Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Standing Under the Cross

In this column that ran in the January 19, 2006 Catholic Herald, Father Ron Rolheiser says Mary is not bitter.

The old Catholic Encyclopedia says "Mary" is not "bitter."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Secondhand Gnostics

A review by Andrew Ferguson in Liberty
In The Rape of the Masters, New Criterion editor Roger Kimball presents eight paintings, along with an academic's ridiculous commentary on each. Others are equally as silly as Lubin's: visions of a Madonna with Child seen in three bands of Rothko color, or castration anxiety inserted into a Courbet hunting scene. But the silliness is a bonus; what's important is how far removed the commentaries are from the works they discuss: the paintings disappear from sight, and only academic digressions are left. Staple our pages to the canvas, say the critics, because without our words you'll never understand what's beneath.

This is an old heresy, perhaps the first: it answers to "gnosticism." Heresies have a way of coming back around; where once gnosticism concerned itself with saying people needed special secret knowledge to be saved, now it's saying people need special secret knowledge to understand art in a culturally conscious way. Of course, to these particular heretics, salvation and cultural consciousness are one and the same.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

January 31 Pallium Lecture: Cardinal George of Chicago

Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, will present a lecture titled "At the Holy Center: Pope Benedict XVI." It follows a 6:30 p.m. vespers at the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center, 3501 South Lake Drive in St. Francis.

For you north-siders, no, a passport is not required.

"Mike, the Faithful Catholic" has already plugged the event in my and others' comboxes. Some say it's easier to blog using a pseudonym, but maybe not if you choose one that leaves you open to warranty claims.

Americans Dismayed as Pope Remains Catholic

Mathew Pickett in the Wittenburg Door
Some disillusioned Americans have formed groups such as Los Angeles' Catholic People for the American Status Quo (CPFTASQ) to explore what options are available to influence their Church.

"A lot of Americans are upset that the Vatican ignored American religious sensibilities by making Cardinal Ratzinger Pope," noted CPFTASQ spokesperson Dina Horn.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

As he turns 75, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton reflects ...

... on Pope Benedict XVI, polarization within the Church, and the challenge to reach out to young people, in and interview by Bill and Mary Carry in Catholic Peace Voice.

When he turned 75, he didn't send the Pope a letter of resignation, as required. Why not? Because he didn't want an opening for a new auxiliary bishop in Detroit. Why not? Because Pope John Paul II would appoint the successor.

... his pontificate was a major loss for the church because very, very few bishops that have been named by him have shown any inclination to be involved in action for justice and participating in the transformation of the world, except on issues that affect the medical moral/ethical field.

That's the only place bishops have been active in any political way, which is how you try to change the world according to Catholic teaching.

But later,
BC: What's the hardest thing you've had to encounter as a U.S. bishop entrenched in the peace movement?

BTG: The hardest thing...you know, it's not something I've suffered in a physical way, but the hardest thing is the indifference of most people to this issue, which I find frustrating, because I see it as the number one issue for the future of the planet, and also for our spiritual future.

A bishop who regards himself as indispensible and bishops as political wonders why lay people are indifferent.

Another of Creation's great mysteries

Bishop Richard J. Sklba wrote the "Herald of Hope" column for the January 12, 2006 Catholic Herald.
The recent Vatican Instruction on ministry and homosexuality has been greeted in very different ways. Some people were grateful for the reaffirmation of traditional sexual morality in the midst of what may seem to be so much contemporary confusion and ambiguity.

Some people were grateful for the reaffirmation of Church teaching on sexual morality in the midst of so much contemporary child molesting and other sexual abuse by priests, which was then ignored and covered up by bishops.
The need, recognized by all Catholic moralists, to reintroduce some subjective dimensions into the ethics which measure our human relationships, has left many fearful that all objective moral standards have been eliminated from Christian life.

So our fears must be groundless in the face of an asserted consensus of Catholic moralists. And yet Archbishop Dolan has publicly declined to say our Archdiocese won't be bankrupted by abuse claims, and somewhere there's a canceled check for $450,000 to Paul Marcoux and his lawyers.
In terms of ministry, the fact of the matter is that our people have a right to expect integrity from their clergy and fidelity to the fundamental promises of life.

Our people might expect integrity in our clergy in the sense of fidelity to Church teaching, including explaining rather than undercutting a Vatican instruction.
At the same time, others have observed, the Instruction seems to go beyond external behavior to the mystery which remains at the core of a person's identity.

