Monday, June 25, 2012

Dominicans Make Vows at Old Cathedral

EARLIER THIS MONTH, three men made solemn vows to the Order of Friar Preachers (the Dominicans), at the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France.

This happened at the “Old Cathedral,” once the cathedral church for half of the United States, an edifice which once was one of the most highly indulgenced churches in the world, located near the base of the Gateway Arch, in downtown Saint Louis, Missouri.

For photos, see the article Three Brothers Take Solemn Vows, from the website of the Dominican Brothers of the Province of St. Albert the Great.

Founded by Saint Dominic, the Order of Preachers is an active order devoted to preaching, being of one heart and mind in the Lord, and the salvation of souls. The modern university system developed from the work of the Dominicans in the Middle Ages, who according to their constitutions, were to devote much time in study. The Dominican Order was one of the earliest groups to have formed a constitutional form of democratic or parliamentary government; because of their broad knowledge and liberality, friars often served in the Inquisition — and so Modernity unfairly castigates them, even though their intent was to moderate the severity of the secular rulers.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist

Saint George Catholic Church, in Hermann, Missouri - baptismal font detail - 2

St. John baptizing Jesus, detail on a baptismal font.  At Saint George Church, in Hermann, Missouri. Photo taken in 2006.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A New Architecture Blog...

...THE SACRED LANDSCAPE, by Catholic architect Steven Schloeder, PhD, AIA, can be found at He writes:
I soon discovered that while everyone talked about "architecture", no one was really ready to talk about what it really was.  Now if one were to ask a professor of biology what it was that he studied, he might well reply "the study of living organisms", and if asked of an economics professor she might tell you that "economics concerns the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services", or "how people work within markets to get what they want given the problems of scarcity and competition", or even "how money works".  Yet in asking my architecture professors "what is architecture", I would get the most opaque and pretentious answers:

Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. 
 Architecture is frozen music.
The reality of the tea cup is the space within.
Architecture is the art of doing the common uncommonly well.
Architecture is a matter of taste, and our job is to tell you what you should like. 
Architecture is commodity, firmness and delight -- (this last definition seemed more applicable to the young ladies in whom I was interested than to what I was designing).  

In short, none of them could give a reasonable working definition of architecture, and yet were mercilessly dogmatic in our juried crits as to whether the student achieved ARCHITECTURE or not. It was entirely subjective as best as I could make out: Architecture depended on the caprice of the professor. Platitudes were thrown about; definitive judgments made without recourse to any defined standards; the architect was supposed to be some sort of prophet and priest telling others how to live, shaping buildings and whole cities that would shaped peoples' lives for better or for worse, yet with no fixed goals. The study of architectural history concerned what the buildings looked like, what were the defining features of the historical style, but never the 'why were they designed thus and so' question.  There were no objective standards for evaluation (apart from the purely technical and vital aspects of structural stability and how the building responded climatically), no reflection on what it means to be a human being, what it means to live in society, what it means to order raw nature for human habitation, the question of beauty, and how architecture addresses the aspirations of humanity.
He just started the blog, but perhaps you can pay it a visit to encourage him?

Newsletter from the Oratory


2653 Ohio Avenue
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
June 20, 2012


In union with all United States bishops, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has called upon all the faithful in St. Louis to participate fully in the Fortnight for Freedom campaign, from Thursday June 21 to July 4, Independence Day. Please read Archbishop Carlson’s speech given on March 27, 2012, in Jefferson City, MO. During this two-week period of fervent prayers for our country, the Oratory will pray to the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States and of the Institute, after every Holy Mass, in the intention of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on religious liberty. 
Prayer to Mary Immaculate, written by Pope St. Pius X:

O Most Holy Virgin who wast pleasing to God and didst become His Mother. Immaculate in thy body, in thy soul, in thy faith and in thy love, we beseech thee to look graciously upon the wretched who implore thy powerful protection. The wicked serpent, against whom the primal curse was hurled, continues nonetheless to wage war and to lay snares for the unhappy children of Eve. Ah, do thou, our blessed Mother, our Queen and Advocate, who from the first instant of thy conception didst crush the head of our enemy, receive the prayers that we unite single-heartedly to thine and conjure thee to offer at the throne of God, that we may never fall into the snares that are laid for us, in such wise that we may all come to the haven of salvation; and in the midst of so many dangers may holy Church and the fellowship of Christians everywhere sing once more the hymn of deliverance, victory and peace. Amen. 

