Silver Bullet Selection II (Music For Mondays)

Steel Pulse is a reggae band that I don’t know diddly squat about. But it’s Monday, it’s raining, and I like the advice these guys are giving here: Chant A Psalm A Day. It makes a whole lot of sense, which is why it’s like a silver bullet.

What have you got to lose? 150 Psalms = 150 days. Some are longer than others, but I’m willing to give it a try. Not sure which ones to pick? Check out the LOTH or just do them in numerical order from your Bible. While you think about it, listen to the song.

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From the Treasure Chest: “Cannot” Part I

Every once in a while, I unearth a real jewel of a find.  You may have noticed that we are reading Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies in the YIMC Book Club.  The most recent chapter is about the Protestant Reformation.  Having finished my chores on Saturday afternoon, I began trolling Google Books, like a fisherman, for new selections to add to our YIM Catholic Bookshelf.

I came across this essay, and it couldn’t be more timely.  Because not only does it tie in with our book club selection, but it also is an answer to the question Why I Am Catholic.  I’ve done a few posts in the past about how the Catholic Church is a Bible-believing Church, so this essay by Reverend G. Bampfield is a real treat.

First, a little background. I found this in a volume put out by the top-secret Catholic Truth Society. I’m joking, of course, because this being found in volume 35 of the Publications of the Catholic Truth Society means that it was hardly secret at all. Volume XXXV was published in 1898, or about a half a heart-beat ago history wise.

Who is this secret organization and who are their agents,  pray tell? I’m glad you asked. They are a Catholic charity based in the United Kingdom, and they have been getting the message out, aka evangelizing,  non-stop since 1868.  And here is the best part: you don’t have to have a Q clearance or be a 00 agent in order to read the materials they publish! Check out their Mission Statement:

The Catholic Truth Society works to develop and disseminate as widely as possible completely reliable publications about the faith, teaching and life of the Catholic Church. It is motivated by a love of Christ, a deep belief in the profound hope he brings to modern man, a love of and fidelity to the Church, and the desire to communicate these treasures both to the faithful and all other enquirers by way of inexpensive and accessible English language publications.

See? Not exactly KAOS  or SPECTRE, huh? And not even MI 5 (or is it MI 6?). Now Reverend G. Bampfield is a little more mysterious.  He was the founder of the Institute of St. Andrew and a “well know convert” according to sketchy sources. But I hit pay dirt on Reverend Bampfield when I traced him to the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel & St. George Enfield. As Sherlock Holmes would say, it was simplicity itself (thanks to Google!).

And now, without further adieu, the Reverend George Bampfields essay,

Cannot, or Which Church Believes the Bible?

Which Religion really believes the Bible ? “The Protestant,” you will say, “of course. Is not the whole talk of Protestants about the Bible? Do they not scatter Bibles, as the sower scatters seed? Are there not Bible readers, and Bible sellers, and Bible classes, and Bible Societies, by the hundred ?”

Yes: that is true. But to read the Bible, and talk about it, and sell it, is one thing; to believe it is another. Now when the Bible says a thing, who really believe it, the Protestants or the Catholics?

“A very odd question; why ! I never heard of Catholics believing the Bible. They are never allowed to read it, and the priests burn all they can get.”

Odd or not, will you look quietly into the question with me? I was once a Protestant and am now a Catholic, and it seems to me that Protestants never take the Bible to have a plain, straightforward, common-sense meaning like any other book. Other books mean what they say: the Bible alone, according to Protestants, means one thing and says another. Catholics, on the other hand, do always seem to me to have a common-sense, straightforward meaning for the Bible. Its sayings may be hard to understand and harder to do, but if the Bible says a thing, it is true, and must be believed, however difficult, and done, however unpleasant.

For instance—the Bible says, speaking of marriage, “What God hath joined, let no man put asunder.” Now if I ask a Protestant what this means, he will tell me, “What God hath joined in marriage, let the judge and lawyers of the Divorce Court put asunder.” But if I turn to a Catholic, he says, “Once married, always married. No man can put the married asunder.” What! not even the Pope, or a General Council! Not all the Popes nor all the Councils. God only, Who joined them, can part them by death.

