• September 16th, 2014New Archaeological Find! The Third Epistle of Peter!!!by Kevin O'Brien

    The New Testament contains two Epistles by St. Peter.  A third one was recently discovered, but some are doubting its authenticity.  It appears to have been written during Jesus active ministry ...


    ***

    Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Other Eleven and to Various Disciples.

    May God bless you all.  I give thanks always and everywhere for the hard work you are doing in spreading what Jesus is calling the "gospel message".

    Which, of course, needs some refining.

    I took Jesus aside the other day for an "ad hoc meeting" and tried to talk some sense into him.  He keeps insisting on this whole "cross" thing and claiming that he's going to suffer.  "God forbid!" I told him.  After all, we can't have that - it would be bad for the organization and we have to protect our branding.

    Some of you have been asking how he responded to me.  Not well, really.  "Get thee behind me, Satan!" was a bit of an over-reaction, as far as I'm concerned.  He keeps saying that's the "hour" for which he was sent.  Totally beyond me.

    Meanwhile, we're forming a Doctrine Committee to deal with things.  Oh, and there's a Fish Fry on Friday next week, though we clearly don't have enough at this point to feed the multitude.  The Fall Festival is taking volunteers and Scrip is available in the Gathering Area.

    But the reason I'm writing is to get you to consider wisely how to invest your time, treasure and talents.  Especially your treasure.  Judas, our CFO, says that donations are down considerably and so I ask you to prayerfully yadda-yadda ... you know the score.  By the way, I am shocked that so many of you are giving yourselves over to gossip, which is a sin that will send you to hell.  Judas' moneybag has not been "leaking into his pockets" as some of you have been suggesting.  How dare you question his authority!  He is a close and trusted member of this community, and even though we're not yet considered "priests after the order of Melchizedek", once a little bit of clericalism kicks in, we'll slap you silly if you even so much as suggest that things ain't "kosher" with any of the inner circle, as you have been.  In short, question us and go to hell.  That's my policy.

    Oh, and I'm still working on getting Jesus to keep kids and lepers from approaching him, at least when he's preaching and healing.  The Public Relations committee has some firm suggestions in that regard.  Also, he keeps talking about how great it is to be poor, and that won't fly at the Capernaum Country Club, if you know what I mean.  And we've got some big donors from there, so we have to be careful.

    Well, that's about it.  Don't forget to register for the bus trip up Mt. Tabor next week.  There's not many of you going at this point.  The sing up sheet is in the Gathering Area.  I'll be there because - well, I'll stick by Jesus no matter what.  You all know that.  Don't you?

    Peter

    ***

  • September 15th, 2014Maurice Baring: In Need of a Modern Championby Joseph Pearce

    I'm in receipt of an e-mail from a Spanish scholar seeking my advice with regard to Maurice Baring's suitability as the focus of his doctoral studies. Here's my response:

    Personally, I am very excited at the prospect of your writing your doctoral thesis on Maurice Baring, though it's a pity that it will presumably be written in Spanish. Perhaps you could later translate it for publication in the English-speaking world.

    It is true that Baring is not well-known but he was considered a major novelist in the period between the two world wars and, objectively speaking, is one of the truly major novelists of the twentieth century. He's in need of a modern champion!

    I would suggest that you establish the case for Baring's importance by commencing your research with sourcing the praise for his work by major figures in England and France. Chesterton and Waugh were great admirers, as was Francois Mauriac. Having established Baring's credentials, so to speak, you could then move on to a discussion of the brilliance of his novels. For what it's worth, I also consider Baring one of the finest poets of the last century. If you haven't read his poetry, you should. 

    If you decide to choose Baring, I'd be happy to help, insofar as my time permits, as you begin your work.

    Having made the case for Baring, it is true that a comparative study of Newman and Chesterton would also be a worthy focus for your research.
  • September 14th, 2014Sense and Sensitivityby Joseph Pearce

    If there's one subject on which it's difficult to have a rational discussion in these irrational times it's the thorny topic of same sex attraction. I know this from bitter experience because I was recently banned from speaking at a large secular university because I had written a book on Oscar Wilde which did not wholeheartedly endorse Wilde's desertion of his wife and children in pursuit of the homosexual lifestyle. Some things are sacrosanct, it seems, but not fidelity in marriage or the best interests of children.

