Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feast of Saint John the Apostle

Pere Marquette Gallery of the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - stained glass window of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist

Stained glass window of Saint John the Apostle, at Saint Louis University.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Christmas manger

Taken last night before the start of midnight Mass at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in Saint Louis.



A video taken at that time by Nicole Marchant Merlo, featuring Christmas carols sung by the choir of the Oratory.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Newsletter from the Oratory

 

SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES ORATORY
EMAIL NEWSLETTER

2653 Ohio Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
www.institute-christ-king.org
www.TraditionForTomorrow.com
314-771-3100
December 21, 2012


ADVENT RETREAT – CHRISTMAS AT THE ORATORY






Dear Faithful and Friends of St. Francis de Sales Oratory,




ADVENT RETREAT

The Canons of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory would like all of you to join them at an Advent Retreat this Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 at 8:00am. The morning will begin with Holy Mass at 8:00am, followed by breakfast in the church hall around 8:45am. There will be two conferences offered by the priests of the Oratory, and Solemn Benediction with Rosary. The conference is FREE, and open to you. We are asking for donations to cover the cost of the breakfast.
Please see the schedule, and topics of each of the two conferences.
8:00am – Low Mass
8:45am – Breakfast
9:20am – Our King is Coming, Prophets Preparing His Path, by Canon Ueda
10:05am – Break
10:15am – Preparing for Our Lord’s Coming, Past, Present, and Future, Canon Avis
11:10am – Benediction, and Rosary




CHRISTMAS AT THE ORATORY
As we quickly approach the holy days of Christmas we kindly welcome you and your dear families to come and take part in the Masses and devotions offered here at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory.
Please see the schedule below.

Monday, December 24th – Vigil of ChristmasConfessions: 11:00pm-11:45pm
Christmas Carols: 11:30pm
Solemn Midnight Mass: 12:00am w/orchestra, and veneration of the holy relic of the Crib of Christ after Mass.
Mass Setting: Missa Solemnis of Our Lady by Max Filke
Motets: Lux Arumque *Offertory - Pueri Concinite Herbeck *Comunion

Tuesday, December 25th – Nativity of Our Lord Jesus ChristHoly Day of Obligation
Confessions: 7:30 & 9:30am-11:30am
8:00am Mass at Dawn
10:00am High Mass with Gregorian propers

Wednesday, December 26th – St. Stephen, Deacon & ProtomartyrConfessions: 7:30am
8:00am Low Mass
Confessions: 11:45am
12:15pm Low Mass

Thursday, December 27th – St. John, Apostle & EvangelistConfessions: 7:30am
8:00 Low Mass
Confessions: 6:00pm
6:30pm Adoration

Friday, December 28th – Holy InnocentsConfessions: 7:30am
8:00am Low Mass

Saturday, December 29th – Fifth Day in the Octave of ChristmasConfessions: 7:30am
8:00am Low Mass

Sunday, December 30th – Sunday in the Octave of Christmas
Confessions: 7:30am-11:00am
8:00am Low Mass
10:00am High Mass

Monday, December 31th – Christmas OctaveConfessions: 7:30am
8:00am Low Mass
Confessions: 4:30pm
Solemn Te Deum 5:00pm
All the faithful who assist at the signing of the Te Deum on this day in thanksgiving for the past year may gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditons.

Tuesday, January 1st – Octave Day of Christmas & Circumcision of Our Lord
Holy Day of ObligationConfessions: 7:30am
8:00am Low Mass
Confessions: 9:30am
10:00 "Veni Creator" followed by High Mass
All the faithful who assist at the singing of the Veni Creator on this day may gain a plenary indulgence under the usual condtions. Confessions: 6:00pm
6:30pm Low Mass


The Canons, Oblate, and Candidates of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest and the faithful of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory cordially invite you to celebrate the sacred season of Christmas with us. 
On behave of the rector, I thank you for your faithful prayers and devoted support of the Oratory. With much graditude we remember you and your loved ones at the altar of Our Lord.
Merry Christmas in Christ the Infant King,

Canon William E. Avis
Pro-Rector, St. Francis de Sales Oratory

“The true meaning of Christmas”

...if you do not like what is sentimental and ceremonial, do not celebrate Christmas at all. — G.K. Chesterton
The commercial and tangential aspects of Christmas — those aspects which have nothing to do with the Incarnation of God in Bethlehem — are as criticized in our culture as they are celebrated, as we see in the well known television program A Charlie Brown Christmas, based on the characters from Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strip, from 1965:



The animation and audio quality are rather poor, and the creative decision to use children for the voices (several of whom were too young to read the script) gives this a rather choppy quality. CBS executives thought that the Jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi was unsuitable for a children's program. The executives believed that the show would be a flop; rather, it turned out to be one of the most successful television programs of all time.

The show starts with the protagonist, Charlie Brown, being depressed over the commercialism of Christmas, and even his dog Snoopy falls into this, decorating his doghouse in order to win a contest.  Brown asks “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” and he is answered by his friend Linus:
‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’

...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
The studio executives thought that quoting sacred scripture was unsuited for television, but Schultz fought to keep it in. As far as I can remember, this is one of the few popular mainstream Christmas programs that actually mentions Christ.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Father Christmas with Union Jack on Main Street Saint Charles, Missouri, USA

Father Christmas carrying the Union Jack, on Main Street, Saint Charles, Missouri.
Mark S Abeln on wing dam in Missouri River at Saint Charles, Missouri, USA

Yours truly, on the Missouri River at Saint Charles. Thanks to low water, I was able to walk out to the end of one of the wing dams on the river, which are used to narrow and deepen the channel for barge traffic. Photo taken by Tina aka Snup.

