I was elected the education director of the University of Washington Newman Center in the early or mid aughts. This took place not long after I reverted to Catholicism thanks to the European history, comparative religion, and art history classes I took at a secular state university.
The Birkenstocked priest in charge of Newman had never formally introduced himself to me until that point. After my appointment was officially announced at a meeting of some sort he finally came up to me. The strong smell coming from his mouth hit me first. Before I could recover he dumped the following question on me: “Are you Opus Dei?”
This litmus test was our introduction, the beginning of our odd pairing. The message was clear: as a vaguely Neo-Conservative Catholic (I’m glad it passed, but no thanks to him) I was not welcome.
The priest spent the rest of the school year passively-aggressively scheduling all of my speakers before holidays, midterms, and finals. He wanted me to feel like a failure. And I did.
Archbishop Romero was predictably one of the heroes of this priest and he assumed that Opus Dei must be his polar opposite.
“I met Archbishop Romero,” the Prelate of Opus Dei said, “during one of his visits to Saint Josemaria, in 1970. He was a pious person, detached from his own interests and dedicated to his people. His struggle for sanctity was palpable. Archbishop Romero was one of the first bishops who, following the death of Saint Josemaria in 1975, wrote to Paul VI asking that his cause of canonization be opened. I am certain that now, from Heaven, he continues interceding with his good friend Saint Josemaria for this portion of the People of God that is Opus Dei.”
Here’s an excerpt from Abp. Oscar Romero’s letter:
Most Blessed Father, I regard the still-recent day of the death of Monsignor Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer as contributing to the greater glory of God and to the well-being of souls, and I am requesting of Your Holiness the quick opening of the cause for beatification and canonization of such an eminent priest.
The recently deceased David Carr and Catholicism is yet another odd pairing. I’ve only seen Carr here and there and didn’t know much about his biography. It was fascinating, given his endearing history of addiction and dissolution, to read the following comments about his messy relationship with faith in the Washington Post:
“My father is a man who swears frequently goes to church every day, and lives his towering faith,” Carr wrote. “I am a man who swears frequently, goes to church every Sunday, and lives in search of faith. He is a man who believes that I am not dead because nuns prayed for me. I am a man who believes that is as good an explanation as any.”
My history of the love song starts with ancient Mesopotamia, where the love song is part of a fertility ritual. The songs are very erotic. In fact, they are so erotic that many scholars will complain that they are not really love songs. Well, surprise-surprise, the same thing is happening today. People see Miley Cyrus twerking while she’s singing and say, “This song isn’t really about love; it’s all about sex.” We’ve come full circle. Women have become this powerful symbol and emblem, and music is returning to kind of biological roots. At the very beginning I have a long section on “Was Darwin Right?” Darwin believed that all music was originally love music, and that this music emerged to preserve the species, and that the sexual element was the underpinning of love. The exact same thing jumps out at you when you look at today’s videos or hit songs.
You see? Twerking is part of the history of civilization (much baser than we usually suppose) rather than a sign the end is nigh.
Finally, the works of Leon Bloy, admired by Pope Francis and Raissa Maritain, have either been untranslated or out of print. This will be remedied soon enough with the publishing of his Disagreeable Tales, which are billed as:
Thirty tales of theft, onanism, incest, murder and a host of other forms of perversion and cruelty from the “ungrateful beggar” and “pilgrim of the absolute,” Léon Bloy. Disagreeable Tales, first published in French in 1894, collects Bloy’s narrative sermons from the depths: a cauldron of frightful anecdotes and inspired misanthropy that represents a high point of the French Decadent movement and the most emblematic entry into the library of the “Cruel Tale” christened by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam . . .
. . . Léon Bloy (1846-1917) is among the best known but least translated of the French Decadent writers. Nourishing antireligious sentiments in his youth, his outlook changed radically when he moved to Paris and came under the influence of Barbey d’Aurevilly, the unconventionally religious novelist best known for Les Diaboliques. He earned the dual nicknames of “The Pilgrim of the Absolute” through his unorthodox devotion to the Catholic Church, and “The Ungrateful Beggar” through his endless reliance on the charity of friends to support him and his family.
Here’s a sampler of Bloy’s ungratefulness toward liberalism:
Bourgeois are by nature people who hate and destroy heavens. When they see a beautiful site, they have no more pressing dream than to cut the trees, dry up the springs, build streets, shops and urinals. They call this ceasing a business opportunity.
The odd pairing here is a bit onanistic. It comes from the news that another Bloy book is coming soon. It is a reissue of The Woman Who Was Poor by St. Augustine’s Press, which you can sample here through Dappled Things (something about “reeking of God“).
There you go.