TSD 23: Catholic Andy?

Can't believe it look me this long to mention Warhol

We went to St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church for Divine Liturgy last weekend. It’s in a little sliver of a neighborhood called Four Mile Run, or just The Run—perhaps the most Pittsburgh place in Pittsburgh.

The restored iconostasis is tremendous, and the liturgy was lovely.

Besides being arguably the most beautiful Eastern Catholic church in the city, St. John Chrysostom is famous for being the childhood parish of Andy Warhol. In fact, the Andy Warhol Museum will be putting on a first-of-its-kind exhibition exploring the artist’s relationship with the Church this fall, including a representation of this interior, so museum-goers can experience the liturgical space Andy grew up with.

One is tempted to gush about Warhol’s Catholicism, to see him as a tragic and tortured soul: He famously attended Mass regularly (though never stepped forward from the very back) and even funded a relative’s seminary studies. But we must also be careful: One of the best lines about Warhol comes from Mike Aquilina’s great little profile of Catholic Andy in Angelus magazine:

What’s certain is that Warhol was as serious about his faith as he was about anything. What’s debatable is how serious he was about anything.

I might have more about Warhol in later editions, especially if we make it to that exhibition. In the meantime, pray for him: He needs it.

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; and Luke 14:25-33.

The Epistle and Gospel are preoccupied with questions of relationship. In his plea to Philemon to liberate the now-baptized slave Onesimus, St. Paul calls the boy his “son.” Haydock finds this thrilling:

The pardon I crave is not for your slave, but for my son. If in all antiquity there be any thing in the persuasive kind of eloquence truly admirable, it is this short epistle in which there are contained almost as many arguments as words.

Membership in the family of Christ, however, takes precedence over even the closest earthly kinship. In the reading from Luke, Christ delivers one of His harshest directives: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These relationships Christ categorizes with other earthly possessions, as Augustine writes:

For in the saying that a man forsakes all that he hath, is contained also that he hates his father and mother, his wife and children, brothers and sisters, yea and his own wife also. For all these things are a man’s own, which entangle him, and hinder him from obtaining not those particular possessions which will pass away with time, but those common blessings which will abide for ever.


Monday, September 9, is the Feast of St. Peter Claver. There’s a remarkable line in his Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the 17th century slave trade, whose victims Peter dedicated his life to serving: It was “one of those social crimes which are entered upon so lightly.” These few words are utterly harrowing, and cannot but make us wonder: What social crimes are so embedded in our culture that we take part in them simply as a matter of course?

Peter Claver saw through the veil of “economic necessity” to the humanity of the millions of slaves that passed through the markets of Cartagena, in present-day Colombia. Forgive me for quoting this at such length, but the details here are so important:

Every month when the arrival of the negroes was signalled, Claver went out to meet them on the pilot's boat, carrying food and delicacies. The negroes, cooped up in the hold, arrived crazed and brutalized by suffering and fear. Claver went to each, cared for him, and showed him kindness, and made him understand that henceforth he was his defender and father. He thus won their good will. … While the slaves were penned up at Cartagena waiting to be purchased and dispersed, Claver instructed and baptized them in the Faith. On Sundays during Lent he assembled them, inquired concerning their needs, and defended them against their oppressors. This work caused Claver severe trials, and the slave merchants were not his only enemies. The Apostle was accused of indiscreet zeal, and of having profaned the Sacraments by giving them to creatures who scarcely possessed a soul. Fashionable women of Cartagena refused to enter the churches where Father Claver assembled his negroes. The saint's superiors were often influenced by the many criticisms which reached them. (Emphasis added.)

Indiscreet zeal. What a wonderful phrase. To be zealous for the Lord, that’s fine, but not too much! Not in public! Not such that it inconveniences others in the satiation of their desires! Not such that it challenges their prejudices or lifestyles! In this single phrase of two words the entirely of bourgeois faith is contained.

The saint’s remains are kept in a church under his patronage in Cartagena. He is also patron of the Knights of Peter Claver, the largest black Catholic lay organization in the United States.