I managed to injure my knee only slightly while scrambling down the steep riverbank to pose for this photo. You can encourage me to suffer more dangers, thereby cultivating the cardinal virtue of courage, by purchasing prints at http://msabeln.zenfolio.com!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Lamentation

Statue in cemetery - heavily processed

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent...
Disaster follows hard on disaster,
the whole land is laid waste...
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Joseph Pearce at the Priory

Joseph Pearce at Priory

Joseph Pearce, writer-in-residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, speaking at the Priory in Creve Coeur, Missouri. He spoke about the life of the Modernist novelist Evelyn Waugh, his conversion to Catholicism, and Waugh’s arguments for the retention of the old Latin liturgy in the church. Pearce has written numerous literary biographies of writers, including Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, and G.K. Chesterton.

The Saint Louis Priory School is a college-prep school run by the Benedictines of the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Feast of Saint Nicholas

Russian Icon, at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Saint Nicholas 5

Russian icon of Saint Nicholas, at Saint Louis University.

The stories about Santa Claus are insignificant compared to the legends of his namesake, Saint Nicholas the Bishop of Myra, whose veneration as a saint throughout history is second only to the Blessed Virgin.

Santa Claus gives toys to good little girls and boys, but Saint Nicholas saved little children from lives of prostitution — and we are not told if they were good or bad, if that mattered. Saint Nicholas is a patron saint of children, but he is also the patron of thieves, murderers, pirates, and prostitutes, for even the very wicked are in need heavenly help.

The Christian life is serious business indeed, but this means that festivity is also important. The commercialization and secularization of the seasons of Advent and Christmas are well-known, but the answer is not to turn these popular observances into something personal and private. The Puritans forbade the celebration of Christmas, because they thought its celebration turned people away from Christ: but it was the Puritans who eventually turned away from Christ, not the celebrants.

Mulled wine is a traditional beverage for celebrating Saint Nicholas' Day: red wine, cloves, cinnamon, and perhaps lemon, orange. mace, apple cider, nutmeg, raisins, and sugar (or any combination of the above) are simmered together for several minutes, and the beverage is consumed while warm. The Saint Nicholas Center website has many other popular customs for celebrating the feast.

Monday, December 03, 2012

An Elephant Fountain

Saint Louis Zoo, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - fountain with sculpture of elephant, decorated for Christmas

A charming elephant sculpture, in a fountain, decorated for Advent, at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Feast of Saint Francis Xavier

TODAY IS the feastday of Saint Francis Xavier, of the Society of Jesus, who is called the greatest missionary since the Apostles, doing work in India, Indonesia, and Japan.

Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, in Joliet, Illinois, USA - Saint Francis Xavier.jpg

Statue, at the Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, in Joliet, Illinois. Photo taken in 2007. He is a patron saint of the city of Joliet.

Autochromed stained glass window of Saint Francis Xavier, at the White House Retreat, in Oakville, Missouri, USA

Stained glass window, at the White House Retreat, in Oakville, Missouri. Photo taken in 2011.

Saint Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior front

Saint Francis Xavier Church, on the campus of Saint Louis University, photo from 2009.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A New Line of Sanctuary Appointments for Churches in the United States

SEE THE ARTICLE, Collaboration Leads to New Line of Sanctuary Appointments, at the New liturgical Movement. This links to an interview with the head of Granda Liturgical Arts, which is starting a new line of sanctuary furnishings, in the classical style and designed for the American market, for those who desire “churches that look like churches.” From the interview:
The classicism of the design allows the Rinascimento [Italian, ‘Renaissance’] Series to work with almost any style church in the United States or elsewhere. In contrast, other artistic styles like the Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque demand a more specific architecture. The classic ideals of the Ancient Greek and Roman canons incorporated in the Rinascimento design make the Series universal and timeless.
This makes sense. The strain of Modernism popular in the United States, especially in the vast number of suburban churches built in the 1960s, was based on the idea of stripping ornament from existing designs, while retaining a measure of the original formalism. Therefore restrained ornament can be added and yet the overall design can remain harmonious.

Alas, Europe itself, the birthplace of the great arts, continues its fall from grace:
...there are not many good designers in Europe that are masters of the classic style for liturgical use. You can find plenty that are working in modernist or experimental styles. In many cases, they stir away from traditional works for inspiration and would be embarrassed if someone were to characterize their work as 'classic.’ These designers are indifferent or even inimical towards ideals like proportion, symmetry, timelessness and harmony. They are more focused on the artistically extravagant, intent to elicit strong reactions and working radically independent of the influence of historic architecture...
And so the forefront of ecclesiastical architecture must be found elsewhere:
The United States, on the other hand, is currently the leader in a renewal movement in the area of ecclesiastical architecture, with a different kind of motive. Architects and designers who are the engine of this movement prefer to look towards very specific sources of inspiration: Tradition and Scripture, or the Temple on the Mount and the Heavenly Jerusalem, as models....
For a good overview of the theological and architectural principles expressed by the new American school of Catholic church architecture, I would suggest Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy, by Denis R. McNamara.

While good architecture may not save souls, bad architecture may help weaken or kill the Faith, which was one of the specific goals of the Modernist movement. But good architecture may help plant the seeds of Faith by providing inspiration and beauty, as well as providing concrete lessons on the Faith. It is of great importance that new churches, and the restoration of old churches, help provide these things, for they show that we have a living Faith, and not one that is dead or dying.

UPDATE: more information on this can be found here.

Custom Christmas Cards

CUSTOM CARDS for Christmas, featuring the photography of Tina aka Snup, can be ordered here:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/SHJPhotography
These cards feature her photography.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Modernism, Postmodernism, Remodernism, and the Color of Statues

Saint Louis Art Museum, in Forest Park, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view from back with new wing

THIS PHOTO SHOWS the back of the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Forest Park, Saint Louis, Missouri. We see on the left the original museum building, designed by Cass Gilbert as the Palace of Fine Arts for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, which was modeled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

While we might think that it is odd to model a museum after a public swimming pool, please be aware that the original Baths had two public libraries: one in the Greek language, the other Latin; and that the structure was richly ornamented with top-quality sculpture and mosaics. It was intended to be at the center of the cultural life of Rome.

On the right hand side of the photo above, we see a massive new addition to the museum, designed by Sir David Alan Chipperfield in cooperation with the firm of HOK, which is scheduled to open to the public on June 29th, 2013.

