Sunday, October 8, 2006

When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano

Joseph Bottum's essay in First Things on the state Catholic Culture in America. The title refers, of course, to the cliff swallows annual return to Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1776. They haven't been back in about twenty years.
There's a figure in all this--a metaphor, perhaps, or a synecdoche--for the condition of American Catholicism. Its long history, certainly, from the Spanish colonial beginnings on. But, most of all, San Juan Capistrano seems an image for recent decades—because sometime around 1970, the leaders of the Catholic Church in America took a stick and knocked down all the swallows' nests.

Referring to the post-conciliar stripping away of the particularities and peculiarities. I've used as a parallel from local experience the clearing away of neighborhoods of old, often run-down, homes to make way for freeways which were never built: The Park West Church.

(via Open Book)

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