Catholic Schools Week: A Modest Proposal

Image result for big children's choir
Children’s Choir of Russia. No reason. Bet they sing better music…

(Usual disclaimer about how all the people involved are no doubt better Christians than me, no hard feelings, just calling it as I see it.)

Got blindsided this morning at Mass, as it is Catholic Schools Week, and not having any kids in K-12 Catholic schools, I didn’t see it coming.

What ‘it’ is is all the schoolkids and their parents showing up for the same Mass. This Mass includes several homilies/sermons – the normal one after the Gospel, as well as a pre-Mass sermon about what we’re all celebrating today (hint: Our Lord and Savior’s redeeming sacrifice as manifested on the altar didn’t seem to figure prominently) and the post-Mass sermon wherein we recognize and thank all sorts of people and remind everyone that there will be donuts and coffee at the school’s open house after Mass.

Remember the part in the V-II documents wherein Mass is supposed to contain performances, musical and otherwise, by kids at every opportunity, because nothing says ‘full, active participation’ like listening to children sing goofy social justice songs during Mass?

Me neither.

On the good side, the children’s choir is much better at this parish than the average in my experience, and they even – amazing! – sang some Latin commons. Whoa. This is not to be discounted – that these kids have learned some beautiful music could change their lives. A very good thing.

But the first and last songs, which nobody except the kids in the choir knew and for which no music or text was supplied, sang about ending discrimination and achieving justice. God may have been mentioned at some point, don’t know, I was kind of not listening after a while out of self-defense.

I If anyone ever wonders why we didn’t send our kids to Catholic K-12 schools, well, this about sums it up.

Anyway, as a public service, thought I’d write a song I’d like the little darlings to learn, and sing every morning right after the Pledge of Allegiance and never, ever sing at Mass:

The I’m Not All That and  Need to Lean Something Song

O my head is empty,

There’s nothing inside.

And teacher’s no better

There’s no place to hide!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! My head is empty!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! I don’t know a thing.

There’s no shame in saying

I don’t have a clue

I am still quite little

Now, how about you?

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! My head is empty!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! I don’t know a thing.

If I pay attention

And read stuff that’s old

I might just learn something

Before my body’s cold.

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! My head is empty!

Oy Vey! Oy Vey! I don’t know a thing.

Needs work.

Here’s another ditty, sung, perhaps, to Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles Praise the Lord, Ye Heavens Adore Him. Or not. Trying to reach kids where they are. Suitable for no occasions.

Lord Have Mercy! I’m a Clueless Punk

Lord, Have Mercy, I’m a clueless punk

Not surprising, since I am 10

I’ve been plied from birth with hippy bunk

Same as mom and dad and their kin

Now we make believe

Truth we can retrieve

If we spout the buzzwords right!

Lord, enlighten me!

I would like to see

What in particular’s OK in Your sight.

You’re my friend, Lord Jesus, that I got –

Not as fun as Maddy or James

This whole church thing, fun it’s surely not.

Why can’t we play video games?

Once each month or two

Motions going through

Grandma thinks there is a point!

No theology!

Never bended knee!

All my friends want to blow this joint.

Still, My Lord, I think there’s something

To this praying, kneeling and stuff

You have plans, I get the feeling

Being sort of nice ain’t enough

When I reach the end

I will need a Friend

more than just the final boss!

Help me win this game

Life is not the same

When you look down from that Cross

The New Year: So Far, So Good

Catholic stuff.

1. For the last few years, we have spent the last few minutes of the outgoing year and the first of the incoming year in Adoration, as we are blessed with a perpetual Adoration chapel at St. Agnes Church a mere mile and a smidge from Casa de Moore.

Unfortunately, that chapel was vandalized – slightly, some dude just damaged some candle cash boxes – but it was plenty scary enough for Steps to be Taken. So, at least for now, the Chapel is closed from 9 pm to 5 am.

So, looked around for a back-up. Perpetual Adoration is also held an hour away, at Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara. A quick pole showed the Crew was game. Off we headed, without further ado.

I’ve written a bit before on Our Lady of Peace – the most beautiful parish I’ve personally seen. The church building is a regrettable piece of  architectural something something, but the people, the priests, the whole place is alive with love of Our Lord. So, of course, they are having New Year’s Eve benediction.

We sang hymns – some of the classics in Latin – and did a long litany of Our Lady. Smells and bells compliant. We will be back next year, God willing. Great way to kick off the New Year.

