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Nicholas Frankovich on Several Things

At National Review Online. Like so many other writers I’ve discovered at the magazine over the years, Nicholas Frankovich has become the guy to go to for the Catholic culture overview.

On Trump’s intrusion into sports:

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. A few months later, they went to the White House for the traditional round of presidential congratulations. Manny Ramirez was a no-show. Why? He didn’t like the president, George W. Bush, a baseball man himself, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers? Sox officials said Ramirez was visiting his sick grandmother. Boston won the Series again a few years later, and the president invited the team back to the White House. Again, no Ramirez. Bush’s response? A shrug, a teasing smirk. “I guess his grandmother died again,” he said.

On the decline in Catholic Literature:

The traditional Catholicism that is the setting of that backward-looking novel included a lot of looking backward itself, of course. That’s what made Catholicism traditional. For believers immersed in the faith, the past was alive no less than the present. They could see ghosts. A heavyweight from the Norman Mailer generation of American letters once commented on the Catholic writers of her generation. They were sure of themselves, she recalled, though not preachy. Spend time with them and it was hard to escape the impression that they knew something you didn’t. That’s gone. So the flowers in the garden aren’t what they used to be? Blame the flowers if you like, but it remains the case that the soil has been depleted.

Here he is on reasoning behind the Novus Ordo:

In the 20th century, Church leaders began to advocate an effort, more deliberate and thorough than in the past, to enculturate the faith among the various nations of the Third World: Catholic missionaries should learn, and learn to love, local customs and languages and to translate the faith into forms that would be meaningful and appealing to indigenous peoples. Implicit in their argument was the need for the Church to pour the Romanità out of Catholicism so that vessel could accommodate the new wine of non-Western cultures.

Read Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), the Vatican II blueprint for liturgical reform, and you will notice a lot of concern for the mission lands. References to them dot the document, and in their glow the reader is led to imagine that the point of the many broadly sketched recommendations is only sensible and moderate, generous but not extravagant.

In the mission lands, let bishops adapt the liturgy to local cultures. Trust their circumspection and sober judgment: “Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.”

No sooner had Western Catholics digested and largely shrugged in agreement to the gist of this plan for liturgical reform than they discovered that Rome now counted them, too, as inhabitants of mission lands, in effect. In America, English was introduced into the Mass by increments, which meant of course that Latin was ushered out at the same pace, until the process was complete in the fall of 1970.

The movement away from the sacred, classical language and toward the vernacular was accompanied by a corresponding change in tone and style, from solemn and formal to less solemn and less formal. William F. Buckley Jr. recorded for posterity a typical reaction of many a Catholic: both a sense of loss and a glum resolve not to be sour about it. Surely some good could come of this?

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

Chaucer_ellesmere1

The Official Poet of the Year of Mercy

Augustine on the Delta Factor?

Delta-Factor-Walker-Percy

As I read my Lenten reflections, Augustine’s “On the Psalms” (sadly, the ACW series translation only got as far as Psalm 37) I hear little squeaks of Percian linguistics peeking through Augustine’s take on Psalm 9…

“Thou hast blotted out their name forever to the age of ages [Psalm 9:7]. The name of the wicked has been blotted out; for they who have come to believe in the true God can no longer be called wicked. Their name is blotted out forever: as long, that is, as this world shall last. To the age of ages. Now what is this age of ages? Is it not that of which this world is, as it were, an image and shadow? The course of the seasons following one another, the waning and waxing of the moon, the sun returning to the same position year by year, spring, summer, autumn and winter each passing away only to come round again – all this is a kind of imitation of eternity. But the duration underlying an immutable continuity is termed the age of ages. It may be compared with a line of poetry, first conceived in the mind and then uttered by the tongue. The mind gives form to the spoken word; the one fashioned an abiding work of art, the other resounds in the air and dies away. Thus, too, the age which passes takes its pattern from that unchangeable age which is termed the age of ages. The latter abides in the divine workmanship, that is to say, in the Wisdom and Power of God, whereas the former is worked out in the government of creation.”

Further along, looking at verse 11, Augustine rounds out the notion thus:

“And let them trust in thee who know they name [Psalm 9:11]. Again, the Lord says to Moses: I am who am; and though shalt say to the children of Israel: HE who is hath sent me. Let them trust in thee, then, who know thy name, so that they may not trust in the things that flow by on the rapid stream of time, possessing nothing but the future  “will be” and the past “has been.” For the future, when it comes, at once becomes the past; with longing we await it, with sorrow we see it pass away. [Augustine revisits this idea in greater detail in his Confessions.] But in God’s nature there will be nothing future, as if not yet existing, nor yet past as if existing no longer, but only that which is; and this is what we mean by eternity. Those, then who know the name of Him who said I am who am, and of whom it was said, He who is hath sent me, must cease to trust in and set their hearts upon the things of time, and must betake themselves to the hope of things eternal.”

