Friday, November 04, 2022

Beneath the Boughs of Yggdrasil

Lignum Vitae
by Dorothy Sayers 

"And the leaves of the Tree were for the healing of the nations." 

When I am grown so weary, my hands can keep no hold
Of the heavy water of living, in its jar of mortal gold,
And it slips and spills in the ocean; then I shall sink to sleep
Beneath the boughs of Yggdrasil, where the sea-ways are deep,
Or peer from slumberous eyelids to see the smooth, black stem
Stretch up to the world's foundations, and know that it beareth them;
While dim through the roofs of water I shall hear, and hardly hear
How the birds of Bran the Blessed sing Aves all the year.
The waves of God will go over me, the waves and the great, green flood,
Where the ash-buds break to blossom in a red gleam like blood.
Yggdrasil, Yggdrasil! . . . the branches sweep and spread
Till the Tree of the whole world's sorrow shadows my dreaming head;
And never a wind comes near it, but the leaves swing quietly
Night and day to the swinging of the sea, of the salt sea.

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Links of Note

 * Keith Burgess-Jackson, The Whole Truth about Partial Truth Tables

* Corbin K. Barthold, Sludge Kills, at "City Journal", discusses the problems of increasing bureaucratic and administrative friction and impediment

* Boaz Faraday Schuman, Scholastic Humor: Ready Wit as a Virtue in Theory and Practice (PDF)

* Thony Christie reviews Michael John Gorman's The Scientific Counter-Revolution, on Jesuit work in science in the early modern period

* Andrew Lambert, Friendship in the Confucian Tradition (PDF)

* Tom Metcalf, Modal Logic: Axioms and and Systems for Modal Logic, at "1000-Word Philosophy"

* David Polansky, Stop talking about American 'fascism', discusses the problems of substantive concepts degenerating into mere rhetoric

* Hrishikesh Joshi, The Epistemic Significance of Social Pressure (PDF)

* Elizabeth Steere, Text Spinners and the Problem of Paraphrase Plagiarism, at "Inside Higher Education"

* Andree Hahmann & Michael Vazquez, Ciceronian Officium and Kantian Duty (PDF)

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

All Souls

 Today is the Feast of All Souls, more formally known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. The following song comes to mind, a classic from long-ago days of my youth:

Bebo Norman & Rich Mullins, "Sometimes by Step".

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

All Saints

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”--for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. [Rev 19:6-8 NRSV]


Gildas the Wise

Gweltaz, known usually by the Latin form of his name, Gildas, was born in the sixth century. According to a longstanding legend, he was born in Scotland somewhere around modern-day Glasgow, but it is often held that he was actually born much farther south. According to himself, he was born in the same year as the Battle of Mount Badon. The battle was later attributed to King Arthur; St. Gildas does not say who fought at it, but the later attribution led to Gildas occasionally showing up in Arthurian legend. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly when the Battle of Mount Badon took place; Gildas is the first person we know to mention it, but he takes it as a reference point his original readers would already know. It is generally held to have occurred around 500. Gildas became a monk, and is traditionally thought to have been educated in the school run by St. Illtud in Wales. At the age of forty-four, he wrote the work for which he is famous, On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain. The work is a scathing polemic attacking the morals of several kings and the clergy of his day, but has since become most important for historical purposes because it was the only surviving extended near-contemporary discussion of figures and events at the time, and was influential on the development of several other important historians, like St. Bede and Alcuin. St. Gildas also became a recurring symbol of political and ecclesiastical reform in British contexts. At some point, Gildas founded an abbey at Rhuys, in Brittany, and died there, perhaps in 569 or 570. His feast day is celebrated on January 29.

Clelia Barbieri

Clelia Rachele Maria Barbieri was born in 1847 in Bologna to a poor working-class family. She herself began to work very young. When she was eight years old, her father died, and to maintain her family Clelia had to spend much of her day spinning hemp into rope. The family lived near a little church, and the girl spent her time when not working or sleeping at the church. In 1861 she joined a group devoted to Christian catechesis and soon became an active teacher in the parish's catechetical programs. In 1868, she founded her own group, the Little Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, to minister to the local poor and sick. She contracted tuberculosis, however, and died on July 13, 1870. She was beatified in 1968 by Bl. Paul VI and canonized in 1989 by St. John Paul II; her feast day is July 13.

