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Happy Belated Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas!

Untitled

From the YouTube Music Video Archives: Adoro te devote by Saint Thomas Aquinas, as sung by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of St. Maurice & St. Maur, Clevaux

The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quæ sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans totum deficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur.
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et Humanitas,
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro pœnitens.
Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor:
Deum tamen meum te confiteor.
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.
O memoriale mortis Domini!
Panis vivus, vitam præstans homini!
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.
Pie Pelicane, Jesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.
Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ gloriæ. Amen

The Fifth Annual Thomas Aquinas College Catholic Writer’s Conference, Part 1

A couple of people have asked me how it went…so in case anyone else is curious, here’s a little bit about last Saturday’s gathering.

Saturday was a typically gorgeous June day in SoCal: sunny, just warm enough to notice the heat. My friend Darin, with whom I was staying in Santa Paula, drove me up to campus. We listened to an NPR report on George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead – an entirely silly piece of fluff, but it did make Darin wonder why we didn’t bring Romero to campus to talk about the Catholicity of zombie movies…

Movies (and television) have a hold on the conference, its name notwithstanding. Past conferences have featured screenwriters. Our keynote speaker this year was Steve McEveety, producer of, among other things, The Passion of the Christ. (He wasn’t taking scripts.) We had a panel on film from a Catholic perspective which included me, Jim Bemis, and Robert Brennan – Brennan writes for the Register, but his career has been in television. (After the film panel came the panel on getting your book published – I was on that one, too – and we must have lost half our audience in the break between sessions.)

The bulk of the conference was held in the library – a semicircle of chairs oriented sideways in the long entrance hall under the magnificent ceiling that was donated to the College back when I was a student. Attendance was good – over 80 this year, an interesting mix of young and old and even a few folks in the middle…

More to come.

Can you spot the Catholic sensibility in James Joyce?

Sure you can. You just need to cover one eye and squint really hard with the other! OR, you can head on over to Wiseblood Books (Korrektiv’s sober, productive, vastly more successful younger brother) and order up a copy of James Joyce’s Catholic Categories by Fr. Colum Power.

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Just $25! And if the literary heavyweights on the team (looking at you, JOB and Jobe) can manage to step away from the comic book rack at the local Kwik Stop for a few minutes, we might even post a review. In the meantime, after the jump, we have a KORREKTIV EXKLUSIVE sneak peek at…the table of contents!

[Read more…]

The Casa Missives – I

casa-building

Older Son graduated high school this year and instead of heading straight into college – perhaps to join his sister, Oldest Daughter, here – he has decided to take up an invitation from one of our diocesan priests who happens to be director of our diocesan-sponsored orphanage, Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II in Lurin (suburb of Lima), Peru. I will occasionally be posting updates as he plans to Youtube his experiences; so call it a guest posting or or call it a running narrative of a non-traditional trajectory to higher learning or call it a first hand account of a young man discerning his vocation. Whatsoever it turns out to be, there are some folk in southwest Wisconsin pretty proud right now…

 

Dear Papa, Mama, Barbara,Bernadette , Norah, Liam, Annie, Mara, Lucy and Claudia!!

I am just letting you know that I made it and that I am settling in fine. My Spanish is very rough but I’m working hard on it!! All the kids are incredibly cute even though I can’t understand most of what they say!! I took some videos of my plane flight but I wasn’t able to get any pictures of Lima because apparently people sometimes break the car windows just to steal cameras out of your hands.(yeah that’s a thing here) but I will try to get some pictures/videos of Casa Hogar and get them to you ASAP. It’s really hard getting used to not hearing my name so much because I had to pick a new name (they don’t have the SH sound) and I decided on Patricio (Spanish for Patrick) now before you go around saying my new name wrong remember to roll the R and the P doesn’t really make a P sound its sorta a genetic hybrid between a P and a B and the best way to know if you’re saying it right or not is to hold your hand a little ways away from your mouth and if you can feel the air you’re probably saying it wrong I miss you lots and love you that much more!!

~ Love Seamus (a.k.a. Patricio)

The Korrektiv Doppleganger?

Matthew at By Way of Beauty shares my name and lists Potter’s beloved Bob Dylan among his favorite musicians. Like me, he writes about Mel Gibson, but when he does so, he cites Quin’s beloved Girard. Like me, he reverences the Coen brothers, but like Webb, he also adores Dumb & Dumber.* Like Angelico, he is absurdly young, and he also shares that man’s taste for Dominican philosophers. If he turns out to be a Giants fan like JOB and if he designed his own banner like Southern Expat, well, I think we’re going to have to start considering whether or not the Kollektiv Unkonscious is capable of manifesting in human form.

