Sunday, 15 July 2018

Fra Andrew Bertie

Fra Andrew Bertie | | Our Lady of Damascus

Fra Andrew Bertie

The Servant of God Fra' Andrew Willoughby Ninian Bertie was the 78th Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He occupied that position from 1988 till his death in 2008. Fra' Bertie was the first Englishman to be elected Grand Master of the Order of Malta since 1258. During his long years of residence in Malta, he and his late mother regularly attended Holy Liturgy on Sundays at Our Lady of Damascus. Moreover, the Servant of God Fra' Bertie actively participated in our Church's celebrations during Holy Lent and Easter.

Andrew Baertie (2)

Library | Search Results | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

Library | Search Results | V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

V E R I T A T I S | P R A E C O

sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum

Search Results for: Library

On Having a Good Library

It was once remarked that a good benchmark of success for an undergraduate student, at the end of his four years, is to look at his library and to see how it has grown: not merely in size, but in quality.  Part of what the ardent student will find, looking through his library, is a large number of authors of whom he did not know before going to college, but now finds as familiar as old friends.  His shelves should not be laden with popular fiction and Lost and Philosophy (which might be a good title if not for the television show), but with good books and better books: classics like The Republic, Plutarch's Lives, The Divine Comedy, The City of God, The Nicomachean Ethics, The Annals of Tacitus, Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Eliot's The Waste Land, and so many, many more.  It is also important, and fruitful, to amass a collection of the obscure books – not for the sake of obscurity, but for the sake of fullness.  St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae is a masterpiece amongst masterpieces; but one's collection of his oeuvre, and thus his sapient contribution to the human conversation, is incomplete without his lesser known works, such as On the Unity of the Intellect Against the Averroists or The Division and Method of the Sciences.  Nor is the reader given so full an appreciation of Shakespeare's Troilus and Criseyde without having also experienced Chaucer's.

Of course, it is one thing to have a cornucopia of good books, and quite another to have read them all.  There is perhaps no greater affront to books than to use them as mere decorations; even burning them gives more credence, for a burned book is one of two things: one, read and held in either great contempt or great fear, so much so that someone (mistakenly) thinks the only way to deal with it is fire, or two, not read and prejudicially subjected to the same treatment.  Regardless, there is more respect paid to the book by its immolation, in recognizing it as something that inherently attempts entrance into the intersubjective realm of thought and discourse, than by it being turned into an idle and vain piece of decoration.  Nevertheless there is nothing inherently wrong with an outwardly attractive book (so long as the content is equally meritorious to the covering).  On the contrary, Catholic Treasures' Douay-Rheims translation of the Holy Bible, complete with the Reverend Haydock's notes, is a most fittingly beautiful volume; the Harvard Classics series of books, though often of inferior translation, are eye-catching and largely worth reading.  Even the cloth-bound Loeb Library, which has the original Latin or Greek of great works on one side and a passable English translation on the other, is a pleasant site for the eyes, and a magnificent tool for those aspiring to the classical languages.  There is nothing wrong at all with deriving pleasure from both the inside and the outside of your books; but be wary of confusing the primacy of merit!

Thus, one's library should never grow too quickly.  It is terribly hard to read a good book in a short span of time; at least, to read it as it ought to be read, with care and diligence.  Mortimer J. Adler, a 20th century man of genius, editor-in-chief of The Great Books of the Western World a publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and co-author with Charles Van Doren of How to Read a Book (among many others), once said that he never reads a great book faster than 20 pages an hour, and never without paper and pencil to hand.  It is a difficult thing in theory and in mental preparation, to restrict oneself to reading so slowly, for there are so many great, important works that an intellectually alacritous mind desires to read.  Yet once having discerned the fruits to such a slow and careful endeavor, once the distinction is drawn between reading a book casually and reading a book intelligently, critically, one can only feel somewhat sickly if he tries to read a great book without due diligence. 

To summarize, one's library should grow much at the same pace as one's body; and as the latter slows down its growth, so should the former begin to increase as the mind – which, unlike the body, knows no limits – becomes ready for the knowledge that a good library may impart.  Read good books, and read them slowly; and while you will inevitably, from time to time, read books that are not so good, with which there is nothing wrong so long as it is a diversion to allow the mind to rest, be sure to reflect on whatever you read, to weigh it against all the works of the Western tradition, and to put it in its proper place.  In other words, Stephen King is poor company for Dante Alighieri on your shelf.

