August 2014

Girl on a Swing in Central Park. New York Historical Society.

The last days of August. It is time to let be. Time to lie in a hammock and take bribes. Read. Doze. Plan the rest of my life. Anything except trawl for words at a computer. Girl on a Swing in Central Park. New York Historical Society. But first, let me post the last of the comments that came in on the declension of Extreme Unction into an all-purpose Anointing of the Sick. A thread that runs through them is recognition of what one respondent refers to as a lack of discernment—or faithful discharge—on the part of either priest or parishioner. Continue Reading
Manuscript of Pío Baroja, as famous for his grammatical errors as for his prose.

The freedom of a weblog comes with one high-voltage hazard: the absence of a proofreader. Unsung and half-resented, a proofreader is every writer’s guardian angel, a protector of literacy and the credibility that rests on it. Keepers of blogs are home alone with their own prose. And their own slippages. Their copy is at the mercy of their mind’s eye, a treacherous thing that insists on seeing what it expects to see instead of what is really on the screen. There is no one nearby to signal a warning like this:
Hey, you cited the author of The Mass of the Roman Rite as Joseph Youngmann.
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Jamaica postcard

My earlier essay on Extreme Unction generated a considerable volume of mail. All of it was thoughtful. There were simply too many to quote, or to include in a single blog post. So, herewith are two that represent the tenor of much of the correspondence. Others will appear in another post. The first, by a Lutheran pastor, is a cry of the heart. Pastor B. opens a sad window onto the dilemmas and anxieties awaiting priests at the bedside of the dying:
Lutherans might not call it Extreme Unction, but Commendation of the Dying with confession, absolution and Eucharist was historically practiced.
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John James Audubon - bird

This weblog began as First Things’ art page, so to speak. Yet I have a hazy suspicion that you are not all that interested in art. Certainly not art in the lower case. Upper case Art, yes; ART in ten point caps, yes. Art as a cover for theological and philosophical reflection, or flights of creative writing, yes, yes. Then there is art as Exhibit A in the case against contemporary culture. That is always fun. But art as the work of a hand and an eye? Continue Reading
Nicolas Bataille. Dragons Vomiting Frogs (14th C). Apocalypse of Angers, Tapestry Museum, Angers, F.

Writing in 1956, Romano Guardini reflected on man’s place in a world hurtling toward what we call today postmodernism. The End of the Modern World is a bleak reflection but a necessary one. Guardini, professor of philosophy and theology that he was, leaped beyond abstractions here to enter the battle for souls that theoretical formulas deflect. Nicolas Bataille. Dragons Vomiting Frogs (14th C). Apocalypse of Angers, Tapestry Museum, Angers, F. One stark passage alone is worth volumes of academic theology written by court theologians for fellow courtiers. Continue Reading