Msgr. Wach with priests of the US Province 2012
For the second year in a row, we at St. Francis de Sales were privileged to host the annual canons’ retreat for the American Province, preached by our Founder and Prior General, Monsignor Gilles Wach from May 21-25. First, we wish to extend our grateful thanks to Monsignor the Prior General, for his tireless travels and fatherly care to all Institute canons, not only in the US, but previous to this visit, in Germany and France as well. In addition, it was a special treat to have our former Vicars, Canon Huberfeld and Canon Apple, serving as deacon and subdeacon at the Solemn High Mass celebrated by Monsignor Wach. Making an annual retreat is crucial to a priest’s interior life, and the opportunity to gather here as a community was deeply appreciated by every priest who came.
Secondly, we wish to thank the entire community at St. Francis de Sales for the gracious hospitality and warm welcome which you gave to the canons of the Institute. Every detail of this canons’ retreat, especially the newly refurbished chapel in the convent building, and the festive reception on May 24, bore the mark of love for Holy Church from a vibrant and faithful community. Thank you! We ask for your continued prayers for the Institute and its mission, and reciprocate gratefully with assurance of our fervent prayers.


Corpus Christi Procession 2012
In his 1855 work, The Blessed Sacrament, or the Ways and Works of God, Fr. Frederick Faber wrote the following about the Church’s Eucharistic Processions on Corpus Christi: “O the joy of the immense glory the Church is sending up to God this hour: … How many glorious processions, with the sun upon their banners, are now winding their way round the squares of mighty cities, through the flower-strewn streets of Christian villages, through the antique cloisters of the glorious cathedral, or through the grounds of the devout seminary, where the various colours of the faces and the different languages of the people are only so many fresh tokens of the unity of that faith, which they are all exultingly professing in the single voice of the magnificent ritual of Rome!”
From the city of St. Louis in Midwest America, St. Francis de Sales Oratory joined the single voice of the universal Church in her adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and salutation of the King of kings, on Corpus Christi, 2012.
“Sin seems forgotten; tears even are of rapture rather than of penance. It is like the soul's first day in heaven; or as if earth itself were passing into heaven, as it well might do, for sheer joy of the Blessed Sacrament.”


Fr. Jean - Pierre Herman
The Oratory in St. Louis as well as in Kansas City have been very blessed to have the presence of Father Jean-Pierre Herman, who celebrates his 25th Ordination Anniversary on July 1. Fr. Herman was received as an affiliate priest of the Institute last year at the Canons’ Retreat here in St. Louis, and has been gratefully received by the community ever since!

Please join us on Sunday, July 1st, Feast of the Precious Blood, when Fr. Herman will celebrate the 10am High Mass on the occasion of his 25th Anniversary to the Priesthood. The choir will be performing the Vierne Mass, Messe Solonnelle, on this joyous occasion. Please join us after the 10am High Mass for a reception in the church basement in honor of Fr. Herman.


2011 Priestly Ordinations
Every year at this time the entire Institute looks forward to the summit of the Seminary’s academic year: the Ordinations. This year on July 5, five men will be ordained to the holy priesthood by His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. Five other seminarians will be ordained as deacons, and ten will receive the subdiaconate. Of these ten soon-to-be subdeacons, five are from the United States. All together, sixteen Americans will receive the clerical tonsure and the various Minor Orders of porter, lector, exorcist, and acolyte. Thanks to the Pre-Seminary Program and the Seminary Society at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, many American vocations will be familiar to the Oratory community already.

During the month of the Sacred Heart, let us keep in mind the words of St. John Vianney, “The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus!” and offer our prayers and support to these seminarians in view of the upcoming Ordinations.

“Tradition For Tomorrow” has been the motto of our restoration effort here at St. Francis de Sales Oratory. When the immigrant congregation decided to build this new edifice to replace the old St. Francis de Sales church destroyed by the tornado of 1896, they chose the best from their cultural tradition to be the foundation for the best future they hoped for in this new country. In 2012, St. Francis de Sales Oratory is not a mere symbol, but is part of a living tradition, particularly the sacred liturgy, which serves the present and will continue to provide a firm foundation for the future. We who pass through here have an obligation to maintain this magnificent church and the hope which it embodies.

