Sunday, May 27, 2007

Circles for Pentecost

Life is a gift. The Giver is greater than the gift. It is all right to die. So ends this blog.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Paul Stern

Paul Stern did not manage to emigrate. Perhaps he did not even try. In the summer of 1942 I was in Leipzig for a few days, and one evening I again visited my friends at the Oratory. They asked me if I would object to meeting Paul Stern. People used to ask such questions in those days, by way of precaution. Then I was told that for some time Paul Stern had been living in the Ghetto; but because he married a non-Jewess he did not have to wear the yellow star. This meant that he could go freely about the town, at least when his work was over. However, he had to report back at ten o’clock at night; prior to this he would often come to the Oratory, mostly to play the organ. I also learned that some time before, in the wake of a more intensive study of Saint Thomas, he had become a Catholic. His present work, eight hours a day, and under supervision, was picking out bits of metal from the refuse dumps of Leipzig. On my way to his remote room I wondered what words to use, meeting him again under these circumstances. But straight away it was obvious that, if anyone needed words of comfort, he, at least, did not. The man who sat opposite me was calm and cheerful; he knew no bitterness, not even, it seemed, sadness. Then I understood what my friends had told me: if they had ever met a saint, it was Paul Stern. We spoke about Thomas Aquinas and about that evening in Hegner’s house [when there was a discussion — “disputation” — about Stern and Hans Nachod’s manner of translating Summa contra gentiles into German]. He complimented me on my output since then. He was a little sorry to be without my small book on hope, which he had somehow mislaid. But when, somewhat ashamed, I promised to send him a new copy here, to the Oratory, he made a friendly gesture of refusal, as if something had suddenly occurred to him: I don’t need it any more—. In a 1959 posthumous edition of John Henry Newman’s Dream of Gerontius [Traum des Gerontius] the last translation, apparently, on which the two friends [Stern and Nachod] collaborated, one reads that Paul Stern was deported to Theresienstadt in 1943 and probably died in Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of fifty-four.

— Josef Pieper, No One Could Have Known



Since Turing, a scientific genius, was not speaking ex tempore but presenting, in [Computing machinery and intelligence], a well-considered opinion, something more specific than general human fallibility seems called for as an explanation for his adoption of a view [that he had come up with a test to determine if a computer may be said to think] that seems nothing less than absurd. My explanation is that Turing was lonely; first because it is in the nature of things that a genius must be lonely, but also and more particularly because he was a homosexual in a society that strongly rejected homosexuality. In seeing the computer as a potential friend he was by no means alone — many of the strange beliefs I will be discussing are at bottom searches for a buddy — and the computer is not the most unlikely entity in which lonely man has attempted to find a friend. But whatever the cause that led a genius of Turing’s caliber to suppose a computer capable of thought, I see in it a failure of confidence in their own experience on the part of modern cultivated people. It is a failure that shows itself again in our increasing preoccupation, sometimes even obsession, with the world of the Virtual — that is, of things that do such a good job of seeming that mere being cannot compete.

— Mark Halpern, Paradox Lost: the Cost of a Virtual World

Read also, Mark Halpern, The Trouble with the Turing Test, The New Atlantis, Number 11, Winter 2006.

Mark Halpern initiated The Jacques Barzun Centennial.


3 και υστερησαντος οινου λεγει η μητηρ τον Ιησου προς αυτον, Οινον ουκ εχουστν.
4 και λεγει αυτη ο Ιησους, Τι εμοι και σοι, γυναι; ουπω ηκει η ωρα μου.
John 2

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

Usteresantos, meaning “they were wanting, they were lacking in,” (as in ‘they were wanting wine’) is related to the word usteron, meaning the womb – from whence we get the words ‘hysterectomy,’ ‘hysterical,’ etc. . . .

Beings who have no ‘metaphysical’ inquietude cannot have history. The animals are ‘fulfilled’ in a way that we are not; it is our very ‘lacking’ that gives us the historical impulse. In this sense history is so ‘womb-driven’; it is the feminine of mankind (i.e., of all men and women) expressed, drawn out, lived out, upon the plane of temporalization. . . .

Never has it happened that so many people have been so ‘lacking’ . . . . in the feeling of ‘lacking.’ That is to say, history now unfolds on the plane of self-sufficiency, amidst the hordes of the self-sufficient, those who are barren in the womb.

And never before has there been such a period of prolonged stagnation as the Modern Age. Things haven’t changed in essentials in decades, half a century, a century, a century and a half. . . . Western mankind, stunting its growth with materialism, is paralyzing its capacity for creative development. . . .

— Caryl Johnston, Metaphysics and ‘Lacking in Something’

Read also Caryl Johnston, Holy Mother, and, perhaps, A Wedding.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Useful Ignorance

From Romano Amerio, Iota Unum, Paragraph 153:

The present idea of dialogue obscures the way of useful ignorance that is appropriate for minds that are incapable of adopting the way of examination, and that adhere firmly to their fundamental assent and do not devote much attention to opposing views, to find out where their error lies. Being afraid of ideas opposed to what they know is certainly true, they keep themselves in ignorance to preserve the truths they already possess, and shut out false ideas and also any true ones that happen to be mixed in with them, without separating the one from the other.