2. On New Year’s Day itself, went to St. Margaret Mary’s in Oakland. The Mass was celebrated Ordinary Form, in Latin, ad orientem. In other words, exactly as a simple reading of the Vatican II documents would have lead one to believe it should usually be celebrated. Yet this was I think the 2nd or 3rd time in my life I’ve seen it celebrated that way.

While I am grateful for any celebration of the Mass in any form, this practice is what I’d most prefer. The simple act of having the priest turn away from us for certain prayers changes the whole tenor of the Mass, and gently reminds us of the lesson we most need at this time and place in this vale of tears: It Is Not About Us. Get Over Yourself.

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Greg Popovich is the most respected basketball coach in the world, and the most successful. His message to everybody in the organization: get over yourself. This is a touch sell to young, rich, hyper-athletic men who have been told how special they are from grade school on. Yet, Pop, as he is called, will ship your behind out if you do not get with the program, no matter how much talent you have. Point: even for success IN this vale of tears, in a child’s game, getting over one’s self has become a key step. How much more is it needed in the spiritual life?

My formative religious experiences include witnessing the sadness of many Catholic at the brutally-handled switch-over in the 60s and early 70s, when there were no allowances made AT ALL for the very human (and harmless) attachments many people felt for the Latin Mass. Instead, any who resisted or complained were branded as fuddy-duddies at best, and called names, and told that, despite what their own lying eyes told them the Vatican II documents actually said, what was being done was for their, and especially their kids’, benefit, and was absolutely REQUIRED by the Spirit of VII even and especially where that Spirit contradicted the express written instructions.

Many people remember anger. I remember sadness, with the anger following at the absurd and abusive manner with which the changes were implemented. I was a kid, and so had little sense of loss (except I really loved the big church choir singing from the loft – heaven sounded like that. Still does.) .

If only.  If only the changes had been introduced via ad orientem Mass in Latin. If only the parishes would have offered *1* mass a week in a form that didn’t seem like a complete rupture and, well, an insult to huge numbers of people. Much sadness and anger could have been avoided.(1)

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Rome: Taking this deferred maintenance thing about as far as it can go.

3. Taking tomorrow off to hang with the kids. Elder Daughter is already back in L.A. doing her acting thing and working at Saint Monica’s Academy. Middle Son is due back at Thomas Aquinas Sunday. Younger Daughter is heading off for a semester in Rome (!) at the end of the month. The Caboose, Mrs. Yard Sale of the Mind and I will be holding down the fort.  2017 is shaping up to be a steady as she goes year: two kids will be juniors in college, one will be starting year 2 of a 2-year acting program, and kid brother will be turning 13. 2018, OTOH – all will be gearing up for the Next Phase: college kids starting senior year, Elder Daughter finishing up the acting school, Caboose turns 14 – and is our only teenager by August. Mom and dad, meanwhile, get older, which has been on the schedule now for over half a century and, in any event, beats the alternative. Just under 8 years until I can retire. But who’s counting?

  1. My fascination (OK, obsession) with pointing out how Luther figures into everything wrong with the world requires me to point out: in On Christian Liberty, his most conciliatory (and least scatological) work, Luther offers to just call the whole thing off, go home and mind his own business, if the Church will simply agree to premises under which all its authority and tradition are destroyed. By refusing, the Church then forces – forces, I say! – Luther to shatter the Church into a thousand pieces. His compromise meant complete surrender. Thus, to this day, it is customary for those demanding unconditional surrender in religious matters to pose as conciliators, where the terms of compromise are that they get to do whatever they want and you get to like it.


Friday Bullets

simbang-gabi1. Simbang Gabi! Today starts the 9 day novena in preparation for Christmas celebrated by Filipinos everywhere. Filipinos in our area have long gathered at 5:30 a.m. for mass at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, followed by a more-or-less traditional Filipino breakfast: chicken soup (which comes in a surprising variety of forms), salabat (sweet ginger tea), hard boiled eggs and – things. Among the things are, in some combination, tangerines, rolls, ham/sausage, and a selection of wildly-colored sweet things.
(Once asked someone at a Related imageSimbang Gabi breakfast why the sweet things were always bright purple or orange or some other neon color – she were completely baffled by the question. I gather these are the natural (for some values of ‘natural’) colors for these delicacies.)

The reason we get up at 5:00 a.m. for Simbang Gabi isn’t the food. It’s the chance to pray and prepare for Christmas with the wonderful, warm and welcoming people.

