Friday, April 17, 2009
Bernard Cornwell's "Agincourt" is an excellent novel of that historic battle in the Hundred Years War. It captures a view of history from the eyes of a common archer, and as such, is a refreshing alternative to the telling of history from the eyes of the ruling class. The novel's graphic prediction of the violence of the Middle Ages clearly shows how far the old civilization of Rome had collapsed into the barbarism of its invaders. The fusion of the Germanic tribes into Roman order was truly catastrophic considering that indoor plumbing was just one benefit of the old empire which did not reappear for 1,500 years, even after a devastating plague wiped out more than a third of Europe. Reading Cornwell's work I wondered if the current situation in the West is but the early stages of another collapse in which the enemy this time is not across the Rhine but within us. Destruction is so much easier than building and recovery is almost impossible to achieve. "Agincourt" reveals the totality of violence 1,000 years after the collapse of Roman law. It shows a world in which children and women have absolutely no rights. Their abuse and murder is permitted despite the cries of the Church. It is a world of illiteracy and diminished life span in which each generation takes with it to the grave a piece of the culture and civilization that once was. I once spoke to an African-American parent in a poor urban zone. She told me that in her world the grandmothers were raising their grandchildren because a generation had been lost to drugs and violence. She wondered what would happen when the grandmothers died. When that moment came in the Middle Ages the rich fled to castles, and some people fled to walled cities. In our times we have opted for gated communities. Eventually, medieval castles collapsed and cities were sacked.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Stained glass is mute, perhaps ugly, without light. However when the burning sun radiates through it, often a beautiful picture fills the room with vibrant colors and a message. Gothic churches of medieval Europe allowed for wide windows of stained glass because of their architectural supports of flying buttresses and vaulted ceilings. Suddenly, the dark and mysterious Romanesque churches were now competing with the brilliant colors of Gothic churches. To a people with little literacy the windows told the stories of the bible in a clear almost comic book style. Now the peasants could see Adam, Eve, Abraham, Christ and Mary. The new cathedrals had their altars showered by light from the east in honor of Jerusalem as they silently waited for the return of Christ to that sacred city in the end times. People were buried on their backs facing Jerusalem waiting to face Christ on the promised day of the Resurrection of the dead in glorified bodies when the archangel Gabriel would sound his horn across the heavens on that last day. The windows and the dead still wait.
In our times perhaps we are all stained glass windows in the sense that God can shine through us and make his presence known with the warmth and dazzling colors of His love. Perhaps this happens when we know we just did something good for someone, or when we really did a good job in our vocation. As the moment passes, and we and our little world retreats to its sadly familiar darkness, it is good to remember that we did not provide the light that radiated but that He was the light and that He used us to show His love. It is good to be the stained glass.
Friday, April 3, 2009
During the French Revolution Notre Dame cathedral in Paris was desecrated and renamed the Temple of Reason. Statues of kings were beheaded and pagan ritual dances on the high altar replaced the holy sacrifice of the Mass as priests and nuns were beheaded in the massive square outside the cathedral. Today, Notre Dame University in America has also embraced the current secular culture of its time. By inviting Obama (an avowed champion of abortion and stem cell harvesting) to receive a degree, Notre Dame University has now officially renounced its Roman Catholic identity despite its claims of denial and has joined an Episcopalian style embrace of the secular culture in a pseudo-Christian disguise. Honesty should follow with a new name for the school since it is not Catholic. Perhaps it should be called the Notre Dame Episcopalian University, or Notre Dame Secular University. Such an action would indeed be truth in advertising to perspective students and their parents. Likewise, officially leaving the Catholic church would free the university of its current strange dual personality, and most definitely purify the church it currently infects with confusion. Those choosing to become or remain Catholic would have a clarified understanding of their faith and the educational opportunities available under the title of a Catholic University. Notre Dame could be free of controversy and impediments in its developing secularization. Nostalgia for a lost past is a waste of time. The church of Bing Crosby in "Going My Way" has long left Notre Dame. Leave with God's blessings. Allow American Roman Catholics to be about the business of their faith to build and feed Roman Catholic higher education. It is obvious that the marriage of Notre Dame University and Roman Catholicism is over. Lets not stay together for the children. This farce has confused and damaged them enough.