Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blunt Talk

Who knew? Commencement addresses are good for something. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), speaking at Southwest Baptist University:
For more than three decades Congress has continuously renewed the Hyde Amendment, which keeps federal Medicaid funds from paying for elective abortions. The new health-care law gets around that ban by creating new funding streams to which the amendment does not apply, and new policies now use our tax dollars abroad to fund groups who promote abortion.

It is time to make the late Henry Hyde’s amendment permanent law and apply it to all operations of the federal government. It is the bare minimum that we should do to protect both unborn life and the conscience of American citizens who don’t want to be forced to facilitate the ending of a life.
Makes sense to me.

Nota Bene: Roy Blunt is not to be confused (as I did once) with Roy Blount, Jr., the humorist I know best from his regular appearances on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, but who I also bizarrely saw quoted on the menu at Pizzeria Uno tonight. More on that dinner tomorrow.

(via The Corner)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crowned a Winner in King's Cuts

There has been a lot of concern about the restructuring and job cuts at King's College in London in the Philosophy world as well as among paleographers.

But one at least one victor has emerged. The final report is out, which notes:
Classics will work closely with the new Centre for Hellenic Studies and will house one of the joint appointments. As the largest and most diverse UK Classics department outside Oxford and Cambridge, it will retain its full range of specialisms, including its current complement in Classical Archaeology and Art. It will benefit from the appointment of a new lecturer in Latin language and literature to respond to strong (and growing) student demand in this area.
So there's at least a glimmer of hope for Western civilization.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just what the world needs...

...a nice pocket edition of George Berkeley's Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous:

I love this book, but even I could have told them it wasn't a publishing winner. It is, as one might expect on the remainder tables at the Strand.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ascension Thursday

Fr. Z has published his annual rant about the practice of moving the observation of the Feast of the Ascension from Thursday to Sunday.  This is silly he argues (correctly), since the feast was fixed for 40 days after Easter (a Thursday) from the late 4th century, reflecting that Christ appeared for 40 days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:2).  Pentecost, as implied by its name is celebrated 50 days after Easter on Sunday.

Thankfully here in the Ecclesiastical Province of New York, we've kept the traditional day, as have some other northeastern provinces and the Province of Omaha.

Fr. Z. misses, however, I believe, one part of why this change was sold so easily to much of the United States.

Before the calendar reforms of 1955, Ascension was celebrated with an octave. This meant that the Sunday following the Feast of the Ascension was a continued part of the celebration of the Ascension.  This celebration carried through all the way to the next Thursday.  Then you had two penitential days of preparation, a Friday and the Vigil of Pentecost, before the celebration of the Great Feast of Pentecost.  But with the "Sunday after Ascension" being just another Easter Sunday (of which we've already had a great many), the end of the Easter season is left rather shapeless.

Now, I don't advocate for moving the Feast of the Ascension to Sunday, but I can sort of understand why they do it.  There's something missing in those last weeks of Easter and shifting Ascension helps fill the emptiness.  You can guess what my solution would be...

Now for some appropriate music by Messiaen to accompany this post:

More Mike (Masonry)

I wanted to add one humorous aside to yesterday's commentary on Mike Potemra's post about predestination on The Corner.  He writes about author John Salza:
Just how conservative a Catholic is Mr. Salza? This should give some indication: Among his earlier books are Why Catholics Cannot Be Masons and The Biblical Basis for Purgatory.
While I'd hope explaining the biblical basis for purgatory isn't a particularly conservative concern, the Freemasonry thing does continue to be amusing. 