Marguerite Bourgeoys

Born in 1620 in Troyes in the County of Champagne, Marguerite Bourgeoys lived a relatively uneventful life until in 1652 Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, the governor of the French colony at Fort Ville-Marie (later known as Montreal), visited his sister, a local canoness.  Maisonneuve happened to be looking for people to start schools, and Marguerite was one of the people he asked. So in 1653, Bourgeoys arrived in Quebec and set to work. She helped organize the fundraising and building for the first church in Fort Ville-Marie, Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, and set up a school. She and her fellow workers helped educate orphan girls who were sent to the colony and also interviewed male settlers who came to Quebec looking for fortune and a wife. A small community of women grew up around Bourgeoys's work, and this eventually became the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal. Bourgeoys herself often returned to France to raise funds, recruit help, and petition for royal support for various projects; one of the most important such projects was keeping the Congregation uncloistered. There was a strong push to cloister most religious congregations at the time, which was seen as necessary for religious reform; Marguerite recognized that this was utterly unsuitable both to the nature of the Congregation itself and the needs of the population they served, and kept petitioning until she met King Louis XIV and obtained his support in keeping her community a community of sisters out in the world. The king seems to have been fairly impressed with her, and noted that she was a major contributor to the building of the colony both educationally and materially. Royal patronage in hand, the Congregation built schools all over Quebec. This kept Bourgeoys busy, although she had to spend a fair amount of time fending off the attempts of bishops to make the Congregation cloistered in the misguided belief that in doing so they were aiding in the reform of the Church rather than impeding it. She died on January 12, 1700. She was beatified in 1950 by Pius XII and canonized in 1982 by John Paul II. Her feast is January 12.

Charles Eugene de Foucauld de Pontbriand

Charles Eugene de Foucauld de Pontbriand was born September 15, 1858 in Strasbourg, but both of his parents died in 1864 from different ailments; he and his sister were given over to the care of their paternal grandmother, but she died shortly after, as well, so they were raised by their maternal grandparents. Their grandfather did a great deal to encourage Charles's education, but Charles was often sick and not a cooperative or sociable child at all. The family had to flee in 1870 due to the Franco-Prussian War, and they eventually ended up in Nancy. Charles was confirmed, but he shortly afterward began to doubt his faith, became an agnostic, and stopped all of his religious practices. Finishing his education up in military schools, he eventually joined the French cavalry and spent time posted in Algeria, Morocco, the Sahara, and Palestine. The time in North Africa, and subsequent return to France, slowly brought him back to his faith, and in 1890, despite having lived a quite dissolute lifestyle before, he became a Trappist monk, and later, feeling called to something different from what the Trappists offered, became a hermit. He was ordained in 1900, and set out for Algeria to found a new congregation, but that project was a complete failure. Instead, he simply lived among the Berbers, studying Tuareg culture and creating the first Tuareg-French dictionary. His life came to an end on December 1, 1916, when a bunch of raiders broke into his hermitage and kidnapped him, probably hoping for a ransom; however, when the raiders ran into French cavalry, they panicked and shot Foucauld in the head. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI and was canonized by Pope Francis I in 2022; his feast day is December 1.

Lazaros the Iconographer

Lazaros, often known as Lazaros Zagraphos ('the Painter' or 'the Iconographer') was a ninth-century Armenian who became a monk and studied at the great Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople, where he was ordained. He was discovered to have a talented for painting, and his frescos were especially impressive, so he was set with the task of restoring old icons. In another time, this might have been quiet minor work, but in Lazaros's day Constantinople was in the grip of the iconoclastic movement, and the emperor, Theophilos, was a major supporter of the iconoclasts. Thus restoring icons was potentially dangerous work, particularly since one of Lazaros's task was repairing icons that had been vandalized by the iconoclasts. Lazaros was eventually dragged before the emperor who, discovering that Lazaros could not be bribed to stop, threatened him with death; when he discovered that Lazaros was a priest, Theophilos instead threw him in prison, where he was tortured in the attempt to get him to stop. Instead, he began painting icons on the prison walls using makeshift materials. Eventually the torture put Lazaros on his deathbed. Since he was dying anyway, the empress, Theodora the Armenian, who was sympathetic to the iconodoules, was able to get him released. Lazaros took shelter at a church near the shores of the Bosporus, where he recovered, and in fact outlasted the Emperor Theophilos. As Theodora brought the iconoclastic persecution to an end, Lazaros was free to paint again. He was also sent on a couple of diplomatic missions to Rome in the attempt to heal the damage that had been caused between Rome and Constantinople during the iconcolastic period, dying in Rome on the second such mission. His feast is usually celebrated November 17 on Orthodox calendars and February 23 on the Roman calendar.

