Thursday, August 08, 2002

I'm slowly reading Frederick Copleston, S.J.'s monumental A History of Philosophy (which means I won't get done with the five massive volumes until about 2012). It is very lucid and readable. No wonder it is a classic. A colleague reminds me that it is probably out of date, but that doesn't bother me. Plato hasn't changed that much in 40 years. What strikes me, though, is the amount of cultural literacy he expects in a semi-popular presentation intended, I assume, for undergraduates. He quotes in Greek without translating. And he often drops names of philosophers and their positions that he hasn't even treated yet, as though when he says "Against Nietzsche's so and so theory" you should already know what he is talking about. Even with my Great Books education, I'm still in the dark on some of what he presumes. My kids would probably fare better. They are more familiar Greek mythology, for instance, than I am. You name a myth and I might be able to give a vague synopsis. "Psyche and Cupid? Isn't that the one where...?" My son has taken to pronouncing words as though they were Greek. For instance, "lemonade" is le-MO-nah-dee.
An Apt Description of St. Dominic with Some Applicability to the Church at the Beginning of the 21st Century
Taken from the Dominican Office.

From the sermon by Savonarola:

"Blessed Dominic was holy and learned in doctrine. But someone may say: “I learn thoroughly that I may preach in a holy manner.” Today, because the office of preaching is an office held in great honor, our priests all desire to preach and they study sermon books and other subjects to edify all the people by their speaking. I may accomplish some good in the Church. But what follows? During his lifetime he repaired the house of God, that is, during the temporal course of his life. The life of a sinner is not a life but a death. Say therefore, “during his holy life,” that is, through his life and good example.
"Beseech, beseech the Lord to send good and holy priests who will repair the house, that is, the whole Church which is on the verge of a great fall."

Note: Remember how Savonarola ended his life? Moral reformers aren't too popular.
Crown Jewels
Someone left a copy of Frank Sheed's Theology and Sanity on the free book shelf at the library here. I couldn't believe that anyone would willingly give up a copy of this gem! That would be like seeing the Crown Jewels on a bargain table in front of Buckingham Palace! Well, now I have two copies, so can start a 'scussion group with my kids.
My first encounter with Sheed was reading Society and Sanity. It is a great presentation of Catholic social teachings as they had developed at that time (1950s? Chris, is that right?) Chris is my Sheed scholar friend. Anyway, the one thing I remember about the book was that Sheed made the case that the duty to vote is not necessarily a universal one. There may be people who exercise their civic responsibility in a different way. As a matter of fact, their way of life may be such that they are too ignorant of current events and issues to responsibly vote. I can't remember if he gave any examples, but it was a point well made that has stuck with me. I still vote, though.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

St. Dominic
The same friend, who is too busy (lazy?) to create his own blog so he's having me do his blogging for him, suggested that I mention that tomorrow is the memorial of St. Dominic (Solemnity for him, I guess, and Feast for us Franciscans). He said something about a link between preaching and literature. Some of the great sermons, of course, are rhetorical gems and thus great literature. Happy feast! Say, is the word "lazy" related to the word "lax"?
Getting closer to the punch line
A good friend of mine has asked me for the punch line, but I told him I wouldn't give it until someone else asked. He threatened me with the curse, "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!"
St. Basil the Great In Defense of Theology
“To count the terms used in theology as of primary importance, and to endeavour to trace out the hidden meaning in every phrase and in every syllable, is a characteristic wanting in those who are idle in the pursuit of true religion, but distinguishing all who get knowledge of "the mark" "of our calling;" for what is set before us is, so far as is possible with human nature, to be made like unto God. Now without knowledge there can be no making like; and knowledge is not got without lessons. The beginning of teaching is speech, and syllables and words are parts of speech. It follows then that to investigate syllables is not to shoot wide of the mark, nor, because the questions raised are what might seem to some insignificant, are they on that account to be held unworthy of heed. Truth is always a quarry hard to hunt, and therefore we must look everywhere for its tracks. The acquisition of true religion is just like that of crafts; both grow bit by bit; apprentices must despise nothing. If a man despise the first elements as small and insignificant, he will never reach the perfection of wisdom.” Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit.
A New Plan
In the near future I plan to begin the task of adding links to great Catholic literature that is available on line. It will be below my archives to the left there. No, I said left. Over there. Yeah. Right there, but you'll have to scroll down. Not yet, I haven't done it yet. Like I said, in the near future.
I can't resist....
Chesterton and the Spirit of Vatican II, Classics, and More Classics, all by Mark Shea.
Joke Follow Up
So far no one has asked me for the punch line of my joke. This means either that no one cares or that <sob>no one is reading my blog</sob>.
Little Women and Pilgrim's Progress
Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote a nice piece in the July 29 Weekly Standard (I apologize for being conservative, I apologize for being conservative, I apologize for being conservative! [He beats his breast]! There! Is that good enough?) about the relationship between Little Women and Pilgrim's Progress. It seems that Alcott used PP as a template for LW. My kids love the book. My question: Correct me if I'm wrong, those who know Bunyan, but isn't there an anti-Roman thread in PP? And, if so, does it come through in LW?