Thursday, September 12, is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. The history of this celebration is interesting. It dates at least to the early 16th century, where it was situated on September 15, the octave day of the Nativity of the BVM, which falls on this Sunday (September 8) this year. In the 17th century, however, the feast became associated with the September 12, 1683, victory of Jan Sobieski over the Ottoman forces at Vienna. It was moved to the Sunday after the Nativity of the BVM, with the provision that it would be celebrated on the 12th should it be preempted on that day—as it is this year by Our Lady of Sorrows. Therefore, this day commemorates the Name of Mary in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms this year.

But there’s one more hiccup! Pope St. Paul VI suppressed this feast as duplicative of the Nativity of the BVM, and while it remained in the Roman Martyrology it was removed from the calendar. But another sainted pope, John Paul II, restored it to this day in 2002. Love it or hate it (I love it), this is how the sausage of the liturgical calendar is made.

Sobieski Sending Message of Victory to the Pope, by Jan Matejko, known as the national painter of Poland. There is a lot going on here.


…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Epistle is Galatians 3:16-22 and the Gospel is Luke 17:11-19, the story of the ten lepers, only one of whom returns to Christ in gratitude.

St. Augustine has a lengthy mystical interpretation of this passage:

The lepers may be taken mystically for those who, having no knowledge of the true faith, profess various erroneous doctrines. For they do not conceal their ignorance, but blazen it forth as the highest wisdom, making a vain show of it with boasting words. But since leprosy is a blemish in colour, when true things appear clumsily mixed up with false in a single discourse or narration, as in the colour of a single body, they represent a leprosy streaking and disfiguring as it were with true and false dyes the colour of the human form. Now these lepers must be so put away from the Church, that being as far removed as possible, they may with loud shouts call upon Christ. But by their calling Him Teacher, I think it is plainly implied that leprosy is truly the false doctrine which the good teacher may wash away.

Now we find that of those upon whom our Lord bestowed bodily mercies, not one did He send to the priests, save the lepers, for the Jewish priesthood was a figure of that priesthood which is in the Church. All vices our Lord corrects and heals by His own power working inwardly in the conscience, but the teaching of infusion by means of the Sacrament, or of catechizing by word of mouth, was assigned to the Church. And as they went, they were cleansed; just as the Gentiles to whom Peter came, having not yet received the sacrament of Baptism, whereby we come spiritually to the priests, are declared cleansed by the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Whoever then follows true and sound doctrine in the fellowship of the Church, proclaiming himself to be free from the confusion of lies, as it were a leprosy, yet still ungrateful to his Cleanser does not prostrate himself with pious humility of thanksgiving, is like to those of whom the Apostle says, that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, nor were thankful.

File:CodexAureus Cleansing of the ten lepers.jpg

This illumination comes from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, an 11th-century manuscript.


The introit and the gradual this week come from the same source, Psalm 74 (D-R 73); in fact, the latter is identical to the former, minus the antiphon, though the tones are quite different (I’m rolling with some more detailed music theory from Dom Johner (p. 300) this week):

But how different is the mood the [gradual] expresses! Here Respice and the entire first phrase have a quieter tone, although the second phrase is more lively than et dnimas pauperum in the Introit. In the Gradual the prayer of the "poor" becomes more perceptible by means of the b♭ after the b, which immediately precedes, through the stressing of the minor third, but especially by the urgent fourths and the emphasis on b♭ and c. Then the melody presents a regular cadence, quite uncalled for by the text. The pause should be very short. Songs adorned with many neums, such as Graduals and Alleluias, naturally have more divisions than other pieces. Thus what was one phrase in the Introit is here divided into three melodic phrases. The third phrase begins like in testamentum above, but imparts a special fervor to the petition. There are but few fifth-mode Graduals which are so animated in their first part as this one.

