Thursday, March 29, 2012

The “proper reason for a certainly established fact"

A QUOTE FROM a book on the liberal arts:
Aristotle had stated the scientific ideal as follows:
We suppose that we possess perfect scientific knowledge of a subject, as contrasted to knowing it in the haphazard way that a sophist knows it, when we think that we know the cause on which the fact depends as the cause of that fact and no other, and further, that the fact could not be other than it is. (Posterior Analytics, 1, c. 2, 71b 8.)
Aristotle knew perfectly well that such a high ideal of knowledge is not easy to obtain and is rarely actually achieved, but we must measure our knowledge by the most perfect type of knowledge possible. Euclid [writing about 30 years after Aristotle] hoped to achieve such knowledge at least in the relatively easy field of mathematics.

You will notice that the difference between science and opinion does not consist in the fact that science is obtained by experiments or the use of some complicated instrument (like a microscope or Geiger counter), while opinion is not. Nor is the difference that science uses measurement, and opinion does not. Nor is it that science is objective, opinion subjective; nor that science is certain, opinion probable. We can have opinions that are certain, objective, acquired by measurement, instruments, and experiment -- and they still remain only opinions. We can have science, on the other band, which involves no instruments, nor experiments, nor measurements (although it must be certain and objective). What makes science to be true science is that it gives us the proper reason for a certainly established fact. Until we have discovered such a proper reason we do not have perfect science, and are still at the level of opinion.

Consequently, mathematicians before Euclid were mainly at the level of opinion, because they had not carefully built [up] the science of mathematics in such a logical and orderly way that they could see the proper reasons for their conclusions.
— from THE ARTS OF LEARNING AND COMMUNICATION, A Handbook of the Liberal Arts, by Benedict M. Ashley, O.P. (The Priory Press, Dubuque - 1958)

In our current age, the practice of what is now called science has decidedly shifted — according to the scheme given above — from true science towards variable opinion. We typically see more political and ideological influence on the sciences these days, and a greater emphasis on the “soft sciences;” this leads, justifiably, to a greater skepticism of the results of state-sponsored research. But this has also led to an unjustifiable skepticism of true science.

Alexis de Tocqueville thought that the arts and sciences in the United States would eventually suffer because of an overemphasis or misplaced emphasis on equality; see the article Catholics and de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. This is particularly evident in primary and secondary education, which is under considerable direct political control by high levels of government, and is institutionally controlled by ideologues more concerned with power than the truth.

This kind of control, as well as the current emphasis on “teaching the test,” has led to the unfortunate result that youths very often see the sciences as the mere opinion or ideology of the teacher. Many youth seem to think that all they have to do in a class is mindlessly regurgitate the lessons back to the teacher and then quickly forget the lessons learned, since they aren’t facts and have no relevance to real life. This is a great tragedy, for a true scientific understanding is one of the pillars of virtue.

As mentioned by Fr. Ashley, mathematics is the most certain as well as the simplest of the sciences. Ancient and medieval mathematicians may not have had a broad knowledge of their field, but it was certainly deep, and they had a better understanding of mathematics’ place in the realm of reality, which is something that many contemporary mathematicians struggle with. Mathematics sometimes goes too far into metaphysics, and these philosophical issues aren’t handled well by many mathematicians. Problematic fields include Probability Theory and Set Theory, which can give us absurd and contradictory results due to poor assumptions.

I’ve been reading up on some of the basics of arithmetic and geometry, both according to the ancients and also modern views. As it turns out, many mathematical problems I used to struggle with when I was studying physics would have been much clearer if I had a more thorough background in the basics.

The basics of number theory and geometry are also of great use to artists: premodern art is intimately tied to a deep understanding of mathematics. If I have the time and make the effort, I hope to write a bit about mathematics and how it ought to apply to the arts.

News from the Oratory



2653 Ohio Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
March 29, 2012


Dear Faithful Friends of St. Francis de Sales Oratory,


On March 13, 2012, the Institute was honored to receive the visit of His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Betori, Archbishop of Florence, to our Motherhouse in Gricigliano. The Archbishop was created cardinal by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, during the Consistory of February 18, 2012. During this visit, His Eminence was conducted on a complete tour of the seminary, by the Prior General of the Institute, Monsignor Gilles Wach. For the first time as Cardinal, His Eminence celebrated a Solemn Benediction in the Seminary’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.