This way of useful ignorance is legitimate in Catholicism, is based on the theoretical principle explained earlier [Having established even by one convincing consideration that religion is true, the latter is to be held on to even if particular difficulties remain unresolved.], and is moreover the condition in which the great majority of all religious believers find themselves.11

11 The theory of useful ignorance is developed by Manzoni in his Morale Cattolica, ed. cit., Vol. II, pp.422–3 and Vol. III, p.131.


Gospel Scenes

Gospel Scenes can now be read and (to Scene 30) heard together.

Albany Assessment 13

Albany reassessment has many hitting roof, Albany Times Union article by Tim O’Brien, May 23, 2007. Note: Rezsin Adams.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Albany Assessment 12

Ted and Rezsin treated Mary and me to dinner at Ocean Palace last night. Rezsin mentioned that she spoke with Tim O’Brien of the Times Union about her assessment. An article may appear in the paper tomorrow.

Went to Mass with Dot at the PH. Saw Dot’s new room on the 3rd, then after picking up Olivia at Erin’s, the four of us had lunch at Emma Cleary’s before coming home to see, with Ted and Rezsin, the DVD of The Queen.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Worst Case Scenario

That we live, and move, and have our being in a lie.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Paragraph 50 of Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes of the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, trans. by Fr. John P. Parsons:

50. Novel hermenutic of the Council, continued.
Circiterisms. Use of the conjunction but.
Deepening understanding.

The circiterism is something which occurs frequently in the arguments of the innovators. It consists in referring to an indistinct and confused term as if it were something well established and defined, and then extracting or excluding from it the element one needs to extract or exclude. The term spirit of the council, or indeed the council, is just such an expression. I remember instances in pastoral practice, of priestly innovators violating quite definite rules which had been in no way altered since the council, and replying to the faithful, who were amazed at their arbitrary proceedings, by referring them to the council.

I do not deny that a knowing subject can only direct his attention successively to the various parts of a complex whole, given, on the one hand, that the intentio14 of the intellect is incapable of contemplating all sides of it at once, and on the other, that the exercise of thought is free. I do, however, maintain that this mode of operation, natural to the intellect, must not be confused with that deliberate diversion of attention which the will can impose on the workings of the mind so that, as the Gospel puts it, it fails to see what it sees and to grasp what it knows.15 The first kind of mental operation occurs in genuine research, which of its nature proceeds step by step, but the second does not deserve to be called research, since it imposes on facts a manner of viewing them which originated in one’s subjective inclinations.

It is also common to talk about a message, and a code by which one reads and deciphers the message. The notion of a reading has replaced that of the knowledge of something, thus replacing the binding force of univocal knowledge with a plurality of possible readings. It is alleged that a single message can be read in different keys: if it is heterodox, in an orthodox key. This method, however, forgets that the text has a primitive, inherent, obvious and literal sense of its own, which must be understood before any reading, and that it sometimes does not admit of being read with the key with which the second reading proposes to read it. The counciliar texts, like any others, have, independently of the reading that may be made of them, an obvious and univocal readability, that is, a literal sense which is the basis of any other sense which may be found in them. Hermeneutical perfection consists in reducing the second reading to the first, which gives the true sense of the text. The Church, moreover, has never proceeded in any other way.

The technique adopted by the innovators in the post-conciliar period thus consists in illuminating or obscuring, glossing or reinforcing, individual parts of a text or of a truth. This is merely the abuse of that faculty of abstraction which the mind necessarily exercises when it examines any complex whole. It is a necessary condition of all discursive knowledge arrived at in time, as distinct from angelic intuition.

To this they add another technique, characteristic of those who disseminate error: that of hiding one truth behind another so as to be able to behave as if the hidden truth were not only hidden but simply non-existent. When the Church, for example, is defined as the People of God on a journey, the other side of the truth is hidden, namely that the Church also includes the blessed who have already reached the end of the journey, and that they are the more important part of the Church, since they are the part in which the purpose of the Church and of the universe has been fulfilled. In the next stage, the truth which was still part of the message but which has been put in the background will end up being dropped from the message altogether, through the rejection of the cult of the saints.

The procedure we have described is often effected by using the conjunction but. One has merely to know the full meaning of words in order to recognize the hidden intention of this school of interpreters. For example, to attack the principle of the religious life they write: Le fondement de la vie religieuse n’est pas remis en question, mais son style de réalisation.16 Again, to get round the dogma of the virginity of Our Lady in partu17 they say that doubts are possible non d’ailleurs sur la croyance, elle-même dont nul ne conteste les titres dogmatiques, mais sur son object exacte, dont il ne serait pas assuré qu’il comprenne le miracle de l’enfantement sans lésion corporelle.18 And to attack the enclosure of nuns they write: La cloîture doit être maintenue, mais elle soit être adaptée selon les conditions des temps et des lieux.19

The particle mais20 is equivalent to magis,21 from which it derives, and thus while appearing to maintain one’s position on the virginity of Our Lady, on the religious life and on the enclosure of nuns, one is asserting that what is more important than a principle, are the ways of adapting it to times and places. But what sort of principle is inferior rather than superior to its realizations? Is it not obvious that there are styles which destroy, rather than express, the fundamentals they are meant to embody? At this rate one might just as well say that the fundamentals of gothic style are not in dispute, only the way they are realized; and then proceed to abolish the pointed arch.