Hear the difference for yourself:


Saturday, September 14, is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Like this Thursday’s Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, this celebration has a colorful history. It began in Jerusalem as a commemoration of the dedication by Constantine in 335 of a church on Calvary. It then came also to be associated with the return of the True Cross from Persian captivity in 629. The St. Andrew Missal tells the story:

The Emperor Heraclius … insisted on the restitution of the Cross and carried it on his shoulders in great pomp to Calvary.

Heraclius, who was loaded with ornaments of gold and precious stone, was hald back by an invincible force at the entrance gate.

Zacharias, bishop of Jerusalem, said to him: “With these ornaments you are far from imitating the poverty of Jesus Christ and His humility in bearing His Cross.” Heraclius thereupon doffed his splendid garb and walked barefooted with a common cloak on his shoulders, to Calvary, where he again deposited the Cross.

The Alleluia verse for this feast is especially lovely:

Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: quae sola fuisti digna sustinere Regem caelorum, et Dominum. Alleluia.

Sweet the wood, sweet the nails, sweet the load that hangs thereon: for thou alone O holy Cross, wast worthy to bear up the King and Lord of heaven. Alleluia.


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Those Seven Days…

This is one of Fr. Schrenk’s best tweets:


The Church has approved a miracle at the Knock Shrine in Ireland, site of a 1879 apparition:

The vision of Mary was described as being beautiful, standing a few feet above the ground. She wore a white cloak, hanging in full folds and fastened at the neck. She was described as "deep in prayer", with her eyes raised to heaven, her hands raised to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly to the shoulders.[2]

Saint Joseph, also wearing white robes, stood at the Virgin's right hand. His head was bent forward from the shoulders towards the Blessed Virgin. Saint John the Evangelist stood to the left of the Blessed Virgin. He was dressed in a long robe and wore a mitre. He was partly turned away from the other figures. Some witnesses reported that St. John appeared to be preaching and that he held open a large book in his left hand. To the left of St. John was an altar with a lamb on it with a cross standing on the altar behind the lamb.

Statue of Our Lady Knock Shrine.jpg

Take notes, single guys…


This is the key to understanding so much of the debate over liberalism: The main conceit by which Christians argue for the tolerance of the state is simply false. There is no neutrality.


Not strictly Catholic, but relevant to the Church’s interest in justice and or, and to Her solicitude for the poor; the built environment matters:


As for me…

Image result for angelus news

Busy busy busy. This week I had my first piece in Angelus, the magazine of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, on restoring the reality of grace to our understanding of political pragmatism:

We stress the fall of Adam and Eve when it’s convenient to give cover for some lesser-of-two-evils-but-still-evil policy, but we ignore the restorative power of grace to transform our world into one where no sin ever appears obligatory.

But grace is real, and any “realism” that denies its power is not only incomplete, but dangerously misguided. 

Grace gives us the confidence to press forward in Christian joy and love when the path of purity seems impractical and even dangerous in worldly, materialist terms. Grace makes the justice that seems impossible — economic justice, racial justice, migrant justice, authentic reproductive justice for the unborn and their mothers — credible, desirable, and achievable.

And for the Scottish Catholic Observer, I write about the contrast between the undercurrent of dread and the real points of light in our culture, and how it points to what we’re really looking for: the meek and vulnerable Christ:

Last week I took the kids to the local amusement park—one of those classic parks with last-of-their-kind rides and eclectic ornamentation and lights that come alive like a circus of technicolour fireflies as the sun sets. Even though some of the details have changed since my childhood, the place still feels the same; it still feels right and good and lasting, like a place my children’s children will be able to enjoy just as I did.

It’s good to have those places and experiences that we recognise as truly good and worthy—if only so we don’t fall into a dourness that overwhelms the Christian joy we are called to spread, especially to our own children.

But, at the same time, we know that these points of light cannot suffice; neon and fluorescence and even incandescence cannot overcome the darkness of nihilism and, if you’ll permit an even stronger word, demonism on their own.

What our reeling civilisation aches for is what these irruptions of beauty point to, if we have the will to follow them: the light of Christ.


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