Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cakewalk April 23

33. Compton Heights Water Tower


At the base of the water tower, to the left, are some steps .  Just to the right of those steps, atop a stone wall, to the left of a tree, is a small red dot.  That's the cake.

34. The cake at 3172 South Grand Ave.



35. A cake in the Cherokee neighborhood.



36. A cake next to the statue of the Cherokee Indian.


Same cake and Indian Statue seen from across the street.

37. Benton Park Cake.



38. The cake at Anheuser-Busch, home town brewery owned by a Belgian corporation.



39. Off Broadway in South St. Louis



40. The De Menil Mansion.


41. The Lemp Mansion - my old haunt.  The cake is under the front first floor window on the far left.



42. Cake at the Venice Cafe.  The artist shows a piece cut out and the interior of the cake - brains - bleeding onto the sidewalk.



43. Cake at the Federal Arsenal.  The obelisk to the left is a monument to Union General Lyon, who kept the arsenal in Union hands during the Civil War.  In the middle is St. Agatha, the archdiocese's Polish parish.  To the right is the blue cake.



44. Top of the cake at the Carondelet Historical Building.




45. Carondelet Park's cake.


Cakewalk April 22

Karen and I continue to hunt down and photograph the 250 cakes placed around the St. Louis metro area to commemorate the 250th anniversary of our city's founding.


24. The cake inside the Loretto Hilton Theater.  In the lobby, tucked away by the windows.


The view out the windows (candle foreground) was more interesting than the cake.

25. Webster University / Nerinx Hall.  This cake was in a really stupid spot - outside a parking garage at my alma mater, Webster University; or if viewed from the other end, it was behind the back of Nerinx Hall High School, the most consistently pro-abortion "Catholic" high school in St. Louis.




26. Another stupid location - inside an ice cream parlor in Webster Grove, MO.  Webster Groves is a beautiful community - lots of big old houses, streets lined with huge trees, the picturesque old administration building at Webster University, the tree-lined campus of Eden Theological Seminary: and yet the cakes in Webster were either inside buildings or adjacent to parking lots.




27. ... inculding a cake at the parking lot of the College School in Webster Groves.




28. The cake at Kenrick Seminary, the seminary for the archdiocese of St. Louis, was, on the other hand, in a photogenic location.



29. There's also a cake at the Shrewsbury, Missouri bus stop.


30 .  ... and one at St. Louis landmark Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.



31. To the lower right is the cake at the Bevo Mill in South St. Louis.






32. This one is in the Dutchtown neighborhood by the Feasting Fox restaurant.


The Pain of All Humanity is Given a Name

Since Easter Sunday I've been trying to put something into words.

It has to do with the fact that the wounds of the Risen Christ stand as an ongoing witness to His crucifixion.  It has to do with combating a trend in the Church to place a great divide between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, to think of the Resurrection as a way of simply erasing or making right everything that went before it.

But the Resurrection is more than that.  It is a way of incorporating suffering into glory, a way of giving meaning to sin, of putting selfish and self-consuming things into a context where they are not meaningless, but connected to everything else.

Perhaps that is the greatest temptation of hell - the despair in thinking that our sins have been meaningless, that they have served merely to spiral us downward into the abyss; the vision that we have been snakes eating our our tails, isolated, alone, self-destructive.

Matthew Tan writes (my emphasis) that seeing Jesus as a Divine Repairman getting things back in order is hardly a full conception of Jesus.

... the ancient Church Fathers ... regarded Jesus as more than just the Son of God, a God who became a man to walk on this earth. To them, Jesus was the Logos or reasoning for everything that was ever created. He was the underlying logic to everything that has existed and ever will exist and it is for this reason that Scripture says that it is in Jesus that "all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). In particular, the crucified Christ for the Fathers was not an aberration to Jesus' life, but its very fulfillment, since by being nailed to the cross he revealed the reasoning of the entire universe, and revealed "all things hidden since the foundation of the world" (Matt 13:35)
And "all things" would include many of the things that we regard as alien to the order of life on earth, including pain and suffering. Indeed, Chiara Lubich, foundress of the Focolare Movement, had this to say about pain in her book The Cry of Jesus Crucified and Forsaken:
"had it not been for this cross, all...the pain of all humanity, would not have been given a name"
It is only in the light of the Crucified is pain seen not as the disruption of the order of the universe, but the privilege standpoint from which to understand that order. Our ability to identify pain as such would not be possible without the pain of the Logos on the cross.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The New Jerusalem is Not the Old Eden

From John Paul II's Theology of the Body ...

