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The Church has always been a Children’s Crusade

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Thomas Cooper Gotch, “Lantern Parade”

I have read or heard bishops or priests say in the last few years that the laity need to speak up  in regard to the various troubles and scandals of the Church. So this post will include some suggestions, which I acknowledge are probably ill-informed or naïve.

I was thinking about the Children’s Crusade in connection with this post. The Children’s Crusade was an early 12th century popular movement that became embellished in subsequent retellings. In legend, a large group of young people from western and central Europe marched down to the Mediterranean Sea inspired by private revelation. They expected the Sea to part, and they would then go to the Holy Land to preach to the Muslim peoples. No miracle occurred, and most of the children either died due to various misadventures or were sold into slavery. Historians think the actual events were less dramatic. Rather, it was a spontaneous movement of poor people and young adults inspired by the religious and political climate of the day that roamed the French and German countryside for a few years, and then faded away.

While whatever the Children’s Crusade  really was was probably a misguided, unnecessary event, I think it helpful to imagine the temporal history of the Church as a child’s mission. It is something pure, perhaps reckless in its trust and reliance on God’s grace.  Faithful and loyal to its own short-term disadvantage. Not so concerned with power or control or organizations. Very transparent and open too.

So here are some probably childish questions or suggestions I have been thinking about:

1. Close down all the institutes of consecrated life, lay apostolates or other Catholic ministries whose founders were later convicted of, plead guilty to, or otherwise widely accepted to have committed sexual or other serious crimes

I would recommend starting with Life Teen, the Legion of Christ, and the Institute of the Incarnate Word.  Their respective founds or co-founders are Dale Fushek, Marcial Maciel, and Carlos Buela. You can read about what they did at the links above.

I was a bit unnerved when I read an article about a vocation discernment day in my diocese that involved the presence of the Servatores, the female branch of Buela’s organization.  If you go to their various websites there is no acknowledgment of the sanctions against Carlos Buela. See here and here. They still offer his books for sale, etc.  And I just came across this website today that points out connections between McCarrick and Buela.

I wonder if these groups were all started by their founders as elaborate grooming operations?

I accept that the vast majority of people who belong to or participate in these orders and apostolates have done so with good and holy intentions. Many conversions and vocations have come from them. God can draw straight with crooked lines, or bring good things out of bad.

But I don’t believe these bodies can shake the taint of their founders.   There are other worthy orders, apostolates, etc. that these people can transfer to. Buela’s group can dissolve and reconstitute itself with a new leadership, rule of life, habit, etc. that carries on an effective mission in service to the Church without his shadow hanging over it.  The good memories, traditions and histories of these groups, however important they are to their well-intentioned members, are really not that important.  What matters is Christ.

 

2. Can we make “the Vatican” a hardship post?

In reading articles about the McCarrick scandal I came across persuasive accounts of McCarrick holding out a Vatican assignment to young person as a plum, or suggesting that the Vatican was an environment people of his ilk do well in.

Is Rome too comfortable and a place to lead the Church from? Is a Vatican assignment so desired that it becomes an incentive to compromise, to “look the other way”, to “go along to get along”?

Rome will and should always be a place of pilgrimage for the churches, the relics and museums.  But lets move the papal household, the bureaucracy, the “Curia”, etc. somewhere challenging, perhaps poor and a dangerous. At least for the better part of the year. They can come back for Lent and Advent, maybe.

How about somewhere in Asia or Africa that has a young and growing Church?  Let’s really put our money where our mouths are and go to the margins.  People might die, I know.  But I think we will get a different type of person to serve the Church in these roles.

 

3. Disband the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (and rebuild it I guess…)

My understanding is that the nations have to have episcopal conferences composed of their bishops. But lets start over.  Has the USCCB done a good job the last 50 years? Does the collective nature of this organization inhibit or discourage real leadership? Does it just encourage a convergence to mediocrity and the lowest common denominator?

Watching the proceedings on TV reminds me of work conferences I have attended in hotel ballrooms in big cities over the years. It shouldn’t.

Reconstitute it in a more Catholic and demographically diverse city.  D.C. is not representative. A more affordable, family friendly city. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee?  Maybe they can have their regular meetings in a cathedral instead of a hotel ballroom. And perhaps have the Lord in the Monstrance on the Altar when they discuss and vote on things, if that’s permitted and not disrespectful to the Lord.

