Summary of the Law (said at every Sunday Mass)

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Five Quick Takes

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I got back from a five-day visit to the Adirondacks this past weekend. It was gorgeous, it always is, but I cannot say I’m sorry to be back in the land of air conditioning and cell phone reception. The insects were especially bad this year: I brought a canister of Off and so did several other people, and I’m still covered in bites from deerflies and mosquitoes.

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The McCarrick scandal, especially when set beside the corruption and incompetence of the Archdiocese of Baltimore—the squalid matter of The Keepers, though hopefully the worst of it, is yet only a part of it—it’s all stuff I am unfilially glad I’ve escaped by being incardinated into the Ordinariate back in 2013. But all the same, I am perfectly sure that the reason the Ordinariate has not been rocked by any scandals of that magnitude is that we’ve only existed for six years. We are as full of people as any other diocese, and we will necessarily bring all the same human problems with us into the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.

The first evangelist was a prostitute1; the first Pope was an apostate; the mind behind most of the New Testament was a judicial murderer. I worry about anyone whose faith is at all grounded in the misguided belief that Catholics are generally better than other people. They’ll have to face a harsh morning, and so much the harsher if they hit the snooze button.

This is not to deny the magnificent witness of the saints. Our Lord the Spirit has made quite ordinary human beings into miracles of wisdom, joy, self-mastery, courage, and compassion, and several of them (Joan of Arc, Thomas More, John of the Cross, Mother Teresa) were instrumental in my own conversion, as ruthlessly intellectual as I told myself it was. But there is a very great difference between observing, in an individual life, the diagrammatized exposition of the Glory, and attributing the Glory to the diagram. You might just as well suppose that a good novel must necessarily have been written on a nice computer.

1I am aware that there is debate over whether St Mary Magdalene was the same person as the (euphemistically so called) ‘sinful woman’ of Luke 7. I personally think that they were the same person, for a few reasons; but whether I’m correct or not, the popular accusation that this was a smear campaign against the Magdalene is patently ridiculous from a Christian perspective. There is no past that could constitute a smear campaign. Even if there were, all of the Apostles would still have to be ranked lower than she on the social hierarchy.

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I am nearly always reading something by Charles Williams, and last week, one of the few books I brought with me into the mountains was a single-volume copy of Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars, his two enchanting books of Arthurian poetry. In both, Williams writes on multiple allegorical levels—the first author, perhaps, to successfully bend Dante’s bow in six hundred years. Thus the Byzantine Empire (more exactly, the Roman Empire as seated at Byzantium; Williams’ picture is deliberately anachronistic in several respects) is itself at one level of interpretation; but at another level it is the human body, and at another it is all human society, and at another still it is the kingdom of heaven.

What I find so fascinating about this is, it’s such a tightly constructed allegory that it’s almost self-exploiting. There were many more poems that Williams intended to write, before his untimely death in 1945, and between the poems as written, his uncompleted work The Figure of Arthur, and C. S. Lewis’ commentary on both, it’s possible to plausibly reconstruct substantial areas of the mythos that Williams never had an opportunity to touch on. As I’ve often wanted to write an adaptation of the Matter of Britain, this is really exciting for me.

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If I weren’t so tired of hearing it, it’d crack me up that so many Christians are so firmly convinced LGBT people are locked inside identity-label-cages. Talk to us! We’re not! Or just watch this adorable vlogger on the subject.

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I’m trying to get back into the habit of saying a daily rosary, and I did hit on a great trick: I can’t go on Facebook until I’ve said my rosary. I’ve been applying that rule for two or three weeks, and so far I’ve only forgotten once!

What’s harder is being present in the prayers. Not, I don’t think, because they’re formulas: I do as poorly if not worse when I try to pray spontaneously. But attending mentally to a person who is not present to my senses, even artificially as an e-mail or a social media post or something, is difficult. Everything reminds me of something, which means there’s a lot of noise in my brain. Probably I should learn some concentration techniques, or mind-clearing techniques or whatever. And, obviously, pray about it.

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