According to the museum website:
“It has been the Museum’s intention to construct a building appropriate for our time and achieve an architectural character that both stands on its own and complements the Cass Gilbert building, while taking advantage of the Museum’s spectacular site in Forest Park.”
“Appropriate for our time”? Superficially, it looks as if it could have been designed in the 1960s, but Chipperfield, the designer, is called “uncompromisingly modernist in outlook,” and modernism in architecture is most associated with that decade; however popular culture is going through a phase of nostalgia for that time, so perhaps this is not surprising. The early 1960s were exceptionally optimistic times, giving us the progressive Kennedy presidency, the struggle against Communism, Vatican II, the civil rights movement, the space race, as well as the domination of modernism in architecture.

However, architectural modernism — in its goals and its aesthetics — fell strongly out of favor after 1972, largely in response to the failure and ultimate destruction of the Pruitt-Igoe project in Saint Louis. This was a massive public works project, which gained international attention, that was designed to provide high-rise housing for workers near downtown. While many architects consider the original design to be good, it was implemented poorly via meddling by the federal government among other factors, most specifically due to a misunderstanding of human nature. This failure led to a reappraisal of modernism itself, and modernism's unrealistically optimistic idea that big problems could be solved with big solutions. This is in contrast to the traditional view that a good society can only be achieved if the individuals in society are good, via the promotion of individual virtue.

But please note that the designer of the museum expansion does not see his design in a prideful modernist manner; rather:
“The project seeks to create an unostentatious new wing of the existing museum which is modest in its architectural language and takes advantage of the museum's extraordinary setting as a ‘pavilion in the park’.”
Although the museum website states the the expansion complements the original building, I rather think that it clashes with it. If I had been asked for my opinion on the museum expansion, I would have suggested a grand and vibrant neo-Baroque structure, designed by one of the many superb architects from the school of architecture at Notre Dame. This complementary style of building would reflect the museum's intrinsic cultural mission of reclaiming ground lost to the barbarous hordes, as the original Baroque of the Counter-Reformation combated the iconoclasm and austerity of the revolutionaries of the 16th century. Much of contemporary architecture today, most especially commercial retail properties and government buildings, are austere and iconoclastic to an extreme extent, and likewise, much of popular culture is tasteless to a degree almost unprecedented, and so the cultural mission is of great urgency.

HOK (formerly Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum), the ‘architectural firm of record’ of the museum expansion, was founded in Saint Louis in 1955 by three graduates of the architecture school of Washington University in Saint Louis, and has a long history of promoting modernism in architecture. Not only is HOK the largest architectural firm in the United States, the firm was also largely responsible for making mainstream the revolutionary avant-garde modernist movement, a move that dismayed many progressives, since they considered it ‘selling out’.  But lest we forget, if revolutionaries are successful, then they become the new mainstream.

As earlier noted, the modernist movement fell out of favor, and serious doubts set in amongst intellectuals: was the great optimism of the 1960s misguided? Centralized urban planning led to the destruction of cities, poverty reduction programs increased poverty, efforts to promote racial harmony led to racial hatred, religious reforms led to an abandonment of religion, the promise of happiness via free love and recreational drugs instead led to misery, and the moon proved not to be a realm of wonders, but rather a cold, gray, dead rock. Modernism gave way to postmodernism, which replaced optimism with cynicism, and replaced science with uncertainty. After the economic and political malaise of the 1970s, we find the first major expressions of postmodernism in the architecture of the prosperous, confident 1980s.

Down the hill and across a road from the museum is the postmodernist north entrance to the Saint Louis Zoo, containing the Living World exhibit, designed by HOK. It dates from 1989:

Saint Louis Zoo, in Forest Park, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - entrance building

Modernism in architecture was eventually considered to be excessively bland and uniform, noted for its monochrome color scheme, its rejection of ornament and its use of only simple geometric forms and, oddly enough, flat roofs, which seems to go against the modernist desire for functionality. And so, modernism got the reputation of being joyless in its Puritanical utopianism, as illustrated here. Contradicting the modernist pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who proclaimed that “less is more,” the postmodernist Robert Venturi replied “less is a bore.” This zoo building shows a rejection of modernist principles, with its use of ornament, color, and a gabled roof.

Postmodern architects instead felt that they had the freedom to choose any style, color scheme, and ornament they desired, freeing themselves from the shackles imposed by modernism. Also of great importance was the postmodernists' sense of humor, which was in contrast to the grim seriousness of the modernists. When I first saw this zoo building, it made me smile! Although it is hard to tell from this photo, the building is ornamented with absurd sculpted heads of animals, which along with the bright colors and bold patterns, gives the building a cheerful, comical look.

But if we dig into the theories of postmodern philosophy, we find out that humor of postmodern art is ironic, even cynical, and could plausibly be construed to be a joke at the expense of the client and the general public. As earlier mentioned, the philosophy of postmodernism is based on cynicism and doubt: gone are the ideas of progress and even truth: there is no truth, and if there was truth we wouldn't know it, and if we knew the truth we could not communicate it. If you spend the time digging into the dense, difficult-to-read postmodernist theory, you will ultimately find out that postmodernism is indefinable, for it is nothing at all. That fact about postmodernism ought to give us pause.

Portrait of a Cat I (Shilo) [EV=-4.5]

An ironic, postmodernist photograph of a cat. I actually did point my camera at her, and pressed the shutter, but I knowingly set the exposure too high to actually capture any detail. But this is only a white rectangle; it has lost everything that makes it a photograph.

Postmodernism first found favor with avant-garde leftists, and it was appealing to them because of its marxist flavor, but the philosophy soon became mainstream, being adopted by major institutions, including business. But as postmodernism, at its core, is nothing, some works of postmodernist art attracted much criticism from working artists, who instead thought that the philosophy had gone too far. One example of this kind of art was simply a light bulb turning on and off in a gallery. Coupled with 1960s nostalgia, the pendulum of culture is now swinging back into modernism, a movement called by some ‘remodernism’ or ‘the new sincerity.’ At least modernism stands for something. In the political sphere, we have seen the return of the modernist idea that big problems can be solved by big government programs.

