Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bird Photos

For your viewing pleasure:



"Living with a Dead Language"

A friend sent me this link to an article about Fr. Reginald Foster, Carmelite monk and senior Vatican Latinist. He is a rarity: a Spirit-of-Vatican-II priest who loves Latin.

He is a real character, and is a regular on Vatican Radio. Here is his latest "Latin Lover" segment, which is on translating Deus Caritas Est into Latin. He amusingly rants against modern phraseology that is untranslatable into Latin. Fr. Foster also states that the Renaissance threw out the Medieval Latin of Thomas Aquinas in favor of the classical Roman Cicero, which, he thinks, killed the use of Latin as a living language.

Site of the Month

Rome of the West is featured on the Ecclesiological Society's "Sites of the Month" page.

Far worthier featured sites include:
"The Ecclesiological Society, founded in 1879, is the successor of the Cambridge Camden Society", which started the English church reform movement in the 19th century, with a return to Gothic architecture and traditional piety and theology.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Photos of Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri



This is Saint Gabriel the Archangel church, in the Saint Louis Hills neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri. This late Art Deco style church is one of the newer Catholic churches in the City, dating from 1948.

This photo was taken at sunset; the color of the exterior stone is light tan.




Bas-relief of the angel on the front of the church.




A view of the spire from about a quarter of a mile from the west, looking down Nottingham Avenue. The church faces Francis Park, here on the right.




Another view of the spire.




Exterior of a confessional outside of the church.




A back door into the church.




Rectory.




Detail on the side of the school.




A view of the nave from the narthex.




The nave.




The sanctuary, with nice floral decorations for this church's feast-day. The photo was taken during weekly Eucharistic adoration.




Altar with monstrance.




Detail of mosaic on altar.




A view of the sanctuary from the side.




Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus; the statue is over the Holy Oils and is behind the baptismal font. The church was originally built with a separate baptistery, now a confessional.




The poor box. This photo also shows the angled seating in this church.




Infant Jesus




Icon of Saint Gabriel, dating from 1986.




The XIVth station of the cross, in mosaic; Jesus is laid in the tomb.




Our Lady of Fatima shrine. This church features numerous devotional shrines.




A stained glass window in the cry room. The windows in the nave are more representational.




Holy water.




Sign with Mass times.




A view of the neighborhood near the church. Saint Louis Hills has numerous charming homes, with nice architectural detail.


Archdiocesan web site: http://www.archstl.org/parishes/149.shtml

Address:

6303 Nottingham Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63109

Writings About the Angels

Besides what is found in the Bible, here are some Catholic writings on the Angels. This list is not complete nor neccessarily authoritative.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica:
Saint Denys [Dionysius the (Psuedo-) Areopagite]: The Celestial Hierarchy. And another version of the same.

Saint Bonaventure, "De angelorum natura", not found online.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Angels

Catholic Encyclopedia article on Angels

Saint Jerome, Commentary on Daniel

Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book II (see Chapter 8 and other following chapters), Against Praxeas.

Saint Augustine, City of God, Book X, Book XI, Book XII.

Saint Justin Martyr, Second Apology (see Chapter 5)

Happy Michaelmas!

In the Tridentine calendar, today is the feast of the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel, or Michaelmas Day. Under the reformed calendar, today is the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.

Michaelmas was at one time a Holy Day of Obligation, and still has widespread secular observance in the British Isles, with Michaelmas sometimes being used as the name of the season instead of Fall or Autumn.

Michaelmas is one of the "quarter days" in England and Wales that roughly divide the year into seasons, the others being Lady Day (Annunciation) on March 25, Midsummer Day on June 24, and Christmas. Likewise, the times between these Feasts are called "cross quarter days". Besides being religious holidays, these days are traditionally used in rent payments and taxation.

Saint Michael the Archangel, the warrior angel of God who casts Satan into Hell, was traditionally a patron of the Jewish people, and in turn of Christians.

The original feast was in honor of the dedication of a 5th century church, since destroyed over a thousand years ago. Click for the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Saint Michael the Archangel.

In case you missed it, here are my photos of Saint Michael the Archangel church, in Shrewsbury, Missouri.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Place Names and Poetry

A nice reflection on place-names, their beauty, and their place in poetry by Robert L. Ramsay, published in 1952:
Is there any beauty, or romance, or stuff for poetry, in our Missouri place names? The author of the first volume of poetry ever published west of the Mississippi River did not think so. Said Angus Umphraville, in a special footnote to his poem "The Queen of the Rivers," published at St. Louis in 1821:
The task of describing the course of the Missouri is rendered peculiarly disagreeable by the mean, low, absurd, inharmonious, and unappropriate names which white traders and discoverers have conferred upon its most romantic beauties... What poet would not be deterred by such barbarous names from celebrating "The Beauty of the Cannonball," or "The Maid of Boone's Lick," or "The Hero of the Conewango?"
Later lovers of poetry modified this harsh judgment far enough to find some romance and beauty in our foreign names, French, Spanish, and especially Indian—such names as Gasconade and Crève Coeur, Molino and Potosi, Onondoga and Niangua; and they began to plead wistfully for more of them to replace the raw, crude, hopelessly American names that prosaic Anglo-Saxon pioneers persisted in scattering over the landscape.

But time takes curious revenges. Nowadays poets have learned to find beauty in unlikely places. Some of the foreign place names so much admired a generation ago are still pleasant enough, but others among them retain only a sort of pinchbeck beauty. As Stephen Vincent Benet has taught us:
Seine and Piave are silver spoons;
But the spoon-bowl metal is thin and worn.
Anybody can find poetry in springtime and sunsets. But it takes a real poet like Robert Frost to find poetry in building a wall, and a real painter like our own Thomas Hart Benton to make pictures out of barbecues and baptizings, Huck Finn and Jesse James, and Frankie and Johnnie. After all, sweat is a far more poetical word than perspiration.

So we may quote a few additional lines from Benet's classic, "American Names," which has so fascinated our Missouri place-name workers that most of them have placed it on the opening pages of their eighteen theses:
I have fallen in love with American names:
The sharp, gaunt names that never get fat;
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims;
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
Tuscon and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat....

I will remember Carquinez Straits,
Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane,
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates,
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.
I will remember Skunktown Plain....

I shall not reset quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass;
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
Witness also the testimony of Mr. Dennis Murphy, one of the most genuine of recent Missouri poets, in his little volume of 1941 entitled The Doomed Race:
Willow Springs, Lebanon,
Mountain view, Cedar Ridge—
Crooked creek and highway run
Side by side to the bridge.

