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March 13, 2014

James Hunt gets light over a hill at the Nürburgring during the German Grand Prix, 1975.
Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Spring must be in the air, or something, because my mind is on art that doesn’t belong in a gallery.

The image above is art that I can appreciate right about now. The science that brings about the machinery is art as well. At least to me.

Take a look at this short video of a Mark I Ford GT40. Therein, we get to see the machined beauty of the car in fine detail, before we hear the beautiful music it makes while taking laps. Roll clip, (more…)

August 23, 2012




Uh-oh. Ecco Homo non amplius?

You know, there is wisdom in admitting your limitations. More details over at the Guardian.

February 1, 2011

Have you ever heard of François Villon? I never had, but I’m looking forward to finding out more about him. I’m home sick, drinking coffee and later on I’ll be dipping into the medicine chest for the “sniffling, sneezing, coughing, so you can rest medicine.” But first, I want to share with you what, in my unlettered opinion, is the Best. Preface. Ever. Written.

It’s all my friend John C.H. Wu’s fault, you know. For Christmas, I ponied up all of my cash Christmas gifts and bought John’s close to impossible to find The Interior Carmel: The Threefold Way of Love. Since I’m effectively confined to quarters, I started reading it a bit and began noting whatever references he made to other authors, adding their works to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

John is well read, and by reading my friend John, he points me to a lot of good stuff. That’s what friends do for one another, right? So I chased down a reference to a book written by one Pierre Champion, SJ entitled The Spiritual Teaching of Father Louis Lallement. By doing a search of the authors name, I was pointed to a book that quoted him, where I found this preface written by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, the author of a ton of books, including the one made into a movie a few times,  The Blue Lagoon.

Take a look at this and tell me what you think.

Preface to François Villon, His Life and Time, (1431-1463)
By Henry De Vere Stacpoole

Traveling in France you may often get a glimpse of something that England cannot show you—a chateau with slated roofs and towers pointed each like a witch’s cap.

The outline of a Chinese pagoda would not strike upon the retina more strangely than the outline of this veritable figure of stone, ambushed in valley or crouching on hill-top, and showing to the broad light of day the roofs that rose and the towers that took form when Amboise was building and before Bussy was a man. You pass on, the chateau fades from sight, but the picture of it will remain for ever in your mind. You have seen the Middle Ages.

My object is to present to you Francois Villon, one of the strangest figures in all literature, and one of the greatest of French poets. Were I to attempt to reach him immediately and entirely through the MSS. of the Bibliotheque de la Sorbonne, or the Bibliotheque Nationale, or the Archives of the Cote d’Or, and were I to take you with me, we would both be half asphyxiated by the stuffy smell of parchment, and we would part company, or arrive at our journey’s end cross and tired and without finding Villon.

You cannot find a man through manuscripts, unless they are in the handwriting of the man. Archaeologists and museum hunters may tell us all about a man’s surroundings, his companions, his status in life, and his morals, as they appeared to his contemporaries, but to find the man one must find the man, and we can only find him through the expressions of his mind. And that is why so many dead men are so utterly dead. They have left nothing by which we can weigh them as men. Literary men fall under this freezing law no less than others, simply because the large majority of them leave on paper their ideas, fancies, inventions, and so forth, but of themselves little trace. Villon had the magical power of turning himself into literature, and that is why I propose to rob archaeologists and students and all sorts of people on our road, so that we may find out in what sort of country Villon lived and something of the extent of his genius, but to discard or almost to discard these when we come to estimate Villon as a man—to discard everything but the literature which holds his mind and heart, and, almost one might say, his body.

Stand with me, then, on this French road in the year 1914 and, forgetting books and manuscripts for awhile, let that chateau with the pointed towers touch you with its magic wand. All those modern houses crumble to dust, the railway-track vanishes, mule-bells strike the ear, pilgrims pass, their faces set towards Paris, and troops of soldiers, soon to be disbanded and to join the ranks of the unemployed, the labourers, the mendicants, and the robbers.

