Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot

So Donald Trump clinched the GOP nomination today.  This startling reality--because let's face it, who foresaw this back in December 2015?--reminded me of an article earlier this month wherein Peter Wolfgang took a stab at reading the "Why did Trump win?" tea leaves.  Wolfgang first address some clear points:

The first theory is that Donald Trump is popular among religious voters because other things have replaced religious belief as a motivating factor for how people vote, even for religious people. And the dwindling number of Republican voters who do still oppose Donald Trump out of religious conviction can expect the right to turn on them with a vengeance.
The second theory is that Donald Trump’s popularity among religious voters is confirmation of Ross Douthat’s thesis that we have become “a nation of heretics,” not in the classic Protestant vs. Catholic sense, but in the sense that much of what we call Christianity in America—whether Protestant or Catholic, liberal or conservative—has ceased to be Christianity in even a bare bones C. S. Lewis/Mere Christianity way. By this reading, the New Age-y or Prosperity Gospel ideologies in our churches have diminished our powers of discernment and softened us up for Donald Trump.
I am sympathetic to this view, but there are some important signs that contradict it. Douthat has a whole chapter against Glenn Beck, for instance, and Beck is actually the last man standing against Donald Trump in Conservative Big Media. And I am not aware of a single Catholic equivalent to, say, Trump supporter Jerry Falwell, Jr. Many Catholics do support Trump but I cannot name a single prominent Catholic leader who supported Trump prior to his becoming the presumptive nominee.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In Pius IX's footsteps

This past Friday, May 13th, was the 224th birthday of Blessed Pope Pius IX (Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti), Bishop of Rome from 1846 until 1878.  In a bizarre string of coincidences, the likes of which religion geeks like me love and everybody else (perhaps wisely) just overlooks, May 13th is also:
*  the anniversary of the Blessed Mother's appearance to the children at Fatima, Portugal (1917)
*  the birthday of Peoples Temple founder, Jim Jones (1931-1978)--yes, the purple Kool-Aid guy
*  the 35th anniversary of the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II by Mehmet Ali Agca.

The Fatima and assassination events are connected.  We now know that St. John Paul, as his driver whisked him away to the hospital, uttered "And now we see the Third Secret of Fatima revealed...", referencing the three messages Our Lady revealed to the three children in May 1917.  The third secret, revealed only in 2000, included a vision of white-clad bishop being murdered amidst a crowd. John L. Allen, Jr. notes that St. John Paul firmly believed Our Lady of Fatima altered the shot's trajectory and saved his life.  Agca's bullet now resides in the crown of Our Lady's statue in Fatima itself.  Allen:

Consider the worldview at work here: John Paul II was profoundly convinced that on May 13, 1981, the Virgin Mary altered the flight path of a bullet in order to keep him alive and, in so doing, to preserve his papacy.
If you genuinely believe that Mary interceded with God in order to suspend the laws of physics to keep you in office, then you never just wake up one morning and decide you’ve had enough.
Recall that John Paul II, even before the assassination attempt, regarded his papacy as belonging to Mary, not to him, as expressed in his motto Totus Tuus, “Entirely Yours,” a line drawn from the spiritual works of Saint Louis de Montfort.
If ever the pontiff would have concluded that Mary had put an exclamation point on her rights of ownership, the day of the assassination attempt certainly was it.
In other words, John Paul II simply did not believe it was up to him to decide when it was over.
Read all of Allen's piece here.

The profundity of St. John Paul's faith and his mystical-eschatological view of human history, including his own life (something Allen details in the post linked), stem from his own foundations in Marian piety and thus the Rosary.  That is something St. John Paul's predecessors, particularly Pius IX and Leo XIII, knew quite well.  Leo wrote twelve encyclicals on the Rosary alone.  Pius' Marian devotion was perhaps a bit more embodied.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee

Blessed are you among women

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.

So that's Pius IX praying at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

This week…in Indiana Catholic history

This week… in Indiana Catholic history.

Do not overlook the Hoosier State.  Besides being home to my beloved Wabash College and another, slightly younger, institution of higher learning better known in Roman Catholic circle, Indiana figures prominently in American--and American Catholic--history.  This blog recounts anniversaries this week of  those events.

Friday, May 6, 2016

So that New Evangelization We've Discussed...

OK, first, I have been nagging Tommy Tighe to create "Catholic GIFs" to accompany the already smashing great work by Catholic Memes and Eye of the Tiber.  Great, funny, theologically-sophisticated work being done by all three...and it'll get even better when Tighe unleashes "Catholic GIFs."