While radicals thought they were doing something new and different with postmodernism, Catholic thinkers understood that postmodernism was really a school of thought that took the assumptions already present in modernism more towards their bitter end. Postmodernism was in reality hypermodernism, and was a continuation of the mode of philosophical thought that gained prominence among heretics in the late middle ages.

In the 1907 encyclical of Pope Pius X, Pascendi dominici gregis (“Feeding the Lord's Flock”), modernism is called “the synthesis of all heresies,” and although we might guess that postmodernism invented a few more heresies, that is probably not correct. The postmodernists themselves have pushed back the roots of postmodernism as far back as the 19th century, even predating modernism itself, which is rather funny. Ultimately, every heresy can be traced back to the very beginning.

Heresies are not simply wrong, for if they did not contain some truth, they would have been quickly rooted out as yet another crank theory worthy of no consideration. Heresies instead embrace some truths and deny others, and so move away from orthodoxy in one direction or the other. We especially find this in politics, where one party will embrace one particular heresy, while the opposing party embraces the opposite error.

Postmodernist architects were correct in seeing that modernism had imposed irrational restrictions on the practice of their art. Monochrome color schemes and iconoclasm were certainly wrong as universal principles of the art, but the postmodernists were themselves wrong when they ignored the theories of proportion, symmetry, and color that held sway for 2,500 years. Too many postmodernist buildings are badly proportioned: they look funny, awkward, and sometimes childish. A good measure of seriousness is not a vice.

The Gothic or Catholic style of architecture was both serious in its icons and altar, but yet was comical in its gargoyles and other ornamentation. It is possible to have both.


By no means can our contemporary architecture be convicted of having too much ornamentation or too much color, for it still errs on the side of nullity. Historically, this modern attitude extends at least as as far as the 15th century. As western Europe started to discard its Catholic faith, at first slowly by the elite in the Renaissance, and then quickly in the Reformation, artists started looking towards ancient history for models of new art. While Protestants chose a literal interpretation of the Bible for inspiration, the more secular-minded selected ancient Greece and Rome.

The religious reformers focused on one of the Ten Commandments, prohibiting “graven images,” as an argument against architectural ornamentation, while the secularists admired the white Carrara marble sculptures that were found among the ancient ruins of antiquity, and used them as an argument against the use of color. These two streams of thought remained entwined ever since. While modernism got its start mainly in Europe, precedents can be found in the United States, particularly amongst radical sects who preferred severe, unornamented, and plain white meeting-houses as their churches.

Perhaps the religious reformers overlooked those passages of the Bible that show that the Jewish temple was richly ornamented, at the command of God. Perhaps they did not realize that the Temple was the prototype for the Church, worthy of emulation in every city in the world. Perhaps they failed to recognize that plain churches do not inspire the imagination, nor do they encourage widespread faith.

If reason, feelings, and the practice of art throughout the world in all ages are not enough to support the generous application of ornament and color to architecture, archeology has lately shown that ornament was used in the early Church, and color was used in the ornament of antiquity.

See the article Bringing the Color Back to Ancient Greece, which shows a reconstruction of a finely painted statue. Please be aware that the modernist architect's desire for a monochrome palette started with the mistaken notion that the fine buildings, monuments, and sculpture of antiquity lacked varying color. It was believed that polychrome statues were a medieval barbarism, and that pure white sculpture was instead the norm and represented a higher aesthetic achievement. Only lately has this been debunked, but our aesthetic life has suffered for centuries. Even the old art museum building, more than a century old, is monochrome in its color scheme: I specially processed a photo of it, and was surprised to find that all of the stonework on it is of the same hue and nearly the same brightness; only the saturation of the coloring varies.

Back in 2003, the art world was shocked at the finding that sculpture of antiquity was actually painted, but for a while it was thought that they were painted garishly in the postmodern fashion.  However, I suspected that this was not true and that these must have been more subtly painted: see the article Common Errors About the Ancient World. Instead, it now seems that the painting were done rather finely, similar to what we find in the Church's polychrome statues.

Saint Joseph Shrine, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - statue of Mary 2

This richly polychromed statue of the Blessed Virgin and Christ Child was made for the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, but ended up at the Shrine of Saint Joseph in Saint Louis.

As far as I can tell, every traditional culture on the face of the earth decorates its buildings in floral imagery, except for the culture of modernity. Who could possibly dislike flowers and foliage, and not want to see them grown or artistically depicted everywhere? Unfortunately, the products and philosophies of modernism belie a type of gnostic tendency, showing a severe disregard for the material world, which has very unfortunate implications.

Cultural evangelization is difficult these days, largely for the fact that culture has become rather centralized and standardized, like just about everything else in our life, and it is closely linked the powerful in government, big business, media, and education. But our work can be like the mustard seed, which starts small and grows larger later. This kind of evangelization is important even though good architecture will not save the world, for we know that bad architecture will certainly harm it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saint Isidore the Farmer

Saint Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church, in Concord Hill, Missouri, USA - statue of Saint Isidore the Farmer

A shrine to Saint Isidore the Farmer, known in Spanish as San Isidro Labrador, and who is patron saint of Madrid and Seville, taken on Thanksgiving Day, at Saint Ignatius Loyola Church, in Concord Hill, Missouri.

Saint Isidore was a poor laborer known for his great piety and numerous miracles.

A plaque under the statue reads:
IN MEMORY OF
REV. ARNOLD W. BRUCKERHOFF
PASTOR OF ST. IGNATIUS PARISH
1965 - 1975

Friday, November 23, 2012

15% Off on Prints

ACCORDING TO TRADITION — albeit not a particularly old tradition, nor a holy one — on the day after Thanksgiving, merchants offer discounts on gift purchases.

I am now selling prints of my photography, which can be found here. To receive a 15% discount on all prints and framing, enter this code upon checkout: Saint-Clement.

