To Pray for the Christians of Egypt

Back in January, I asked you to pray for the people of Egypt. Remember those heady days when revolution was in the air? And then the domino effect started rippling through the entire Middle East.

Will it all end in tolerant and freedom nurturing democratic republics? Where the rule-of-law supercedes the tyranny of authoritarian dictatorship? I pray it does, especially for the peace-loving people of Egypt.

But our Christian brothers and sisters there need our prayers. In fact, all Christians living in the Middle East, and wherever they are oppressed across the globe, need our prayers and support.

This report from Egypt is fraught with both peril and promise,

Further political success may come the Muslim Brotherhood’s way. The interim military government which followed Mubarak has announced parliamentary elections in September and presidential elections two months later. Reflecting on the potentially huge political changes to come, one bishop told us: “Under Mubarak the Muslim Brothers were under Gestapo control; they were underground. Now they are very visible. They may get up to half the seats in the next election. This is a great concern for us. There was a strong message awaiting us when we met Coptic Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib in his office in Cairo. A gentle, self-effacing man, Patriarch Naguib wasted no time in saying: “Now is the moment to really participate in the evolution of society. What matters is to have confidence in our beliefs and to have the strength to express our message.”

The problem for Patriarch Naguib is that the Catholic Church in Egypt is small and lacks influence. With a total of 250,000 faithful, Coptic Catholics are dwarfed by their Coptic Orthodox cousins, who number more than eight million. Senior Church figures in Cairo with close Vatican links indicated that when Mubarak’s regime wanted a Christian perspective on an issue it rarely, if ever, turned to the Catholic community. In any case, relations between the two churches are tense. Doctrinal differences may be few but pastoral problems abound, with Coptic Orthodox leaders demanding re-baptism of Catholics wishing to marry a member of their Church. One evening as we tour Upper Egypt we visited a Catholic church under construction. We learned that work had been halted for two years after local Orthodox leaders and their community had complained to the local planning authorities.

But change on such a seismic scale could yet help to break down the walls of division between the two churches. Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III’s ill-fated decision to publicly back President Mubarak in the early days of the so-called January 25 Revolution resulted in his faithful defying his orders; they continued to protest in favour of political change. Senior clergy told us that since that fateful time the Orthodox lay faithful have increasingly broken ranks from their bishops, sensing that the moment is theirs. Indeed, social change runs far deeper than ever could be realised by the likes of us foreigners visiting the country for a brief period. Egypt’s high birth-rate (the average age in Egypt is about 24) means that the country’s entire infrastructure is playing “catch up” as Egypt tries to keep pace with a massively expanding population.

Read the entire report on the ground there by the UK branch of Aid to the Church in Need. Please send them your support and prayers. Because without the Cross, there is no freedom.

To Join the Ayn Rand Busters? To Be A Hero? I’m In!

Hey, look at the calendar. The election cycle is coming around again! Time to check our brains at the door and just go with our gut feelings. Embrace fuzzy math concepts like 1 + 1 = 3.18275. Stuff like that.

Forget the real substantive issues we can actually do something about, like fixing Social Security’s looming bankruptcy, and instead focus on bankrupting ourselves by bombing Yemen. Sweet! [Read more...]

Alan Rubin, Mr. Fabulous, Requiescat In Pace

I heard the news today that Alan Rubin, aka “Mr. Fabulous”, has passed away. Rubin was the trumpeter in the legendary, and Vatican-approved, Blues Brothers band.

Here is the official word from the Los Angeles Times obituary page,

Trumpet player Alan Rubin was recruited to join the Blues Brothers after backing up John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the “Saturday Night Live” television skits that spawned the band in the late 1970s.

One of many gifted session musicians in the group, Rubin became known for his movie portrayal of head waiter Mr. Fabulous in 1980′s “The Blues Brothers” and a 1998 sequel.

Rubin died Wednesday of lung cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said his wife, Mary Moreno Rubin. He was 68.

He was a premier New York City session musician who was “sought out for his expertise in playing every style of music — from classical to jazz to blues to rock and disco — authentically and artistically,” the Original Blues Brothers Band said in a statement.

When asked about his professional biography, Rubin liked to say: “Been everywhere, played with everyone.”

Read the rest here. Remember this scene with Rubin?

Here he is backing up Jake and Elwood with the rest of “the Band,” ahem, and the constabulary of the Greater Chicago area. Did I mention the Nazi Brownshirts too? The whole clip is available at You Tube. Below is a snippet.

http://www.wat.tv/swf2/283092nIc0K114958939

Ow…That dude could play. Say a prayer for Mr. Rubin’s soul, and also for his loved ones who mourn their loss. Thanks for the music Alan, and thanks for the memories!