This use of but often occurs in the speeches of the council fathers, when they lay down in their principal assertion something which will be destroyed by the but in a secondary assertion, so that the latter becomes what is principally asserted. So too at the Synod of Bishops in 1980, French language group B wrote: The group adheres without reserve to Humanae Vitae, but the dichotomy between the rigidity of law and pastoral flexibility must be overcome. Thus adherence to the encyclical becomes purely verbal, because bending the law to conform with human weakness is more important than the encyclical’s teaching.22 The formula of those who wanted the admission of divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist was more forthright: Il ne s’agit pas de renoncer à l’exigence évangelique, mais de reconnaître la possibilité pour tous d’être réintégrés dans la communion ecclésiale.23

At the same Synod on the Family in 1980, the use of the word deepening24 cropped up among the innovators. While seeking the abandonment of the doctrine taught in Humanae Vitae, they confessed complete adherence to it, but asked that the doctrine be deepened; meaning not that it be strengthened by new arguments, but changed into something else. The process of deepening would apparently consist in searching and searching until one arrived at an opposite conclusion.

Even more important is the fact that circiterisms were sometimes used in the drawing up of the conciliar documents themselves. These inexact formulations were deliberately introduced so that post-conciliar hermeneutics could gloss or reinforce whichever ideas it liked. Nous l’exprimons d’une façon diplomatique, mais après le Concile nous tirerons les conclusions implicites.25 It is a diplomatic style, that is, as the word itself implies, double, in which the text is formulated to accord with its interpretation, thus reversing the natural order of thinking and writing.

14 Concentration or attention.
15 Matthew, 13:13.
16 The foundations of the religious life are not in question, but the style of its realization. Report of the Union des Supérieurs de France, 3 vols. cited in Itinéraires, No. 155, 1971, p.43.
17 While giving birth.
18 Not concerning the belief itself, the dogmatic credentials of which are not contested by anyone, but as to its exact object, which does not necessarily include the miracle of giving birth without rupture of the body. See J.H. Nicolas, La virginité de Marie, Fribourg, Switzerland 1957, p.18, who argues against the unorthodox thesis of A. Mitterer, Dogma und Biologie, Vienna 1952.
19 Enclosure must be maintained, but it must be adapted according to circumstances of time and place. Supérieurs de France, op. cit.
20 French mais; English but; Italian ma.
21 Latin for more.
22 Osservatore Romano, 15 October 1980.
23 It is not a question of abandoning the demands of the Gospel, but of recognizing the possibility that all people can be reintegrated into the ecclesial community. Informations catholiques internationales, No.555, 13 October 1980, p.12.
24 Approfondimento in Italian, with a connotation of exploration and research.
25 We will express it in a diplomatic way, but after the council we will draw out the implicit conclusions. Statement by Fr. Schillebeeckx in the Dutch magazine De Bazuin, No.16, 1965, quoted in French translation in Itinéraires, No.155, 1971, p.40.



Expect to be on-line less, so have turned off meebo.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Albany Assessment 11

One difficulty with filing a Complaint on Real Property Assessment in Albany is that people get — or come away with — contradictory or apparently mistaken advice. An example of contradictory advice (or understanding of that advice) is that at a neighborhood meeting I was told that the City of Albany Department of Assessment and Taxation did not distinguish between one- and two-family row houses, and today a neighbor who owns a one-family row house told me that she was advised by the same department not to list two-family row houses among her comparables. An example of apparently mistaken advice is that in showing people how to fill out Form RP-524, employees at the Assessment and Taxation Department cross out Part Three, Sections B, C, and D. and tell people to just fill in Item 4 of Section A. UNEQUAL ASSESSMENT (Complete items 1–4). Now Section A appears to have to do with the percentage assessment of full value, whereas people are really complaining about excessive assessment, the apparent subject of Section B.

I do not say that the advice given by the Assessment and Taxation Department is contradictory or mistaken. I am saying that what people are coming away with appears to be contradictory or mistaken.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Lionel Trilling Remembrance

Ted told me that long ago an acquaintance of his, Rebecca Roth, was thinking about writing an essay about The Princess Casamassima. She heard that Lionel Trilling was also working on an essay, and wrote to him to ask if he thought she should continue. Trilling wrote back, saying yes, by all means, he thought she had something to contribute and sent her the only copy he had of his draft essay, asking that she send it back after reading it. She did send it back, but did not write her own essay, concluding that she did not in fact have much more to say that Trilling had not said better.

Ted contrasted this story with his own about Lionel Edel, according to Ted an unpleasant man, who he said complained to him that he had to rush into print an article about Henry James’ later years, because another scholar was writing about the same subject. Ted added the he couldn't imagine that Jacques Barzun would have acted as Edel apparently did.