The website is here: http://msabeln.zenfolio.com

I also offer special pricing for clergy and religious, and at-cost pricing for parishes and dioceses for church photos. Please send me an email for further information and coupons.

I can also ship worldwide and can accept a large number of currencies. Please email me if you want prints shipped outside of the USA, and I will set this up for you. So far I only have a few photos for sale, since I must manually reprocess them to be full resolution and to look good in print. If there are any particular images you are interested in, please email me and I will add them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Humor



From the television series WKRP in Cincinnati, dating from 1978. Skip to 18:00 for the famous part.

Feast of Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia, in Saint Louis, Missouri - apse - 2

Today is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, virgin and martyr, who is honored on November 22nd in the ancient and modern calenders of the Churches of the East and the West. She is patroness of musicians and church music.

Photo taken at Saint Cecilia church in Saint Louis, Missouri, in 2007.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving Proclaimation

GIVEN IN THE Continental Congress on November 1st, 1777, a Thanksgiving Proclamation:
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth "in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost."

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.
Pilgrim Hall Museum

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Joseph Pearce to Visit the Oratory of Saints Gregory and Augustine in Creve Coeur

Joseph Pearce Press Release

In celebration of their fifth anniversary, The Oratory of Saints Gregory & Augustine is hosting an evening with Catholic author, and EWTN personality, Joseph Pearce. The topic of the evenings lecture will be “The Death and Resurrection of the Mass: Evelyn Waugh and the Liturgical Madness Revisited". This free event will be hosted at the Kevin Kline Theater at the St. Louis Priory School at 7:00 pm, on Sunday, December 9, 2012. Doors open at 6:30 pm. Please arrive early, as this event is open to the public, and seating will be limited. Beverages and an hors d’oeuvres reception will follow. For more information please contact the Oratory at (314) 439-0151.

Author, Writer-in-Residence, and Professor of Humanities at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. Co- Founder and Co-Editor of the St. Austin Review, an international magazine dedicated to reclaiming Catholic culture. A native of England, Joseph Pearce moved to the United States in 2001 to take up the position of writer in residence and associate professor of literature at Ave Maria University in Florida, where he was Professor of Literature from 2001-2012. He is editor of the St. Austin Review (www.staustinreview.com), an international review of Catholic culture, editor-in-chief of Sapientia Press, series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions, and executive director of Catholic Courses.

The internationally acclaimed author of many books, which include bestsellers such as:
  • The Quest for Shakespeare, 
  •  Tolkien: Man and Myth,
  • The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde,
  • C. S. Lewis and The Catholic Church,
  • Literary Converts,
  • Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton,
  • Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile
  • Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc
Joseph Pearce is a world-recognized biographer of modern Christian literary figures. His books have been published and translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Italian, Korean and Polish. Mr. Pearce has hosted two 13-part television series about Shakespeare on EWTN, the largest religious TV network in the world, and has also written and presented a documentary on EWTN on the Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings. An accomplished tutor, teacher and speaker, Mr. Pearce has participated and lectured at a wide variety of international and literary events at major colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Europe, Africa and South America.

From 2010 to 2011 he was a visiting professor at Gabriela Mistral University in Santiago, Chile. He is also a regular guest on national and international television and radio programs, and has served as consultant for film documentaries on J.R.R. Tolkien and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Apart from the work he has had published in scholarly and academic books and journals, Mr. Pearce has also written for major newspapers, such as the Miami Herald, the National Post (Canada), El Mundo (Spain) and the Catholic Herald(UK).

In 2011, Mr. Pearce was awarded an honorary doctorate of higher education from Thomas More College in New Hampshire. He is the recipient of the prestigious Pollock Award for Christian Biography, and was presented with the American Chesterton Society’s Outline of Sanity Award in 2003.
www.benedictineoratory.com

Monday, November 12, 2012

Announcement

READERS FREQUENTLY ask me if they can purchase prints of the photos found on this website; while I am always happy to provide prints, this manual process was slow and consequently expensive. However, I now have an easy-to-use website with better pricing.

Mark S. Abeln Photography: Nature and Landscapes  Lake Chesterfield at Dusk

You can purchase photos here:

http://msabeln.zenfolio.com

I use the commercial Zenfolio website, which handles photo selection, framing, mounting, printing, shipping, and payment. You can select a variety of print sizes, and I specifically process each photograph to look good in print.

Currently, that website offers only a small selection of my popular photographs. Please review the photos found on Rome of the West or on my Flickr site, and if there is any specific photos you would like to order, please let me know and I will add them.

For clergy and religious, I offer a 15% discount. Please send me an email with your contact information, and I will send you a discount code. In addition to this, for pastors of churches and for dioceses, I offer photographs of these churches AT MY COST.

Please consider using these prints for fundraising; also, I am willing to speak to your church or group: recently, I have been lecturing on the topic of the classical and medieval understanding of art, and how this understanding applies today.

Mark S. Abeln Photography: Saint Louis  The Apotheosis of Saint Louis

http://msabeln.zenfolio.com

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Boethius on Politics

Saint George Catholic Church, in Affton, Missouri, USA - parish center during elections

Taken at Saint George Church, in Affton, Missouri, showing election signs. The church offered hourly Masses for the election today.

Saint Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius (ca. 480 — 524/525 AD), wrote a moving philosophical and spiritual work on the meaning of political power, happiness, and fortune. Of a noble Roman family, Boethius held high office, working for a heretical barbarian King, but he eventually fell from the king's favor. He wrote the book, The Consolation of Philosophy, while imprisoned and awaiting execution.

Why is it, he asked, that good men suffer under the wicked? How can a man be happy if he doesn't have the good things in life? In politics we see undeserving men being given great power, and these men lord over others to either help or harm their fellow men. Fortunes are made and they are lost; men hold high office one day and are disgraced the next.