Because the Church was Catholic at Pentecost

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a message brought to you by The Church Triumphant. Standby for a brief message from St. Jose Maria Escriva, live from the Communion of Saints…

The mystery of the holiness of the Church — that pristine light which can become obscured by the shadows of human baseness — rejects even the slightest thought of suspicion, of doubt about the beauty of our Mother.

Nor can we tolerate, without protesting, that others should insult her. We cannot seek out in the Church vulnerable points in order to criticise them, as some do who show thereby neither their faith nor their love. I cannot conceive of anyone having true affection for his mother who speaks of her with disdain.

Our Mother is holy, because she was born pure and will continue without blemish for all eternity. If at times we are not able to perceive her fair face, let us wipe clean our own eyes. If we are aware that her voice does not please us, let us remove from our ears any hardness which prevents us from hearing in her tone of voice the whistled beckoning of the loving Shepherd. Our Mother is holy, with the holiness of Christ, to whom she is united in body — which is all of us — and in spirit, which is the Holy Spirit, dwelling also in the hearts of each one of us, if we remain in the grace of God.

Holy, holy, holy, we dare sing to the Church, evoking a hymn in honor of the Blessed Trinity. You are holy, O Church, my mother, because the Son of God, who is holy, founded you. You are holy, because the Father, source of all holiness, so ordained it. You are holy, because the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the souls of the faithful, assists you, in order to gather together the children of the Father, who will dwell in the Church of heaven, the eternal Jerusalem.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. Jesus Christ instituted only one Church. For this reason the spouse of Christ is one and catholic: universal, for all men.

For many centuries now the Church has been spread throughout the world, and it numbers persons of all races and walks of life. But the universality of the Church does not depend on its geographical distribution, even though this is a visible sign and a motive of credibility. The Church was catholic already at Pentecost. It was born catholic from the wounded heart of Jesus, as a fire which the Holy Spirit enkindled.

In the second century the Christians called the Church catholic in order to distinguish it from the sects which, using the name of Christ, were betraying his doctrine in one way or another. We call it catholic, writes Saint Cyril, not because it is spread throughout the world, from one extreme to the other, but because in a universal way and without defect it teaches all the dogmas which men ought to know, of both the visible and the invisible, the celestial and the earthly. Likewise, because it draws to true worship all types of men, those who govern and those who are ruled, the learned and the ignorant. And finally, because it cures and makes healthy all kinds of sins, whether of the soul or of the body, possessing in addition — by whatever name it may be called — all the forms of virtue, in deeds and in words and in every kind of spiritual gift.

The catholicity of the Church does not depend either on whether or not non-Catholics acclaim and acknowledge it. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact that, in non-spiritual matters the opinions of some persons in positions of authority in the Church are taken up — and at times exploited — by those who fashion public opinion, when these churchmen have views similar to theirs. It will often happen that the aspect of truth which will be defended in any human ideology will find an echo or foundation in the perennial teaching of the Church. This is, in a certain sense, a sign of the divinity of the revelation which the Magisterium safeguards. But the spouse of Christ is catholic, even when it is deliberately ignored by many, and even abused and persecuted, as unfortunately happens in so many places.

The Church Militant concurs.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming following this brief presentation.

For Miracles Like This at the 24 Hours of LeMans

It’s another Gearhead Feastday folks: the 24 Hours of LeMans. About an hour into the race, there was a horrific crash between Allan McNish’s Audi TDI (yeah, the fastest cars are diesels) and a Ferrari from the Sports Car class. Thanks be to God that no one was seriously hurt.

But take a look at the video and ask yourself this: how did this Audi not continue on it’s path over the wall and into the spectators? Actually, the car was over the tire wall. How did it seemingly defy the laws of physics and fall harmlessly back onto the warning track?

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No—I don’t see Iron Man standing there to push it away from the trajectory it was following. Did you?

Nope, no fence there, aside from the low tire wall. Who is the patron saint of racing? St. Christopher? He was praying hard right there! If this isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what one is.

St. Christopher, pray for us.

Update: Congratulations to Audi for winning the overall victory. From the crash to the top of the podium. Inspiring! And a hearty congratulations to Corvette Racing for winning the GT-Pro Class on the 100th Anniversary of Chevrolet. American V-8 power (pushrods!) rules LeMans! Recap and final results courtesy of the anonymous editors at Wikipedia. Have a look at the concise history of this endurance race while you are there.

 

To Run Against the Wind -UPDATED

What do you seek? I mean once you come to grips with your mortality. Especially when your best laid plans fall apart in an instant via illness, an accident, or perhaps a death in the family. There you were sailing along majestically, deluded by your own good fortune to the point that you actually thought you were controlling your destiny.

Perhaps you felt you had figured out the game of life. You believed you could will your way to an earthly heaven. Yes, you are a winner, and winners never quit. And then everything you had mapped out for yourself slipped away from you.