It can be said that St. Paul sees the reality of the future resurrection as a certain restitutio in integrum, that is, as the reintegration and at the same time as the attaining of the fullness of humanity. It is not truly a restitution, because in that case the resurrection would be, in a certain sense, a return to the state which the soul enjoyed before sin, apart from the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gn 1-2). But such a return does not correspond to the internal logic of the whole economy of salvation, to the most profound meaning of the mystery of the redemption. Restitutio in integrum, linked with the resurrection and the reality of the other world, can only be an introduction to a new fullness. This will be a fullness that presupposes the whole of human history, formed by the drama of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gn 3) and at the same time permeated by the text of the First Letter to the Corinthians.

This is another way of saying that the Risen Christ bears the wounds of Good Friday, as I wrote on Easter Sunday.  Nothing that we have suffered, or caused others to suffer, is lost.  Even our pains are transformed into glories.

The perfection Christ is calling us to, which includes what I sometimes call mature love, is not, therefore, a Pollyanna thing.  It's not glib or superficial.  It is borne not by denying our sins or our sufferings, but by repenting of the one and embracing the other.

Suffering is not only redemptive.  It is transformative.  Everything awful that's happened to you, everything terrible you've done to others, is the very material for the new creation God wants you to become.



The Most Insidious Problem in the Church - and Sir Mix-a-Lot, Too

Grammy Award winning Sir Mix-a-Lot, circa 1992.


In Part One of this post, I quoted Jeff Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed as he showed the similarity between a sappy setting of the Gloria by renegade priest Dan Schutte and the theme to "My Little Pony".  The tunes are disturbingly similar.

Click on the links and compare them yourselves.

Here they are again:




Disturbingly similar.  It makes you wonder if Dan Schutte is a "brony".

A name typically given to the male viewers / fans (whether they are straight, gay, bisexual, etc.) of the My Little Pony show or franchise. They typically do not give in to the hype that males aren't allowed to enjoy things that may be intended for females.

Whether this describes Schutte or not, why is his music such a big deal?

Because in 14 years as a Catholic, I have found that the single most serious issue in the Church is the bad music at Mass.  This is more serious than the sex scandal, more serious than the abdication of our bishops, more serious than heterodox homilies.

Why?  Because all of these other serious problems can be addressed rationally.  Bad bishops, bad homilies and especially the sex abuse scandal are obvious - the latter, in fact, is notorious.  But bad music is insidious.

in·sid·i·ous inˈsidēəs 
adjective
adjective insidious
  1. proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.

In order to explain this, let me take you back twenty years.

***

It was sometime in the 1990's.  I was an adult student at Webster University in St. Louis, and I decided to take a class in the Religion Department.  Webster, founded by the Sisters of Loretto, had even then long since abandoned any pretense of being Catholic (like the Sisters of Loretto themselves), and apparently their "Religion" courses were all run by Stanford Nutting, for we'd typically move our chairs in a circle and "discuss" things that we knew absolutely nothing about.

Our instructor one day instigated a discussion on the "Oceanic Feeling", Freud's term for the sense of being One with the universe.  "Have any of you had The Oceanic Feeling?" he asked.

Around the circle of chairs every single hand popped up - except mine.  I had never felt "at One with the universe" and I still haven't.  It's much more obvious that the universe is out to get me, in fact.  I wouldn't last long on the surface of Pluto, for example, and it's pretty evident that the consistent unity of inter-acting things (which is what the universe is) could, at best, give a fig about yours truly.

"What on earth gives you the Oceanic Feeling?" I asked the young man sitting across from me - one of the many whose hand had shot up.

"Music!" he exclaimed, with a breathless and airy enthusiasm.  "Music gives me the Oceanic Feeling!"