In the book, Boethius meets Lady Philosophy, who reminds him that the favors of Fortune, such as wealth, fame, honor, and power, are fleeting. It is the nature of Fortune to be fickle, and a man cannot lay permanent claim on these things. They are freely given, and just as quickly taken away. A common illustration during the Middle Ages shows Fortune's wheel; some people go up, gaining prestige, and then they are flung off of the wheel when their time has come.



The Wheel of Fortune, from Vol. 1 of Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (On the Fates of Famous Men), 1467. [Source and attribution.]

Lady Philosophy explains that man's happiness cannot come from the gifts of Fortune, because they do not properly belong to persons but rather are external. Anyone who places their trust in money, power, or fame may very quickly realize how empty those gifts are, and if they do not have a strong interior life of virtue, they could lose everything in a moment, and their happiness proves to be illusory.

It is important to know that virtue, with a will conformed to God, is the true source of happiness, for these are internal to a person and properly belong to him.

Evil, we learn, is not a thing unto itself, but instead is only the absence of good. No man, not even a politician, is evil in himself, but only his will can be evil insofar as it does not conform to virtue and to God. Evil, being merely the absence of good, has no being in itself; consider a disease: it may harm a body, but if the disease kills the body, the disease itself loses existence.

No politician, if he is successful, can be said to be completely evil, for goodness is required for any kind of success, and even wicked tyrants can be converted with grace. Power, being external, can only be wielded well insofar as a man has some goodness left in him.

Boethius teaches that a man in whom evil grows, or rather in whom goodness decreases, becomes insatiable, and turns against nature. No amount of wealth, power, or fame becomes enough. Wealth is spent protecting wealth; power is expended in protecting power; fame is increased by the support of the wicked and not the virtuous. The evil man turns to destruction and killing. He eventually loses those good things, the higher things, that are properly a part of a human person, and he increasingly resembles an animal, giving in to lusts and other base instincts. Eventually he becomes impotent, his wealth and power becomes ineffectual. If he does not turn back, he will lose himself altogether.

Under the modern political process, the attempt is made to defeat evil men in elections, but this rarely seems to work for obvious reasons. The older method of Christendom, conversion of the wicked, is sadly left untried.

Friday, November 02, 2012

All Souls Day

Calvary Catholic Cemetery, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Trorlight weeping angel monument

Day of wrath and doom impending, David’s word with Sibyl’s blending, Heaven and earth in ashes ending!

O what ear man’s bosom rendeth, When from heaven the Judge descendeth, On whose sentence all dependeth!

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth, Through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth, All before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking, All creation is awaking, To its Judge an answer making.

Lo! the book exactly worded, Wherein all hath been recorded; Thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge His seat attaineth, And each hidden deed arraigneth, Nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading? Who for me be interceding, When the just are mercy needing?

King of majesty tremendous, Who doest free salvation send us, Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, kind Jesu! —my salvation Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation; Leave me not to reprobation.

Faint and weary Thou has sought me, On the Cross of suffering bought me; Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin’s pollution Grant Thy gift of absolution, Ere that day of retribution.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning, All my shame with anguish owning; Spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!

Through the sinful woman shriven, Through the dying thief forgiven, Thou to me a hope hast given.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing, Yet, good Lord, in grace complying, Rescue me from fires undying.

With Thy sheep a place provide me, From the goats afar divide me, To Thy right hand do thou guide me.

When the wicked are confounded, Doomed to shame and woe unbounded, Call me, with thy Saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart’s submission, See, like ashes my contrition! Help me in my last condition!

Ah! that day of tears and mourning! From the dust of earth returning, Man for judgment must prepare him:

Spare, O God, in mercy spare him! Lord, all‐pitying, Jesu blest, Grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.

Photo of Trorlight monument at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, in Saint Louis. Text of the sequence Dies Irae, from the translation approved for use by the Ordinariates erected under the auspices of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

“Bounty” Replica Shipwrecked

A PHOTOGRAPH of a replica of the H.M.S. Bounty, which I took in Chicago, Illinois, in August, 2003.

Replica of the HMS Bounty, in Chicago, Illinois, USA (photo taken in August 2003)

This ship was lost during Hurricane Sandy. According to Wikipedia:
On October 25, 2012, the vessel left New London, Connecticut, heading for St. Petersburg, Florida, initially going on an easterly course to avoid Hurricane Sandy. On 29 October 2012 at 03:54 EDT, the ship's owner called the United States Coast Guard for help during the hurricane after she lost contact with the ship's master. The ship's master had reported she was taking on water off the coast of North Carolina, about 160 miles (260 km) from the storm, and the crew were preparing to abandon ship. There were sixteen people aboard. Vice Admiral Parker, USCG, reported the ship had sunk and fourteen people had been rescued from liferafts by two rescue helicopters. The storm had washed the captain and two crew overboard—one of the latter had made it to a liferaft, but the other two were missing. They wore orange survival suits complete with strobe lights, thereby giving rescuers some hope of finding them alive. Claudene Christian, one of the two missing crewmembers and a descendant of the original Bounty's Fletcher Christian, was found by the Coast Guard. She was unresponsive, and rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The other missing crew member was long time Captain Robin Walbridge.
Bounty's last reported position was 33°54′N 73°50′W.

A “necessary declaration of Catholic independence.”

THE UNITED STATES is not a Christian country; this claim can be substantiated first by examining the beliefs of most of her Founding Fathers, and secondly by the nature of the political process itself: can true Christian discipleship exist within a man (or woman!) who desires the power invested in the U.S. government, and more importantly, is willing to do the vile things that are required to get elected?

Also, we must understand that even though the people of the United States are overwhelmingly Christian, the word ‘Christianity’ is defined here nominalistically — that is, the word is merely a vocal utterance, which means whatever the sayer wants it to mean. Under this hollow, un-philosophical system, what is Christian for you may not be Christian for me, and that the only things that our ‘Christianities’ have in common is the name, which means that the word means nothing at all. While we can take solace in Our Lord's promise that “where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” this is not a comprehensive theology for either the Church or for a nominally Christian State.

Realism, and not nominalism, is a great distinguishing mark of the philosophy of Catholicism, and this realism is key to having solid mathematics and natural sciences — and also theology and political science.