It is the year 1431. War is smouldering in the land; only a few short months ago Jean d’Arc was burned at Rouen. Henry VI of England, his archers and men-at-arms, are advancing away there to the west slowly towards Paris. Paris is starving. Charles VII, recently crowned, is King of France but as yet only in name, and over the whole broad land the spirit of the dead Maid is welding together the Armagnacs, the Poitevins, the Bretons, and the Burgundians to form the French nation.

Side by side with this creation of a people is going forward—or soon to go forward—the creation of a national language.

Up to this, France has spoken almost entirely in stone; up to this the architect has been the man of letters; up to this all those scattered tribes, Angevins, Poitevins, Burgundians, Armagnacs, and Bretons, have found expression for the genius that lives in man, not in verse or prose or painting, but in the pointed arch and shrill spire, the cathedral, fortress, and chateau.

We are in the land of the gargoyle. That chateau before us is the mind of the Middle Ages epitomised in stone, severe, narrow-windowed, armed, and above all fantastic. When we reach Paris along that road on which the pilgrims are straying, you will see that chateau broken up and repeated in a thousand different forms, you will see its pointed roofs in La Tournelles, its weathercocks on the Hotel de Sens, its towers on the Bastille, its portcullis as you cross the Petit Pont, and its fantasy everywhere.

And what you see here and what you will see in Paris is not a collection of stones cemented by mortar, but the carapace of the mind of the people. You are, in effect, looking at the literature of France in the year 1481.

As I have hinted before, France has not learned to express herself fully in poetry or prose. She has not yet learned properly to write, the mind of the people is pregnant with artistic speech, but as yet it can only murmur in verse and in tapestry or cry out in stone, yet even in these tapestries you may see the prefiguration of French literature, and even in these stones.

Over there at Bourges you will find the first verse of Villon’s Ballade of Jean Cotart, not yet to be written for thirty years, on the main porch where Noah lies drunk and naked, and you will find his ballade of the Contredicts de Franc Gontier hinted at in the sculptures of the Salle des Cheminees of the Palais de Justice in Paris. You will find Rabelais everywhere, from the Abbey de Bocherville to the Church of St. Jacques de la Boucherie, though Rabelais is not yet to be born for many and many a year. Grim humour, gross humour, fantasy and a vague gloom, arising from the skull which is the basis of Gothic art, are found everywhere; we find facades that sneer, porches that criticise, bas-reliefs filled with pointed stories, a whole literature petrified and inhuman. The attempt, in fact, of the human mind to express itself in stone.

To Villon, who was born last month, will fall the high mission of helping to give the human mind expression in speech. The mocking verses of his Testaments will give voice to the spirit of mockery whose expression can now only be found chiselled in the lavatory of the Abbey de Bocherville, or in the sculptures of Guillaume de Paris; his tenderness, his humanity, his tears can be found as yet nowhere, for stone cannot give expression to these.

Leaving aside the genius and directness of vision of this man who has just been born into the world—or rather perhaps because of them— Villon’s highest mission will be to tell future ages that the inhabitants of the land of the gargoyle were living and human beings, not mediaeval figures. That will be the highest mission of one who, with Aristophanes and Homer, holds the position, far above all royal positions, of a world-link—the man whose destiny it is to be ever living in a world ever dying.

So, standing here on this French road in the year 1431 before that isolated chateau and under its spell we may gather some hint of the rigid world into which our poet has just been born, some idea of that huge edifice of stone which Art has constructed as a mode of expression for the dreams and the humours of man, and which has turned into a sarcophagus for the corpse of thought—a sarcophagus to be shattered by the voice of that infant over there in Paris and by the voices of others still unborn.

Trust me, I’ll be reading more of Stacpoole’s book on François Villon. How could I not?