It seems to me that here the Catholic takes the Bible at its word, sticks close to its clear, common-sense meaning, and that the Protestant shuffles about it, and makes it say one thing and mean the opposite. “Let no man put asunder,” is not the same thing as “Let the Divorce Court put asunder.” Is it ?

“They do not sound very much alike. However, one flower does not make a nosegay. Have you more things of the same sort?”

Plenty. I will go through a few, and I fancy you will have as big a nosegay as you can well carry.

1. The Bible says (S. John iii. 5), “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” I take this text to a Low Churchman of the Church of England, to an Independent, or a Baptist, or other Dissenter, and I say to him, “Do you believe that a man must be born again of water and the Spirit ?” Well, he will say, of the Spirit; certainly of the Spirit. The water you know is a form, and no form can be necessary. The unbaptized babies doubtless go to Heaven without the water.

“Well, but,” I answer, “the Bible says not Spirit only, but water and the Spirit.”

Water is not necessary, they reply; that souls are born again in baptism is a soul-destroying doctrine.

I turn to the Catholic and ask “What do you think of this text?” And the answer is, What the Bible says it means; it says water and it means water; except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Unbaptised babies, though they are not cast into torments, do not enter into Heaven.

Certainly the Catholic is the closest; and when I look into the Protestant’s reasons, I find that the real cause of his not sticking so close is a fancy that God cannot save through water. How can a drop of water possibly touch the soul, and roll away sin?

Cannot! says the Catholic on the other hand; God can do what He likes through whatever means he likes. His power is shown best by the choice of weakest means; and as a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that He has chosen water as a channel of grace and forgiveness. God’s will is all we have to do with; we know nothing about “cannot” when we speak of God.

2. I go again on another matter to the Low Church man or the Wesleyan, or Independent, or other Protestant. I ask, Do you believe that a man by the power of God forgives the sins of other men? “Of course not,” he tells me with a laugh of mockery if he be a merry man, or a scowl of indignant horror if he be of the severer sort; “of course not, man cannot forgive the sins of his fellows.”

“Well, but here is plain Bible on the point. The Apostles were men, and Our Lord said to these men quite plainly (John xx. 23), ‘Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.’ Now if this does not mean that God gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins, what does it mean? Is ‘whosesoever sins ye remit’ the same as ‘You can’t remit any sins;’ or is ‘they are remitted unto them,’ the same as ‘of course they won’t be remitted unto them ?’”

But come with me to the Catholic Church and ask the priest about it. “We know,” we will say to him, for priests are mostly good-natured men and like a little fun, “we know that you are greatly afraid of the Bible, and never let your people see it for fear they should find you out. Now here is a plain text: dare you face it? What does it mean?”

Mean! he will answer; why! of course it means just what it says, like any other straightforward truth-loving book. The Apostles were men, and being men they did remit sin; and those sins were remitted. Of course through the power of God, not through their own power. God only can forgive sins, but He can forgive them through what instrument He pleases. And the instruments He used of old time were men, as is clear by the text; and if He forgave sins of old time through men, He will surely forgive sins through men now; for He does not change.

Really the priest does not seem frightened of this text at all events. He gives to the words their plainest, simplest meaning; the Protestant does not; he either gives the words no sense at all, or he puts upon them a crooked round-about meaning, not a plain meaning for plain words such as any other book would have.

Again the reason the Protestants have for not sticking to the clear sense is “cannot.” God cannot forgive sins through man. “Cannot!” says the Catholic, “yes, through these stones if He pleases.” The question is not about “can” or ” cannot.” The question is only, ” What way of forgiving sins has God chosen ; of what way does the Bible speak?”

3. A third matter. I go again with my open Bible to our Low Churchman, our Independent, or other Dissenter. It is open at St. Matthew, chap. 26, verse 20—”Take eat : this is My Body.” I say to them, “Here are very simple words. Do you believe them? When Our Lord said, ‘This is My Body,’ did He mean ‘this is My Body ?’”