This "mystery passage" by Bishop Sklba parallels that of the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, reiterated in Lawrence v. Texas.
At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

The Court goes on in Casey to reaffirm that abortion is beyond the reach of the state's judgment, and then in Lawrence that sodomy is also. Bishop Sklba uses his "mystery passage" similarly, to imply an issue is beyond the Church's judgment.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The greatest story never foretold?

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for today in the case against a priest in Italy alleging he falsely asserted the historical existence of Jesus.

Where might you have found a witness for the prosecution? In this U.S. Catholic interview of Pauline A. Viviano, described as "an Old Testament scholar" at Loyola University in Chicago.

Good title to the article; if you've had any contact with modern scriptural criticism, it will hold few surprises for you. For example,

But whether or not something happened is not as important as the meaning of what is really being predicated. We may never be able to say with absolute certainty whether much of what is in the Bible is historically accurate. But when Luke tells you the story of Mary's Annunciation, is he just concerned with saying, "This is what happened"? Or is he trying to say, "This child is of great significance"?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

takes place from January 18th, Feast of the Confession of Peter, through January 25th, Feast of the Conversion of Paul. Eight days.

That leaves 357, the Magnum of Prayers for Catholic Unity.

On Christian Love (Deus Caritas Est)

Got this letter from the Pope yesterday. Actually it was a bulk mailing, including to "All the Lay Faithful."

Leaving the substance to others, the document is in the usual numbered paragraphs. Too bad the Vatican doesn't set up hypertext anchors so we could link directly to them. The online version does not have an outline of the contents. Mine follows, with letters added for the subparts.



[A.] A problem of language 2
[B.] "Eros" and "Agape" – difference and unity 3-8
[C.] The newness of biblical faith 9-11
[D.] Jesus Christ – the incarnate love of God 12-15
[E.] Love of God and love of neighbour 16-18

[A.] The Church's charitable activity as a manifestation of Trinitarian love 19
[B.] Charity as a responsibility of the Church 20-25
[C.] Justice and Charity 26-29
[D.] The multiple structures of charitable service in the social context of the present day 30
[E.] The distinctiveness of the Church's charitable activity 31
[F.] Those responsible for the Church's charitable activity 32-39


If the Bible on the Vatican site had internal anchors, then the many biblical citations could have been hyperlinks as well. As it is, there are a few links to whole books of the Bible where the Pope is referring to a specific passage.

On-screen reading would be easier if it had margins as a percentage of screen width, and if the source text did not have line breaks.

All this indicates the document is edited with hard copy, not the screen, in mind. The document printed nicely, as is.

Update: Diogenes notes the English edition generally quotes the Revised Standard Version, not the (Revised) New American Bible. Looks like the Vatican needs to upload the RSV for linking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Snap Out of It

We'll return to an orphanage in Santa Apolonia, Guatemala, with a parish mission in May. This March 6, 2005 sermon by Rev. Robert Lee, now of the First Congregational Church of Burlington, Vermont, tells of his experience there.
Some years ago I led a group from my congregation in Illinois on a two week "study tour" through Guatemala and Nicaragua. There were a dozen of us; our goal was to find a setting to which we might return with work groups from our church. Midway through the trip, we visited the small mountain village of Santa Apolonia in the Chimaltenango province of Guatemala. The setting was beautiful, and the orphanage we toured there seemed ideal.

As the nun in charge showed them around
... various members of the group approached me privately, each one saying in their own way -- "I think we've found what we're looking for!" But then one of our number excused herself to use the restroom. She came back looking ashen. I saw her whisper to another of our group, and that person stepped away to the bathroom. Then another went. They all came back aghast. "Is there a problem?" I asked one of the returnees quietly. "Is everything all right?"

"Well," he said, "they do have running water and even flush toilets, and they are clean, but there are no toilet seats anywhere." From the look on his face, I could see that that was indeed a problem.

We had come so far, and seemed so close to finding what we sought, that I just couldn't let it go unmentioned.

And so he mentions it to Sister.
"... we're impressed by what you've been able to do here. It's really wonderful. But there's just one thing I need to ask you about. I'm sure there's a simple explanation for it. Can you tell me why there are no toilet seats in any of the bathrooms you've got here? Are they just all on order?"

"Toilet seats?" she said, surprised and slightly amused. "Toilet seats? No, there are no toilet seats on order. Look around you," she said. "We have one hundred and fifty little mouths to feed each day, and to house, and to clothe, and to educate. We work everyday on those things, and by God's grace we've been able to do it. In the broader scheme of things, I think you'll agree that toilet seats are not really a very high priority." Then she fixed her eyes on me and said, not unkindly -- "Toilet seats are a middle class problem!"

