November 04, 2006

"THE LORD OF THE RINGS is of course a fundamentally Catholic Work."

I learned of this article at The Curt Jester’s blog.

Tolkien and St. Thomas on Beauty
by Dr. Michael Waldstein
... Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion, which unfolds some of the stories that stand behind The Lord of the Rings, speaks about this. …

... “Of all the Great Ones who dwell in this world the Elves hold Varda most in reverence and love. Elbereth they name her, and they call upon her name out of the shadows of Middle-earth, and uplift it in song at the rising of the stars.” …

... For a Catholic, which Tolkien certainly was, the echo of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Elbereth is absolutely clear. A Jesuit friend of Tolkien, Fr. Robert Murray, pointed out this similarity. Tolkien wrote in response, “I know exactly what you mean … by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.”

… The great paradigm of beauty, who imprints the form of her beauty on Middle-earth as a whole and on its entire history, is Elbereth Gilthoniel. Tolkien’s own understanding and perception of beauty, of its majesty and simplicity, is founded on his Marian devotion which is reflected in the devotion of the Elves to Elbereth. Here we have a key to reading The Lord of the Rings.

… It is a curious fact that explicit religion plays almost no role in The Lord of the Rings. The name Ilúvatar or any equivalent name of the creator God is not mentioned even once in the whole book. There are a number of songs that might be called religious, especially those addressed to Elbereth. … In the letter in which he explains that his perception of beauty, both in majesty and simplicity is founded on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tolkien speaks about this strange absence of explicit religious content from The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.” … Religion in The Lord of the Rings is not something added to things from the outside, but it lies in the very depths of beings and events. The Lord of the Rings does not preach a sermon, nor is it a book of theology. It is a piece of fiction the purpose of which is to be beautiful, thus to give joy and delight. In the depth of this beauty one discovers a religious dimension which has a deep kinship with the Catholic faith. Elbereth is not the Virgin Mary, but her beauty is drawn with the sensibility of Marian piety.

Those are excerpts. Go read the complete article.
Click HERE for it.

Musica Sacra, "Sacred Music": The Church Music Association of America

"The Church Music Association of America is an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use." ....

"The CMAA's purpose is the advancement of musica sacra in keeping with the norms established by competent ecclesiastical authority."

"The CMAA is seeking members who are devoted to the cause of sacred muisc in Catholic liturgical life. Members not only receive the acclaimed journal Sacred Music; they become part of a national network that is making a difference on behalf of the beautiful and true in our times, in parish after parish." ....

"The Church Music Association of America today provides support for all those interested in participating in the current revival of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony in Catholic liturgy. It is the most active organization today in sponsoring new writing and scholarship in the tradition of sacred music. A good example of our work is the Communio Project that makes available authoritative editions of Gregorian Chant for parish use."

"It is the sponsor of the leading music colloquium on sacred music in the English speaking world. It is the publisher of Sacred Music, the oldest continuously published journal of music in North America. It makes possible a network of musicians, seminarians, and priests who are dedicated to the aethestic and liturgical ideals of the Church."
Those are excerpts from the CMAA's website.
Click HERE for it.

November 03, 2006

Monks in the West II: "Authentic Practices of Celibacy and Intimacy in Monastic Communities of Men"

St. John Abbey
Collegeville, Minnesota

This was the second “Monks in the West” interreligious meeting. The Catholic participants came from six Benedictine monasteries and two Cistercian monasteries. [Cistercian monasteries are also Benedictine, but generally observe much more seclusion from public life than do most Benedictine monasteries.]

The participating Buddhist monks came from the Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan traditions.

Buddhist monasticism and celibacy began five to seven centuries before Christian monasticism first appeared.

The first session of the meeting was a discussion of theory, the reasons for celibacy in the two respective religions.

In the second session, the monks discussed the practice or interior cultivation of celibacy.

In their third session, the Catholic and Buddhist monks presented the ways their respective disciplines deal with transgressions and failure.

The final session focused on what fosters and what degrades the growth of friendship and healthy intimacy within communities of celibates.

The “Monastic Interreligious Dialogue” website has more details about the meeting.
Click HERE for it.

November 02, 2006


The European Film Academy has picked “Into Great Silence” as the best European documentary of 2006. The E.F.A. jury chose the film over seven other nominees.

In January this year at the Sundance Film Festival, “Into Great Silence” won a special jury prize.

The 162-minute movie has been playing to packed audiences in Europe. It will be released in North America by Zeitgeist Films.

It focuses on the Carthusian monastery of hermits near Grenoble, France, showing their daily prayer, work and community life.

Here's a trailer (four and a half minutes in length) for "Into Great Silence". Be patient. It's full of silence. What else would you expect?

She asked John Paul II to pray: her husband's cancer then disappeared

Click HERE for it.

The Roman Sacristan reminds us of the discipline of prayer for believers who have died.

Click HERE for it.

The Benedictine beginning of All Souls Day on November 2

In A.D. 998, St. Odilo, abbot of the Benedictine abbey at Cluny in France, ordered All Souls’ Day to be celebrated in monasteries on Nov. 2. He also urged Pope John XIX to bring the celebration to the wider church.

I have posted a homily for the occasion.
Click HERE for it.

One Monk on a Podcast

Spiritual and Physical Directions

A few days ago, Gerald Naus who blogs "The Cafeteria Is Closed" invited me to join him in recording a podcast.

Click HERE to listen to the results.

If you want to know Gerald's perspective on the whole affair, click HERE.

November 01, 2006

The Solemnity of All the Saints, 1 November

This is a fresco at the Abbey of Monte Cassino. It is known by two names, "The Glory of Saint Benedict," and "The Benedictine Paradise." It depicts saintly monks, nuns, abbots, bishops and popes who were Benedictines. The central figure is Saint Benedict.

I have posted a homily for the Solemnity of All the Saints.
Click HERE for it.

October 31, 2006

DRACULA MATH: evidence of the nonexistence of vampires

[That's the headline of the following editorial from today's "San Diego Union-Tribune" newspaper.]
We are relieved to report that straightforward application of high school algebra has driven a stake through the heart of the Dracula myth.

As portrayed in countless Hollywood remakes, humans turn into vampires when one bites you in the neck and sucks your blood. In a recent academic paper, Costas Efthimiou, a theoretical physicist at the University of Central Florida, assumes the first vampire appeared in 1600 AD, about when the myth emerged in Europe.

When this first vampire bit someone, he would have created one new vampire, thus doubling the world's undead population. They would have infected two more humans, and so on. Even if vampires fed only once a month, this doubling effect (a geometric progression of ratio 2) would have wiped out the entire human population, estimated at 540 million at the time, in just 30 months. Then the vampires would have starved.

This means any vampires (or zombies, for that matter) wandering your neighborhood tonight are relatively benign, and may be deserving of candy.

October 29, 2006

John Paul II versus Muhammad Ali

Click HERE for it.