Arialdo and Erlembaldo

Arialdo lived in the eleventh century; he became a canon in Milan, which was still one of the major sees of the West. It was not a great time for Milan, whose clergy were infamous for a long list of immoralities. However, times were changing, and Arialdo was the beginning of it. He began preaching against the tendency of the clergy to keep concubines, probably taking advantage of the fact that the bishop of Milan was away at the time. The clergy of Milan, alarmed, sent envoys to Pope Stephen IX, suggesting that Arialdo was a troublemaker trying to stir up the people of Milan against the clergy. Arialdo heard about this, however, and went to Rome himself to explain his own position. The pope was convinced that, at the very least, further investigation was required, so he sent two envoys, Anselm of Baggio and Hildebrand of Sovana, to look into the matter further. The result was that Arialdo could continue to preach, although there were occasional attempts to kill him and his associates. One of those killed was a man named Landulf Cotta. The violence was inconsistent. However, Arialdo had to return to Rome in 1059 because things were getting out of hand. The pope again sent envoys, Anselm of Baggio and St. Peter Damian, but the envoys were unable to get the city under control. A full-scale reform movement, known as the Pataria, had grown up around Arialdo, and the Patarines and their opponents, led by the bishop, Guido de Velate, were increasingly in direct conflict. The Patarines had an unexpected opportunity when Anselm of Baggio became Pope Alexander II in 1061. The new pope had quite a bit on his plate, but he actively supported the Pataria. In 1063, Landulf Cotta's brother, Erlembaldo Cotta returned from a pilgrimage and was convinced by Arialdo to become an active member of the Pataria, despite being a soldier rather than a cleric; Erlembaldo received the papal banner in 1864. This guaranteed that the fundamental showdown was now not between the See of Milan and the Pataria but between the See of Milan and the Holy See of Rome. Bishop Guido was excommunicated, and the Pataria began moving directly against the Milanese hierarchy, with Arialdo imposing an interdict on the diocese. This led to a revolt, and Arialdo had to flee; he was caught, however, and killed. Things continued to heat up, as Erlembald had to deal with the meddling of Emperor Henry IV, who was backing opponents of Pope Alexander II. As the pope's representative in Milan, Erlembald, despite being a layman, effectively governed the church, deciding appointments and doing what was required to support them, but his opponents were many, and when backed by the Emperor, Erlembald was sometimes limited in what he could do. However, the Pataria had another stroke of luck when Alexander II, who had died in 1073, was succeeded by Hildebrand of Sovana, now Gregory VII, who was also a supporter of the Pataria, with the result that the Pataria, backed by Rome, was able to outlast the Emperor, who was having problems elsewhere in his empire. Nonetheless, problems were not over, as the Pataria continued to be controversial, and when the cathedral of Milan was set on fire by a lightning storm in 1075, many of the people of Milan took it as a sign of divine judgment against the Pataria. A major revolt rose up. Erlembald was able to put it down, but at a cost, since he died from wounds in the battle. After his death, the Pataria began to dissolve, although tensions between the popes and the emperors over Milan continued. Ariald's feast is June 27 and Erlembald's feast is July 27.

Devashayam Pillai

Neelakandan Pillai was born in 1712 in Tamil Nadu to a Brahmin father and a non-Brahmin mother; because of this, he was outcaste and therefore was raised entirely by his mother's family, his father not being ritually able to play a role in his education. His mother's family had important connections in the court of the maharaja of Travancore, so Neelekanden eventually became an important official. So things would probably have remained, except that in 1741, the Dutch East India Company tried by force to establish a trading post in Travancore, at Colachel. The Dutch were resoundingly defeated at the Battle of Colachel, and the commander of the Dutch military forces, Eustachius Benedictus de Lannoy, was taken prisoner. He was later pardoned by the maharaja on the condition that he would assist the development of the Travancore military, particularly when it came to European tactics and weaponry. He did so well that he was eventually made commander, and in this position, Neelakandan Pillai interacted with him to a considerable degree, and became curious about his Christianity. As a result of these interactions, Pillai was baptized in 1745, taking the baptismal name Lazar, although the version of the name he came to use most, and was known most by, was a Tamil translation of the name, Devashayam. Many other members of Devashayam Pillai's family followed him into the Church. The Brahmin priests eventually brought charges against Devashayam for rejecting traditional beliefs and practices, and he was imprisoned. For diplomatic reasons, due to relations between Travancore and European nations, he was eventually sent to exile in the nearby Pandya kingdom; he spent some time in the forests near Aralvaimozhy, where he gained a reputation as a holy man. The exact circumstances of his death are difficult to determine, but he seems to have been shot by soldiers, perhaps at the instigation of local Brahmin priests. He was beatified by Benedict XVI in 2012 and canonized by Francis I in 2022. His feast day is January 14.

Gerard Majella

Gerardo Maiella was born in southern Italy in 1726. He was apprenticed as a tailor, but his career was somewhat rocky because his health was always frail. His fragile health also prevented him from joining a religious order as he wished to do, but in 1749 he was allowed into a relatively new religious order devoted to missionary work, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, or Redemptorists, as a lay brother. He did a large number of odd jobs for the Redemptorist community, and things were for the most part quiet. However, in 1753, he was accused by a local woman of having fathered her child; the scandal was serious enough that St. Alphonsus Liguori, the head of the Redemptorists, investigated the matter himself. Maiella refused to speak in his own defense, and therefore St. Alphonsus imposed sanctions on him. Later the woman confessed that she had lied, and Maiella's name was cleared. He died of tuberculosis in 1755. After his death, he became popular among pregnant mothers in Italy because devotion to him was associated with easing labor due to some of the miracles attributed to him; for this reason, he is often referred to as the patron saint of expectant mothers. He was beatified in 1893 by Leo XIII and canonized in 1904 by St. Pius X. His feast day is October 16.

