Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The third monastery's a charm

Jean-Louis Pagès, the architect for the new monastery building (are you listening, all of you who have monasteries and seminaries closing in your areas?) at St. Michael's Abbey in Silverado, California, speaking at L.A.'s Pacific Club last spring:
After the construction of the two monasteries [that he designed] in Le Barroux [France], I received an invitation to an exhibition in Rome, entitled: 'Twenty years of Christian buildings in the world.' On my invitation card were some words from Pope John Paul II, 'The one who builds the house of God gets a room in heaven.'

Unimpressed by this, my father, 99 years old at that time and knowing me better than the Pope, looked at the invitation and said: 'Maybe for you, even two monasteries are not enough.' Since then the fathers of St. Michael have reassured me and told me 'With a third monastery we think it's OK.'

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Off the deep end

At an appearance at Carnegie Hall on Friday, J. K. Rowling revealed that she intended the character of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series to be homosexual. His love interest, she says, was not Harry (we can be grateful that approval of man-boy love is still a few years off for the elites) but wizard Gellert Grindelwald, the book's shadowy magical rival to Dumbledore.

I can't decide what to think of her. Now that she'd absurdly rich, is she pandering to her trendy new friends in the elites? Is she just a modernist PC woman with the usual modernist PC assumptions about morals? Perhaps a little of both.

And besides that, I wonder if there isn't a huge, characteristically PC blind spot operating in her as well. The contemporary worldview has completely lost sight of the possibility of men forming deep friendships without those friendships being, or becoming, erotic. If you find a kindred spirit in another person of the same sex, modern people think, of course you're going to want to go to bed with them. If you think differently, they say, you're just fooling yourself. Find two male friends together? Must be secretly gay. No other explanation need apply.

It's an arid, simplistic view of human nature.

I've defended the Potter novels against accusations of promoting real witchcraft more than once in this space. I still stand by that assessment. But it's clear to me that by choosing to twist the endearing character of Dumbledore this way, Rowling now joins the legions of other modernists hoping to foster a complete acceptance of homosexuality in her many young readers.


Won't be seeing any of the upcoming Potter movies. That's about all I can do in the way of protest, since the books are already bought and on my shelves. I'll be curious about the movies, but not curious enough to put another penny into Rowling's already-bulging pockets.

Too bad, really. She was never a very good writer, but she could conceive a good story, and could certainly capture a place in the contemporary imagination. Her hope for lasting literary fame was to remain true to the Christian foundations of her imaginary world. Now that that's gone, she will be, too.

I'll make a prediction: in a hundred years, people will be still be reading Tolkien avidly. But when Rowling's name is mentioned, they'll say: "Who?"

This Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir today:

Josquin des Prez, Tu solus qui facis mirabilia
William Byrd, Ave verum corpus

This was not a good Sunday to visit St. Thomas, so if you came this noon on the basis of my usually glowing reports, I'm sorry.

I arrived a bit late today to find that Fr. Nahoe, our young Franciscan who is so good at collaborating with Prof. Mahrt in introducing more and more Latin into our Latin Novus Ordo Mass, was absent. In his place was a priest I've seen once before at St. Thomas. On that occasion, too, he reverted to the English Novus Ordo, and interlarded that already-ugly rite with spontaneous, quasi-heretical inspirations of his own. I hate it when priests make up their own stuff. What is so !&%^%$#ing hard about just reading from the Missal? Aarrgh.

Even the choir seemed off today. They wandered so badly in the Offertory chant they had to restart it, which is practically unheard of.

I also had the additional pleasure of reading a lengthy excerpt/summary of the US bishops' statement on the Iraq war in the parish bulletin, assembled by our parish's "Human Concerns" committee (a wholly-owned subsidiary of VOTF and the Democratic Party) in which those mitred paragons of foreign policy expertise declare that we need to get out of Iraq as soon as possible while paying for all the damage caused by the insurgency while asking for nothing in return. Meanwhile, of the insurgents, of the Iranians and the Syrians who have been blowing up Iraqis regularly through their surrogates, they ask nothing at all. Idiots.