“Well! No,” our Protestant friend will say, “He did not mean exactly, This is My Body; He meant, This is the figure of My Body.”

But He does not say so—He says, This is My Body, and, again, This is My Blood.

“No. He does not say so, but He means what He does not say. He says, this is My Body, but He means, This is a figure, a type, a likeness of My Body. He says, This is My Blood, but means, This is a figure of My Blood.”

Then you will grant that your meaning is not the first clear, common-sense, easy meaning which the words would have? When it is written that the water was made wine (St. John ii. 9), you would not say that the first clear meaning of the word was, the water was made a likeness of wine ?

” We suppose this must be granted. Our Protestant meaning is not the first clear meaning of the words.”

Well, then! let us turn again to that un-scriptural priest who is so afraid of the Bible. What say you, Reverend Father, of these words?

“I say, what I have always in all things said, that the Bible means what its words seem to mean. The plain, simple, straightforward sense is the true sense. When our Lord said, This is My Body, it was His Body; when He said, This is My Blood, it was His Blood. Just as when a man says, this is a book, he means this is a book, not this is the figure of a book; so surely with Our Blessed Lord, Who cannot love to puzzle us by hiding His meaning under doubtful words. Why does our good Protestant think that our Lord meant one thing and said another?

“Oh! because it cannot be. It is impossible. Bread cannot become God’s Body: wine cannot become His Blood.”

Cannot again! Always cannot! In Baptism cannot, in Confession cannot, and now again cannot? What is it that God cannot do?

Surely the priest is here again the straightforward one of the two. He does not seem afraid of the Bible after all. It is the Protestant who seems afraid, who wriggles and shuffles a little, and does not give plain senses to plain language.

It will be perhaps the same with St. John vi. 53, “Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you.” Do you, Low Church, or Independent, or Wesleyan minister, do you really eat the real Flesh and drink the real Blood of God ?

“No, certainly not; Our Lord means that we must eat the figure of His Flesh, drink the figure of His Blood ; eat and drink His Flesh and Blood not with the body but only with the mind.”

We turn to the priest, and his answer is straightforward as before. “What the Bible says it means. We do really eat the real Flesh of God; we do really drink the real Blood of God. He enters not into our soul only by His Spiritual Power, but His Real Body enters into our body, and is meat indeed and drink indeed.”

Ain’t that grand?  And trust me —it gets even better! You can read part II of this delightful essay hereAnd to learn more about the Catholic Truth Society, click here.

For Psalm 10, “The Prayer of Justice”

If you haven’t taken a look at the post on the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne yet, have a look at the psalm of David, from which the responsorial psalm is derived from in today’s Mass readings, in full below. Written by David over 3000 years ago, are you as amazed as I am at how current and relevant the words of this prayer are for us today?

Reading this makes me think that the Martyrs of Compiegne were praying this prayer when they stood accused of being “enemies of the people” a mere 216 years ago. Think about that for a second. That was just a few seconds ago on the timeline of history. Because whether  3000 years ago, 216 years ago, or even right up to today, the historical evidence of revolution far outweighs the historical evidence of human evolution. To my small mind anyway.

One day, the nation-states will be no more. Until that time, I’ll just keep praying The Prayer of Justice.

Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand at a distance
and pay no heed to these troubled times?
Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor;
they trap them by their cunning schemes.

The wicked even boast of their greed;
these robbers curse and scorn the Lord.
In their insolence the wicked boast:
“God doesn’t care, doesn’t even exist.”
Yet their affairs always succeed;
they ignore your judgment on high;
they sneer at all who oppose them.
They say in their hearts, “We will never fall;
never will we see misfortune.”
Their mouths are full of oaths, violence, and lies;
discord and evil are under their tongues.
They wait in ambush near towns;
their eyes watch for the helpless,
to murder the innocent in secret.
They lurk in ambush like lions in a thicket,
hide there to trap the poor,
snare them and close the net.
The helpless are crushed, laid low;
they fall into the power of the wicked,
Who say in their hearts, “God pays no attention,
shows no concern, never bothers to look.”

