Thursday, June 28, 2007

Motu Appropinquabit

Around Saint Blog's there's all sorts of buzz about the motu proprio on the handling of the Ecclesia Dei indult. You can find it all sorts of places.

I only want to point out what I've found exceptional: Jeff Miller's take on a mad-lib for how one might construct a newspaper article in the mainstream (and madly liberal) media covering this event. However, that post brings to mind one of the serious concerns that many have about this impending release (and numbered amongst those concerned are many in favor the letter): worries, namely, that the media spin and the gossip on this subject may wreak havoc on some of the faithful and our shepherds. It is, therefore, with my tongue planted firmly away from my cheek that I endorse Father Z's recommendation of a novena leading up to the anticipated release date on July 7.

Anyone who knows me very well probably doesn't wonder what I think about this matter. One person asked me recently whether I approved of the Pope "letting priests say the Latin Mass again." The lady got a long answer, and to the question she actually asked rather than the one I presume she intended to ask (although she eventually got that, too). I carefully explained that I've attended the Latin Mass (i.e., the Latin rite liturgy as approved by the Church) every Sunday of my life and in recent years, even oftener. To the corrective, "I meant, in Latin," I responded with more cheek about Sacrosanctum Consilium and... well, you know, that old song. [Gregorian Chant?] Finally, I got around to saying what I thought about the relaxation of the governance of the usage of the old Missal. And now you might be wondering the same...

[Pregnant pause for suspense.]

Tonight, I was flipping through the channels and I came across something which interested me on the History Channel. It was the show Modern Marvels, which I usually enjoy, and the episode was all about cheese! Needless to say, I set the DVR to record this momentous hour so that I can savour it many times over.

I happen to like cheese. I think it is vastly superior to many other pleasures in which modern people indulge. To many in our contraceptive culture, however, cheese is incomprehensible. And I can understand this intuition, somewhat. Cheese begins with milk, which is wholesome enough: but it curdles. And curdled milk is the building block of cheese, once all the whey's been drained away. Your simplest cheese only needs a bit of good enzymatic bacterial reaction, some curdled milk, and a good shaking off of liquid. This is probably the form discovered by the ancients: and it's no wonder that it disgusts some. All you need to do is witness its production, or smell the process up close, and you might need some therapy to regain a taste for your favorite cheddar. But cheese is not merely corrupted milk. It is milk upon which art has been practiced. Milk is the white canvas: cheese is beauty rendered thereupon. And, as with all art (what Dante called "the grandson of God"), cheese is made in the likeness of man.

Men from all different cultures make all different cheeses. Chesterton, in one of his most brilliant essays, celebrates this wonder. Cheese tells a story. It tells of the land it came from, and can tell a lot about its makers. Cows grazing through dandelion fields will give the weed's inimitable flavor to their milk - and that flavor can be enhanced when translated into cheese. A cheese might kiss with the sweetness of clover or bite like proud rosemary, depending on ol' Bessie's caprices. And it was artful monks who first began to put the truest human signatures on cheese. They began with beers and brines and bacteria baths to train their cheeses to sing even more wonderful symphonies, and the art has continued to develop even to this day. And as with all arts, there are perversions, such as placing it in a canister under pressure to be "eezily" squirted.

Ah, cheese...

But... weren't we talking about the liturgy?

Well - I reply - haven't we been?

I think it a reverent enough comparison: the different rites of the Church's liturgy are like cheese. Good cheeses mind you. It would be uncharitable to infer from the above that I consider any major ritual adapted by the Church to be analogous to the "perversions" to which I referred. Rather, I would say that any basic cheese might be whipped and shoved ignobly into a can; and so might any rite be abused, and one could whip through the Tridentine Mass and can it into 20 minutes, with less reverence than a football game, just as easily as one might do so with the Novus Ordo.

Cheeses of different countrysides and different ages (rudimentary differences), embellished with all sorts of artful nuances (ostensible differences), combine to provide, in whole and tandem, a wonderfully variegated experience of the same essential substance. At two levels does cheese suffer impoverishment: first, when the artfulness of practice wears off and cheese is done without due care and devotion, and proper crafty adornment; second, when even choice becomes too limited and the rich variety available to the famished cheesemonger is made unavailable for no good reason.

