Category Archives: Reading

3 Reasons to Study Latin (for Normal People, Not Language Geeks)

This is a good video.

We homeschool and participate in Classical Conversations, the organization behind this video. Latin is not easy to learn or to teach. I have tried to learn it. I once led a seminar for homeschoolers part of which meant I had to address the question of how one teaches Latin. Fortunately I recruited several people to help me. I still don’t know Latin. But I agree with everything in this video. It’s a good thing to learn Latin and to teach your kids Latin.

If you know someone who is thinking of learning Latin, or adding it to their homeschooling curriculum, or struggling with either learning or teaching Latin, share this video with them.

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O’Connor, Dostoevsky, and Christ Pantocrator: A Lecture by Dr. Ralph Wood

I’m reposting this, because it is so good. But also because we live in a society that has become a slave to sentimentality. This is also true of Christianity — sentimentality affects so much and we are so blind. O’Connor hated sentimentality. Ralph Wood speaks to this in the midst of so much else he says. A rich talk indeed.

flannery_oconnor_painting

A truly great lecture…

flannery

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“To ruin the liturgy…”

Here is Cardinal Sarah on the “reform of the reform”:

But here is my hope: God willing, when he wills and as he wells, the reform of the reform will take place in the liturgy. Despite the gnashing of teeth, it will happen, for the future of the Church is at stake. To ruin the liturgy is to ruin our relationship to God and the concrete expression of our Christian faith. (Sarah 134)

Here Cardinal Sarah sees a direct connection between the liturgy (from the Greek λειτουργία, meaning “the work of the people), to our faith. I would guess he would see the way we do liturgy today is not unlike whether the ancient Israelites followed the temple rules in their day, or instead made up new rules and tried to innovate. What would God have thought? How well would those Israelites have created a liturgy better than what God gave them? Is it likely they would have created a liturgy more suited to their souls, more in harmony with their human nature? According the the cardinal, ruining the liturgy ruins our relationship to God.

I was trained to believe none of this is true, or not very important. I was trained to view liturgy as basically inconsequential. I have come to believe otherwise. Much of my understanding derives from a better anthropology than what I once had. I also believe what we have in the Old Testament, though we are not bound to worship exactly as the Israelites did, is a picture of what a human being needs in terms of ritual, liturgy, and cult. When God gave Moses the law and instructions for the tabernacle, and then later to David and Solomon instructions for the temple, and gave them specific instructions for worship, He did so in complete accord with how He created them. God knows what a human being is and needs. We should keep that in mind when we consider how best to do liturgy today, and from what & where we draw our models and our inspiration.

An aside: There are those who would stop the “reform of the reform” because they think it’s not necessary and is grounded in a love of traditions than in more important things. Others say it does not go far enough because the Mass of Paul VI is too fundamentally broken that it should just be scrapped altogether rather than reformed. I don’t know where I stand, I’m not theologian or liturgist, but from what I know of Cardinal Sarah, I stand with him.

And from what I’ve read, I would guess the cardinal seeks reform that is more traditional than even many reforms might seek.


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

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Cardinal Sarah on the loss of the sacred, transcendence, and the difficulty of knowing God

It is possible that the pastoral care in some parishes, and even the celebration of the Mass, actually prevent parishioners from getting close to God? Is it possible that a significant swath of Catholic culture is designed to keep Catholics from having authentic and life-changing encounters with God within that culture — needing to seek it elsewhere? Could this be one of the reasons so many have left the Church for evangelical Protestantism? For some, absolutely. Is this not why there is a kind of nervous movement among so many Catholics seeking a finer light, something burning brighter than in their local church? {Of course, one has to be careful accepting the excuses given by people who have left the Church.]

Anyway, it seems to me that noisy Masses might harm the faithful’s desires for getting close to God, and encountering the divine transcendence.

Robert Cardinal Sarah seems to offer a pointed critique related to these concerns in his latest book, The Power of Silence. If find his critique fascinating, especially because he approaches this from the topic of silence. Here are four quotes particularly relevant:

The notion of sacredness is abused, particularly in the West. In the countries that claim to be secular, emancipated from religion and from God, there is no longer any connection with the sacred. A certain secularized mentality attempts to be liberated from it. Some theologian assert that Christ, by his Incarnation, put an end to the distinction between sacred and profane. For others, God becomes so close to us that the category of the sacred is consequently outmoded. Thus, some in the Church still have not managed to detach themselves from and entirely horizontal pastoral approach centered on social work and politics. In these assertions or these behaviors, there is a lot of naïveté and perhaps genuine pride. (Sarah 119)

If we do not tremble before the divine transcendence, it is because we are damaged, all the way down to our human nature. (120)

Without radical humility that is expressed in gestures of adoration and in sacred rituals, no friendship with God is possible. (120)

Since the reform of Paul VI, and despite the intention of that great pope, sometimes in the liturgy there is an air of misplaced, noisy familiarity. Under the pretext of seeking to make access to God easy and approachable, some have wanted everything in the liturgy to be immediately intelligible. This egalitarian intention may seem commendable. But in thus reducing the sacred mystery to good ideas, we prevent the faithful from approaching thus true God. (123)


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

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Into Silence with Cardinal Sarah

Robert Cardinal Sarah has been getting some attention lately because of statements he has made regarding the proper celebration of the Mass (I think the controversy is silly and Cardinal Sarah is clearly more wise than his detractors). The cardinal has also just written a book called The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, which I am reading as part of a book group. His first book, God or Nothing, our group read earlier, and both book s are excellent, though very different.

