Consider the Spider

Nothing is more weak and powerless than a spider. It has no possessions, makes no journeys overseas, does not engage in litigation, does not grow angry, and amasses no savings. Its life is marked by complete gentleness, self-restraint and ex­treme stillness. It does not meddle in the affairs of others, but minds its own business; calmly and quietly it gets on with its own work. To those who love idleness it says, in effect : ‘If anyone refuses to work, he should have nothing to eat’ (2 Thess. 3 : 1o). The spider is far more silent than Pythagoras, whom the ancient Greeks admired more than any other philosopher because of the control that he exercised over his tongue. Although Pythagoras did not talk with everyone, yet he did speak occasionally in secret with his closest friends; and often he lavished nonsensical remarks on oxen and eagles. He abstained altogether from wine and drank only water. The spider, however, achieves more than Pythagoras: it never utters a single word, and abstains from water as well as from wine. Living in this quiet fashion, humble and weak, never going outside or wandering about according to its fancy, always hard at work – nothing could be more lowly than the spider. Nevertheless the Lord, ‘who dwells on high but sees what is lowly’ (Ps . 1 1 3 : 5-6 . LXX), extends His providence even to the spider, sending it food every day, and causing tiny insects to fall into its web.

St. John of Karpathos

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Integralism Today

Artur Rosman invited me to write something on integralism for Church Life Journal, and so it went up today under the title “What Is Integralism Today?“— a reference to Balthasar’s “Integralismus heute“. Here is a snip:

All political agents, whether they admit it or not, imply some definite conception of the good for man in their action. As Leo Strauss used to tell his students, all political action is concerned with change or preservation. When it is concerned with change it is concerned with change for the better. When it is concerned with preservation it is concerned with preventing change for the worse. But the concepts of better and worse imply a concept of the good. Therefore, all political action is concerned with the good. The Weberian account of separate spheres of social activity, each acting according to its own inherent rationality, conceals more than it reveals of modern social life. There is not and cannot be a neutral “political rationality” that reduces politics to a technique of achieving certain penultimate objectives. For, such penultimate objectives can only become objectives pursued by human beings when they are ordered to an (implicit) ultimate objective. And if the ultimate objective is not the true end of man, the City of God, then it will be a false end, the diabolical city.

Read the rest at Church Life Journal.

Siegenfeld

The parish of Heiligenkreuz includes not only Heiligenkreuz itself, but also the villages of Grub and Siegenfeld. Both Grub and Siegenfeld have little churches, called Filialkirchen, or chapels-of-ease, where Mass is said on Sundays. I’ve just been named rector of the one in Siegenfeld— in addition to my duties as vice-rector of the Leopoldinum. The church of St. Ulrich in Siegenfeld is a lovely little church with a Baroque altar at which mass is— of course— clebrated ad orientem.

On Celebrating Mass

Maria Bustillos, an editor at Popula.com, whom I know through our common interest in David Foster Wallace, asked me to write something on what it is like to celebrate Mass. I did so, and of course writing about what it’s like to celebrate Mass led me to write a bit about what the Mass is, and therefore what the Gospel is, and then (given that it has been on my mind), to some reflections on the latest chapter of the abuse scandal in the Church. Here’s how my article begins:

I come from a very devout Catholic family, and when I was growing up we went to Mass every day—not just on Sundays. When I was very small Mass was just boring. I fidgeted, day-dreamed, tied the ribbons of the hymnals together, teased my sister, and generally made a nuisance of myself. But then, when I was about 13, I started to serve as an altar boy. The priest whom I served was named Don Reto. He was chaplain at the theological college where my parents taught (both of my parents are Catholic theology professors). Don Reto is one of the best people I have ever met. He changed my life. When he celebrated Mass, it was clear that he believed in it with every fiber of his being. He was full of awe and reverence, a holy fear. Watching him I began to see why we call the Mass “the Sacred Mysteries” and “the Holy Sacrifice.” Not that I could have explained what those words meant at the time. But it was clear to me that Don Reto had found something in the Mass to which it was worth devoting his whole life. Continue reading at Popula…

The Feast of the Crown of Thorns

Today is the Feast of the Crown of Thorns in Heiligenkreuz. The Feast commemorates the solemn translation of the Crown of Thorns to Paris under St. Louis IX. St. Louis gave one thorn to the Babenberg Duke  Frederick the Quarrelsome of Austria, who gave it to Heiligenkreuz. Today it is exposed on the altar. There’s a medieval painting of the Sacred Head, crowned with thorns, in a niche our Church that was probably where the reliquary used to be kept. (Now it is kept in the neo-Gothic Sacrament altar).

 

Inward Liberty

By two wings is man lifted above earthly things, even by simplicity and purity. Simplicity ought to be in the intention, purity in the affection. Simplicity reacheth towards God, purity apprehendeth Him and tasteth Him. No good action will be distasteful to thee if thou be free within from inordinate affection. If thou reachest after and seekest, nothing but the will of God and the benefit of thy neighbour, thou wilt entirely enjoy inward liberty. If thine heart were right, then should every creature be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine. There is no creature so small and vile but that it showeth us the goodness of God. (The Imitation of Christ, II,4).