2. This is interesting. The unnaturally strong – heroic, even – ability to embrace cognitive dissonance can be understood as a necessary condition to embracing Marx and Hegel. Hegel, after all, makes it a big point to reject the Law of Noncontradiction. The dedicated acolyte merely awaits the explication of the proper synthesis that suspends the contradiction and reveals, respectively, the Right Side of History or the Spirit unfolding. Sure, it makes no sense – but it doesn’t have to! Just so long as you have the proper feeelings about things. Insights are like the gifts of the Holy Spirit – beyond understanding.

Most enthusiasts seem to be simply crazy, or, more mercifully if more dangerously, they value their group membership and sense of rectitude more than logical consistency. What is a little – well, a lot of – inconsistency compared to properly-fanned righteous indignation and commitment to the Right Side of History?

This enthusiasm in the face of disconfirmation even claims for itself the title of reasonable and science based. Back when I was young and naive, I would have found this beyond amazing.

3.Was talking with a braver man than I last night. He mentioned that one of his neighbors had bought a Tesla, and was waxing rhapsodic (use even pressure and a soft cloth) about its virtues, when my friend mentioned that perhaps he should thank him and all his other neighbors for subsidizing his toy. He pursued it enough to get the new toy owner to admit that, well, yea, there is that, but who wouldn’t take advantage of such a deal?

How about all of us who have not bought Teslas?

4. Reading When Prophecy Fails on the recommendation (I think) of John C. Wright, as a means to understanding the fervor and desperation of the folks who believe the last election was *wrong*. I should not be surprised – zealots and courtesans always think free elections are wrong, unless they somehow manage to keep the fire lit(1) and the king’s table well-provisioned. Any result that calls into question that for which they are zealous or threatens to thin the king’s larder or – God forbid – the king’s rule – that’s a *wrong* result.

Anyway, the authors propose that, when events ‘disconfirm’ (what a dumb word) the prophesy, adherents double down – proselytising intensifies, roughly in proportion to the mockery of outsiders.  The authors point out how holding onto a disconfirmed belief is hard on your own – you’d have to be crazy! – but, if you get enough people together, you have a support group, and can make up theories, make new predictions, explain stuff away to each other and otherwise keep the hounds of cognitive dissonance at bay.

The theory here seems to be that the Left thought that they really were on the right side of history, and that the sparkly unicorns of Marx would soon – it’s inevitable! – spread the magic fairy-dust of progressive Nirvana across the land. Bernie Hillary would take all the stuff from the mean bad people and give it to the needy people in a totally non totalitarian way! Goodthink would drive out Badthink, everybody would accept everybody else and their preferred pronouns, Muslims, who were only acting up because Christian white people were picking on them, would embrace (rather than throw off the top of a minaret)  uppity women and gays. Sure, you might have to kill a few million people – billion, tops – who cling to their God and guns, but, as Lord Farquaad put it: “Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”

Then people elected the wrong guy! Their bubble world was shattered! Weeping! Threats! Machinations! Inside-out proselytizing by attempting to suppress that part of the fake news that said mean things. (The fake news that still hasn’t disowned Walter Duranty – the fakest news man ever, who would make Baghdad Bob blush – are OK. They may lie like rugs, but their hearts are in the right place and they aren’t *mean*!)

The bad news (insofar as we are buying what is, after all, a nice theory with only two hand-picked examples to back it up. Best one can say is that it seems reasonable) is that it will take a series of extreme, irrefutable, and clear disconfirmations before the group breaks up. For now, what you see is what you get: doubling down, telling each other stories, trying to spin it so that they didn’t *really* lose.

The fall of the Soviet Union set this crowd back a bit, but they very neatly transferred allegiance back to a more spiritual Communism, one untainted by the failures of the past.(2) The election of Trump, oddly, seems to have caused way more panic than Moscow’s face-plant. The desperate silence over Venezuela and contemptible whitewashing of Castro are shadows of the monstrous horrors this same crowd overlooked in the Soviet Union and continues to overlook in China. The continued ‘religion of peace’ nonsense regarding Islam’s 1,400 year sacking of the West continues. They soldier on.

So, maybe what we’d need is for Trump to be a wild success, super popular and cruise to reelection. I’m not holding my breath, but I will say that, so far, he’s exceeded my admittedly very modest expectations. It may be enough that he proves to not be Hitler. At any rate, per the theory in the book, it will take at least another mega-disconfirmation or two to bring the beast down for good. In the meantime, perhaps there will be some room for a little sense and reason in all those heads emptied by exploding? One can hope.

