TSD 27: Go North Young Man
Québécois folk music(!) and the new counterculture
|Brandon McGinley||Oct 4, 2019|
I’m apparently a decade late to this, but I’m kind of obsessed with Québécois folk music after discovering the catchy, lovely, piercing, and downright reactionary “Dégénérations” by Mes Aïeux (My Ancestors):
It was actually sent to me this striking and effective piece of propaganda for the French gilets jaunes (yellow-vest protesters):
I’m still processing all this, but what I can’t stop thinking about is the possibility of the emergence of a counterculture that captures the frustrations of the alienated and uprooted people of post-modern liberalism better than anything Hollywood and even Nashville can dream of. And it would almost certainly be more right-wing than left-wing.
I don’t know if this notion is frightening or exhilarating—well, clearly it’s both. What is clear, though, is that if faithful Christians sit on the sidelines (or ally themselves with the regime), whatever comes next (See Ross Douthat one the “post-religious right.”) will be far uglier than if we bring an authentic political and cultural witness to the crisis of liberalism.
These Seven Days…
…in the Ordinary Form
It is the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; and Luke 17:5-10.
This Gospel is not an easy one to understand or to internalize, at least for me, especially because it is about humility. Christ begins by telling His disciples that if only they had “faith the size of a mustard seed,” they could perform superhuman feats. It leaves one feeling a bit inadequate.
He continues with a story of a servant and master who each know their place: The servant does not expect to be treated as a full member of the household, and the master does not dole out gratuitous praise for doing what is expected of him. This is a vision of the Father a little chillier than usual, but it emphasizes the infinite power gradient between Him and us: We are merely to follow His commands; it’s really the least we can do. Ambrose compares us to the heavenly bodies, who don’t get lavished with praise for going about their business:
Boast not thyself then that thou hast been a good servant. Thou hast done what thou oughtest to have done. The sun obeys, the moon submits herself, the angels are subject; let us not then seek praise from ourselves.
Cyril of Alexandria keeps our focus on the heavenly reward our loving Father and Master has waiting for us:
Observe then that they who have rule among us, do not thank their subjects, when they perform their appointed service, but by kindness gaining the affections of their people, breed in them a greater eagerness to serve them. So likewise God requires from us that we should wait upon Him as His servants, but because He is merciful, and of great goodness, He promises reward to them that work, and the greatness of His loving-kindness far exceeds the labours of His servants.
Monday, October 7, is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as the Feast of the Rosary or, historically, the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. While this feast can claim roots in the thirteenth century, in both the legendary delivery of the rosary to St. Dominic and the victory over the Albigensians at Muret, the date of this feast most specifically commemorates the Battle of Lepanto, where a cobbled-together Catholic navy repelled the Ottoman Empire, ending its Mediterranean and Atlantic ambitions.
Faced with a dire situation militarily, Pope Pius V begged for spiritual aid in the form of rosaries prayed around Europe for the success of the Holy League. Mary was also present at Lepanto in another form: A copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, made in Mexico and touched to the original, was on board one of the league’s flagships. Pius V immediately instituted a feast of Our Lady on this day, which was extended to the Universal Church by Leo XIII.
Two images of Lepanto by the same painter, Paolo Veronese, both c. 1572. The first captures the realistic chaos of the battle; the second, titled Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto, portrays the spiritual reality that overlays the material reality. The woman being presented to the Blessed Mother is the personification of Venice, entrusted to the care of the Virgin.
Friday, October 11, is the Feast of St. John XXIII. We might say not only that John XXIII catalyzed the transition of the Church from an opponent of the modern liberal order to (a bid for) being its conscience, but that his four-and-a-half year papacy was the high-water mark for the effort. There was perceived to be a godly guilelessness to the Holy Father that gave a certain hopefulness to the attempt at rapprochement.
(Cardinal Montini, who would succeed John at Pope Paul VI, said of his calling of the Second Vatican Council, “This holy old boy doesn’t realize what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.” Meanwhile, Lyndon Johnson awarded John a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom which was inscribed to “His Holiness Pope John XXIII, dedicated servant of God. He brought to all citizens of the planet a heightened sense of the dignity of the individual, of the brotherhood of man, and of the common duty to build an environment of peace for all human kind.”)
The tumultuous aftermath of the Council, followed by the seemingly revanchist Humanae Vitae, placed the Church on a very different footing in and toward the world—one which seemed at times to be stabilized by John Paul II, but which never quite reached the optimism of John’s halcyon papacy. Whatever we might think of the trajectory on which John XXIII placed the Church, contemporary accounts describe a holy and heroic man, a man whose prayers, from the vantage of heaven, might be especially profitable in our moment.