Rise up, Lord God! Raise your arm!
Do not forget the poor!
Why should the wicked scorn God,
say in their hearts, “God doesn’t care”?
But you do see;
you do observe this misery and sorrow;
you take the matter in hand.
To you the helpless can entrust their cause;
you are the defender of orphans.
Break the arms of the wicked and depraved;
make them account for their crimes;
let none of them survive.

The Lord is king forever;
the nations have vanished from God’s land.
You listen, Lord, to the needs of the poor;
you encourage them and hear their prayers.
You win justice for the orphaned and oppressed;
no one on earth will cause terror again.

A Thanksgiving (A Few Words For Wednesday)

Venerable  Cardinal John Henry Newman will become Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman later this year.  Cardinal Newman is big news for converts to Catholicism, as his “conversion to Catholicism in 1845 rocked Victorian England.”

Known for his ability to write well, it turns out that he wrote poetry too. Below is a little poem on thankfulness I found while trolling the YIMC Bookshelf. It’s easy to count your blessings when everything is going your way. This poem reminds us to be thankful in the midst of adversity, when the Way seems particularly arduous, as well.

A Thanksgiving

‘Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.’

LORD, in this dust thy sovereign voice
First quickened love divine;
I am all thine,—thy care and choice,
My very praise is thine.

I praise Thee, while thy providence
In childhood frail I trace,
For blessings given, ere dawning sense
Could seek or scan thy grace;

Blessings in boyhood’s marvelling hour;
Bright dreams, and fancyings strange;
Blessings, when reason’s awful power
Gave thought a bolder range;

Blessings of friends, which to my door
Unasked, unhoped, have come;
And, choicer still, a countless store
Of eager smiles at home.

Yet, Lord, in memory’s fondest place
I shrine those seasons sad,
When, looking up, I saw thy face
In kind austereness clad.

I would not miss one sigh or tear,
Heart-pang, or throbbing brow;
Sweet was the chastisement severe,
And sweet its memory now.

Yes! let the fragrant scars abide,
Love-tokens in thy stead,
Faint shadows of the spear-pierced side
And thorn-encompassed head.

And such thy tender force be still,
When self would swerve or stray;
Shaping to truth the froward will
Along thy narrow way.

Deny me wealth; far, far remove
The lure of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in this world’s shame.

Matt Maher (Music for Mondays)

Does anyone remember Webster’s little secret? Well, how about Christian Contemporary music written and performed by a Catholic? No need to keep that a secret, right? But heck, I’m probably the last Catholic to ever hear of Matt Maher or his music.

Now, I first heard one of his songs on the Message, which I play whenever I’m driving my wife’s car on taxi duty.  A quick search on the internet later and I learned that he is a Catholic, which really wouldn’t matter if he couldn’t carry a tune. But from the selections below you will hear that he can do that quite handily.

Now, there is no need for me to re-write Maher’s website for him in order to introduce him to you.  Besides, I don’t know enough about him to write much anyway. You can read all about him yourself here. But before you go there, have a listen to the following tunes I was able to cobble together from the videos available on YouTube. Many of these include the lyrics to the songs, so I’ll keep my comments to a minimum.

As far as I can tell, there are a lot of good songs that Maher has put out. He has released 5 albums in his career so far and he does a lot of touring.  He has been out and about since 2002, but I never got the memo. In case you didn’t either, I hope you will enjoy these as much as I do.

The artists introduction to Hold Us Together.

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Hold Us Together

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Great Things

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Alive Again. When writing the songs for this album, Maher determined that “the over-arching theme that emerged seemed to be centering on what it means to be alive. The whole notion that God became a human being should change the way we look at what it means to be human, and ultimately the way it leads us is back to the cross.”

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Your Grace Is Enough

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As It Is In Heaven

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Empty and Beautiful

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Lay It Down

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Head on over to i-Tunes and pick up one of his albums (I just did!).  And then check his website to see if he may be coming to a concert hall near you.