No federal contracts either.

4. Can we have transparent and local bishop selection?  I always liked the stories of how St. Athanasius became bishop:

Frances A. M. Forbes writes that when the Patriarch Alexander was on his death-bed he called Athanasius, who fled fearing he would be constrained to be made Bishop. “When the Bishops of the Church assembled to elect their new Patriarch, the whole Catholic population surrounded the church, holding up their hands to Heaven and crying; “Give us Athanasius!” The Bishops had nothing better. Athanasius was thus elected, as Gregory tells us…” (Pope Gregory I, would have full access to the Vatican Archives).

T. Gilmartin, (Professor of History, Maynooth, 1890), writes in Church History, Vol. 1, Ch XVII: “On the death of Alexander, five months after the termination of the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius was unanimously elected to fill the vacant see. He was most unwilling to accept the dignity, for he clearly foresaw the difficulties in which it would involve him. The clergy and people were determined to have him as their bishop, Patriarch of Alexandria, and refused to accept any excuses. He at length consented to accept a responsibility that he sought in vain to escape, and was consecrated in 326, when he was about thirty years of age.”

From his Wikipedia entry.

So post the banns of marriage between the shepherd and his flock. Let the faithful weigh in with written comments.  Have a public input session.  Break up whatever patronage or networking systems that might exist.  Let Rome serve as a court of appeal if us local yokels screw up the choice. But Rome doesn’t get to pick all the bishops through a secret process.  That’s how we got McCarrick and some other bad bishops. No Pope and his advisors are wise enough or well-informed enough to make good choices all the time.

I have just started to read a new book by a scholar and deacon who I am sure has much better reasoned and meaningful ideas than me. Its called “Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power.” Its by Adam DeVille, and I hope to review it in a future post.

 

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Thomas Cooper Gotch, “The Sandbar”

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Carmelites on Film

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If you are interested in the Carmelite charism there are two short films currently available for free viewing for subscribers to Amazon Prime.

The first is a documentary about the Carmelites of the Divine Heart of Jesus, and follows a short period in the lives of several of them at a convent in the Midwestern U.S.  It was made in 2001 by director Diane Frank, and is titled “Convent.”

The documentary focuses on a postulant and a novice as they decide whether the life is for them, and features segments of multiple interviews with about a half a dozen of the nuns. The two main subjects are very natural, open and likable. You never hear Ms. Frank ask any questions, as she is unobtrusive and lets the Carmelites speak for themselves.

These Carmelites are affiliated with the Discalced Carmelites, but have a slightly different charism/observance. They are not purely contemplative, and while cloistered, run some schools, elder care facilities and other centers in the U.S. and Europe.

It is a very fair and transparent portrait of their life in my opinion. I think it would be particularly valuable viewing for any young woman considering a vocation to religious life, whether it be with a Carmelite community or another cloistered order.

“Convent” Trailer

“Convent” at Amazon Prime

The other film is a theatrical adaptation of St. Therese of Lisieux’s “A Story of a Soul,” and goes by that name. It is performed by a single actress playing multiple roles and apparently was filmed in a room at the Lisieux Carmel where St. Therese lived and died.  The actress addresses the audience directly and acts out various scenes from St. Therese’s life, or things recorded in her own words or conversations others took down. It is in French with English subtitles, and directed by Michel Pascal. Strangely, Amazon lists the rating as “R”, but there is nothing R rated about it. An unfortunate typo I guess.

I am not a student of the theatre, and I have to admit my mind wandered at times. But I liked the performance and the actress bears a passing resemblance to the saint. I think it captured the spirit of Carmelite life and was a good representation of St. Therese’s writings.

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Story of a Soul at Amazon Prime

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Two Prayers Of Gratitude

I remember to say these almost every day, so they must not be too bad. Inspired by Gabrielle Bossis and the Blessed Solanus Casey.

 

Morning

My dear Jesus,

Thank you for this day.

Help me obey your will,

Hear the Spirit,

And see the Father through you.

Amen.

Night

Oh Lord,

I thank you in advance for

whatever happens tomorrow,

knowing that it is in accord with your will

or permitted by your will.