    One of the few places in which I have seen genuine sense and sensitivity on the subject of same sex attraction is in Dena Hunt's novel, The Lion's Heart. This being so, I was delighted to see this excellent and thoughtful appraisal of the novel's merits in the National Catholic Register

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/sarah-reinhard/two-novels-that-made-me-think-this-summer/

  • September 13th, 2014A Prophet New Inspir’dby Marie Dudzik

    Francis Cardinal George of Chicago is credited with saying that he expects to die in his bed, his successor to die in prison, and his successor to die a martyr. In other words, the persecution of American Catholics is coming, and it’s a matter not of if, but of when.  In a recent column in the Catholic New World, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal George writes that “when” is “now”.

    Cardinal George is in declining health, past the retirement age of 75, and in a position in which he has nothing to gain by clinging to the church of nice. In his column, “A Tale of Two Churches” he pits the Church founded by Christ against the religion of the current American establishment and states that the two are completely incompatible.

    The column is refreshing in its honesty and troubling in its conclusions. His Eminence sounds a bit like John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II, “a prophet new inspir’d” citing the sins of a corrupt regime and ruin of a once-great country. Like Gaunt, the Cardinal is not afraid to tell it like it is:

    “There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class.” This is resulting in a situation where “those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined”.

    This is grim stuff, but it’s not anything new. Many faithful Catholics have been thinking these things for years. What’s startling is to see it in print, and see it written by a member of the hierarchy.

    Cardinal George compares this treatment to non-Muslims living under Sharia laws. But unlike Filipino workers living like slaves in Saudi Arabia, we have our own co-religionists to thank for much of the damage done. How many “Catholic” legislators helped to create this situation? How many “Catholic” voters keep electing them? How many priests and bishops refuse to correct or denounce laws and legislators that continue to make Christians second-class citizens in their own country? How many people in the pews only live their faith for an hour a week and then spend the other six days and twenty-three hours being “good Americans?” How many will agree to live under the restrictions the Cardinal described above, or will comfort trump Truth as we enter our own penal times? In another history play, Shakespeare has King Henry V tell a subject that his duty to the state is important, but limited: “every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.” When it comes to choosing between following laws and saving our souls, which will we choose? This was much on Shakespeare’s mind; he may have watched the great English martyrs such as Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell go to their deaths, traitors in the eyes of the state, but true sons of the Church to Christ.

    In a sermon on St. Thomas More preached in 1948 in London, Monsignor Ronald Knox reminded his listeners of how much they have in common with those great saints of English penal times. “We live, like the men of the sixteenth century, in an age of new horizons; and for us, as for them, the old question still presses, How much can we afford to fall in with the spirit of our times? I say, ‘afford’; I am using commercial language, as our Lord used to. There comes a point at which, in reaching out for earthly prizes, we may lose the heavenly.”

    Our politicians constantly ramble on about prosperity and opportunity, but they never tell us how much it costs. Perhaps because they are too ashamed to admit how much their own prosperity and opportunity has cost them. Vice-President Biden recently used the phrase “the gates of hell”; perhaps he knows where that it because he has been offered retirement property there by the local landlord. Following the Cardinal’s lead, it’s time for all of us help to explode the “myth of human progress”. Those new horizons of a better day are a false dawn if they take our eyes off the true light of Christ. Our land of opportunity can only be found in heaven; our prosperity is only found through the Cross.

    Cardinal George’s complete column can be read here:

    http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

  • September 11th, 2014The Lion’s Heart gains praise…by Dena Hunt

    …from conservative National Catholic Register’s blogger, Sarah Reinhard. That’s especially gratifying in view of the novel’s controversial theme. It doesn’t just take courage to write certain things; it also takes courage to publish, and maybe still more, to praise:

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/sarah-reinhard/two-novels-that-made-me-think-this-summer/

  • September 10th, 2014The One and the Many Againby Dena Hunt

    This theme recurs again, and yet again. I’ve written several variations of it here, never in some kind of resolution mode, but only as an attempt to comprehend prevalent disharmony, injury to peace—external and internal, societal and individual. Certainly I want to avoid redundancy, but the theme seems to manifest so redundantly that it’s unavoidable and must be observed again, and yet again: All understanding, the necessary foundation of harmony, seems always to lie in the disruption of the relationship between genus and differentia—on so many levels: the individual person vs. marriage or family; tribes or races, ethnic cultures or religious affiliations vs. society at large or national identity. Never has subjective, emotional, response been more dangerous; if ever there was a time to rid ourselves of obfuscating anger and false sentiment, and try to see how the genus-differentia relationship works—indeed, how it must work—that time is now.