Asters by an old board walk;
Blacksmith's shop; grocery store
Where men-folks tipple, women talk,
And lazy hounds loll at the door....

Evening Shade, Buffalo,
Rocky Comfort, and Birch Tree—
It matters little where I go;
Ozark towns keep haunting me.
Amother of the younger Missouri poets, Mr. Ralph Alan McCanse, has demonstrated effectively in his two volumes, The Road to Hollister: a Hill-Country Pastoral, of 1931, and his latest volume published only last year, Waters over Linn Creek Town, that many a place name is a compressed poem in itself. His earlier volume captures the spirit of Taney County as carried in its names:
A sabbath air
Through all the hills prevailed. Across the Ridge
Came scarce a breath of wind, that morning hour;
and drowsy peace possessed the countryside...

But in the country stores—at Garber Bald,
Bee Creek, and Flag and Notch the people talked...
of the big new dam
That turned White River into a lengthy lake,
Stretching for miles...
There's Dewey Bald; there's Hollister, and The Hill!

This is the silent epic of the hills:
The ancient Earth conceives; and Time fulfills.
In his Waters Over Linn Creek Town, he has interpreted even more appealingly the "spirit of place" and the very human people of
Camden and Hickory, and then Osage—
Then Morgan—Benton—each of them the stage
Where life ran quietly from day to day...

The ancient sleeping Ozark countryside...
Linn Creek that was Zion; and Sycamore Mill;
All regions under the lake now, passing still...

Rivers and creeks throughout a host of hills
That now a winding man-made lake-bed fills:
The Osage, Turkey, Tebo, 'Tater, Lick
Moccasin, Mossy, Linn, and Forky Stick;
The Indians' cool Ne-Ong-Wah ('Many Springs'?)
The Buffalo, Gravois, Grand Glaize; perished things!

The vision that saw Linn Creek town,
Linn Creek and Wayham and Purvis drown,
And Gladstone drown—those human places
Down in the fatal valley spaces...

And hundreds of hollows and leafy dens,
Honey Run, Crabtree, and Rainwater glens;
the blackberry patches and hazel stock
At Bee Hive, 'Possum, Standing Rock...

Count up to twenty streams, and more.
And the Vision will count you still a score...

Come: keep the low song till the end; take time
To linger in still places...
Apparently a hundred years of history and hard use have added a tang and a flavor to our most commonplace names that would have opened the eyes of old Angus Umphraville. Age enriches old paintings with what painters call patina. Perhaps our Missouri place names are gradually acquiring a sort of patina too.

Mr. W. H. Auden, the distinguished British poet who as recently become an American citizen, has just coined a new word which will be a godsend in this connection. It is "topophile", for a lover of places...

Mr. Auden defines a true topophile as a poet who could write lovely poems about such New York spots as Stouffer's Teashop, Schrafft's Blue Plate Special, the Brighton Beach Line, or the General Theological Seminary. Just why he restricts his topophile to city names I do not quite understand. If so, St. Louis topophiles might pass muster by singing about such fascinating places as the Eads Bridge, the Soldan High School, De Balivière Avenue, Garavelli's Restaurant, and Stix, Baer & Fuller. We are well aware that modern poets like Auden chose words for their denotation rather than for their connotation. They dislike all words with overtones, and prefer the flat music of the tuning fork to the reverberations of the organ. The bees in their poetical hive are always lean and hungry, stripped for action as they issue forth to their daily task, never loaded with spoil and crusted with wax and honey as they stagger home weary at evening, as Milton and the Victorian poets liked them best.

For the "hollow men" of our exhausted age and our jaded city dwellers, they may be right....
Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names

Photo of 'Fountain Angel' at Missouri Botanical Garden



Angel fountain at the Missouri Botanical (Shaw's) Garden, in Saint Louis, Missouri.

The sculpture is called 'Fountain Angel' (c. 1902), and is by Italian artist Raffaello Romanelli (1856-1928). According to the Garden web site:
Water flows from ewers in the angel's hands and originally spouted from four dogs' heads at the base.The figure may represent Persephone, queen of the underworld, guarded by the dog Cerberus. Originally the sculpture stood in front of a marble column with overhead basin at the Skinker Avenue entrance to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. It was then bought by David N. O'Neil and installed at the entrance to Lindell and Kingshighway Park entrance in 1907, and then moved south of the Field House in 1916. After suffering from vandalism it went into storage until its restoration in 1975 and now finally has found a home at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Design for a New Cathedral of Los Angeles

A while back, Matthew Alderman of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping posted an article on the Gothic Deco architectural style. I commented with this little idea:
Here is a thought experiment: you are hired by Cdl. Mahoney of L.A. to design a Cathedral, his recent one having been completely destroyed by a meteor. You are given carte blanche on the design, and $500 million budget. His only requirement is this: it must not be in a recognizably historical style, be it Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, etc., but you have unlimited freedom otherwise.

What do you do?
Matthew replied:
Mark--expect a sketch and a possible posting in the near future. I'd thought about virtually the same question when I was in LA last.
Andrew Cusack posted Matthew's drawings for a new Los Angeles cathedral. Click to see them.

The current Cathedral in Los Angeles, California, is a design that only a postmodernist could love, and is notorious, among other things, for its pagan "Earth Spirit" sculpture.

Matthew's designs are a very refreshing return to architectural beauty.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Treasures looted by Rome 'are back in the Holy Land'"

See the article: Treasures looted by Rome 'are back in the Holy Land'
A COLLECTION of sacred artefacts looted by the Romans from the Temple of Jerusalem and long suspected of being hidden in the vaults of the Vatican are actually in the Holy Land, according to a British archaeologist...

He has discovered that it was taken to Carthage, Constantinople and Algeria before being hidden in the Judaean wilderness, beneath the Monastery of Theodosius...

Emperor Vespasian ordered the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem after a Jewish revolt and Roman forces took about 50 tons of gold, silver and precious art to Rome.