Your dreams slipped past you like a stranger in a crowd. Or just when thought you knew what would make you happy, and when your idea of what you would spend your life doing was coming to fruition, it became unobtainable through no fault of your own, either for the reasons outlined above or because the economy takes a dive.

The gifts given to you are not yours, see, but they are on loan to you. Besides that, your gifts span various disciplines, while the world forces you to specialize in one discipline to the exclusion of the others. Surely you’ve noticed that. The jack-of-all-trades is lampooned as a “master of none.” “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” And so it goes.

Suppose, for example, that the occupation you think will bring you the most personal satisfaction becomes impossible for you to do. Or perhaps there is no market for that pursuit which brings you the most personal fulfillment or happiness. Or it’s likely that many share the same calling you love, but the competition is so cut-throat that only a few actually succeed. Ideas of “follow your bliss” ring hollow then. Folks who are disabled due to an accident encounter this moment of truth in a rude awakening every day.

Or suppose the person you love reneges on their promise to love you back. Often that is how you come face to face with the supposed virtue of selfishness. Which brings me to this scene from the movie Forrest Gump. Remember it? Forrest’s mother has died, the love of his life is gone, so he goes running back and forth across the country. Why?

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There you are running back and forth through this life for no apparent reason. And then it dawns on you that the winds of the world are going every which way. They are blowing you hither and yon. At some point you realize that you need to stop. Time to head home.

Did you here that last song in the clip? That’s from Bob Seger’s eleventh album. It came out a few month’s after Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In a way, it is a song-story exactly like what I’m writing about here, only better. The album went to number one on the charts because it resonants with our experiences in this world. This could be a theme song for YIMCatholic.

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G.K. Chesteron, in his biography of Charles Dickens, weighs in with some thoughts to conclude this post with.

“If we are to save the oppressed, we must have two apparently antagonistic emotions in us at the same time. We must think the oppressed man intensely miserable, and at the same time intensely attractive and important. We must insist with violence upon his degradation; we must insist with the same violence upon his dignity. For if we relax by one inch the one assertion, men will say he does not need saving. And if we relax by one inch the other assertion men will say he is not worth saving. The optimists will say that reform is needless. The pessimists will say that reform is hopeless. We must apply both simultaneously to the same oppressed man; we must say that he is a worm and a god; and we must thus lay ourselves open to the accusation (or the compliment) of transcendentalism.”

And that is about all I have to say about that.

Because John Galt Is Really Ayn Rand, Not Jesus Christ (Nice Try Though)

What does it take to snap Joe-Sixpack, USMC out of his reverie? That’s easy. Keep attempting to redeem the ideas of Ayn Rand and Christianize them. I’ll fix bayonets and come running like a teufel-hunden responding to one of those silent dog whistles.

Reverend Robert A. Sirico of the Acton Institute (which I generally admire) recently wrote an article entitled Who Really Was John Galt Anyway? Therein, Rev. Sirico tries to tease out Jesus Christ from the persona of Ms. Rand’s fictional character John Galt. Or perhaps he tries to tease out Ms. Rand’s longing for the Lord. [Read more...]

From the Treasure Chest: The Catholic Religion and Art

I’ve got this hobby of finding electronic versions of great books about the Catholic Faith. I share this pastime with everyone who stops by here too, via the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. At last count, I’ve added 853(!) fully searchable volumes to the shelf so far. There’s no cost to read or download them, and we’re open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Just the other day I found some books that were digitized from the collection of the Monastic Library of the Abbey of Gethsemani. Yes, the one in Kentucky where Fr. Louis was a monk and priest. They also spent some time on the shelves, and possibly still do, at the University of California in Berkeley. Who knew?


They are a compliation of essays entitled, A Pulpit Commentary On Catholic Teaching. The series was published starting in 1908. So far I’ve found volume I and Volume IV, so I’ll keep digging for II, and III. The subtitle of these books? A Complete Exposition of Catholic Doctrine, Discipline And Cult By Pulpit Preachers Of Our Own Day. That’s a pretty cool subtitle, you have to admit.

And it is neat that they are written by Catholic preachers too. What follows is an essay on Religion and Art from Volume IV. That’s a subject I’ve been playing with lately, especially regarding music. Perhaps Fr. Louis took a look at this volume back in the day too. It’s possible. But for now, I’ll save you a trip to the library at the Abbey in Bardstown KY.

Stand-by for a discourse on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, Catholic style.

St. Andrews, Pasadena CA

Religion and Art
By the Right Reverend James Bellord, D.D.

“Thy renown went forth among the nations for thy beauty: for thou wast perfect through my beauty which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.” —Ezech. xvi, 14.