YIMC Bookclub, “The Great Heresies,” Chapter 4

“Why should we suffer? Why should we die?”

Ah, the eternal question. And in this chapter “The Albigensian Attack“, Belloc gets to the heart of the matter of why the Incarnation came about, Christianity was founded, and why the Catholic Church exists. Because as we know, we are mere human beings. We die. And since the beginning, mankind has wanted to know “why?”

And in this chapter, Belloc synthesizes the ideas that we have formed in an attempt to come to terms with this truth. He touches on Manicheanism, Stoicism, and heck, even Buddism. For example he writes,

Various ways out of the torturing enigma have been proposed. The simplest and basest is not to face it at all…another way less base, but equally contemptible intellectually, is to say there is no problem because we are all part of a meaningless dead thing with no creative God behind it… another nobler way, which was the favourite way of the high pagan civilization from which we sprang, the way of the great Romans and the great Greeks, is the way of Stoicism. This might vulgarly be termed “The philosophy of grin-and-bear-it”… another way is the profound but despairing way of Asia, of which the greatest example is Buddhism: the philosophy which calls the individual an illusion, bids us get rid of the desire for immortality and look forward to being merged in the impersonal life of the universe. What the Catholic solution is we all know.

Or hopefully you do. If you didn’t before reading this chapter, you know now. A lot of ground is covered here. Heck, you might want to let your children read this chapter so they will understand what all the fuss is about regarding being a practicing Catholic. What’s the deal? Well,

Shaw, Belloc, And Chesterton

the Catholic Church has on this particular problem a very definite answer within the field of her own action. She says, first, that man’s nature is immortal, and made for beatitude; next, that mortality and pain are the result of his Fall, that is, of his rebellion against the will of God. She says that since the fall our mortal life is an ordeal or test, according to our behavior, in which we regain (but through the merits of our Savior) that immortal beatitude which we had lost.

And then he proceeds to discuss and explain the various manifestations of this particular heresy. First up is Manicheanism. Have you ever seen Star Wars and it’s various sequels and prequels? May the Force be with you? The Dark Side of the Force and the good side? Now you know where George Lucas got that idea. Remember in The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda is training the young Jedi(the Good Side) Luke Skywalker and he punches Luke in the shoulder and says “not this crude matter” referring to his human body? Hmmm, sounds like,

But one thing the Manichean of every shade has always felt, and that is, that “matter” belongs to the evil side of things. Though there may be plenty of evil of a spiritual kind yet good must be “wholly” spiritual.

You’ve probably heard, or maybe even experienced, Christianity of some stripe that treats matter and the human body like this. Not to mention any other religions out there, or new age thinking, that does the same. I know I’ve bumped into people who have said exactly what Belloc says when he describes the human body and its characteristics as follows:

That is something you find not only in the early Manichean, not only in the Albigensian of the Middle Ages, but even in the most modern of the remaining Puritans. It seems indissolubly connected with the Manichean temper in every form. Matter is subject to decay and is therefore evil. Our bodies are evil. Their appetites are evil. This idea ramifies into all sorts of absurd details. Wine is evil. Pretty well any physical pleasure, or half-physical pleasure, is evil. Joy is evil. Beauty is evil. Amusements are evil, and so on. Anyone who will read the details of the Albigensian story will be struck over and over again by the singularly modern attitude of these ancient heretics, because they had the same root as the Puritans who still, unhappily, survive among us.

I’m glad I’m a Catholic now because finally the world makes some sense! And I’m glad I’m a Marine too, because there is a lot of warfare in this chapter. But before I continue, I’m going to hand the reins over to Jason, one of our YIMC Book Club volunteers has these words to say about this chapter:

The Albigensian heresy today is also known as the Cathar heresy. Belloc points out that this heresy is actually a form of Manicheanism. Belloc connects the rise of the Albigensian/Cathar heresy as an attempt of answering the “the problem of evil”. Why are there evil, suffering, and death?

Atheists propose the solution that there is no God. Stoics grin and bear it. Buddists claim individual existence is an illusion.