When Baronius brought out a book on Freemasonry a while back, we joked that you're not really a traditionalist publishing house until you have a book on your list about the evils of Freemasonry. This despite Masonic plots not being high on the list of things most people, even traditionalists, worry about these days.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Potemra on Predestination

I'm glad to see that Mike Potemra bringing up the forgotten doctrine of predestination in a post over at National Review Online. He's posting about a new book from TANThe Mystery of Predestination According to Scripture, The Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas, by John Salza. However, his conclusion doesn't seem to be true at all.  Poterma writes:
[T]hat a Catholic writer is not afraid to deal so forthrightly with the central Reformation emphasis — that man is not loved by God because of any merit of which man himself is the source and author — is another indication that the ecumenical spirit is bearing rich fruit in our times.
Catholic writers have been dealing forthrightly with predestination all along.  Here are some modern guideposts:
This isn't really the fruit of ecumenism, it's just the continued handing on of the tradition.  In fact, Most and Akin's work (and perhaps to a degree Ott's) are part of an apologetic project that is in some ways opposed to much of what passes for ecumenism these days. Anyways, it's not as if we've suddenly started paying attention to John Piper and Marc Driscoll and rediscovered a biblical doctrine we'd forgetten about.  While I don't think that's what Potemra intended, it's not an entirely implausible way to read what he wrote.
I don't want to miss linking to these useful pre-Reformation texts:
Addressing one of Potemra's other points:
But — unlike some other doctrines that are baffling to the intellect, such as the Trinity — this doctrine is rarely mentioned in Catholic pulpits and publications. (It has fallen into desuetude even among Protestants. I was, for almost three years, a member of a Presbyterian congregation — in the denomination gently mocked as “God’s frozen chosen” for its past emphasis on predestination — and, in three years of Sundays, it was mentioned in exactly one sermon. ...
Fr. Al Kimel (whose ordination I attended back in 2006) ran a series of articles on predestination on his blog Pontifications.  In part III, he tackles the difficulties of preaching the doctrine of predestination.  And its importance:
James Daane has explored the unpreachability of predestination in his book The Freedom of God: A Study of Election and Pulpit (1973). “Sermons on election are so rare,” Daane writes, “that even a regular churchgoer may never hear one…. And the rare occasion when a minister does venture to preach on election is more likely to be an apologetic lecture defending a particular form of the doctrine than a sermon proposing election as something in which the hearer should place his faith and ground his trust” (p. 14). This last sentence is important. In the New Testament predestination is not so much a doctrine to be taught as good news to be proclaimed. When the Apostle Paul writes that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son … And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30) he was not engaging in a bit of abstract theological speculation; he was proclaiming gospel to the believers in Rome and offering a powerful word of hope and encouragement. God has predestined you to glory! Therefore, you need not fear “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Rom 8:35). The biblical language of predestination is first- and second-person discourse. It is a way of speaking the gospel to those who have died with Christ in Baptism and been raised to new life in the Church.
Fr. Kimel has more interesting stuff (though I'm not sure I agree with all of it) in part IV, about bringing back preaching about predestination.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

More and different links...

I've updated the sidebar!

Some More Catholic History

This undated (but apparently pre-1969) photo comes from a Flickr set of a Catholic wedding held at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City Missouri (good pictures of the interior as it is today).

It's an interesting piece of liturgical history.  First, this convert, who frequently sits way up front, is amused by the typical Catholic pattern of almost everyone sitting way, way back, even at a wedding.  The headwear of the women in the congregation is worth noting too.  Many of the women wear hats and the veils worn are small, not like the ones we usually see today among Catholic veil-wearers.

Some other liturgical notes:

There are six candles lit, suggesting this is perhaps a simple Missa Cantata.  Something I've never seen photos of before as far as I can remember.  Interestingly, there are no chairs or stools for members of the wedding party, suggesting they stood or knelt for the whole Mass.  At this wedding, the members of the wedding party   are all seated in the sanctuary. It would be interesting to look at a bunch of old photos to see what the various practices were over time and in different locations.

As far as customs go, the photos show that the priest wore a surplice for the wedding itself with no cope.