Help me to abandon myself

to your divine providence and

worry about neither the past

nor the future.

Amen.

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Win Bigly: A Spiritual Autobiography

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This post is about Scott Adams’ recent book on the art of persuasion, titled Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. Warning: longish.

I.

This was an impulse borrow from my local library, and I checked it out without any preconceived notions or a plan to review it. I was intrigued by Adams because he was one of the few public figures who made a very early prediction that Donald Trump would become president, and maintained this posture through the end of the election (at great risk to his career and public image). However, this post is not about the President or the election, or much about  the art of persuasion, but rather the spiritual or metaphysical issues Adams touches on, intentional or not.

I will preface this by saying that I am a sinner and mediocre Christian, and it is very difficult to truly know what is going on inside another person, particularly in their spiritual life. However, I found Adams to be admirably open and transparent in writing this book. Without his confessions this type of review would not be possible.  For purposes of this review, I am going to assume everything he says is true, and see where that leads us.

Adams lets us know that the book is about more than the art of persuasion on the very first page:

I’m a trained hypnotist.  And I’m going to tell you about the spookiest year of my life. It happened between June 2015 and November 2016. Okay, that’s a little more than a year.

Everything you are about to read in this book is true, as far as I know. I don’t expect you to believe all of it. (Who could?). But I promise it is true, to the best of my knowledge.

(emphasis added)

Adams starts with the topic of “filters”, or the way a person interacts with the world. He  repeatedly states that “A good filter is one that makes you happy and helps predict the future.”  He identifies the filters he has tried so far in his life. He describes how he used the “Church filter” from the age of six to eleven. He was a practicing Methodist and attended Sunday school every week. However, he found that stories such as Jonah and the Whale strained his credulity to such an extent that he stopped believing and going to church.

He then transparently discusses the other filters he tried and discarded, including the “Alien Experiment” filter (e.g. that humanity is an experiment or computer simulation run by aliens), the “Atheist filter” and the “drug filter.” I find it interesting that there are a number of  very intelligent, successful people who subscribe to the computer simulation theory. Each of these proved unsatisfactory.  He finally arrived at the “moist robot” filter.

In the moist robot filter, human beings do not truly have free will or a soul. The brain is a machine that can be trained to develop useful habits, improve happiness, and predict the future (e.g. If I do A then B will result). The “persuasion filter”, the intended subject of the book, is a subset of the moist robot method. Adams argues that most of our decisions or opinions are not based on reason, but on emotional reaction to a stimulus. Persuasion is a tool to get others to do what you want that does not rely on evidence or reason. If you can identify a “Master Persuader” like Trump, you can get an edge on others in predicting what may happen next.

II.

The second part of the book goes on to discuss errors in reasoning, such as confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance, which is a symptom of holding contradictory beliefs. He provides multiple examples of these from the election and other historic events.

In the third part, he breaks down what persuasion actually is, its elements, and how Trump and Clinton used it, to greater and lesser effectiveness, respectively. In the fourth part, he provides advice on how to use persuasion in business and politics.

Much of this is of little value to a Christian in carrying out the work of evangelization or simply providing a good witness through acts of faith, hope or love. I think Adams does make a good point about the futility of directly attacking others’ belief systems. I am very doubtful of the ability to argue someone out of their beliefs, particularly if it is atheism or agnosticism. Apologetics has a valued place, and we should tell the Truth if asked, but the Lord and the Holy Spirit are what changes minds. Like the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God always makes the larger move.

III.

Part five is the most interesting, and probably the most unbelievable for many readers. However, as I said, I am going to accept everything he says as true to arrive at the question I asked myself after I finished the book.

He begins by condemning tribalism, which results in people making decisions based on group loyalty as opposed to the truth, or evidence.   Tribalism can be political party membership, but it can be excessive attachment to ethnicity, gender, cultural traditions, etc.. I think the best identity is to see yourself and everyone else as part of the Body of Christ (whether they have been baptized or not).

The last pages are the most interesting: Adams gets to the “spooky parts” and meets a ghost in the machine of his moist robot mind.