The Albigensians/Cathars resorted to dualism, that is that God is good but not omnipotent. And that goodness is opposed by evil that was equally as powerful. God the Father is no more powerful than Satan. Furthermore, all matter (being subject to decay) was of evil and good was only spiritual.

The conclusions based on that claim are far-reaching. If matter is evil and God is good, then Jesus could not have been human (no Incarnation), could not have suffered, and was not resurrected. If matter is evil, then the sacraments are false being present in matter. How can Jesus be present in evil matter? Thus no Eucharist.

The heresy divided France. The southern lords embraced the heresy in opposition of the King of France in the north. Belloc isn’t explicit about this but we can see the violent conflict had significant political aspects. Both England and Spain (neither of which embraced the heresy) supported the heretics in hopes of weakening the French.

Belloc shows his bias in his historical account of the battles between the northern and southern French factions.

Of course, Belloc is many things but unbiased is probably not one of them.  Not for the purpose of this book anyway. Jason, and probably others,  have questions about the historical accuracy of Belloc’s accounts.  Footnotes would have been nice here, but perhaps the best thing to do is to consider this chapter as a springboard for following your own curiosity regarding the historical facts surrounding the conflicts that ensued as a result of this movement. A preview of The Inquisition – A Political and Military Study of Its Establishment is available on Google Books.

But as an overview of an erroneous idea that just keeps cropping up over and over, I found this chapter to be very helpful.  How about the rest of you? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box.

Cistercian Chants (Music for Mondays)

It was the summer of 2008. My wife and kids headed to California to visit family. I would follow them two weeks later for a vacation too (and to ensure they came back to Tennessee with me).

So I was alone in the house for two weeks. It was quiet. When I would come home from work, I didn’t turn on the television, or the radio. I ate, read, and prayed. And I did other things, like cut the yard and feed the dog, and wash the dishes. But as a freshly minted Catholic, I was enjoying the silence and using it to read Scripture, read other books, and learned to pray the LOTH.

I stumbled across an article on the internet that mentioned the album Chant: Music for Paradise put out by the Cistercian monks of Stift-HeiligenKreuz. Say that 10 times as fast as you can. I dare you! By this time, I knew what Cistercians were, I knew that Pope Benedict XVI was a German, and I had taken a few years of German in high school.  So I bought the album and loaded it up into i-Tunes on my Mac.

It’s all sung in Latin and by this time, I actually knew what a few of these songs meant in translation. But not most of them. But I know this: whenever I played them in the house during those two weeks, my soul felt at peace. And the same thing happens when I listen to them know.

What follows are a few selections that I hope you will enjoy. Note: not all are from the album, but i-Tunes is only a click away.

The background on the monastery and how the recording came about.

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Spiritus Domini, This is the video Father Karl mentioned above. 459,486 views as of this writing (and counting…)

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Testamentum Eternum

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Dedit Dominus Confessionem Sancto Suo

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Virtute multa

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Because of Catholics Like Raymond Lull

For the longest time, I just knew that I was too smart to be a Catholic. I mean, I wasn’t a cradle Catholic, born into the Church or anything. I just figured that being born into the Church was really the only way that anyone would become a Catholic. Surely not via God-given free will, because no one with a brain would willingly submit to the Church and all those wacky “man-made” doctrines and such.

Ahem, we all know how that turned out for me; I swam the Tiber. [Read more...]

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter 3

Vienna, as we saw, was almost taken and only saved by the Christian army under the command of the King of Poland on a date that ought to be among the most famous in history: September 11, 1683.

This is one of the sentences that hit home for me in this weeks chapter “The Great and Enduring Heresy of Mohammed.” There is a lot going on in this chapter, for sure. I compare it to a Cliffs Notes version of the History of Western Civilization 630AD – 1683AD. Sure, Belloc’s book may not be an unbiased, footnote toting, peer-reviewed, Ivy League approved, history text book, but that really wasn’t his point here.

Sure, anyone with even a hint of curiosity could plug the date “September 11th” into a search engine and eventually find out the significance of that date in the history of Western Civilization. But only Belloc, writing in 1936, in the middle of what would later become The Great Depression, could claim that it “ought to be among the most famous in history.”