In “George Orwell and the Politics of Truth” Trilling wrote about a somewhat similar occasion in which, however, he avoided sharing his thoughts:

It happened by a curious chance that on the day I agreed to write this essay as the introduction to the new edition of Homage to Catalonia, and indeed at the very moment that I was reaching for the telephone to tell the publisher that I would write it, a young man, a graduate student of mine, came in to see me, the purpose of his visit being to ask what I thought about his doing an essay on George Orwell. My answer, naturally, was ready, and when I had given it and we had been amused and pleased by the coincidence, he settled down for a chat about our common subject. But I asked him not to talk about Orwell. I didn’t want to dissipate in talk what ideas I had, and also I didn't want my ideas crossed with his, which were sure to be very good. So, for a while we merely exchanged bibliographical information, asking each other which of Orwell’s books we had read and which we owned. But then, as if he could not resist making at least one remark about Orwell himself, he said suddenly in a very simple and matter-of-fact way, “He was a virtuous man.” And we sat there agreeing at length about this statement, finding pleasure in talking about it.


Success and Failure of Councils

Comparisons between once council and another are dangerous, since one needs to specify in what respect the comparison is being made. If one looks to their practical effectiveness one will find that, for example, Lateran V (1512–1517) achieved nothing regarding the causa reformationis with which it was principally concerned, since its reforming decrees were a dead letter; but that its dogmatic decrees were important since they excluded neoaristotelianism, by condemning those who taught that the sould was mortal. Only a Trent were doctrinal clarification and practical measures equally signficant, but even Trent failed entirely in the causa unionis for which it had primarily been summoned.
— Roman Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, Paragraph 35.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Aging New

Nous vivons actuellement dans une société qui est « vieillissante », non pas tellement parce que la moyenne d’âge est plus élevée, mais parce que malgré l’invention constante de toutes sortes d’invention techniques nouvelles (au sens du mot grec neos) et de milliers de nouvelles formes de distraction (répondant à une acédie généralisée), il y a bien peu d’authentique nouveauté [kainos] dans la quête de sens et dans la profondeur des relations.
— Armand Veilleux, Voici que je fais toutes choses nouvelles


Mendacious Banality — and Hope

The secular mood and tone of the English we use in worship carry [the 1960s] into our times. Perhaps it sustains those who are still locked into its ideals, categories, and agenda. Some of these people are the loudest in decrying the work of Vox Clara and the new ICEL, perhaps because they sense that the existing language of ICEL is an echo of the mood of their era.

When liturgical language no longer speaks with dignity, reverence, and graciousness, we risk losing an essentially Catholic way of how we relate to God, how we understand God and ourselves as persons. The fathers at the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005 were concerned about this desacralized mood which undermines the praxis of liturgy today. In the Anglophone world, for nearly forty years, the banal ICEL language has gradually insinuated a kind of neutrality into the minds of millions of Catholics, dulling their Catholic sense of public worship and prayer, failing to nourish holiness or to promote sound spirituality. Partly through inadequate language, a desacralized atmosphere has been created in many of our churches, and it is less than Catholic. The loss of sacral language may be seen as a betrayal of the Second Vatican Council’s radiant vision of the liturgy. It can only serve the interests of what Pope Benedict XVI has identified as the false hermeneutic of the council.

That false hermeneutic is not restricted to theological faculties, rectories, or religious houses. Recently I discussed this dimension of truthfulness and the imminent translations with a wise friend who pointed out that some middle-aged and elderly laity will probably resent the new Vox Clara and ICEL texts, not because they are new, but because they will seem to be “a reversion to the past.” That will remind them that they are not living up to the doctrinal and moral norms of the Church, norms they want to consider locked in a past they never wish to see again. So we may also expect to hear the cry “archaisms!” or something similar from some lay people. Others accustomed to fast food may not wish to savor what is more substantial, subtle, and refined. Even if we find it hard to articulate exactly what happened, something went wrong in the language of Catholic worship, and that has caused harm among Christ’s faithful. . . .

Lying is a sin. Then, we may well ask, has our worship in the English language involved telling lies for nearly forty years? I regret to say that to a certain extent it has. This is evident, first, in many demonstrable instances at the obvious level of mistranslation through omission, distortion, or the blurring of language that bears doctrinal truth. Secondly, it may be discerned in more subtle ways – as the undermining of the truth of the mystery and above all as the creation of a dull mood that drains away the truth of Christian worship. This is why it is important to redefine the debate between the two contrasting ICEL translations in ethical terms.

Those running a rearguard action to salvage as much of the old ICEL as possible should face some ethical challenges. It is all very well now to take up the rhetoric about being ‘pastorally sensitive’ to the people. There was not a word of that over thirty years ago when a hastily mistranslated liturgy robbed the people of much of their Catholic cultural and spiritual heritage. Here the ethic of strategic mistranslation enters a domain closely related to lying: stealing. Much is rightly made of robbing people of their ethnic, indigenous, or spiritual cultures, but something like this has been going on quietly among English-speaking Catholics for years, through the banal, but calculated, ICEL translations.

— Peter J. Elliott, Liturgical Translation:A Question of Truth, Antiphon, 10:3 (2006)

But Msgr. (and Bishop-elect) Elliott concludes hopefully:

Now is the time to look forward and “wait in joyful hope,” if I may use one of the old ICEL’s more felicitous phrases. Something better is emerging in this area of English liturgical language, a significant development that may also make it possible to face the wider challenges of an inevitable reform of the reform. Through the new
translations, we hope to see something of the glory of the liturgy shine once more. May we recover the divine splendor of the truth, on the lips, in the minds, and in the hearts of a people worshipping the triune God “in spirit and in truth.”