Adams talks about his dreams or how he imagined the events of the election taking shape.  Regardless of the scenarios, he had an unshakeable hunch that Trump would win. He shares his past experiences of having “visions” that came true. He claims to have had one at age 6 that he would grow up to become a famous cartoonist. He had others that he would later move to San Francisco, and also that he would become a well paid public speaker. All happened. He describes the visions as being different than a memory or an exercise in imagination. He claims to have had about a dozen of these spontaneous visions that came true.

He goes on to wonder whether his prediction even contributed to the Trump victory. The idea of our world being a simulation comes up again, and he includes an entire appendix on the topic.

This little bit that follows is for anyone reading this who is an agnostic or atheist, but is intrigued by the idea that our world is simulation. In a way, the idea that your life is a simulation is not contrary to the Gospel. What follows is an extended excerpt from a book about St. Therese by Von Balthasar:

The Christian needs to be “crucified to the world” (Gal 6:14) with the Lord, to undergo death and be buried with him (Col 3:3; 2:12), and then be sent back to the world as the leaven in the mass.

If he is to fulfill these demands and realize the mystery of his station, he needs also a veil of protection. United with Christ’s death and burial, the Christian now shares in his Resurrection, is even enthroned with him above the heavens (Eph 2:6; Col 2:12, 3:1);

In truth he lives in heaven and is a stranger here below. But so as to be able to bear this heavenly life without dying, without losing his earthly mission in the abyss of God’s mystery, his own life has, so to speak, to be withdrawn from him until his earthly mission is complete: “You have undergone death, and your life is hidden away now with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). *

Through baptism we receive a share in Christ’s death. Your real life, life to the fullest, awaits you in Heaven (John 10:10). The existence below is the “shadowlands”, which was the title of the last chapter in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. Thinking this way also helps makes sense of Christ’s proclamations such as “Not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18), or “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you” (Luke 10:18-20). Terrible things happen to people every day, but your true life is preserved in Heaven.  Your life in Heaven must be hidden for now, for a single full glance would kill you. Maybe you get to take a peek in your dreams, and your true self gives you glimpses of the future.

IV.

I am not providing a recommendation on whether to read or buy the book, and I do not have an opinion to share on his analysis of the election or the art of persuasion.

My main interest, as should be clear by now, is the mystical element. Are the spooky parts (e.g. the visions) true? I do not know. We have a baptized Christian that is not only not practicing their faith, but has apparently rejected it. Can the gifts of the Holy Spirit (of which prophecy is one) be operative in such an individual? We might think no, that faith and the gifts are a package deal. But this would negate the divine freedom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to bestow their favors where they like. For example, we have the figure of Balaam from the Book of Numbers, a non-Jew who God used to prophesy to the Israelites.

So how shall we categorize Scott Adams then: Cartoonist, businessman … and prophet? He stuck to his guns on his Trump prediction despite all evidence that it would not come true. He acknowledges that there were some others who made similar ones, but in my view they were very late to the game, or lesser known figures with nothing to lose. Maybe his dreams are God’s way of trying to shake his self-reliance and open him to other possibilities?  A man with his talents could do a lot in service to the Lord.

I will continue to watch what Mr. Adams says (and pray for him), for as we often say, the Lord works in mysterious ways.   Discernment is important. Balaam, despite his initial obedience to God,  later preached wickedness and met a bad end.

*Two Sisters in the Spirit, Therese of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity, Hans Urs Von Balthasar (Ignatius Press, 1992)

 

 

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Song of Sorrow: A new hymn for Holy Week

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Ecce Homo by Mateo Cerezo

 

This post is especially for those who may be involved with music or divine worship at their church.

A few weeks ago, I heard a new hymn sung during the offertory at the Palm Sunday mass I attended. I am not sure I got chills, but it was close.  As I was listening to the organ I could tell that the arrangement was based on the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.  I tracked down the director of our music program and he told me the hymn was called “Song of Sorrow.”

I learned that it was composed by the American Patrick Liebergen, and apparently published in 2011. The sheet music can be obtained at:

https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/song-of-sorrow-sheet-music/19701678

It can be described as a dirge, and our director said its only appropriate for use during Holy Week, which I would agree with.  I found a few videos on Youtube I thought I would share.