With the entire Institute, we offer our fervent prayers and heartfelt congratulations to His Eminence, Cardinal Betori. To view more photos of this blessed occasion please click here.


This week, on March 27th , faithful from St. Francis de Sales were among the thousands who attended the Rally for Religious Liberty at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson spoke at the Rally: “stand with us as witnesses to say this is about religious liberty, and we will never give up this freedom. … They are here so that we can say clearly to all: We will render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but we will not render unto Caesar what belongs to God.” He said in a strong voice that “we cannot, in good faith, comply with the mandate as it is written. Every avenue compromises our mission and forces us to render unto Caesar what belongs to God.”
Please keep in your prayer the Archbishop and this important issue of our time.

To see photos of this event please visit the website of the StLReview.


As we enter the fourth quarter of our fiscal year (ending in June), I would like to express our gratefulness for a mild winter, the excellent work done by our maintenance team, and everyone’s cooperation in keeping the utility cost down in the last few months. Economizing with our antiquated heating system is no mean feat, but it is very helpful to keep our utilities cost from exceeding the single largest expense of operating this campus, which is the property insurance (~$90,000 per annum) we owe the Archdiocese of St. Louis. As the vibrant community life continues to show, we have been very blessed at this Oratory. We are especially grateful in the knowledge that it is the continuous and generous support of all of you - friends and faithful – which has made the growth and development of the Oratory possible. As the month of March draws to a close, I invite all of you to continue to pray with us to St. Joseph, Patron and Protector of the Universal Church and Guardian of the Holy Family, to help us meet all the Oratory’s fiscal obligations.


Choir camp 2011

A most precious treasure at the Oratory is to hear the angelic children’s voices, singing for the sacred liturgy. This summer, the Institute will once again offer a week-long music camp for the children to hone their music skills in an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie at the Ursuline Motherhouse in Kentucky, from August 5th-10th. Immersed in daily music making with their peers, the campers will attend classes in Latin, Gregorian Chant, Music Theory, and Vocal Technique. Daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be offered by an Institute priest.
This year's faculty includes:
Mr. Nick Botkins (Director of Sacred Music - Saint Francis de Sales Oratory), Mr. Kevin Allen, (Composer, Chicago) , and Ms. Yollanda Bornhoff (Organist, Chicago), Mr. Joe Reidy (Saint Louis University).

The camp tuition will be kept at the same level as last year. For more information, please contact the Oratory office. We encourage all faithful to support this worthy music program, for the benefit of the children, and ultimately, for the future of the Church and her sacred liturgy.


US Province Clergy Retreat 2011
It is a privilege that St. Francis de Sales Oratory will be the site of the Institute's annual retreat for the clergy serving the US Province. At the beginning of May, from May 1st to May 4th (Tuesday-Friday), a retreat for all the oblates will be preached by Canon von Menshengen.
To view a video of our Oblates, click here
We will welcome many Institute priests from all parts of the US during the week of May 22-25, for a retreat with Monsignor Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute. We are grateful to all the faithful who are already helping us during the planning stages of this important event. Your generous support for your priests is deeply appreciated.


Monsignor Holweck's health had never been robust, but in spite of it, his labors for his parish, for his archdiocese, and for the Catholic Church were outstanding. In early 1927 he became very ill and was taken to St. Anhony's Hospital, where he died on February 15, at the age of 71 years. He had completed 46 years in his priesthood and was considered a man of great literary talent. Besides his many activities, he wrote many books and articles in the field of church literature. In 1925, after thirty-two years of research, he published the "Biographical Dictionary of the Saints," a 1000-page work that received world-wide acclaim as the best book that had been written on this subject 'for several centuries.'

Rev. John Waeltermann,
Fifth Pastor of St. Francis de Sales, 1927-1929, “a son of the parish”

Father John Waeltermann, a son of the parish, educated in the parish school, and ordained in 1893, took over as fifth pastor of the parish on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1927. He was pastor of St. Francis de Sales for only two short years before he became suddenly ill and was called to his eternal reward on April 19, 1929. Father Waeltermann, however, had an intense desire to reduce the parish debt and this was especially reflected even in his last will and testament, in which he left an unique challenge to his priestly successor and to the people of his parish that he so loved.

