Thursday, May 27, 2010

Friends, Romans, Compliments...

Dear Earlendings,

"... I come not to bury Sancta Sanctis but to braise her... "

I think I shall probably have to interrupt my lecture to Adam Smith (it's not really addressing anything of his per-se; he just stands-in for practical economics) so that I can expound some nonsense in appologia pro cultus personalis. Because, while Enbrethiliel may have disabled comments at her own blog, she Can't Stop Me Commenting Here at Mine!

'Brethil' opens by sumarizing her intent in recent musings thus
"When it comes to being Catholic, there is no ideal individual, no ideal parish, no ideal culture, no ideal country, and [...] no ideal period of history."

And I should whole-heartedly agree, so far (;->) as the intention of "no ideal" is to acknowledge the basic facts of the fall and of unique individuality --- another way to say this is that the negated existential here ("there is no ideal...") should be understood as a negated instantial --- I've just coined that word for myself, though it may be in use elsewhere. Saying it somewhat differently, of all Mortals two are without sin, and everything that depends in some way on any of us individually --- parish, culture, country --- is subject to sin and will in somewise fail of God's temporary purposes for them.

On the other hand, being a mathematician and thus constantly battling with a kind of Platonism, I should uphold that there are in an appropriate sense perfect ideas of individual, parish, culture, and country. (Periods of history are inventions-in-hindsight, so I won't argue about them.) To be more explicit, Creator God creates according to His own perfect design${}^1$ from which since the Falls of the rebel angels and of Man all of creation has declined --- but His perfect design for each of us, each parish, every culture and every country, while ineffable to all of us, is the proper ideal${}^2$ to which everything of each kind ought to strive. Furthermore, as soon as we recognize that Man is a species of being, we can understand that there are elements common to God's perfect design of every man and woman --- similarly, for all parishes, all cultures, all countries.

(I'd also like to emphasize that by highlighting these things, I don't mean that 'brethil' has negelected to recognize them; it simply seems to me important that they be mentioned fully)

We have two further paraphrases of 'brethil's thesis next. First,
"What any given person has right now, in his home and in his parish, is already all he needs to follow God all the way to Heaven"

This may well be true --- the contrapositive of "`must' entails `can'" is that the impossible is not compulsory. Spelling things out, in the absence of a parish, we have all we need insofar as God can be known by the light of reason; with a parish, insofar as the sacraments themselves communicate grace ex opere operato; in a healthy, well-tended parish, of course, we meet other trials. Except that God almost always calls us to something more. Some muslim arabs have visions of Jesus, and feel compelled to seek out the Church even risking their lives; the children of escapees from Cuba may study art and Church history, and feel compelled to design beautiful new Church buildings; women like you (or, well, slightly different) join cloistered communities like the Summit NJ Moniales OP. All of us, of course, are called to be saints. God gives us more than we need; still, we need to do something.

The second paraphrase, the one

"Catholic blogs--all of them, including this one--are, therefore, a problem, inasmuch as they make it seem that other Catholics in the world or in history have [had] it better than the person reading the blogs . . . because that simply isn't true."

In one sense, it may be quite plain what Enbrethiliel is getting at here.

There are a number of 'blogs whose speciality might be construed as the triumphalist vainglory of pastors and artists who "get it", the "in set" congratulating eachother on their snobby aesthetism in the service of The Lord, deriding and decrying the drab stuff imposed on and celebrated by the uneducated sheepfolk in other parishes' pews.

In another sense, the 'blogs I read that might be perceived this way I find to be general quite charitable and full of humility. Their concern for beauty and right worship is founded in reasons both catechetical and medicinal; and since when has it been unseemly to rejoice in what is truly beautiful, and the deep poetry of not being sick?

On the one hand there certainly is potential for an element of pride in any sort of artisan, and so that the quick publicity of 'blogging may be an occasion of pride for bloggers. But even 'bloggers with proper humility can write exciting and compelling articles; it is inevitable that some of these should cultivate their own quirksome style: so, on the other hand, the occasion of sin that some readers find certain 'blogs to be (whether to presumption, despair, pride, envy, ...) is in no small way attributable to those readers' particular vices.

This brings us to what I think is the meat of Enbrethiliel's concern. In particular, she writes against a perceived tendency in the Catholic 'blogging community to develop the odd cult of personality. Now I must say this is an odd thing to lament in a medium which consists largely of a person establishing a personal setting for publishing their own personal reflections, and collecting in boxes the odd comments of his or her very odd readers.${}^3$ Be that as it may; Enbrethiliel makes the perfectly sensible observation that this may develop into an occasion of sinful pride in the 'blogger and an occasion for idolatry in some readers (and occasions for wrath in others... or in the same, if the 'blogger ever goes apostate). Nonetheless, I should say it is incorrect to summarily dismiss the whole thing as idolatrous or proud. It is, in fact, a natural continuation into modern technology of a long and honourable Catholic tradition of public discourse; and the potential for cults of personality that naturally develops out of this is itself nothing new, nor entirely a bad thing.

I should spell the remainder more fully, but I have the feeling of having rambled-on rather too much, so the rest is in point form:

1) The recording the fruits of contemplation to be read by others is an ancient practise, pre-dating the Resurrection, joyfully taken up even by the Apostles themselves practically from the very beginning of the Church.

2) The Cult of Personality should properly be seen as a trial sent to test and strengthen its subject; and there are among the Saints several who suffered such a following, who strove mightily to dissuade their adorers, and whose cult survived their death even through their successful canonization --- Ss. Augustine of Hippo, Dominic, and Philip Neri at the very least come to mind easily.

3) There are (or should be) plenty of good writers out there with a solid grasp of the Faith, and it would seem extremely odd if none of them were positively called to preach the Gospel to the photosphere${}^4$, now that it's here.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. I hope I haven't mistaken anyone too horribly, nor confused the matter any more than necessary.

no rhetor for Aurelians

${}^1$ No, I'm not talking about the Evolution Debath.
${}^2$ Not to be confused with "proper ideals" --- nontrivial kernels of nontrivial ring homomorphisms.
${}^3$ I use this construction only to express how odd it is for visitors to leave comments. For instance I know that this week I have had some 31 visits, mostly to a single post, but only some six new comments from other readers; and this has been an unusually good week for both comments and visitors.
${}^4$ Technically, the shell of circular photon orbits around a critically-dense spherical mass; usually a black-hole, but surprisingly this is not quite necessary; here used by analogy to describe the fiber-optic internet backbone network etc.


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