I am not a musician or artist but, in all vanity, I think I have very good aesthetic judgment.  I think this is a great hymn to be added for Holy Week services, probably either for a Palm Sunday or Good Friday service.

The first clip is from a church that has a fairly large choir. I completely agree with all the comments of the music director, particularly when he described it as “unique” in some ways.

 

The second clip is from a church with a smaller choir. I am including it to show that I think the hymn can be effective whether you have a big or large church.

 

I do think it works better with male and female voices singing different parts, as suggested by the gentleman in the first clip.

I have never posted before on music, but I did for this one. Why? I believe that Beauty is an important element of our worship and adoration. Beauty is one of the three Transcendentals, and points to the other two: Truth and Goodness. I tried to express this in a poem I wrote a while back.

There is evidence, and even data, that beauty, particularly beautiful churches, attract people to explore the faith. If you are in a diocese or other region where your church is considering consolidating churches, maybe you need to think hard about keeping the more beautiful ones.

“Song of Sorrow” is unusual in that I think the lyrics and the power of Beethoven brings home the pathos of the Passion, which is sometimes overlooked in our Joy about the Resurrection.

In the above clips the choir is accompanied by piano. I think it works better with an organ (which is how I heard it at mass).

 

The lyrics, as best I can tell, are as follows:

 

Oh Lord of Sorrow, Jesus Have Mercy,

Holy and Mighty, I pray to thee.

 

(Refrain)

Lord of Creation, Bring Your Salvation,

Oh Lord of Sorrow, You died for Me.

Lord of Creation, Bring Your Salvation,

Oh Lord of Sorrow, You died for Me.

 

Oh Lord at Calvary,

Have mercy hear my plea,

My Savior set me free,

Hear my humble plea.

 

They crowned your head with thorns,

And mocked your name with scorn

(Nailed on the cross …)?

Hear my plea and set me free.

 

Refrain, etc.

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Troll Bridge

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Illustration By John Bauer (Public Domain)

I am the troll of icy fells,
My hole beneath the bells.
What bells disturb my nest?
You ask and seem to jest.
Yet I trow I know your quest,
So I will tell of hellish test
I failed and fell to frozen rest.

I tried to cross that bridge,
A ridge wrapped in mist.
No easy path, I tripped and roared
In wrath and plunged to
Fires cold, not soared
To spires above the blue,
Shores of heaven hue.
But alas, would this tale were true.

The final wall that we
Would scale at last,
I climbed but was too fast
And slipped and missed my grasp,
Slid down to under pass.
A river pouring fast
Lashed and beached me
On this bank at last,
To scrape rank hole,
And roll and roll amid my
Pile of gold, pale and cold.

And now I smell the putrid air
Of self-regard that taints my lair.
Shallow pride I would ascribe
To callow member of your tribe.
Trust much in vestus virum facit?
There is no treasure in your pocket.

Do you think your ore so rare,
A priceless earth without compare?
Mere slag and dross I see,
Not free of flaw, no loss if lost
Among these crags and hoar.

So go from this stronghold
And take your precious quest
Away from here. No bells
Will tell me what to fear.
As if a brass hourglass
Were creeping near, to ware
Me of some ending year,
When shadows no more linger
And even ice despairs.

And would that cold could crack
Those bells. No chimes will
Drive me from these fells,
Or twist my will by spells.
Nor would dread foe come near,
For I hold this hoard so dear,
And yet these words I hear …
I whisper, lean here.

See, I would not pay the toll,
This gold we clutch so bold.
Merits of old we hold as if
To seize a feast we long
To eat, us least who chose
To fast from love, not soar
By trust above, light as sands
That slide from empty hands.

One must let go to pay the toll,
And see fool’s gold slip below,
Down to darken cold so vast,
No concern for first or last.
An old troll swallows whole
The truth that wealth won’t ask:
Two open palms grip the grasp.

Those reaching hands you seek
Wait there the poor and meek.
So go. Leave tarnished gold,
Dull and cold, in this bowl
For sinner low and weak.

No fear? Stand there, before that door,
A bloody badge the bridge of gold
To kingdom last, where bells adore
That master of the silver shore
Who calls to severed souls: Amor

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For a Child Receiving Their First Communion This Weekend

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Louis Janmot, Première Communion (public domain)

 

Now the time for First Communion,

Join in Eucharistic union.

