Friday, April 29, 2011

'Opportunities' in Catholic Education

Each morning, right after fulfilling my chivalric duties of devotion, I spend a minimum of fifteen minutes reading. Usually the author who receives my undivided attention at this time is Monsignor Ronald A. Knox (Eton, Oxford). During World War II and the German bombings of industrial and municipal centers, Monsignor Knox had the opportunity to retire to the countryside of England to work on his translation of the Bible. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? So it is amazing how the Holy Spirit sees things, most often, differently.

Just as Knox was settling into the lovely manor setting, it was decided that the manor would also be an extraordinary setting for Catholic school girls to continue their studies, far removed from the Blitz .

Indeed, now Knox would have the delightful daily opportunity to say Mass, hear weekly confessions, and generally serve as chaplain to gaggles of prepubescent schoolgirls while he attempted his mandated work of translation. Ah, yes. How plans change!

I thought of this as I read Monsignor Charles Pope's post, A Catholic University and Recovered Catholic Identity - A Study of Change and Possibility of Reform (a fine article, but one to which I will not allude here except as a jumping-off place).

When I was confirmed into the Catholic Church ten years ago this summer, I went looking for work and was honored to be offered a teaching position at a Catholic school in northern Virginia (St. Charles Borromeo School, pictured above as it looked when I arrived there). I remained there, a fixture in the sixth grade for nearly all of those ten years (the students, both male and female, probably looked at me as a "fixture" of sorts, also).

While working diligently to fulfill the requirements mandated by the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools, I found some of the most amazing times of learning came in planned, yet never choreographed, moments. For example, each morning students came in, hung up coats, etc., prepared for the day, sat and read the Gospel for Mass for the day, and then answered a related question on the board in their "Bellwork Journal."

Using these questions, I sought to help students move into "higher cognitive thinking" (Bloom) and also make them dig more deeply into the meaning of faith, morals, and other vital teachings of the Church. We would discuss the question and their answers before our Morning Offering and intentions.

I am grateful for the years that our Lord allowed me to teach in a Catholic school classroom. Never neglect to cherish and support your parish school (if you have one) and/or your diocesan Catholic schools. It is a unique place of growing, learning, catechesis, morality in action, and other "opportunities" for the Holy Spirit to help the young to come into a closer, richer relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ... and their "neighbor as themselves" (Mark 12, 30-31).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tornado Victims - Prayers

Violent storms continue to march across the United States. I recall vividly the frantic yet familiar drill of heading to the basement as a boy in Indiana, the most damaging and murderous being the Palm Sunday Tornadoes of 1965.

Please keep in prayer the victims and their families of this week's spate of killer weather.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The No-Men Pt. 2 - Knox

I HAVE BEEN INSISTING ON THAT, partly because it enormously enhances the credit of their performance. Mr. Belloc has written very well on that point. He writes of St. Thomas - and it was equally true of St. John - as follows: "To allow oneself to be killed, of one's own choice, in full life, rather than pay the price of yielding upon one dry, narrow, intellectual point; having, to sustain one ... neither enthusiasm within, nor the sense of agreement from others without, this is to die alone indeed! He had no enthusiasm for the Papacy; all his life he had been a reformer in the full sense of the word ... Nor was the extraordinary man supported from without ... The average Englishmen had little concern with the quarrel between the crown and Rome; it did not touch his life. The Mass went on just the same, and all the splendours of religion ... To the ordinary man of that day anyone, especially a highly-placed official, who stood out against the King's policy, was a crank ... No, he was not supported from without."

If you want to realize how lonely these two men must have felt in making their protest against the tyranny of King Henry, you have only to look at the sort of way More's wife talked about it, when she went to visit him in prison. "I marvel," she said, "that you, that hitherto have been taken for a wise man, will now so play the fool, to lie here in this close, filthy prison, and be content to be thus shut up among rats and mice, when you might be abroad at your liberty, and with the favour and goodwill both of king and his council, if you would but do as all the bishops and best learned men of his realm have done. And seeing that you have at Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your gallery and all other necessities so handsome about you, where you might in the company of me, your wife, your children and household be merry, I muse what a God's name you mean, here still thus fondly to tarry."

Thus was More's second wife, and she wasn't the ancestress of anybody here, so there is no reason why we should be specially polite about her. But I think it is fair to remember that her point of view was probably the common point of view about the line More was taking. And it was worse when his daughter Margaret came and tried to talk him round, because she was a really good woman and he was very fond of her ... Put this question to yourself for a moment. If your father, or someone you were very fond of, was in prison, and about to be martyred on a point of conscience, would you advise him to stick to his point of conscience? or would you advise him to cave in? ... Life is difficult, isn't it? (No-Men Pt 3 continues here.)

- Ronald A. Knox

It Never Left

It is tempting to think we are past
this sort of thing. But we aren't. We have "one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church" comprised of well over a billion people (and growing) that proclaims the truth and reality of the doctrine of Original Sin. So, when we take one last sip of coffee, fold the paper, turn the lock, and head off to work, we don't worry about the statuary at the parish. Or our priest(s). Or how well the ushers might handle the breaking-in of disruptors during either a major feast celebration or even a Saturday evening "There's-that-guy-in-his-bermuda-shorts" Vigil Mass.

What we forget in our daily functional atheism are the anthropological realities that our Lord's Church defines so well in the Catechism; specifically, the symptomology of paganism of all those outside the sphere and protection of our Lord's sacramental "containment system" (if you will allow such a crass way of describing it).