The first object of religion is to bring us into communication with God and to save our souls: but its influence extends farther and lower than this object, and it affects the whole man in all his relations. Religion brings us into union with God; and God is not only the perfection of our spiritual life, but your intellect, will, imagination, and your whole natural life. We must not think that God is the object of worship only; He is the object of all our faculties and senses: they must all look to Him and serve Him.

God is not only Truth and Law, the rule of our belief and moral action, He is also perfect Beauty. This is one of His divine perfections. God’s Beauty will be one of the delights of the blessed in heaven. They will be filled with it as with His Truth and Goodness, through these faculties whose object is beauty. Beauty is also a mark of God’s works. Each one, even of His lowest material works, is an object of delight for its beauty to any who cares to study it. “His ways are beautiful ways” (Prov. iii, 17).

Our Lady of Sorrows
Chicago, IL

The Beautiful is one of the great sources of delight to mankind. It is something intangible and indescribable inhering in things; it is something which is different from their material composition. We cannot analyze it. It is a certain harmony and proportion, variety and unity, which fills us with delight as we contemplate it. Whether we consider a melody, or a series of sounds, a mountain chain, or a problem in mathematics, a poem, a thunderstorm, an invention, there is a something which is the same in all, which appeals to our sense of beauty and gives us exquisite pleasure. It is some gleam of divine beauty reflected in the creature.

It might be thought that Religion has no concern with the science of the beautiful, that it is too austere to bend to such frivolity, and that earthly beauty is rather the material of self-indulgence and sin. Not so. The perception and enjoyment and production of beauty are closely connected with God and religion. Religion is to us the source of the highest beauty as well as of truth and morality. The text speaks of the beauty of Jerusalem, which is the figure of the present Jerusalem, the true Kingdom of God on earth. She, too, is renowned for her beauty, and is made perfect with the beauty of God, which is communicated to her. Let us consider the desire which God has given us for the Beautiful, and see how it is met by Religion and gratified.

We are full of desires. These are capacities for action or enjoyment implanted in us by God. These natural cravings are good in themselves, and are intended to be gratified under due conditions, except so far as God may call us, at times or totally, to self-renunciation. However, through our own perversity or that which we inherit, we often exercise these desires on forbidden objects, or selfishly, for our own interest and pleasure apart from God. There is great danger of these desires becoming evil and leading us to sin and eternal loss. They need to be exercised then with caution and self-restraint.

Our Lady of
Guadalupe Shrine
La Crosse, WI

One of our chief desires is rooted in the imagination and aims at the enjoyment of the Beautiful; and this is the origin of Art. We try to copy for our possession something beautiful in nature or in our own imagination. This is a faculty peculiar to man. The beasts do not share it; they seek food, shelter, warmth, and there is an end of it; of beauty, as of truth and law, they have no apprehension. Among men this faculty is universal. Early savage man engraved reindeer and horses on his implements of bone, and adorned himself with teeth of animals or beads of stone. Infants delight in beauty of color, and cry for anything bright and pretty. Savages show an acute sense for color and form in their ornaments of beads, and porcupine quills, and skins. Cave-dwellers have left colored pictures of men and animals on the walls of their abodes. The poorest people, indifferent almost to comfort, will adorn their hovels with bits of china and glaring pictures. The sense of beauty and of art, although crude, is common to them all. God is the ultimate object of this craving. The more nearly we approach to the likeness of God, the more shall we participate in this beauty, the more we shall be able to appreciate it and reproduce it. Religion brings men more under the influence of God, not only as the Truth and Law of goodness, but also as Beauty. It guides our desire and leads us to its fulfillment.

The Church of God is beautiful. “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is no spot in thee” (Cant. iv, 7). She is so, as being one of the chief of God’s works, His special dwelling, and the manifestation of His perfections to men. Her doctrines are beautiful. The mysteries of Religion, the perfections of God, the life of Jesus Christ, the glory of His blessed Mother, the sacred Scriptures, have been the continual delight of thousands. The solemnities and ceremonies of divine worship in the Catholic Church, how impressive they are for their stateliness and beauty! Those who have come out of curiosity or hostility have often felt as if they had seen a glimpse of heaven. Whether splendid or poor, whether celebrated under the dome of the noblest Church in Christendom, or in a wooden hut, or a cavern beneath the ground, the worship of the Church is always stately. She cannot be frigid or lifeless on the one hand, or grotesque and fanatical on the other. Her action, like that of God, is always beautiful.

