February is turning out to be quite a busy month, so I am expecting I will be posting rather less than usual. One of the things that has made it busy, and a very great pleasure, was a capital visit from a friend of mine: Joseph Prever, author of the blog Steve Gershom. If you aren't yet acquainted with his writing I strongly recommend it -- I've modeled my own writing on his to some extent. He was one of the first authors I came across (along with Melinda Selmys, who quoted me in her latest book!) who spoke about the experiences of homosexuality and Catholicism in an intelligent, winsome, authentic way. He is also just a pretty cool guy, and very enthusiastic about kung fu.
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I would solicit your prayers for my parish, readers. We are going through a transitional period: our pastor is changing. The Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter, of which we are a part, is very small (something less than forty parishes nationwide, I believe) and comparatively new, so we don't have very many priests to go around. We're being well taken care of in the meanwhile, but it's hard -- transitions always are -- and I don't mind saying that I personally tend to get anxious about this sort of thing; I kind of hate change in general.
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One thing that Mr. Prever and I happen to share is a taste for Charles Williams, one of the most neglected -- and, in his day, most beloved -- members of the Inklings. Williams was a novelist, a theologian, something of a mystic, and a literary critic; he wrote a good deal about Dante, and in fact Dorothy Sayers (whom I have quoted here several times) dedicated her translation of Dante's Comedy to Williams. There is a passage in his incomparable study The Figure of Beatrice wherein he goes over the part of the Inferno where Dante presents to us, among the damned, an adulterous couple called Paolo and Francesca. The point of the passage, however, as Williams clearly perceived, is something rather subtler than simply the eternal punishment of choosing unchastity at the expense of God:
This is ... probably the most famous episode in the Commedia, the episode of Paolo and Francesca -- which is always quoted as an example of Dante's tenderness. So, no doubt, it is, but it is not here for that reason nor even for the more important reason of poetically lightening the monotonous gloom of hell. It has a much more important place; it presents the first tender, passionate, and half-excusable consent of the soul to sin.
Up to this point (Inf. V) the Imagination has been in suspense; it has not chosen -- whether from a shameful shrinking from choice into a spiritual cosiness, or from its not being confronted with this religious choice. It is now shown as choosing, and the choice is made as plausible as it could possibly be. ... What indeed was the sin? It was a forbidden love? yes, but Dante ... does not leave it at that. He so manages the very description, he so heightens the excuse, that the excuse reveals itself as precisely the sin. The old name for lechery was luxuria ... and it is ... luxury, indulgence, self-yielding, which is the sin, and the opening out of hell. The persistent parleying with the occasion of sin, the sweet prolonged laziness of love, is the first surrender of the soul to hell -- small but certain. The formal sin here is the adultery of the two lovers; the poetic sin is their shrinking from the adult love demanded of them, and their refusal of the opportunity of glory. -- Pp. 117-118
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It is a very strange thing that so many people (like myself) should be uncomfortable in their own skin. After all, it isn't as though we've ever been anybody else; surely we ought to be comfortable with ourselves at the very least? Yet the fact that such discomfort is even possible, let alone a familiar experience, strikes me as significant. It suggests the dissonance between what we perceive ourselves to be and what we want to be -- or, as Chesterton (I think) says somewhere, the Church's teaching that something better than we have ever known is not only better for us than ourselves, but more natural to us than ourselves.
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I saw the Lego Movie. It was so much fun. A bit hackneyed, theme-wise; but the childlike sensation of watching Lego graphics more than made up for that. It is my new favorite action movie. Go and see it.
Everything is awesooooome!
Everything is cool when you're part of a team!