David Uribe-Velasco

David Uribe-Velasco was born in 1889 in Buenavista de Cullar in Mexico. He was ordained as a priest in 1913. It was an uneasy time for the Catholic Church in Mexico; the Constitution at that time was anticlericalist, although its anti-Catholic provisions were only very lightly enforced. However, in 1914 there was a coup which put into place a regime that used the provisions to engage in an active persecution of Catholics. Fr. David at one point had to relocate in the hope of avoiding a direct crackdown. Political struggles eventually led to the persecutions being lightened up temporarily, but the way the Church was treated see-sawed back and forth depending on who was in power. This was unstable, and it all exploded in 1926 with the Cristero War, in which parts of the rural Catholic population of Mexico rose in rebellion after the regime attempted to close Catholic churches. Meanwhile, Catholic priests often had to say Mass and give confessions in secret. The Mexican army eventually became aware of a secret Mass celebrated by Uribe-Velasco. The Mexican government had established its own schismatic alternative to the Catholic Church, the Iglesia Católica Apostólica Mexicana, and tried to recruit him to it. When he refused, he was shot. He was beatified in 1992 and canonized in 2000 by St. John Paul II as one of the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution. His feast day is April 12, the anniversary of his death in 1927.

Inácio de Azevedo and the Martyrs of Tazacorte

Inácio de Azevedo de Ataíde Abreu e Malafaia was born in Porto, Portugal, in 1526; he was an illegitimate son, but as his family was nobility, he was legitimized and began to be trained for a life at court. However, after he began attending sermons by a Jesuit missionary, he gave that career up and became a Jesuit priest instead. He was put in charge of several Jesuit schools, eventually doing extensive work in raising funds for the construction of the Roman College (now known as the Gregorian). In 1565, St. Francis Borgia named him Visitor to Brazil; he arrived in Brazil the next year to oversee Jesuit schools and missions. It was tricky business, because he had to keep working around the war between France and Portugal that was happening at the time, but within two years he had visited every Jesuit mission in Brazil. He returned to Lisbon and then Rome to report, and asked to have more volunteers to help meet the needs of the Brazilian missions. He was given full authority to arrange such a mission to Brazil as he thought appropriate and he and the volunteers set out in June of 1570. On July 15, shortly after leaving Tazacorte, the small fleet of which the mission was a part was sailing near La Palma in the Canary Islands, when they were attacked by the fleet of the French pirate, Jacques de Sores. The ships were captured. Many of the passengers were allowed to escape, but Jacques do Sore, who was a French Huguenot, ordered the Catholic priests and seminarians to be executed. Forty of them, including Fr. Inácio were stabbed and thrown overboard. They were beatified in 1854 by Pius IX as the Forty Martyrs of Brazil. Their feast day is July 17.

Angelus of Jerusalem

Angelus and his twin brother John were born to a Jewish family in Jerusalem in 1185, but their mother converted to Catholicism not long after, and so they were both baptized. As their parents died when they were children, they were raised in the household of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. At the age of 18, they joined the relatively new order, the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, usually known as the Carmelites. Angelus, unlike his brother, wanted to be a hermit, so he began the eremitic life in the wilderness, but had some difficulty because people kept hearing about him and seeking him out. In 1218, he set out for Italy. We don't quite know why, as different stories give different reasons. But he seems to have done so with the permission of his superiors, because he was authorized to petition Pope Honorius III for confirmation of a new rule for the order. While in Rome, he is said to have preached in St. John Lateran and to have met both St. Francis and St. Dominic. We don't know for sure whether this is true, but according to the story, St. Angelus predicted that St. Francis would share the wounds of Christ, and St. Francis predicted that St. Angelus would die fairly young. Angelus made his way to Sicily, where he spent his time preaching. On May 1, 1220, he was stabbed to death by a Cathar knight, supposedly for having convinced the knight's mistress to leave him. He died a few days later, and his burial place in Licata became a major Carmelite pilgrimage site. His feast day is May 5.

Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena

María Laura de Jesús Montoya Upegui was born in Jericó, Colombia in 1874. Her father's death in the Colombian Civil War of 1876 left the family nearly destitute, so she was raised first by her grandmother and then sent to an orphanage run by her maternal aunt. With her aunt's help and support, she trained to be a schoolteacher, and began teaching in 1893. Beginning in 1908, she started working with indigenous communities. She had been wanting for a while to become Carmelite nun, but one thing that kept her was that Carmelites were cloistered and she found that evangelism was what actually interested her. So in 1917 she started the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and Saint Catherine of Siena and with a few other women began doing missionary work in the little indigenous community of Dabeiba. She took the religious name of Laura of Saint Catherine of Siena and was active in missionary work the rest of her life. Toward the end of her life she suffered from a prolonged illness that kept her in a wheelchair. She died in 1949. She was beatified in 2004 by St. John Paul II and canonized in 2013 by Francis I. Her feast day is October 21.

Jean-Baptiste de la Salle

Jean-Baptiste de la Salle was born to a wealthy and noble family in Reims, France, in 1651; his mother's family, in fact, was a major winemaking family, the Moëts, whose name is still associated with high-quality champagne. La Salle was destined for religious life from his teenage years, and he was given an excellent education, culminating in attendance at the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice. Both of his parents died shortly afterward, however, so he had to leave school to look after his younger brothers and sisters. While this slowed him down a bit, it did not stall him, and he was ordained a priest in 1678. One of his earliest tasks was to help establish the Sisters of the Child Jesus, recently founded to look after the education of poor and sickly girls. This would be formative, because while he was serving as confessor to the order, he met Adrian Nyel. Nyel was a civil educator, founding schools for poor children throughout Rouen, and La Salle began working with Nyel to found schools that were properly integrated into the local communities. La Salle began overseeing the schools founded by Nyel in and around Reims. He immediately ran into the problem that the teachers at these schools often faced nearly insuperable impediments. They were poor and had little training, and often only a very basic education themselves, and they had difficulty working together with a common aim. To help remedy this La Salle started inviting them to dinner, which at the time was scandalous because they belonged to a much lower class than he did. Having inherited a very large amount of money, he began thinking of using it to found a series of high-quality schools for the poor and working class. As it happens, he ended up donating almost all of the money to help during a famine, but he went ahead with the school project, anyway. Thus began the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. It had a very rocky start. The bishops were wary of this (at the time) very unusual approach to religious life; secular authorities were very suspicious of this unusual approach to schools. But he did not stop and in 1685 founded a school specializing in the training of teachers. His work in education turned out to be extremely successful, but it was also extremely time-consuming and exhausting, and the stress of it is often thought to have been a contributing cause of his death on Good Friday in 1719. He was canonized by Leo XIII in 1900, and his current feast day is April 7.

Damien of Molokai

Jozef de Veuster was born in 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium. His parents intended him for the mercantile life, training him to work in the family farm and the little grain business they owned, but he became fascinated by the Redemptorists and began looking into the possibility of religious life. He eventually decided to join the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and took the religious name of Damien. He wanted to be a missionary priest. He got very little encouragement from his superiors, because the farmboy was very, very far from being polished in manners or scholarly in interests. He was an intelligent young man, however, and although he never stopped being a bit rough in manners, when he showed that he could learn Latin fairly easily, he was allowed to proceed with a seminary education and was ordained. Shortly before his ordination, in 1864, he was sent to Hawaii on a mission, because the previous priest had become too sick to go. The Kingdom of Hawai'i at that time was in a state of severe crisis; unemployment was rampant, crime was increasing, illness was spreading everywhere. Leprosy was becoming worryingly common, so that King Kamehameha V signed into effect a law to quarantine all lepers at the colony of Kalawao. However, the Kingdom struggled to pay for the expenses of such a quarantine, and the whole project was teetering on the edge of humanitarian disaster. At this time, the bishop in Honolulu decided that more needed to be done for the leper colony, and Damien de Veuster was one of the priests who volunteered. He established a church and became very well known throughout the colony for his willingness to help any of the residents with any of the practical problems that they might have; he helped dress wounds, lay down roads, repair houses, till farms, found hospitals, build furniture, dig graves. He himself rarely took a primary supervisory role, but he could always be counted on to help those who did. His work came to the attention of King David Kalakaua and Princess Lydia Lili'uokalani, and after they recognized him officially, he became internationally famous, to such an extent that his work was no longer merely supported by Catholics but by a wide range of Protestant churches, as well, although locally Christian churches were often highly critical of him, as he was widely regarded as an uncouth and coarse man, lacking all polished respectability. In 1884, he accidentally put his foot into water scalding enough to blister his skin, and feeling nothing, knew that he had contracted leprosy. Recognizing that the clock was ticking on his mission, he threw himself into his work as much as his medical condition would allow, trying to finish projects that had started and set up for success those projects he could not finish. He died on April 15, 1889. Shortly afterward, Robert Louis Stevenson was in Hawaii, suffering from tuberculosis, and, curious about Fr. Damien's story, investigated and wrote up a defense of him from his critics that made him even more internationally famous. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. His feast day is May 10.