  1. True zealots are never happy with incremental victory, but always desire to burn things down to the ground. Only way you can be sure you got *all* the bad guys. Then they start burning each other just to make really, really sure. Then the people embrace Napoleon to make it stop.
  2. That’s why we hear talk of the end of history – if history were still going on, this whole movement would be revealed for the doomed failure it is and always has been. No, we must assume a new heaven and a new earth, one in which what has always failed will now, by magic, succeed.





Updates & Trivia & Writing

A. Busy at work, which means I’m avoiding even more work than usual. Plus, somehow, I ended up with stuff to do every night this week except Friday.

Cuts into the blogging. Yea, yea, boo-freakin’-hoo.

B. Tonight, for an RCIA class, I got volunteered to do some Church history, which, to my naive mind, isn’t any different from plain old history everywhere the Church has ever been. As in, you can hardly talk of secular history in those places and times without the Church, nor can you talk about the Church without knowing what was going on in the larger world (if, indeed, the world can be said to be larger…).

This pitch is right in my wheelhouse, so I’m all rarin’ to go. I was assigned the period of 1200 through the Counter Reformation – woohoo! – and given a 15 minute slot. Well. As no one has ever accused me of being too terse, it might be a *slight* challenge to fit 400+ tumultuous and critical years of history that happens to include, among other things, discovery of an entire hemisphere, into 15 minutes. If I gave 3 minutes each to Gregory VII,(1) Francis, Dominic, Gothic architecture, Wittenberg and Trent, I’m already 3 minutes over, and haven’t touched on Charles Borromeo, the way the Counter Reformation influenced music (I could do an hour or more just on O Magnum Mysterium...), and about a dozen more topics that spring to mind before I’ve even researched it. We will be pruning with the ol’ intellectual chainsaw, here.

Since I’m already doing Feasts & Faith, I probably should hold off doing a Church History seminar-thing for another year. At that point, I’m thinking 10 1.5 hour lecture/discussions, which would barely scratch the surface. What I’d bring to the game: blending art, music and philosophy into the narrative.  There’s only like a library of books on this topic – my only excuse for doing this would be bringing in threads from many sources. There’s probably already a book or 50 that do just that….

C. One thing I wish I had time to discuss: the relationship of the Church & State, and how it differed in the East and West, and how the West’s division of Church and State helped bring about the artistic, cultural and technological revolution in Medieval Europe. I doubt there could have even been a Dante of the Eastern Churches – a man passionate about the complementary and divinely-given rights and duties of Church and State. Instead, the East retained more of the ancient Roman practice of religious careers being government careers – I should say, religious careers *of course* being government careers.

The fragmented feudalism of the West allowed for layers of duties and rights across several dimensions, such that a serf, even a serf’s wife, had a position where an emperor or pope owed her a certain inviolate respect. The battles of the Middle Ages seem to be over who owed whom exactly what level of fealty, with the Church presumed beyond discussion to be distinct and hold honor and duty apart from the king.

Not so much, in the East, where emperors from the earliest days saw it to be an obvious right and duty of theirs to meddle even in theology, let alone in who got to be patriarch. (2)

But, alas! No time for that in 15 minutes.

Related imageD. So, writing. Only able to throw an hour here and there at it for the time being, but it may be that’s just a well – I think I need to reach a critical mass of ideas, and I’m not *quite* there.

What’s happening: I started with a broad arc that ended in a life-or-death decision being made by a young girl in an intense situation. I’d outlined a lot of the social conditions that would lead up to this point, as well as the technology that would be required – it’s space stuff, trying to keep the science pretty hard. Now, details: I had to describe in detail where they were going, including describing and naming all the celestial objects (complete with backstories), describe how they get there, and – this is still skeletal – describe the culture(s) involved.

Then, I reached the point where I needed to name and describe all the people. Um, I’m guessing other writers do this first? Because it’s not a story unless people care about the girl making the decision and the people whose lives are in the balance. So, now, in this background – and the background still needs a lot of work – I’m outlining 3 or 4 (going with 4 for now) families who travel together with thousands of other explorers/colonists to the stars, marry into each other, feud – and produce this remarkable girl upon which the fate of many – including many of the members of these families – depends.