Of course, we don’t get to that line until we are taken on a whirlwind tour of close to 1000 years of events on the world stage as the Roman Empire fell away, Christendom established itself, and a new religion out of the desert formed and built a civilization that would attack Christendom and the West.

Attack is a mighty harsh word, huh? I find that as I read Belloc, the reading voice in my head is that of actor Jack Webb playing Detective Joe Friday from the old television series Dragnet. “Just the fact’s, ma’am”, or sir,in my case, is what Belloc says as he reels off line after line of the history of the era, of Islam, of the Catholic Church, and what it all means.

I suspect Belloc was familar with the work of Blessed Peter of Montboissier, aka Peter the Venerable. In case you weren’t, join the club! I couldn’t find a copy of Peter’s The Summary of the Entire Heresy of the Saracens or his The Refutation of the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens either. But Belloc was probably very familiar with them both as well as this book published in 1907 entitled Islam: A Challenge to the Faith.  Those interested in learning more about this subject may also be interested in A History of Apologetics, written by Cardinal Avery Dulles and  published by Ignatius Press.

In the early 1990′s, my wife enjoyed reading a novel by Donna Tart entitled The Secret History. I don’t know anything about the book really,  except that I love the title. That’s because it fits with how I’ve been thinking about how little I actually know of this world.  Not just since reading Belloc, but since becoming a Catholic and sinking my teeth into the history of Christianity and of the Church.

From this single chapter in Belloc’s book alone, do you see what I mean? Sheeeeeeeh!

From Faber’s “Dedication” (A Few Words for Wednesday)

This should come as no surprise but I had never heard of Frederick William Faber until recently.  I was playing around while adding titles to the YIM Catholic Bookshelf (250+ titles now!) and discovered this founder of the London Oratory. A former Calvinist and convert to Catholicism, Faber wrote a great number of hymns, sermons, and devotional books in prose as well as poetry. Heck, I added over a dozen of his books to our shelves.

He wrote an epic poem entitled Sir Lancelot: A Legend of the Middle Agesand writes the following in the preface to the poem,

The object of the poem is not an ambitious one. It has always seemed to me, that a love of natural objects, and the depth, as well as exuberance and refinement of mind, produced by an intelligent delight in scenery, are elements of the first importance in the education of the young. But, a taste for the beauties of nature being a quicker growth than the power or habit of independent thought, it is apt in youth to wander from the right path, and lose itself in some of the devious wilds of pantheism.

What I wished to effect in this poem was, to show how an enthusiastic and most minute appreciation of the beauties of nature might unite itself with Christian sentiments, Christian ritual, and the strictest expression of Christian doctrine.

Sounds good to me. The last epic poem I read from cover to cover was Virgil’s Aeneid. But with an introduction like that one, I’m eager to see how Faber weaves the story of Lancelot around Catholic faith and doctrines. In 1845, he rewrote portions of the poem for a second edition that was published after he crossed the Tiber.

But the main  reason I’m looking forward to reading Sir Lancelot is because Faber gives a preview of his ability as a poet when he dedicated his long poem on the heroic knight with a much shorter poem to his friend and colleague Thomas Whytehead.  Whytehead, an Anglican priest, as was Faber at the time, and an accomplished poet in his own right, was on a missionary trip in New Zealand when the poem was first published in 1842.  He was suffering from an illness and died in 1843, when he was only 28 years old.

This short, personal, poem to a dying friend, as scholar Kristie Blair writes, “repeats the scenario…in which Faber represents himself as passionate, insecure, and troubled before a friend’s poise and stability. But here it is Whytehead’s geographical distance, and the real possibility that he would not live to read Faber’s words, which permit Faber to be more open.”

You can say that again. In the following verses, Faber is joyful upon hearing news of his friend, saddened by the news of his illness, and finally envisions his friend moving on to the Land of the Living and joining the saints in heaven.  It appears to me that Faber could give Virgil a run for his money.