Suggested Viewing:

Provincial Suffocation

Chesterton once wrote that "the man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world" (Heretics, c.14: 1905). The converse is, of course, that the man who lives in a large community lives in a much smaller world; the reason being that the large community allows a man to choose his own companions, whereas the small community leaves him no alternative. Given the choice of companions, he may elect only those with whom he finds himself comfortable, with whom he already agrees. Without the choice, he must either ignore and perhaps berate or ridicule his neighbors, or he must learn to accept that their perceived failure to fit neatly into his own ideas is actually failure of his perception. His failure is not necessarily that they are right and he is wrong about whatever it is that they are doing or not doing; it is that he should expect them, who are not he, to be as he is—in knowledge, in experience, in moral rectitude. Every human is the same in nature; every man is the same in essential properties, and every woman is too (in which, nature and essential properties, are grounded certain foundational orientations, deviation from which is never justified). But because men are not just their natures, but their persons, they accrue differentiations. Allowing for these differentiations, it is true, allows for Caligulas, Robespierres, Hitlers, and Adam Lanzas; but it also allows for Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, and (soon-to-be-sainted) John Paul II. To demand uniformity of personhood is to demand its diminishment. When the individual is allowed to choose his own companions, and the companions he chooses are those who are most like him, he does not give himself very many opportunities to expand the boundaries of his person. (As an aside, let it be said that anyone who would accuse religious of this error has clearly not spent enough time with religious communities.)

It does not need to be explained why the "community" of today is many times larger than any were in the time of Chesterton. The technology of cultural globalization and increased urbanization has succeeded in allowing almost everyone to connect to nearly anyone else. It is not hyperbole to say that this cafeteria connectedness, in effect though not in principle, is corroding the foundation of civilization, specifically Western civilization: namely, participation in the great dialogue. When every practical daily need and strong desire—friendship, romance, nourishment, commerce, education—can reasonably be met by those of similar (or at least not opposed) perspectives, the opportunity for genuine dialogue* evaporates. Heads bob up and down in agreement to hundreds of different monologues, contrary to one another but inaudible to each other's audience.

It is this tendency to social insularity that Allen Tate named the "New Provincialism" (in Essays of Four Decades, 535-546: 1945). While there have been many benefits to the world becoming "smaller" in the past hundred years—especially the unprecedented accessibility of resources, cultural, intellectual, and corporeal alike—"What it never occurred to anybody to ask was this simple question: What happens if you make the entire world into one vast region? …the real end is not physical communication, or parochial neighborliness on a world scale. The real end, as I see it, is what you are communicating after you get the physical means of communication." The mere ability to speak the same language to one another does not mean that men will understand each other; it does not mean that they are actually communicating, inasmuch as communication means entering into something common: "It is possible for men to face one another and not have anything to say. In that case it may occur to them, since they cannot establish a common understanding, to try to take something away from one another" (537). While surrounding oneself with like-minded people, indulging in affirmation of one's own beliefs, and unequivocally rejecting the possibility of dialogue with others is a disposition common to liberals and conservatives, progressives and traditionalists, atheists and Christians, the former of each pairing—which, taken as a whole, we will denominate "secular liberalism"—are generally contracted to a smaller world. For conservatives, traditionalists, and Christians are, insofar as they are true to the label, dependent upon a continuity of thought developed over millennia. All too often they are, as a reaction, content to see the tradition of any given continuity of thought as perfected and complete, needing no further extension; sometimes, even seeing no need for further intension, either.

