral pieces for UGCC worship in North America. Although he does not go into great detail on these points, I believe it would be highly imprudent for the UGCC—or any Eastern Catholic church—to begin “toying” with its liturgical tradition when the process of recovery and restoration is far from over. As Orthodox jurisdictions like the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have already demonstrated, it is possible to adopt traditional musical settings for English-speaking parishes and, just as critically, to integrate the entire congregation into chanting them (at least the ordinary). Perhaps a time will come when Eastern Christianity will grow deep enough roots in North America that it begins to organically generate its own authentic elements and style, but that’s a question for another century or so.


Filed under: Eastern Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Church, Liturgy

01:00

Authentische Zusammenfassung der Spiritualität und geistigen Physiognomie des Kartäuserordens. (3/14) [BRUNONIS]

Normal 0 21 false false false DE X-NONE X-NONE Gewiß, diese Akte gründlicher Läuterung (Abtötung, s. o.) sind notwendig, um vorzudringen bis ins Heiligtum der Vereinigung mit Gott. - Doch um diese äußeren Abtötungen besser zu verstehen und um jedem Mißverständnis vorzubeugen, möchten wir gleich betonen, daß sie nur negativen und relativen Charakter haben.


Negative Bedeutung:
weil sie aus sich selbst keinen inneren Wert haben und nur Hindernisse in der Disposition für Gott beseitigen müssen.

Relative Bedeutung:
weil sie, um nicht unfruchtbar zu werden, bezogen werden müssen auf ihr inneres Ziel, die göttliche Liebe, die Vereinigung mit dem göttlichen Leben.

Die Bußübungen der Kartäuser können und dürfen somit nicht die Grundlage bilden für ein Urteil über die Erhabenheit und Schönheit des Kartäuserberufes. Ebenso wäre es durchaus unrichtig, diese als Ziele zu setzen und sich einzubilden, unser Ideal bestehe in ihnen.

Die Statuten des Kartäuserordens sind in diesem Punkte sehr klar und unzweideutig. Vielleicht mehr als in irgend einer andern religiösen Ordensfamilie muß hier die Buße als das Mittel und die Vorstufe dem Ziel und Ideal, der Kontemplation, untergeordnet werden; freilich in einer Abstufung, die von großer Klugheit und Mäßigung zeugt.

Die von den Vätern bestimmten und festgesetzten körperlichen Strengheiten werden nur unter der Bedingung empfohlen, daß sie im Gehorsam geübt und durch ihn erfüllt werden. Der Gehorsam muß das natürliche Resultat der Demut und Liebe sein, er muß allem die Richtung, die Freudigkeit und das Leben verleihen.

(vgl.: Das weiße Paradies. Ein Kartäuser spricht.) 


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31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
December 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829300102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31010203040506
November 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29303101020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829300102
October 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29303101020304
September 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930310102
03040506070809
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
June 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293001
May 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
March 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282901020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
February 2012
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30310102030405
06070809101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282901020304
December 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293001020304
05060708091011
12131415161718
19202122232425
26272829303101
November 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293001020304
July 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
27282930010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
April 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293001
March 2011
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
November 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
01020304050607
08091011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
29300102030405
August 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30310102030405
June 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
31010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293001020304
January 2010
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
28293031010203
04050607080910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
December 2009
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30010203040506
07080910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031010203
November 2009
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
26272829303101
02030405060708
09101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30010203040506