The Catholic religion does far more than any other to elevate and ennoble its followers’ characters and beautify their lives. Among the simple, the poor, the suffering, in remote corners of the world, among an industrious and Christian peasantry, there is found a spirit of contentment, courtesy, faith, patience, purity and fervor, which go to make up the most lovely of spectacles. Religion is the only antidote to that sordid selfishness, meanness, cruelty and lust, which stain our civilization with such unloveliness and produce such hideous results. It is being discovered that the creation of wealth degrades the workers, that mere knowledge and industry cannot elevate them, and that the sight of artistic and beautiful things is necessary to nourish the imagination and bring light into their lives. Of old the Catholic Church supplied this need of the mind with its sculptured cathedrals, its pictured glass, its wealth of statuary and painting, its histories of the saints, its festivals and bright processions, pulpit eloquence, and moving strains of music. The Reformation in some lands swept all this clean away, condemned it for the very reason which is its great merit, that its vividness and splendor appealed so much to the artistic sense and gratified the imagination. Time has brought its revenge. Legal holidays, popular concerts, and galleries of art, are an attempt, all too tardy, to supply the toiler with some few crumbs of the banquet of beauty which the Church of old dispensed abundantly to all.

I must quote in substance the words of a distinguished nonCatholic author on this point: “One method by which Christianity has labored to soften the characters of men has been through the imagination. Our imaginations affect our moral character, and, in the case of the poor especially, the cultivation of this part of our nature is of inestimable importance. Rooted to a single spot, excluded from most of the interests that animate the minds of other men, condemned to constant and plodding labor, their whole natures would have been hopelessly contracted, were there no sphere in which their imaginations could expand. Religion is the one romance of the poor. It alone extends the narrow horizon of their thoughts, supplies the images of their dreams, allures them to the supersensual and ideal. … It is the peculiarity of the Christian types that, while they have fascinated the imagination, they have also purified the heart.” He then recalls some of the externals of Catholic worship and concludes, “More than any spoken eloquence, more than any dogmatic teaching, they transform and subdue his character” (Lecky).

As Religion is so closely connected with uncreated Beauty and with the Beautiful in most of its forms, so it has been the chief agent in originating and inspiring Art. Faith has supplied noble images to the mind, and breadth and dignity to the characters of men, and these qualities have expressed themselves outwardly in architecture, painting, poetry, music, etc. From these arts, first employed in the service of Religion, all modern Art has sprung. Painting, decoration and sculpture began in the Roman catacombs with the endeavor to express Christian hope in symbols on the martyr’s tomb, and Christian reverence around the Altar of the Holy Sacrifice; and they were brought to perfection by the need of representing the doctrines of religion on the walls of Churches for the instruction of the faithful. The requirements of a new class of buildings for religious purposes created the glorious architecture of the Middle Ages, more living and progressive than the massive Egyptian, the stern Doric, and the elegant Corinthian; more capable of yielding in its details to the varying fancy of each nationality; more capable of development on many different lines, ranging from rude massiveness to fair delicacy, but always marked by truth and perfect taste. Musical notation was invented by Pope St. Gregory the Great, and later the simple but exquisite hymns of the liturgy were one by one composed.

The Pieta

Popes and bishops were always the chief patrons of Art. Monasteries were the home of art as well as of piety and learning. Churches sprung up over Europe, each of which was a museum of beauty open for the free enjoyment and culture of all. The walls, the windows, the pavement, the altars, the tombs and the shrines were examples of the best that human taste has ever wrought in stone and wood, embroidery and metal, glass and precious gems. All this was no mere extravagance or luxury, or an artificial or enthusiastic movement, but it was the natural and spontaneous expression of high and noble feelings. Faith and love, generosity and awe, the sense of man’s sin and God’s majesty, and of the truth and eternity of religion, must of necessity find expression for their intensity and their force in works vast, beautiful, and durable. “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of the house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth” (Ps. xxv, 8). The spirit of these words, which God poured forth on those who labored on the Temple and Tabernacle of old, we may well believe to have been infused into the souls of the medieval artists, that they might be able to translate, not only their own devotion, but even a reflection of uncreated Beauty into the works of their hands.

So much is Art bound up with the Catholic Church that no history of Art or any portion of it could be written without giving the largest place to Catholic doctrines and customs, to popes and saints. A philosophy of Art would be chiefly a history of one aspect of religion, and of the widespread degradation which follows the decline of its influence. When intolerant atheism shall advance so far as to remove from the streets of cities, the walls of museums, and the shelves of libraries all traces of religious art, as it has already attempted to remove all traces of religion and morality from the school-room, it is not too much to say that ninety-nine per cent. of all the genius, and one hundred per cent. of the refining influence of art, will have perished. When artist or poet wishes to depict the beauty of worship or religious feeling, where else does he seek inspiration but in the solemn High Mass of a Catholic cathedral, or among the crowd who sit round the confessional, or in the daily life of the priest or sister of charity? When the tourist in a foreign land seeks distraction from his year-long toil, in pursuit of the beautiful in nature or in man’s handiwork, where does he find the chief center of attraction?