No period is more victimized by this provincialism than that which the insulated mind of secular liberalism finds most foreign and some radical traditionalists find most glorious: the Latin age of Christendom—that is, broadly speaking, the period between 950-1600 AD, and more specifically, between 1050-1350, in which three centuries Christendom was at its peak. To define Christendom would require pages ill-suited here; but succinctly, it may be described as a cohesive effort, effected by many parts, to cultivate for the whole an order whereby men could be brought to God. It was not always a successful effort; but it was a unique one. The Roman Empire may have united more of the world, more tightly, and for longer—but Rome was Rome's own end. The conquests of Rome were motivated by a desire for peace and stability. The infrastructure built by the Roman Empire was for the sake of Rome's glory. Rome centered about Rome. Christendom, contrariwise, while it fostered cultural centers, such as Paris, Naples, Chartres, and Oxford, was essentially de-centralized as a secular force. The great cathedrals which still stand all over Europe today were not built to glorify Rome, the Vatican, or the Pope; Notre Dame was not built as a monument to Alexander III, Bl. Innocent V, Benedict XII, or any of the other popes who reigned during its nigh-200-year-long construction. Likewise, while the Crusades began as a defense of Christendom, they persisted for the glory of no particular kingdom but for the preservation and veneration of the Holy Land.

It is typical of the secular liberal to see the undeniable achievements of Christendom as aberrations from the spirit of the age, produced in spite of barbaric authoritarianism. The protagonist of Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, William of Baskerville, exemplifies this attitude: he is portrayed as both a compassionate humanist, as a member of the Franciscan order, and an intellectual, in love with the writings of Aristotle and Aquinas. Meanwhile, Bernard Gui is portrayed as an authoritarian monster who extracts confessions by vicious torture for reasons never sufficiently explained; Jorge of Burgos is portrayed as a proto-Puritan, for whom reason often contradicts faith and must therefore be quelled. Many of the other monks are shown as Scriptural listeralists pre-eminently concerned with avoiding heresy. The books of the library are locked away in a labyrinthine tower. The tone of the novel suggests that this is characteristic of the age.

Contrariwise, historians such as Henri Daniel-Rops look at Christendom as a glorious period of order and reason which ideally (though impossible) ought to be restored.

Neither Eco nor Daniel-Rops is entirely wrong, nor is either entirely correct; but of the two, Daniel-Rops makes a more compelling historical study, albeit one shaded with the provincialism of closed-traditionalism. Eco is certainly not a man ignorant of the facts, but his interpretation of them seems distorted by a secular liberalist provincialism. The ideologies respectively represented by Eco and Daniel-Rops accuse each other of being closed-minded; in that, both are correct.

In principle, the transgression of any sort of intellectual insularity is, like most profound errors, a metaphysical transgression. It is to take some limited existence as true and good, but as the whole truth and the summum bonum, and consequently to take some other limited existence as false and evil, because it is not entirely true and not completely good. The smaller the world of the individual, through the largeness of his "community," the more provincial his perspective, the more monological his provincial discourse, the more limited the existence of what he accepts as true and good. And more the fool is he: the glory of Christendom, for instance, was not produced by a united culture affecting a uniformity of persons, but by a genuine diversity of human persons affecting a united culture: the differentiations which marked the person of St. Francis of Assisi were quite different from the differentiations which marked the person of St. Thomas Aquinas, and yet their contributions to the world were within, and are not fully intelligible apart from, one and the same order of a Christian society. But moreover, Christendom was not the pinnacle of everything that ever has been and ever shall be made good by man; the philosophy of Scholasticism, a prime example, is not only not contrary to the insights of phenomenology (or even, dare it be said, semiotics), but complemented by them, and it is complementary to them—indeed, it might even be said that philosophy as a whole does not discrminate in favor of any one against the other, so long as any may bring to light something true (even analytic philosophy)!

This universal approbration of what is true, however, does not mean that we cannot or should not condemn things as false. It is the perennial task of philosophy to disentangle what is true from the associated and intertwined errors of previous generations. To do so requires distinction of true and false—which requires that a man forsake the self-affirming security of his chosen world.

*While interesting, it is somewhat pedantic to consider the etymology of the word "dialogue," coming from the Greek dia– meaning "across" and legein, meaning (more proximately) "to speak" and (more remotely, if we can believe Heidegger) "to gather." The latter translation includes some notion of resolution—not in Hegel's sense—where some further truth is educed from other truths held by multitude.