His reaction?
"A middle class problem ..." She might just as well have said, "Snap out it Reverend!"

My reaction more likely would have been "I knew there something I didn't miss about nuns."

From what I've seen, we mission tourists' two hardest adjustments are to bathrooms and breakfast. The orphanage now has toilet seats. Many in our group tend to make our own light breakfast. The nun now in charge doesn't point out our "middle class problems", not in person nor on the orphanage email nor via her cell phone. We have to bring in lay Guatemalan human rights types to chastise the bourgeoisie while we sip our Cokes.

Toilet with seat, Los Hogares de Santa Maria de Guadalupe (Guadalupe Homes), Santa Apolonia, Guatemala
As for the sermon title, not having a toilet seat might just snap you out of it, especially if you forget there isn't one at, say, 3 a.m.. Now that the orphanage has them, no one has suggested leaving them up in solidarity with those who lack them.

Update: We returned to the orphanage in 2006 and I took this photo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Life Committee For St. Alphonsus

You might recall that the minutes of our Parish Council's August 2, 2004 meeting said it was working on a new committee on "Parish Life." Last Sunday's parish bulletin [pdf .8mb, p. 4] announces a meeting tonight.
Help bring NEW LIFE to our faith community! Come join us ... for an informal conversation on what we need to form a vibrant and meaningful NEW LIFE committee for St. Alphonsus.

I can't tell if this committee is new in the sense that it's replacing the old committee or new in the sense the Parish Council has finally got to the point of announcing it.
We'll be discussing ways to better communicate to all parishioners, how to nurture leaders, how to respond to the needs of our parish and broader community, how to be people of hospitality and people of joyful service to others.

The parish website has this on donations by the Outreach Committee.
For the fiscal year 1997-98 that amount will be $62,250.

That it's no one's job to catch that there's information on the parish web site that's eight years out of date says something about communication, leadership, and responsiveness. And maybe the solution is not likely to lie in yet another committee and yet more meetings.

Monday, January 23, 2006

William Blake

Recommended reading: Reading Rat

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

An English visionary, by Philip Pullman, New Statesman, December 18, 2006

Saving Blake: Richard Holmes celebrates the work of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, Guardian, May 29, 2004

William Blake, Poems, Classics Revisited (1968) by Kenneth Rexroth

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Priest says pursuit of justice, equality continues

Brian T. Olszewski in the January 19, 2006 Catholic Herald reports on Monsignor Patrick Wells address to our Archdiocese's 15th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration.
Msgr. Wells, former chairman of the department of pharmacology at Texas Southern University, asked, "Are public schools becoming the training ground for private penitentiaries?"

Questioning whether political agendas will meet children's educational needs, he continued, "An ominous cloud looms over our children's educational future. It gives me pause to wonder when we hear the president is telling us, 'No child left behind,' he, in fact, means 'Yo' child can kiss my behind.'"

The monsignor has doubts about the idea of government running schools at all, which he somehow uses to characterize an effort by President Bush to improve public schools as an insult to minorities. I suppose it was no surprise to those who attended and those who didn't that the event would have an element of party rally.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

So long -
...but thanks for all the sheep.

A. J. Hall reviews Brokeback Mountain. While he doesn't say so, it appears it's an allegory about the state of the post-conciliar Church. Hall has some relevant experience and notes a certain lack of realism about ... the sheep.
Oh, yes. Driven up to the mountain they are. They do not stray. They do not wander. They do not sit down on the job. They do not set out to find the only tarmacced road in the place so that they can practise their skill at ambushing passing cars. They do not suddenly decide that the other mountain looks much more interesting and they will send out a small expeditionary party to recce it. They do not, in short, indulge in any recognisable sheep behaviours. What we have here are the Stepford Sheep.

Even when we get them to the mountain the same eerie pattern of conspicuous and unnatural virtue is maintained. Do they wander off in order to conceal their partially decomposed corpses a few upstream of the point where hikers have choose a refreshing drink? Do they indulge any inclination to go up every rock face short of vertical, and then decide that they have no idea how to descend again, and panic?

No: they do not. They sit around under the trees in close-packed groups, looking stuffed.

Someone has been feeding those sheep Prozac.