 

*No, I don’t know if Webb really admires Dumb & Dumber, but I do know he likes to play the role of Regular Psychotic Joe ’round here.

Sanctus Martinus de Porres

St Martin de Porres
Fr Thomas McGlynn, OP, 1958, bronze
(Photo: Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog)

Today is the feast of St Martin de Porres — a lay brother of the Order of Preachers whom we remember for his ardent piety, charity, and humility (an exemplar of the Little Way before-the-letter), for miraculous prodigies and healings, for the austerity of his life. Martin’s job in the Dominican community, as I understand it, was to attend to practical tasks like housekeeping, or caring for the sick, so that the friars could focus on preaching, with all the preparatory study and reflection — the impractical, Pieperish tasks — that entailed. So, we remember this Dominican for just about everything that makes for saintliness, short of martyrdom and other than… preaching.

‘Always distinguish’, say the philosophers, rightly. Preaching, in the most distinct sense of the word, itself requires the use of words — the combination and proclamation of words to evangelize. But in a second, less-distinct sense (itself distinct nevertheless from the first!), preaching is a catchall synonym for evangelization — and under that broad definition, the edifying acts and facts of St Martin’s life do indeed preach.

The visual arts, too, may, in the broad sense, preach. It is fitting that a painter, like Fra Angelico, should be a member of the Order of Preachers. It is likewise fitting that St Martin should have been sculpted by his much-younger brother in the Order, Thomas McGlynn, a twentieth-century friar.

I know nothing of Fr Thomas McGlynn, OP, beyond what art historian Fr Ambrose McAllister, OP, preached in a homily that Fr Pius Pietrzyk, Esq.[!], OP has posted at the website of the Dominican Eastern Province. Dealing as it does with art and evangelization, Fr McAllister’s homily on the saint and the sculptor may be of interest to the readership.

But even the best preaching is not, qua preaching, its own end. St Martin’s much-elder brother in the Order, St Thomas Aquinas, famously declared after a late-in-life mystical experience that all his own writings — all those monumental volumes upon volumes in service of the Gospel — were as ‘straw’.

St Martin de Porres, detail
(Photo: Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog)

More or Less

Ed. Note: Yesterday was the Feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, Martyrs, and the first day of Fortnight for Freedom as called for by the U.S. Bishops in response to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring religious institutions to pay for contraceptive drugs and services through insurance health coverage.

Before the bells struck nine times on the morning on July 6, 1535, a man renowned for his talent in philosophy, law, politics and even theology, stood before a crowd, seconds away from the most important speech of his life.

Those who had gathered weren’t there to hear a lecture on metaphysics, divine grace or a keystone legal principle. Nor were they there to hear a speech which sought to guide the ship of state on a prudential course of action.   Rather, they were there to see this philosopher-lawyer-politician-theologian lose his head over a single idea.

By the world’s reckoning, it was a cheap price for one’s life.

But it was an idea which would touch on all these disciplines which not only defined his public life but perhaps even prepared his life, public and otherwise, for this one moment on his final rostrum.

 This condemned man was none other than Sir Thomas More, until recently the Chancellor of England (a post only second to the king himself), a close friend of King Henry VIII, a welcomed guest of royal and legal courts alike, and one of the most brilliant minds of his day not only in England but in all of Europe.

But, having been stripped of honors and wealth alike, this late medieval celebrity would soon be known by a different, more exulted title – St. Thomas More, Martyr.

As he stood before the crowd, perhaps he took some comfort in the fact that he was abandoned by all but his family and closest friends. It would have to have been a consolation. After all, did not his master and savior have at least that much as he clung to his last labored breaths, hanging from the midday cross outside the gates of another famous city far to the east of London?

Of course, More’s fine mind would have made the proper distinctions: Christ was without sin and therefore died in complete innocence. He, More, while guiltless in this particular case, was as flawed as any man born of original sin.

No matter, though – for he knew that even that primal flaw – the same shared by every king and pauper, nobleman and commoner, all the players on the stage of history – had been provided a remedy through the blood and mercy that God spilled on that other hill far east of London’s time and place, more than 1,500 years ago – that same blood and mercy which, with the fall of the executioner’s axe blade would come, he prayed, to his assistance now that the hour of his death was upon him.

Nor did he ever lose the calm which stood as testament to the easy commerce of faith and reason within his mind and soul.  Even  Joseph Addison, not the first but perhaps one of the best to reside over Caesar’s inkwell, willingly renders unto Christ what was Christ’s: he would have willingly agreed with the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911) which declared that “no martyr ever surpassed [More] in fortitude.” 