There are so many great quotes from The Power of Silence, but for now I just want to highlight this one:

How can we come to master our own interior silence? The only answer lies in asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility. If man does not mortify himself, if he stays as he is, he remains outside of God. (51)

I am also reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, which I am enjoying (I don’t really get most of the criticisms of this book). But I find the strategies and tactics suggested by Dreher to, basically, sit on top on Cardinal Sarah’s deeper insights, as indicated in the short quote above (but evidenced throughout his book). The cardinal’s quote points to a fundamental and, I believe, profound problem with our world today, and especially with Christianity — both Catholic and Protestant — we are addicted to noise, which is damaging us, and we no longer understand the importance of asceticism, self-renunciation, and humility in fighting that noise. The cardinal’s insights also point to the fact that we think we know what noise is, but we don’t — not at the spiritual level.

In fact, I believe if Christians followed the cardinal’s words seriously, then the kind of place, role, and actions of the Church in the world could take any number of forms, not only Dreher’s form(s), because it’s not really about carving out an alternative society so much as it’s changing one’s heart, will, passions, etc. — the rest will follow, and do so in countless ways.


Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2017. Print.

Sarah, Robert, Nicolas Diat, and Michael J. Miller. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2015. Print.

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Sentinel, 2017. Print.

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The Natural Laws and Essential Elements of Catholic Church Architecture

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (credit: Paris Tourist Office)

The following points are taken from Michael S. Rose’s book: Ugly As Sin: Why They Changed Our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Spaces — and How We Can Change Them Back Again

From Chapter One: “The three natural laws of church architecture: or, the minimum you need to know to evaluate the church down the street”

  1. Permanence — a sense that the building will remain and stand against the vagaries of time a taste
  2. Verticality — a sense of the building rising or pointing to Heaven and things transcendent, and leading the thoughts of worshipers in that direction
  3. Iconography — art, statues, icons, stained glass, and other items that express and speak of Christian things, especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass

From Chapter Two: “Our pilgrim goes into the house of the Lord: or, the essential elements of every proper church”

  1. The church beckons to souls from afar
  2. The atrium leads us from the profane to the sacred
  3. The façade tells us of the riches awaiting us inside
  4. The narthex draws us toward the sanctuary
  5. The baptistry reminds us of our entrance into the Church Universal
  6. The nave declares that the Church is the ark of salvation
  7. The pews promote adoration, directing our eyes to the altar
  8. The confessional prepares us to receive the Eucharist
  9. The church’s columns enhance its verticality and permanence
  10. The pulpit is subordinate to the altar
  11. The choir serves the Mass without calling attention to itself
  12. The sacred art teaches and evangelizes us
  13. The stained glass creates a heavenly atmosphere with light
  14. The sanctuary set apart the holiest part of the church
  15. The altar is the focal point of unity, reverence, prayer, and worship
  16. The crucifix tells us of Christ’s redemptive Sacrifice
  17. The tabernacle reminds us that Christ is truly present here

The laws and elements are not presented by the author without an agenda in mind. They are to be used as a list for architects and church renovators, but also as a source of critique of modernist church designs. With this list in mind it is interesting (troubling??) to see how many Catholic churches fail to meet many of these laws and elements. Most of these church buildings were built in the past 50 years or so, and from a more modernist approach — a kind of “spirit of the age” urging towards “relevance” and man-centeredness.

The rest of the book examines examples of  church architecture that deviate from these laws and elements, and the reasons why churches where either altered away from tradition, or built according to modernist standards. Then finally the book speaks to what can be done to rectify the problem.

Personally, I love much of modern architecture. I’m not a modernist, but I appreciate much of what modern architects were trying to do, even in their failures (which were many). Still, what constitutes proper sacred architecture, that is architecture designed around the Eucharistic liturgy of the Catholic Church, seems to me fundamentally in need of something other than the modernist approach.

However, I’m also not a traditionalist in the sense that the “solution” is that we go back in time. We can and should learn a lot from the past, including examples of church architecture, but we must remember we shouldn’t just copy from the past, but create based on principles. It’s tradition for the sake of truth, not tradition for the sake of tradition.

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Unlocking the Catholicism of “The Lord of the Rings”

I find this fascinating. We all know Tolkien was a Catholic, and we can all readily pick up on a few Catholic themes in LTR, but I love how deep one can go with that. I also enjoy how much fun Joseph Pearse is having with this talk.

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