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When the earthquake shook the prison where Paul and Silas were being held, the jailer despaired of his punishment for letting them escape. But they refused to escape, and so he asked what he must do to be saved.

They answered him, “Believe.”

I believe the sun will rise each morning and set each evening. That belief is so strongly held, I order my life around it.

I must reorder my life if I truly believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ.

That is what Paul meant when he said, “Believe.”

Music at Mass

Music at Mass is such a challenge because for those involved in the music program it is their best prayer to God while for those in the pews it is anything from a deep prayer to just another noise during the liturgy. That being said, it seems to me the goal for the music team is to find that which is appropriately pastoral, reverent, and orthodox.

Pastoral means the music should be something the sheep in the pews can sing even though they did not go to Wednesday evening rehearsal or major in music at college. Many of the golden oldies are what they are because they march along in predictable fashion. One may or may not like the Eucharistic song, “I am the bread of life,” but one cannot deny that irregular hymn is difficult to sing when 700 folks are supposed to sing it together. Pastoral also means songs that resonate with the sheep in the pews, so some of the golden oldies are not so golden for the not-so-oldies. (Bread was an objectively inferior music group from the early 1970s, but even a Bread song is still an old friend to someone coming of age then. Perhaps Haugen’s “Gather us In” is an analog for Catholics of a certain age.)

Reverence is a combination of words and tune and rhythm. I noticed at a Presbyterian wedding that their hymnal included “On Eagles’ Wings” but chose to change the words from “I will raise you up” to “God will raise you up” because of the traditional reluctance to sing as though you are God. Tune and rhythm work together, with the challenge being that a song that reminds everyone of something they heard on the radio (e.g., the “Cat Stevens” hymn) or on Broadway may pull them away from the liturgy rather than into it. Part of the appeal of Latin and chant is that you will never hear it on SiriusXM and that “other-ness” helps you meet our entirely “other” God in the Mass.

Orthodoxy sometimes runs into poetic license, the most common instance that comes to mind is the objection to the “when we eat this bread and drink this cup” response to the mysterium fide. We, of course, will not eat bread but the body of Christ. Perhaps the writer wanted only one syllable; not every deviation from orthodoxy is fully intentional.

Pastoral, reverent, orthodox music can be played in a variety of styles and by a variety of instruments. My favorite hymn is “Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” because I love the delicate tune, the ancient words and the poetic translation by Gerard Moultrie. But I also love a song written by a local composer who directs the modern music ensemble in our parish, an equally delicate tune tied to ancient words but set for guitar, piano and woodwind: “If a Single Grain of Wheat Shall Fall,” by Ken Macek. There is more than one way to direct the faithful heavenward through music.

Justice and Joy

Justice and Joy is a mainstream crime fiction novel in which an elderly secretary serves as the critical link between a murderer seeking revenge for her infant daughter’s death and the female FBI agent pursuing her.

The book is set in D.C. It deals with the aftermath of a premature baby’s death in the delivery room because she was born two days before the cut-off for neo-natal care under new national health care standards. The unwed mother, Teresa Maguire, decides after two years of emotional numbness to take her revenge on the system she believes killed her baby. The novel tracks the paths of Teresa and Jamie Cobb, a female agent of the FBI called to the scene of the murder of a Congressman. As Teresa works out her need for justice, and as Jamie pursues justice for Teresa’s victims, both women are challenged to consider how justice and joy are to be fully realized.

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The Mediaeval Mind

From a book by the same title written in 1911 by Henry Osborn Taylor:

Nevertheless, the Latin Christianity of the Fathers and the antique fund of sentiment and knowledge, through their self-conserving strength, affected men in constant ways. Under their action the peoples of western Europe, from the eighth to the thirteenth century, passed through a homogeneous growth, and evolved a spirit different from that of any other period of history – a spirit which stood in awe before its monitors divine and human, and deemed that knowledge was to be drawn from the storehouse of the past; which seemed to rely on everything except its sin-crushed self, and trusted everything except its senses; which in the actual looked for the ideal, in the concrete saw the symbol, in the earthly Church beheld the heavenly, and in the fleshly joys discerned the devil’s lures; which lived in the unreconciled opposition between the lust and vain-glory of earth and the attainment of salvation; which felt life’s terror and its pitifulness, and its eternal hope; around which waved concrete infinitudes, and over which flamed the terror of darkness and the Judgment Day.