I have forgotten this kid's name, but he was the most soft-spoken student in the class.  He barely vocalized above a whisper, and I often wanted to shake him and say, "Speak up!  The universe can't hear you!"  His great affectation was gentleness, but he looked like a mafioso.  Tall with dark hair, dark eyebrows and a permanent five o'clock shadow, his abundant testosterone and Mediterranean background put the lie to his almost androgynous mildness of manner - though he did live with his mother and her sisters, so the poor kid had an uphill battle.

"What kind of music puts you at One with the universe?" I asked.

"Any kind of music," he said glibly and smiled.

"Oh, any kind of music puts you at One with the universe, does it?" I pressed.

"Yes, any kind of music!"

 "What about rap music?  Does rap music put you at One with the universe?"

"It certainly could!" he smiled.

"Let me get this straight," I replied.  "'Baby Got Back' by Sir Mix-a-Lot, that song about girls with gigantic butts - even that song could put you at One with the universe?  Even that song could give you the old Oceanic Feeling?"

He wasn't the least bit phased.  "I'm certain it could!" he answered, slipping into a kind of benign trance even as he sat there.

***

But of course he was wrong.  Supposing the Oceanic Feeling to be a real thing, Sir Mix-a-Lot and "Baby Got Back" would not be any way to get there.

Music, like all art, like all things we experience aesthetically, has an objective component, even though our appreciation of this objective component varies subjectively from person to person - but not entirely.  This is why we have critics.  This is why we discuss music and art and literature, because we know innately that there is some objective quality we are trying to evaluate and appreciate in any work of art, limited though we are in our subjective ability to do so. There are objective standards of good and bad, and various works of art hit those standards or fall shy of them.  More than that, what makes a good rap song does not make a good church hymn.  Art exists for a teleos, or an end, a reason - and good art achieves the end for which it is made; bad art does not.

For instance, there's nothing wrong with the "My Little Pony Theme".  It's entirely appropriate for the show and for its demographic - female children.

It is entirely inappropriate for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

As I wrote on Facebook ...

Bad liturgical music is insidious. It's one thing to hear a heterodox homily or to spot liturgical abuse - but the music, even the very melodies - the music conveys heterodoxy at a subliminal and pre-rational level, making it almost impossible to fight against. 

And this is the problem.  When Catholics are surrounded by melodies that deliberately convey the unconscious message that Jesus Christ crucified is no different from a mindless cartoon for little girls, we've got a serious problem.

Were the music at Mass reformed in one fell swoop, the Church would begin a rebirth in America the likes of which we have never seen before.  But as long as the "My Little Pony Theme" is used to glorify God, reform in the Church will never take hold.



The Climax of Theology of the Body is ... Virginity!



Here's a sample of an online discussion concerning Christopher West's appearance several years ago on Nightline, when he said Hugh Hefner was his hero (my emphasis).

StrictCatholicGirl:

... Of course we know that husband and wife is a symbol of Christ and the Church. Christ Himself gave us the allegory of the Bridegroom and Bride. The marital bond is the closest we have on this earth to describing the union of God and the soul.

But West is saying more.. I think.. as if the sexual act itself is mystical and heaven is some kind of cosmic eternal orgasm. Pardon my bluntness. But the physical union of man and wife is only one aspect of marriage. It is not the entire marriage. Jesus says very clearly that in the new creation we will live as angels - and St. Paul tells us that LOVE is the only things that lasts. After the final resurrection of the body.. our love - that is our true identity in Christ - will be complete. We will see Him face to face and we will know Him and in knowing Him we will know ourselves. Isn't this the heart of the message of TOB?

At our store we have JPII's original TOB and Christopher West's "explanation."  I wish I could read TOB for myself - but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it's a bit over my head.

- Lisa

Credo:
While we're on the subject, if orgasm is the most pleasant experience the body can physically experience (at least that's my understanding from hearing psychologists), and if all good things come from God and are a reflection of Him, how can there not be this feeling in Paradise somehow?

StrictCatholicGirl:

... The new paradise isn't just about "feeling pleasant experiences." It's about LOVE. St. Paul said "eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. ....."

If there could be such a feeling in paradise as an eternal orgasm or overdosing on Prozac, then for me heaven might be a perpetually reserved table at an Italian restaurant. See, it's ridiculous. It's fleshy and materialistic and as kindergartenish as angels on clouds playing harps.