Bow down low before you greet him,

Then say Amen when you eat him.

On the tongue or on the throne,

In your heart he makes his home.

When you kneel down in your pew,

Thank the one who died for you.

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The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer

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Father Louis Bouyer

This is a review of The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer: From Youth to Conversion to Vatican II, the Liturgical Reform, and After.  Father Bouyer was a French Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism in 1939, and then became respected priest and scholar who served as an advisor to the Second Vatican Council. He prepared these memoirs during his retirement in the 1990s, and died in 2004.   They were not published until 2014.

I have read the ebook version. The work is meticulously endnoted, with hypertext links that allow one to jump back and forth from notes and text with ease.

This book will be most enjoyed by those already familiar with his body of work, who are familiar with the history of Vatican II, and have an interest in the history and reform of Catholic liturgy. I do not fall into any of those categories, but I will share my thoughts for those who may be interested in reading it.

About half of Father Bouyer’s non-fiction bibliography is available in English, though you might have to buy used copies.  He also wrote four novels under pseudonyms. Those books have never been translated into English, and may even be out of print. He developed friendships with a number of other writers, including J.R.R. Tolkien.

Father Bouyer reminds me of another Catholic priest, writer and scholar:  Father Andrew Greeley. Both were scholars who wrote novels, though Greeley much more so. Bouyer’s career was more consumed by teaching duties than Greeley’s was.  Both men seemed to have a lot of energy, were inquisitive, and had a certain cheerfulness (at least in their writing), and had a tendency to speak their minds and thus get into scrapes with their peers in the Church.

The most charming part of the book is the first few chapters, regarding his family, youth and early crushes.  He had a great eye for detail and characterization. and I would have liked to read one of his novels. His mother died when he was 11.

The weakest part (though not bad) of the book is the middle part, covering his career during the 1940s and 1950s. Its a whirlwind of all the characters he knew and met, and the various places he worked and studied. Friends and historians will probably find this more useful.

The last part involves his role at Vatican II, and for a period of time in implementing it. Its good basis for a belief that the fewer the big conferences there are in Rome, probably the better.  He also covers some friendships and favorite places.

Two friends he singled out are a testimony to his generosity of spirit. One was Julian Green, an American, Catholic convert. He was a diarist, novelist and translator who lived most of his life in France. He also struggled with a homosexual orientation, and Bouyer seems to have been a good friend and confidante.  The other was an English writer, Elizabeth Boudge. Though she was not a Catholic, they struck up a deep and persistent correspondence that lasted many years.

Now, the themes:

The Mediocrity of the Church’s Institutions and its Leaders

It is suggested in the introduction that the long delay between the writing of the memoirs and their publication was deliberate, to perhaps protect Father Bouyer in his retirement, and to spare many of the targets of his criticism while they were still alive or holding high positions.

It is difficult, as with Greeley’s memoirs, to read about priests criticizing others under Holy Orders. However, Paul rebuked Peter once, so as long as it is done in Charity, it must be done when there is error or failure.  The Church, in its institutions and members, comes across in these memoirs as a sprawling university system. We meet “tenured” priests (e.g. isn’t Holy Orders the ultimate tenure?) who loaf and don’t do much work, administrators who have been promoted beyond their competence, or aging leaders who should have been retired and can’t keep up anymore. There is envy for other’s accomplishments, an unwillingness to consider new ideas, hiring decisions based on personal favoritism over merit, etc.

Bouyer sometimes names names, sometimes he doesn’t. He is not nasty about it, he offers his assessment, and moves on. I am reminded of an anecdote from Father Benedict Groeschel, where he relates a conversation he had with Mother Teresa. She asked him why God chose him to be a priest, and he replied with a joke. She answered “You were called by the humility of God.” He chooses very frail instruments to work with, so we should not be surprised when they fail.  Fortunately, we have great servants like Groeschel, Greeley or Bouyer to make up for the masses of mediocre Catholics (myself included among them).

Pre-Vatican II Church Dynamics

These memoirs confirm what I have read elsewhere about the pre-Vatican II dynamic.  The controversy and confusion that followed Vatican II didn’t just fall from the sky. It had been building for a few decades among silently warring camps.