2021 All Saints Post
Niklaus von Flue, Contardo of Este, Peter of Verona, Virginia Centurione Bracelli, Fulrad, Ivan of Rila, Austregisilus, Sulpitius the Pious, Desiderius, Amandus, Remaclus, Theodard, Lambert, The Martyrs of Shanxi, Tôma Khuông, Maria Teresa Goretti, Lidwina of Schiedam, Oliver Plunkett, Mariam Baouardy, Marinus, Nunzio Sulprizio

2020 All Saints Post
André de Soveral, Domingos Carvalho, and the Martyrs of Cunhau, Henry of Uppsala and Eric IX the Holy, Adelaide of Burgundy, Junípero Serra y Ferrer, Maria Restituta Kafka, Venantius Fortunatus, Radegund, Junian of Maire, and Gregory of Tours, Magdalene of Nagasaki, Jeanne-Antide Thouret, Louis IX, Peter Nolasco, Tarasios of Constantinople, Albert Chmielowski

2019 All Saints Post, Part III
Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, Gregory II and Gregory III, Katarina Ulfsdotter, Marko Stjepan Krizin, István Pongrácz, Melchior Grodziecki, Amandus and Bavo of Ghent, Zhang Huailu, Colette of Corbie, Alphonsus Rodriguez, Marie-Margeuerite d'Youville, Anthony of the Caves, Teresa of Calcutta

2019 All Saints Post, Part II
Bartolomeu dos Mártires, Manuel Moralez, Apollonius the Apologist, Henry II the Exuberant and Cunigunde of Luxembourg, Ramon Nonat, Francis Xavier Cabrini, Juliana of Liège, Aelia Pulcheria, John Henry Newman, Anna Schäffer, Ivo of Chartres, Paul I of Constantinople

2019 All Saints Post, Part I
Matteo Correa Magallanes, Nicholas Owen, Knud IV and Knud Lavard, Mariana de Jesús de Paredes, Joseph Vaz, Zdislava Berka, Caterina Fieschi Adorno, Pietro I Orseolo, Ðaminh Hà Trọng Mậu, Jeanne-Françoise Frémiot de Chantal, Stephen Min Kŭk-ka, Rabanus Maurus Magnentius

2018 All Saints Post
Gianna Beretta Molla, Margaret of Scotland, Yu Tae-chol Peter, Justa and Rufina of Seville, Giuseppe Moscati, Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghaţţas, Salomone Leclerq, Arnulf of Metz, Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, Frumentius of Tyre, Jeanne Jugan, Joseph Zhang Dapeng, Maroun and Abraham of Harran, Magnus Erlendsson, Callixtus I, Hippolytus, Urban I, Pontian, Anterus, Fabian, Jean de Brébeuf

2017 All Saints Post
John Ogilvie, Leo IV, Andrew Stratelates and the 2593 Martyrs, Theodore the Studite, The Martyrs of Gorkum, Margaret Ward and John Roche, Mesrop Mashtots, José María Robles Hurtado, Genevieve of Paris, Pedro Calungsod, Isaac of Nineveh, George Preca, Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa, Anthony of Padua

2016 All Saints Post
Theodore of Tarsus, Nilus the Younger, Anne Line, Mark Ji Tianxiang, Maria Elisabetta Hesselbad, Sergius of Radonezh, Anna Pak Agi, Jeanne de Valois, Vigilius of Trent, Claudian, Magorian, Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander, Euphrasia Eluvathingal, José Sanchez del Rio, Andrew Kaggwa, Roberto Bellarmino

2015 All Saints Post
Margaret Clitherow, Kaleb Elasbaan of Axum, Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin, Gertrude of Nivelles, Pius V, Clare and Agnes of Assisi, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Scholastica, Vinh Sơn Phạm Hiếu Liêm, Thorlak Thorhallson, John Damascene

2014 All Saints Post
Marie Guyart, Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, John Neumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Pedro de San José Betancurt, Benedict the Moor

2013 All Saints Post
María Guadalupe García Zavala, Antonio Primaldi, Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini, Gabriel-Taurin Dufresse and Augustine Zhao Rong, Josephine Margaret Bakhita, John Chrysostom

2012 All Saints Post
Jadwiga of Poland, Kateri Tekakwitha, André Bessette, Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga

2011 All Saints Post
Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro, Celestine V, Olga of Kiev, Cyril of Jerusalem, Joseph Mukasa and Charles Lwanga

2010 All Saints Post
Moses the Black of Ethiopia, Micae Hồ Đình Hy, Katherine Mary Drexel, Robert Southwell, Lojze Grozde, Andrew Kim Tae Gon

Monday, October 31, 2022

Tombs and Cities Rotting in the Sun

 The Mummy
by Clark Ashton Smith

From out the light of many a mightier day,
From Pharaonic splendour, Memphian gloom,
And from the night aeonian of the tomb
They brought him forth, to meet the modern ray,—
Upon his brow the unbroken seal of clay,
While gods have gone to a forgotten doom,
And desolation and the dust assume
Temple and cot immingling in decay. 