I think an impoverishment might happen along similar lines in liturgy and ritual, at two corresponding levels. The former is the more serious: it is an abuse of the essential matter, however it comes translated into the hands of the custodian whose job it is to "celebrate" the substance with beautiful adornment and devoted practice. But I think that it is an impoverishment, as well, to have unnecessary limitation on a legitimate construction of the Church's rich tradition.

That's what I think: about cheese and about liturgy. I could have put it all more succinctly had I remembered the aphorism that everything we need to know, we learn in our earliest years. For I remember feeling, when all was said and done, that there was a moral lesson to be gleaned from the song about the farmer and his friends in the dell: it is sad when the cheese stands alone.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Benedict XVI and "Authentic Humanism"

I make no claims to be a Papal pundit of any sort, but I do follow the utterances of the Holy Father with some interest. Many people have observed that, with Pope Benedict, it is hard to distinguish any "patterns" of behaving or speaking. This is said usually with regard to his appointments of Curia or Ordinaries, but it might also be said with respect to his speeches. To my mind, Benedict has made many profound statements of great importance in the least momentous places and occasions; an important tasks in coming years will be the investigation and re-evaluation of such statements in order to insure that they do not fall into obscurity.

This past Saturday, Pope Benedict met with and addressed the participants of "the first European Meeting of University Lecturers." His remarks, although brief, are a continuation of a theme which seems important to Benedict's Pontificate: the importance of the University as a cultural motivator, and a truly "human" approach to progress and development in culture.

I took a moment this morning to look through my bookmarks and have found a few earlier speeches given by Pope Benedict which touch upon this theme: and surely there are many more, if you include homilies, Angelus sermons, etc. However, I see these few as quintessential to the theme and they would be useful in opening the eyes of any who have not yet marked the consistancy of Benedict's message.

If you have some spare time, give the following documents a glance:

12 September 2006 - Meeting with the Representatives of Science at the University of Regensburg.
"A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures."

06 November 2006 - Address to the Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
"...there is a danger that man, trusting too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher values."

22 April 2007 - Meeting with Representatives of the World of Culture in Pavia.
"May St Augustine be for us and also for the academic world a model of dialogue between reason and faith, a model of a broad dialogue which alone can seek truth, hence, also peace."

23 June 2007 - Address to Participants in the First European Meeting of University Lecturers.
"Far from being the fruit of a superficial desire for novelty, the quest for a new humanism must take serious account of the fact that Europe today is experiencing a massive cultural shift, one in which men and women are increasingly conscious of their call to be actively engaged in shaping their own history."
[It is worth noting that this address came the day after the feast of the great Saint-Humanist Thomas More.]

Although focused on a surprisingly different subject, another recent speech of Pope Benedict's mentions this "new humanism," only this other time with regard to the Social Doctrine of the Church. It is not altogether un-related to the above thread: it simply locates the problem of cultural development in a different context; yet, the problems are related (after all, the university and education are driven by larger socio-economical trends and specialization in industry has a direct correlary in the academy). Particularly for the Chestertonians among us, this will be of interest:

19 May 2007 - Address to Members of the Centesimus Annus - Pro Pontifice Foundation.
"If further development calls for the work of more and more technicians, even more necessary is the deep thought and reflection of wise men in search of a new humanism which will enable modern man to find himself anew by embracing the higher values of love and friendship, of prayer and contemplation."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gyve me thy grace good lord...

Happy Feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs.

If you haven't read Fisher's Defense of the Priesthood, give it a go.

And from Saint Thomas More, courtesy of Father Z:
(Written while imprisoned in the Tower of London, 1534)

Give me thy grace, good Lord:
To set the world at nought;
To set my mind fast upon thee,
And not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;
To be content to be solitary,
Not to long for worldly company;
Little and little utterly to cast off the world,
And rid my mind of all the business thereof;
Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant;
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help;
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labor to love him;
To know mine own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;
To bewail my sins passed,
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;
Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
To be joyful of tribulations;
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ;
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand;
To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;
To pray for pardon before the judge come,
To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;
For his benefits uncessantly to give him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost;
To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;
Recreations not necessary — to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss
at right nought for the winning of Christ;
To think my most enemies my best friends,
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasure
of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it
gathered and laid together all upon one heap.