His successor came on May 25, 1929, the Reverend Christian H. Winkelmann, until then the pastor of Sacred Heart parish at Richfountain, Missouri. Father Winkelmann, later went on to become Bishop Winkelmann in 1933, was the sixth pastor of our parish. With great zeal he acted quickly to carry out the last will and testament of Father Waeltermann, who had bequeathed the very generous sum of $10,000.00 to St. Francis de Sales parish, provided that an equal $10,000.00 would be raised by the parishioners in the short space of one year's time.

His Excellency, the Most Reverend Christian Winkelmann,
Bishop of Wichita, Kansas,
Sixth Pastor of St. Francis de Sales, 1929-1940
These were the well-remembered "depression days" in 1930, and the plan of raising an extra $10,000.00 for the church was met with many mixed emotions. Those inclined to be pessimistic in those dire days had reason enough to doubt that the money could be raised. Father Waeltermann's unique challenge, however, was met successfully and energetically by both priests and people, and before those precious twelve months had all but passed, Father Winkelmann joyfully announced that the goal had been reached and the extra $10,000.00 had been raised in time.

In 1931, just one year later, another heavy financial burden in those days was placed on the parish. This was the also well-remembered “widening of Gravois," a project that called for a payment of $5,000.00 on the part of the church. Gravois was at that time a narrow street with double car-tracks down the center. Small but prosperous business houses and nice homes lined both sides of the street. At first, strong opposition and many protests were made and heard. The tax assessment made upon property owners in those depression days for widening the street was considered rather steep. The church itself was taxed $5,000.00 to pay its share of the improvement. As history records, the street was widened in that year of 1931 as planned, and it was to the credit of the Christian Mothers' Society at that time that this organization raised this sum of money so vitally needed.

Palm Sunday April 1: 8:00am Low Mass;
9:30am Blessing of Palms & Procession followed by High Mass.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Masses and Confessions as usual

Holy Thursday, April 5: 5:30pm Confessions; 6:30pm Solemn High Mass; Procession to the Repository, with Adoration until Midnight

Good Friday, April 6: 8:00am Stations of the Cross/Confessions;
3:00pm Liturgy of the Passion & Death of Our Lord. (Confessions at 2:00pm)

Holy Saturday, April 7: 8:00pm Confessions;
9:00pm Easter Vigil followed by Blessing of Easter Food (Bread, Eggs)

Easter Sunday, April 8: 8:00am Low Mass; 10:00am High Mass

With the assurance of my prayers to Christ the King I wish you and your families and friends a very blessed Holy Week and feast of Easter,

Canon Michael K. Wiener
Rector, St. Francis de Sales Oratory

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feast of the Annunciation

BECAUSE YESTERDAY was a Sunday of Lent, today we celebrate the Annunciation of Our Lord. The fate of the world hinged around the choice of a teenage peasant girl, Mary.

Mary was greeted by the Archangel Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

This public domain image, Nazaret Verkuendigungsbasilika (Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth) by Berthold Werner, (source) was taken in 2008 and shows a modern altar built at the grotto where Mary lived.

Living Mary, Nazareth

An old tradition states that Mary was planning on drawing water from a well when she was greeted by Gabriel.  Here is the well in Nazareth, from a photograph taken in about 1910. Courtesy of the Oregon State University Special Collection and Archives (source). The well served as Nazareth’s source of water for thousands of years.

Sacred scripture and tradition is rich with symbolism; grottoes are often seen as places of refuge and contemplation, places of refreshing coolness, while springs are a symbol of God’s sustaining action and grace. In the dry, parched, arid Middle East, life would not be possible without the cool water found in wells, fountains, and springs, and we will certainly die spiritually without God’s grace.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Flora

SPRING FLORA, found on Friday.

These photos are a bit dark, in order to preserve the saturated color of the flowers.  If you click twice on any image, you can view it on a black background.


Purple tulips in shade

Pink dogwood in full sun

View inside a tulip cup

View inside a tulip cup 2

White dogwood

Red tulip

Pink tulip

Yellow flower

Red tulip with ragged edges

Purple flowers

Yellow tulip

Pink hyacinth

Blossoms on fruit tree

While the perfection of cultivated flowers is striking, wildflowers have their own charms, not the least is   local distinction.

Dandelion flower detail

Dandelions may not qualify as wildflowers, but this close-up view reveals details not usually seen.