Read through Paganism, parts 1-3. Girard and Satinover give the Church's Magisterium two excellent tools for understanding what we still face; indeed, at a growing rate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The No-Men Pt. 1 - Knox

I'M GOING TO TALK to you about two great saints: St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, the two most influential people, in their day, among the ranks of the English martyrs ... I'm not going to tell you a lot about those two saints. I expect you know a good deal about them already; one of you is descended from one of them. I just want you to seize on one splendid quality about them; their utter independence of mind. You see, the really curious thing about the English martyrs is that there were so few of them. Here you have a completely Catholic country which in a matter of twenty years or so goes Protestant, and nobody seems to mind very much. Why weren't all the other people martyrs too? And the answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question, Why did the Germans ever let the Nazis get into power? - you can give it in four words: MOST MEN ARE SHEEP. You can get them to accept anything, by bluffing them, by bullying them, by applying soft soap when it's needed. But there are a few of the important people in any generation to whom you can't do that. They are not stupid enough to be hoodwinked by propaganda. They are too honest to be bribed with preferment. And they have just that touch of hardness about their minds which won't consent to sacrifice principle for the sake of general peace and calm. You can do nothing with such people, except martyr them. Such were St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.

Don't run away with a wrong impression of them; they weren't disagreeable sort of people in the literal sense; that is, in the sense that they were fond of disagreeing with their fellow-men. They weren't cranks with a passion for writing letters to The Times every day, not a bit of it. You couldn't have had a more human, companionable friend than St. Thomas More, a jollier host, a more open-minded critic of the world around him. Nor must you suppose that these men, either of them, were backwoods Conservatives, Colonel Blimps, with the fixed idea that what had been good enough for their grandfathers must be good enough for them. On the contrary, they were in the very van of the progressive movement. In the great revival of learning that was taking place just then, St. John Fisher took an enormous part, and kept on building colleges at the university. It's true that he always built them at Cambridge, which strikes some of us as bad taste; but probably Cambridge needed them more.

Anyhow, this is quite certain - that if these two men took a different line from most of their contemporaries, it wasn't because they were tiresome, cross-grained people, and it wasn't because they were people who disliked everything that was modern, and went about saying, "What I mean to say is, what?" They were men loved by their fellows, and typical of their age. That is why they were martyred. If they had been less representative people, they would have been left alone. (Pt. 2 will continue "The No-Men".)

- Ronald A. Knox

Easter Monday

This joyous Easter Monday, let us call to mind, gentle reader, the Victory which was won, yea, e'en for each of us. In the coming days, I will be reproducing, excerpt by excerpt, portions of Monsignor Ronald A. Knox's little talk on standing firm in a milieu of satanic revolution, "No-Men," from his little volume, The Gospel in Slow Motion. In it, he lauds St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. He compares the truth that MOST MEN ARE SHEEP vs. the few who are not stupid enough to be hoodwinked by propaganda. About the latter, he says, "You can do nothing with such people, except martyr them."


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ Is Risen

(I)F THERE IS ONE institution in the world which, by common consent of its friends and foes, is rooted in the past, indifferent , when it is not hostile, to this feverish propaganda of innovation all around it, it is the Catholic Church. During the last three days we have been assisting at ceremonies which have plunged us back into our Christian past; ceremonies which in part, I suppose, have come down to us almost from the catacombs. We have heard the Church, as she prayed over us, suddenly breaking away from the Latin which is her native tongue and take refuge in Greek, like a very old man who, in his second childhood, remembers the language of his youth; we have heard snatches of chants long disused, seen the survivals of ceremonies which belong to an older world than ours. Still, obstinately, the Church takes refuge in her remote past while she announces to us complacently: "Christ is risen; all things are made new."

So much her friends admit; her enemies are not slow to add that she herself is nothing better than a cumbrous survival, an institution, once great, that has outlived its usefulness, ripe for the scrap-heap. Kept going, who knows how? Partly from sentimental loyalty; partly from the force of long habit, but ... Her vitality is profound, witnessed from age to age not by revolutions or new deals, but by the fresh shoots of devotion and charity which she puts forth continually, age after age. It is always spring with her, hers is a perpetual youth; she has but to remember the three words, "Christ is risen", and with the very sound of them, all things are made new.

That spring, that youth, belong as of right, not only to the Church at large, but to the life of the individual Christian ... in the life of grace, ah, if we could only see it, there is a perpetual burgeoning of new life, not merely from one Easter to another, from one retreat to another, but with every worthy reception of the sacraments. Perpetual spring, perpetual renovation of our natures, if we could only catch the hour of grace, utilize it, make it our own. Whatever you are, and at whatever time of life you are, that possibility of spiritual renewal is with you no less surely than if you were a boy at school again, or just leaving school to make your way in the world. Christ is risen; those tidings can neither lose their force with age, nor be staled by repetition; Christ is risen, and life, for the Christian, is always new.

- Ronald A. Knox


Our Holy Father proclaimed the Good News at the Easter Vigil in this homily. Had I been able to attend, I would have heard again with joy what Rocco Palmo says is the church's greatest song (if you generally don't assist at the Easter Vigil, take the time to drench yourself in its truth, goodness, and beauty). For friends who like St Thomas need a bit more evidence to believe, have them read Mark Shea's piece here.

Enjoy with gratitude this Day of days, join in splendor our Savior's praise:

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

Cantalamessa - Truly the Son of God

Here is Father Raniero Cantalamessa's Good Friday homily (ZENIT reports both this and this as the 'Good Friday homily' - go figure).