And that, my friends, is the actual story, not the tech and the alien worlds. It’s Sci Fi, as the story could not exist without the science, but these people now crowd my brain. These people, so far, only lurk in my head. Once they start to keep me up at night, I’ll have something.

One of the ancestors of the girl, a great-great grandmother, is introduced here. (BTW: much cleaned up that preface – thanks for all the feedback.)

All in all, fun, but not tending to produce any pages I might throw up here.

  1. Yes, St. Gregory VII is 11th century, but he had a big hand in starting the whole medieval dawn so beautifully described by Chesterton in Ch II of his biography of St. Francis. 
  2. Gregory VII was the last pope to ask and receive imperial permission to be pope, in the late 11th century; yet, over the centuries, many kings and emperors claimed veto power exercised through their cardinals. The last cardinal to veto the decision of the College of Cardinals in the name of his King was the Prince-Bishop of Krakow, who vetoed the leading papabile on orders from the Holy Roman Emperor – in 1903! The outraged Cardinals then voted in Pius X, who promptly and strenuously rejected any idea that kings could overrule the Cardinals. Only took 1900 years!

Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages

This past Saturday I found myself, at the end of an industry conference, in Bloomington, Minnesota. Since this was about as close to La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe located there as I thought myself ever likely to be, I rented a car and drove the two and a half hours on down through the lovely fall countryside of those two states.

Very glad I did. It was a profound spiritual experience. First, some pictures and descriptions.

Image result for guadalupe shrine la crosse wi
From the website of Duncan Stroik, the architect. Go there for more excellent pictures. 


The church is located on a hillside overlooking a forested valley with farms on the flats. The picture above is about what it looked like the day I arrived – fall has begun to color the trees.

It’s a 15 minute walk from the parking lot up the hill to the church, through the visitor center. Here are some pictures of what that looks like:

At the top of the path:

The walk was very peaceful and settling and beautiful. When I went inside, Adoration was being held, and a Franciscan priest was leading a rosary while another heard confessions.

I was not comfortable taking pictures under those circumstances, as you can well imagine. (Generally don’t like taking pictures in churches unless I can do it very unobtrusively, which means an empty or near empty building).  It seems the shrine must guard their pictures well, as searching the web turns up no decent pictures of the art on the side altars. Several of the paintings brought me to tears. Here is a description from their website, although the reproductions are tiny and one cannot enlarge them.

There are 6 side altars, 5 with recent saints  – Sts. Faustina, Maria Goretti, Gianna Molla, Miguel Pro, Therese of Lisieux and Theophane Venard (a vietnamese martyr) – and one dedicated to St. Peregrine Laziosi, a patron of those suffering from cancer.

On Saturday, I had maybe an hour and a half before closing, and half of that was taken with a visit to the gift shop and the walk up the hill. I knew that on Sunday, I’d need to leave promptly after the 9:30 EF Mass to catch my plane home, so I spent my time Saturday looking around. That’s when I looked at the paintings and broke down.

This is the ultimate ‘you had to be there’ moment, as I can’t even show you good pictures, but here goes: when we have gone down to Mexico to build houses for the families in La Marita, we have mass in a chapel dedicated to Bl. Miguel Pro. He was martyred by the Mexican government 1927 for being a priest (they’d trumped up other charges that nobody took seriously) only 2 years after being ordained. When they lead him before the firing squad, he threw out his arms and declared ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ – long live Christ the King! – and they shot him.

The painting shows him the moment before being shot, with two Mexican children at his side, dressed in white with red sashes around their waists, a boy holding a red martyr’s crown of thorns and a girl with a laurel wreath of victory. Above, he is seen from behind saying Mass in heaven, at the point of the Elevation,wearing a vestment with the Guadalupana on the back, as Mary looks down from above.

That just got me – a handsome young man, knowing he’d likely end up dead, saying Mass in Mexico under the evil government (which still runs the place, BTW) that had strung up, shot or otherwise disposed of many other priests and the faithful who tried to protect them. All within living memory!

The St. Gianna Molla painting was also moving. She stands in a lab coat (she was a pediatrician) surrounded by children and holding a baby. She chose her own death so that her child could live.

After those two paintings, I had to pause to get something out of my eyes for several minutes.

