Circles for Pentecost
Life is a gift. The Giver is greater than the gift. It is all right to die. So ends this blog.
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
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’
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.
50. Novel hermenutic of the Council, continued.Circiterisms.Use of the conjunctionbut.
Thecirciterismis 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 tothe 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 thatcirciterismswere 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.
14Concentration or attention.
15 Matthew, 13:13.
16The 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.
17While giving birth.
18Not 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; Englishbut; Italian ma.
21 Latin formore.
22 Osservatore Romano, 15 October 1980.
23It 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.
25We 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.
Complaint on Real Property Assessmentin 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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.”
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.
There will naturally begames— like the Roman circenses — but who could dignfiy the amusements for the masses under the name offestival?
— Josef Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture
March Madnessare 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
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 wild is preparing to become?
— Josef Pieper, Ibid.
ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
There are certain things which one cannot doin 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 ofrescuing 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.,
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
modernchurch architecture, it seems to me, regularly uses the notion of what is
contemporaryin too narrow a sense. Those who explicitly insist on being
of todayshould 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.
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 actionthat makes such a building, in name and in fact, an aedes sacra a sacred space.
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 notquoteShakespeare or any of his creations; he rather speaks and actsin the personof Hamlet, whom hepersonifies. Even more accurately, he does not speak and actin place of Hamletbut rather identifies with him in a certain sense; he speaks and actsas 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 agood 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
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
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
The “doing” action of the liturgist corresponds to the analogous “contemplating” coaction of the congregation.
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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
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)
. . . 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
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
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.
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!