Tagged by the "Deep Conversation" Meme

Tagged by Jeffery Smith, The Roving Medievalist:
If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" (Explaining why is optional.) Name five people from each of the following categories:Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, celebrities.
Saints
  • Thomas Aquinas
  • Teresa of Avila
  • Mary Magdalene
  • Thomas More
  • Maximilian Kolbe
To be Canonized
  • Jacques Marquette
  • Junípero Serra
  • Francis Xavier Seelos
  • John Henry Cardinal Newman
  • Fulton J. Sheen
American Heroes
  • Charles Carroll of Carrollton
  • George Washington
  • Chuck Yeager
  • Thomas Edison
  • Ronald Reagan
Authors/Writers
  • J.R.R. Tolkein, C. S. Lews, and Peter Kreeft, all at once.
  • Aristotle and Plato
  • John the Evangelist
Celebrities
  • Pope Benedict XVI
  • any other celebrities are either too many or too few to mention!

I now tag any reader who wants to play this game!

"Urban Tragedy"

See this article: Urban Tragedy: The wrong schools are closing.
During the past few years, scores of impoverished inner-city schools have shuttered their doors. On the surface, that could be a blessing. After all, one of the major problems with American education is that bad schools seem to live forever.

But, alas, I’m not writing about those schools — the persistently failing public schools that, under No Child Left Behind, are supposed to be “restructured” out of existence, or at least subjected to an extreme makeover. No, the ones leaving children standing outside their locked doors are generally places of deep learning, community institutions that have effectively served the children of the poor for generations. They are Catholic parochial schools — and their closure is nothing but a tragedy.
Catholic parochial schools have been closing down for the past four decades. Only Catholic private schools—expensive ones, paid for by tuition and not by the weekly dontations in the basket—are flourishing. And unfortunately, the very people that the Church was given a direct mandate to serve—the poor—are probably now worse served in education than in anytime in the past several centuries. In the United States, impoverished Irish and Italians, fleeing famine and persecution, went from being the poorest of all immigrants to the broad middle class in one generation, largely due to the schools which are now closed.
The closures have little to do with the quality of education that these schools provide. Two decades of studies have shown them to be effective, especially for poor and minority children. Rather, broader demographic trends are to blame. Simply put, most Catholics have left the urban core for homes in the leafy suburbs, and urban parishes have dried up in their wake. No parishes, no parish subsidies, no parish schools —yet thousands of needy children remain downtown. On top of that, the schools’ pipeline of affordable teachers has run dry. Once upon a time, most Catholic-school instructors were members of religious orders, requiring little or no cash compensation; now there are more nuns over age 90 than under age 50 in the U.S., and only five percent of the schools’ teachers come from religious orders. Lay teachers must be paid a decent wage, pushing Catholic-school tuitions out of reach for many poor families.
My readers are no doubt highly familiar with these problems. But since education is compulsary, that leaves the poor little option but the public schools. A number of years ago, the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to improve public schools via accountability programs. This article states that there is a large loophole in the program, which merely allows failing schools to restructure themselves as an alternative to doing something drastic, such as firing bad teachers or even closing down.

But I am not interested in whether or not this program is being properly implemented. It is bad legislation, period.

The fact that it had strong support from President Bush and the Republican Party, even though it was written by the socialist Senator Ted Kennedy, should be worrisome. This Act is popular in Washington because it gives control of the public schools to the Federal Government, where politicians of all stripes can get a piece of that enormous pie. It simply furthers the goal of school centralization.

At one time, parents would get together to literally build a public school—perhaps a one-room schoolhouse—and these individuals would have a direct say in who teaches and what is taught, even though taxes may have paid for this. Even in Catholic schools, parents would have direct control over the collection basket. Under this system, some schools were good, and some were bad, but the bad ones would most certainly fail, while the good ones would most probably flourish.

The ideas of equality and efficiency have led to the constant trend of centralization, which contrary to expectations, has led to inequality and inefficiency. Many believe that our suburban public schools are quite good, while nearly everyone thinks that the majority of urban public schools are horribly bad. The cost per student has increased dramatically over the years, with poorly performing urban schools often costing more per student than even elite private schools. It is the principle of First and Second Things in action: put the secondary things of efficiency or equality first over education, and you lose both efficiency and equality, as well as education itself.

This leads me to believe that the public schools are merely the playthings of the powerful, be they politicians, corporations, or unions. I am reminded about a Saint Louis city school board election a number of years ago: the mainstream slate of candidates was aggressively (and expensively) promoted by the labor unions, politicians, media, and major corporations, which was coordinated with a smear campaign against the reform candidates. This was in the City of Saint Louis, which has a terrible school district, and the main supporters of the status quo were hardly the kind of persons who would actually send their children to these schools. It was all about power and control.

The basics of education, the First Thing of education, is simple and cheap. Teaching most young children how to read and write, in multiple languages, is easy if done young enough, and if you do it well, they can get additional education on their own. Very little material cost is needed for this basic kind of education. But often the Second Thing of "special needs" children is put before education itself, and the trend is to make all children "special". Likewise the Second Thing of teaching children technology (especially technology that will soon be obsolete) instead of basic science increases costs dramatically.

We shouldn't forget that spiritual goods do not diminish when shared, unlike material goods. Language, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, philosophy, music, theoretical science, and even much of art, are overwhelimingly spiritual goods, and should be the primary focus of education. And these spiritual goods are, at their core, absolutely free. Material goods, such as technology, food programs, infrastructure, and so forth, are material goods, and by neccessity cannot be shared without diminishing: this makes them expensive. A revival of education needs to put the spiritual before the material; there is no evidence that material over a certain minimum significantly improves education, while even the most progressive or traditional of commentators will agree together that a good teacher is by far the most important part of a good education.

Our educational problems will continue to get worse as power becomes more centralized, and even more money will be fruitlessly spent attempting to solve these problems. The solution will come only when those in power decide to just let go of their grip on the schools, to let the parents themselves control education of their own children. There won't be standarization, nor will there be absolute equality, and even many schools will fail outright. However, I think that teaching will return to its proper place as an honorable profession.

I also hope for a revival in the Church's educational mission, but it will probably be several decades before it is fully restored.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pirates in Saint Louis!

Pirates are all the rage these days, and are the subject of romantic portrayals in all the media. Real, modern-day pirates, however, aren't quite so pretty. But the Saint Louis area has its share of pirate legends.

Jean Baptiste Lafitte
has a great following in his one-time home of New Orleans, and is famous for providing his band of pirates—1000 strong—to General Jackson in the war of 1812. He disapeared around 1826, but a journal purportedly by Lafitte surfaced in the 1950s. This journal says that he eventually moved to Saint Louis, under the name John Lafflin, to raise a family; he died in the 1850s and reportedly is buried in the nearby Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois. Many conspriacies swirl around Lafitte: he may have been a Spanish royalist spy; he may have collaborated with Marx and Engels on the Communist Manifesto; and he may have been involved with the Aaron Burr conspirators to conquer Mexico. Nominally Catholic, his family was said to have practiced Judaism in secret.