Dedication

Dear Brother! while the murmurs of my song
In refluent waves were dying on my ear,
The spoken music blending with the thrills
Of that unuttered sweetness, which remains
A cherished refuse in the poet’s soul,
Still to distinguish him from all the hearts
To which, by love constrained, he hath resigned
So much of his interior self,—and while
I listened, like a practiced mountaineer,
To my own voice rebounding from the heights
Of song, redoubled and prolonged returns
Of pleasant echoes,—from the far-off South
Came welcome news of thee, my dearest Friend!

Thou spakest in thine own most beautiful way,
And in the sunny visionary style
Of thy strange solemn language, of the lights
In those new skies, the Cross with starry arms,
Palpably bending at the dead of night,
The star-built Altar, Noe’s sheeny Dove
Still winging her incessant flight on high,
The definite Triangle, and other such,
Girt with huge spaces of unstarry blue,
As sacred precincts round about them spread,
Through which the eye, from all obstruction clear,
Travels the heavens at midnight, and salutes
Those orbed constellations hung thereon
Like festal lamps on some cathedral wall;—
Emblems of Christian things, not pagan names
That nightly desecrate our northern skies.
Thus with thy spirit softly overshadowed
By the most brilliant umbrage of those stars,
Thou spakest of the snowy albatross,
Sailing in circuits round thy lonely-bark,
Fondling its foamy prow as if it deemed,
And not unjustly, its companionship
A solace to thee on the desert waves;
And underneath the great Australian trees
A light was in strange creatures’ wondering eyes,—
How solemnly interpreted by thee!
0 it was all so beautiful, so strange,
And with its current intercepted oft
With place for some endearment of old love,
I thought in thy wild strain how passing sweet
The poetry of those far southern seas!

Few days elapsed: there came another strain,
Fresh poetry from those far southern seas!
It sang of sickness and the fear of death,
Of suffering gently borne for love of Christ,
Who calls us to His service as He wills,
Not as we choose; and, mingling with the strain,
Broke forth thy simple and courageous words
And peaceful trust, as happy and as bold
As a child’s prayer. And wilt thou think it wrong,
That, when I prayed and wept and deeply mourned,
There was a pleasure in my mourning, such
As I have never felt in love before?
For who that doth remember thee, how pale!
How gentle! but would smile for very faith,
As Abraham smiled, at thine heroic words,
Which mate thine outward aspect so unfitly?
Ah! that was poetry tenfold more sweet
Than when thou sangst of stars, and ocean birds,
And wandering creatures underneath the trees!

O more than Brother! my impetuous heart,
Nurtured too much on volatile impulses,
In loving thee hath learned still more to love,
And study with a covetous design,
The science of thy quiet nature, calm,
Profoundly calm amid all cares and doubts,
As though thy faculties had never had,
Or left and lost in thy baptismal font,
All power of self-disturbance, so serene
The unsuspicious greatness of thy virtue,
Thy simple-tongued humility, and love
Too self-forgetting to have much of fear!
Like one who sits upon a windy steep,
And looks into a placid lake below
Bright in the breezeless vale, so have I gazed,
With long affection fathomed to its depths,
Into the inspired tranquillity of heart
On thy scarce ruffled innocence bestowed.
Dear Friend! I speak bold words of praise, and
tears
Warrant my boldness, for I know full well
Thine eye will never see what would have pained
Thy lowliness: that supernatural calm
Of thy pure nature will be deeper still,
Unutterably deepened, ere my words,
Not written as to one alive, shall reach
The island of thy gradual martyrdom.
0 no! thou wilt be once more at my side,
A help to my weak purposes, an arm
Invisible, in intercession strong,
No part of this half dead, half dying world,
But to the region of the living gone
To pray for us, and to be reached by prayer.
When these poor lines have travelled to that shore,
Distance and exile will have fallen from thee,
Sun-withered wreaths, before the eye of death;
Thou wilt be in my neighborhood again,
Again come home unto my soul’s embrace,
No more the frail and wasting Missionary,
But the high Mate of Angels and of Saints!


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