Friday, July 27, 2012

Seven Quick Takes (v 41): Seven Passages from "The Lord of the World"

I recently finished reading Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson's "The Lord of the World." Here are seven passages from that book, which was written in 1908. And yes, I'm hoping that this book is not too prophetic, since it seems to take place around the year 2008-2012, possibly a little later. This seems like a good guess as to when the "Lord of the World" takes power.
"Until our Lord comes back," he thought to himself; and for an instant the old misery stabbed at his heart. How difficult it was to hold the eyes focused on that distant horizon when this world lay in the foreground so compelling in its splendour and its strength! Oh, he had argued with Father Francis an hour ago that size was not the same as greatness, and that an insistent external could not exclude the subtle internal; and he had believed what he had then said; but the doubt yet remained till he silenced it by fierce effort, crying in his heart to the Poor Man of Nazareth to keep his heart as the heart of a little child.
Faith sometimes requires an effort of the will. It is not a matter of "once and done" by accepting Christ into one's heart at one moment, but rather an ongoing battle--an acceptance, yes, of Christ and His grace, and a  trust in Him not only in the distant far-off, but in the here and now.

Scene: Fr Franklin Percy counsels Fr John Francis, who in this scene makes official his abandonment of the Faith:
"I suppose you will cast me off," said [Francis].
"It is you who are leaving me," said Percy. "I cannot follow, if you mean that."
"But--but cannot we be friends?"...
""Friends?" [Percy] said. "Is sentimentality all you mean by friendship? What kind of friends can we be?"
The other's face became suddenly heavy.
"I thought so."
"John!" cried Percy. "You see that, d you not? How can we pretend anything when you do not believe in God? For I do you the honor f thinking that you do not."
Francis sprang up.
"Well--" he snapped. "I could not have believed--I am going."
He wheeled towards the door.
"John!" said Percy again. "Are you going like this? Can you not shake hands?"
The other wheeled again, with heavy anger in his face.
"Why, you said you could not be friends with me!"
Percy's mouth opened. Then he understood, and smiled. "Oh! that is all you mean by friendship is it?--I beg your pardon. Oh! we can be polite to one another, if you like."
He still stood holding out his hand. Father Francis looked at it a moment, his lips shook: then once more he turned, and went out without a word.
What is friendship? Does it mean merely being polite, or showing mutual toleration or even respect? No, these are sorts of civil virtues (if virtue is the right word); friendship is a deeper bond than any of these things. It is weakened to the extent that the two friends are hostile towards one or another of each others' beliefs (for example). A rejection like this is a wound in the side of the friendship, though not necessarily an irreparable wound, let alone a mortal one. The friendship does end, ultimately, if one friend insistingly goes where the other cannot follow, and then insists that the other must follow.

She glanced down the verses, that from the [secular] Humanitarian point of view had been composed with both skill and ardour. They had a religious ring; the unintelligent Christian could sing them without a qualm; yet their sense was plain enough--the old human creed that man was all. Even Christ's words themselves were quoted. The kingdom of God, it was said, lay within the human heart, and the greatest of all graces was Charity.
Bad worship music wasn't invented in the 1960's and 1970's--though it is arguable that it was then perfected--even if this passage does seem to be describing Anthem.

The newspaper account of Felsenburgh's appearance in London:
The organist aloft at first did not seem to understand, and continued playing, but a sound broke out from the crowd resembling a kind of groan, and instantly he ceased. But no cheering followed. Instead a profound silence dominated in an instant the huge throng; this, by some magnetism, communicated itself to those without the building, and when Mr FELSENBURG uttered his first words, it was in a stillness that was like a living thing. We leave the explanation of this phenomenon to the expert in psychology.
Of his actual words we have nothing to say. So far as we are aware no reporter made notes at the moment; but the speech, delivered in Esperanto, was a very simple one, and very short. It consisted of a brief announcement of Universal Brotherhood, a congratulation to all who were yet alive to witness this consummation of history;and, at the end, an ascription of praise to that Spirit of the World whose incarnation was now accomplished."

To summarize, "We are the generation we have been waiting for."

During the ceremony instituted to worship "Maternity" in humanism a ceremony required of all people (including Catholics, against their consciences) on pain of legal penalties:
And then, to those who heard Him, the supreme miracle took place.... For it seemed now in an instant that it was no longer man who spoke, but One who stood upon the stage of the superhuman. The curtain ripped back, as one who stood by it tore, panting, at the strings; and there, it seemed, face to face stood the Mother above the altar, huge, white and protective, and the Child, one passionate incarnation of love, crying to her from the tribune....
It was a new tale [Felsenburg] was telling now, and all to her [the shrouded image of a mother] glory. He was from the East, now they knew, come from some triumph. He had been hailed as King, adored as Divine, as was meet and right--He, the humble superhuman son of a Human Mother--who bore not a sword but peace, not a cross but a crown. So it seemed He was saying; yet no man there knew whether He said it or not--whether the voice proclaimed it, or their hearts asserted it.

We might almost say that he is a
"Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul."