    The Three Musketeers explained it well: one for all and all for one. Indeed, it must be so. If all are not for one, one cannot be for all. We, both as the one and as the many, are utterly interdependent. The principle is a very simple one; the problem is not some kind of intellectual deficiency, but in understanding its nature: It’s not a formula to be applied here or there, or a rule—worse still, a law—but a reflex, natural to humanity, a basic instinct that operates without conscious awareness, like breathing. It is the nature of unity to include diversity; therein does it derive its definition. That unity must be organic, instinctive; it can’t be externally imposed, unnatural. Then it becomes tyranny. (An example: Legislation that labels opinion as “hate” speech, opinions that differ from the party line—the genus prohibits differentiation.)

    What married person has never had to sacrifice his own ambitions, wishes, etc., not in deference to the spouse, but in deference to the marriage? What sibling has never had to give up his own preferences, not in deference to another sibling but in deference to the family? And doesn’t that marriage, that family, provide then the haven of safety, of belonging, of identity, in which a person can grow and thrive as an individual?

    I admit this sounds simplistic, but what happens on one level is identical to what happens on another. The recent horrific news of Rotherham in the UK, its larger version acted out by ISIS in northern Iraq, or any ordinary, everyday divorce, any civil strife like the recent episode in Ferguson, Missouri—even the Ukrainian/Russian conflict—all these are conflicts of one vs. many, wherein the identity of the one is threatened by the many, or the stability of the many is threatened by the identity of the one.

    Not understanding the necessity for the safe existence of both the genus and the differentia causes really destructive decisions when problems emerge: The police abandoned their duty to protect the citizens of Rotherham when they ignored the many to favor the one. The one (the Pakistani gangs) must be made to understand that their identity as Pakistanis is protected only insofar as they defer to the genus of British society. And if that deference is not there, that society will not be able to protect them. Hostility of differentia toward genus will lead (usually via totalitarian order) to the destruction of differentia. Hostility of genus toward differentia will lead to the destruction of genus (anarchy).

    Ideologies, utopian fantasies, glory-seeking, not to mention ordinary conning and politicking, get in the way of common sense. This is not an issue of philosophy, religion, or “values.” It’s the way we’d all behave if we didn’t enjoy being manipulated so much—a very perverse trait in so many people who evidently lead such dull lives they constantly require, like an addiction, some kind of arousal. (I do not use the word stimulation.) But ignoring something so basic, we wallow in the emotionalism of taking sides, vindictiveness, retribution, blaming, anger, and of course, violence. There can be no peace in any society, no matter how large or small, where the particularities of persons are not held sacred, nor can there be any order where those particularities are allowed to dominate society. It’s not a belief system of any kind, or a judgment of good vs evil; it’s just the only sensible way for human beings to live together. It requires minimal intelligence and a zero tolerance for nonsense—which has its own rightful place.

  • September 8th, 2014Muslims and the Miasma of Multiculturalismby Joseph Pearce

    My latest piece for the Imaginative Conservative finds me embroiled in controversy on the thorny subjects of radical Islam and the crumbling edifice of multiculturalism: 

    http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2014/09/muslims-miasma-multiculturalism.html#more-49727

  • September 7th, 2014Anton Bruckner’s Medieval Cityby Daniel J. Heisey

    Listeners unimpressed by the music of Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) complain that the composer did not write nine symphonies but one symphony nine times.  More appreciative listeners compare those symphonies to Gothic cathedrals.  Even an admirer of Bruckner’s work, though, must recognize that for some people, after a while one medieval cathedral looks much like another.  Nevertheless, it can be a contemplative experience, taking one’s time pacing through one of those old cathedrals, and so it can be when entering into one of Bruckner’s vast symphonies.