Charity is the only thing that lasts. 


- Lisa

Well, Lisa, you may not have read the original Theology of the Body (TOB) by John Paul II, but you've nailed it.  Not only is heaven an expression of and an experience of God's love, heaven also reveals the purpose of the Body, which is something greater than sexual union.  Speaking of heaven, soon-to-be St. John Paul says  (my emphasis) ...

The reciprocal gift of oneself to God—a gift in which man will concentrate and express all the energies of his own personal and at the same time psychosomatic subjectivity—will be the response to God's gift of himself to man. In this mutual gift of himself by man, a gift which will become completely and definitively beatifying, as a response worthy of a personal subject to God's gift of Himself, virginity, or rather the virginal state of the body, will be totally manifested as the eschatological fulfillment of the nuptial meaning of the body, as the specific sign and the authentic expression of all personal subjectivity. In this way, therefore, that eschatological situation in which "They neither marry nor are given in marriage" has its solid foundation in the future state of the personal subject. This will happen when, as a result of the vision of God face to face, there will be born in him a love of such depth and power of concentration on God himself, as to completely absorb his whole psychosomatic subjectivity. 

This is why I say the Westian vision of man and JP2's vision of man are entirely at odds.  For the Westians, heaven is an all-you-can eat dessert buffet, where the fulfillment of our essence is (in Lisa's words) "fleshy and materialistic" and "kindergartenish".

However, according to JP2, and more importantly according to Scripture and Tradition, our "psychosomatic subjectivity" - meaning our existence as individual persons with a body and a soul combined - will be "divinized" - focused on God and permeated by His love - to such a degree that all internal conflicts or tendencies to sin (including lust and concupiscence) will be a thing of the past, Love itself making of our bodies not sexual objects, but virginally pure incarnations of incomplete beings made complete by union with the Love of God and of one another.

That may not be a better way of saying what John Paul said, but it's a shocking climax to something that the Westians would have us think is all about sex.  Certainly, sex plays a role in this, but the capstone of sexual difference and even of sexual desire is somehow virginity.  This is a great paradox that takes thought and prayer and - believe it or not - reading the original Wednesday Audiences.



Monday, April 21, 2014

The Culture of Death and the Logic of Consumerism

Matthew Tan has written an essay that is filled with vocabulary and allusions that only an economist from academia could appreciate, but he ends up saying some compelling things that I will try to translate into non-academic English.

He points out that abortion is more than an individual decision; the abortion industry is a social construct that communicates a conception of man that has been a long time coming.  This vision of man is the flip side of Fromm's homo consumens.  Not only is modern man thought to find value by purchasing commodities (consuming man) - modern man himself is a commodity.  We are valued because of our visibility, which is what gives us marketability.  Hence, invisible humans, such as unborn babies, have no value whatsoever.  And since the value of life is found in the marketplace, we are compelled to insure against anything that might damage the accidentals - or even the cosmetics - that now determine what man is and make man marketable.  Tan explains ...

... the foetus becomes classified as an element of risk because it presents a disruption to the integrity of the autonomy of the more visible mother. Indeed, because of the imperative to consume and be consumed within late Capitalism, the invisible foetus can become vulnerable to being categorised by the mother as a risk insofar as it threatens to consume the mother, whether in terms of her financial resources, future plans or body image. In the face of the foetus' being considered such a risk, the insurational imaginary posits abortion as a form of insurance against risks to the mother's integrity. 

In other words, if our culture tells you that your value as a person subsists in your "financial resources, future plans or body image," then whatever threatens any of this must be insured against - and the vacuum hose at Planned Parenthood is a great tool that protects you from this thing that attacks your very value as a person - this thing that threatens to "consume" you.  It's not a question of killing an unborn baby, it's a question of maintaining your very worth as a human being - or so the economic and cultural structure of society tells us.

Because this way of thinking permeates society, the Church is faced with a challenge - and that challenge is not just to preach the pro-life message, but to offer an alternate cultural reality.

The Great Commission to ‘make disciples of all peoples’ would encompass more than achieving agreement in the minds of those disciples to a corpus of belief. It would involve training the bodies of these disciples into becoming ecclesial ‘fields’ to nourish the necessary habitus that in turn makes believable the claims of the Gospel of life. 

