Does the American political tradition at its best consider the good of the republic to be something good in itself, an honest good, or merely a useful good, an instrument to aid citizens in the attainment of their private goods? In a recent discussion of this question a friend of mine proposed looking at American patriotic poetry rather than political treatises. His idea, if I understand him aright, is that while on a theoretical level American political thought has tended to deny the primacy of the common good, the American people have a natural and implicit love for and understanding of the true political good, and this is expressed in their patriotic songs etc. This points to an interesting tension in modern liberal democracies between their theoretical self-understanding and the image of themselves that the must propose to the imagination of their citizens. Continue reading
Usually the first stational altar in the Corpus Christi Procession is in the courtyard of the Hochschule, but this year, on account of construction work there, the firt altar was at the huge mosaic-sundial which is a monument to Vatican II’s teaching on religious liberty. Thus giving a kind of visual representation of Dignitatis Humanae-as-read-with-a-hermeneutic-of-continuity. I confess to finding this slightly amusing. Remember what Trent says about Corpus Christi processions?
The holy Synod declares, moreover, that very piously and religiously was this custom introduced into the Church, that this sublime and venerable sacrament be, with special veneration and solemnity, celebrated, every year, on a certain day, and that a festival; and that it be borne reverently and with honour in processions through the streets, and public places. For it is most just that there be certain appointed holy days, whereon all Christians may, with a special and unusual demonstration, testify that their minds are grateful and thankful to their common Lord and Redeemer for so ineffable and truly divine a benefit, whereby the victory and triumph of His death are represented. And so indeed did it behove victorious truth to celebrate a triumph over falsehood and heresy, that thus her adversaries, at the sight of so much splendour, and in the midst of so great joy of the universal Church, may either pine away weakened and broken; or, touched with shame and confounded, at length repent.
The Council of Trent occasionally takes rhetorical flight, so to speak:
And finally this holy Synod with true fatherly affection admonishes, exhorts, begs, and beseeches, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the Christian name would now at length agree and be of one mind in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord; and that mindful of the so great majesty, and the so exceeding love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave us His own flesh to eat, they would believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with such piety and worship as to be able frequently to receive that supersubstantial bread, and that it may be to them truly the life of the soul, and the perpetual health of their mind; that being invigorated by the strength thereof, they may, after the journeying of this miserable pilgrimage, be able to arrive at their heavenly country, there to eat, without any veil, that same bread of angels which they now eat under the sacred veils. (Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist
(Demum autem paterno affectu admonet sancta Synodus, hortatur, rogat et obsecrat »per viscera misericordiae Dei nostri« [Lc 1,78], ut omnes et singuli, qui christiano nomine censentur, in hoc »unitatis signo«, in hoc »vinculo caritatis«1, in hoc concordiae symbolo iam tandem aliquando conveniant et concordent, memoresque tantae maiestatis et tam eximii amoris Iesu Christi Domini nostri, qui dilectam animam suam in nostrae salutis pretium, et carnem suam nobis dedit ad manducandum [cf. Io 6,48–58], haec sacra mysteria corporis et sanguinis eius ea fidei constantia et firmitate, ea animi devotione, ea pietate et cultu credant et venerentur, ut panem illum supersubstantialem [cf. Mt 6,11] frequenter suscipere possint, et is vere eis sit animae vita et perpetua sanitas mentis, cuius vigore confortati [cf. 3 Rg 19,8] ex huius miserae peregrinationis itinere ad caelestem patriam pervenire valeant, eundem »panem Angelorum« [Ps 77,25], quem modo sub sacris velaminibus edunt, absque ullo velamine manducaturi.)
And he that will be first among you shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a redemption for many. S. Francis Xavier furnished a rare example of this humility of Christ, and recalled it to this age when it had, as it were, gone out of fashion. For when he was appointed by the Pope Apostolic Legate of India, he would have no servant, although the Viceroy of the King of Portugal offered him several, and urged him to accept them; but he ministered to all, both in bodily and spiritual services. He used himself to hear the confessions of the sick, and comfort the sorrowful; he used to administer medicines to the sick, and cleanse their bodies and wash their bandages, and catechise the ignorant and children; and besides he used to attend to and feed the horses of his companions. and when some one said that these things were unworthy of an Apostolic Legate, he answered that there was nothing more worthy than Christian charity and humility which became all things to all men that it may gain all: which Christ through His whole life continually enjoined by word and deed. So that by this conduct he did not lose, but increased his authority. Moreover Christ himself while on earth had not even one servant, but made himself the servant of all. S Chrysostom (Hom. 40, the Epis. to the Cors.) says, “Listen to Paul; these hands, he says, have ministered to my necessities and to them that were with me. That teacher of the world, and man worthy of heaven, scrupled not to serve innumerable mortals; while you think it a disgrace unless you have your herds of servants in your train: not seeing that this is a great disgrace to you. God gave us hands and feet that we might do without servants. What is the use of crowds of servants?” (Cornelius a Lapide on Matthew 20)
Milton’s republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of independence; in petulance impatient of control, and pride disdainful of superiority. He hated monarchs iu the state, and prelates in the church; for he hated all whom he was required to obey. It is to be suspected, that his predominant desire was to destroy rather than establish, and that he felt not so much the love of liberty as repugnance to authority.