Tower Rock is a landmark island in the Mississippi River, in the southernmost part of the Archdiocese. It's namesake, Grand Tower, Illinois, on the opposite bank of the river, was originally the home of river pirates, chased out of the Louisiana Territory by the Spanish.

One source reports:
By the early 1800s, pirates and robbers were entrenched on the river's western banks, preying on river traffic. Spanish military units were sent in to wipe them out, but the pirates merely moved to the east side of the river beyond Spanish jurisdiction, Thilenius and Snider related. The pirates set up on Cottonwood Creek and in "Sinner's Harbor'' on the Big Muddy River and resumed their crimes of robbery and murder.

Early in the summer of 1803, before the Louisiana Purchase was consummated, a detachment of U.S. Cavalry was sent to camp at Devil's Bake Oven with orders to stay and end the river piracy. By the end of that summer, the troops had captured or destroyed all the pirates' craft and killed, captured or driven off all the criminals. The area had been made safe for white settlers to move in.
There may even be buried pirate treasure here! According to Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri, by Thomas R. Beveridge, Blackbeard the Pirate may have buried his treasure in Jefferson County, Missouri, located just south of Saint Louis County.
Thanks to the horse, Jesse james and crew thoroughly covered Missouri in a relatively short period of time, but Blackbeard the Pirate chose the hard way to leave his calling card... exceptionally high waters during the rainy season permitted Blackbeard to go up the valley of the Joachim [Creek] and into the area that is now Harrison Lake. Receding water left his pirate vessel stranded in the Harrison Lake area and his loot was buried near the natural bridge south of the present lake. The ship was then rolled on logs for 4 miles overland to be launched in the Mississippi River near Crystal City... The treasure legend has apparently been taken seriously by some and resulted in small-scale digging.

Photo of Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, at dusk



This is Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church, in the Saint Louis Hills neighborhood of the City of Saint Louis, Missouri. It is one of three Archangel churches constructed within a ten year period, and all are rather close to each other.

It is a late Art Deco design; its cornerstone dates from 1948. This church does reflect liturgical changes that were brewing even before the Second Vatican Council: the seating arrangement is fan-shaped, and the sanctuary is a bit more open than traditional.

It was here on June 15th, 2003, that I entered the Church with Confirmation and First Communion. Many thanks to the former Pastor, Fr. Burgoon (now Pastor of Saint Richard's in Creve Coeur, Missouri) and Deacon Volansky for their guidance.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Photos of Bishop DuBourg High School, in Saint Louis, Missouri



Here is Bishop DuBourg High School, the largest diocesan high school in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, located in the Saint Louis Hills neighborhood.

This is the school at dusk.

Groundbreaking of the school was in 1952, and was designed to house 1600 students, and has been subsequently enlarged. At its peak, enrollment was 2300 and was staffed by 40 archdiocesan priests and 50 Sisters of the Most Precious Blood.



Attached to the school is DuBourg House, a retirement home. Here is a view towards its chapel.

Bishop Louis-Guillaume-Valentin Dubourg (1766-1833) was born in Santo Domingo on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola; he studied theology at the Collège de Sorbonne of the University of Paris until fleeing the French Revolution, and eventually settled in the United States in 1794.

According to Wikipedia:
He became the apostolic administrator of the Louisiana Territory in 1812. When he arrived in New Orleans, he found that the rampant vice of the city, coupled with the insubordination of Antonio de Sedella, a popular Spanish Capuchin priest who catered to the whims of the lukewarm local Catholic population, gave him reason to request that a new bishoporic be created for Louisiana. After a trip to France and Rome, and he was named the second bishop of Louisiana and the [East and West] Floridas in 1815. Shortly thereafter, however, he found he could no longer safely reside in New Orleans, and to avoid a schism, he relocated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1817. While in St. Louis, Dubourg founded St. Mary's of the Barrens Seminary, the first college founded west of the Mississippi River. He also helped to bring Rose Philippine Duchesne and her newly created Society of the Sacred Heart to the St. Louis area. In 1823, his last year in St. Louis, he welcomed the arrival of Pierre-Jean De Smet and his fellow Jesuits to the diocese. These same men would later found St. Louis University.

He then returned to New Orleans, leaving the St. Louis Catholic community greatly expanded, even if in considerable debt. Joseph Rosati became his coadjutor in 1825, and after Dubourg returned to France, Rosati became the first bishop of the new diocese of Saint Louis.

In 1825, Dubourg returned to France, having resigned his seat in New Orleans due to supervisory conflicts with Rosati. In France, DuBourg served as Bishop of Montauban, and was appointed Archbishop of Besançon in February 1833. He died later that same year.
Click for his episcopal history.

Foxy!

Tonight I found a pair of red foxes (Latin: Vulpes vulpes) in a Saint Louis city park.



From a distance, this fox appeared to move in almost a catlike fashion, that is, with far more flexibility than domestic dogs.

This fox didn't seem to be too afraid of me. After talking to it an a calm, reasurring voice, it came close enough for a good picture.




Here are both foxes. The one on the right was a bit skittish, and kept its distance, while the left fox seemed unconcerned.




I wanted to keep these foxes company, so I started singing to them, but my allergies acted up and my awful singing, mixed with hacking and coughing, chased them away.

"Priestie Boyz" Release CD

A note from Kenrick-Glennon Seminary:

I am happy to announce that the Catholic rock band Priestie Boyz at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary (in St. Louis, MO) has released their CD, Lost in Ecstasy, which is available for purchase on their website (www.priestieboyz.com), and in select locations in St. Louis. You can listen to song previews on the Priestie Boyz' website....

We hope that the songs on this CD will bring people closer to Christ and also help people in their vocational discernment.

If you have any questions about the band or the CD (or even about discernment), feel free to reply and ask!

Founded in 2004, the Priestie Boyz are a group of Roman Catholic seminarians studying for the priesthood at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. They strive to return their talents to the One who gave them. They believe their music is a prayer, and hope it is a prayer for those who hear it.

