Monday, September 24, 2007

Monastery Soup

Rod Dreher in his pivotal work Crunchy Cons concludes, like many of us, that we are waiting for future St. Benedicts to lead us back to a Christ-centered culture imbued with sobriety and meaning.

He focuses on St. Benedict because his rule was monumental for medieval life, forming the platform for the most essential institution to the Middle Ages: the monastery.

The good--and by good I mean tasty--news is that St. Benedict's monks have given us a real treat on their road map to becoming holy, which leads us to the title of this post, "Monastery Soup."

It was announced today at our staff meeting at Holy Family that our new lunch lady will be serving Benedictine Monastery soup everyday for the staff. If you have met Beth, you would know instantly that she is the real deal in terms of living a Catholic and sincere life. And you would also know that she is no joke when it comes to serving hearty monastery soup.

As you might imagaine, I was elated at the news of our new lunch option, and for many reasons. First, it's monastery soup, with the yummy recipes being taken from the book of the same name; its's available from Ligouri Press, I believe. Second, it's nice to have a daily ritual that creates the possibiliy of community outside the feeling of the workplace, more, say, than just hanging out with one or two people over a bagel.

Eating in common is an ancient tradition and creates the sense of "we're in this together" for all the participants. One reason this is effective for a new evangelization is that it creates a common bond, sending the message that in the work of God we come together to fulfill our basic human needs. It's also very tangible, as opposed to merely acknowledging the merits of some theory or ideology. You can point to an action, and concrete actions are needed if we ever are going to build a culture of life, especially one that is shared.

Even if nobody else comes, going down for the parish community's monastery soup is an excellent idea. It's just cool. So I am certainly looking forward to this new and hopefully lasting daily tradtion.

Over and out.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Catholic Forum?

It's just one of those things that is a blip on my mind's radar from time to time.

I think of my schoolwork at College, my initiation into things true, good and beautiful, graduating, and then being left to the seas of everyday life in an apathetic and sometimes cruel world.

Most of the people out there never have heard of Christendom, let alone the sacred and real principles for which my Alma Mater stands. As a student, especially as a senior, I remember feeling the impulse to get out and prove myself, do God's work, and open a can of Catholic-Whoop-N'-It to take over the world for Christ.

And then, when that moment finally came and I was on the other side of the threshhold, it was, in some ways, kind of like being overwhelmed by being underwhelmed, even disenfranchised, realizing that, hey, the world just doesn't give a damn. And it's not that the world--the culture, the people we meet, etc.--is always virtiolic in it's wayward apathy. No, it is much more like Peter from the movie Office Space, when he says, "It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

Often, when it comes to reconquering the world for Christ, it's easy to get disheartened by the seeming banality of everything.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to Bishop Loverde speak on here at Holy Family on leadership of the diocese, specifically about the growth we are experiencing. And despite all that, as a lay person, even though I work for a wonderful parish despite its failings, I feel left out of the ever-allusive "Catholic thing" in some ways.

Maybe it's the general architecture. Or the commute. Or the vast communties of sprawl that disfigure once beautiful countryside for miles on end. I don't honestly know. Death by suburbia is a reality for sure and it's lackluster ethos effects us probably more than any of us realize or may be willing to admit.

And when you become part of a place like Christendom, it never really leaves you. It has been said that if you stay in a place long enough, you become that place. True. True. But then you leave because life goads you on and calls you to higher purpose.

Wonderful. But always, or at least someimtes, I find myself looking back to that sense of purpose and belonging, even granduer, I felt as a student.

Often, it was great. And then enter, the real world, awakening me from my reverie, and there is definite vacancy of tangible purpose other than the Divine Mandate, as if that were insignificant. The previous inculcation of the highest things leaves you spoiled and wanting more, but looking left and looking right, you don't see that desire mirrored by anyones else usually except pedants.

Historian Sir John Julius Norwich comments that, in Byzantium, you could find bums on the streetcorners debating the Virginity of Mary and the dual natures of Christ. Well, I don't think one needs me to say it, but we are certainly a fair cry away from that in our society

Perhaps I am not alone in feeling this way, but I guess I get a sense sometimes of "this all there is." Routine can be a killer, especially when it seems so easy and alluring to get lost in adventure, whether fiction or non-fiction.