I think that Saint Thomas More is too undervalued in our day and age. He is a great example of Christian leadership, heroic virtue in statesmanship, loyalty, duty, and holiness in the married state.

He also had a wonderful, ironic sense of humor and good taste for bawdy carousing, all the while with a hairshirt under his regal garb. What a guy!

In his honor, I think a glass of good wine and A Man For All Seasons are in order.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Picture from Conference

Got a good picture from the weekend in the mail today. Check it out down below.

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I Brake for Mimes

When I first saw the discussion taking place over at Fr. Z.'s about the new document, I had no idea of the scale of this project. Father Z's comments focus on the translation, notable for its somewhat hasty use of the word "tramp," but I'm left wondering about the document itself and how many people's time and effort have gone toward the publication. In the preface, Cardinal Martino outlines it thus:
The first part is devoted to road users (motorists, lorry drivers, etc.) and railway users, and to the people who work in the various related services. Parts two and three concern street women and street children, respectively, and the fourth regards the homeless (tramps).

This Document is dedicated to all the above-mentioned people, but account should also be taken of pavement dwellers and street vendors, as well as the link between the road and tourists, pilgrims, gypsies, circus and fairground workers and street actors.
Sounds like a wordlist for a creative-writing workshop run by some of our more popular hymnal publishers. I'm sure we'll see a supplemental within the coming year.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Long Journey Home - Part Three

[Conclusion - from Parts One and Two.]

I had begun the weekend praying about family and communion. By Saturday I was sure that God was answering my prayers in an unexpected way. Like Gabriel Syme amidst the Council of the Days, I began to feel a solidarity with my fellow Chestertonians that might be described as sacramental. Love of truth and goodness had brought us together; the same love with which Gilbert Chesterton lived and wrote. In that common love we were united to Chesterton; we were united to each other; and we were united to the source of love and goodness Himself.

I had known Aidan Mackey's name from various Chesterton research over the past couple of years. I knew a little bit about him. I was already excited just to have seen him briefly on Thursday evening, when he approached our dinner table to speak with Peter Floriani. After he walked away, Peter nodded towards Aidan and said, "That was Aidan Mackey. He's the original Chestertonian." I would learn that Aidan had known many of Chesterton's friends and acquaintances personally, including his daughter-like secretary Dorothy Collins. For years after Chesterton's death, when fads were against Chesterton's writings and some rare materials might have fallen into obscurity , Aidan labored to collect and preserve anything and everything Chesterton. He might be credited with making possible the Chesterton revival now underway throughout England and America.

At the banquet on Saturday night, I told Mike and Steve to find us a place to sit, saying it would be good to mingle. So they found us a completely empty table of six chairs. Luckily, immediately after sitting down, two other young men came over to sit with us: Chris and Matthew from Columbus, Ohio. A little more pleased now that we had company, I got up to find us a couple bottles of wine. Imagine my surprise when I returned to find Aidan Mackey sitting in the seat next to mine!

(Photo courtesy of Peter Floriani)

Having Aidan at our banquet table was the highlight of the weekend. His humility and gracefulness impressed me very much, as he insisted that he considered his work a privilege. He continues to receive students and Chesterton fans at his house in England, and to share his resources with others. The greatest of these resources, though, is of course his memory.

We were honored by the opportunity to ask Mr. Mackey questions during the meal about all sorts of subjects, from Chesterton's canonization cause to what kind of cigars he liked to smoke. Most of the time, however, we just listened as Aidan shared memories - and not just about Chesterton, but about his own inspiring life and his own notable accomplishments.

At the end of the evening, Aidan received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Society; standing next to him, I could see that he was visibly moved. To my surprise, I found that I was a little choked up as well. It struck me that I should feel so much love and gratitude toward the man after only having spoken with him for an hour or two. My emotion only became more intense when Geir Hasnes, the Norwegian Chestertonian who had earlier admitted to being a "cryer," came over after Aidan's ovation and embraced him.