In Christ,
Jeff Geerling
(Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Archdiocese of St. Louis)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Philosophical Reactions to Pope Benedict's Lecture on the De-Helenization of Religion

See the article: Pope's lecture also shakes Catholic theologians:
Last week's lecture by Pope Benedict XVI that provoked angry protests in the Islamic world has also triggered a cry of protest in the arcane worlds of philosophy and theology.
The Holy Father's lecture was primarily an attack on modern philosophy, which attempts to divorce ancient Greek thought from Christianity, a process called 'de-Hellenization'. Christianity has traditionally been intellectually based on the philosophy of Socrates and Plato and their followers. Newer interpretations of Christianity are based on subjective, skeptical philosophies, which tend to doubt even the basic concept of truth.
Benedict's thesis about the relationship between faith and reason has its foundation in ancient Greek philosophy.

However, a sizable number of Catholic and Protestant theologians argue that this so-called neo-Platonic perspective is inadequate for 21st century theology.

'The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance,' said Benedict, who contends that Christianity reflects much of the thought of the pre-Christian Greek philosopher Plato.
However, modern philosophies do not add anything to philosophy, but only subtracts from the intellectual framework of the ancients. What has been lost? Perhaps we need to look at the current state of society to answer that question.
By quoting emperor Manuel II, Benedict was criticising a modern view of God as radically free, an utter mystery who cannot be known through human reason. In that view, God and reason are things independent of one another.
The right-wing version of this modern view is Fundamentalism, while the left-wing version is Liberalism. It is ironic that these two systems of belief, which are always attacking each other, are based on the same theological reasoning. In both, religion and reason are separated, and this leads to chaotic action by their followers.

Modern philosophy is based on Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who rejected the Greek philosophy of Plato. Kant, argues the Pope, is the basis of moral relativism.
Thomas Proepper, who teaches Catholic dogmatic theology at the University of Muenster in Germany, is one of many who argues that Kant, not Plato, is closer to Christian views, and would offer a better basis for a dialogue between philosophy and theology.
Except that for more than 1400 years, Plato and Christianity had been inseparable. His argument that Kant offers a better basis for dialogue is flawed: it would be equivalent to us having to embrace Communism so that we can better dialogue with North Korea.

Benedict's lecture was primarily a call to dialogue with other religions, and asked modern secularists to reevaluate Greek philosophy.
Benedict's Catholic critics retort that such a dialogue is impossible with those, including western atheists, who do not accept the neo-Platonic understanding of divine reason.

Striet said, 'I think it is better to rely on the sort of reason that Christian and agnostic people share with one another.'
Socrates did not argue with the Sophists using their own philosophy; rather he questioned their philosophy as a part of the dialogue. Likewise, modern agnostic reasoning has to be questioned, and not merely assumed, as these critics seem to want.

The classic definition of Socratic dialogue has people discussing their differences in a genial atmosphere, and working to come to a common ground despite varying philosophy. But modern "dialogue" is where, say, a Catholic and Muslim discuss their differences, and then come to an agreement by both embracing Marxism. That isn't dialogue at all!

Kant's philosophy is described concisely by Fr. Jonathan Robinson, of the Toronto Oratory, in his book The Mass And Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward.
At the close of the Enlightenment period there stands the austere and unbending figure of Kant, and Kant presents us with a perfect example of what happens to Christianity when we begin to discount the Bible and the Creeds. We are left with a moral religion that leaves room for God but does not leave room for much else in the way of religion....

Kant is the philosopher, par excellence, of human freedom and human rights, and he teaches the unconditioned obligation to treat others as possessing absolute value as members of a "kingdom of ends" Yet he ends up by condemning prayer, sacraments, and the Church...[as] actually pernicious....
His philosophy is based on the idea that the human intellect is simply incapable of grasping ultimate, transcendent reality, so instead of trying to see beyond the mere appearances of our experience, he says that we should give up before we even start. Reason, he thinks, should be strictly limited to nature and experience, and must avoid all speculation. This is a solid, but also stultifying foundation for thought, that automatically limits inquiry. However, unlike most sciences, modern theoretical physics does not follow the philosophy of Kant, and has made tremendous progress.

Many Catholic theologians, following Rahner, have tended to assume that Kant was right, but often just as a means to attack tradition; these same theologians often would ignore Kant in areas of their own interest.

Kant reduces morality, in his "Categorical Imperative", to a version of the Golden Rule. His reasoning behind this is very convoluted, and according to some theologians, leads inexorably to traditional Catholic understanding of morality, as Pope Benedict states. However, this is not the mainstream view. According to this view, God only exists as a support of the Categorical Imperative, and nothing else, and that a belief in God is only to ensure morality.

Kant's morality tends to mere duty, and ignores the Greek idea of a person reaching his Final End, which is blessedness or happiness, and that morality is a way of achieving blessedness.

Kant's view of morality "leaves no room for a church founded on anything specifically Christian."
The church is invisible because it is the union of free moral agents, and their ethical commonwealth has no essential relationship to either the state or other members...
This is troublesome because even an oppressive state-controlled church would "still be free", and of course this model of church would otherwise lead to endless protestant-style division and conflict.

Kant does not dismiss scripture and tradition, but only finds it helpful to explain his understanding of morality.
Yet there is nothing important or necessary about the relation of this religion with anything historical. The historical elements in any religion may be necessary for a time, and in certain places, as a means to teach the fundamental truths of all religion, but this is to say they have value only as means, and not in themselves.
This leads eventually to the dismembering of religion. Liberal religions, for example, be they Jewish, Catholic, New Age, or Protestant, have chapels and politics that often seem to be indistinguishable from each other.

Kant views prayer and churchgoing as useless in themselves, and only have good if they help someone lead a moral life. Likewise, the sacraments are only useful as symbolic initiation ceremonies. This sums up modern Church life, doesn't it? Prayer and churchgoing are weak, with political correctness having higher value, and the sacraments are viewed only as niceties.

A follower of Kant, then, would see himself as being a member of an invisible church, in union with other right-thinking individuals, without regard to any particular visible church membership. I've met people like that: Unitarians or freethinkers who join the Church without giving up their former beliefs or congregations; these also feel quite superior to faithful Catholics.

Missing from Kant's duty-based morality is the concept of love, which is a crucial part of Catholicism.

Photo of Nicario Jiménez Cross

Here is a cross made by Nicario Jiménez, "The Artist of the Andes"; found at the Saint Louis Art Fair on September 8th, 2006.

Symbols on this cross include the sign INRI, for the Latin Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews"; a dove for the Holy Ghost; a hammer and pincers as instruments of the crucifixion; the crown of thorns encircling the Sacred Heart of Jesus; three leaves in a fleur-de-lis pattern symbolizing the Trinity; the Eucharist; the seamless garment; and the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross. The cross is flanked by mermaids, which with their dual fish-human nature symbolize the dual nature of Christ. Also present is the sun and the phases of the moon.

