December 25, 2004

Joyeux Noël

Il est né, le divin enfant. . .
chantons tous son evenement.

May Jesus, as infant Son of God, dwell with you in this season and throughout the year.

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December 24, 2004

Preliminary Perspective on Sister Malone's Book

I should have guessed as much given the title with "Labyrinth" as a keyword. But putting that aside, I thought perhaps there would be something here for me. However, at every turn I bump up against one or more absurdities--things I shouldn't mind so much, but do.

For example, about twenty pages into the book Sister Malone gives us an outline of the history of reading. And what to my wonder eyes should appear but the date of 1000 C.E. I know it is a little thing, but why can't a nun, one sworn and betrothed to Christ, run against the PC culture and call it what it is--Anno Domini A.D. It is no more a common era than it is anything else. This was simply a PC disguise for the fact that the world's dominant cultures date all things from the appearance of one Man who was also God. That appearance that we honor this evening and tomorrow is dishonored by caving in, for whatever reasons, to the idiocy of academia.

I'm sure I will find other sore points as I continue. Perhaps I would do better were I to forget that this is supposedly one of Christ's Brides, and think of her rather as a curmudgeonly old lady professor who, like Harriet Vane, has something to prove by what she writes. I'll try that and let you know how it goes.

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Speaking of Schism

One really must hand it to Episcopalian Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia. Recently he was quoted as saying that when it comes to a choice between heresy and schism, one should always choose heresy. In fact, whether we like it or not, one must at least respect the integrity of those who are in schism. Why would you want to hang around a Church that didn't have a handle on the truth as far as you were concerned? Why would you wish to consent to heresy--to secure integrity? Well, you might be integral in one sense (unified) but unified in error that condemns all. Why can't the leaders of Churches see and understand this? It is quite a sobering spectacle to see a Bishop condoning, indeed, for the sake of unity, encouraging, heresy. Thank goodness tonight we celebrate Him who makes all things One.

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More Catholic than the Pope

More Catholic than the Pope
Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere

Bought this on a whim yesterday. I've been accosted by the various arguments of the ultratraditionalist/schimatic crowd and had not even realized that these were some of the pervasive themes of discontent. Perhaps you've seen them as well--"Vatican II wasn't a doctrinal council, merely a pastoral council, " etc. The first time I encountered this, I hadn't the foggiest notion that there was such a distinction (as Madrid and Vere explain, there isn't) and didn't know what to make of it even if there were.

This book is a mite too technical for me. Mr. Vere is a canon lawyer, and the first half of the book is a detailed description of exactly what went on in the establishment of SSPX and the schism of Archbishop Lebfevre. (And, schism it was by any version of Canon law you care to use for analysis.) They also explain the phenomenon of Campos, Brazil (a former SSPX diocese reunited with the Catholic Church).

The second part of the book is an exposition of several arguments used against the Catholic Church by SSPX adherents. For example, the St. Pius V edict assuring the availability of the Tridentine Mass in perpetuity, the "heresy" of Paul VI (implicity I suppose of John XXIII) and of John Paul II (often compared to the "heresy" of Pope St. Liberius, etc.).

What was nice about this book is that it clarified for me certain points that I have seen made by the adherents of SSPX. What it doesn't really provide, and cannot in the scope of so short a study is the psychology behind it. This must come from the extreme traditionalists themselves. (And I assume that the "extreme traditionalists" that Madrid and Vere refer to are, in fact, schimatics of various stripes--not those who while remaining within the Church and loyal to Rome demand access to the wonderful treasury of riches that is the Tridentine Mass.

What I fail to understand, and what I would like to see more of a discussion of, is why the Tridentine Mass was suppressed in the first place. That seems to have been a major tactical error on the part of the Council--or perhaps a usurpation of the council's good meaning by those who had in mind a new agenda. I suppose I shouldn't speculate as to reason, given that I have a very poor understanding of events overall.

That leads me to another point that I hope bodes well for my own diocese. Our Bishop (a good, weak man) has recently retired and the Adjutator Bishop recently had been installed (or perhaps will be installed--much goes on at that level that I am out of touch with). It is my profound hope that this changing of the guard will allow us to have established within the diocese at least one place at which one might attend the Traditional Latin Mass, and thus I would finally have an experience of it. We'll see.

Anyway, back to the book--for those interested in the division caused by Archbishop Lefebvre and the canon law and statues surrounding it, this book is an excellent, beginning resource. I found some of the "what if" scenarios a tad wearisome, but I don't think I was the intended audience for them. Messers Madrid and Vere are speaking to people like me, but one of the real audiences for this book are those who are considering abandoning the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church for the preservation of a cherished past. Nevertheless, the book overall is quite fine and does provide a reasonable and interesting assessment of the Lefebvre affair and its schismatic aftermath.

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A Momentary Taste of Being

Probably shouldn't be posting today in consideration of the day; however, my brain has had a moment to decompress, and so I'm inclined to put some stuff up. Probably not much because I have to be about our various Christmas decorations. But something more.

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December 23, 2004

Via Mixolydian Mode

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

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December 22, 2004

On Libraries

How is this for a quotation:

"Libraries will survive the digital revolution because they are places of sensuality and power"

or this:

"'I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,' wrote Jorge Luis Borges, poet, writer and librarian, who understood better than most the essential physicality of books."