I have felt this way before. Occasionally, I've been invited as a seminarian to some sort of youth rally or other gathering of the faithful. I am always struck in such circumstances by the paradoxical largeness and smallness of the Church. The Church is everywhere: from the rising of the sun to its setting. And yet, wherever the Church is, it is One. It is the living Body of Christ, united under the same Head. And there is some share in that mystery as well even for those who are not in full communion yet bear the name Christian. Two millenia ago, Christ commissioned men to go out and be fishers of men. And in each generation, Christians have heeded the same call and shared in that mission to some degree. This was the mission of G.K. Chesterton.

The conference stands as a testimony to Chesterton's success. He continues to call people together from all walks of life and all faiths and to change them in a deep way. And part of the way he changes people is through a sharing of the mission; those newly called are energized and edified by the ones already in the fold. Spring and harvest go on unceasingly, and even though Chesterton's earthly toiling has ended, I am sure that he and Frances continue to watch over their wide-spread garden from Heaven.

I am thankful for people like G.K. Chesterton - and for organizations like the American Chesterton Society - who continue to bring the Church together, making it at once larger and smaller. I was filled with this gratitude when I arrived at the airport at 430 on Sunday morning and checked my bag.

"We'll need to open this," said the clerk at the desk, jingling the small lock on the front of my suitcase.

"Oh, sure," I said, reaching into my pocket for my keys. My keys - were back at the seminary.

I rushed out of the building and hailed a cab who hurried me back to my room. Security let me into the building and I was able to get my keys and get back to the airport and through security just on time for my flight. Steve and Mike were waiting for me at the gate to bid me farewell as we parted ways for the summer again.

As I sat down on the plane I chuckled to myself about my latest mishap and thanked God that it had ended well. It seemed a fitting conclusion to such an adventure. As the plane got airborne, I thought back on my flight out to the conference and how keenly I'd felt that I was going away from home to a strange place. Oddly, I didn't feel so terribly different now.

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The Long Journey Home - Part Two

[Continued from Part One]

I cannot recall exactly when we first met Peter Floriani. It may have been in the line at the refectory, or it may have been only when he asked if we would mind him sitting at our table. All I know for certain is that he was the first Chestertonian we met - and what a first impression! I remember thinking that if all the conference guests were comparably enthusiastic, we would be in for quite a weekend. His excitement and joy were contagious, and his charisma could best be described as effervescent. I knew instantly that we were lucky to have him sitting at our table, but I could not have guessed how lucky. My mind tried to come up with the connection through which his name was so familiar. Only after a little conversation did the truth come out.

We found out that Dr. Floriani was giving a talk at the conference in place of Nancy Brown. I told him that I was a reader of the Society's blog (which Mrs. Brown facilitates), and that I probably recognized the name from there. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I was not a complete stranger to him, either.

"Oh, Veritatis Visio, yeah, I've seen that," he said. Then, thoughtfully: "I can't remember whether I've written anything there, though."

"I don't know..." I said.

"Well, if I had it would have been under my other name anyway, 'Dr. Thursday'," he said with a grin.

My eyes widened with sudden recognition. I had long been a fan of Dr. Thursday's contributions to the blogosphere on his own site and many others across the web. Recalling the erudition of these postings, I felt a sudden urge to feel newly intimidated, but Peter's personality simply wouldn't allow it. He's one of the most personable Ph.D.s in computer science that I've ever met. Soon, our jovial conversation revealed more pleasant information, as we found out that Peter lives not far from the Seminary we attend. Suddenly the prospects of increasing Chesterton awareness at school looked much brighter in light of this new acquaintance. Steve, Mike, and I left the dining hall feeling invigorated by our first Chestertonian encounter and eager for more.

We stopped a brief while at the book tables in the conference hall before heading in to hear Dale Alquist's welcome address. Our initial sparks of excitement soon kindled into a roaring enthusiasm as Dale intelligently and hilariously kicked off the weekend. His sense of humor was one of the highlights of the conference for me, and I admired the dynamism of his "live" presentation. It was a pleasant contrast to the lower-key style I knew from his EWTN show.