Please take a look at our updated restoration website which bears this motto,, and our new brochure. Both have been updated and expanded so as to reflect the tremendous amount of work the present congregation – though still far smaller than in former times – has done with so much love and dedication, and to invite others to join us in this important work.


Choir Camp 2011
From August 5-10, the Choir Camp rolls into its third year with three seasoned instructors and two new ones, and a full program highlighting faculty recitals, string chamber ensemble, private lessons, and organized recreational activities. All youths age 9-16 are welcome! Registration has begun, and may be made online, or at the Oratory office.

Thanks to the sacred music program at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, vocal technique, musicianship, composition, music theory, Latin, and Gregorian Chant are only some of the ingredients which are poured into the hearts and minds of our youths, enabling them to appreciate and contribute to the repository of the Church’s sacred music. Please give this important endeavor at the Oratory your prayers and support!

Mr. Nick Botkins (3rd year Faculty)
Vocal Technique, String Ensemble, Choral Ensemble
Highlights of Vocal Technique: Vocal Production, Intro to IPA, Breathing Technique

Mr. Kevin Allen (returning for his second year), Chicago based Composer.
Composition and Music Theory
Highlights of the course: Introduction to form, use of Church Modes in New Compositions. Basic Musicianship in Rhythm and Solfeggio

Ms. Yolanda Borghoff (First Year Faculty), Chicago based Organist and Harpsichordists.
Music Theory and Staff Accompanist
Highlights of the course: Basic Musicianship in sight-singing, Melodic Dictation, Music reading

Mr. Joseph Reidy (returning for his 3rd Year)
Highlights of the Latin Course: Vocabulary and grammar

AbbĂ© Matthew Walter (First Year Faculty) ICRSS Seminary
Gregorian Chant
Highlights: Introduction to Gregorian Modes and Rhythm, Solfeggio in Gregorian Notation, Repertoire (Mass IV)


Summer at the Oratory 2011
Our annual “Summer at the Oratory” event, celebrating the patron saint of our city, King Saint Louis IX, will take place on Sunday, August 19. As in previous years, the festivities will include terrific barbeque, beer, games, live jazz music, bazaars, fun and fellowship for the entire family. Many wonderful raffle prizes – vacation package, gift certificates, Kindle, to name a few – have already been assembled for this summer’s event. Please mark your calendars, and spread the word among family and friends!

Taking advantage of the former high school gymnasium on campus, St. Francis de Sales Oratory hosted its first ever 3-On-3 Men’s Basketball Tournament in the middle of May. Over 25 men from the Oratory signed up to play in this fun and competitive event. Every team felt it had a chance to win, but early in the afternoon the better teams distinguished themselves from the rest of the field.

At the end of the day there were only two teams left standing: Flyin’ Buds and Wichtory. More than fifty of the faithful stayed around to watch the exciting finale as Flyin’ Buds captured the title as Tournament Champs. The active day was a great success for the Oratory community and all the participants look forward to playing in next year’s tournament. Salutations to all the teams: Flyin’ Buds, Scrubs, Wichtory, Roman Missiles, Humble Pie, Underdawgs, and Prohibition!

Yours faithfully, in Christ the King,

Canon Matthew Talarico
Substitute Provincial, US

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“On the Condition of the Working Classes”

THERE ARE ONLY TWO acceptable economic and political ideologies in the United States, and these two opinions, remarkably, happen to precisely coincide with the mainstream positions of the two major political parties.

Whereas Evangelical Protestants can be reliably found in one party, and while agnostics can be largely found in the other, Catholics are evenly split between the two. It isn’t too surprising that the best predictor of party membership in the United States is religious thought: for the roots of modernity and contemporary political systems are found in the heretical religious ideas developed in the late Middle Ages — and, of course, ultimately from the Fall of Man in Eden. Neither party comes even close to encompassing the entirety of Catholic social thought, but rather, each selects certain parts and disparages the others.

Tradition often falls away, not because it is not good, true, and beautiful, but merely because it is not understood. Traditional methods of organizing society are not fully understood until they are done away with. This happened in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, after the French Revolution spread itself throughout Europe, and similar revolutions happened throughout the Americas. Very many traditions were wiped out by those promoting heretical ideologies, and it took decades to sort out the consequences of the changes. In the 1840s, Catholic theologians started a serious analysis of these changes, and a pupil of these theologians, Vincenzo Pecci, later Pope Leo XIII, promulgated the conclusions of this study in his famed social encyclical of 1891, Rerum Novarum.