The dress of the servers in white albs or cassocks with white surplices is interesting, one I don't think I've ever seen before. This was (and is) as I understand it a Jesuit church (relevant because of, for instance, the Domincan parishes where servers were dressed as mini-Dominicans or mini-Dominican prelates.).  Was this a Jesuit thing?  Just an idiosyncratic  local thing?

In 1987, according to Wikipedia, the Church, designed by Barry Byrne in 1949-50, won a retrospective award from the American Institute of Architects.  More about the architecture can be found here.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Big Band Strikes Back

An exciting report from the Village Voice on Bobby Sanabria and his Afro-Cuban Jazz big band:
This band also requires knowledgeable and gifted musicians, including at least two university professors, some half-dozen of their current and former students, and several veterans of what Sanabria calls "the salsa and jazz wars." Percussionist Obanilu Allende's power and agility, especially on the baril de bomba, stand out, as does trumpeter Shareef Clayton's pithy, bebop-inflected solos. These musicians' formidable gifts range widely, as do their ages: In March, 19-year-old Christian Sands sat in ably on piano, while Hiram "El Pavo" Remon, 79, handled the maracas with devastating sensitivity.

Before the previous week's gig, the band worked its way through "Worstward Ho," a composition by band member Chris Washburne based on a Samuel Beckett story. ("Disintegrate into nothingness," read one of the chart's marks.) Later, the group performed another of his tunes, "Pink," which punctuates a Cuban son montuno with brass hits worthy of Parliament. "This band is the best workshop I can imagine for my tunes," says the trombonist, a tenured Columbia University professor who has played on the New York scene for nearly 20 years. "Bobby is a torch-bearer in this tradition, but he's not a historicist. I can write stuff for this band that pushes the limits."
The FB Lounge is on East 106th between Lex and 3rd. Anyone Up for a Trip to East Harlem?

Another article about the same group from the New York Times

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Lacey Baroque

There's lots of research to be done in the history of vestments or at least lots of popularizing of that research if it's sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Two Sundays ago, I spotted this painting, "The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga", by Guercino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's dated circa 1650, squarely within the baroque period. (You can click here for a better view and more details about the painting at the Metropolitan Museum's web site.)

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J. died in 1591 at the age of twenty-three.

Look at his surplice.  In both shape and decoration,  I'm inclined to believe it's not what most of us would think of if someone wrote "baroque surplice".  While it's possible that it's a consciously antique style, the late 1500's are not very far before the baroque.  More likely (though further research would be necessary to be sure) this is simply what surplices looked like in the painter's day.

This isn't to attack lace on surplices. Folks should be guided by the customs and rules of the place they live and the sensibilities of those they serve.  But it throws at least a little light on the customs of counter-reformation Italy, light of a different shade than we might expect.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Signs of Summer

If the weather of the last week hasn't persuaded you, here's a definite sign of summer's return.  The hot dog cart (yes, he's got a grill, but he seems to sell more dogs than anything else) has come back to the park near my house.

It makes me think of one of my first roommates, Pedro, who I lived with when I first moved to New York City.  He used to go back to the Dominican Republic every year during the winter and come back in the late spring.  His return was a sure sign it was time to put the air conditioner back in the window, which I did yesterday.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ad Orientem... In Miniature

For reasons unknown to me, we have a small ceramic model of the Cathedral of St. Paul in the office of the Church of Our Saviour here in New York City.  This week, as I was leaving the Church, I noticed that our model has the front of the Cathedral pointed at the wall (above), hiding the facade.  So I turned it around, exposing the more interesting (to my eye) facade:

This side even has a pleasing Latin motto: "EVNTES ERGO DOCETE OMNES GENTES". It's a partial quote of Matthew 28:19: "Going therefore, teach ye all nations...".

I was pleased and thought I'd leave it that way.  But T. pointed out to me that with the door facing the wall, the architectural east end faced geographical east.  Advocate of ad orientem worship that I am, I turned it back around.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

I Don't Oppose Technology, Really!

