How I handled the Corapi bombshell. Don’t try this at home folks. And please… make sure you listen to my words with Robin at the end. -Batman [Read more...]
Views of a new Catholic in an old world on the joy and inexhaustible meaning found in the Faith
How I handled the Corapi bombshell. Don’t try this at home folks. And please… make sure you listen to my words with Robin at the end. -Batman [Read more...]
A few thoughts on the character of a rebel found in a new addition to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. I found this in the first few pages of a compilation of quotations published in 1827 by John Timbs. Entitled, Laconics: or, The Best Words from the Best Authors, the following thoughts are those of one Samuel Butler.
Butler (1612-1680) was an author, poet, and satirist in his day. He is best known for the poem “Hudibras,” which was directed at lampooning the Puritans. What follows though are from his character sketches that were published long after his death in the year 1759. Compiled in a volume entitled The Genuine Remains in Verse and Prose of Mr Samuel Butler, behold “The Rebel”.
A rebel is a voluntary bandit, a civil renegado, that renounces his obedience to his prince, to raise himself upon the public ruin. He is of great antiquity, perhaps before the creation, at least a Preadamite; for Lucifer was the first of his family, and from him he derives himself in an indirect line. He finds fault with the government, that he may get it the easier into his own hands, as men use to undervalue what they have a desire to purchase.
He is a butcher of politics, and a state-tinker, that makes flaws in the government only to mend them again. He goes for a public-spirited man, and his pretences are for the public good; that is, for the good of his own public spirit. He pretends to be a great lover of his country, as if it had given him love-powder; but it is merely out of natural affection to himself. He has a great itch to be handling of authority, though he cut his fingers with it; and is resolved to raise himself, though it be but upon the gallows.
He is all for peace and truth, but not without lying and fighting. He plays a game with the hangman for the clothes on his back; and when he throws out, he strips him to the skin. He dies in hempen sheets, and his body is hanged, like his ancestor Mahomet’s, in the air. He might have lived longer, if the destinies had not spun his thread of life too strong.
He is sure never to come to an untimely end, for by the course of law his glass was out long before. He calls rebellion and treason laying out of himself for the public; but being found to be fake unlawful coin, he was seized upon, and cut in pieces, and hanged for falsifying himself.
His espousing of quarrels proves as fatal to his country, as the Parisian wedding did to France. He is like a bell, that was made on purpose to be hanged. He is a diseased part of the body politic, to which all the bad humours gather.
He picks straws out of the government like a madman, and startles at them when he has done. He endeavors to raise himself, like a boy’s kite, by being pulled against the wind. After all his endeavors and designs he is at length promoted to the gallows, which is performed with a cavalcade suitable to his dignity; and after much ceremony he is installed by the hangman, with the general applause of all men, and dies singing like a swan.
There’s a little bit of this guy in all of us. For more sketches of Butler’s, head on over to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. If you are like me you’ll agree that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Remember those wacky commercials for Chiffon Margarine back in the 1970′s? Here’s a clip to jog your memories (or to educate those who missed them). This is sort of like a funny primer on Natural Law. The real vs the simulacra brought into your den with a wink and a nod.
You know it’s true, but you fool around with the state of nature anyway. Don’t worry, it’s all in great fun. No problem!
Fast foward forty years and check out what fooling with Mother Nature has wrought. Girls becoming an endangered part of our species. Which means the species as a whole is endangered. Huh?
Have a look at this Wall Street Journal Book Review. Reviewing author Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatual Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, Jonathan V. Last writes:
Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In “Unnatural Selection,” Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.
In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.
Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.
What is causing the skewed ratio: abortion. If the male number in the sex ratio is above 106, it means that couples are having abortions when they find out the mother is carrying a girl. By Ms. Hvistendahl’s counting, there have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world. Moral horror aside, this is likely to be of very large consequence.****
If you peer hard enough at the data, you can actually see parents demanding boys. Take South Korea. In 1989, the sex ratio for first births there was 104 boys for every 100 girls—perfectly normal. But couples who had a girl became increasingly desperate to acquire a boy. For second births, the male number climbed to 113; for third, to 185. Among fourth-born children, it was a mind-boggling 209. Even more alarming is that people maintain their cultural assumptions even in the diaspora; research shows a similar birth-preference pattern among couples of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent right here in America.