Catholics have always had an uneasy life in the republic, being seen as outsiders, and are only accepted — particularly for higher office — if they reject those parts of the Holy Faith that are not compatible with the common opinion of their party. As it so happens, Catholics in this country, especially those who are political, nowadays tend to conform quite closely to one or the other party lines.

In a review of the book Liberty, The God That Failed: Policing the Sacred and Constructing the Myths of the Secular State, from Locke to Obama, by Christopher A. Ferrara and Patrick McKinley Brennan, the book review author Dr. Christopher Shannon writes:
...Much of how you judge the Founders’ intentions and the historical record of religion and public life in American history depends upon what you mean by religion. Ferrara convincingly argues that the Founders were more or less Masonic deists to a man, with no desire to see anything like a robust, orthodox Christianity, even of the Protestant variety, shaping public life. They certainly believed that the health of the republic depended upon a disciplined, moral citizenry and believed that religion—at the very least, a belief in God and fear of damnation—was useful as a prop to support such a public morality. That the moral probity of eighteenth-century Masonic British gentry strikes many a conservative Catholic today as a rough approximation of a Catholic world view should be troubling to Catholics, whatever their politics. The only God that the Founders acknowledged as having public standing was, as Ferrara’s title suggests, the God of Liberty.

For Ferrara, Liberty is not a political ideal, but a rival faith, a false idol. His book is difficult reading for any Catholic, liberal or conservative, raised on the idea of the complete compatibility of Catholicism and the American Founding...
This does not mean that Catholics ought not be patriotic, for patriotism is direct result of the cardinal virtue of justice, and is a form of filial piety. It simply means that we ought not to believe in the philosophical foundations and current legal theories of our great empire.
...Ferrara argues that the whole modern social contract tradition has been nothing less than an alternative foundational myth, a parody or perversion of the origins of human society found in the Book of Genesis. If traditional Christendom saw the purpose of political life to approximate, within the limits of our fallen nature, the City of God amidst the City of Man, the social contract tradition understands politics as a tool for protecting individual freedom, particularly through the instrument of rights. In public life, Catholics have been all too willing to accept this myth as a guide to political action—such as the grounding of pro-life politics in a “right to life....”
Herein lies the problem. How can Catholics relate to the wider American culture? Protestants will not accept the teaching authority of the Church just as secularists will not accept the authority of the Bible. What mode of argument ought we use? For the time being, the bishops of the United States are using the language of the social contract, along with its notions of rights and duties, for at least that is language that is understood. But if those notions are false, this will lead to trouble in the future.

One of the annoying aspects of American political discourse is the inversion of the allegorical method of the interpretation of scripture. In its true sense, the literal meaning of writings allegorically point to greater spiritual, moral, or eschatological realities: the Song of Songs literally depicts lovers, but allegorically describes, among other things, the Church's relationship to Christ. In the inverted American political meaning, great spiritual exemplars are used as allegories for lesser literal things, and for this reason, so much political discourse has a misleading religious-sounding tone to it, such as slavery being called the “original sin” of the Republic. This is an example of the American vice of subordinating religion to the State, making it a means to a political end. Shannon continues:
If Locke’s political philosophy is at fundamental odds with Catholicism in theory, it is at odds with itself in practice. The great philosopher of liberty significantly excluded Catholicism from his vision of religious tolerance, largely because, through the person of the pope, the Catholic Church still claimed to have some public authority over the rule of princes. The so-called “Glorious Revolution” that drove a legitimate Catholic king (James II) from the throne of England and secured Protestant rule was followed by a century long battle to bleed Catholicism from the people of Ireland through a series of draconian penal laws. The irony of coercion in the name of freedom was not limited to eighteenth-century Ireland or the French Revolution, but has characterized the reign of Lockean freedom in American history...
The Original Sin of Eden is the original sin of the founding of the nation, and the American rejection of the actual original sin has led to other, greater sins. In American history, we usually find that great idealism is followed by great atrocity at the hands of the idealists themselves. The idealistic founding of the Republic was followed by a bloody war for independence (which was an unjust rebellion against a legitimate ruler); the liberation of slaves during the Civil War led to the genocide of the Indians; the New Deal led to the intentional bombing of civilians in World War II; and the Civil Rights movement led to the atrocity of abortion on demand. What future atrocities can we expect from our current round of idealists who seek novel rights and freedoms?

We ought to realize that the political philosophies of our nation are at their root Christian heresies. The ideals of rights and liberty did not ultimately come from any other milieu but orthodox Christianity, but like all heretics, modern adherents overemphasize one doctrine of the Church at the expense of the others. As Arianism overemphasized the humanity of Christ at the cost of His divinity, so does the contemporary system overemphasize the freedom of humankind over the doctrines regarding our slavery to sin.

The crimes of the Catholic Church are always loudly denounced, but these pale in comparison to the scale of the crimes committed by the heretics. How did King George III get the power to oppress the American colonies? Who instituted chattel slavery? Who caused depressions with widespread poverty? Who oppressed racial minorities? On the other hand, which Encyclicals or Catechisms encourage bloody revolution, slavery, economic depressions, genocide, racism, or the killing of innocents? Dr. Shannon instead tells American Catholics that we ought to recognize that the political ideals of our country are not consonant with Catholic teaching, but are in fact heresies and must be opposed:
Any honest look at American history will show that negative liberty, “freedom from,” has consistently triumphed in its battle against positive conceptions of human flourishing and the common good... Catholics can work with the American system, but they first must realize what it is. When the Church converted the Roman Empire, it knew that it was dealing with a pagan institution... If Catholics are to be truly Catholic in America, and not just a branch office of the Church of Liberty, we need to first stand apart from a political tradition born in a revolt against the Catholic Church....
This, he provocatively writes, is “a necessary declaration of Catholic independence.” However, we aren't going to start any bloody revolutions because of this, but rather pray for a conversion of hearts.