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Must See TV
Graduum Redux
Oh, a couple of more things about graduum. The current liturgy is ironically more triumphalistic than the old one. Also, the current English translation mutes the sense of graduum even more. All those "beseeches" gone. The Reader's Digest effect on the Gloria. We now say the Our Father "with confidence" instead of "daring" to say it.
A Classical Education
As a great promoter of a classical Catholic liberal education, it has occurred to me that this is not the cure-all of all our ills. In fact, most of the goofiness that followed the most recent ecumenical council was perpetrated by people who had that kind of education. So, there must be more to it than that. But that does not mean that the liberal education is still not very important, if not essential. As John Paul II says, faith must become culture.
Summer Reading
A good article by Amy Welborn on summer reading. She includes some of my favorite authors. Better late than never! Maybe next year she should include The Jeweler's Shop by Karol Wojtyla. How do you make one of those funny Polish "l" things in HTML?

Monday, August 05, 2002

The Sense of Graduum in the Liturgy
One aspect of the Tridentine liturgy that is more muted in the 1969 missal is what Catherine Pickstock calls the liturgical stutter and what I would call the Graduum. That is, the sense of a gradual approach to the Mysteries based on our total nothingness before the Awesome One. In the old missal that is a clear pattern of alternating contrition and joy as the central mystery is approached. All the oft-criticized repetition and redundancy in the old liturgy was a way of expressing our sense of unworthiness when approaching the Sacrifice of the Cross. This began with the prayers the priest said while vesting (which are still in the missal, by the way, but what priest says them?) I think this sense still exists in the 1969 missal, but not as clearly. First, the Mass begins on a note of joy and almost triumph with the Entrance procession. It is more like we march right in. The first note of hesitency is the Confiteor, when it is used. Then there is the absolution. Not content that we are sufficiently aware of our nothingness, we then pray the Kyrie. This only happens in option one, though. So if you use the other options the sense of Graduum is more muted. Then the Gloria, which is a hymn of joy, but it still contains significant expressions of contrition. In my mind the liturgy of the Word itself is an aspect of graduum. We must be purified by the Word before approaching the sacrament. Of course, this is contrary to the current "two absolutely equal tables of the Word and Sacrament" theology that is going about and of which I'm not a fan. At any rate, I assume you get the point. I think we'd do will to keep this sense of graduum in mind when celebrating liturgy. Since it is there in the 1969 missal, we can highlight it in various ways (such as position, posture, movement). This might help bring back a sense of sacred and maybe even belief in the Real Presence.
A Joke
Compared to the really clever stuff that appears on other blogs, this one must seem awefully dry. I'll try to rectify that in the future. Maybe I'll post some classic jokes. Here's one from my son, Tim: Why did California fall into the sea?
"Person" and "Symbol" in Rahner
In his classic text The Trinity Karl Rahner questions whether the word "person" is of any use in contemporary reflection on the Trinity because as the word has developed it has gained a connotation of autonomy that is incompatable with the characteristic of the three persons of the Trinity. Yet, in his essay on real symbols, he not only defends, but promotes the use of the word "symbol" in reference to the Eucharist. It is a very good essay with which I agree, but I think the word itself, "symbol" has the same problem he attributes to "person." It has a connotation in contemporary thought--the connotation is the modifier "mere"--which renders it problematic when used in contemporary discourse, especially on the popular level. I think we either have a choice. We use the terms and explain the nuances, as Rahner does in his treatment of "symbol," or we look for different words, as he seems to advocate in the Trinity book. I think he's inconsistent. And I think the use of "symbol" is more problematic than the use of "person" in public discourse. I still think, though, I'd advocate 'splainin' rather than innovation. For that reason I think biblical translations should translate words and phrases that are interpreted as "non-inclusive" exactly as they appear, then their inclusive sense should be explained, in homilies, for instance.
Ruling Spirits in creation
Both Tolkien and Lewis imagine a universe in which spiritual beings (Valar and eldila) are active custodians of particular creations, such as planets or specific elements, kind of like the gods of mythology. I'm wondering if there is any plausibility to such a scenario in our universe. I know we have guardian angels not only of individuals but of cities and countries, but is their role "active"? That is, are there angels that, what, guide the planets or maybe are in some way responsible secondarily for the way creation unfolds? Reminds me of that movie by Eric Idle in which midgets are God's assistance in creation and kind of louse things up, I guess. What was that called? It had George Harrison in it or something like that. The Valar have a little more gravitas than that.
De Lubac page off line
Sadly, the de Lubac home page is currently unavailable. I do not have the time to maintain it and besides, now that I've graduated from Marquette, it can't be hosted there any more. Some time I hope to get it back up again.