Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Earth Day guilt merchants

At a local middle school here in Palo Alto today, in observance of Earth Day, students who arrived at school on foot or on bicycles were shunted over to a table where they were given a treat. But those students who had been driven to school were "greeted" by a parent volunteer holding a large black balloon, who harangued each disembarking kid with the news that this balloon represented the volume of carbon they had just shamefully dumped into the air during their drive, and why didn't they walk or bicycle like they had been encouraged to do?

What a nice way to start a kid's day.

It's another example of environmentalism gone nuts. Obviously, if a kid's parents say they're going to drive the kid to school, does Balloon Lady really expect the kid to stamp his feet and scream until mom agrees to let him walk? And she has probably also not considered that a lot of students at this particular school were coming from Los Alto Hills, and walking or biking just isn't safe from the distance they'd have to come, and across the crowded, fast-moving expressways they'd have to cross. Nope, the only thing on Balloon Lady's mind is the these kids' heinous offense against the fashionable Earth-worship that has displaced ordinary religion for a lot of the good citizens of this burgh.

Freakishly good news from South Bend

Diogenes published this photo today which should be very very encouraging to anyone who has despaired of the Catholic future in this country. Not only are those two young men spontaneously kneeling as a Eucharistic Procession went by -- they're doing it at Notre Dame!

What I'd like to know is: where did these guys get so well catechized that they knew to kneel as the monstrance passed them?

Uncle Di also makes this observation:

Devotion acquired in counter-cultural circumstances is more likely to thrive than devotion acquired as an act of conformity, and it is less likely to weaken in the face of hostility or contempt.

Wise words indeed. And if devotion has weakened in the last forty years, is it not because our Church has been taken in a direction of cultural conformity? We dropped almost everything externally distinctive about ourselves -- from chant, to fish on Fridays, to priests in cassocks -- and tried to look and sound as much like the culture around us as we could. And then we reinterpreted ourselves to de-emphasize Catholic truth, in the name of ecumenism. And we highlighted every social teaching of the Church that could seem to conform to the leftist political culture -- often in the universities we were attending or teaching at -- that so many of us wanted to fit in with. And with JFK, we declared that if Catholic doctrine clashed with the growing insistence to a secular public square, we would be good secularists first, and then see if there were any irrelevant nooks and crannies where our Catholicism could still be accommodated.

Truth is, Catholicism rightly understood will always be countercultural. The better we remember that and play it up, the more often we'll see young men kneeling in public as Our Lord passes by.

Last Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at St. Thomas Aquinas last Sunday (4/20):

Byrd, O quam suavis est
Victoria, Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Nationals Stadium Mass

Just finished watching EWTN's coverage of the papal Mass at Nationals Stadium. I have to say I agree with Fr. Neuhaus about the mishmash of musical selections, which I recall him describing as "preening" and "self-indulgent." Pretty clearly, the extreme variety of music was meant to mirror the multiculturalism of the United States, which in influential circles is seen as something extraordinarily virtuous.

In practice, multiculturalism means that every event has to be culturally pot-luck, because we wouldn't want to say we actually prefer one over the other. Whatever the benefits may be of having everyone contribute something of their own, we've all been to pot-lucks that were gastronomic disasters. Musically, this Mass was like sitting down to a dinner of dimsum, pemmican, doughnuts and creamed corn. At such a dinner, it's true that each diner might find something to his liking, but if you have to eat it all -- well, pass the Alka-Seltzer.

Given Benedict's well-known preference for Gregorian Chant, Renaissance polyphony and classical settings of sacred texts, it would have been more polite to let him offer a Mass with music that made him feel comfortable. That's what we do with guests, isn't it? Make them feel comfortable? Instead, the powers that be made him preside over a Mass that made them feel comfortable.

On the other hand, it shouldn't have come as a surprise, I suppose. Those same powers have been shoving their style at us for forty years now, and insisting that we better like it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Last Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at St. Thomas Aquinas last Sunday:

Josquin des Prez, Tu pauperum refugium
Heinrich Isaac, Ego sum pastor bonus
Pierre de la Rue, O salutaris hostia