Piazza, St. Andrews
Pasadena, CA

He goes not to the churches of his own religion, but to a Church whose doctrines he disbelieves, and whose worship he scoffs at; doing it unwilling homage by recognizing in it a sense of life, truth of devotion, majesty, of worship, beauty of workmanship, and by yielding to the feelings of awe which these things enforce. It is strange that so many can admit the Catholic Church to be the highest expression on earth of religious beauty; i. e., of divine beauty, both material and mental, and yet fail to recognize in her the highest expression of divine truth and law. For the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are one and indivisible.

This suggests another thought; that, where religious truth has failed, there will the sense of beauty be impaired and its ideal lowered in the course of time. This age is far superior to any preceding in wealth, knowledge, mechanical appliances, and general cultivation. Our great works surpass in many ways those of the Ages of Faith. How wonderful are our railways, bridges, hotels, warehouses! For utility they are supreme; but not one is marked by the extraordinary beauty of ancient times. Town-halls, castles, streets, churches especially, had a beauty now irrecoverable. Architecture was never so overwhelming for its power and gracefulness as in the old Catholic churches. A great building reflects, as does a great book, the mind and qualities of its architect, as he reflects these of his age. The qualities of the times of faith have perished, so we can no longer produce their effects.

How melancholy, as a rule, are our attempts to revive an old style of architecture; they are no longer the spontaneous expression of an original mind, but are forced and lifeless imitations, mechanically made; they are like a stolid wax figure with its smooth countenance and fixed expression, by the side of a living face full of character, brightness, and emotion. There are few of these medieval revivals which are not marked by inconsistency and inharmony of parts, servile imitation or glaring bad taste. Let there be a vast competition of designs and selection of one by a committee, let cheapness be one of the points of merit, and the result will be one of those abominations and eyesores that disfigure our modern cities.

The Chair of St. Peter
Rome

Enter an old Catholic church in an old Catholic city and you are awed into mute wonder. It speaks to you of the eternal, the ancient of days, the immutable: it seems as if its multifarious beauty could never be grasped, and it is certain that man, as at present, could not again produce its like. You feel that it is truly the house of God and the gate of Heaven, a blessed vision of eternal peace. But if it be one that has passed from the Catholic to some reformed Church, what a picture of desolation it presents. It is a desert of monotony and inutility, a storehouse for incongruous tombstones. It is a corpse. That sense of life which comes from the presence of the Most Holy with the beacon lamp and kneeling worshipers is absent. It is the Jerusalem of the captivity. “How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people: how is the sovereign of the Gentiles become as a widow? . . . The ways of Sion mourn because there are none that come to the solemn feast: all her gates are broken down. . . . The enemy hath put out his hand to all her desirable things, for she hath seen the Gentiles enter into her sanctuary, of whom thou gavest command that they should not enter into thy Church” (Lam. i, I, 4, 10).

It is just the same with these altar-pieces, triptychs, chalices, reliquaries and vestments, removed by vandal governments from their natural home to picture galleries and museums. They have lost half their beauty; they are no longer parts of a living beautiful body, but anatomical specimens. How sad and useless they are, taken forever from the service of God, put under glass shades, turned into mere objects of curiosity, from being part of the eternal worship of the Church and aids to faith and virtue!

In painting, too, the soul is gone when faith has ceased. The old monk-artist sought inspiration in prayer and fasting, before taking his brush to portray the Virgin Mother and her Divine Infant. He sought to make men realize spiritual truths and move them to purity and love. The modern artist, pipe in mouth, works from questionable models to make a reputation or to fill his pockets. Modern painters are undoubtedly superior in technical knowledge, in manipulation, archeological correctness of detail; they will reproduce exactly the scenery amidst which our Lord lived, the particulars of His costume, the type of face then prevalent: but the figures are not divine, all spiritual beauty has fled.

Judas’ Kiss, Giotto

Turn from these to the frescoes of Giotto, or the rude mosaic of Ravenna: anatomy, perspective, details are all astray, but you have seen in these works a spiritual life. You feel as if you were actually before the stern, all-seeing, impartial Judge of Mankind, or as if you had seen, face to face, the most pure and most blessed of women. You may see young men, as they come suddenly into the presence of the Madonna di San Sisto, check their laughter, snatch off their hats, and stand silent and motionless, as though they saw a real glimpse of heaven through the parted veil.

A Protestant Dutch School of Art arose some couple of centuries ago. Light and shade portraits, domestic life, tavern orgies, dead game, pots and pans, texture of tapestries and furs they rendered with unexampled perfection. But when they forgot the limits of their powers and tried to soar to the higher level of religious ideas, their incapability was shown by the grotesque and soulless results. Turning to modern days, we may compare ordinary exhibitions of sculpture with the delicate, lovely, and touching conceptions in the great cemeteries of Genoa and Florence. We may see, too, in the undue sentimentalism and ingenious filthiness of academies and salons, how Art can fall when the purifying and ennobling influence of faith is cast off.

