August 2013

Gone Fishing

Robert Dighton. The Months—August (c.1785). Victoria & Albert Museum, London It is the middle of August. It is time to let be, call off words awhile. Time to close the computer, let scattered notes lie, and lift a glass to the sweetness of ordinary life. Time to be still. See you in September. Francis Donkin Bedford. At the Fishmarket (c.1900). Illustration from E.V. Lucas, Book of Shops. Continue Reading
A Few Notes

Euan Uglow. Skull (1994-7). Among Euan Uglow’s studio props was a female skull, minus the jaw bone and, possibly, two thousand years old. His friend and fellow painter Tony Eyton wrote that Uglow found it in an ancient burial ground and smuggled it out. It is a fit companion to Notes of an Anatomist by Frank Gonzalez-Crussi, a practicing pathologist and Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Northwestern Medical School. He is also a witty, graceful scholar and essayist. Notes opens with an urbane chapter on embalming with anecdotal references from ancient Egypt to Jacques Maritain in a dentist’s chair. Continue Reading
Garden Court

Decadence was brought about by the easy way of producing works and laziness in doing it, by the surfeit of fine art and the love of the bizarre. —Voltaire, The Princess of Babylon (1748)
  Voltaire’s linkage of decadence to an overabundance of fine art earns consideration, perhaps now more than ever. Art stuffs pile up around us; and we live, increasingly, with an overemphasis on—even reverence for—aesthetics that is less a sign of refinement than a malaise. It is an unhealthy condition, all the more precarious for exalting aesthetics, a strutting Enlightenment product, up, up into the embrace of theology. Continue Reading
Addendum

To paraphrase Degas: There is blogging and there is life; and we have but one heart. In a hurry yesterday, I neglected to say that Bouyer’s The Decomposition of Catholicism is not particularly representative of his writing. It is a brief, highly personal howl of dismay at the results of the Second Vatican Council, in which he himself played a significant role. The polemical energy of it appeals to me but polemics, I know, is not everyone’s cup of Twinings. So perhaps it is a book to meet later, after engaging the tenor of his mind and flavor of his scholarship in his many works on spirituality, the sacraments, the liturgy and Church history. Continue Reading
Celebration of Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

  Father Richard Neuhaus kept on his shelves several books by Louis Bouyer, a priest of the French Oratory. Like Fr. Neuhaus, Père Bouyer (1913-2004) had been a Lutheran minister before his conversion to Catholicism and ordination to the priesthood. In the Vatican II era, Fr. Bouyer would have needed no introduction. Professor of Church History and Spiritual Theology at the Institut Catholique in Paris, he published books on liturgy and patristic theology that are classics in their field. Influential at the Second Vatican Council, he was quick to express dismay at post-conciliar interpretations of the Council’s statements on liturgy. Continue Reading