The core ideas in Catholic social thought is that man is made in the Image and Likeness of God, and that we ought to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We are even to love our enemies, and to love our fellow Catholics. How does the economics of Modernity go against these? We find a short explanation in the beginning of Rerum Novarum (which is known in English variously as “On the New Things,” “On Capital and Labor,” or “On the Condition of the Working Classes.”). Emphasis added:
3. In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen's guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hard-heartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.

4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.
We see here that Pope Leo strongly contradicts the ideologies of both American political parties. We have many social problems, and many proposed solutions to these problems, but who, if anyone, gets to the root of these problems? Where did they start? Pope Leo tells us that it started when “the ancient workingmen's guilds were abolished in the last century.” I know of no one at all who proposes the reestablishment of the guilds as a future solution to our economic problems. Current proposed solutions merely perpetuate the problems outlined by Pope Leo.

Under the traditional system, guilds were confraternities of workmen, chartered by the government, which regulated a trade, craft, or industry within a locality. Guild members not only were workers, but they also owned their business, means of production, and set their own working conditions. This had many advantages for workmen: they were not tied to any particular schedule imposed by an employer, nor was their income fixed as we find with employees, but instead would keep the profits generated by their business. The guilds themselves usually served as insurance providers, taking care of dependents of a member if they became incapacitated. Guilds did not have to worry about new competitors nor were guild members always attempting to subvert each other, for “a rising tide floats all boats,” and a guild was clearly for mutual benefit.

If we find a similar institution all over the world, and in all ages of history, then we can assume that this institution is somehow rooted in human nature, and is not a mere convention of a particular time or a passing whim of a ruler or polity. Marriage is one such institution, and guilds are another. Guilds were found in ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, throughout Medieval Europe, and were also found in India, Persia, China, and western Africa, and traces could even be found among the tribes of North America.

Guilds were hardly perfect, but they were a great factor in the stability and harmony of cities, general society, and families.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Signing

MEET ME AT the Washington Missouri Public Library, where I will sign copies of the photo book St. Louis Parks. I did the photography of the City section of the book.

St Louis Parks cover_high

From the library website:
Sundae with the Authors
Sunday, June 24
2-4 p.m.
Meet and greet 9 local authors of books for adults and children and enjoy an ice cream sundae.

Nancy Cavin Pitts:  
When You Come Home:  The True Love Story of a Soldier's Heroism and His Wife's Sacrifice
Mark Abeln, photographer:  St. Louis Parks
Maddie Earnest:  Missouri Harvest:  A Guide to Growers and Producers in the Show-Me State
Kimberly S. Lutz:  Meet Maddie Paddywak
Judith J. Hill:  Champion for Grace
Bill Seamon:  The Coach's Playbook:  Developing a Philosophy for Coaching Baseball
Ross Malone:  Too Good to Pass By
Maria Brady-Smith:  Becoming:  Mother Poems
Light of Recognition

Abby Schlegl:  MerMountain
I will be selling and autographing copies of St. Louis Parks for $35 and Catholic St. Louis for $32.95 plus tax; cash or check only please. For credit card orders, select one of the PayPal buttons on the right hand side of this page. For alternative payments, please send me an email.

410 Lafayette Street
Washington, Missouri 63090

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Eye Candy

Missouri Botanical Garden (Shaw's Garden), in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Lantern Festival - Dragon with Climatron

A Chinese dragon, taken during the Lantern Festival, at the Missouri Botanical Garden, in Saint Louis.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jesuit Reversal

A LITTLE BIRD told me that change is happening in the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits are the largest religious order in the Church; once the personal spiritual army of the Pope, the order in recent decades has gone in a direction often at odds with the Papacy. Although it was the premier religious order of the Counter-Reformation, the Jesuits seem to have lost relevance or become rudderless since the Council.

The Society is an active religious order that loomed large in the history of the Age of Exploration, the scientific revolution, and in the development of the Americas. In your opinion, what would a newly-invigorated Society of Jesus do in the world?