On the one hand, we had the confident, established Church. It was orthodox and resistant to any change, perhaps more out of fear of modernity than willful close-mindedness.  And on the other hand, there was a large camp that fully subscribed to the modernist project, and wanted to conform the Church to the world.

In the middle it seems, were perhaps the smallest, least powerful group. Some reformers who wanted moderate change to the liturgy, Church organization, teaching methods, etc. This includes men like the future Pope Benedict, Bouyer, Henri De Lubac, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar.   They thought they had some good ideas for how the Church could respond to the problems of modernity

These reformers were criticized as dangerous radicals before Vatican II, and then criticized as out-of-touch conservatives in the decades after Vatican II. In fact, they never changed their position on anything.

What happened is that there was a rupture, and the modernist camp largely won, and imposed a lot of change very quickly. One of the stranger things I learned reading this was that during the Vatican II conferences there was a strong consensus at one point to abolish Ash Wednesday. It would have been moved to the first Sunday of Lent.  It narrowly survived. And it is one of the few times a lot of Catholics see the inside of a Church other than on weekends.  Many will skip Holy Days of obligation, but will go to Ash Wednesday services. This is an example of the kind of mentality that was at work at Vatican II.

One of the villains in this drama was Annibale Bugnini (may he rest in peace). He was a Catholic priest and important administrator given a position of great authority at Vatican II, and a staunch modernist.  When he ran into obstacles, he would pull out his trump card, “The Pope Wills It!” Bouyer and others later found out he was making it all up, the Pope did not will it. He was later punished by being named the Vatican’s delegate to Iran, where he finished his career.

Bridges between Catholics and Protestants

Though a convert, Bouyer retained his strong belief that Protestants had often outdone Catholics in both their study of scripture and their emphasis on a personal relationship with the Lord. I tend to agree, though I think the Church has made great strides in recent decades, particularly with emphasis on new devotional practices (e.g. the Divine Mercy), and Pope Benedict XVI’s great example in his series on the Gospels.  Bouyer felt these two areas should be ones the Church should focus on in its pursuit, perhaps vain, of reconciliation with our Anglican and Lutheran brethren (which were the focus of his ecumenism).

Based on my reading of his memoirs, I do have an interest in trying at least one of his books.  I am more focused on poetry now, so it may be a while before I read one. I will post a review if I do.

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An Ode for the Rhapsode

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The Muse, Gabriel De Cool

Here bloomed a rare poet
I groomed for no deceit.
I would play him like a cello
And sway him to singing
Of the rage of Achilles
While there calmly sitting
With unfair, wily Socrates
Ensnared under the olive trees
Already lost in some debate.

You tried to put him to the test,
This child my mind had blessed.
He waited patient on your con
And played along without protest.
The method led to trouble later on,
But you were gentle with my friend Ion.

Yes, I am the guilty one.
He was my pretty Grecian urn
Down which I’d pour fine wine.
And I would let poor Ion burn
Then turn his song to Helen,
To yearn for form fair and pure
As the towers of topless Ilium.

For a poet is a winged being
That flies in proper season.
The spirit spurs the singing,
In rhythm to my breathing,
And any hidden, lyric purpose,
You may not parse or reason.

And when you shake and start
Then reach for pen or lyre
Lay the blame on my desire.
There is no shame in art,
When I undress your heart
Then set your soul afire.

So be a son as wise Ion,
Always the guileless child
Enjoys full pardon
Heaven and this smile.
Now he sings of glory,
And not of kings or rage,
Amid the endless story,
Astride eternal stage.

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Holy of Holies (II)

 

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From “The Dance of Death” by Hans Holbein

 

Father, is this the hour of desolation?

The one you know and of which I warn.

In my holy place an abomination,

Will my Church be still-born?

Is this the day the world swore:

“Blessed be the barren women,

the womb that never bore,

And their breasts never nursing.”

I see two boys in the meadow playing,

A shadow falls and one is taken.

I see two girls in my temple spinning,

One is gone and the sanctum shaken.

The iron nails pierce my bride,

Her veil is torn from top to bottom.

The rusted lance rends my side,

Has my Mother’s “Yes” been forgotten?

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