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.
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).
Sermon of Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn at the Chrism Mass
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Monday of Holy Week 2012. Translated by Sancrucensis.
[Introductory note: the following sermon is only intelligible in the light of a recent decision of the Cardinal’s to allow a man living in sin with another man to serve on a parish council in Stützenhofen, which has caused great consternation. I admire Cardinal Schönborn greatly. He is a wonderful teacher of the Faith and a pastor filled with zeal for souls, who has done much good for the Church in Austria, and indeed the whole world. But sometimes he does things that simply make no sense at all. In the following sermon, preached at the Chrism Mass on Monday, he tried to address the concerns of many priests about the Stützenhofen decision. I shall post some reflections on the sermon after Easter. For now I shall only say that I think the sermon makes many good points, but that the part that tries to explain the Stützenhofen decision doesn’t make sense. I have translated from the prepared text, which differs slightly from the sermon as recorded in the video embedded above.]
Dear Brothers in the Priestly Ministry,
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Continue reading
Sancrucensis is not the sort of blog that gets upset about a bit of fun at Carnival time, but we must say that the bad taste of W.A. Mozart’s latest effort upsets us– even if it is Fat Tuesday. Here is the young composer conducting his latest “hit”:
Now, Mr. Mozart entitles his piece “A Musical Joke”. News flash to Mr. Mozart: Continue reading
I have begun a translation of Friedrich’s Wessely’s pamphlet on Confession which I shall be using for a retreat that I am to give soon. Wessely’s pamphlet was given to me by my own confessor, and I have found it helpful indeed. I shall be posting each chapter separately as well as adding them to a static page.
The Rev. Friedrich Wessely (1901-1970) was a priest of the Archdiocese of Vienna and professor for Spirituality at the University of Vienna. He brought the Legion of Mary to Austria and was and inspired the founding of the Vienna Oratory.
Wessely begins his pamphlet on Confession by noting that while many are convinced of the efficacy of this Sacrament in leading us toward holiness, nevertheless their actual experience of frequent Confession is that they seem to make little or no progress; at each Confession they confess the same sins, and they cannot see that their last Confession has made them any holier. Continue reading
I think that the carnival is an irrational institution, and that St Philip Neri was entirely right to try to abolish it. The irrationality is mostly limited to February, but in German-speaking parts it “officially” begins on the 11th of November. This is because of the confusion of the “little” pre-Advent carnival with the “big” pre-Lent carnival to form one giant “carnival Season”. Various rationalizations have been attempted for the carnival. What interests me about them is that they fall into basically two types, which correspond to the two accounts of the nature of jokes that I referred to in my last post as the Prussian and the Austrian view. Continue reading
Surely Advent of all seasons is the time when one ought especially to remember St Benedict’s warning against “speech provoking to laughter,” (Regula Benedicti, VI) and yet seldom have I heard such uproarious laughter in the monastery as at chapter the other day. We were discussing the fact that during the recitation of the rosary some people omit the “Amen” after the Our Fathers. Now, in German the last petition of the Our Father runs “erlöse uns von dem Bösen. Amen”. (deliver us from evil. Amen.) One of my confreres (the venerable old man pictured above) recounted that as a child he always heard it (an therefore prayed it) as, ”erlöse uns von den bösen Damen”. (Deliver us from the evil ladies).
Why is it that on hearing really good jokes one immediately wants to tell them to others? Continue reading
I was struck the following passage from Cassiodorus on Psalm 94:
‘Come, let us adore and fall down before him: let us weep before the Lord that made us.’ At the beginning of the psalm he invites the people to show jubilation; now he urges them to seek the safety of repentance—and rightly, because earlier the people he invited to exult were novices, and he did not seek to impose on them a possible source of fear when they were still apprehensive. But after the glory and power of the Lord has been recounted, he appropriately imposed tearful confession, for the spirit when instructed could not reject that most wholesome medicine.
There is an apparent paradox here. We know that fear is the beginning of wisdom. How can Cassiodorus say that the Psalmist did not seek to impose a source of fear on the people while they were beginners? But Cassiodorus’s point fits exactly with my catechetical experience.
Yesterday I was in Vienna for the funeral of His Imperial and Royal Highness, Archduke Otto of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary etc., eldest son and rightful heir of Bl. Charles of Austria, the last Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary.
One of the the most striking things about the solemn and elaborate ceremony was how joyful it was. From whence came that joy? What could be more calculated to plunge us once again into all the piled-up sadness of the 20th century – that most ruinous of all periods in the history of Central Europe – than the funeral of the head of the House of Austria who lived through practically all of it? Otto von Habsburg was still a child when the the World War shattered the “clay pot” of Austria-Hungary into dozens of unstable fragments, but he was then quite an active behind-the-scenes player in the following decades which saw the Anschluss, the Second World War, the establishment of Marxist dictatorships in almost all of the former crown lands, and the astonishing spiritual and moral decline of the West. Continue reading
My confrere Pater Johannes Paul and I went to Rome with a group of pilgrims for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. It was tremendously moving and all that sort of thing, but the trip was also kind of exhausting and so I actually fell asleep during the sermon at the Beatification Mass. Reading the sermon when I got back, I was struck by the following passage, in which Pope Benedict gives a remarkably pithy summary of the center of his predecessor’s teaching: Continue reading