Finally, the bulletin also carried the welcome news that the spending of $100,000 to equip St. Albert the Great's sanctuary with an immersion-style baptismal pool is going forward nicely. Wow, we so need that!

I thought of those Peanuts comic strips in which Charlie Brown looks up in anguish to Heaven and cries, "I just can't stand it!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

This Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at the noon Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas:

Josquin d'Ascanio, In Te, Domine, speravi
Henry Purcell, Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dear Abby to faithful Catholic parents: shame on you

So now, Jeanne Phillips, the current "Dear Abby" and daughter of the original, has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. That should come as no surprise; she's been hinting at it for years. But then there's also this:
What Jeanne Phillips, aka Abigail Van Buren, finds offensive and misguided are homophobic jokes, phrases like "That's so gay," and parents who reject or try to reform their children when they come out of the closet. [emphasis added]

Catholic parents, that last bit is about you -- if, as the Church teaches you, you encourage your children to live chastely within the bounds of Catholic morality, regardless of their sexual orientation. Oh, I suppose you'll be OK for a little longer, in Ms. Phillips' eyes, if you counsel your "straight" child to avoid sex before marriage -- though I'm sure it's only a matter of time before she lets you have it on that score, too. But if you tell your homosexual child not to give in to his feelings because it can never be pleasing to God to do so, well then, you are offensive and misguided. And by extension, so is the Church that dares to teach as it does now and always has.

The gap between popular culture and the Church on these and other sexual matters was narrow only fifty years ago; today it is wide and getting wider. Watch out. When it grows wide enough, following the Church's teachings will become a crime, and you'll either have to go along with "enlightened" people like Abby, or lose your child. Alarmist? Just you wait.

Or... or we get out there and engage the culture on this issue, and start it back on the road to truth. Which is it to be?

Kindred thoughts

Spoken by one of the characters in Alexander McCall Smith's Espresso Tales, the second novel in his wonderfully evocative series 44 Scotland Street:

I have the feeling that we've seen the dismantling of civilisation, brick by brick, and now we're looking into the void. We thought that we were liberating people from oppressive cultural circumstances, but we were, in fact, taking something away from them. We were killing off civility and concern. We were undermining all those little ties of loyalty and consideration and affection that are necessary for human flourishing. We thought that tradition was bad, that it created hidebound societies, that it held people down. But, in fact, what tradition was doing all along was affirming community and the sense that we are members one of another. Do we really love and respect one another more in the absence of tradition and manners and all the rest? Or have we merely converted one another into moral strangers -- making our countries nothing more than hotels for the convenience of guests who are required only to avoid stepping on the toes of other guests?

Monday, October 08, 2007

They're coming home

The Bovina Bloviator has decided to cross the Tiber!

I wish every Roman Catholic would fully appreciate what a wonderful blessing it is to have so many fine Episcopalians making that choice these days. And what a miracle it is -- a quiet one, but a miracle nonetheless! Remember, fellow Catholics, one of the biggest hurdles they face is the doctrinal and aesthetic mess we have made of the Church here in the United States. Yet they come over anyway. Can anyone doubt that only the Holy Spirit could work such a wonder?

BB, and the many others like him, will become a major force in bringing beauty in language and the arts back into Catholicism here. You just watch. And pray. For us, and for him.

SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here, no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.

-- Arthur Hugh Clough

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Window: the burning bush

from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, California

A symbol this time: the burning bush, with which Moses had that memorable encounter in Exodus 3:2. This is a tiny detail from a much larger window. Traditional stained glass art was full of these little, almost-offhand surprises.

This Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at the noon Mass today at St. Thomas Aquinas:

Jean Mouton, Domine Jesu Christe
Heinrich Isaac, Mandasti mandata tua
Pierre de la Rue, O salutaris hostia

To anyone with a choir that's just starting out with polyphony and looking for simple pieces that are also exquisitely beautiful, I'd suggest checking out the last composition.