The Right Idea of a University

This article was written as a response to a previous article, "The Wrong Idea of a University," about the closing of Southern Catholic College, my alma mater.  As I thought about how to write this article, it became evident to me that words would, ultimately, fail what I desire to express; the experience of four years, translated into a universal truth, is hard to put back into the particulars of words.  I, one more time, turned to the prayer which I believe carried me through those four years, the Memorare.  In English, the prayer's final line is rendered "Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me."  On the other hand, in Latin it reads "Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despicere, sed audi propitia et exaudi."  The English translation, though poetic, loses the connection between Mary as the Mother of the Word (Mater Verbi) and the words of the petitioner (verba mea).  So it is that I pray, through the intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, the writing of this, the words put down here, may reflect the will of the Word.

What more can be said on the subject of education, and of the University education in particular?  In a sense, it seems almost impossible to contribute, to presume to build upon the works from antiquity.  But the depth and the richness of the Western intellectual tradition has been formed not merely through the great names and great works, but also through the nameless adherents and students of better men; if this essay may be a line in a letter, the dot above an "i," in a word in a sentence in the tomes of the great tradition, it would be more than its author presumes.  A particular debt is owed to the work of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman and the 20th century Thomist philosopher, Josef Pieper.

If there is one physical feature of Christendom College that is particularly striking, aside from the poignant centrality of the chapel, it is the school's library.  Though somewhat marred by a sea of computers in the center of the main floor (or so it was in 2005), the building is nonetheless characterized by a calm and yet elevating beauty; it induces the peace of contemplation.  One immediately feels that he is in a place of learning, of wisdom.  Likewise, amidst a half dozen so aesthetically well-composed buildings, including a new chapel that ranks among the most beautiful of North American churches built in the last 40 years, the library at Thomas Aquinas College in California envelopes the visitor with a profound sense of the intellectual atmosphere.  It is tempting and easy to look around at such settings and say without qualification that "Yes, here is a University."  To do so would, however, be a grave mistake; for while Christendom and Thomas Aquinas are certainly Universities, it is dubious whether other places of even greater academic atmosphere and history are still deserving of the name.

Nice buildings, large holdings of books, idyllic landscapes, accommodating classrooms, the trappings of academia—all of these are certainly conducive to a University education; but they no more (and in fact, far less) guarantee or even indicate a true center of learning than a beautiful church guarantees local orthodoxy.  The most heterodox of priests may preach to fellow heretics in front of the most glorifying of tabernacles (perhaps grudgingly); and the most brilliant of professors may teach eager students in run-down trailers or sloppily converted hotel rooms (though not without some resentment).  What the heretics lack—what divides them from the Church—is that very same thing for which the professors and students strive, and in so doing, for the University.  It is the Word—the Logos.

It is in this regard that Southern Catholic College, however it ostensibly failed in the eyes of the world, managed to excel.  Classes were taught in a run-down trailer and in sloppily converted hotel rooms; and yet between the professors and the students there existed a continual conversation, a continual exchange of ideas through words, a consistent attempt at expression and comprehension of the Word itself.  In an interview done to promote the school, Dr. Cicero Bruce, professor of English Literature at Southern Catholic, gave a description of the literature program which rather accurate described the whole of the humanities program at the school: "Here I believe we proceed from the supposition that there is something true and good; you might describe the literature program here as logocentric.  In other words, it is centered around words—words on the page, metaphors—but around, ultimately, the Word of God; yes, the Word of God.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And it's that Word of God, that Logos, that we believe inspires the literature in the first place.  And the words on the page, the metaphors of the poet become portals into that Logos, into that fount of Wisdom."  (The video may be seen here).

It is this pursuit of the Logos, through words on the page and in conversation, through the unceasing dialog, that the University is grounded, and through which it grows.  Such an endeavor, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake—not to be put to any use, not to be subordinated to some practical end—the world, engaged as it is with "total work," to steal a phrase of Josef Pieper's, does not understand.  The world, instead, occupies itself with man's daily needs and his daily wants; his food and his television, his electricity and, yes, his toilet paper.  It is the duty of the University to push man beyond these needs and base desires; for while in and of themselves they pose no harm, they allow man to divert himself from his true purpose, from the pursuit of perfection through knowledge of and engagement with the true and the good.  Such is what Newman advocated in his Idea of a University; an effort which, not easy, not simple, and not without struggle, is nonetheless in itself rewarding; the "knowledge of a gentleman," the artes liberales, the form and foundation of society (wed, of course, to the spiritual heritage of the Catholic faith; something which seems unnecessary to argue for this audience).

