TSD 41: All By Myself

The hermit edition

I’m getting back to work on finishing my book Catholic Pittsburgh: A Pilgrim’s Guide on notable Catholic sites around the city. In the coming weeks and months, I’m going to release some of the photography my talented sister took for the book on my Facebook page. Here’s a sample; hop on over to FB and like my page to keep up with the new photos:

The ceiling of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church features, left to right, the triumph of Jan Sobieski, the reception of Stanislaus Kostka (framed by the chandelier silhouette) into heaven, the Four Evangelists, and the Coronation of Our Lady.

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The readings are Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; and Matthew 3:13-17.

The reading from Isaiah looks ahead to the Baptism of Christ, including the words God the Father references in His manifestation of Himself:

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Meanwhile the reading from Acts looks ahead to the universal implications of baptism. Here, St. Peter affirms in the house of the centurion Cornelius that “God shows no partiality”: Jew and Gentile are welcomed into His family through baptism. This is of course implied in the Great Commission, but it wasn’t obvious in the first days of the Church. In Haydock, Challoner affirms this, while emphasizing that in the next sentence, the words “whoever fears him and acts uprightly” must not be read as an endorsement of indifferentism:

That is to say, not only Jews, but Gentiles also, of what nation soever, are acceptable to God, if they fear him, and work justice. But then true faith is always to be presupposed, without which it is impossible to please God. Beware then of the error of those, who would infer from this passage, that men of all religions may be pleasing to God.

Development in the ideas of conscience and the natural law might require somewhat of a softening of this language, but the point remains: Part of acting uprightly is doing justice to God in and through the virtue of religion.

A striking depiction of Christ’s baptism by the nineteenth century Russian painter and major general(!) Grigory Gagarin.


Monday, January 13, is the Feast of St. Hilary of Poitiers. (The feast is January 14 in the old calendar.) Born into a noble pagan family around the turn of the fourth century, Hilary came to Christ and His Church relatively late in life: He had already married and had a daughter, St. Abra. (Butler reports that he lived in “perpetual continency” after his consecration.) Like Ambrose in Milan, Hilary was elected Bishop of Poitiers by acclamation. In this post, he spent the last decade and a half of his life doing political and intellectual battle with the Arians, enduring many setbacks and persecutions. He persevered, however, and this wisdom of his teachings led to his being declared a Doctor of the Church.

On Hilary’s teaching, let us consider a long and beautiful selection from Butler:

St. Hilary observes, that singleness of heart is the most necessary condition of faith and true virtue, “For Christ teaches that only those who become again as it were little children, and by the simplicity of that age cut off the inordinate affections of vice, can enter the kingdom of heaven. These follow and obey their father, love their mother; are strangers to covetousness, ill-will, hatred, arrogance, and lying, and are inclined easily to believe what they hear. This disposition of affections opens the way to heaven. We must therefore return to the simplicity of little children, in which we shall bear some resemblance to our Lord’s humility.” This, in the language of the Holy Ghost, is called the foolishness of the cross of Christ, in which consists true wisdom. That prudence of the flesh and worldly wisdom, which is the mother of self-sufficiency, pride, avarice, and vicious curiosity, the source of infidelity, and the declared enemy of the spirit of Christ, is banished by this holy simplicity; and in its stead are obtained true wisdom, which can only be found in a heart freed from the clouds of the passions, perfect prudence, which, as St. Thomas shows, is the fruit of the assemblage of all virtues, and a divine light which grace fails not to infuse. The simplicity, which is the mother of Christian discretion, is a stranger to all artifice, design, and dissimulation, to all views or desires of self-interest, and to all undue respect or consideration of creatures. All its desires and views are reduced to this alone, of attaining to the perfect union with God.

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Can’t find much Hilary art—though there’s a lot of Hillary “art” our there—so here’s a depiction of his ordination from a fourteenth century manuscript.


…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Feast of the Holy Family. The Epistle is Colossians 3:12-17 and the Gospel is Luke 2:42-52, the story of the finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. (Note that in TSD 39 we covered this feast in the Ordinary Form, where the Gospel covers the Flight into Egypt.)