After Dale, and a lengthy break for refreshments of the home-brewed sort, Chuck Chalberg took the stage as our man himself. (I can't resist the temptation: "Our man Thursday?") As Chesterton, Dr. Chalberg lectured on Islam, drawing significantly from Chesterton's The New Jerusalem. Several times, the prophetic import of Chesterton's musings sent chills down my spine.

With these two talks, the conference was off to a great start. I would love to describe each moment in greater detail, but I'm afraid even just the highlights would occupy far too long a time. I particularly enjoyed a panel discussion of The Man Who Was Thursday featuring Christopher Chan, Kerry MacArthur, and Aidan Mackey. Of this latter gentleman, more will be said later. I was impressed by Dr. Carl Hassler's presentation of "Just War" in Augustine, Aquinas, and Chesterton. I was moved by Geir Hasnes sincerity and faith, and moved also by his insight into Sigrid Undset. I was intrigued by Robert Moore-Jumonville's religious sentiments, both in presentation and in person. I loved Joseph Pearce's talk and his accent, and got his autograph twice to boot! And all throughout the weekend, Peter Floriani continued to astonish me. His presentations were absolutely wonderful, but even more striking was his personal kindness. He made us three strangers feel like old friends of his; and whatever we were before, I know we shall be friends hereafter. For his generosity and his hospitality, I am most grateful.

On our way into lunch on Saturday, a woman greeted us with the boisterous exclamation: "Hey! The three amigos!" You see, for the most part, Steven, Mike, and I had flown under the radar throughout the weekend. We'd introduced ourselves to people and made a few acquaintances when it was most convenient, but perhaps a lingering bit of inhibition held us back from being too sociable or outgoing. If we did keep to ourselves somewhat, I don't think any of us minded. Personally, I was awed by the people around me and just overwhelmed with drinking it all in. And whatever our shyness or closeness, it didn't feel a bit lonely. Somehow, I felt a strong sympathy with the other folks at this conference. Although we weren't all like-minded on all issues and came from so many different backgrounds, something common had brought us all together - somehow, we were all related. Peter Floriani had talked about feeling very much "at home" when he came to these events, describing it partly like a family reunion and partly like a sacramental community. As the weekend wound down to a close, I began to feel how right he was. Just how right, I would learn on Saturday night.

(Continued in Part Three...)

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Long Journey Home - Part One

All the six friends compared notes afterwards and quarrelled; but they all agreed that in some unaccountable way the place reminded them of their boyhood.
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

This past weekend, I traveled with two friends to St. Paul, Minnesota, on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, where the American Chesterton Society's annual conference was being held. I wrote about my anticipation of this trip earlier, but admittedly I had no idea what to expect and was a little apprehensive about whether I would fit in or what sort of people I would meet. Only after the conference was held did I find this post by a regular attendee noting the "minority of whackos who show up" to the event each year, but I thought it reasonable to expect as much. I was not worried about these sorts, though, who can be expected at nearly every conference (although some organizations pride themselves on having such folks in the majority instead). Rather, I was concerned about whether the majority of the people in attendance would be too far out of my league in their knowledge and understanding of Chesterton; that I would be found unqualified, without any proper credentials to rub elbows with such an intelligent crowd of devotees, and left somewhat awkwardly on the periphery. I entered the terminal Thursday morning walking on a cloud of euphoric excitement and anxiety. My anxiety soon gave way to genuine worry, however.

My flight was cancelled. I stared for a moment in disbelief at the screen as it flashed the prohibiting red letters. I walked slowly back to the cafe where I'd been sitting with my friend and said matter-of-factly, "They just cancelled our flight." (I felt sure that "they" were to blame; I could not say merely, "our flight's been cancelled" and leave any doubt about whether there must be some villian behind such misfortune.) Steven's characteristic response was to shrug solemnly and furrow his brow perplexed. He rose in silence and we walked dazed toward the gate whence our journey had been set to begin. Amidst the chaotic negotiations and confusions which followed, Chesterton's words consoled me and bid me be patient: "An inconvenience is merely an adventure wrongly considered." Before the afternoon was over, I was having a very worthy adventure indeed: a mischievous airline sprite had scheduled us on a flight which had no seats; a usurping plane had then muscled into our arrival gate at Chicago and ours was left forlornly to search for other harbor; and, when finally we had arrived in Minneapolis, I learned the savage wights of the Philadelphia baggage underworld had hidden my suitcase away in some dungeon, in the untold darkness of which no barcode could be read, thus dooming to eternal anonymity its voiceless nylon victims.

