Over at The Lamp I respond to Matthew Walther’s critique of Tolkien. I argue that the key to understanding The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien’s lecture “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.”
I visited the Circus Belloni today. The Ringmaster, Carlos, gave me a little tour. His family has had this circus for seven generations, but now they are in danger of going down on account of the pandemic. They they haven’t been allowed to have any performances. They usually winter at stables in Germany, but the pandemic has now stranded them here in Austria. They have been calling up parishes, asking for donations, so I brought them a small one today.
Cardinal Schönborn ordained five of my confrères to the priesthood, and three to the diaconate, yesterday. One of the neomysts is Pater Thomas, who’s sister is a Dominican nun, and whose uncle is auxiliary bishop of Salzburg.
On the ceiling above the stairs leading to the abbot’s apartments in Heiligenkreuz there is an allegorical representation of the monastery. Stift Heiligenkreuz is represented by a lady in armor with shield and spear. Above the monastery are the three theological virtues: Faith, represented by a lady with the cross and chalice; hope with an anchor; and love, nursing a baby. A ray of light from the faith bounces off Heiligenkreuz’s shield, and drives away the powers of evil: demons, heretics, and deceitful women.
An acquaintance of mine recently received the Benedictine habit at the Stift Nonnberg, the venerable Benedictine nunnery founded by St. Rupert at the beginning of the 8th century in Salzburg. Here’s a video of the vestition ceremony:
There come times in one’s life when one conceives a great desire to read Kierkegaard. There are certain moods that he captured better than any other writer. For example:
I got up one morning in unusually good humour. This positive mood actually expanded as the morning progressed, in a manner I had never before experienced. By one o’clock my mood had climaxed, and I sensed the dizzying heights of complete contentment, a level that appears on no scale designed to measure moods, not even on the poetic thermometer. My body no longer seemed weighed down by gravity. It was as if I had no body, in that every function hummed along perfectly, every nerve rejoiced, the harmony punctuated by each beat of my pulse which served in turn only to remind me of the delightfulness of the moment. I almost floated as I walked, not like the bird that cuts through the air as it leaves the earth, but like the wind over the fields, like the nostalgic rocking of waves, like the dreamy progress of clouds across the sky. My being was transparent as the clear depths of the ocean, as the night’s self-satisfied stillness, as the soft soliloquy of midday. Every mood resonated melodically in my soul. Every thought, from the most foolish to the most profound, offered itself, and offered itself with the same blissful festiveness. Every impression was anticipated before it came, and thus awoke from within me. It was as if all of existence were in love with me. Everything quivered in deep rapport with my being. Everything in me was portentous; all mysteries explained in my microcosmic bliss that transfigured everything, even the unpleasant, the most annoying remark, the most loathsome sight, the most fatal collision.
As I said, it was exactly at one o’clock that my mood reached its peak, where I sensed the heights of perfect contentment. But then suddenly I got something in my eye. I do not know whether it was an eyelash, an insect, or a piece of dust. I know this though, that my mood immediately plummeted almost into the abyss of despair. [Søren Kierkegaard, Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs, trans. M. G. Piety (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) pp. 40-41].
All the classes of society, if they studiously and seriously examine the life, teaching and glorious achievements of St. Benedict, cannot but fall under the influence of his gentle but powerful inspiration; indeed they will spontaneously recognize that even our age troubled and anxious for the vast material and moral ruins, perils and losses that have been heaped up, can borrow from him the needed remedies. But before all, let them remember and consider that the sacred principles of religion and its norms of conduct are the safest and soundest foundations of human society; if they are disregarded and compromised, everything that promotes order, peace and prosperity among men and nations, as an almost necessary consequence, gradually collapses.Fulgens radiatur, §25.