It is sad that so many schools today, where perhaps this environment could be fostered, are instead suffocated beneath the bureaucracy of mere administrators—by which is mean those who, without experience in the education of the gentleman, of the liberal arts, are brought into the institution with some misconception that they may nonetheless facilitate such an education.  This atrocious state of affairs is not merely a situation of the blind leading the blind; it is of the utterly sense-deprived obscuring the vision of the newborn, stunting development, constraining would-be growth.  The liberal arts teach integration of all the world; and yet the liberal arts college all too often, as happened at Southern Catholic, is a fragmentary structure in which neither faith nor education, nor the inseparability of each from all aspects of life are properly understood.

In conclusion, this is not the place to conjecture about the particular configuration of the Catholic University.  It is merely a statement of principles: employ good professors, recruit good students, and put them together; for the University to grow and to be sustained, it must first exist.

P.S., it ought to be noted that Fr. Shawn Aaron, most recent president of Southern Catholic, did participate in the classroom and frequently engaged students in academic discussions; if only he had been four years earlier.

Sweeney at the Ambo

It is part of human nature for men to want to be heard; and while not all men enact this innate possibility of being, many do, and many have longed to, but not had the means.  Thus, with the advent of modern democracy came the right to free speech, which has often been celebrated and in many cases sapiently exercised.  Yet freedom is in all cases a double-edged sword, for it is easy mutilated into the enemy of liberty, license: a man is just as free to pursue the bad, being whatever he wants for himself, as he is the good, whatever is best for himself.  In the case of free speech, undoubtedly more good would come of it were the majority of the populace rightly educated not merely in how to speak, but in how to think; as it is, free speech can only be as good as that which goes into those who speak, and the average person is, sadly, educated very poorly.  And yet, despite such poor education, the capability of the average individual to publish his opinions freely, in a way that is available to everyone, has never been as easy as it is today: enter the age of the internet.  Again, this freedom can be good—indeed, Veritatis Praeco humbly attempts usage of the medium—but it can also be quite bad.  On the internet, anyone can be a painter, a rock star, a minor celebrity; everyone has the chance to pretend that he is an artist.  But what happens when someone attempts to be an artist without having any artistic talent?  Quite simply, he produces a piece of bad art.

Thus, when someone tries to make a name for himself through the internet as a critic, without having a keen critical eye, he is apt to producing bad criticism.  Such is the case with Dan Schneider, proprietor of the website Cosmoetica, which offers essays, literary and film criticism, and poetry written by the proprietor and his associates.  Who Mr. Schneider is, how he was educated, and what compliment Roger Ebert once gave him is irrelevant to the focus of this essay: namely, showing how Mr. Schneider's criticism is undermined by the arrogance with which he approaches his subject.  One of the features on Cosmoetica is a section, "This Old Poem," in which Schneider "re-writes" and thereby "improves" certain poems—many by talented and highly reputed poets—that he considers overrated.  Whether or not such can still be considered to be the same poems at all, for the sound-structure of a poem's words and the particular signification achieved by the specific ordering of words is the construct through which the poem itself exists, is an interesting debate which will, however, not be taken up here; for regardless of whether or not the poem may continue to exist in a different, revised version or format, Mr. Schneider falls far short of producing such replication—to do so would require something he is lacking.  The revisions Schneider offers are based upon his critical interpretations of the poems.  However, a valid interpretation of any poem requires an accurate perception of the poem itself and a comprehension of what is being said, a task at which Schneider habitually fails.  This is blatant in Schneider's take on T.S. Eliot's subtle work, "Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service."

A poem composed of eight stanzas typographically divided into two halves, containing sixteen lines each, Schneider reduces the tightly-woven work to a mere twelve lines in three stanzas, and effective eviscerates its meaning in the processes (the entirety of the "This Old Poem" entry can be seen here).  Looking at Schneider's analysis piece by piece would be tedious and fruitless; he attempts to look at the poem line by line and construct some sort of meaning from an aggregation of the pieces.  The first stanza he claims is representing the delivery of a sermon to a distracted crowd, where the preacher is attempting to corral the wandering interests of the people.  He proceeds by stating that the second stanza postulates that the self-emasculated (literally) Origen was produced by "a lot of ecclesiastical nonsense."  No analysis, but only a description of what is stated (the religious work of a painter), is offered for the third and fourth stanzas; similarly nothing more than a translation is given for the fifth and sixth stanzas.  The seventh stanza, which describes the hermaphroditic activity of bees, is taken as referencing the "layety."  Another translation is offered of the eighth stanza, concerning the discomfort of Sweeney, Eliot's "everyman" character, with the intellectual aloofness of the clergy.  The conclusion at which Schneider arrives is that the poem is claiming that "the Church is filled with effete foagies."