Indeed, as he notes in the retrospective Spectator, Addison observes, “that innocent mirth which had been so conspicuous in [More’s] life, did not forsake him to the last . . .his death was of a piece with his life. There was nothing in it new, forced or affected. He did not look upon the severing of his head from his body as a circumstance that ought to produce any change in the disposition of his mind“.

 As he stood there before the crowd – it was a brief interim between his ascending the scaffold and his head making the return trip – even then, he was not without mirth (“I pray you, I pray you, Mr. Lieutenant,” he was heard to say, “see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself!”). Perhaps as he stood there, though, he thought for a split second of that other Thomas who stood at the noonday of the medieval age and on the edge of a more peaceful yet equally joyful death.

Already the medieval age had been in full decline with the “new learning” that More, his friend and fellow mega-scholar Erasmus and even King Henry had helped popularize. In many ways, the medieval age, already in its twilight, would meet its midnight with More’s death.

And perhaps in thinking of Aquinas, More also thought about the mystic-philosopher’s final revelation, that all the wealth and wisdom of the world is “like straw” compared to the vista of heaven’s riches that was permitted to him in his own final days.

The philosopher in More could as ably distinguish the chaff of accidents from the essential wheat of being which Aquinas had gleaned to the benefit of Church and history.  After all, weren’t More’s own final words the same notion uttered by Aquinas, only reset – like the lines of block type in that contraption already become popular in More’s day, the printing press – in his own field of expertise, the political order?

For all his devoted service to secular thrones and powers of England, this servant recognized that his earthly duties were no more than straw compared to his obeisance to the true throne and only power that rules all nations.

Standing on the sill of heaven itself, awaiting the fall of the blade which would separate his head from his body, More would see his earthly pilgrimage come to an end.

And what, to get to the bottom of it, washis crime?

The particulars matter greatly – and give the bracing pulse and beat to historian and playwright alike. But for our purposes, suffice it to say that More’s crime was part of the same drama that governments and secular leaders had rehearsed on countless saints before and since Sir Thomas ascended the scaffold, More’s last place on earth – which he no doubt saw as a mere stepping stone to God’s mercy and a bitter yet brief prelude to the sweet hope of heaven.

A prominent wooden gantry, solidly built and firmly set in the middle of the square served as the stage on which More and his executioner played the only two roles necessary in this drama.

It’s only action was the fall of an ax (or in other variations – the drop of a trap door to allow the law of gravity to make its final ruling, the fixing of flesh by steel to wood, the slow mutiny of the human body itself tortured in extremis).

Yet after the blade’s fall, expert and precise, its sound reverberates like a song through the centuries even to our own time.

And leave it to More to add words to the song.

Before genuflecting to the chopping block, More’s final speech, the shortest of his life, also rang out across the square that day – his last day on earth and first in heaven.

“I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first!”

Perhaps more effectively than any other words written or spoken by Thomas More, these last words stand as a eviscerating critique of those who would subordinate the individual conscience (formed by its adherence to the teachings of the one, true and apostolic Church) to the corporate wishes or collective whims of any earthly power.

These words defy and refute the worldly and misguided motives of history’s politicians who have allowed for an unholy space within the conscience to accommodate a law or laws reprehensible to God and nature and evacuate justice and mercy, truth and righteousness  – even (as Thomas More himself might say with his famous sense of humor – in turns bawdy and scatological) as a harlot would accommodate her customers by evacuating her bowels.

I will show you fear on a package of butter.

Matthew Lickona, Swimming with Scapulars:

‘I cannot bear to think of the vastness of space. If humanity is a singular creation, so beloved by God that He redeemed it by the death of His Son, what is all that vastness doing there? I am shaken by images from the Hubble telescope; there are times when simply gazing into the night sky frightens me.’ (‘The World, …’, p. 203)

‘I feared eternity, even in heaven. “I think there should be a time when my spirit dies out,” I once told my father as he tucked me into bed. “Mom says that when my spirit leaves my body, it will still feel like me, but I don’t think it will.”‘ (‘The Janitor Prophet’, p. 6)

Cf. Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men, Season 4, Episode 12 (‘Blowing Smoke’):

SALLY DRAPER

This [dream] felt like I was going to heaven. Except that I don’t believe in it.

GLEN BISHOP

You don’t? Then what happens when you die? Nothing?

SALLY DRAPER

It doesn’t really bother me except that it’s forever. When I think about forever, I get upset. Like the Land O’ Lakes butter has that Indian girl sitting, holding a box, and it has a picture of her on it holding a box, with a picture of her on it holding a box. Have you ever noticed that?

GLEN BISHOP

I wish you wouldn’t have said that.

Electric Grace

Hacienda chapel, Thomas Aquinas College.