UPDATE: I had a poll associated with this post. Here are the results:
  • Re-evangelization of the West — 37 (60%)
  • Conversion of China — 18 (29%)
  • Other — 11 (18%)
  • Working towards a political order more in line with Christianity — 10 (16%)
  • Development of South and Central America — 8 (13%)
  • Establishing new universities — 6 (9%)
  • Re-emphasis on science and technology — 5 (8%)
  • Evangelization through social media — 5 (8%)

Photos from the Corpus Christi Procession at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

“I AM the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” — from The Bread of Life Discourse, John 6.

Here are photos from the Corpus Christi procession, held at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, on Sunday, June 10th, 2012, presided by Archbishop Carlson.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - 2012 Corpus Christi Procession - 1

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All,
How can I love thee as I ought?
And how revere this wondrous gift,
So far surpassing hope or thought?
Sweet Sacrament, we thee adore!
Oh, make us love thee more and more.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - 2012 Corpus Christi Procession - 2

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom He died,
Lend this life to me then; feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - 2012 Corpus Christi Procession - 3

O Jesus, we adore you,
Our victim and our priest,
Whose precious blood and body
Become our Sacred feast.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - 2012 Corpus Christi Procession - 5

Fair are the meadows, Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flow’rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
He makes our Sorro’ing spirit sing.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - 2012 Corpus Christi Procession - 6

O for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free,
A heart that always feels thy blood
So freely shed for me.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Can’t find a job?

THE ECONOMY IS tanking again.

There are some people who say this doesn’t matter much. Some clever traders tell us that they can earn as much during a down economy as they can during an up one, so they don’t care about the state of the economy. But this is only true insofar as we haven’t hit bottom yet, for as they throw people out into the streets, and downsize companies, they eventually make things worse for themselves too. They may end up owning an entire city, but it will be a city in ruins, and they may eventually find it hard to find even a few loyal subjects who will do their bidding.

Others, of the more idealistic and revolutionary mindset think that worse is better, for the Revolution will never come unless the people are desperate. These, too, are shocking in their disregard for others. Would-be revolutionaries are also clever, but they too may have a bitter fate when things hit bottom, and the people realize that it was the revolutionaries themselves who turned a minor crisis into a disaster.

They are heartless and cruel, but that is common in modern thinking and its theories that deny love, such as utilitarianism and Marxism. So let us keep in mind that some people, even very educated, wealthy, or powerful people, due ultimately to pride, greed, hatred, or envy, want things to get worse.

But the problem is simple: people naturally need food, clothing, shelter, and comforts, for themselves and for those whom they love, and our current economy, for many people, is making this exceptionally difficult. Being unable to find a job, many are becoming dependents, or turning to a life of crime, or getting into debt, or worse. People turn to government, but government can’t provide services if people don’t have jobs and pay taxes. Lack of jobs means that everyone suffers, except for the few mentioned above, who subscribe to evil philosophies.

A preponderance of job seeking these days, I’ve heard, is done electronically, which leads to some problems.
  • Employers say it is difficult to find qualified people for positions, and this is harming the economy.
  • This is despite the fact that employers are inundated with a huge number of resumes for open positions, from people who are desperate for work.
  • Employers have downsized their Human Resources departments, or have outsourced them to other companies, in order to reduce costs.
  • Employers, for efficiency, use software filters to wade through the resumes, and these filters are based on criteria they choose ahead of time. The filters may not be devised by knowledgeable people.
  • Employers' job filters are very explicit — only those resumes that have certain keywords will pass the filter. Wanting to avoid job training costs, employers will often demand specific job skills and experience. Learning on the job, except for unpaid internships, is very rare these days.
  • Job hunters, knowing about the employers’ filters, pepper their resumes with keywords hoping to pass the filters. Knowing that they can learn quickly, and have skills that are transferrable, job hunters will include skills that they may only be somewhat familiar with, knowing that the employer probably won’t be able to notice the difference.
  • Employers, knowing that job hunters pepper their resumes with keywords, set the threshold on their filters very high, allowing only a small percentage of resumes to pass.
  • The few resumes that do go past the filters are either, by miracle, perfect job candidates, or more likely, are dishonest, claiming experience they did not have.
  • Employers therefore include honesty detectors on their software filters, or make applicants take an online honesty test during the application process, which attempts to detect lying.
  • The honesty filters are set with a very low tolerance for lying, rejecting too many ordinary, but generally honest people, while still passing very good liars. Validity testing shows that a large percentage of those tested as being liars are not — between 40% to over 90%, while up to perhaps half or more of the liars pass the test as being honest. The tests are considered statistically valid because they typically detect honest people as being honest, but clearly they are problematic.
  • Honesty test results are sometimes adjusted to prevent outcome bias, so some identifiable groups are basically given a free pass, and other groups are judged more harshly, leading, inevitably, to an even higher percentage of dishonest people passing the filter.
  • Success in the job market these days, according to some, is knowing how to game the job system. Note that this does not necessarily have much to do with actually being able to do the job. The system is encouraging people to be dishonest.
This article tells of a company that had 25,000 applicants for a standard engineering position — and yet the Human Resources department said none were qualified. That is hardly possible. Something is broken, and the people in charge are not acting rationally.