Yet the lie was and is a great evil, for as Romano Amerio wrote:

The Church is only in danger of perishing if she loses the truth, not if she fails to live up to it.
— Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, Paragraph 14.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bread and Circuses

There will naturally be games — like the Roman circenses — but who could dignfiy the amusements for the masses under the name of festival?
— Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture

I suppose everyone will agree that bowls and March Madness are more like circuses than festivals. So also, I suppose the Olympics and the World Series, as is shown when something tragic happens and we are told that this other thing is what is really important. Neither are arts festivals really important. Worshipping God would seem to be really important. Why do people give so little time and attention to what they acknowledge as really important?

To work is to pray, said Carlyle, in whose writings the following statement can be read: Fundamentally speaking, all genuine work is religion, and every religion that is not work can go and live with the Brahmins, the Antinomians, and the Whirling Dervishes. Would anyone want to say that this is merely a marginal opinion from the nineteenth century, expressed in pathetic terms, and not rather the very state of mind of the total world of work, which our world is preparing to become?
— Josef Pieper, Ibid.

Our own clichéd (and also apparently nineteenth century) way of agreeing with Carlyle is to praise someone for doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

There are certain things which one cannot do in order to . . . do something else. One either does not do them at all or one does them because they are meaningful in themselves. Certainly the doctors are correct in saying that lack of leisure makes one ill. But at the same time, it is impossible to be truly at leisure merely for the sake of health. Such logical confusion is not only unfitting, it simply cannot work. Leisure cannot be realized so long as one understands it to be a means, even if a means to the end of rescuing the culture of Christian Europe. The celebration of God’s praises cannot be realized unless it takes place for its own sake. But this — the most noble form of harmony with the world as a whole — is the deepest source of leisure.
— Josef Pieper, Ibid.,


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Every ought is ground in an is

Every ought is grounded in an is; the good is what corresponds to reality. If anyone wants to know and do the good, he must direct his gaze to the objective world of being; not to his own mind, not to his own conscience, not to values, nor to ideals or paradigms he has himself drawn up. He must look away from his own act and toward reality.
— Josef Pieper, No One Could Have Known

And if is is I Am Who Am, why consult myself?

Ad Orientem

I am glad to see in the film Into Great Silence that at the Grande Chartreuse Mass is celebrated ad orientem, even with the monks surrounding the altar.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

To Be Contemporary

The common discourse on modern church architecture, it seems to me, regularly uses the notion of what is contemporary in too narrow a sense. Those who explicitly insist on being of today should indeed expect that tomorrow they will be considered of yesterday. The Christian immersed in the life rhythm of the Church claims much larger dimensions for his today, in geographical space as well as historical time. I think of the Requiem Mass for my brother inside the rotunda of St. Micael's in Fulda, a church dating back eleven hundred years. I think of the High Mass in Notre Dame on the feast of Corpus Christi, when the sequence Lauda Sion made me suddenly aware that a professor at the Paris university, Thomas Aquinas, had composed these lines seven hundred years earlier, and that he might have listened to its first recital in this very same cathedral.

And I think of a Mass in 1963, inside the church built by one of Antonio Gaudi’s students in memory of the martyrs of Nagasaki, a building rich in visual symbolism, with steeples reaching like two bare arms into the same sky out of which had fallen, in 1945, the atomic bomb. All this, undoubtedly, belongs to my own today: the Gregorian chant, the traditional words, and also the church buildings! What is the unifying principle here, tying together all these thoroughly different buildings, bridging distances of a thousand years, and making them truly contemporary? It is alone the fact that every one of these buildings, right from the beginning, had been conceived and erected as shelter for the one and ever identical sacred action that makes such a building, in name and in fact, an aedes sacra a sacred space.

— Josef Pieper, In Search of the Sacred

New and New

Dans le grec biblique l’idée de nouveauté est exprimée par deux mots: neos et kainos. Le premier de ces deux mots désigne simplement ce qui est nouveau dans le temps: un nouveau-né, par exemple. Cela implique jeunesse et donc aussi manque de maturité. Le deuxième mot: kainos, kainè, (celui qui est utilisé dans notre texte de l’Apocalypse qui parle de terre nouvelle, de création nouvelle, de Jérusalem nouvelle, etc.) signifie quelque chose de nouveau dans sa nature, dans son essence, donc quelque chose de meilleur, de plus accompli.
— ArmandVeilleux, Voici que je fais toutes choses nouvelles

In Persona Christi

When I say in the course of a conversation, To be or not to be — that is the question, I quote Shakespeare. But the actor on the stage, pronouncing the same words, does not quote Shakespeare or any of his creations; he rather speaks and acts in the person of Hamlet, whom he personifies. Even more accurately, he does not speak and act in place of Hamlet but rather identifies with him in a certain sense; he speaks and acts as Hamlet.

Christian theology has accepted this particular expression in all innocence in order to emphasize through it the special relationship between the ordained priest and the person of Christ.