Saints be praised, we can put this to bed! Raquel Maria Dillion of the AP has the scoop,
Police recovered the relic of St. Anthony of Padua on Thursday at the Long Beach home of Maria Solis, 41, and Solis was arrested on suspicion of commercial burglary, Long Beach Deputy Police Chief Robert Luna said Thursday evening.
Parishioners applauded when a police officer placed the delicate gold and silver reliquary containing a tiny shard of bone on a table at the news conference in front of the church.
Luna said detectives canvassed the neighborhood with a composite sketch of a person of interest who was seen at five Masses the day before the theft.
Investigators found video surveillance tape that captured her walking to St. Anthony Catholic Church on Monday, the day of the theft, and the day before, he said. Detectives said they found the relic displayed in her living room of her home, about a mile from the church, Luna said.
St. Anthony’s pastor, the Rev. Jose Magana, said the relic appeared to be undamaged.
“St. Anthony is the patron saint of travelers and lost things but today he’s also the honorary saint of the Long Beach Police Department,” Magana said. “He just wanted to come home because it belongs to everyone.”
Thanks to having low friends in high places, I can share this with you. You used to have to be an operative of the CIA, or MI-5, to be able to pull up stuff like this on your computer screen. Nowadays, you can do so from your investment house’s Bloomberg machines. By doing so, you can even pretend that having this kind of knowledge at your finger tips will give you an investing edge. It won’t, but that is another story.
In my case, since I was recently thinking about our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, it just gives me more reasons to pray for their safety. My oh my, look at all those pipelines and such! Burning refineries, etc. And you’re wondering why gasoline prices are high? Wonder no more.
Meanwhile, Christians are still being martyred. Have a look at this video and,
Hear the voice of a Christian Martyr singing a hymn in Arabic to the Blessed Mother, while watching a slideshow of his funeral mass. Hear the angelic voice of Father Ragheed Ganni, a 35 year old Chaldean Catholic Priest killed on Sunday June 3rd, 2007 with three of his deacons right after celebrating mass at Holy Spirit Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq. The car of Father Ragheed and the three deacons was stopped by terrorists shortly after leaving the church. They were forced to get down from the car and asked to declare their conversion to Islam. When the four martyrs refused they were brutally gunned down with machine guns.
A translation of the hymn in English is,
We honor you with hymns O Mother of God, you are the pride of the whole earth, because the Word of God whom the Father sent, chose to take His human body from you. The generations call you blessed, all nations and people’s honor you and ask for mercy by your prayers. You are a generous earth in which plants of joy always grow.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our deaths. Amen.
A few days back, it was the Feast Day of St. Barnabas. You may or may not recall that he was St. Paul’s companion on his first mission trip. They were fast friends in the faith, traveling hither and yon spreading the Good News together to the Gentiles.
You can learn more about Barnabas over at the Catholic Encyclopedia. The record shows that at some point, the two went their separate ways. Perhaps it was a falling out, but perhaps it was just that they were called in different directions by the same Spirit that brought them together in the first place.
Good friends are able to put up with each other, while also being their own men. All the while enjoying each other’s company. There is a movie that hit the theaters the day after St. Barnabus’ Day that is about a trip that two friends take touring the restaurants of Northern England together.
It’s not so surprisingly called The Trip and it stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing versions of themselves. The Trip was originally a six part miniseries on the BBC2 network, which I (of course) never even knew about.