Us city folk can miss the point of the Gospel shepherd and sheep analogy because we think real sheep act like Hall describes these movie sheep. For example, I see some of our brethren's letters to the editor saying they will longer act like [movie] sheep, unknowingly meaning they are going to start acting like [real] sheep.

In recent decades, many of our shepherds have this same illusion. They formulate intricate plans and procedures which might work with preternatural sheep. As I've probably said, I've been at church meetings where The Plan is defended, despite a lack of results. The lack of results is blamed on "the way people are," meaning they aren't acting according to The Plan. One of the unstated planning assumptions is Stepford Sheep.

(via The Rat, via Eve Tushnet

Outreach Sunday

As its website still says, our parish has an Outreach Committee and policy was for it
to allocate to Christian charities at the local, state, federal, and international level the 5% which the Parish titles each budget year from its envelope collections.

In the course of the ongoing Financial Crisis, I understand that percentage was reduced. Now, according to last Sunday's parish bulletin [pdf 1mb, p. 2]
The third Sunday of every month, excluding the months of Christmas and Easter, has been set aside as "Outreach Sunday" by the Parish Council. All loose monies (and checks made out to St. Alphonsus Outreach Program) will be given to the charity selected by the Outreach Committee for that month.

For this coming Sunday, the charity is Catholic Relief Services.

Does this spare change approach replace or just supplement the former parish tithe? It doesn't say. I'd check the Parish Council minutes but they are no longer made available.

Update: The announcement at Mass on January 22nd indicates this collection replaces the former tithe. I calculate if they suggested we give an amount equal to one-fourth of our weekly pledge, it would equal the five per cent tithe. Unfortunately, the parish envelope packets do not yet contain a preprinted Outreach envelope, a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of Catholic giving.

It's an improvement that we're being asked to give to a single recipient and provided with a description of its work. The old system involved small monthly donations usually in response to mail solicitations with essentially no effort to inform parishioners of anything but the Outreach budget total.

Friday, January 20, 2006

There she is, Miss Chimaltenango

In informational meetings for our annual parish missions to an orphanage in the department (province) of Chimaltenango in Guatemala, people tell of the skills they might bring. One parishioner said she could cut women's hair. There was some concern that this would conflict with the custom in the indiginous culture of women leaving their hair uncut (as you can see in the photograph accompanying this newspaper article).

Sin and Sadness

This column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser ran in the January 12, 2006 Catholic Herald.
A couple of years ago, a group of young priests asked me to join their support group for one of their weekly meetings. ... They'd come together to support each other in their resolution to try to live out their priesthood in a way that was more honest, transparent, non-compensatory, and saintly. So each week they met and with searing honesty confessed their most private sins and weaknesses to each other. Obviously this made them better priests ...

It's not obvious to me, though an analogous process is reportedly used by Skull and Bones.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

The standard classic translations in English of Motteux and Shelton were done in the English Renaissance and to contemporary readers overflavor the narrative with grotesquerie. Modern translations, on the other hand, seem too commonplace. The best writing, grotesque or no, is still Motteux’s, and with it I guess we must be content. --Kenneth Rexroth, Cervantes, Don Quixote, Classics Revisited (1968)

Recommended reading:
by Cervantes at Reading Rat


The Cervantes Project

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

The first part of Chapter 8 in Volume 1 of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1605), translated by Samuel Putnam (1949), Walter Starkie (1964), Burton Raffel (1999), and Edith Grossman (2003) --Bureau of Public Secrets, Four translations of the adventure of the windmills, January 21, 2009

It pleases me to think that these renditioners, as conduits of the sensibility of their respective ages, have made Don Quixote fit their respective sensibilities. Whereas Motteux [Peter Anthony Motteux 1700] and Jervas [Charles Jervas 1742] are British Romantics, Cohen [J. M. Cohen 1961] is down to earth, and Grossman [Edith Grossman (2003)] makes him a deliciously postmodern American hodgepodge. --Ilan Stavans, One Master, Many Cervantes: Don Quixote in translation, Humanities, September/October 2008

Authors' Calendar, by Petri Liukkonen

Don Quixote and The Narrative Self by Stefan Snaevarr, Philosophy Now, March/April 2007
(via Arts & Letters Daily)

A windmill I won't tilt at: It is the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote, a more important work than all of Einstein's theories, by Simon Jenkins, Times, London, January 21, 2005

Windmills of the mind, review by A. S. Byatt of Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman, Guardian, January 24, 2004

Don Quixote, by Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, Essays: Picked by Blupete

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bishops Meet to Renew the Language of the Liturgy

Anthony Esolen in the New Pantagruel reports
Thus the ancient prayer Confiteor is retained, though with modest revision:

You know, I have to admit it, sometimes I goof up.
But that's all right.