Purple flower

Yellow flower on wood chips

Tiny yellow flower

This yellow flower was minuscule, maybe 3/8ths of an inch across.

Tiny white flower

This and the following flowers are even smaller.

Very tiny purple flower

Very tiny blue flower

Flower photos are popular, but I really enjoy finding mushrooms. These life forms almost look extraterrestrial, their family tree having diverged from the plants and animals a very long ago.

Two mushrooms


Mushroom with notches in cap

Two mushrooms growing into each other

Underside of mushroom

Tall mushrooms

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jake and river

Jake was a good Bassett hound. Please offer your condolences to Snup.

Those who love much, weep much.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Learn to paint icons..."

SOME CHURCHMEN are puzzled that new Byzantine icons are now appearing frequently in churches of the Latin Rite. Where, they wonder, are works of art more expressive of the tradition of the Latin West?

It is a simple fact that artists can learn Byzantine-style iconography today. Many workshops and schools now offer classes, led by masters of the iconographic style, including the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire. As far as I know, there is nowhere in the world where an artist can learn the authentic Latin styles of the Gothic, Romanesque, or Insular styles, for these are (apparently) no longer living traditions. Neo-Classicism is making a huge comeback, with many ateliers offering classes, but this style isn’t quite the same as the Catholic Baroque.

As it turns out, the Iconographic styles are very much a part of the Latin tradition, and can be found in the ancient churches in Rome, and even in the Cathedral Basilica, here in Saint Louis. The majority of the Latin churches I’ve visited have an icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and I’ve seen many other icons also.

According to Saint Augustine, in De Musica, slavish copying is not art; rather, true art requires an intellectual understanding of the theory and practice behind an art. Byzantine iconography was a lost art, but the theory behind it was recovered in the 20th century, and so new icons can now be made according to Christian principles. A solid understanding of the theory of iconography will allow these new icons to be easily adapted to the needs of the Latin Church. Eventually, I suspect that other Catholic styles of art will be suitably recovered and further developed.

Springtime and Man’s Relationship with Nature

Missouri Botanical Garden, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - purple tulip

LENT, in the Northern Hemisphere, is associated with the lengthening of days (whence we get the name of this liturgical season), and is determined by the vernal equinox, which happens to be today. Of course, in the southern hemisphere, today marks the autumnal equinox. Today at the equator the sun at local noon is directly overhead, and were it not for atmospheric distortion and the large disk of the sun, it would be precisely 12 hours from sunrise to sundown worldwide.

[When I was a child, I had a public school textbook which illustrated the globe of the Earth: it properly showed that when it was summer in the northern hemisphere, it was winter in the southern. Absurdly, it also (falsely) showed that when it was spring in the western hemisphere, it was autumn in the eastern hemisphere.]

Nowadays, the equinox is around March 20th or the 21st, but it was not always so: in the ancient world it was on the 25th, coinciding with the Feast of the Annunciation. An imprecise calculation of leap years found in Julius Caesar’s reformed calendar caused a drift in the date. You can read more about this in the article The Vernal Equinox.

Meteorologists define the start of spring as the date of the Vernal Equinox, although this appears to be a bit late according to local weather patterns hereabouts. Older European traditions mark the start of spring on Saint Bridget’s Day or Candlemas, February 1st or 2nd.

Catholics, other Apostolic Christians, and the Jews have annual liturgical cycles that attempt to precisely coincide with the seasons of the year. These ancient faiths have a unique tie with nature that is usually not found in newer religious groups. Fundamentalist and liberal Christians will attack Catholicism because of this relationship, calling it pagan, although there are real pagans nowadays who ought to be of much more concern to these Christians.  Fundamentalist Christians inadvertently cut themselves off from sacred tradition when they attempt to divorce the faith from nature, ultimately leading to a gnostic-like attitude towards the material world, seeing it as evil; likewise, liberal Christians do the same when they fail to distinguish faith from nature, and slide towards pantheism.

The seasons of the year, controlled by the relationship between the earth and sun, are an undeniable influence on human life, even though technology and systems of control attempt to moderate these influences. But the seasons and natural cycles of the heavens make us, in many ways, what we are. What are we to make of it? Pagans worship these things as gods, while modernists consider them to be of little to no importance, who are more intent on imposing human will on nature.