Not only is this interpretation methodologically unsound (see "Hermeneutics and Continuity" in the forth-coming print issue of Veritatis Praeco, to be online in February 2010), but it, lacking any insight to the poem's essence, fails to adequately discern even the particulars, and consequently fails to note the construction whereby the whole is achieved.  Criticism of such a poem, in which assertions concerning its meaning are made, can only be valid if first the poem itself is understood.  Contrary to Schneider's flaccid interpretation of "Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service" as a critique of the clergy, the following interpretation will show that the poem is, in fact, better comprehended as an observation of the disconnect, the chasm of non-communication, between the metaphysical mind of the cleric and the sensuous mind of the common man.

T. S. Eliot

To deal with the first things first, let the initial four lines be examined.  Taking a hint from the poem's title, the first half of the poem appears to be the content of a preacher's sermon: the first quatrain his introduction.  Two questions should be asked by the inquiring critic: first, who could be considered the wise suppliers of prolific offspring of the Lord? and second, what is to be found on the windows of the place in which a sermon, namely a church, would be delivered?  The answer to both questions is the same: saints, so long as "polyphilogenitive" is taken in a spiritual, and not a physical sense.  The significance of the opening words of John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word," is not without ambiguity; in Greek, they read "En arche en o Logos;" in Latin, "In principium erat Verbum."  Interestingly enough, in both ancient languages, the word translated into English as "beginning" (arche and principium) also means principle, as in that which makes other things to be as they are.  Eliot was well versed in both and, regardless of whether or not it was his intent, the linguistic roots of the Scripture reinforce the notion that the saints, whose spiritual fecundity the preacher is praising, have their roots, their inception, in Christ.

Moving on to the second stanza, one encounters again, the line "In the beginning was the Word," (the beginning of a stanza, the end of a stanza; the alpha and the omega), followed by three lines which describe the mystery of the Incarnation and the Hypostatic Union—those things that are beyond even the deftest minds to fully comprehend, those things that sapped Origen, who willfully castrated himself, of his connectivity to this world and the things temporal.  Read literally, and by itself, it would seem that this stanza could be interpreted as indicating that Origen was driven crazy by the subtleties and nuances of the doctrines of faith and the questions of their reasonableness.  However, taken in the context of the poem as a whole, this seems out of place, and the interpretation proffered earlier in this paragraph is more fitting.

The third and fourth stanzas offer a description of a painter's portrayal of the Baptism of Christ (of the Umbrian school—likely Raphael or Perugino); the work, the poet says, shows the wilderness surrounding the river as "cracked and browned," doubly meaning that the painting itself is worn, fading.  In contrast, "through the water pale and thin / Still shine the unoffending feet."  Christ, despite the ephemerality of this world and the failure of its attempts to create something permanent, continues unblemished, unending.  Christ, in the world is not of the world, a message corroborated by the painter setting above the other two persons of the Trinity.

The next three stanzas of the poem, which come after a typographical division, are abstract, and difficult. Superficially, the first two seem a mockery of the sacrament of penance, the third an attack against the heterosexuality of the supposedly emasculated, effeminate clergy.  This seventh stanza of the poem, however, is actually the key to understanding the whole; for what is the "blest office of the epicene"?  One may interpret the epicene to be referencing a total emasculation or a hermaphroditic quality; in describing the activity of bees, which receive pollen from the male organs (stamens) of flowers and deliver them to the female organs (pistils), it would logically reference the hermaphroditic.  But what would the clergy be transporting?  What hermaphrodism is had by the clergy?  What do they bring to the Divine, but the sinner's penance, his "piaculative pence"?  What else do they bring to the penitent but the mercy of God?  Is not the hermaphrodism of the cleric a dual functionality in this world and in the sphere of the transcendent?