That's a Penitential Rite we might use at our parish if we hadn't pretty much phased out the introductory rites entirely.

(via Catholic and Enjoying It!)

Geoffrey Chaucer

Think, for instance, of the famous opening to the set of stories that a group of pilgrims tells one another as they wind their way toward the tomb of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The example is a fair one, since Burton Raffel, the latest translator of The Canterbury Tales, explicitly cites it as something unintelligible to modern readers ... --Joseph Bottum, Than Longen Folk to Goon on Pilgrimages, First Things, March 2009, review of The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, translated by Burton Raffel

...each traveler is defined in the first instance by occupation and most of them by native province; each person is strongly characterized by individually developed sexuality; each is a special, complex aspect of maleness or femaleness. This is a larger apparatus for a theory of character than that employed by modern novelists raised on the simple Old Testament schemata of psychoanalysis. --Kenneth Rexroth, Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, Classics Revisited (1968)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Packing the Pews

Deal W. Hudson in Crisis reviews Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity by Dave Shiflett, concluding
Father [C. J.] McCloskey is quoted in the final chapter saying that only 10 percent of Catholics are "with the program"--attending Mass regularly and embracing Church teachings--a pessimism that concurs with the views of Finke and Stark. Shiflett documents what happens when a religious denomination gives up its core beliefs: loss of membership and dispiritedness. If the Catholic Church is not going to go the way of the other mainline denominations, then we have got to do better than 10 percent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Les retailles d'hosties

Radio Canada reports from the church and snack food aisles.

avec video

Update: from Quebec, Es tu, Father Neuhaus?, by Thomas Dowd at Waiting in Joyful Hope

Bhagavad Gita

There are two main strands of thought in the Gita which divide and sometimes interweave but which are nonetheless easy to distinguish and follow. First is an exposition of the nature of reality and of the Godhead and its self-unfolding, and second is a description, practically a manual, of the means of communion with the deity. --Kenneth Rexroth, The Bhagavad-Gita, More Classics Revisted (1989)

The Greatness of the Gita: From Mahatma Gandhi to a school teacher in Utah, the Gita offers guidance, by Arthur J. Pais, BeliefNet

It is the central text of Hindu devotion as well as the classic statement of Hindu social ethics. --A Guide to Oriental Classics

Monday, January 16, 2006

"Our God Is Marching On"

That's the title of the address to be given by Monsignor Patrick R. Wells, Pastor St. Francis of Assisi Church in Houston, Texas, for our Archdiocese's 15th annual Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Prayer Service at Milwaukee's St. Francis of Assisi Church.

Update: Big news from the service!

Weakland wants to see church minister more to central city

Oh, wait, my mistake. That was just a newspaper interview seven years ago. Actually doing something might have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Totally impractical. Never mind.

Update 2: It didn't make the top ten, but

11. To seek cooperative action that promotes peace and justice throughout the entire metropolitan community, particularly noticing and attending to needs of the poor and the alienated.

did make the Milwaukee Archdiocese Priests Alliance Mission statement. Unless by "the poor and alienated" MAPA is referring to its members.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Pulpit Exchange

Ned...have you thought about one of the other major religions? They're all pretty much the same. --Rev. Timothy Lovejoy

As announced in last week's bulletin [pdf 4 mb, p. 2] at our parish,
Pastor Carolyn Fredriksen of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Greendale, will preach at the 9:00AM and 11:00AM Masses here at St. Alphonsus. Father Dave Meinholz will preach at the 8:30AM and 10:00AM Services at Whitnall Park Lutheran Church in Hales Corners.

Our own pastor once mentioned that in seminary homilitics training he was told not to save a homily he had given before but always start from scratch. I suspect Lutheran seminaries teach the same; after a round of applause Pastor Fredriksen opened with those funny church signs being circulated in email.

One such said the most important vitamin for Christians is B1, that is, be one. She developed that theme, including that it relates to Christian unity. She didn't come right out and say vitamin be One.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New development director brings passion to fund raising

Maryangela Layman Roman reports in the January 12, 2006 Catholic Herald on Debra Lethlean (a member of our parish) appointed last month by Archbishop Dolan as director of development for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She has also been director of the archdiocesan Catholic Stewardship Appeal for the past seven years.
She attributes the success of the appeal to generous donors, support from pastors and Archbishop Dolan who she said "has done a wonderful job of restoring people's trust and of helping put the pedophilia crisis in perspective and helping people be proud to be Catholic."