Unfortunately, business has no interest in spending more money on good hiring practices, and governments led by social democratic parties have a vested interest in expanding their pool of dependents, as is found in the unemployed. But these tendencies make things worse overall.

Until now, it appears that governments have attempted to buoy the world economy by ‘quantitative easing,’ which is a new way of saying ‘printing money.’ This is a basic method used in Keynesian economics to avoid the severe deflation in prices that used to normally happen after the collapse of the periodic business cycle.  But if the money only circulates among those who already have it, and if the money just goes after purchasing the goods that already exist, then this extra money will simply turn into inflated prices rather than giving unemployed people new jobs. We see this inflation particularly with food and fuel prices, which unfortunately are basic necessities for both the employed and unemployed. There will be a huge temptation by governments to fund social welfare programs by merely printing money — which is currently not possible in Europe because of the discipline of the Euro common currency — but this would only mean even more money chasing the same small pool of goods, causing severe inflation, and will not significantly increase production. More people will have money, but the money will be worthless, for there will be very little to purchase: this was the case in planned economies in the Communist era; everyone had plenty of cash, but had to waste hours every day standing in line to get whatever goods that happened to be available.

The only thing worse than not having a job is to become a slave to a job while being unable to purchase anything with the wages. We must avoid solutions to our economic woes that will put people to work without allowing them to personally prosper.

Human beings are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and so we have a sacred duty to help our fellow man. But modern philosophies reject this notion and instead see us as replaceable cogs in the machine of society, which get us into problems like we are currently experiencing. As society becomes more secularized, the problems get worse. The modern idea is that man can save humanity by putting together scientifically designed systems of government and business, and this Pelagian idea, the idea that man can save himself, is very popular. But the consequence of the heresy of Pelagianism is that our systems severely punish people who don’t live up to expectations, as we see with our high level of unemployment and our bulging prisons. We see this in a brutal fashion in class conflict, where entire groups of people are persecuted or even wiped out because they aren’t good enough. Mercy is not a modern virtue.

I would suggest that Catholics start acting like Catholics, in both business and government. Seeing people as individuals, and not as data encoded on a resume or as members of some class, would be a good start.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Trinity Sunday

ON TRINITY SUNDAY of 2003, I entered into the Church, at Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church, in Saint Louis, with my first Confession, Confirmation, and Communion. I have a special fondness for that feast day.

Saint Gabriel the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, in Saint Louis (Saint Louis Hills neighborhood), Missouri, USA - view of church and rectory at sunset

Saint Gabriel the Archangel Church.

But alas! Many Catholic humorists call this feast day ‘Heresy Sunday,’ because of the wide variation of explanation of the Most Holy Trinity heard from pulpits. Well, it is a difficult doctrine, hard to even begin to understand, and even the great Saint Patrick, evangelist of Ireland, perhaps got the doctrine wrong with his clover leaf.

Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Church, in Chenoa, Illinois, USA - Saint Patrick.jpg

Saint Patrick, with cloverleaf-shaped symbol of the Trinity, at Saint Joseph Church, in Chenoa, Illinois.

While we sometimes hear odd, even heretical explanations of the Trinity, another view is that the Most Holy Trinity is a mystery. We find a bit of this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997):
237 The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God“. To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
This is true, and the Catechism also draws from many other threads of the Church’s thought over the millennia. This mystery can be likened to navigating through a fog — fog veils our senses, and so if we want to reach our destination, we must trust our roadmap; likewise, if we want to reach our heavenly destination, we must trust revelation even though our interior sense of our intellect is likewise veiled. Because “we see through a glass darkly,” many think that an understanding of heavenly things is unimportant, and that we ought to instead concern ourselves with only worldly things. Rather, I think, this means that the spiritual life can be difficult, because our vision is clouded. We still must urgently try to reach our destination whether or not the fog meets our own personal standards for transparency.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri - baldachino detail.jpg

A symbol of the Trinity is found above the altar at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. This formulation is found in many traditional baptismal fonts.