The yellow flower on the base appears to be an Espeletia, a kind of sunflower native to the Andes.

The artist specializes in retablos (from Latin, retrotabulum, "backward table") , which "are sophisticated folk art in the form of portable boxes filled with brightly colored figurines arranged into intricate narrative scenes." Some of his retablos have Christian themes.

At this art fair, I thought that I would search in vain for Catholic, or even catholic—that is, universal—art, for nearly everything displayed here was uniformly modernistic. But I was pleased to meet Mr. Jiménez, who kindly let me photograph his cross.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Conclusion of Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Festivities

See this article: Lewis and Clark festivities return for swan song, about the conclusion of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemorations.
The three-year bicentennial of the explorers' expedition returns to the region this week for a final round of ceremonies and a symposium; concerts and keelboats. The St. Louis riverfront will host the largest event on Saturday where "Clarkies" - American history's version of "trekkies" - can feast on all things Lewis and Clark: the tools they used, the plants they collected, the land they surveyed.

Other attractions include the arrival of the re-enactors, the Show-Me Missouri Fish Mobile Aquarium, concerts from Indian artists Martha Redbone and Indigenous, fireworks and an array of fair food, including buffalo meat. Sounds like a fun festival, but don't call it that.

"Certainly it's entertainment, but the point to be made is the persistence of Indian culture and an appreciation for how that culture relates to the contemporary world," said Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri Historical Society and president of the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, the nonprofit organization that helped stage events along the trail.
This is a surprisingly dismissive article, though. Perhaps this is due to the modern interpretation of this expedition.

The Lewis and Clark expedition is a significant historical event for the United States: the nation had just unexpectedly doubled in size, with President Thomas Jefferson taking up France's surprise offer of the Louisiana territory for a bargain price. This territory was basically defined as the western watersheds of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and was a practically unknown land to most Americans. The Corps of Discovery was to explore this unknown land, and to report back to the President. The Saint Louis area was a major staging ground for this expedition, and was where the expedition leaders recruited French voyageurs for their expert knowledge of the rivers and peoples of the west, and general toughness.

There is a view of American history, which perhaps can be called a kind of "Whig history", that starts with the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and ends with the dominance of the United States following the Second World War, with inevitable progress between the two events. The Lewis and Clark expedition is seen as a neccessary link for the U.S. to reach its manifest destiny of ruling the continent between the oceans. This is also notably a Puritan history, as indeed is the original "Whig history" of the United Kingdom. All events in history are seen as leading up to the Final End of American dominance. Too bad the Indians got in the way; for they were no longer a part of the future of America.

Among leftists, this kind of history was clearly not acceptable. They proposed an alternative "Marxist history" that describes the troubles of oppressed classes, while also encouraging the modern-day oppressed to start revolutions. All history is seen as inevitable progress towards forming a classless, socialistic state. Under Marxist history, the Lewis and Clark expedition is seen as an attack on the peaceful Indians by an oppressive U.S. government, while also encouraging modern-day Indians to overthrow (violently, if needed) the oppression of Christianity and American culture, and to form a classless, atheistic, socialistic state. Isn't that nice?

I recall the change in historiography in my public school: in about 1974, the large hardbound and nicely printed textbooks were replaced by slender, disposable pulp paperbacks, and the tone of the writing went abruptly from "America is the best" to "America is the worst". We changed from Whig to Marxist, and from excessive optimism to blind hatred, over the course of one summer.

Modern-day museum exhibits of Lewis and Clark (and indeed any history) try to balance Whig and Marxist history, often to the point where exhibits within the same museum seem to struggle against each other. Something is missing in these museums however, and the Separation of Church and State prevents a huge part of history from being told.

In reality, most people, no matter what their natural virtue, aren't often very nice, either to themselves, or to their fellow countrymen, or to members of other nations. It's called Original Sin, and all of us here on earth have a varying mixture of both good and bad in us. But since we can't talk about absolute goodness, sin, and evil, history becomes either a boring collection of incomprehensible facts, or becomes a fanciful story of inevitable progress on one point or another. Historical personages, under our current forms of historiograhy, are seen as being cartoon characters of either Good or Bad, depending on the teller of the story. A true history will recognize that we are all members of the same fallen humanity. Thomas Jefferson was highly intelligent and inventive, however, he was not a very good person, and he knew it, and prayed the Nunc dimmitis continuously on his deathbed. Likewise, the Indians weren't very good at living up to their own moral code, were violent, and often betrayed their own friends and countrymen for personal gain. Many readily embraced Christianity as a way out of their self-destructive behavior, while many Christians admired the Indians for their gracious hospitality, courage, and piety. It is too bad that many Americans see the Indians as merely unwanted occupiers of land or as tools of inhuman revolution; likewise the American government is seen as being either perfect or worthy of subversion or destruction. In truth, we are both good and bad together.

Put into perspective, the Lewis and Clark expedition, while famous and significant for the United States, is a minor affair compared to the expeditions and missionary work of the European powers in previous centuries.

The vast Renault expedition into Missouri started the lead mining industry here in 1720, as well as founding several cities. Thanks to this expedition, lead mining remains a major industry in the state, which is the source of most of the world's supply of that metal. This expedition was made up of a thousand or more men, compared with Lewis and Clark's 40 or so. It was financed by the French Compagnie des Indes, which at its peak, had a market capitalization of 7.5 billion livres, with massive multinational investment. This expedition remains forgotten in the histories of both the Whigs and Marxists, but arguably, is of more import than subsequent explorations.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Peace

...there is no other virtue except charity whose proper act is peace, St. Thomas Aquinas

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. John 14:27

For the rest, brethren, rejoice, be perfect, take exhortation, be of one mind, have peace; and the God of peace and of love shall be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

CATS



...have such charming ways of telling humans that the food dish needs filling, or especially that the cat box needs cleaning.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a grammatically valid sentence used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated constructs."

It means: "[Some] buffalo [from] Buffalo, [who are intimidated by other buffalo from Buffalo], [also themselves] intimidate [other different] buffalo from Buffalo." So, some animals in the Buffalo, New York zoo have a distinct pecking order.

Reactions to Pope Benedict XVI's Speech on the De-Hellenezation of Religion

On September 12th, 2006, the Holy Father gave a speech Faith, Reason and the University, Memories and Reflections which has caused a violent uproar among Muslims. See my earlier post Holy Father's Speech on the De-Hellenization of Religion.