... which is to say you can't just preach at people, you've got to create a new community that lives out what you believe, "housing within its practices a counter-logic to the logic of consumerism" as Matthew Tan states it.

And how can the Church do this? you might ask.  Tan answers, through the sacraments, particularly by means of the Eucharist - for the Eucharist stands as a stark witness against the consumer society, in the following ways ...


  • The Capitalist society is predicated upon "resource scarcity".  The Eucharist is an expression of the plenitude of God

  • Consumer society is founded upon contract, upon buying and selling.  The Eucharist is pure gift.

  • Commoditized man must be visible: slick, sexy, airbrushed, bold, powerful.  The Eucharist is itself a hidden treasure, humble, quiet, an expression of hidden strength appearing as weakness. (see 2 Cor. 12:10 and elsewhere)

  • In modern culture, the value of man is something external to his being.  In the Eucharist "the gift is not alienated from the giver": gift and giver are one.  "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35)


This is what the Church is called to do.  Rather than being a mere prop to a consumerist culture, a Culture of Death whose very structures and modes of thought and whose concept of being and value support abortion and other evils, the Church must become what she already is (though herself in a hidden and weak way), a "public in its own right" (as Tan calls it), whose existence challenges the social structure at large that surrounds it.





More Audio Books

I've just completed recording my 33rd and 34th Audio Books - In His Image and Birth of an Age - the first two books of the Christ Clone Trilogy by James BeauSeignieur.

The print versions have done very well, having been published in 12 languages (see photo, left).  They're fictionalized "End Times" stories with a science fiction flair, not unlike the Michael O'Brien Children of the Last Days series, which I also performed and recorded as audio books.

There's some serious insight into the dangers of the New Age movement in BeauSeignieur's books, along with lots of action and some biting satire.  The books will be available from Audible, easily downloadable to any computer or listening device.

I'll post more later when the books are available on Audible.


The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and My Little Pony

Jeff Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed not long ago published this in one of his posts ...

COMPOSER DAN SCHUTTE, formerly a Jesuit priest, published a musical setting in 2012 of the Glory To God which has been widely criticized because it changes the words.
To me, however, something else is even more problematic. Please listen to these brief excerpts and see if you can guess what I’m getting at:
Am I crazy, or is this resemblance jarring?

 Readers, click on the two links.  GLORY TO GOD IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE MY LITTLE PONY THEME, ONLY WORSE!



Jeff goes on to say, "I have absolutely nothing against Schutte, who is incredibly accomplished and literally world-famous."

Well, I have quite a lot against Dan Schutte.  Anyone who would write a setting of the Gloria that is indistinguishable from the "My Little Pony Theme" is not a man I'd introduce to other adults, much less a man whose music I would sing.  Nor should the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be blasphemed by the music of this "former Jesuit priest".

When the most important activity in our lives is dumbed down to "My Little Pony" - "dumbed down" to a point that makes you want to "throw up" - then it's no wonder men and young people and normal human beings are leaving the Church in droves.



Cakewalk April 21

Cakewalk 250 continues ... 

15. Kirkwood, MO train station.



16. Statue of St. Louis the Crusader (the cake is in front of the horse, to the right of the cluster of people looking over the retaining wall.  One thing about many of these cakes: they're placed in awkward spots, making it hard to photograph them and at the same time frame the nearby landmarks.)



17. The Magic House, Kirkwood, MO



Detail of the Magic House cake, our favorite one so far.

18. Frank Lloyd Wright house, Des Peres, MO




19. Edward D. Jones headquarters.




20. Des Peres Lodge, with the felur-de-lis, our city's symbol



21. The Dog Museum.  The top of the cake and its candle is left, dog statues, right.



The grounds of the Dog Museum are beautiful - but watch where you step!

22. The Museum of Transportation.  The cake is in the background, to the left of the train in the foreground.



Museum of Transportation Cake, from above.

23. Barretts Elementary School.





Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Cakewalk Continues

Our Easter Sunday Cakewalk ...

11. The New Cathedral (cake is lower right foreground)



12. The Missouri History Museum




13. Turtle Park (the cake is to the left of the turtle sculpture, atop the grassy knoll)



14. Dogtown (the Irish Neighborhood)