— Josef Pieper, In Search of the Sacred

For this reason is it a much more serious matter than simply bad judgment or poor style when the priest at the altar greets the congregation like a good buddy, using some conventional commonplace — something a serious actor, for instance, would never do onstage. The same has to be said regarding the priest who after the liturgy, still dressed in his vestments, joins the chatting groups of people outside the church to discuss the weather and the latest news. An American friend from New Mexico and I had some common experiences in this regard. He was fluent in Spanish and after years of study an expert on this subject. He told me — and this contrasts with the preceding remarks — that the Indians, many of whom were his personal friends, would ignore him as soon as they had donned their ceremonial robes and would not engage in their usual friendly conversation with him.

— Josef Pieper, Ibid.



“At the end of the day, the reason for the Reformation was the debate over justification. If that is no longer an issue, I have to be Catholic,” Beckwith said. “It seems to me that if there is not a very strong reason to be Protestant, then the default position should be to belong to the historic church.”
—Washington Post, Saturday, May 12, 2007

and the Catholic Church

New and Old

The New Testament derives its titles for ecclesiastical offices not from the Jewish or Gentile cultic terminology of the time but from the secular realm of the political order. This proven fact, however, in my opinion, does not carry such an obvious significance as is frequently supposed. The intention evidently was to prevent all possibility of confusing the new Christian dispensation with the Mosaic rites of the temple or, even more importantly, with pagan cultic terms. Does not every “first generation” find itself in such a unique situtation, its identity precarious and threatened? I know of a European Catholic missionary, working for decades in India, who had the sacred om of Hinduism (in Bengal script rendered with three letters) engraved on the bse of his chalice as a symbol of the Trinity. Yet for a newly converted Hindu this would be inappropriate. His first and decisive concern has to concentrate on living out and clarifying the radically new demands of his young Christian faith, and so he must first turn away entirely from his “former” ways and avoid confusion between the “new” and the “old”.

The missionary, in contrast, can afford to be open-minded in this respect since his faith is not imperiled here; he is right in emphasizing common ground in spite of all differences. And since in the celebration of the Christian mysteries the rites of the temple and all pagan cults were not only supplanted but at the same time purified, corrected, perfected, and fulfilled, it became possible for later generations in the early Church, rightfully and in all sincerity, to adopt into their own language quite a number of expressions from Jewish as well as pagan rituals, without having to fear confusing misconceptions anymore.

We should point out here, in passing, as it were, that we no longer have any direct knowledge about the “connotations”, the contexts and implications, of those designations taken from the political sphere, or of how they were used in the living language of the first century. Those, however, who nowadays speak of the bishop as the “supervisor”, or the priest as the “presider at the Eucharistic assembly”, are simply using a stylish “jargon” aimed not so much as defining a situation as at hitting an opposing position.

— Josef Pieper, In Search of the Sacred

This is a good explanation of the “lateness” of some “ancient” Christian feasts, as well as a caution against “arguing from history”.

Formality in Liturgy

The strict formality of all sacred “language” (gestures, signs, words) . . . is not only necessitated by the communal character of the sacred action, though it is true that free improvisation, on the spur of the moment, would always be the action of the individual only. No, such formality has perhaps more to do with an inherent quality of not being at any one’s disposal, the same way a completed poem may not be changed at will.
— Josef Pieper, In Search of the Sacred

This perhaps helps one to see that the Sacrifice of the Mass is one with Christ’s sacrifice.

The “doing” action of the liturgist corresponds to the analogous “contemplating” coaction of the congregation.
— Ibid.

This should be read in the light of Guardini: Looking as a Liturgical Act.

Mysteries of the Occult

by Mary Murphy

Read and hear.


Don’t know how long I'll keep it, but after having dinner with Jake and Irina I put a meebo box in this blog and on MurphyWong. I am usually offline — will this serve as an answering machine?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Albany Assessment Statistics

Here are some statisics on 1- and 2- family residences assessed at less than $10,000,000.

To see residential properties assessed at $10,000,000 or more, try Search for Comparable Albany NY Residential Properties.

The 19,964 properties found are 93% of the 21,245 properties in the City of Albany Residential Inventory.


Dividing the total assessment by the total SFLA gives $94.32 /SFLA.


And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
— Luke 16:31

And if they hear not one who rose from the dead, neither will they be persuaded by yours truly.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cross and Crucifix

A renewed shock went through the anti-clerical party on finding that the Cross was a Crucifix. This represented, to many amiable and professedly moderate Nonconformists and other Protestants, exactly that extra touch that they could not tolerate. The distinction is all the more clearly to be kept in mind because it is, on the face of it, an entirely irrational distinction. The sort of Evangelical who demands what he calls a Living Christ must surely find it difficult to reconcile with his religion an indifference to a Dying Christ; but anyhow one would think he would prefer it to a Dead Cross. To salute the Cross in that sense is literally to bow down to wood and stone; since it is only an image in stone of something that was made of wood. It is surely less idolatrous to salute the Incarnate God or His image;
—G. K. Chesterton, Autobiography

The image of Jesus is now quite lost. Perhaps our artists can no longer see it. I thought some years ago that I heard it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Sermon