    Bruckner’s soaring yet solid compositions owe much to his early years in rural Austria as a virtuoso of the church organ.  As a church organist, he was used to filling lofty interiors with layers of sound.  Another influence on him was the operatic music of Richard Wagner, voluminous and bombastic.  Two men could not have been more different:  Wagner, the egoistic adulterer, Bruckner the shy celibate.  Bruckner was a deeply devout Catholic, an introverted man who never found the right girl, and so he devoted himself to his music and his God.

    Perhaps Bruckner’s most popular and accessible symphony is his Fourth, in E-flat major, the first draft of which dates to 1874, the final revisions to 1890.  It was first performed in the United States in 1885, and it has been recorded numerous times.  Bruckner left programmatic notes to describe his Fourth Symphony, and through them Bruckner gave glimpses into another profound influence upon him, the Catholic culture of old Europe.

    Bruckner called his Fourth Symphony “The Romantic,” and from his descriptions one could devise a scenario for a film.  According to Bruckner, the symphony begins by depicting dawn rising over the walls and towers of a medieval city and its castle.  From a tower a trumpeter signals the start of a new day.  Then knights ride forth from the gates, and in due course there is a hunting scene, followed by a local fair.

    In the opening notes of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, music critics hear themes from nature, and then throughout the Andante, one gets the sense of being alone in an autumnal setting.  The Scherzo opens with the brassy call of hunting horns, and one can almost see the horses, stags, and hounds.  In the Finale, passages suggest the merriment at a town festival, with bright strains of Bruder Jakob, the Germanic version of Frère Jacques.

    In each movement, one finds Bruckner’s characteristic wave upon wave of sound, many building to majestic crescendo.  It is this monumental quality that leads to comparisons with cathedrals.  While Bruckner may have intended to evoke the chivalry and pageantry of the Holy Roman Empire, more immediate to Bruckner’s eye and ear were the pomp and grandeur of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

    Whether Bruckner’s Fourth conjures an idealized Austrian landscape from days of yore, it conveys the impression not only of ethereal morning but also of robust activity.  As with all Bruckner’s symphonic work, his Fourth combines elements that are subtle and vigorous.  Just as passages can make one more reflective, others cannot fail to get one’s blood flowing.  It is baffling that Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957), in what one hopes was a bad moment, said that Bruckner’s music shows that “he had never had a woman.”  Whatever such an insight may mean, it does stand as a lesson that even great musicians can make asinine comments.

    In contrast, Maestro Manfred Honeck of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has told me that it certainly helps when interpreting Bruckner’s music to have come from the same roots.  Like Bruckner, Honeck is a devout Catholic layman from Austria.  He grew up with the architecture and the liturgy, the customs and the food that would have been familiar to Bruckner, but what he could not experience from the inside, so to speak, was the martial ethos of imperial Austria.

    Still, human nature never changes, and so people even today can understand Bruckner’s music.  Yet, he remains less popular than his younger contemporary, Gustav Mahler, and he has not added a fourth B to the great three of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.  Through performances by conductors such as Honeck and the dedicated work of Bruckner societies here and abroad, Bruckner’s loyal fans find encouragement, and word gets out to the uninitiated about the glories of his music.

    People who knew Bruckner described him as a “rustic genius,” something of a musical idiot savant who stuck out in the world of the Strauss family’s Vienna as backward and provincial.  A quiet, heavy-set man given to bow ties and crew cuts, pinches of snuff and mugs of beer, Bruckner had friendly critics of the day marveling that such a bumpkin could produce complex and extensive Adagios, by turns melancholy and mystical.

    Alone among Bruckner’s nine symphonies, the Fourth has no Adagio, even though Bruckner was the master of the Adagio.  If one were making a film to illustrate Bruckner’s Fourth, along with scenes of dawn over the old city, of daylight glinting off knights and horses, of sunlight dappling through vaulting branches of trees, of huntsman’s horns and hunting hounds, one would have to show rising above the brooding walls of a medieval city the towers of its cathedral.  The camera would stay outside the cathedral, just as the Fourth steers clear of an Adagio.  Amongst the craggy walls and gnarled trees of the Fourth, the meditative moments occur elsewhere, such as in the autumnal Andante.