Regarding the last verses of this account, in which we are told Christ returned to Nazareth and lived obediently and Mary kept all this in her heart, St. Basil writes:

But from His very first years being obedient to His parents, He endured all bodily labours, humbly and reverently. For since His parents were honest and just, yet at the same time poor, and ill supplied with the necessaries of life, (as the stable which administered to the holy birth bears witness,) it is plain that they continually underwent bodily fatigue in providing for their daily wants. But Jesus being obedient to them, as the Scriptures testify, even in sustaining labours, submitted Himself to a complete subjection.

And St. Bede, focusing on Mary, writes:

Mark the wisest of mothers, Mary the mother of true wisdom, becomes the scholar or disciple of the Child. For she yielded to Him not as to a boy, nor as to a man, but as unto God. Further, she pondered upon both His divine words and works, so that nothing that was said or done by Him was lost upon her, but as the Word itself was before in her womb, so now she conceived the ways and words of the same, and in a manner nursed them in her heart. And while indeed she thought upon one thing at the time, another she wanted to be more clearly revealed to her; and this was her constant rule and law through her whole life.

A fourteenth century depiction of Mary and Joseph, looking at once overjoyed and exasperated, finding Christ holding court in the Temple. By Duccio di Buoninsegna.


Monday, January 13, is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. There is a difference between my 1940s St. Andrew Missal and the 1962 Ordo for this day: The older missal calls it only the Octave Day of the Epiphany and gives the Mass for the Epiphany, except the Gospel is John’s account of Christ’s baptism, and the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion reference this. This is because the Epiphany Octave was abolished for the 1962 books, and so while “Epiphanytide” still ends on this day, it was in 1962 no longer the Octave Day, and the emphasis on the Baptism become dominant.


Wednesday, January 15, is the Feast of St. Paul, the First Hermit, and Friday, January 17, is the Feast of St. Anthony the Hermit (or the Abbot, or the Great). I’m honestly a bit at a loss here. The stories of these two men, especially St. Anthony, are so remarkable and so full of anecdotes and set pieces and so important to the history of Christian spirituality that distilling them down into a few sentences is overwhelming—and I just wasted about 50 words on this sentence alone. Rather than trying, permit me to lay out a few links and focus on the art.

St. Paul: Catholic Encyclopedia, his Life by St. Jerome, Wikipedia, Butler

St. Anthony: Catholic Encyclopedia, his Life by St. Athanasius, Wikipedia, Butler

The Meeting of Saint Anthony and Saint Paul by the Master of the Osservanza Triptych, 15th century. This is one of several paintings of St. Anthony’s life attributed to the master, including Saint Anthony Abbot Tempted by a Heap of Gold.

The earliest known painting (1487-1488) of Michelangelo is The Torment of St. Anthony.


Those Seven Days

Every child is raised under some understanding of or assumptions about ultimate truth. The question isn’t whether, but which.


Let’s not let our new (potential) political alliances results in the same kind of compromises as our old ones.


Humorous, but also a reminder that Allah is simply the Arabic word for “God” rendered in our alphabet: It’s not specific to Islam. Inshallah means “if God wills it,” and can be used either by Muslims or Christians.


Both Jordan’s approbation and Prof. Vermeule’s disapprobation are correct.


One of my favorite ways to demonstrate the universality of the Faith is to see it represented faithfully in the art and style of diverse cultures.


Tip Jar

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Now that Christmas is over, we’re at the point in winter where I start daydreaming about golf season.

Always tip your caddy


As for me…

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This Tuesday, January 14, I’ll be in Chicago speaking at DePaul University on “The Sacramentality of Friendship.” I’ll be discussing some of the themes introduced in my essay in Plough on our growing Catholic neighborhood, especially self-giving friendship as a means of communicating grace. The lecture will be in Room 414 of the Arts & Letters Hall at 5:00 p.m.


the front cover of Plough Quarterly Winter 2020 Issue 23: In Search of a City

And on Wednesday, January 29, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion in New York City as part of the launch event for Plough magazine’s new issue, “In Search of a City.” We’ll be at the KGB Bar in the Bowery at 6:30 p.m. Hope to see you New Yorkers there!


Feedback, &c.

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