The question, then, is this: Is the “search” Percy talks about a sort of fumbling around in these ages looking for that age of ages the way Helen Keller fumbled around with her fingers before she grasped the idea of water? Furthermore, when one stumbles upon the search, does he do so as a gift from God or is there something within our nature that desires to find that age of ages even if we’re as deaf, dumb and blind as Ms. Keller?

 

Two Very Short Poems about Favorite Fictional Characters of Mine

007 Escapes Again
As Bond jumped from the plane, some were stunned
to see a parachute fly out of his cumberbund.

Kinsey Millhone Moonlights as a Madame
She started a service (somewhat impolitic)
for very private investigations: “Call a Dick”.

From 13 Hours in Benghazi, by Mitchell Zukoff

As it happens, I just finished this account of the 2012 attack on the American “diplomatic compound” in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead. It’s a riveting read, written with the help of the surviving members of the security team, and makes good on its promise to stick close to the what that team saw on the ground:

[This book] is not about what officials in the United States government knew, said, or did after the attack, or about the ongoing controversy over talking points, electoral politics, and alleged conspiracies and cover-ups. It is not about what happened in hearing rooms of the Capitol, anterooms of the White House, meeting rooms of the State Department, or green rooms of TV talk shows. It is about what happened on the ground, in the streets, and n the rooftops of Benghazi, when bullets flew, buildings burned, and mortars rained.

Still and all, the mere existence of this account, or really even the fact that the compound was left relatively defenseless in the first place, is for this reader pretty damning of just about anybody ranking higher than the staff under contract. Including Secretary Clinton (who, it should be said, has taken “full responsibility”). It’s patently clear that the attack was well organized by a milita with access to some fairly heavy artillery—one of the many militias operating freely in the wake of the fall of the Qadaffi government.

Zukoff’s description of Ambassador Stevens is fairly brief, but he was by all accounts a brave man with a many years of experience in the Middle East. He most certainly knew of the dangers and decided to risk them. It’s now clear, as it seemed clear to many at the time, that the attack was in no way a response to the YouTube video that had sparked protests elsewhere in the Middle East, a version of the events pushed fairly heavily at the time.

The Benghazi attack played a part in the 2012 presidential campaign, and now that Hillary Clinton has just announced her candidacy, it will certainly play a part in the 2016 campaign as well.

The whole sorry mess is now in the hands of the brainwashers and spinmeisters who run U.S. politics, so thoroughly so that all that spinning and washing is all but impossible to avoid. In that sense alone, 13 Hours in Benghazi is a great achievement. R.I.P. Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.

From Four New Messages by Joshua Cohen

I recently picked up this collection of longish short stories on the advice of a friend who noticed that David Foster Wallace was sometimes featured on this blog.

It’s very good. Or rather the first story, “Emission”, is truly excellent, and while the other three are something of a mixed bag, I think there are enough beautiful passages to justify that “very good”.

It all feels very contemporary … more than contemporary, actually, but up-to-date—the word “contemporary” describing, say, the prose style, which is in fact somewhat reminiscent of Wallace, while by “up-to-date” I mean to describe the content. Or can the two be distinguished? Here is a sample from the first page:

Take a pen, write this on a paper scrap, then when you’re near a computer, search:

www.visitberlin.de

Alternately, you could just keep clicking your finger on that address until this very page wears out—until you’ve wiped the ink away and accessed nothing.

And if it’s the erotics of art that you want rather than hermeneutics …

They say in this industry you need a professional name because then it’s the profession who’s guilty and not you, then the profession is at fault and not you or your parents, your schools or the way you were raised.

This professional name—and no, it can’t be as rudimentary or flippant as “Professional Name”—becomes a sort of armor or shield, speaking in newer terms a version of what this industry in its more responsible incarnations requires: protection, a prophylactic.

A condom, a condom for a name.

We’ve had that conversation here at Korrektiv before, and of course pseudonyms have been around since Kierkegaard. Long before that.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen the connection between anonymity (pseudonymity) and eroticism and their inevitable pitfalls quite so poignantly before. Poignantly and hilariously.

Within 24 hours, one Richard Monomian, drug courier to the children of the wealthy and successful, finds the story of his most bare-assed embarrassing moment fractaling in variations all over the internet. This might mean internet hell for poor Richard, but it’s all good fun for everybody else.

Within a week a hundredplus results all replicated his name as if each letter of it (those voluble, oragenital os) were a mirror for a stranger’s snorting—reflecting everywhere the nostrils of New York, Los Angelws, Reykjavik, Seoul, as thousands cut this tale for bulk and laced with detail, tapped it into lines, and his name became a tag for abject failure, for deviant, for skank.

To pull a Monomian.
To go Monomian.
Fucking Monomial.

No one, had you asked them, would have thought he was real. Only he knew he was real. And he only knew that, he thought, by his suffering.

Art is one way, maybe the most enjoyable way, of exercizing your empathy, or at least your capacity for empathy. Not a bad thing for a Wednesday in Lent.