    A stroll through a medieval cathedral can be contemplative, more so for a believer, for finally one comes before the altar and its crucifix and tabernacle.  The Adagio of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and that of his Eighth waft one upwards as if on clouds of incense coiling before the heavenly throne.  Whether one shares the faith Bruckner held, those stately and shimmering notes lead one to something transcendent.  “People may not understand one another,” wrote conductor and musicologist Werner Wolff, “but they are drawn together by their common love for Bruckner’s music.”

     

    Daniel J. Heisey, O. S. B, is a Benedictine monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he is known as Brother Bruno.  He teaches Church History at Saint Vincent Seminary.

  • September 4th, 2014Father Soldierby Joseph Pearce

    Fr. Leo Hetzler has been a good friend of mine for many years. A lifelong Chestertonian who attends the annual Chesterton conference in Rochester, New York, he is an inspiration to all who know him. An extremely learned literary scholar who did his doctoral dissertation on Chesterton shortly after his return from active service in World War Two, Fr. Hetzler has been an indomitable advocate of the good, the true and the beautiful. For those who have not had the honour and pleasure to have known this wonderful priest and scholar, I strongly recommend this video about his experience in Europe and the Far East during the War.

  • September 4th, 2014Politics and Religionby Dena Hunt

    People usually put these two subjects together in a phrase to identify the two subjects one should never discuss, lest argument ensue. Mailboxes have no such tender sensibilities, however, and this morning I had two forwards in my mail. One criticized Congress and concluded with a suggestion that we pass a law forbidding re-election unless the budget is balanced and the deficit is reduced. Trouble is, we would need Congress to pass that law—but never mind logic. The purpose of the email was only to vent, of course.

    The other email criticized the Church, asserting that it is corruption within the Church hierarchy that is causing general widespread moral collapse—specifically, among bishops, and since bishops are corrupt, so are priests, and because priests are corrupt, so are the laity. A venting of righteous anger.

    Both emails were condemnations. They had different senders, but they could have been the same sender, since both senders are Catholic and both are conservative. I’ve become so weary of this condemning anger by conservatives that I usually don’t even read it any more.

    It isn’t that I’m not conservative—I am—but long ago I noted (and posted about it) that the nature of conservatism is to defend, and that’s a position that cannot be sustained indefinitely. It will fatigue the staunchest, most perseverant, and most patient among of us eventually. We constantly complain (“vent”) in order, I suppose, to relieve pressure. The alternative is to explode, a raisin in the sun sort of thing.

    Conservatism is not overcome by the progressions of  “liberalism,” but by the exhaustion of conservatives. Defense is the most wearying activity there is.  I am tired. I don’t open such emails any more. I don’t write such things either. It isn’t that I’m following my Granny’s basic rule of good manners (If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all); it’s just the pointlessness of it. Someone vents their anger on me, and then I must either carry their anger-baggage or pass it on, “forward” it to someone else.  So I choose to delete it with a one-word mental response: So? So what do you want me to do? Why are you telling me this? What, exactly, do you expect of me? Do you want me to forward this to my entire address book and do you think that if I do and you do and others do, we’ll all somehow stop the perpetual assault on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness? You could call this emotional and intellectual disengagement, you could call it withdrawal, or you could call it simply self-defense.

    Judge anything by its fruit. What is the fruit of anger? Ultimately, it’s violence. At the moment, it’s verbal violence, but as anger grows and spreads, violence becomes more palpable. In politics, that violence becomes revolution. In religion, it becomes Protestantism. History has proved this fruit toxic. Revolution does not change the hearts of those in power, nor did Protestantism force the Church to obey the demands of Protestants. Anger begets only more anger, which increasingly becomes expressible only in violence. Like ISIS, for example. Or maybe the Reign of Terror. Or the Bolsheviks. Or—whatever.

    There’s another characteristic of Righteous Rage that should be noted: It’s not just contagious; it’s also addictive. How sad for the revolutionaries in France when there was no one left to guillotine, and they had to go in search of more victims, anyone they could find—cloistered nuns, or anyone at all who did not share their bloodlust. The “holy warriors” of ISIS, I understand, have had to resort to beheading children. It is addictive.

    Anger is natural, forgivable, and anger in defense of what is good, right, sacred, innocent—is even laudable. But it can be contagious and addictive, seductive, dishonest, unjust, and spiritually devastating. Perhaps fatigue is a blessing, a gift presented in the form of a delete key.

     

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