 From out the everlasting womb sublime
Of cyclopean death, within a land
Of tombs and cities rotting in the sun,
He is reborn to mock the might of time,
While kings have built against Oblivion
With walls and columns of the windy sand.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

'Theology Without Anathemas'

 Steven Nemes has a Cambridge Core Element, Orthodoxy and Heresy, that is temporarily open access (until November 3). The work is a critique of the concepts in the title, advocating instead a 'theology without anathemas' and has some interesting parts, but involves, I think, a fundamental and largely fatal structural flaw. The flaw can be roughly summarized in the following terms. Nemes assumes that orthodoxy and heresy are primarily terms that get their meaning, function, and value within theology as a field of intellectual inquiry; his primary criticism is that they fail to serve that field well in a number of ways. But this is simply an error. Orthodoxy and heresy are not primarily terms from theology as a field; they are terms concerned with the practical matter of communion or, to use a common Protestant term, church order. Their justification, structure, and practical implementation all derive from this, not from purely theological concerns. Theology as a field is only relevant to them insofar as they require the use of theological criteria. Therefore Nemes's discussion, which is focused almost entirely on the theological criteria considered in isolation from their ecclesiastical context, and mostly only discusses the social and political criteria to criticize their existing at all, repeatedly fails to address properly, or even at times to consider, the issues that would actually be relevant to assessing orthodox and heresy, which would have to look not at pure rational theory but at the practical issues involved in evaluating and handling the problem of counterfeits or of deviations so great that they seem to involve leaving the common social project in favor of another project entirely.

Nemes's entire argument is an ignoratio elenchi, in other words. It's as if you advocated a 'philosophy of law without censures' on the ground that legal licensing and practice requirements were distorting discussions of philosophy of law so that the latter were disproportionately focused on matters concerned with the ways you can legally practice and implement law, rather than floating free and considering every possible kind of legal matter in light of practical reason and empirical evidence. Simply considering philosophy of law as a field in complete isolation, there is indeed no particular reason why you couldn't specialize in vigilante law or warlord justice or the laws that might pertain to purely hypothetical fantasy societies. But most people are not interested in philosophy of law for these things; they want to discuss the kind of law that is in fact legally structured and restricted by the actual legal system, and thus it is very important to them to know what kind of laws and legal practice are actually legal or constitutional themselves. This is not in any way surprising, and it is if anything less surprising that people want to discuss the kind of theology relevant to participating in particular ecclesial communities. Further, whatever might be said of philosophy of law as a field, philosophy of law also serves as a means of assisting the actual legal practices and systems. This is a common pattern in 'philosophy of X' fields. But revealed theology, as opposed to natural theology, is very much like a philosophy of X field; it's also a means assisting ecclesial communities. Most people are not doing theology as a private little game or hobby; they want among other things to become more informed about what's involved in participating in their favored church community. 

Criticizing 'orthodoxy' and 'heresy' for not having purely theoretical value in the context of purely theoretical investigations is thus missing the point. What Nemes would really have to argue, because it is the real controversy between him and almost everyone else, is that the ecclesial functions associated with the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy are irrelevant to salvation. That he does hold something like this is clear from his comments about belief-in versus belief-that, e.g., "Christian belief-in Jesus is a matter of growing toward Him, whatever the more precise details of the theoretical context in which this takes place." Almost everyone else is skeptical about the "whatever" here; most people hold that growing toward Christ is something we do as communities, i.e., as churches and thus presupposes these communities being able to function as communities; almost everyone else holds that whether precise details of the theoretical context matter is a practical not a theoretical question, that has to be determined on a case-by-case basis and not as a general rule for every situation. Nemes has confused a question of the doctrinal conditions for ecclesial practice for a question of the epistemological questions for a purely theoretical exploration of doctrine.

All communities assess whether people are actually participating in the communal project; for communities where particular principles are involved, this may involve assessing whether people are using community offices, community resources, or community time to spread principles subversive or destructive of the communal project. Communities have authority over who can participate in the community, and in what way. Every community privileges certain views as valuable to the communal project and depreciates views that cause problems for the communal project; depending on the community, this may sometimes be backed by exhortation, rebuke, or formal penalties involving censure, removal of office, restriction of resource use, or expulsion. That churches are communities is undeniable, that they in fact back their communal projects with exhortation, rebuke, or penalty is undeniable, so the only question, really, is that of what should be included in the appropriate practical powers of churches given their nature and goals, of whether they should be doing these things. This is a practical question that has more in common with ethics than with epistemology.