“No, Miller, I don’t myself think much of science as a phase of human development. It has given us a lot of ingenious toys; they take our attention away from the real problems, of course, and since the problems are insoluble, I suppose we ought to be grateful for distraction. But the fact is, the human mind, the individual mind, has always been made more interesting by dwelling on the old riddles, even if it makes nothing of them. Science hasn’t given us any new amazements, except of the superficial kind we get from witnessing dexterity and sleight-of-hand. It hasn’t given us any richer pleasures, as the Renaissance did, nor any new sins — not one! Indeed, it takes our old ones away. It’s the laboratory, not the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. You’ll agree there is not much thrill about a physiological sin. We were better off when even the prosaic matter of taking nourishment could have the magnificence of a sin. I don’t think you help people by making their conduct of no importance — you impoverish them. As long as every man and woman who crowded into the cathedrals on Easter Sunday was a principal in a gorgeous drama with God, glittering angels on one side and the shadows of evil coming and going on the other, life was a rich thing. The king and the beggar had the same chance at miracles and great temptations and revelations. And that’s what makes men happy, believing in the mystery and importance of their own individual lives. It makes us happy to surround our creature needs and bodily instincts with as much pomp and circumstance as possible. Art and religion (they are the same thing, in the end, of course) have given man the only happiness he has ever had.

“Moses learned the importance of that in the Egyptian court, and when he wanted to make a population of slaves into an independent people in the shortest possible time, he invented elaborate ceremonials to give them a feeling of dignity and purpose. Every act had some imaginative end. The cutting of the finger nails was a religious observance. The Christian theologians went over the books of the Law, like great artists, getting splendid effects by excision. They reset the stage with more space and mystery, throwing all the light upon a few sins of great dramatic value — only seven, you remember, and of those only three that are perpetually enthralling. With the theologians came the cathedral-builders; the sculptors and glass-workers and painters. They might, without sacrilege, have changed the prayer a little and said, Thy will be done in art, as it is in heaven. How can it be done anywhere else as it is in heaven? But I think the hour is up. You might tell me next week, Miller, what you think science has done for us, besides making us very comfortable."

— Professor St. Peter, in Willa Cather,The Professor’s House, Book I, Chapter 5.

Besides making us very comfortable — well, perhaps it no longer does this — science has provided cures and, if not everlasting, at least extended life, the “miracles” like those of Jesus which caused his disciples to believe on him.

Albany Assessment 10

This morning the Albany Assessment and Taxation Commissioner Keith McDonald told me that many properties in Center Square may have underestimated SFLA because property owners would not permit inspection (why should a property owner be rewarded for non-cooperation?), and that the Board of Assessment Review was aware of this. How to use this acknowledgment of underestimation is another matter. I asked for “Residential Building Updates” on a number of properties. Tomorrow I'll pick the RBUs up and discuss with Mr. McDonald if the information in them can be used in my complaint.

Meanwhile, needless to say, many property owners are “blinding” their basement windows, so that one cannot visually ascertain if the basements are being used as “living area.”

It all seems very unfair.

Related to SFLA, Mr. McDonald confirmed that it is measured from the outside, and therefore includes exterior walls, hallways, stairs, closets, chimneys, etc.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Albany Assessment 9

Attended a neighborhood meeting at First Presbyterian Church. People complained about, among other things, inconsistencies and errors in determining SFLAs (Square Feet of Living Area) of properties. Since the basis of appealing one’s assessment is to show nearby properties with higher SFLAs and lower assessments, these inconsistencies and errors make appealing complicated. A couple of people said there should be a class action suit against the city, but no lawyer stood up. A person did say that if the Board of Assessment Review did not grant one's appeal, one should sue the city in small claims court and one will probably win.

Added the two blocks of Spring Street and the first block of Henry Johnson Boulevard to my Center Square + Hudson/Park version of my assessments program.

Not for Naught

I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. . . . If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
— John Henry Newman, quoted in Thomas D. Williams, Spiritual Progress


Pragmatism in Practice

Chesterton gives a stunning example in his Autobiography. People in his small town wanted to put up a war memorial. After raising the money, some decided it would be “more practical” to build a meeting hall. The new proposal split the community. Chesterton comments:

If people thought it wrong to have a memory of the war, let them say so. If they did not approve of wasting money on a War Memorial, let us scrap the War Memorial and save the money. But to do something totally different which we wanted to do, was unworthy of Homo Sapiens. . . . I got some converts to my view: but I think that many still thought that I was not practical; though in fact I was very specially practical, for those who understand what is really meant by Pragma. The most practical test of the problem of unmemorial memorials was offered by the Rector of Beaconsfield, who got up and said: ”We already have a ward in the Wycombe Hospital which was supposed to commemorate something. Can anybody here tell me what it commemorates?”

The case is worth a moment’s attention to the pattern it reveals. Discerning the pragma usually requires that we pull apart old links: the townspeople thought of a meeting hall as practical (because you can meet there endlessly) and of a war memorial as unpractical (because you can only look at it). But a monument does memorialize and a hall does not; therefore the bronze group of soldiers (“with an officer about to hurl his binoculars at the post office”) is practical for the stated purpose.

— Jacques Barzun, A Stroll with William James, 1983, 98

Now if the purpose of a Catholic church is to remember Jesus, how should it be built?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Center Square + Hudson / Park

The Knowledge of Dead Men

For myself, I knew I could never master the Church Fathers within my lifetime, so I decided simply to trust Newman’s judgment that the claims of Catholicism are consonant with the patritic testimony. Newman certainly knew the Fathers better than most men, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox.
Fr Alvin Kimel, in a Comment to Francis J. Beckwith, My Return to the Catholic Church

More and more one comes across the recognition that some who are now dead knew more about things worth knowing than some who are now liviing.