St. Maria Goretti was portrayed in the vision of the man who killed her, handing him 14 white lilies, one each for each time he stabbed her. He is shown chained at the ankles in a circle of light, while Maria is at Our Lady’s side above. Side note: it seems people don’t get that Maria died trying to prevent her murderer from sinning – preserving her own virginity was not what she was saying when he killed her. She did not want him to sin – “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” – she died trying to save his soul. Then she saved it anyway through his vision.

On Sunday, managed to go to Confession, receive Communion and exit through the Mercy Doors. Yea, plenary indulgences. Also got to light a candle at the altar of St. Peregrine for my sister Catherine, who is battling cancer now. Please say a prayer for her and her family, that they all be comforted and healed in mind, body and soul.

Had to leave after Communion – hated to, I always stay through the end of Mass, but had a plane to catch and 2 1/2 hours to drive to get to it.

The Shrine is highly reccommended. Very beautiful and moving. I hardly got to see the stuff outside – there’s a Rosary walk and (I think) a way of the Cross, but I didn’t get to see them.

I would love to go back. Don’t have any customers or relatives out that away, so I made need to make a special trip again – I longe to go on pilgrimages.

In Search of One Good Hat

Something like this. I might be sold on a tasteful brown; black is too hip for the room. And patterns/white are right out. 

Off later this afternoon to a conference in, of all places, the Mall of America. I’ve heard rumors. Never liked roller coasters much, and am too old for that sort of thing. So: since my doctor wants my bald head covered (that 20 years of sunburned SoCal youth/melanoma thing), I’ve decided to make lemonade: there’s got to be a decent hat somewhere in a place with the chutzpah to call itself the Mall of America. Right?

Am taking an extra day to rent a car and drive down to La Crosse, WI, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The church building is a masterpiece by Duncan Stroik, whose presence at Notre Dame single-handedly raises my opinion of that otherwise mephitic institution out of the gutter. (1)

He also designed the chapel at Thomas Aquinas College, which it is interesting to compare with the near-contemporary building of the Cathedral in Los Angeles. It is safe to say that, barring disaster, generations of faculty, students, their families and visitors will love and find great inspiration in the chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at TAC. They do now. It is also safe to say, I think, that a cathedral designed so that you need an ‘overview’ section – a program, like in modern art museums – to explain what you’re looking at stands to be as baffling, if not out and out as repulsive, to future generations as it is to any lover of beauty today. The tapestries are gorgeous – and they don’t need a program. The statue of Mary at the Annunciation that graces the entrance, while a beautiful work in itself, is a baffling choice as a statement piece – again, you’d need a program to explain it. The building itself is such a self-conscious rejection of the traditions and feeling of the millions of Catholics who inhabit LA as to be hard to understand as anything but a conscious insult. A big beautiful church building based on beloved church buildings from *any* of the myriad cultures represented in LA – Mexican, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese would work as well as anything strictly European – would have been instantly loved, instead of in need of constant explanation.

The bad news: because of its cost and its construction – thousands of tons of steel reinforced concrete – it is likely to be a century or more before it gets replaced. I fantasize about a billionaire convert cutting a deal with the Archdiocese – here’s a billion to pay off debts and fund new programs, provided you let me build you a new cathedral. We can convert the existing into the (weirdly designed) parking structure or warehouse it more closely resembles.

And then he hires Stroik.

A man’s gotta dream.

This Thursday, my beloved is taking the Feasts & Faith group for me at church while I shop for a hat. This week, we’re observing the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a commemoration of, among other things, Christendom’s surprising victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The 15 to 30 people who show up are going to get, in addition to the stories of saints, pictures of artwork and church buildings, and the Sunday Scripture reading, a brief recap of the situation leading up to the battle and from the battle up until today, largely based on this. (2) The things my wife puts up with.

Feasts and Faith is an experiment. What if you spent an hour a week trying to get a feel for Catholic culture and tradition as a gateway to discipleship? There are a million ways to God, and I’m biased by my own experiences, of course, but I find it inspiring and comforting to see that the Church, despite the many and grievous failings of us, her sheep, has nonetheless spread to the whole world and inspired and fed sanctity and beauty everywhere. As is her job.

That I should appoint myself to do this, to lead the tour, as it were, is laughable. Inspired by St. Phillip Neri, I’m trying to embrace the absurdity and do good anyway. All our efforts are ridiculous in and of themselves, why should mine be any different? Then, to top it off, I make my poor wife lead the day I’m gone. May God have mercy on us!