Steven, Mike, and I finally arrived at Saint Paul's Seminary exhausted and worn out from waiting in lines and politely arguing with service representatives all day. Our schedule had been altered significantly and the afternoon was much more hectic than we had planned. But things began to look brighter. Our host, Monsignor Callighan, greeted us most graciously and said he would celebrate a private Mass with us in the small dormitory chapel. While we waited for the appointed time, we rushed over to the hall in which the Conference was being held in order to register and collect our meal tickets. Upon entering the building, the butterflies flew immediately back into my stomach. I first saw the many tables filled with books and wondered how I would hold myself from financial ruin. I was sure that I would have to own every printed page in the room before the weekend was through. This anxiety was overpowered, though, as I looked around the room and remembered earlier fears. The noise in the place was deafening as everyone buzzed with excited and boisterous conversation. The Chestertonians there all seemed to be old friends and from the loudness of their laughter they seemed already well caught up with one another after many months or years apart. I again wondered whether we would find our place amongst them and whether we would be able to make such friends ourselves.

We rushed back to the dormitories and attended Mass, which Monsignor offered for us and for our families. The excitement of the day finally drifted away and I found myself breathing with a calm peace as I prayed. My worries and frustrations seemed miles away, and I felt a sudden keen awareness of what a comfort it is to be a member of the Body of Christ. I knew that no matter what strange place I might find myself in, I was always close to family through the wonder of the Church. I was greatly consoled as I prayed along with Monsignor for blessings upon my family and friends, and I asked God that He use the weekend to draw us into an ever greater unity.

After Mass, we prayed Vespers, picked up our meal tickets and walked over towards the Conference center for dinner, where our adventures would begin in earnest. Little did I realize how God was already working on an answer to my prayers, and how He planned to teach me that, through Christ, family and friends are always close at hand...

(Continued in Part Two...)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Vita Sine Termino Nobis Donet in Patria...

My readers (if I still have any) may or may not be aware that I will be traveling this Thursday to Minneapolis/Saint Paul for the annual conference of the American Chesterton Society. The date of this much-anticipated trip is June 14.

As I prepared for the journey, it more and more began to take on the feeling almost of a religious pilgrimage. There is something Providential about me going to this particular conference, in this particular year. Down to the very date, something has seemed important about the whole matter, yet I have until today been unable to put my finger on it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew there were important connections to be drawn - but what were they?

Now, bear with me here if I sound like a conspiracy theorist. But, to my mind, the whole crazy story begins about a year ago. It was on June 8, 2006, when I launched on my blog (and my still out-of-date sidebar bears testimony) a book club reading of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Fittingly, June 8 was itself a Thursday. It was also around that time that I first heard about the Chesterton Society's Annual Conference and vowed that I would attend sometime. That year, the conference kicked off one week after my blog discussion, on June 15th: the Thursday of Corpus Christi.

The conference was a success that year, and I followed its news via magazine and blogs, green with envy. In the meantime, my own reading of Thursday with my friends occupied the whole of that summer and really brought me to a greater appreciation of Chesterton.

Fast forward to this year. I began planning to attend this year's conference a while back. I learned that I had an unexpected connection at the Seminary where it was being held, which connection carried with it an increased affordability for my trip. It was only after this that I learned of this year's conference theme: The Man Who Was Thursday. The choice of theme was appropriate, after all - this year being the hundredth anniversary of the work's publication, as I noted below. Nevertheless, I remember that I had an eerie sense when I heard the theme announced that it was almost too fitting. I thought then, and have thought many times since, that there was something Providential in it all. As I moved through this past sememster, growing ever more familiar with and devoted to Chesterton, I began to feel almost giddily excited about the prospect of attending an entire conference on the great writer. I gave a talk at my Seminary to try to spread appreciation to others; I even found two individuals crazy enough to make the trip to Minnesota along with me.