Judas’ Kiss, Mosaic
Ravenna, Italy

Again, the stage is a branch of Art with which the Church has little to do, except to watch it with suspicion, and occasionally to pronounce a warning. Part of it is respectable and really belongs to the domain of high Art. But it has often been a powerful instrument of immorality, and its associations are not always lovely. Yet the Church originated the modern drama in her miracle plays, which still survive in the Passion Plays among remote mountains. These furnish a rare occasion of observing the association of Religion with this form of Art. After feeling the thrilling effect produced by untutored mountaineers, whose chief qualifications are their devotion and belief, and who receive holy Communion by way of preparing for the play, one can understand how much moral power and spiritual and artistic beauty there may be in the drama.

Ruskin has remarked that the decay of a country begins in its Art, and its prosperity is measured by its possession and appreciation of fine artists. The character of its art and the direction of its taste are, of course, closely allied with its national character, in its decline or improvement. I may, perhaps, go farther, still, and suggest that the art of a nation, and especially its religious art, may throw a sidelight on the character of its religion and of its religiousness.

For instance, the numerous indications of the approach and future absorption of an important section of Protestants into the Catholic Church are much reinforced by the sight of the work done of late years in the restoring and refurnishing of old churches, and the building of new ones. When one sees the scrupulousness and consciousness of the new work and its perfect harmony with the old, the conclusion is forced on one that a similar spirit has presided over both and that those who have so perfect a sense of beauty cannot be very far off from a perfect sense of truth.

On the other hand, we find that a weakening of the Religious Sense, as during the Reformation, is accompanied by a decline in art and loss of esthetic sensibility. And one is tempted to fear that where art, and especially ecclesiastical art, is flimsy, finical, untrue, mean and cheap, there will be a corresponding weakness in the sense of Religion. Today there are two different tendencies that are daily becoming wider and more defined. On the one hand, there is a revival of severe taste and real beauty in Art: on the other, there is an Art which prostitutes the advantages of cultivation to the representation of all that is hideous in vice and that panders to the filthiest passions.

This correspondence of Art with Religion is not complete and definite. A holy man will not of necessity be a man of taste; and a correct artistic taste does not prove the truth of a man’s belief or the excellence of his morals. It can only be said that on a large scale the general tendency of an age will be broadly in the same direction; towards Truth, Goodness and Beauty jointly, or away from them. This can be recognized by comparing nations or periods, and not by a comparison of individuals.

Da Vinci

Great is the beauty of the material works of God; greater still is the beauty of the works of human intelligence directed by God; greatest of all, the spiritual beauty of a soul in the state of grace. This kind of beauty does not vary according to our tastes. This is essential beauty coming direct from God, and a participation in His. “Thou are perfect through my beauty which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God” (Ezech. xvi, 14).

Our Lord Jesus Christ possesses this by His nature in infinite perfection. His blessed and most pure Mother possesses the highest degree of communicated beauty. The contemplation of these has raised a high ideal before the eyes of men, which has been attained by apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins. Their zeal, their labors, their purity, their self-renunciation, their lives and their deaths are the most beautiful things among the many beauties of this world.

Below these there are thousands of beautiful lives grouped or dotted about amidst the unutterable abomination of sinful lives. This is not the beauty of material form, or of cleverness, or of wit, or of fashion; they are not the lives of statesmen, of the successful, the wealthy, the ambitious; but they are hidden lives unknown beyond a small circle, lives spent in toil, in suffering, in ignorance, perhaps, in poverty, lowly in the eyes of the world and unenviable, but lovely in God’s sight for their faith and love, humility and obedience, patience and resignation. Of such it is written “O, how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal: because it is known both with God and men” (Wisd. iv, 1).

Introducing Fr. Manuel de Zumaya, Composer-Priest (1678-1755)

I think I once heard someone famous claim that the Catholic Church could never produce artists of the caliber of a Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky. Maybe I heard them wrong, but I’ve been working at disproving that assertion lately. It all started when I learned that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest. And then I bumped into the beautiful polyphony of Fr. Tomás Luis de Victoria.

Of course, there have been beautiful composers of chants and polyphony since the Church began. Remember St. Romanus the Melodist? Awesome story, and amazingly beautiful music. Which brings me to this morning.

There I was just minding my own business, looking for some music to share with you, and somehow I stumbled upon another composer-priest story.

Have you ever heard of the baroque composer from Mexico named Manuel de Zumaya? Me neither. And sadly, I can’t find very much on him in English, though there is a Wikipedia page about him. He’s been called “the Handel of the Americas.” The first video shared below had this in the liner notes: ” a mexican priest and composer, from Mexico City; he was Kappelmeister of Mexico City Cathedral (1715-1738).”

That is what got me started on the quest for more information. On the site Artistopia.com (you have to LOVE that as a website name!), I found this citation on him.