  1. Am sorely temped to quip that Notre Dame’s relationship to Catholic higher education stands in the same relationship as Bill’s and Hillary’s partnership stands to marriage. But that would be mean. To at least one of the parties.
  2. A better and much more detailed explanation of the background situation by Mike Flynn can be found here, here and here.

A Whirlwind Tour of Christian Rationality by John C. Wright

In his inimitable style, Mr. Wright sums up the arguments against the proposition that, while Atheism is utterly rational, belief in Christianity is irrational in all respects. In the course of doing so, he produces a syllabus of philosophical errors tracing back to Descartes.

Mr. Wright begins with something he (and I and, frankly, anyone who tries to make a purely rational point in this woeful age) always run up against: the near total inability of a modern person to follow an argument. Education only increases density, until the typical PhD is diamond-hard in his resistance to reason, while you might have some luck with a first grader. It is both insightful and entertaining. He then compares the rationality – not the truth, but merely how rational they are – of the positions of atheists and Christians.

Keeping with my strategy of being as lightly read in as many places as possible, I paste here my long comment from there:

One other thing, to pile on a bit: another thing people don’t get (likely because it is studiously avoided in everything they’ll ever hear or read) is how the Perennial Philosophy came to be discredited. Luther and Calvin both waged war against human reason (Luther’s criticisms are legendary (and legendarily scattological) “Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore” and so on, Calvin is more subtle, as in making reason a competitor with the Spirit, as it were, in the proper understanding of Scripture). They were competing against the Scholastics, who famously trusted reason as a gift from God that tended by its nature to move the reasoner toward Him, staffed and founded Universities all over Europe, and educated all the key players in both the Medieval industrial revolution and the birth of Science.

In 1630, Descartes comes along with his radical skepticism, and all Hell breaks loose with Hume, Kant, etc. Descartes proved a good stick with which to beat the Scholastics. One of the peculiarities from that time on: nobody even talks about the Thomists, except to dismissively wave them off. It’s like how the Enlightenment slandered the great cathedrals as ‘gothic’ – i.e., barbaric – when they themselves could produce nothing nearly as original and beautiful.

On marches science, using the logic of Aristotle by way of the medieval Questions method + gadgets and math. Meanwhile, Kant finally runs radical skepticism to ground, or perhaps into the ground – dead end. Hegel then reanimate Calvin’s corpse, declaring that reason (as understood by everyone prior to him with the possible exception of Fichte) is for the little people, that real philosophers just get stuff unfolded to them by the Spirit in History. Finally, a philosophy that makes sense out of Calvin and Luther – they’re not reasonable, but they’re not supposed to be! They are instead on the right side of History, where the Spirit unfolds, where you just have to be right.

Somewhere in here, science decides it’s all about making practical discoveries (see Boyle’s list h/t to TOF) and basically lobotomizes itself to get rid of all that pesky philosophy that doesn’t help further that goal (more or less). Science and philosophy march more or less side by side, but more and more aren’t on speaking terms. A century and a half later, Von Humboldt invents the research university in Prussia: practical research (and the birth of publish or perish) over here, other stuff over there.

Meanwhile, the Puritans come to America to escape religious freedom – they are very sure they have a handle on the best way to live, and want anybody under their jurisdiction to live that way – and establish Harvard and staff it with people from Cambridge even the English Protestants at the time thought a bit much. The model of the American University is established: the place where we train the people who will make other people conform to our ideals. While those ideals sure changed – from Calvinist Puritanism (see the connection? Way ahead of me…) to Unitarianism to secular humanism all within a few generations – the belief that the University’s mission is to teach the one best way everything should be and enforce it on everybody else did not change.

So Harvard, and, through its role as intellectual disease vector, all other American universities, knows that what it wants is right, not by reason – that would play into the hands of the Thomists, even though their very existence is whistled past – but, as Calvin might say, vouchsafed by the Spirit – the Spirit of History, of the age, the Spirit of Progress.

Thus you, and anyone educated in the Universities, if he is so unfortunate as to take philosophy, will hear plenty about Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx and on through the current schools (last count: 1,476) of Analytic Philosophy but will hear nothing of A-T (Aristotelian-Thomistic) Philosophy except to have it dismissed. The truly enlightened are not subject to reason, which is, after all, a construct of the white male patriarchy meant only to oppress this week’s designated oppressed group – reason is for the little people. You know, the people who use reason to build the power plants that supply the lighting in the room where Woman’s Studies majors fire up their laptops to send emails about how oppressed they are.

But I digress.