After yesterday's Luddite post about the evils of television, I wanted to followup so as not to lose my momentum with any emerging neo-Luddite readership.  (Would there be anything more ridiculous than a blog targeting the neo-Luddite readership? Probably.)

So, yesterday televisions, today telephones.  Gawker recently created a typology of text-messagers (huh, should that be "text-messengers"?). One of which is the following:
There are some people who love to text so much that the phone part of their cell phone has become completely obsolete. ...they are scared of a wonderful and time-honored mode of communication. We'd much rather text most of the time too, but sometimes a call is necessary. The general rule should be if there are more than three questions or the problem can not be solved in three messages, then just pick up the phone and have a short conversation rather than waiting for the back and forth of texting. Also, if someone calls, don't respond with a text unless the text says, "Can't talk now. I'll call later." If one party thought the conversation was best had on the phone, just have it on the phone and save everyone a headache. After all, without phones there would be no texting, so do the old gods a favor and give them a sacrifice now and again.
Rick Webb responds:
I am one of those people. But let me explain something to you. The telephone was an aberation in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive. Technology has solved this brief aberration in human behavior. We have a thing now called THE TEXT MESSAGE. It is magical, non-intrusive, optional, and, just like human speech originally was meant to be, is turn based and two way. You talk. I talk next. Then you talk. And we do it when it’s convenient for both of us.
They've both got some fair points. (Does this break the rules of blogging? Often it seems like you have to be like a potential Skull and Bones member: "Accept or Reject‽")

The most important point here, I believe, is in the second excerpt. It's something often forgotten when arguing about politics or society or culture. As much as we talk about "the new normal", the last 100 years is a flash in the pan in the scope of human history. You can't really make conclusive judgments about human institution or social convention in such a small time frame, given how hard it is to really change human nature. Less than 100 years after the coast-to-coast telephone call, we can't really say a lot about how we'll choose to use this technology over the long term.

(via First Things)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Smash Your Television

Blogger Adam Minter is writing a lot about the U.S. pavilion (left) at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

One recent post discusses the presentations at the pavilion, which mainly seem to involve lots of watching of movies.  Minter quips:
Rather than experience a USA pavilion that exhibits American ingenuity, creativity, and accomplishment, I saw a pavilion that represents an America that spends too much time watching TV.
This is a key to cultural renewal in the United States and Europe. British essayist and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple writes in today's Wall Street Journal:
It is hardly surprising that those who do not experience family or social meals early in life exhibit the lack of self-control that underlies so much modern social pathology in the midst of plenty.

These social, or antisocial, developments have taken place precisely at a time when electronic means of entertainment have become available to all. For the uneducated, the world is an intolerably dull and slow-moving place by comparison with the excitement available at the press of a button or the flick of a switch. Why, then, move off your couch and risk the ennui of the real world? You can satisfy your appetite and occupy the vacuum of your mind at the same time, at most wriggling like a maggot in sawdust.
John Senior discussed this in 1983, though I'm not sure I'd go quite as far as he did... He wrote in his book The Restoration of Christian Culture:
[Y]ou cannot be serious about the restoration of the Church and the nation if you haven't the common sense to smash the television set. ... Its two principal defects are its readical passivity, physical and imaginative, and its distortion of reality. Watching it, we fail to exercise the eye, selecting and focusing on detail—what poets call "noticing" things; neither do we exercise imagination as you must in reading metaphor where you actively leap to the "third ending" in juxtaposed images, picking out similarities and differences, skill which Aristotle says is a chief sign of intelligence.

I sometimes take advantage of televisions in public places. But just as often, I find them annoying. Tonight, I was out to dinner with friends and since I was sitting facing the television, I found my eyes drawn to the motion and light of it, even when I didn't want them to be. Television demands attention, even when you'd rather focus somewhere else.

CC licensed picture of a television from videocrab via flickr. Also check out this great surrealist photo-composite by ξωαŋ ThΦt.