Nominalism is a philosophy, very sophisticated and very common today, that typically is said to have been invented in about the late middle ages, but which can be traced back to the Fall of Man. Nominalism, in its most extreme form, states that any two objects with the same name share nothing in common with each other except for their name. I have several cats, and a strict nominalist will say that they have nothing in common with each other, and even will reject the notion that they resemble each other in any way, even though they all look like cats to me (and likely to anyone else who sees them). This is almost complete skepticism, for it ultimately rejects both reason and experience. It is easy being a skeptic, and we can say that this philosophy is a roundabout way of justifying lying. Skepticism is not always wrong, but we should not throw the baby of truth out with the untruth of the dirty bathwater.

Nominalism was the philosophy of Luther and of many in the Reformation, this being common in Catholic schools after the devastation of the Black Death, which killed off most of the scholars of the Medieval period. We can see how taking this philosophy to its bitter end is harmful, especially in relationship to the doctrine of the Trinity, but also when it comes to all rational thinking. Most Protestant denominations, even those who preach the Bible alone, do accept the doctrine of the Trinity. But those who trusted the philosophical foundations of the Reformation more than revelation came to the false conclusion that the Trinity is three gods, and rightfully found this repugnant. They rejected revelation and instead turned to unitarianism, leading some eventually into agnosticism or athieism. We find this in Islam, whose adherents sometimes call us ‘polytheists,’ perhaps for similar philosophical reasons.

But traditional Christian philosophy tells us of a great, invisible, underlying unity in ultimate reality, which has its source in a spiritual, nonmaterial reality, which ultimately derives from God, Who is one and undivided yet Triune.  Oddly enough, it was pagan philosophers who wrote down much of this philosophy, although Jewish theologians tell us that this line of thinking also came down to us through orthodox Jewish oral tradition. Some Fathers of the Church, such as Saint Justin Martyr, Saint Augustine, and Saint Ambrose, tell us how this good philosophy helped them understand certain aspects of revelation.

We even find an underlying unity in the material world. While a strict nominalist may say that each cat is an absolutely unique individual having nothing whatsoever to do with each other besides the name ‘cat,’ he may also say that each cat is merely made up of atoms, thinking that this explains everything. But we can prove experimentally (as well as derive from accepted theory) that the elementary particles that make up atoms are indistinguishable in principle: all electrons absolutely share in a single electron nature, and so strict nominalism cannot be true. And what goes for elementary particles must also go for cats and humans, although certainly to a less obvious degree due to complexity.

There is an underlying unity, even found in the material world, which extends upwards to the spiritual realm and towards God, and I think that this mystical unity, although mysterious to us, helps us to better explain the Trinity.

The Anglican writer, Dorothy L. Sayers (1893–1957), wrote an excellent book, The Mind of the Maker (1941), which compares mistakes or conceits in writing fiction to heresies in Trinitarian doctrine.  Going through the Creeds of the Church, Sayers shows how well-known heresies, which deny one or another of the clauses of the Creeds, correspond to specific errors in writing, which produce unsatisfactory results. This method is justified by the goodness of God, Who made us in His Image and Likeness. As Sayers wrote “The Christian affirmation is, however, that the Trinitarian structure which can be shown to exist in the mind of man and in all his works is, in fact, the integral structure of the universe, and corresponds, not by pictorial imagery but by a necessary uniformity of substance, with the nature of God, in Whom all that is exists.” I recommend this book because it is both instructive and entertaining, especially for writers.

Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, in Crystal City, Missouri, USA - painting of trinity.jpg

A symbolic, and non-literal, representation of the Trinity, painted above the sanctuary, at Sacred Heart Church, in Crystal City, Missouri. This nevertheless has archetypal truth, useful to the human imagination. Photo taken in October, 2007.

It’s been said, humorously, that one cannot write about the Trinity without being a material heretic.  I hope I haven’t written too much heresy here! Enjoy your Sunday!