August 22, 2010

Guest Post by Terry Fenwick

I met Terry by way of Francis Beckwith’s Facebook page. Pretty soon, we were “friends” too. Shortly thereafter, we were trading e-mails back and forth and I learned that she was a Catholic convert from the class of 2004.  She, and her late husband, Tom, came into full communion with the Church in 2004. She shared this piece she had written for her parish bulletin with me . I don’t know much, but I knew one thing immediately upon reading this; it needed a wider audience. Take a look and see if you agree with me.

Come and See

Since becoming Catholic in 2004, I have asked myself over and over, why I was never invited to attend a Mass. I could attend funerals and was invited to a few weddings, but not one Catholic ever invited me to Mass. (more…)

July 7, 2010


I love reading poetry and at one point in my life, wrote it constantly. I still have my well-thumbed Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry from my undergraduate years at the University of Michigan. I often read it and recently wondered how many of the poets within are Catholic. John Berryman is one. Born in Oklahoma in 1914, he was raised Catholic.

I always liked his name. I tried to read his poetry the other day, but found most of it so despairing I could not. His work reflects his troubled soul. The Pulitzer Prize winning poet survived his own father’s suicide when he was 12 and spent his life struggling with  depression and alcoholism. He returned to the faith of his childhood as a middle-aged man.

Sadly, Berryman ended his life in 1972 by jumping off a bridge. I thank God that Berryman found times of comfort in this world in the presence of Christ and that he left us luminous words, which speak of the struggle between faith and doubt. I particularly like this one, which he wrote toward the end of his life. He’s honest about his doubts while he stands in awe of creation. The entire poem is published in his collected works. I pray for his immortal soul. 



Eleven Addresses to the Lord


1

Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,
inimitable contriver,
endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,
thank you for such as it is my gift.
I have made up a morning prayer to you
containing with precision everything that most matters.
‘According to Thy will’ the thing begins.
It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.
You have come to my rescue again & again
in my impassable, sometimes despairing years.
You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves
and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.
Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:

how can I ‘love’ you?
I only as far as gratitude & awe
confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.
It doesn’t seem likely
from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view
but certainly all things are possible to you,
and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and
to Paul
    as I believe I sit in this blue chair.
Only that may have been a special case
to establish their initiatory faith.
Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.
May I stand until death forever at attention
for any your least instruction or enlightenment.
I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.
April 7, 2010

I’m not sure. This might have been the first poem I ever loved. And it was a Catholic poem, 40 years before I became a Catholic. William Merriss was the English teacher of all English teachers at my junior high school, and he, though probably not a Catholic (I don’t know) taught me Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet and, it turns out, a Jesuit. God bless Mr. Merriss.

Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

January 18, 2010

Posted by Webster 
I’m not sure why I have hesitated to write about Communion and Liberation (CL) in the 200-some posts I’ve contributed to this blog since mid-August. I have mentioned CL’s founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani (left) a couple of times, and I have tipped my hat to the CL magazine, Traces, on one occasion. But I haven’t mounted my soapbox and talked up the total CL experience.


Which is strange. Because Communion and Liberation is a big part of my total Catholic life. I have participated in a weekly CL meeting, or School of Community (the CL term), since before I was received into the Church, roughly two years. Ferde invited me, and for that, as for much else, I am in his debt. Together with Father Barnes, a dozen or more of us meet on Friday evenings. I also participated in the annual CL summer vacation in 2009, and I am more or less a regular at other regional CL events in Boston and Cambridge. Communion and Liberation has been a deeply meaningful aspect of my total Catholic experience. You can read more about it here. And yet . . .