A friend of mine posted a few clips from the movie on his Facebook page, and I was dying laughing from the impressions Brydon and Coogan pull off on the likes of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, and even Woody Allen during the course of their performances. Have a look at the trailer (pardon any commercials),
Reading some of the reviews, there is lots of fun, but also plenty of pathos too. In the fun department though, I have a few friends who I could do this kind of thing with all day long,
Leave my sister out of it is right! You have to admit that these two guys have a gift for improvisation. Man, did you see that? They went all Scottish on us. Stand-by for some Big Country!
Back to the film, Metacritic (remember them?) weighs in with a score of 81, which for all intents and purposes is a home-run right out of the park. Honey? We’re going to the movies (if this ever makes it to Galilee).
So perhaps you think I’ve gone a little batty with this long march I’ve undertaken to beg our Christian brethren to forswear the Randian siren song luring them upon the lee shore of Objectivism. Frank has gone to cloud cuckoo land, sho ’nuff. Man, if only he would just settle down and put his thinking cap on. Sheesh.
OK then. So today at the office, one of my colleagues had a birthday, see? So I didn’t go to Mass like I usually would. The office gathered around to be thankful to God for bringing us the gift of this person, and so it was right and fitting to celebrate the occasion. Agreed? I’ll get back to my routine tomorrow.
But since I wasn’t able to participate in the heaven meets earth event that I have come to look forward to daily, I did the next best thing. I headed over to the USCCB website to catch up on the daily readings. And would you believe that every single one of them screamed that Ayn Rand is not the way?
Here, take a look for yourself. First up? St. Paul,
June 14, 2011
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week
in Ordinary Time
2 Cor 8:1-9
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, of the grace of God
that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
Whoa…generosity? And poverty? Yuk!
For according to their means, I can testify,
and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part
in the service to the holy ones,
and this, not as we expected,
but they gave themselves first to the Lord
and to us through the will of God,
so that we urged Titus that, as he had already begun,
he should also complete for you this gracious act also.
Beyond their means? They’ll go bankrupt! And they begged for the favor of serving others? No way!
Now as you excel in every respect,
in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness,
and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.
Gracious acts? Do tell! What’s next…concern for others?
I say this not by way of command,
but to test the genuineness of your love
by your concern for others.
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for your sake he became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Sheesh! OK, surely the Psalms will give me a break. Let’s see what’s on King David’s mind today.
146:2, 5-6ab, 6c- 7, 8-9a Responsorial Psalm
R. (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!
Praise the LORD, my soul!
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
Hmmm, not looking very promising.
Blessed he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD, his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
Oh, not that ridiculous idea again.
Who keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
There he goes, telling us to help the hungry and the oppressed and the weak. Sigh. These guys never learn.
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
Those who are bowed down should stay down. And what is justice? Looks like I’m 0 for 2 so far. Maybe the Gospel with give me something to work with. Oops, looks like no. Would you believe fate would send me something from the Sermon on the Mount? OMG!
Mt 5:38-42 Gospel
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
See? You cannot follow Ayn Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” and pretend you are a disciple of the King. My Christian brethren (who attempt such nonsense), your position is, in a word, untenable. Your lack of understanding of this is unfathomable. “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” You cannot do that without striving to live by the Two Greatest Commandments.
None of us can.
Update: New members of the Rand Busters™ Lisa Graas and Stacy Trasancos. Go read Lisa’s post!
|I Am the Way,|
the Truth, and the Life
Fr. Brian Doran
Sounds like a case for G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown. AP reporter Raquel Maria Dillon has the story,
A 780-year-old religious relic of St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen, and parishioners at a Southern California Catholic church are praying to the patron saint of lost causes and missing objects for its speedy return.
The relic was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday, the feast day of the church’s namesake.
The Rev. Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.
Magana said the relic is invaluable and deeply symbolic to his parish.
“It’s our history, so it’s irreplaceable,” Magana said. “It belongs to the church, not just the church here in Long Beach, but the entire Catholic Church.”
Read the rest here, and join in their prayers for the speedy return of this relic.
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.
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|
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 |
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.
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|
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|
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|
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.
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).