See the source.

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Henry James

(As if you care.)

I know, you mention his name to clear out the room. However, the plan of my reading is comprehensive and evolutionary. There was a time in which the mention of James would have sent me running. But I find that James and Hawthorne are presently figures I am returning to again and again. Despite certain similarities in complexity of style, there could not be two more different writers or two more different sensibilities.

Compare, for example, a couple of the masterworks from each The Scarlet Letter and The Golden Bowl. Now, I could probably find two works that had more in common, but there is enough here for the cursory note I want to make. The stories are vaguely similar about distorted and "illicit" love affairs that effect the lives of more than the two or three involved. But James is a psychological realist--to the point where the figures in The Golden Bowl become almost avatars of the psychology within. I remember in reading the book my impression that there were four or five people floating in a cloud of their own anxieties and competition through a ghost-like world. There was no real sense of anchoring in events. I remember hearing about someone making a movie of the book and I thought, "How in the world could they do that?"

Edith Wharton famously commented on The Golden Bowl. She asked the James why his more recent work seem to be so lacking in atmosphere and were ‘more and more severed from that thick nourishing human air in which we all live and move.’

Of The Golden Bowl itself she asked, ‘What sort of life did they lead when they were not watching each other and fencing with each other? Why have you stripped them of all the human fringes we necessarily trail after us through life?’ James looked at her in pained surprise and she wished she had not asked the question. He thought a while and then, plainly disturbed, said, ‘My dear, I didn’t know I had.’” (Quotation from A Backward Glance. (found here)

In some ways, this exactly describes my experience of reading The Golden Bowl and yet, something of the book lingers in my mind several years after the initial read. And this is what I find of the very best of James's work--it is very difficult going, but it stays with you, hauntingly and suggestively and gives other experiences a richer, more robust, more three dimensional feel.

Hawthorne on the other hand, a interesting and subtly amusing prose stylist is the antithesis. He is a romantic, writing romantic tales in romantic mode. In fact, he refers to his novels as romances, and each that I have read is indeed such. While one can sympathize with Hester Prynne, or can follow and believe incidents of The House of the Seven Gables, these are romances. They offer no great insight into life or into how people function, nor are they intended to. They serve more to entertain, amuse, and perhaps act in some cases as allegories.

James admired Hawthorne. Some of his later prose reflects the complexities of Hawthorne's style. Henry James is not easy to read. But reading James is a source of infinite delight and joy. It is also a source of profound frustration. One wishes to fashion sentences like Henry James's. One wants to produce characters as memorable as Quint, Isabel Archer, or Daisy Miller. One want to be able to capture the atmosphere and meaning of "Altar of the Dead," or to be able to recount with as deft a hand the conflict imbedded in The Spoils of Poynton. James is one of those writer relegated to the backs of shelves and to hidden places and times. It's a shame because reading his work is more profoundly affecting than almost any other writer of the time. The paths he explored and the details he noted in human behavior have never since (nor for that matter before) been so successfully recounted. Part of the breathlessness and the "closed" feeling of The Golden Bowl comes not from any deliberate exclusion on James's part, but on the laser-like focus on the state of the four main characters involved in a twisted dance of selfishness and despair.

I suppose that I think of James because one of his great stories "The Turn of the Screw" is the exemplar of a category of "Christmas Ghost Stories" that start in the telling at a club. Robertson Davies in High Spirits seems to take some of his inspiration from James. Stephen King says as much in Four Seasons when introducing the last tale of the book. James may be in some ways out of date and out of fashion, but what he has to say is not confined to any time, and his neglect is due more to the progressive deterioration of the art of reading and the impulse to use reading as recreation and escape rather than as a learning experience. I suppose it is the inevitable result of the training of generations of children in the reading of substandard multi-culti literature. It is a shame that great figures of the past can no longer command attention merely because of their race and sex. In more enlightened times such an attitude would have been labeled, parochial, or perhaps even sexist.

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Please continue prayers for one of St. Blogs' own who is searching for employment. One of the interviews is looking very good.

Please pray for Dylan and his return to us.

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December 21, 2004


For one determinedly searching for employment and interviewing on a very regular basis.

For Katherine as she approaches the joyous birth of her child.

For CNG that the opportunity come through in time.

For Dylan who remains sorely missed.

For me--circumstances to be detailed at some later date.

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A Spirituality of Reading

This link thanks to Neil, gives some insight to the thought about the spirituality of reading. I think there is much here that may inspire hope for those who feel hopelessly left out of the contemplative world. Perhaps more later.

Reading with New Eyes
Nancy Malone, OSU (Ursuline Sisters)

I suspect that lots of people who love reading have a sense there is something spiritual about it. That was my hunch when I started thinking about "a spirituality of reading." The hunch was based on two simple observations. One, that the acts of reading and of contemplation share many of the same characteristics: Both are usually done alone, in silence and physical stillness, our attention focused, our whole selves - body, mind, and hearts - engaged. And two, that reading scripture and the lives of the saints played a significant part in the conversions of St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. I wanted to explore the spiritual value to be found not so much in reading "holy books," however, but in good books of all kinds - novels, poetry, biography, history, short stories.

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