The body of St. John XXIII lies in the altar of St. Jerome in St. Peter’s Basilica. His feast is celebrated today, rather than the June 3 date of his death, to commemorate the opening of the Second Vatican Council. So this is basically the feast of the Council. (One must imagine me writing this with a perceptible grimace.)
…in the Extraordinary Form
Erratum: Last Sunday, September 29, the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel (that is, Michaelmas) superseded the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost in the 1962 books. Happily, the commentary on the Mass for the Guardian Angels covered similar ground.
It is the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Epistle is Ephesians 4: 1-6 and the Gospel is Matthew 22:34-46.
This reading from Ephesians is not just a call for Christian unity, but a beautiful and concise explanation of its authentic foundation:
Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.
As rebellion is the bane of commonwealths and kingdoms, and peace and concord the preservation of the same; so is schism, and diversity of faith or fellowship in the service of God, the calamity of the Church: and peace, unity, and uniformity, the special blessing of God therein.
He then quotes Cyprian:
There is one God, and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair, by our Lord's voice founded upon Peter. To set up another altar, or to constitute another priesthood, besides the one altar and the one priesthood, is impossible. Whosever gathereth elsewhere scattereth. It is adulterous, it is impious, it is sacrilegious, whatsoever is instituted by man to the breach of God's disposition. Get ye far from such men: they are blind, and leaders of the blind.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
The gradual for this Sunday, from Psalm 33 (D-R 32) is a teensy bit political, and so of course I’m featuring it:
Beata gens, cujus est Dominum Deus eorum: populus, quem elegit Dominus in hereditatem sibi. / Verbo Domini caeli firmati sunt: et spiritu oris ejus omnis virtus eorum.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: the people whom He hath chosen for His inheritance. / By the word of the Lord the heavens were established: and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth.
All power, including civil power, emanates from and finds its authority and legitimacy in the Lord. From recognizing this truth, and bringing earthly power into order with the order of heaven, the blessings of peace and justice flow.
Thursday, October 10, is the Feast of St. Francis Borgia. Borgia? Yes, Borgia. The world-historically corrupt clan that dominated civil and ecclesial affairs during the Italian Renaissance? The very same. In fact, Francis Borgia was the grandson of Pope (ha!) Alexander VI (né Rodrigo de Borgia), perhaps the most notoriously amoral pope in history (though he also reformed the Curia, so who can say, &c.).
Born into incredible wealth and prestige, Francis demonstrated an affection for the life of religious contemplation from an early age, but he was shunted into Europe’s royal courts. He left this work at the age of 33 after a professional misstep and the death of his father, finally having the opportunity, full time, for religious pursuits. Only a few years later, Francis’s wife died and, after making arrangements for their children, he entered the Society of Jesus. Known for his administrative talents and his holiness (the latter of which led him to consistently avoid appointments based on the former), he was eventually appointed the third Superior General of the Jesuits.
It is with good reason that Spain and the Church venerate in St. Francis Borgia a great man and a great saint. The highest nobles of Spain are proud of their descent from, or their connexion with him. By his penitent and apostolic life he repaired the sins of his family and rendered glorious a name, which but for him, would have remained a source of humiliation for the Church.
St. Francis Borgia Helping a Dying Impenitent by Francisco Goya, 1788. Note the Blood of Christ pouring from the crucifix.
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Those Seven Days
I generally don’t go in for viral heartwarming videos, and especially not courtroom viral heartwarming videos, but this was one of the most Christlike things I’ve ever seen.
Yes: Like so many other aspects of our economy, what we consume does not reveal some immutable truth about ourselves; rather, the desire for consumption is at least in part created by actors in the economy, and by the consumption itself.
Sorry, but apparently it was porn week on ye olde timeline.
I love this quote especially because it comes from a prelate often caricatured as an arch-conservative. The Church, at her best, does not allow herself to be so easily categorized.
As for me*…
*Actually, my wife. I should’ve put this in last week’s newsletter for Michaelmas (which I botched anyways), but my wife has produced a beautiful, hand-illuminated and hand-lettered print of the Prayer of St. Michael. It’s available for download, so you can print it and use it to memorialize this prayer in your home, parish, school, office, etc., at Etsy. Be sure to check out her other stuff while you’re there.
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