Chaput on "The Children of Men"

Catholic Culture has published some very interesting remarks by the always-worth-reading Archbishop Chaput of Denver. His takeoff point is the 2001 movie The Children of Men, but really the novel by P. D. James on which the movie was only very loosely based.

As usual, as it turns out, the novel is a whole lot more Christian and pro-life than its Hollywood cinema treatment. I wonder: why do established novelists like James -- and for that matter, Tom Clancy, sell their titles and their names to Hollywood without insisting that at least the main thrust of their work be retained?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Window: St. Perpetua

From All Saints' Episcopal church, Pasadena, California.

St. Perpetua, the young mother from Carthage, martyred in 203. She holds a palm branch, a Roman symbol of victory. You can read her story here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The new barbarians

CNS reports that the crazies on the atheist Left are picking up steam (or at the very least, it's coming out of their ears more visibly now).
Science must ultimately destroy organized religion, according to some of the leading atheist writers and intellectuals who spoke at a recent atheist conference in Northern Virginia. God is a myth, and children must not be schooled in any faith, they said, at the "Crystal Clear Atheism" event, sponsored by the Atheist Alliance International.

Heed that bit about "children must not be schooled in any faith", parents.

Some of the luminaries who spoke at the conference, held at the Crown Royal Hotel in Crystal City, Va., over the weekend, included Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, author Sam Harris and journalist Christopher Hitchens.

These people mean it, they have media clout, and they are gaining ground.

Many of the attendees seemed to have developed an aversion to religion from conservative, Protestant Christians. Several of the atheists Cybercast News Service spoke to complained of living under fundamentalist parents who frowned upon any questioning of the Bible or any activity condemned in Scripture.

This doesn't surprise me at all. The well-meaning but ignorant Biblical literalism that drove away intelligent but misguided people like these rank-and-file atheists is one of the saddest consequences of the foundational heresies of the Protestant Revolt.

How to combat Dawkins and Co.?

  • Protestants, come back to Rome. There you'll find the balance between Faith and Reason, and the heritage of scholarship, that your forebears abandoned five centuries ago.
  • Catholics, start studying your Faith. Hard. And pick a science, go down to your local library, and start studying that, so that there'll be a reason why anyone should listen to what you say. And start organizing. You'll need every intellectual and spiritual weapon you can master, and all the companions you can gather together, before this fight's over.

These new barbarians are at the gates. Now. They are few, so far, but they come with their advanced degrees, their publicists, and their willing accomplices in the media. If they win, "then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Two cheers for colonialism?

The reports out of Myanmar are not good. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Burmese killed -- by other Burmese -- for opposing their government.

The title of this post reflects a question that I first encountered in the pages of Look magazine when I was 12, and that comes back to me now and then: is it always better for a people to rule themselves, to be independent? Or may it not sometimes be objectively better for a people to be ruled by outsiders who are better, or at least less bad, at it than they are themselves? And how does one tell the difference?

In its relatively short run, the current military dictatorship ruling Myanmar has already racked up a list of atrocities against its unhappy people that appears to me to eclipse the record of occasional cruelties that it took the British over a century to compile during their domination of India and Burma. The incident usually considered the most extreme example of the latter, the 1930 Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre in Peshawar, is still strongly resented in India because as many as 400 civilians were killed.

But the Myanmar generals have exceeded that British tally many times over. I can't help but ask myself: if the British were still in charge in Burma, would we be hearing of British troops mowing down hundreds of Burmese demonstrators and Buddhist monks, with the British government trying to lock down communications to conceal it? And would Myanmar have endured the years of oppression and misery their own generals have inflicted on them?

And is Zimbabwe better off under its bloated tyrant Mugabe, just because he's African?

I don't think so. Maybe being ruled by your own countrymen isn't a panacea for the world's ills, after all.

Window: the baptism of Jesus

The baptism of Our Lord by St. John the Baptist in the river Jordan. Artist unknown (so far). From Our Lady of the Rosary, in Palo Alto, California.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Last Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at the noon Mass yesterday at St. Thomas Aquinas:

Thomas Mudd (c. 1560-1632), Let Thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open
Heinrich Isaac, Tollite hostias from choralis constantinus