Lethlean said, in reality, in 2002, following the onset of the pedophilia crisis and the retirement of Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, the stewardship appeal lost a significant number of donors.

Seems to imply Archbishop Dolan has declined to tackle putting the retirement of Archbishop Weakland in perspective.

No minutes to waste, even when you're 100 years old

Catholic Herald, Milwaukee


R.I.P. Dolores H. Geilfuss

January 9th

Aunt Loloi was the widow (since remarried) of my mom's brother Jerome. Even for us as kids, Uncle Romey was the life of the party. Any reminder of his death over forty years ago still leaves a family gathering somber for a minute.

I last saw her a couple years ago at St. Luke's Hospital while my Dad was being treated for what turned out to be his final illness. She happened to be there visiting someone else. In her quiet down-to-earth way, she cheered me up a bit in the few minutes we had together.

January 11th

Her funeral was at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran, in its old white frame church in Oak Creek. There were quite a few of my many cousins that I now see only at funerals. I would hope Aunt Loloi's in Heaven, but judging by the sermon, there's no need to hope. As in the Catholic Church, so in the WELS, it now seems that anyone in the congregation goes to Heaven when they die. The Apostles Creed was, of course, said with "Christian church" rather than "catholic church." One of the final prayers was lead by the minister as he stood facing the altar; I haven't seen that in a long time. The concluding hymn was On Eagle's Wings.

P.S. On the church's web site, see Concerning Chasubles, Traditions, The Lutheran Confessions and PowerPoint.

An Immune System within the Body of Christ

This column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser ran in the January 5, 2005 Catholic Herald. He starts out saying
We've gone mystically tone-deaf.

Given his title, you might expect his theme will relate to the Church as Mystical Body of Christ. Unfortunately for his column, he manages to come across as unclear on that concept.
The body of Christ is not a body in the way General Motors is a body, but is a body in the way that a man or woman is body. The unity inside that body is not mystical or analogical, it's real.

Madrid New Year Special, day eight

Tuesday, January 2nd

My wife had bought me a Sword of the Catholic Kings letter opener, which would have been a good thing to put in the checked bag rather than a carry-on. It doesn't make the flight to Milan.

Daytime flights back from Europe seem interminable, not just because they are long, but because of flying with the time changes. The clock advances two hours on our nine hour flight. It doesn't help that one of the movies is Monster in Law. Just glancing at it inadvertently, without the sound, is unpleasant.

Finally back at O'Hare, we find that even vacuum-sealed Spanish pork can't come in.

As the shuttle train to the parking lot is rounding the curve, it shudders and makes a "panic stop." My life passes before my eyes, at least the part where I come back from this trip to Madrid only to die when the O'Hare parking lot shuttle train jumped the track.

Unironically, it starts up again.

Madrid New Year Special, day seven

Monday, January 1st

Having put it off, we find this is one of the rare days the the Royal Palace is not open for visitors.

Touring the neighboring Almudena Cathedral, there's another Escriva statue.

Since Mass is about to start, we stay. Concelebrated by the Cardinal Archbishop with four auxiliaries and a dozen or more priests, with a dozen others assisting, with full choir, sung Gospel, homily delivered seated, and a standing room only crowd taking Communion, the Mass is still no longer than it is at our parish. Again afterward, there is a procession to kiss the statue of Baby Jesus.

Not many restaurants open, so we go to the Puerta del Sol for KFC to go. The customer behind us helps with the language barrier, telling us the girl at the counter is asking which kind of chicken we want. He relays that we want Original Recipe. She responds they only have Extra Crispy left.

Madrid New Year Special, day six

Saturday, December 31st

Tio Pepe is best known as a brand of sherry, but it has founded or lent its name to a fast food outlet Tio Pepe Tapaditos. It must cater to tourists; there were Spanish and English menus listing the over 100 selections. We ordered a combo of one tapas, two tapaditos, and a beverage, for E5.95 each.

Anticipating we won't be out at midnight, we stop at a grocery and buy some snacks, Freixenet and Mahou.

On the way back to the hotel, we pass the Basilica Pontifical de San Miguel. It served as Madrid's temporary cathedral during the many decades until the dedication of the current cathedral. The bells were ringing for the Sunday vigil service, so we went in. The Basilica is now operated by Opus Dei, and among the statues is one of St. Josemaria Escriva. I calculated seating capacity at about 400. Per World History on Spain,

Catholics, 81 percent. Two-thirds responding to a 2002 survey said they rarely or never attend services.