Islam Divided

The fracture line that traverses Afghan Islam permits one to understand why, for example, between the Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo and his young Afghan interpreter, Adjmal Nashqbandi, both kidnapped last March, the former was set free, while the latter was assassinated. . . . In the abduction of Daniele Mastrogiacomo and his intepreter, Adjmal Nashqbandi, it is probably the origin of the latter that favored the tragic outcome of the affair: for the Taliban, the Sufi world represents the adversary par excellence, to be fought and eliminated, precisely because mystical Islam contains the alternative to political Islam.
— Khaled Fouad Allam, quoted in Sandro Magister, Why the Real War Is Inside Islam


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Romano Amerio on Liturgy

The principle of creativity stems from the false presupposition that the liturgy ought to express the feelings of the faithful, and that it is something that they themselves produce. What it really expresses is the mystery of Christ, Christ being the true source of the liturgy. The new view implicitly reduces the liturgy to the level of poetry (p. 632).

The policy of creativity, which is intended to make the liturgy “more lively and participatory” produces two effects. Firstly, it changes a sacred action into a theatrical display. Secondly, it changes the celebrant’s activity into something private, or idiosyncratic, when in fact it always has a public and social character, even when it takes place in private (p. 633).

— Romano Amerio, quoted in Father Peter Joseph, review of OTA UNUM: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century, by Romano Amerio (English translation by Fr John Parsons)

One often gets the impression from liturgists that for them the body of Christ assembled in a church is more Christ than Christ himself.

Read also Sandro Magister, “La Civiltà Cattolica” Breaks the Silence – On Romano Amerio.

Dominican Idaho seems about to give excerpts from Amerio’s Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century.

Francis Beckwith’s Return to the Catholic Church

. . . I thought it wise for me to err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians that followed Christ’s Apostles.
— Francis J. Beckwith, My Return to the Catholic Church

Yesterday, Dr. Beckwith resigned as President of the Evangelical Theological Society.

See also personal home page of francis j. beckwith.

How grateful one is to catch a glimpse of the Holy Spirit acting on the heart and mind of another. One of the many comments is apparently from one of Professor Beckwith’s brothers:

I have known Frank Beckwith for nearly 40 years and have never met anyone with a greater love for Christ. Frank’s love for Jesus is not just found in is heart and soul though, but in his mind. His intellectual quest, which began as a teenager, has guided his entire life. I know that this decision only happened after much thought, research, and prayer.

I never doubted that this day would come, though I prayed often for it. I want to welcome you home to the Church that Christ created (Matt 16: 18-19) and let you know that the Dayton Beckwiths all love you and Frankie dearly.

You, my brother, are my hero.

Posted by: Patrick Beckwith | May 6, 2007 9:18 PM


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Why you pretend to like modern art

Spengler, May 1, 2007:

In their urge toward self-worship, the artists of the 20th century descended to extreme levels of artlessness to persuade themselves that they were in fact creative. In their compulsion to worship themselves in the absence of God, they produced ideas far more ridiculous, and certainly a great deal uglier, than revealed religion in all its weaknesses ever contrived. The modern cult of individual self-expression is a poor substitute for the religion it strove to replace, and the delusion of personal creativity an even worse substitute for redemption.

Fr.Glenn Sudano, CFR, May 3, 2007:

I can only speak for myself, but the way I see it, the spiritual crisis in the world continues to deepen. We can see that in many ways people are choosing two opposite paths. Yet, there are many, too many, who are standing with one foot on the shores of illusion and the other on the boat of truth. As the world continues to journey into the new millennium, no doubt the pain of straddling will become unbearable. Many will be forced to make a choice. This is why we must pray and preach the gospel. This is not a time to be afraid, but rather to be courageous and take a step which others call crazy. May God give each of us the grace to not keep one foot on shore, but to step aboard the barc of Peter where Christ is Captain. Yes, the world’s only sane asylum!


Pottery Fest

Went the Pottery Fest at the Shaker Site in Colonie to see pots by Michael McCarthy. Asked him if he would make a casserole for us. While there also heard Jim Gaudet sing with his group.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Recital

by Mary Murphy

Hear and read.

Into Great Silence


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Albany Assessment 8

A tour of the Center Square neighborhood seems to show that the majority of residences have basements that are being “lived in.” If these lived-in spaces are not included in the Residential Inventory SFLA (square feet of living area) of many of the residences, then owners of residences like ours, which have basements unsuitable for living in, are being treated unfairly, since assessments are to a great extent based on SFLA.

For Center Square + Hudson/Park assessment help, try Search for Comparable CS + H/P Residential Properties.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Professor’s House

Am reading to Ted Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House, in Ted’s own copy, with his notes that I studiously avoid looking at.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Albany Assessment 7

It may be useful to find residential properties assessed slightly higher than yours but with much higher SFLA (square feet of living area). I have found properties near ours that our assesed at less than 5% above our assessment but have 20% to 50% more SFLA than ours does.

Use: Search for Comparable Albany NY Residential Properties