I guess this leads me to the title of my post, albeit in a roundabout way. Many of us were once part of a forum that confers an identity by just being a part of it. That's a cool thing, but should it end once you leave the doors, or shouldn't it continue in some fine way after the fact?

Over and out.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Latin and Medieval Stuff, Take II

So it's back to the stacks for me. Up top is a pic of Georgetown's stunning Rigg's library, the original library at the university before the construction of the architecturally hideous Lauinger library. Just looking inside Riggs makes one feel awesome. I bloody love it.

(The only problem is, no one is allowed in, except for special dinners.)

Recently, I stole the opportunity to investigate Christendom's new St. John the Evangelist Library, which I had never checked out properly after it was completed. And wow! It is grand and surpasses most other modern libraries to be sure. I hope students for ages to come will venerate that place. Finally, there is a structure on campus, other than the chapel, worthy of the name Christendom.

So, now that I am done with the HP series, I have begun reading, once again, Wheelock's Latin and Dawson's Medieval Essays.

The more I read on the fall of Rome, the more I see the parallels to our own day, which I think is one of the most important reasons to study the medieval world. It's not that they are on a pedestal, necessarily, when compared to other civilizations. No, it's that the medieval Church and the culture it raised was able to cope with a crumbling, hedonist society that stood at odds with the teachings of Christ.

It is easy to fall verily into pure anachronism and judge the faults of Rome by the failings of our post-modern world. Even though we confront the challenge to distinguish one reality from the other, the similarities are striking, and if pondered upon, unnerving.

That said, I wonder about today's movements to embrace facets or the whole of medieval past. I am speaking about everything from distributists to the outbreak of fantasy as a genre of fiction and (quasi-) Renaissance Faires. Do we, as a societal whole, intuitively acknowledge the spiritual and cultural bankrupcy of our own day, and, in turn, seek answers from the western medieval world to remedy the problem in our own lives?

Maybe this is purely a romantic musing of an individual fascinated by the medieval imagination and much of the stuff associated with it. Well, I will not disappoint you--I will not deny my bias. Still, I think it's a good idea to see how our forefathers in the west handled barbarians and barbarism. (Heck, some of them probably were barbians.)

Until then, over and out.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Book 7 & a little bit of chess...

Well, even though it's not Monday, the blog is due for an Update.

I just finished Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows, Book 7, this past Tuesday morning, even allowing myself to be late to work in the process. And while they owed me some time anyway, I am one of those people who occasionally takes a "sick day" just to stay home an read an adventure.

So now I have actually joined the ranks of the multitudes who have read and are fans of the sometimes infamous Harry Potter. In the end, I thought the series as a whole was quite good, and that many people defame the books very unecessarily, going over the top with their criticisms in effort to prove their convictions.

That said, from a literary and my personal point of view, the last two books--Book 6 in particular--were somewhat out of the mold set up by the first five and did not deliver the goods in some ways as amazingly as I had yearned. While the final scenes of the series were crazy awesome, some of the setup was a bit over-the-top and over-complicated.

I'd take more time to go into detail if I were not at work and actually had moments to spare besides. Suffice to say the planned euthanasia revealed in the end was not inspiring, and neither were the seemingly endless scenes of snogging in Book 6, and celebrated at the end of Book 7. For all the literary and imaginative greatness revealed by Rowling in Books 1-5, and her seeming initial unwillingness to sink to the level of carnal tastes, the aforementioned features unecessarily marred an otherwise great story.

Oh well. I actually didn't expect complete perfection. But again, it was, overall, pretty damn good.

When I wasn't immersed in the last few books, for the past 2 or 3 weeks I have found myself back online playing chess. I often go through spurts of playing and not-playing, and I was reminded to start playing again when I found a white queen chess piece outside at work, which now adorns my desk here at work.

I am not entirely sure why, exactly, but I am excited to say that my game is now the best it's ever been, at least in the 10-minute segment. I find myself sacking Class A players (the rank below master level), and say to myself, "What the hell? I mean, Yah! What the hell!" This totally pumps me up and makes the game that much more exciting.

I hope this isn't just a streak of good luck, because if it is I've been lucky for a while. I still need to study the game and improve for sure; it's just awesome when you finally find yourself seriously dominating and making 1900 level players crumble.

So that's it for now. I've tooted my own horn enough. Let fly the cannons and all that good stuff. I'll see you later.