There were maybe 100 for that Mass, mostly old, but maybe a third in their 20s or 30s. The priest entered from the side. There was no music or singing or lectors. We were through the Introductory Rites in two minutes.

Even in an Opus Dei church in Madrid, there wasn't a consensus on when to stand, sit or kneel, so congratulations to professional liturgists worldwide.

Confessions were heard by two priests near the entrance throughout mass. One penitent's sins were cracking up the confessor near us. There were no ushers. Little sacks were draped over the backs of a few pews, and these were passed back for offerings, then members of the congregation took them up.

Communicants knelt at the rail. Father ran out of hosts with two of us left, and went behind the high altar. The reserved hosts apparently are in a combination vault; it seemed like about five minutes before he came back out. I received in the hand and, though I didn't hesitate, Father had a "Are you going to eat That or what?" look until I consumed the host.

The Mass was ended in 35 minutes, but then most of the congregation lined up to kiss the Baby Jesus statue from the creche, per a seasonal custom of which we were unaware.

A new musician at the Plaza Oriente was quiet; perhaps his plan was to demand contributions or else he'll play the accordian.

Back at the hotel, Spanish television was showing a sketch comedy program. They did a mock quiz show. Translating some,

In abecedario [Spanish for the alphabet], what is the third letter?
A. E
B. C
C. B
D. I

Even in Spanish, it was "Who's on first?" funny, since C is B., B is C., E is the third letter of the word abecedario, etc. There was also a bit on "President Bush", but it was slapstick, rather than picking on his mannerisms or his Spanish.

Later that night, they showed That's Entertainment. It was dubbed for the narratives, but not the musical numbers. It struck me that maybe Hollywood stopped making this kind of musical because of showmanship; stop while the audience will still wish there was more.

The French channel had a presidential address. Since I don't understand French, I noticed he would lean to one side, then the other, back and forth, as he spoke; Jacques' Chirockin' New Years Eve.

Then back on a Spanish channel was the live feed from the Puerta del Sol as the clock struck midnight. The local custom is to eat a grape with each of the twelve chimes of midnight and, if you don't choke to death, it's good luck for each month of the year.

Madrid New Year Special, day five

Friday, December 30th

Madrid might be the world's best city for art museums. Today's blur is the Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza. We go through slow enough that works by Pissarro catch my eye.

Per World History

Spain is second only to Denmark in pork consumption.

and a local restaurant and market chain goes by the name of Museo del Jamon.

El Corte Ingles is a local department store chain. Older readers might remember when U.S. department stores featured sales staff. At El Corte Ingles, there were a dozen employees within ten yards of where I was standing. They spent most of their time in conversation with each other.

Here and there in the course of the week, we've encountered other street performers, including two young violinists, a cellist, a four man band, a rock combo, a Don Quixote "mounted" on a horse, and a Robot Cowboy. There were also a few outright beggars, who combined begging with smoking, sleeping, and eating take-out food. Today in the Plaza Oriente, there was an accordianist playing Jingle Bells, polka style.

Looking for a place to eat, we stumbled on Bar Refra. Contrary to the online reviewer, we thought the food was okay, the service was fast, and it had more atmosphere than a typical neighborhood bar back home.

Madrid New Year Special, day four

Thursday, December 29th

Instead of crossing the street to go south, today we jog north to the Plaza de Espana a block away, and then up Gran Via. On the way back, we stop at Starbucks. The Coffee of the Week is from Antigua ... Guatemala, not the island.

Today it's back to the Prado. Goya is most prominent, but there is much of El Greco's work, including a representation of the Trinity with God the Father in a mitre. Perhaps it was commissioned by a bishop.

We return to our target restaurant as it opens for lunch. Since the only word for an entree we have in common with the waiter is paella, we order that. He first brings an appetizer, tripe in tomato sauce. Very good until your wife mentions that it's tripe. In Spain, shrimp, as on paella, are served whole; whole as in heads and all.

On the way back to the hotel, we walk through the Plaza Mayor, known for everything from flea markets to executions.

Madrid New Year Special, day three

Wednesday, January 28th

For our morning jog, we do a few laps in the Sebastiani Garden of the palace. We stop after for some espresso. I try a pastry called a Three Kings Cake, with little bits of red and green jellied fruit. Spain celebrates Christmas through Epiphany, so it's not in After Christmas Sale holiday exhaustion mode.