Neo-pagans are usually passionate environmentalists, as is fitting for someone with a nature religion. Generally speaking, the environmentalist movement is highly anti-Christian, for many reasons. One particular claim is this biblical passage, Genesis 1:26 (NAB):
Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.
They claim that this dominion of man over nature has lead to the ruination of nature, because of industrialization, strip-mining, pollution, etc. But what does dominion mean? Is their idea of dominion a totalitarian, absolutist State, led by an all-powerful great leader or by a vanguard political party? Do they think that property rights are absolute, that each individual is master of his own destiny? But these are all heresies. The Catholic idea of dominion is neither totalitarian nor is it radically individualistic. Catholic good government is rather humble and seeks harmony rather than overwhelming command and control. Dominion becomes tyranny as orthodoxy is lost, and we find this loss of orthodoxy in modern forms of Christianity, and in the forms of political governance preferred by these sects.

Rather, dominion is a fact, not a license. Man names and classifies each creature into individual, species, and genera, but no animals are scientists. Man can kill any animal he desires, and animals run in fear from him. Man eats whatever plant or animal he considers good, and is not limited to an instinctive diet. Plants and animals are limited to specific ecological niches, whereas man lives wherever he wants. Man’s dominion over nature does not necessarily imply what the environmentalists claim.

Catholicism sees the things of nature as fellow creatures, worthy of being treated well, being also made by God. This attitude did not start with Saint Francis of Assisi (seen in his Canticle of the Sun), but can be found in numerous places in the Old Testament; here is Psalm 148 (Douay):
1 Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places.
2 Praise ye him , all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
3 Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens: and let all the waters that are above the heavens
5 praise the name of the Lord. For he spoke, and they were made: he commanded, and they were created.
6 He hath established them for ever, and for ages of ages: he hath made a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all ye deeps:
8 Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds which fulfil his word:
9 Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars:
10 Beasts and all cattle: serpents and feathered fowls:
11 Kings of the earth and all people: princes and all judges of the earth:
12 Young men and maidens: let the old with the younger, praise the name of the Lord:
13 for his name alone is exalted.
14 The praise of him is above heaven and earth: and he hath exalted the horn of his people. A hymn to all his saints: to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him. Alleluia.
We shouldn’t be surprised that many neo-pagans come from heterodox Christian groups, and found them lacking, perhaps since these groups had no notion of harmony with nature.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Technical Problem

AT THE BOTTOM of each posting here, I used to have a button that would allow my readers to vote on each article, letting me know if you liked it. Unfortunately, the service I used, Outbrain, stopped providing this recently, and I’ve been asked to restore the functionality.

Blogger has its own kind of rating, but it does not apparently work on my blog. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Feast of Saint Joseph

ON THIS DAY we honor Saint Joseph, foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and patron of the Universal Church.

Shrine of Saint Joseph, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view of nave from choir loft

Photo taken before Holy Mass yesterday, at the Shrine of Saint Joseph in Saint Louis, Missouri.

You can see more of my photos of this church here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tower Grove Park at Sunset

TOWER GROVE PARK is one of the best-preserved Victorian-era public pleasure gardens in the United States. Located in the south side of Saint Louis, adjacent to the famed Missouri Botanical Garden, this park is a popular spot during good weather. Since we’ve lately had unseasonably warm weather, flowers are blooming a bit early.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - ruins

I took these photos around sunset. Shown here is a folly, faux ruins constructed here in the Romantic fashion of the 19th century.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - daffodils

Narcissus flowers aren’t native to the United States, but grow here well without propagating themselves much beyond where they are planted.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - yellow narcissus

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - fountain with flying geese

The park is well-populated with wild waterfowl.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Mallard duck

A Mallard drake.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - pink magnolia

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - red flowers

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - magnolias

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - tulip tree

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - fountain

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - statue of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - American flag

The banner of the Republic, in the waning daylight.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - orange cloud 2

Large clouds in the sky, reflecting the light of the setting sun, bathed the park with an unusual rich orange color, which I attempted to capture with these photos.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - orange clouds

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - light and dark clouds

As the sun dropped below the horizon, the cloud on the right was cut off from sunlight. Night came quickly.

Tower Grove Park, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - ruins at dusk

The day was done, and it was time to leave.

For more photos, as well as an extensive history of the park, see the article Photos of Tower Grove Park.