Biography

Manuel de Zumaya or Manuel de Sumaya (c. 1678 & ndash; 1755) was perhaps the most famous Mexico|Mexican composer of the colonial period of New Spain . His music was the culmination of the Baroque music|Baroque style in the New World ; of Spanish, French, Dutch, British, and Portuguese colonial composers, none stand out as much as Zumaya did. He was the first person in the western hemisphere to compose an Italian-texted opera , entitled Partenope (Zumaya)|Partenope (now lost).

Life

Manuel de Zumaya was born in Mexico and was a mestizo (of mixed Native American and European descent).

In 1715, he was appointed chapelmaster of Mexico City ‘s cathedral , and was one of the first Americans to become one. He served there until 1738 when he moved to Oaxaca , where he followed his close friend Bishop Tomas Montaño against the vigorous and continuous protests of the Mexico City Cathedral Chapel Council for him to stay.

Manuel de Zumaya died on December 21, 1755, in Oaxaca, where he had resided since 1738.

Style

His works are a multiplicity of his talents and styles. He was a master of the older Renaissance style and of the newer Baroque style.

In 1711, the new Viceroy, Don Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva. Duke of Linares, an devotee of Italian opera, commissioned Zumaya to translate Italian libretti and write new music for them. The libretto of the first, La Parténope survives in the National Library of Mexico | Biblioteca Nacional de Mexico in Mexico City , though the music has been lost.

The Hieremiae Prophetae Lamentationes is a Gregorian chant|Gregorian —style antiquated notational piece. Zumaya authored the charmingly jolly ‘Sol-fa de Pedro’ (Peter’s Solfeggio) in 1715 during the examinations to select the Chapel Master at Mexico City’s cathedral.

Zumaya’s other famous piece, Celebren Publiquen , shows his ability to handle the polychoral sound of the high Baroque era. With his distribution of the choral resources into two choirs of unequal size, he copied the style that was favoured by the Spanish and Mexican choral schools in the early 18th century. The rich textures and instrumental writing reflect Zumaya’s “modern” style and are at the opposite end of the spectrum from his anachronistic Renaissance settings.

Zumaya’s recessional Angelicas Milicias presents his ability to superbly combine the Baroque orchestra and choir to create a sublime and stately piece worthy of the Virgin Mary herself (to which it is dedicated). The interludio, Albricias Mortales , is done in much the same style as Angelicas Milicias.

While I keep digging for more information, check out the following four pieces that I found via YouTube. I think you’ll agree that they are wonderful.

Look out below —Angelic Militias!

Translation:

“Angelic militia, armies of heaven, that you protect the divine sovereign palace of the Monarch of the Holy Empire: To arms!, That the most beautiful and pure, triumphant Queen on a par, goes up, to be gratefully crowned. And this way rubs the strings, and the resound of trumpet and timpani, applauds her glories, with sweet roars of gun salutes.”

I don’t know about that translation, but the piece is sublime.

Something like “Guilt, as if?” I don’t speak Spanish, so help me out here readers! Here are the liner notes from the person who posted this,

This aria was composed by the Kapellmeister Manuel De Sumaya, New Spain’s Händel. He was born in Mexico City in 1676 and died in Oaxaca City, 1755. (some of Sumaya’s music can be heard in Jack Black’s “Nacho Libre”, when he climbs up the cliff to get the eagle eggs) Manuel de Sumaya is the most important composer of the New Spain and he’s the composer of the second american opera “La Parténope” after Torrejón y Velasco “La púrpura de la Rosa”

The Greatest Miracle music for the 1709 dedication of Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico. So says the person who posted this video.

Joyful Light of Day. Try to stop from turning pirouettes. I dare you.

I’ll keeping looking to see if I can find more information of him and his contemporary named Ignacio de Jerusalem.

Because Blogging For Christ Is Like Being St. Philip

Above is a snapshot of the last 500 visitors to this space. If a picture is worth 1000 words, then this one is worth 1500. As such, I’ll be brief. After baptizing the Ethopian eunuch, the Holy Spirit whisked Philip away to evangelize somewhere else. That is what it is like to be a Catholic working in the apostolate of St. Blogs.

the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away suddenly and the eunuch saw no more of him, but went on his way rejoicing.—Acts 8:39

I could kid myself that no one reads the stuff that is shared here, or on the other hand, that I “know” many of the readers who stop by. But the humbling truth is, I don’t know you. I didn’t e-mail you to please stop in. Something, or more accurately, someone, prompted you to stop in here today. You may have had no intention to do so, and yet you wound up here.

From the looks of it, you come from all over, from “every clime and place.” You are all welcome, all brothers and sisters of mine. And you are all God’s children. And you are not alone…

Thanks for stopping by. I pray your visit was a profitable one. Come back again soon.

Update: The Holy Father on Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age


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