Strange as this might sound, I don’t want to take the name in vain. I keep thinking, I don’t have enough experience of CL, and I don’t know the language. About the language: CL was founded by Fr. Giussani in Italy in 1954. (And how could you not love that face? Like a welterweight whose nose has taken one too many punches?) Father Giussani had his own language for speaking about the Christian experience, and he spoke Italian. Which means that English translations are a sort of argot heard at second remove. Reading him in English, I’m never quite sure if my failures of understanding are (a) because of the translation, (b) because I’m not up to speed yet, or (c) because Father Giussani was a bit nutty. My bets are all on (a) and (b), but you never know. I never met FG. If you know any Italian, you’ll understand this clip; I don’t:

Why post about CL now? Because I have just returned from a half-day with the Movement, a remarkable afternoon and evening that offered full measures of truth, goodness, and beauty. And if my heart can discern the truth, then this is the truth: CL is the real deal. Let me give you some quick glimpses—

Truth: On Sunday afternoon (1/17), as part of the New York Encounter 2010, I was present at a presentation by three eminent men, only two of whom are directly CL-affiliated. (CL and its cultural arm, Crossroads, host events at which non-CLers and even non-Catholics and, yes, even non-Christians, are sometimes featured speakers.) The men on the panel yesterday were Fr. Julián Carrón (left), who took over leadership of CL upon Fr. Giussani’s death in 2005; Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the CL “responsible” for the US and Canada; and Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological Ethics at Duke University, where he teaches in both the school of divinity and the school of law. These are smart guys. But you want to know something interesting? Try Googling Julián Carrón. You won’t find much. He is the humblest leader of a worldwide Catholic movement you can imagine. This is the only link to Fr. Carrón that I could find on the US CL Web site, his “intervention” at the funeral of Fr. Giussani! As if the only thing on-line about Pope BXVI was his homily for JPII.

The three panelists discussed the book that Schools of Community worldwide are now starting to read, Is It Possible to Live This Way?: Charity, an Unusual Approach to Christian Existence. This post is already way too long, so let me offer a single quote from each of the panelists:

First, Msgr. Albacete, quoting Fr. Giussani: “If you cannot sing about it, it’s not true.”

Next, Prof. Hauerwas, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas: “Charity is the form of all virtues.”

Finally, Fr. Carrón, citing Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “The term love has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words.”

Goodness: At 5:30 yesterday afternoon, Mass was said at the Church of the Holy Innocents on West 37th Street (left). Admittedly, I’m new to the Catholic game, but I have never seen so many priests concelebrating. Leading the way was Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent Vatican observer at the United Nations. The Church was filled with members of The Movement, and the Communion and Liberation Choir filled the loft at the rear of the nave. After Mass, the parish served your standard pasta supper in the church basement for $5 a head. CL-ers from around the world eating off paper plates with plastic forks in a church basement in Manhattan—good food, good company, great moment.

Beauty: Sunday evening, we returned to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square and witnessed something special, a screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, accompanied by a live performance of Richard Einhorn’s “Visions of Light,” performed by the Metro Chamber Orchestra and the Communion and Liberation Choir. I posted a clip from the film earlier today. Here is the final scene, of Joan’s execution, with the score by Einhorn:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-VvDjRg4nA

I have written before that Joan of Arc is one of the reasons I became a Catholic. Communion and Liberation is a reason I remain one.

May 14, 2016

Detail_autel_Jose_Maria_Escriva_de_Balaguer_Peterskirche_Vienna
St. Josemaría Escrivá, photograph by Jebulon (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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

June 10, 2015

IMG_1325

For a regular guy, with a blog called Why I Am Catholic, I honestly can’t think of one, single, reason. I mean aside from the obvious one.

So how about Because?  No, really. In fact, I reckon I have 445+ posts with titles that begin with the word “because.” That might just be 45,000 words worth of trying to explain it. And you know what? Every day there are more reasons that keep piling up. Oftentimes, words fail.

Need more reasons? (more…)

April 23, 2015

What follows are a few snapshots taken while I was in Jordan for the Religious Blogger/Press Tour. I took hundreds of photographs (who doesn’t these days?) and I intend to share them with you here. How about a dozen at a time?

I hope you get a sense of the beauty of both the land, and of the people, in the eastern portion of the Holy Land. Here is the first batch.

View from the patio of the Sufra Restaurant, in Amman
View from the patio of the Sufra Restaurant, in Amman. Yes, you can see the stars.
(more…)




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