After the High Middle Ages, there is another flowering watered by the rediscovery of additional antiquities: that period we call the Renaissance. Whether as consequence of or as cooperator with the Renaissance, the Church fractures and a new age is born. As Latin Christianity loses its hold on the minds of the elites, a new spirit rises. The new spirit, the Modern Spirit, is in many ways the antithesis of the Mediaeval Mind: it no longer stands in awe of any external power, either divine or human, but deconstructs both; it sees no sin in itself; it revels in its senses, trusting feelings much more than logic despite adoption of appellations like Empiricism and Objectivism; it strips from the Church whatever is not earthly, worships the flesh and promotes lust and vain-glory and finally denies the reality of a Judgment Day.

Here in the first part of the 21st century, we see what a few hundred years without the Mediaeval mind can do. Civilizations die because of corruption. Loss of the knowledge from the storehouse of the past has led Western Civilization to the brink of death, as we no longer believe the Church is authoritative on Reality, nor do we believe we can learn from the Past. Like a drunken old man, we wheeze our way toward death mumbling incoherently the lies about our greatness only we believe.

There is no salvation outside the Church. Nobody dares say that these days, yet we see it is so not only for individuals seeking eternal bliss but also for civilizations seeking strength and renewal. If we love our country and we suppress the church, we prove ourselves to be either fools or liars.

Ron and Rand Paul

Slightly restated, the Paul positions reflect the traditional small-government tenor of the GOP before it fell in love with big government.

  1. We cannot have liberty without respect for property rights, which depend on a steady measure of the value of property, which depends on sound money, which the Fed has destroyed over the past 90 years. Something significant must be done to recover our money and our liberty.
  2. We cannot have taxation (and the taking of private property on which taxation is based) without representation and call ourselves heirs to the Founding Fathers of this country. An administrative state in which unelected technocrats make rules with the force of laws and carry guns to enforce those rules is closer to Germany of the 1930s than anything consistent with the U.S. Constitution. Something significant must be done to recover our representative republic and our liberty.
  3. We cannot respect the lives of our military men and women if we are sending them into harm’s way without the deliberation prescribed by the Constitution. American blood is too precious to be wasted in non-critical conflagrations in remote parts of the world. The defense forces are primarily for defense, not a police force for the world, and something significant must be done to recover our Constitutional mandate for the military.

These are the views of Tea Party people. While it might be that his father Ron is no longer taken seriously, Senator Rand Paul seems to be able to articulate these themes with an even tone. Liberty rests on limited government, as our country’s founders knew. We need no more of good government types that know how to “do” things; it is time for future government leaders to listen to the Carrie Underwood song and “Undo It.”

The Progressive Crisis

As a libertarian evangelical Catholic grandson of a social gospel-ing Episcopalian priest candidate for NYC Assemblyman in the 1920s on the Socialst ticket, I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand how and why smart men like my grandfather could believe all they do believe.

In the case of the second generation, those that came to maturity around the Great War, it is somewhat explained in that the new ideas had hardly been tried. Bold and broad prescriptions for the ills of industrial society found an audience, much as Hope and Change appealed broadly in 2008 to U.S. voters. In the case of the current generation, it is clear that a century’s evidence indicates the prescriptions are not only insufficient to the problem but are in fact injurious to humanity.

Rather than scour the ruling classes of wickedness, leftist programs tried around the globe have institutionalized wicked ruling classes. Those societies most removed from active Christian practice revealed most clearly the depravity potential of a Progressive regime: the atheistic Communist governments of the USSR, China, the National Socialists, and the Khmer Rouge piled up bodies at a horrific rate. De-Christianized Europe and radicalized Muslim governments lagged well behind in total body counts, but in both cases the declaration of noble ends justified overt and subtle means of repression. The leftists of America announced a revolutionary program at the dawn of the 20th century, and it was implemented step by step over the course of 100 years, with only a five year hiatus during the Coolidge Administration. Even under Ronald Reagan the Leviathan grew. Now, already a decade into the 21st century, there is no cover left for the utter ineffectiveness of Progressivism to reach its stated goals of a Kallipolis.

The United States was founded by men who wittingly or not subscribed to the Thomistic/Aristotlean realism of man rather than the soaring Platonist idealism of their French contemporaries. Woodrow Wilson’s and Herbert Croly’s efforts to import a European solution failed because this country is not and never will be Europe. Rather than noble ideals, it is now apparent Progressivism trades in class envy and resentment. These sell in the short term but destroy in the long term. It is a sign of American health that Progressivism is losing its credibility, as Americans reclaim liberty as the founding principle of the country.

Walter Russell Mead’s blog has a post on this subject, from the perspective of the perplexed Progressive