The part of the lecture that caused the uproar is where he said that, rationally, violence is incompatible with religion; and he quoted a Byzantine emperor who disparaged the spread of Islam by the sword. Some commentators have pointed out that the reaction is violent, which ironically proves the point of the lecture. Reactions include church burnings, the killing of a nun, and threatened assassination of the Pope when he visits Turkey in November.

The British Broadcasting Corporation—the BBC—is no friend of the Catholic Church and has badly reported the story. But due to its global presence and high respectability, this reporting has no doubt fanned the flames of violence. In the article Pope sorry for offending Muslims:
The 14th Century Christian emperor's quote said the Prophet Muhammad brought the world only evil and inhuman things.
Since the BBC has taken this quote out of context, it appears worse than what the Pope actually said. Here is the original quote:
...he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.
Here is the BBC's story in Arabic: البابا يأسف لردود الفعل الغاضبة; I'd like to know what it says!

The Washington Post chastised the Pope for this "insensitive" remark:
The pontiff did not endorse that description, but he did not question it, and his words set off a firestorm of protests across the Muslim world.
but the Post did not question the reasonability of spreading religion through violence. The New York Times also fans the flames of violence:
...the speech, in which Benedict quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam “evil and inhuman.”
Pope Benedict did issue an apology (see Text of Pope's apology)
At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry [Italian: vivamente rammaricato = greatly distressed] for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.
Note that Pope Benedict did not apologize for what he said, but was sorry about the reaction to what he said. The Pope is not a career politician, but instead was a college professor for the first part of his career, and was lecturing as a scholar. He was lecturing on the relationship between faith and reason, with clear, well-defined arguments, and so has nothing to apologize about. The whole point of his lecture was on the need for reason and honest dialogue.

The Pope's main target of critique in his lecture was not Islam, but the West. Indeed, Islam shares the same Greek philosophical foundation as is found in Catholicism, and so a deep dialogue is possible between Catholicism and Islam. We shouldn't forget that the Pope quoted a dialogue "by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both." But dialogue between Islam and the secular West, which has a greatly narrowed philosophical basis, is not possible, for the secular West knows only power, and not the love of wisdom.

I have yet to read a story in the mainstream media which recognizes that the Pope's lecture was a condemnation of modern Western philosophy. Violence, unfortunately, sells more newspapers.

Pray for the Pope and for peace.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Forest Park Balloon Glow

Last night, Saint Louisians had a chance to see hot-air balloons and their crews in anticipation of today's race.










Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Is a New Style of Architecture Possible?"

Matthew at the Shrine has an article "Is a New Style of Architecture Possible?"
Most great buildings have one or two good new ideas at their heart, supported by a framework of the tried and true which has been tweaked and tuned and subtly shifted to accomodate this single shining stroke of genius. Often they're very good ideas--but never before has it been demanded that the architect dream up every single good idea he puts into a building, in a spirit of false originality, which boils down to a frantic, bare and often featureless novelty.

Exhaltation of the Holy Cross

Saint Francis de Sales Oratory will have a High Mass tonight at 7 p.m. for the Feast of the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross. This feastday honors the dedication of the basilicas in Jerusalem by Saint Helena, and the rediscovery of the Cross.

World's Smallest Horse, in Ladue, Missouri

See the article: Thumbelina, World's Smallest Horse, lives in Ladue:
The little creature, born five years ago, stands a mere 17 1/2 inches tall at the withers, roughly the stature of a medium-size dog, and weighs about 60 pounds...

From certain angles, at a glance, Thumbelina could be a tiny buffalo. From others, a potbellied pig....
Goose Creek Farm is 12 highway miles west of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, in the otherwise-residential suburb of Ladue.

Holy Father's Speech on the De-Hellenization of Religion

Click the link for the English translation of a speech given by Pope Benedict on Tuesday: "Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization", given at the University of Regensburg. This speech starts with some of Herr Professor Doktor Ratzinger's reminiscences of university life, and then he gets to the controversial part that was widely reported in the media:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by professor Theodore Khoury (Muenster) of part of the dialogue carried on — perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara — by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both....

In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" — controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war...

[H]e turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
...
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature....
This somewhat lengthy part of his speech is not his main point, for it is not about Islam, but is instead about the relationship between Reason and Faith.

This is the critical question: Is acting according to reason also acting according to the Will of God?

This question is answered "yes" according to the ancient traditions of Christianity, but has been doubted by Modern thought. Traditional Catholic and Orthodox Christian thinking is synthesized with Greek thought and philosophy into an irreducible whole. Remarkably, even Jewish and Islamic thinking started with the same synthesis, even to the point that on questions of the nature of the soul and on the attributes (but not person) of God there is practically a 100% agreement. The use of the term "orthodox" does not come from religion, but rather comes from the philosophy of Plato: ortho doxia means "right thinking" and is a key component in the rational pursuit of truth.

"Acting according to reason" is the central concept in Greek moral philosophy. Acting according to the Will of God is the central concept in Jewish religion. And traditionally, Christianity equated both of these.
I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the 'logos.'"

This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word — a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.
'Logos' was used by Greek philosophers to refer to the Supreme Being (which, by the way, is another term from Plato). John decisively said that the God of the Greek philosophers is the God of the Jews.

Greek thought is not just found in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament also, especially in the wisdom liturature. And we shouldn't forget that the Catholic Old Testament traditionally does not come from the Hebrew texts, but from the Greek:
Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria — the Septuagint — is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: It is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of Revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity.
By the way, New Testament writers only quoted the Septuagint texts. The use of the Septuagint explains why the names of the books in older Catholic bibles are often different than what is used in Protestant bibles (like Paralipomenon), and also why it has additional books.

The Holy Father states that the unity of Greek philosophy and Biblical faith created Europe.

However,
The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a de-Hellenization of Christianity — a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the program of de-Hellenization:

De-Hellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the 16th century... The principle of "sola scriptura"... sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word.
Although, as we see in John and the Wisdom literature, Greek philosophy is assumed.
The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of de-Hellenization... this program was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal's distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... [The] central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of Hellenization... The fundamental goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ's divinity and the triune God....
Pope Benedict then goes on to describe the modern, restricted definition of science: it assumes the Platonic view of mathematics, that it is objectively true, but it limits reason to purely empirical matters. This strongly limits modern science (although the hard sciences, being more based on mathematics, often do not limit themselves to empiricism). Too many questions are now considered "unscientific". This new definition of science ends up
reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: It is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective.
Does this seem familiar?
The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate....