"'If they hand offend thee, cut it off,' said Jesus Christ. Well, that is what we [the government under Felensburg] say... Now, for any one to say that they believe in God--I doubt very much whether there is anyone who really does believe, or understand what it means--but for any one even to say so is the very worst crime conceivable: it is high treason. But there is going to be no violence; it will all be quite  quiet and merciful. Why, you [the speaker's young wife] have always approved of Euthanasia, as do we all."

Two comments. One, the devil knows Scripture, but his interpretation is (deliberately?) wrong. He insists that his interpretation is right, and that no other authority might correct him, but he interprets literally where allegory is meant, or allegorically where literal meanings are correct. Second is that this is where an embrace of euthanasia will almost certainly lead--if not as a means of persecuting Christians per se, then some other element of society which is disfavored by the ruling classes.

While the world had moved on, Rome had stood still; she had other affairs to think of than physical improvements, now that the spiritual weight of the earth rested entirely on her shoulders. All had seemed unchanged--or rather, it reverted to the condition of nearly one hundred and fifty years ago.
This was in some ways the strangest and in some ways the most challenging passage I found in the whole book. It was perhaps a reference to the state of Europe in the middle ages, though of course much of the problem of the "dark" ages during which improvements were few and far between came from the fact that countless numbers of barbarians invaded Europe during these times. It is certainly true that spiritual matters away material ones, but still, there is something to be said for the variety of improvements to life which were made thanks to the Church--hospitals, hotels, the preservation of texts by monasteries, the development of philosophy, the laying of the foundations of modern science--and that (contra such men as Marx) there is no dichotomy between improving the world in this life, and yet living for the next.The late Fr Jaki, for example, noted that one of the greatest difficulties faced by Otto von Bismarck during his kulturkampf was the simple fact that the heavily Catholic Rhineland was the most wealthy and technologically advanced part of Germany.

On the other hand, during a time of widespread spiritual crisis (as was developing in the book), technological advances would certainly be viewed by the Pope, cardinals, and bishops with lesser importance than the spiritual well-being of their flocks. Nevertheless, it does seem a bit far-fetched to imagine these prelates not only allow the infrastructure of their country decay, but going so far as to deliberately have the technological developments removed. I suppose, though, that there have been some great thinkers (among them, Kirk, Tolkien, and apparently Monsignor Benson) who despised certain technological innovations (e.g. Kirk's referral to automobiles as "mechanical Jacobins").

Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday (v 40)

My supervisor has *strongly recommended* that each instructor for the physical sciences create a course web page. I have been spending lots of my precious free time (and this week, it is quite dear, as it is quite scarce) trying to do that. Since I'm not going to be using it in any meaningful way, this is essentially busy work for the sake of busy work, especially given that most of the kinds of things which I would use a course website for are already available on Blackboard (much as I hate their interface), which is about the only site students seem to be interested in visiting for course-related stuff anyway (I know this from experience, as the last time I tried to have a site other than blackboard, the entire class complained that they wanted me to just use Blackboard). Round and round it goes.

 I've been reading Fr Robert Hugh Benson's The Lord of the World. The in-story newspaper's coverage of Julian Felsenburgh's speech at the beginning of the first part sounds ominously similar to the actual media's coverage of a certain President. It would make for a rather eerie coincidence.

On to lighter (?) things: I found this roadkill experiment to be pretty entertaining.

This last weekend was a time of reunions. First with friends: I grabbed a few pints with some of the other bloggers at IGNITUM TODAY. Then there was family: my brother came to visit me.

 Pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Bob Scott OSP. His "Good Stop" homily was heard by quite probably tens of thousands of college students over the years, many of whom remember it in some form as one of their favorite homilies. My own favorite memory is of reciting the act of contrition in Latin after confession, only to have him ask if I knew what those words mean. I translated them to English, which satisfied him, but the deeper meaning of the question is still with me. Do any of us really know what those words mean? R.I.P., Fr Bob.

Speaking of prayers, I've been thinking about a particular type of prayer often offered, the petition for _______ [insert gift or fruit of the Holy spirit, virtue, or other related thing here]. For example, "I pray for patience." Perhaps we should spend more time praying that we will properly practice or wisely use those gifts/skills/virtues/etc, as in "I pray that I will practice what patience I have."

 On a related note, patience is an excellent virtue to have (and to practice) when dealing with a large and complex laser system. Six hours later, and I am still aligning the front-end; how patiently I am doing so, I cannot say. It is pretty frustrating, though.

Seven Quick Takes Friday is hosted by Mrs Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three Links Wednesday (vol. XXIV)

"[The Catholic Church is] An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight."
Hillaire Belloc (and here is Mr Mark Shea's take on all this)


"Doctor shopping" will be "forbidden" under Obamacare. Rationing, on the other hand, will be necessary.

Another advance for "gay marriage" is reported by Mr Mike Flynn.

In the US, the cradle-to-grave retention rate of Catholicism is higher than any other Christian church, denomination, or community save for the Eastern Orthodox; on the other hand, it is lower than any other of the "Great" religions (Hinduism, Islam, Judaism) save for Buddhism. On the other hand, the lowest retention rate of all is for (drumroll please) atheism; and only 1/5 of those atheists change to being either agnostic or "none" (no religious affiliation). However, because there are far more theists than non-theists to begin with, the total number of atheists is on the incline, and the total number of Christians (or theists in general) is declining.