Per a guide book, we shop the little International Book Store, which has a pretty good selection of used books in English.

Then it's off to the Reina Sofia Museum. The biggest crowds there were to view Picasso's Guernica, in the Dali gallery, and to watch a couple films by Bunuel.

Madrid New Year Special, day two

Tuesday, December 27th

Part of the bargain price is changing planes at Milan. The local weather? Snow flurries. Someone else in the security check line says a woman ahead is a movie actress. We watch as what's-her-name declines to give our informant an autograph. A quick cappuccino, and we board for our airborne nap to Madrid.

Apparently because of the Schengen treaty, our passport check in Milan served for Madrid. We take a cab, view the passing brick high rise housing and gang graffiti, and arive at the Hotel Principe Pio. The in-room brochure says its Un hotel en constante renovation, apparently meant in a good way. My wife finds it acceptable.

Across the street are the grounds of the Royal Palace. It's so convenient, we'll save it for another day. We have set out on our anti-jet lag day. We board the Metro and encounter a street performer. He's a flutist with a microphone mounted on his instrument which feeds his playing into his symphonic accompaniment; he's the featured soloist.

We take in part of the Prado. Then, crossing back over the Paseo del Prado, we see that, if needed, there are Starbucks in Madrid. While we weren't at the moment looking for a church, we see one up a side street: the local Church of Scientology. Another block and we pass the Congress of Deputies, the lower but more powerful of the houses of the Cortes, the legislature of Spain.

We had hoped to stop for dinner at a particular restaurant, but we were too late, and too early. The persisting custom of the siesta leaves typical Madrid restaurant hours 1 to 4 pm and 9 pm to midnight. We walk on to the Puerta del Sol, a public square (actually semi-circle) that is Madrid's equivalent of Times Square or Picadilly Circus. There we find that McDonald's is open. Per World History

Spain has fewer McDonald's restaurants per capita than a lot of nations - 6.8 McDonald's for every million people compared to 44 per million in the U.S., 35.5 per million in Australia, 28.3 per million in Japan and 18.5 per million in the UK.

Sorry, no photos. You'll have to take my word that I had a hamburger, potatoes deluxe (more or less steak fries) with sauce (some kind of cream sauce, not bad), and a beer. The beef tastes just slightly different than in the U.S. McDonald's in Madrid have a McCafe, a coffee bar, as well. On the walk back, we pass the Teatro Real, and, very near our hotel, the Senate of Spain. Like the Congress, it's across the street from ordinary commercial and residential building, rather than set apart like the U.S. Capitol.

Madrid New Year Special

Monday, December 26th

My wife saw the above at an online booking agency, and so here we are again at O'Hare. I can see an Iberia Airlines plane out the window, but it's at another gate. We're flying Alitalia. Waiting to board with us is a choir from Saint Marcelline Catholic Church of Schaumburg, Illinois, traveling on to Rome. They say their trip includes performing at an audience with the pope. The choir director's Ph.D. is also somehow involved.

Our plane, the "Marco Polo," is a Boeing 767, so we won't have Airbus rattles. We're near the front, in the two seats next to the window, except the seats line up so there isn't a window for us. Instead of the center seats, across the aisle from us is the wall of some forward crew area of unknown purpose. We're about as isolated as you can get in coach class on a jumbo jet.

We brought our noise-cancelling headphones. There are opera and classical selections, so I'm set. The movies to sleep through included Surviving Christmas, something Italian, and Fantastic Four. We continue our reading from the waiting area. For a Spanish theme, I'm reading History as a System by Jose Ortega y Gasset, and my wife is reading Drunk in Madrid by Joyce Elbert.

Dinner is airline cuisine with an Italian bent, but Alitalia always throws enough prosciutto on something that I can make sandwiches with the dinner rolls. We switch to ear plugs and settle our brains for a long night flight's "rest".

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Charles Baudelaire

Recommended reading:
by Charles Baudelaire at Reading Rat


Charles Baudelaire, Academy of American Poets

Authors' Calendar

Criticism (articles, essays, reviews):

Leslie H. Whitten, Jr., review of The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire, by Walter Benjamin, The Washington Times, December 17, 2006
(via Arts & Letters Daily)

Baudelaire, Poems, Classics Revisited (1968) by Kenneth Rexroth

Baudelaire’s Ennobling Revulsion, by Kenneth Rexroth, The Nation, July 20, 1957