...I must briefly refer to the third stage of de-Hellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures.

The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux.
The New Testament itself is now edited, with anything sounding Greek being discarded. This has led to abominations such as Marxist Christianity, New-Age Christianity, etc. But:
This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed.
Benedict states that he does not wish to discard the fruits of modern science, but instead regain the broader meaning of reason that was present in ancient Greek philosophy.

Amen. I've noticed that modern philosophy subtracts from ancient philosophy, and adds nothing. Modernism is a radical narrowing of thought, taking only one aspect of Greek thinking and elevating it to a First Thing. For example, modern ethics is variously based on either absolutism, relativism, or subjectivism, while ancient ethics use all three.
The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application.
Puting multiculturalism first leads to the paradox of being unable to converse with other cultures:
Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today... 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.
A return to Greek philosophy can also help modern science:
...modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based.
Returning to the whole breadth of reason, in all of its grandeur, opens up vast horizons.

UPDATE: click here for official English translation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Tiny Chapel



This isn't the smallest church in the Archdiocese, but it is one of several small chapels and shrines at Saint John's "Gildehaus" parish in Villa Ridge, Missouri. This was a Jesuit mission from 1839 to 1939. Inside is a small altar:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Down the Hole

See this article: St. Louis Public School District wins $6M in grants
"The U.S. Department of Education awarded the St. Louis Public School District nearly $6 million in new grant money for the 2006-2007 school year, the district said Friday."
74% of the money is for the Early Reading First program.

This program is to encourage reading skills to pre-schoolers. It is a program based on 100,000 scholarly studies! Wow!

My mother taught me to read, while I was a babe in her arms, by pointing out the letters on the refrigerator. I got quickly bored in school because I read the entire curriculum of "Sally, Dick and Jane" books within the first fiew months.

The Saint Louis public schools are highly ineffective—with high drop-out rates, illiteracy, and school violence—as well as costing more than even most exclusive local private schools, which last I checked, was more than $10,000 per year per student. With the exception of the selective magnet schools, attendance at these public schools is either a last choice for parents, or merely the imposition of the law.

Also, these grants are coming from the Federal Government, and so the power of the purse strings takes even more control out of the hands of the locals. This centralization is a long-standing trend, with families having ever less direct control over the schooling of their children. And due to various institutional factors, there is even very little direct political control, with the programs being run by experts. I really pity the parents and children in those poor countries that rely on United Nations educational grants: they have no influence whatsoever over education.

None of this money talk should be construed to imply that those teachers shouldn't make a buck like everybody else. I just question where those dollars are coming from and with the strings that are tied to those dollars.

The Early Reading First program is for pre-schoolers, so children are taken even earlier out of the homes, away from the influence of parents. Susan Blow started the first public Kindergarten in the nation in 1873, at Des Peres school in the Carondolet neighborhood of Saint Louis: the building still stands and is not too far from my house. The trend which she started is getting children out of the home at ever younger ages, and if they could grow children in artificial wombs, the State would gleefully raise the children in government schools from conception. However, even five years old is traditionally considered too young for taking a child out of the home; instead, formal schooling should be done only after the child has reached the age of reason. Of course, home education before that time is very important, but I question the idea of making this mandatory and standardized.

This program will have problems, but there are systems in place that will track, evaluate, and attempt to correct these problems. This is quite a modern phenomenon: new techniques cause problems, which in turn creates the need to make new techniques to solve the problems that the novel techniques caused in the first place. This type of mentality leads to a concentration of power, of course, with ever-more time and money being spent on creating and fixing problems. Ultimately, government budgets continue to take up a larger percentage of the entire economy, which in turn causes the need to grow the economy, by for example, taking women out of the home and into the workforce. This means that more funds must be spent on early education. This is a positive-feedback loop, so we can expect the trend to continue until the feedback-loop gets out of control. [By the way, an out-of-control feedback loop destroys the entire system.]

The public school system is loved and supported by both the extremes of the political Right and Left in the United States: both industry, wanting docile workers, and socialists, who want dependent wards of the State, think that the public schools are wonderful, so it isn't likely that change will happen any time soon. The public schools are all about the concentration of power: that is why philosophy—the ultimate subject of study for a free man—is not taught in the public schools. Sadly, there are those who seek power for its own sake, and so will play both sides against the middle for their own personal gain; pray for them!

Traditionally, education is the primary responsibility of parents. Some parents are better than others; with some parents not caring at all, with others turning their children into book-slaves in order to gain admission into Harvard or Yale, and perhaps the great middle are those who are dilligent but balanced. Our modern system neither trusts nor recognizes this parental right of education, and futilely attempts to create equal outcomes. Rather, the modern centralized system of government education seeks to eliminate parental control in favor the desires of the State.

Traditionally, when parents get together to form a school, they directly control the power of the purse, so have a great deal of responsibility and control over the education; but as schools are consolidated, this individual power is reduced dramatically, especially when the State starts making demands. Even in traditional Catholic schools, where teachers are paid very little, or nothing other than necessities, the power of the purse still has effect: parishes crumble if people don't give to the donation basket. Also, in urban areas, there are often numerous schools run by various religious orders: bad schools fail, good ones flourish. Even though a pastor is the monarch of his parish, and the bishop is the monarch of his diocese, they don't have the power of taxation. And most critically, the Church should be teaching perennial doctrines, and not unreasonable novelties: good or bad teaching has a traditional and objective basis, and a teacher cannot claim esoteric expertise against this objective standard. We live in an age where experts teach novelties, and we are expected to uncritically accept this.

Where public schools fail most obviously is in the core subjects. Traditionally, students were taught language, logical reasoning, mathematics, and philosophy; with this strong background they could pick up other subjects via reading. Vocational arts of course, were to be learned outside of the school with actual real-life experience. Modern public schools put second things first, and are extremely expensive by insisting on vocational education: students are taught transitory and expensive technologies in favor of the foundational subjects. There is also the tendency to increase the amount of time required in institutional education.

Traditionally, each Catholic school has to support itself; there are usually no subsidies or grants that perpetuate failure. Even at one time the public schools were like this. But the model of subsidy used in the public schools guarantees that bad schools will continue, and will get ever more expensive as failed programs are 'corrected'.

We ought to emphasize the "first thing" of gaining a good education and using it for its proper end, instead of the "second thing" of organizing and funding educational systems. Superb education can be had for a very low cost, but only if we want it.