Fall Color at Tower Grove Park

THE LORD GIVES, and the Lord takes away, says Job, in one of the more heartbreaking books of sacred scripture. The beauty of one day can lead to a devastating storm the next. God's answer to Job's lament is the sublimity of creation, which we ought to appreciate and fear, but never take for granted.

Here are some photos from Tower Grove Park and environs, taken a dozen days ago, when the beauty of this Autumn's colors were at their peak.

Fall colors with cats in the Tower Grove nieghborhood

Orange leaves and dark blue sky, in the Tower Grove neighborhood of Saint Louis, Missouri

The sky was remarkably dark and blue; these colors you see here were not enhanced either in the camera nor in Photoshop.

Fall folliage with dark blue sky, at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Red berries at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Pink water lily at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

This warm season means that many flowers have been blooming out of season, like this water lily.

Pink water lily and pads at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Yellow mums and ruins, at Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Click here to read more about Tower Grove Park. More photos can be found here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

View of the Mississippi River, from scenic overlook at the Dupot Reservation Conservation Area, in Pike County, Missouri

A view of the Mississippi River, from scenic overlook at the Dupot Reservation Conservation Area, in Pike County, Missouri.

Photo of Saint Francis Solanus Church, in Quincy, Illinois

Saint Francis Solanus Church, in Quincy, Illinois, USA - exterior - low resolution

Saint Francis Solanus Church, in Quincy, Illinois, was founded in 1860 by Franciscan friars from Germany, and is administered by the Order of Friars Minor, Sacred Heart Province. It is located adjacent to the Franciscan Quincy University. The interior is magnificent, but I failed to take photos there during my visit.

The patron of the church, Saint Francisco Sánchez-Solano Jiménez (March 10th 1549 – July 14th 1610) was born in Spain, became a Franciscan, and gained the reputation as a wonderworker among the victims of the plague. Later, he worked in the missions in South America, where he became fluent in many native languages. Being also a musician, he is often depicted with a violin. Francis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benedictine Monks Making Beer

A VIDEO TOUR of a new brewery, operated by the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, located in Umbria, Italy:



Built above the birthplace of Saint Benedict and his twin sister Saint Scholastica — the founders of men's and women's monasticism in the Latin west — the original monastery was dissolved by Napoleon, but was re-populated by monks in December of 2000. The monks follow the Rule of Saint Benedict, and so their life is signified by both extensive prayer and by work:
...we pray the full monastic Office as laid out in the Rule. We observe the monastic fast and we have retained the patrimony of Gregorian chant. In addition, the Holy See has entrusted us with the special apostolate of celebrating the Eucharist in both forms (in utroque usu), that is, the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. We do all kinds of work (manual, clerical and intellectual) including some limited apostolic work. Monastic formation in Norcia focuses heavily on the interior life: conversion, self-knowledge, the rooting out of vices and the acquiring of virtues – all this to create the necessary conditions for contemplative prayer. We are a young international community, eager to love and serve Our Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart.
Generally, Benedictine monasteries are self-supporting, and in this monastery, by the making of beer. A description of their beer can be found here. They explain:
In complete harmony with the centuries old tradition, the monks of Norcia have sought to share with the world a product which came about in the very heart of the monastic life, one which reminds us of the goodness of creation and the potential that it contains. For the monks of Norcia, beer has always been a beverage reserved for special occasions, such as Sundays and Feast days. The project of the monastic brewery was conceived with the hope of sharing with others the joy arising from the labor of our own hands, so that in all things the Lord and Creator of all may be sanctified.
Having once worked as an industrial engineer at the beermaker Anheuser-Busch, I enjoyed viewing the monks' contemporary (albeit very low-volume) brewing machinery in the video.

Also of interest is the monks' list of books that they have read during meals, which can be seen here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Color at the Shaw Nature Reserve

THIS SUMMER'S SEVERE drought caused widespread crop failure, but also harmed many trees. But late rains meant that fall foliage would once again put on a grand show of color before winter.

Fall Colors near Tyson Range on Interstate 44

Driving a short distance out of Saint Louis, along westbound Interstate 44, takes you into the foothills of the Ozark mountains. A beautiful region during a beautiful time of year.

The best times of the year in Saint Louis are April and October, not only because of the generally pleasant temperatures, but also because of spectacular natural color.

The following photos are at the Shaw Nature Reserve (formerly called the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - autumn tree in yellow

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - autumn tree in orange and green

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - clump of autumn trees on prairie

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - clump of autumn trees on prairie 2

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - prairie with figure

This prairie is maintained by periodic burning. It is filled with wildflowers in the spring, and fall brings its own colors.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lone tree

Many of these photos were taken along the same path I recently took under the light of the full moon. See the article Night Photos at the Shaw Nature Reserve.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - red sumac leaves

Red sumac leaves.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - forest edge

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - forest path

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - glade

This is a glade, a dry, south-facing slope, which includes desert species not otherwise found in Missouri.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - Shooting star in glade

Shooting Star flower.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - autumn colors in glade

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - view of autumn forest

All of these photos were made to look best under full resolution: to my eye, they look a little bit rough here, and are cleaner at full size. Click the photo to be taken to Flickr, where you can see the full-sized images.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - yellow tree

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - forest path 2

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - cemetery

An old walled cemetery, hidden in the forest. The Fall of the year is a natural symbol for the fall of man — and the consequences of that fall. 

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - opening in trees

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - serpentine wall

The serpentine wall. The key to getting good color in photographs of autumn leaves is to avoid any overexposure whatsoever, which would turn bright reds and yellows into dull, pale unsaturated colors.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - wetland parking

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - large trees

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - view from path

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lake

Before the drought, the water level would have filled the foreground. Several nearby lakes were at best only damp mud at this time.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lake 2

Lily pads fill the lake, and many frogs and turtles can be found here.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - lake 3

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - prairie

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - wildlife viewing platform

A wildlife viewing platform.

Shaw Nature Reserve (the Arboretum), in Gray Summit, Missouri, USA - trees and path

Website of the Shaw Nature Reserve.