As June 14th approached, I felt that I really needed to get down to business. I just knew there was something significant in all of this, and it was like one of Chesterton's puzzles trying to figure it out. I read the exploits of Father Brown to try to sharpen my wit and finally decided to dive into Thursday for another go, and to refresh my memory of the novel before the conference.

This past week, I spent a few days in New Jersey, and returned on Thursday late in the evening. Wide awake from the coffee during my drive, I decided to finish off the remaining chapters of The Man Who Was Thursday before turning in. I reached the novel's end with a renewed sense of awe at God's mysterious love for us: and my thoughts came around to the fact that it was, that very day, the traditional celebration of Corpus Christi (although we celebrate the feast today - Sunday - in America). And suddenly, like lightning, everything came together in my mind.

Corpus Christi has always been one of my favorite feasts - and it was one of Chesterton's, too. In his last days, he would repeat to himself over and over lines from Aquinas's Corpus Christi hymn: O Salutaris Hostia. Part of the last stanza is the epitaph on his gravestone. Chesterton said that the final two words, "in patria," sum everything up. Heaven is our patria - our homeland - and we are sojourners, exiles waiting to return. We have hung up our harps and wait for Sion where we will sing again our song to the Lord.

This theme of exile and sense of strangeness is the very theme of anarchy in Chesterton's novel, The Man Who Was Thursday. It is the import of Syme's great speech at the end:
Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe?... So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, 'We also have suffered.'
This is the paradox of Corpus Christi: had Israel never been captive in a strange land, they never would have experienced the triumph of freed men (so much better than the comfort of merely free men); had Israel never hungered in the desert, they never would have experienced the fulfillment of the heaven-sent manna. Likewise, had we never been captives to death, we would have no share in the fullest glory of the One who conquers death; had we not suffered hunger and pain, we would have no share in Christ's glorious Body and Blood and the fulness of life.

Chesterton died on June 14th, 1936: Sunday after the Thursday of Corpus Christi. I will make my pilgrimage this June 14th, 2007: Thursday after the Sunday of Corpus Christi. On pigrimage (for that is what I know my trip will be), from Thursday to Sunday, my prayer, study, and fellowship will center on a novel all about what happens between a man named Thursday and a person named Sunday. And quite a lot can happen, as we know, between a Thursday and Sunday... quite a lot, indeed.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pope & Prez; MSM Stupidity

Breitbart has the scoop from an AP writer (whose own reading level, or that of her translator, is about fourth-grade) on the President's meeting with Pope Benedict.

I like especially the part detailing the transfer of gifts:
The pontiff presented the president with a drawing of St. Peter's Basillica, an official Vatican gold medal.

The president gave the pope a rare first edition of an autobiography of John Carroll, the first archbishop in the United States and founder of the Roman Catholic Church in America. Bush also gave the pope lithographs of documents from the National Archives and a Moses walking sticking, made by a former homeless man in Dallas, Texas, who engraved it with the Ten Commandments.
What the hell is a "Moses walking stick?"

And the founder of the Roman Catholic Church, in America or anywhere else, is the Divine Person Jesus Christ, with no prejudice to the good Abp. Carroll. I noted in the pictures of the events that the ever-classy Missus Bush had headcovering on in the Pontifical presence.

A True Chestertonian Paradox

In Masie Ward's biography, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, she quotes from an interview where G.K.C. shared the following:
A rather amusing thing was said by Father Knox on this point. He said that he should have regarded the book as entirely pantheist and as preaching that there was good in everything if it had not been for the introduction of the one real anarchist and pessimist. But he was prepared to wager that if [The Man Who Was Thursday] survives for a hundred years - which it won't - they will say that the real anarchist was put in afterwards by the priests. [Emphasis added.]
What I find ironic is that I came across this quotation is my research as I prepare to attend the American Chesterton Society's Conference on The Man Who Was Thursday on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary of publication. Chesterton is famous for his self-deprecating humility... I wonder what he thinks of this Conference now?

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