Until then, though, the New Evangelization is doing quite well, thank you.  It appears in places familiar--like religious orders--with a new spirit (which, when you think about it, you'll realize it's actually the [same] Holy Spirit) and some new tunes.  So consider this:

Yes, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal...with basketballs.

Some of the more sophisticated readers might think "well, they're mendicants so perhaps all that motion is vocational...part of their charism."  That's correct but then consider this  from Conception Abbey in Missouri.  Benedictines channeling NWA, y'all.  There are many things to bemoan in this world (Trump GOP candidacy, anyone?), but there are also signs of light among the darkness.  And these young religious inspire the laity to pursue their own vocations in the world.  And thus evangelization continues.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trinitarian foundations of Christian Environmentalism

This post, like some others on this blog, will introduce themes to which I will return occasionally.  One *could* write a Summa about Christian environmentalism, and some have, but this is neither the time nor place for such.

The Creed, in case you hadn't noticed, proceeds in Trinitarian fashion:

Holy Spirit

Looking west down the Mohawk River valley from the North American Martyrs' Shrine in Auriesville, New York.

OK, so what?  Well, attend to language:  

Friday, April 29, 2016

the development of doctrine seen through 80s hair metal

No, seriously.

source;  Facebook--with slight edits by yours truly.

Three years ago, in this blog's infancy, I threatened an extensive post on "hair metal" bands of the 1980s.  Folks, that day has arrived.

Advice:  Turn up the volume--then continue reading.

Prologomena:  "Metal" is both an adjective and noun, and no, I don't mean the chemical form.  Metal means heavy metal music: loud, abrasively rhythmic, searing guitar riffs and solos, usually piercingly high (male) vocals, and often dark, gothic lyrics.  Metal sings both of human depravity and resistance.  Metal songs can celebrate the crass debasement of sexuality...or it can illuminate the downtrodden nobody else knows about. It does so retaining some sort of melody, too.  Metal is not punk, at least not in its origins.  Crafted and spawned in American, British, and Canadian working classes, metal has defended "the rock and roll lifestyle" long after other genres sold out for better sales, better haircuts, and more exposure.  Hence the adjective:  "metal."  Something metal means it's tougher, harder, unfiltered...and transcendent. 

Metal  resurrects because in its frequent celebrations of death it also looks to life beyond death. If it's metal, it might be dangerous, occasionally unholy, and a stark threat to your entire personal being...and afterward you'll want another shot.  Metal is not a drug;  in fact, most illicit drugs offer only ersatz metal experiences.  Metal overwhelms, pulverizes, and remakes your previous self.  Metal is simultaneously cathartic and converting.  Overkill's 1989 classic "Elimination" includes the defiant line "Fatal?  You're sh*****g me!  A second opinion's what I need!"  Metal resists, even when it might seem all resistance is futile.  Metal certainly disdains--and, let's face it, often seeks to destroy--Victorian tact and prim morals.  Nevertheless, metal certainly understands Christian martrydom and the question of (apparently) unredeemed suffering.

Prologomena, part II:  Thus, despite stereotypes rooted mostly in the shallowness of white, evangelical Protestantism, metal and Christianity are not mutually exclusive.  Roman Catholics especially enjoy theological, spiritual, and even historical connections to metal.  Born-again Christians are stuck eschewing Led Zeppelin's classic Stairway to Heaven, concerned that nobody goes to the Father except through Christ (John 14:6).  They are, of course, correct on one level, but, really, who can listen to that song and not see Tolkien's Lady Galadriel pondering Frodo's free offer of the One Ring?  (H/T to Hillsdale's Dr. Bradley Birzer for that hermeneutic.)  The song itself balances acoustic grace with, well, leaden guitar chords, just like a Gothic cathedral's own chiaroscurro.  Led Zep recalls Tolkien--whose Catholic credentials need no defense here--in several other songs:  "Misty Mountain Hop," "Ramble On," etc.  Sometimes metal recognizes with frank clarity how the Christian faith's struggles amid the world's turmoils, needing God's grace and intervention to make it through.   Skid Row's 1991 Quicksand Jesus (written by guitarist David Sabo, whose lyrics exude Catholic sensibility) offers an eloquent example.

Bishop Barron on Bill Nye and Philosophy

Why rage against Bill Nye when Bishop Barron does it so well?  Sophisticated, clear, charitable, and well-informed.

Oh...and RIGHT.

And at 7:17 through the end, Barron makes a devastating link between the crisis of the humanities in American education and Nye's scientism by way of Plato's Cave.  That alone makes Barron's refutation worth considering.

The Church, created by Christ and devoted to following Him back to God, loves and defends the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  We obviously need and use science in that pursuit, but Barron reminds that scientism actually impairs and inhibits it.  May we remain mindful of the difference!