Of course, the final stanza, in which Sweeney, who is T.S. Eliot's everyman, his undereducated proletarian, shifts "from ham to ham," can now be seen rather ironically.  Sweeney does not understand the sermon of Mr. Eliot at his Sunday morning service.  The masters are masters of subtle schools; they are controversial, they are widely learned and erudite in that which they know; Sweeney is not.  He is merely sitting in the pew, uncomfortable, bored, the sermon sailing over his head—much like Eliot's poem eluded the interpretative capabilities of Mr. Dan Schneider.

Perhaps this interpretation is flawed, faulty, and colored by religious, spiritual bias; perhaps it is realized only in the consciousness of those who desire poetry to have meaning and who respect poets of true linguistic comprehension.  Yet re-reading each poem, in light of the final analysis, it seems only more reasonable: the preacher speaks of the "sutlers of the Lord," who consider and attempt to represent the transcendent, the divine, who lose some of their vitality in this passing world by contemplating the mysteries of the immutable world; he speaks of the "blest office of the epicene," the hermaphroditic preacher who stands both partly in this world and partly in the next, passing between one world and the next, delivering man's penitential prayers to God and God's mercy to man.  All this, Sweeney cannot comprehend; and yet, in Schneider, who is merely a representative of a pseudo-intelligentsia, can be seen not merely Sweeney, but Prufrock and a Hollow Man as well; uncomprehending, full of "high sentence, but a bit obtuse," and—though he thinks himself shouting theatrically from a secular ambo set upon the world's new stage—he is hidden behind the curtain, merely whispering "quiet and meaningless;" his is a voice that will not resonate in the eternal.

Southern Catholic Announces New President

I am not really sure anymore how to talk about the way that news spreads at Southern Catholic College.  I want to say that the college announced its new president yesterday… but there was no announcement, only an invitation to meet him over coffee.

The few students who were still in the Atlanta area received emails a few days ago inviting them to meet with some of the school's new leaders so that they (the students) might offer their suggestions and insights into the way in which the school's mode of leadership could be improved.  This genuinely sounded like an excellent opportunity for the students to voice some of their concerns about the damage done to the school over the past four years, and promised to offer an opportunity for the new Legionary leaders to learn from the school's past mistakes as they have been observed from the students' perspective.  When all of the students arrived on Tuesday morning for the meeting, they were given the news that a surprise guest would be arriving shortly; and that guest would be none other than the school's new president, Fr. Shawn Aaron.  This was the first that any of those gathered had heard of the new president, and seems to be the only way in which the announcement has been made so far: to a clump of students in a Starbucks.1

Father Shawn Aaron

Father Shawn Aaron

The meeting was uneventful and little was said.  A few students made suggestions about the ways in which the school could improve and then the topic quickly turned to the practical elements of advertising.  For the remainder of the meeting, students were asked for their reactions to a handful of promotional materials and slogans, and then Fr. Aaron closed with a prayer.

Although this intense focus on the business aspect of Southern Catholic's new advertising department did cost the students their opportunity to express all of their worries over the negative turns that the school has taken over the course of its four years, it also afforded those present a unique glimpse into the character of the college's new leadership.  Particularly, it became clear that they want to be very careful not to step on any toes.  As one example of this attitude, Integer members responsible for Southern Catholic's advertising repeatedly made the point that they don't want to be too strong in their use of Catholic themes in advertising media for the fear of scaring off people who might not be attracted by strong Catholicism.  For instance, the phrase "Live Catholic" seems to be replacing the school's old tagline "Prepare For An Extraordinary Life," which actually seems to constitute an improvement as far as portraying ourselves as a Catholic school is concerned, but is still a bit vague.

Not much can be said for the particular way in which Fr. Aaron will lead the school, simply for the fact that he said very little in the meeting and there is virtually no information available about him on the internet (except for this biographical video). His willingness to meet with students and hear their concerns, however, seems to suggest that he is open to learning from the school's many past mistakes.  Hopefully, this willingness will continue.

Fr. Aaron is scheduled to become a permanent fixture around campus on the 12th of August, and will be assuming his office very soon thereafter.

1 The announcement was also made a few hours later before many members of the faculty and staff; still, the degree of informality remains the same.