I regard this as the fundamentally fatal objection to Nemes's argument. There are some others, more minor. For instance, I was struck by this passage:

 A person first confronted with the notion of a “theology without anathemas” might immediately think of Paul’s “anathema” against those who preach “another gospel” in Gal. 1:8–9. If Paul could do this, why shouldn’t the practice of anathematization be permissible or even necessary at times in the present day? By way of response, one could first note that it is not clear that Paul is in fact offering a formal “anathema” rather than simply engaging in extreme rhetoric. But it is also worth noting that the case is not the same in later theology. The Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit, proof that God had chosen them, and yet were told that they had to submit to circumcision in order to be proper members of the people of God’s Messiah. There was an empirical disproof of the alternative position at hand, and Paul does not hesitate to use it (Gal. 3:2–3).

Part of the issue here intersects with what is noted above. I don't really know what Nemes thinks a "formal 'anathema'" is, if not a declaration of something as anathema in a public document (as Galatians, intended like most of the New Testament epistles to be read in public, is) put forward as authoritative for guiding action. Nemes comes close to recognizing the distinction between practical acts in a community (such as formal anathemas) and rhetorical presentations of doctrine, but this is not really consistent with his argument, which is all about the latter -- if Paul is engaging even in "extreme rhetoric", then he is doing something analogous to what Nemes has actually been criticizing. But more than this, referring to Paul's rhetorical questions in Galatians 3:2-3 as "empirical disproof" is such a bizarre stretching of the term 'empirical' that I no longer know what it is supposed to mean. The passage including the immediately preceding and following verses for context:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” [Gal. 3:1-5 NIV]

We have a reference in 3:1 to Jesus being clearly portrayed as crucified "before your eyes", but this is related to the immediately preceding verse, the last verse in Galatians 2, which says that if righteousness is through the law, Christ died for nothing; it is emphasizing that the message that was publicly announced (another way we could translate 'clearly portrayed') was one of Christ crucified. Galatians 3:4, here translated 'experience', might be thought to suggest empirical disproof, but the word is actually epathete, which means 'endured' or 'suffered', and thus is clearly referring to the common Pauline theme that our own sufferings for Christ are connected to Christ's suffering for us. It extends the point that Paul is already making -- the Galatians are treating Christ's crucifixion as in vain, they are lacking in understanding and 'bewitched' so that they have deviated from the gospel of Christ crucified that was actually preached to them, they are ignoring that what made them part of the faithful was believing the doctrine, they are making their own suffering for Christ crucified to be in vain. None of this is "empirical disproof" of the thesis in question. And the point of the miracles in Galatians 3:5 is not that the miracles are empirical signs of what is being proven but just to reiterate the same rhetorical question. Paul is not assuming that the Galatians have to check their experience of miracles to see if he's right; he's making the point that their interpretation is foolish because it would make their lives as Christians pointless. This is a practical argument, not an empirical one. 

And guess what rhetoric comes up historically when people are talking about orthodoxy and heresy? That such-and-such position is without understanding of the gospel that was actually received, that it makes Christ's sacrifice in vain, that it makes pointless the sufferings of the martyrs, that it would make nonsense of the actual doctrine and practice of the Church or of Christian life. Whether or not one regards this as true in any given case, it doesn't take much work at all to find these practical arguments being made through the centuries, and, indeed, being made on the model of St. Paul. But this is, of course, the problem with a 'theology without anathemas'; Nemes thinks that Paul is exploring a theological topic by reason and empirical evidence. In reality, the Apostle is directing a church. A theology without anathemas is an invention of theologians to free themselves from churches, because it is nothing other than theology without regard for the actual life in a church.

I of My Joy Have Had No Dearth

Hymn in Contemplation of Sudden Death
by Dorothy Sayers 

Lord , if this night my journey end,
I thank Thee first for many a friend,
The sturdy and unquestioned piers
That run beneath my bridge of years. 

 And next, for all the love I gave
To things and men this side the grave,
Wisely or not, since I can prove
There always is much good in love. 

 Next, for the power thou gavest me
To view the whole world mirthfully,
For laughter, paraclete of pain,
Like April suns across the rain. 

 Also that, being not too wise
To do things foolish in men's eyes,
I gained experience by this,
And saw life somewhat as it is. 

 Next, for the joy of labour done
And burdens shouldered in the sun;
Nor less, for shame of labour lost,
And meekness born of a barren boast. 

 For every fair and useless thing
That bids men pause from labouring
To look and find the larkspur blue
And marigolds of a different hue; 

 For eyes to see and ears to hear,
For tongue to speak and thews to bear,
For hands to handle, feet to go,
For life, I give Thee thanks also. 

 For all things merry, quaint and strange,
For sound and silence, strength, and change,
And last, for death, which only gives
Value to every thing that lives; 

For these, good Lord that madest me,
I praise Thy name; since, verily,
I of my joy have had no dearth
Though this night were my last on earth.