March 27, 2008
Sorry for the lack of posting. As you might imagine, I am utterly wiped after all the emotional and spiritual upheaval of the past week. Plus, I'm swamped at work. And speaking of upheaval, if you - like me - are not very good at dealing with descriptions of blood 'n guts, and are already feeling run down, then for Heaven's sake, do not read Maria Valtorta's description of the Crucifixion (quoted extensively in Bill Buckley's Nearer, My God). Save it for when you're feeling a bit stronger. Almost lost it on the metro this morning.
Nonetheless, life goes on. Yesterday, the middle Llama-ette, while horsing around with the P.E. coach at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, managed to come down on her wrist the wrong way and crock it. The E.R. johnnies think she might have a crack or a fracture, so off we need to go to the orthopedist to find out. In the meantime, the gel came home last evening with her arm duly plastered, bandaged and slung, and a look of delight on her face. This morning she said that her sisters could sign her cast PROVIDED that they wrote as small as possible, as she expected a LOT of people at school were going to want to sign today.
UPDATE: Oh, speaking of Buckley's book (which is pure WFB), he also quotes - but only in teasing snippets - from Msgr. Ronald Knox, who, in addition to being a convert himself, was also I gather a great friend of Chesterton's. The quotes are tempting enough that I should like to read some more of Father Knox. Anybody out there have a tip as to the best place to start?
UPDATE DEUX: I got tagged by Mink Monica's Mom for using the term "shock value" in my follow-on comment about why WFB put the Valtorta passage in his book. Lest anybody else get the wrong idea, I certainly did not mean to suggest anything either gratuitous or shallow on Buckley's part by my use of that expression, but in fact just the opposite: he did it as an expression of the depth of his faith. My apologies for not being clearer.
Posted by Robert at March 27, 2008 08:46 AM
The Belief of Catholics, at Ignatus Press, is one of his more famous. Ignatius is a great republisher of older Catholic books that you can't find elsewhere; they are also Benedict's publisher in the U.S., so they've lightened my wallet quite a bit in the last 2 years.
I haven't read it yet, as I am slogging through the entire Catechism for one of my master's courses, and am not out of Lent yet in the Liturgy of the Hours. Egads. Feel like I'm converting, myself.
Evidently Msgr. Knox was quite prolific, a more or less complete bibliography is here:
As for Maria Valtorta and the Poem of the Man God, you'll get mixed opinions on it in Catholic circles. Some say it contains heresies, some say it is harmess and banal, some say it is the greatest thing ever written. I haven't looked at it myself so I can't offer an opinion. I'm so far behind in my reading I will probably not get to it in this lifetime.
A similar work is St. Anne Catherine Emmerich's Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is also not for the faint of heart. It, too, is controversial, as some people feel it is anti-Semitic; I've read about half, and myself don't find it so, fwiw. Some of the non-scriptural details in Mel Gibson's' movie were taken from it, and it tends to be a favorite of the rad trads, sedevacantists, and some of the odder folk in the church. It also weaves in some of the stranger mysticism around the origin of the cross and the grail, so it is the favorite of the Indiana Jones types, too. It was excluded from consideration (for good or for ill) in her cause for sainthood due to the church not wanting to get into the debate over it. Which is not to put you off of it, I myself think it is very moving and insightful.
Though if you're headed down the mystic path, the first stop is naturally the works of Teresa of Avila, particularly the Interior Castles, the Autobiography, and the Way of Perfection, all of which are classics and which I've read, though not completely digested. I've considered that path, but frankly found it too frightening, and myself far too sinful to consider it. I'm approaching the mountaintop from the more conventional route through the more clearly bulldozed path of conventional theology.
WFB prefaces his insertion of Valtorta's writing with a brief summary of its history, its strengths and weaknesses. I think in the end he reproduced it for the pure, well, shock value. Personally, the last thing I was expecting was to get ambushed by a mystic - it really isn't my cup o' tea either.
"Ambushed by a mystic" -- heh. That gave me a chuckle. I'm imagining Teresa of Avila in Braveheart style face paint shooting from behind the rocks with a slingshot.
I've been thinking, for some time, on the nature of the fear of God. I truly do not frighten easily. But the mystics are, indeed, scary to me.
In considering why that is -- and why, behind them, God is frightening -- I've come far enough to realize it is that because he is, indeed, just, and does, indeed, consider all of our flaws. We fear God because, like Colonel Jessup says, we can't handle the truth. There is a prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas that has in it the phrase "I draw near to you as my Savior for I fear to approach you as my judge."
And part of it is a simple question of the majesty of Christ. Compared to Him, how do we look? Utterly unworthy to be in His company. But while we take courage from the fact he dined with sinners, we are right to also consider Him with a measure of fear when we consider what many of those sinners became, which were, in the cases of the Apostles, nearly martyrs to a man. We fear Him, truly. But I think we also fear -- perhaps more fear -- what He might yet make of us.
Hey Robbo, as the horrible song goes, "Looks Like We Made It" (although as if would be better English). Congratulations! Glad you made it across the Tiber and pleased I could do so the same time as you.
All best wishes,
Knox's "ENTHUSIASM: A Chapter in Church History" is fabulous.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now our Pope, has declared Poem of the Man-God on two separate occasions as "not of supernatural origin," thus rejecting it. Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN has written an article critical of the work. It is a book that once led me a astray, so I try to caution others about it.
Regardless of the baggage, Emmerich’s visions are worth reading; her detailed descriptions of Jesus’ emotional and physical state from the Agony in the Garden to His descent to Hell are tremendous.
With your background, you would love Knox’s historical fiction. He spends 4 or 5 volumes focusing on the Catholic/Protestant turmoil in Reformation England, pre- and post-, and makes the history come alive. Passion, intrigue, betrayal, heroism, martyrdom: it’s all in there, and every story leaves one terribly inspired. St. Edmund Campion even makes a cameo appearance. I recommend Come Rack! Come Rope! to start off with.