It has been observed, that they who most loudly clamour for liberty do not most liberally grant it. What we know of Milton’s character, in domestic relations, is, that he was severe and arbitrary. His family consisted of women; and there appears in his books something like a Turkish contempt of females, as subordinate and inferior beings. That his own daughters might not break the ranks, he suffered them to be depressed by a mean and penurious education.
(Thanks to Thomas Howard for pointing me this text).
A few days ago I was walking along in the main building of the University of Vienna on my way to the library, thinking about something abstract and not paying attention to my surroundings, when suddenly a grey haired, vaguely professorial looking man was walking next to me and saying: “Do you know: they used to tell children not to whistle?” I looked at him blankly. “Do you know where that comes from? It’s because they weren’t allowed to whistle in Church.” I was at a loss as to what to say. He regarded me for an instant in silence and then said: “How repressive! Telling children not to whistle! … I experienced this myself!” And then, shaking his head, “I don’t know if you are on the right path, young man, I don’t know.”
I thought to myself: “Seriously? We’re standing in the University of Vienna where year after year clever professors lecture large audiences on how the Church served to dupe the people, keeping them docile to the ruling class, comforting them with lies and illusions, turning the aggression caused by their oppression away from the oppressors and toward themselves (penance) or toward heretics and Jews; or how She violently repressed the deepest human drives, laying on our culture a staggering burden of guilt, causing all kinds of psychosis, neurosis and so on; or how even now She is a nest of unspeakable hypocrisy and exploitation or whatever… And yet when you see a priest you feel compelled to go up to him and complain about… kids being forbidden to whistle? Seriously?”
Afterwards I came up with three theories about what might have been going on:
1) He had been whistling when he saw me and involuntarily stopped, causing a chain of thought that ended in his bizarre speech. (I didn’t hear him whistling, but then I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on).
2) He meant it as a kind of masterpiece of understatement. As in the young Žižek writing in one party Yugoslavia: “Latest election polls: it looks like the Communists will win yet again!” This would fit with the ironical and understated character of Viennese people generally, and Viennese anti-clericals in particular.
3) (The least satisfying, but most plausible theory). There is no intelligible explanation. It was an act of random irrationality; the social equivalent of a Lucretian swerve.
Francis Bacon, the 16th century philosopher not the 20th century painter of grotesques, coined the phrase 'idols of the tribe' to mean characteristic ways in which the human mind goes wrong. Perhaps one such error is the tendency to treat a thing which is only known indirectly, via something else, as if it were better known than the thing we experience directly.
~ Addendum: "Too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery, both for private man and city." Republic VIII, 564a.
The recent CL Encounter in NY, NY was the stage for a panel discussion of this promising-looking short book Elementary Experience and Law. Professor Hanby in particular makes remarks which resonate with my recent musings on the paradox of personal judgment (i.e.
The words “Do not be satisfied with mediocrity!” have been much in my mind of late, and I thought of them again as a read a brilliant thesis on Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited by Elizabeth Quackenbush, a senior at Thomas Aquinas College this year. I suppose I must have been about 14 when I first read Brideshead, and I was completely dazzled. As Thomas Howard once wrote, Continue reading
One of the best parishes in Austria is St Rochus, the parish of the Vienna Oratory. In a time when many in Austria are trying to find “new” pastoral strategies, the Oratorians do basically what the Redemptorists did in the 19th century under St Clemens Maria Hofbauer, “Apostle of Vienna,” but with something of the mischievous humor of the Oratory’s founder, St Philip Neri. They have glorious liturgy; simple and down to earth preaching and catechesis; perpetual eucharistic adoration; confessionals in which the lights burn most of the day; very effective, unpretentious programs for children, youth, and young mothers, and for the disabled, the poor of Vienna’s third district etc. And their Church is full, they have lots of families with young children, lots of altar servers, and so on. And there have been a good number of vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood from their parish in recent years.
The latest Pfarrkind of St Rochus to be ordained to the priesthood is my confrère Pater Johannes Paul. On Sunday he celebrated a homecoming Mass there with all the solemnity with which the Primizmesse is traditionally attended here in Austria. He celebrated Mass in the Ordinary Use of the Roman Rite, in Latin save for the readings and intercessions, and (as is usual in St Rochus) ad orientem. He wore a neo-baroque chasuble, sewn for him by the Cistercian nuns of Marienfeld. Here are some photos (all copyright cross-press.net except for the one of the sermon, which is from St Rochus’s facebook page).