Review: Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About 10 years ago I saw the 80’s mini-series of Brideshead Revisited, starring Jeremy Irons, and really fell in love with the story. Since then I have read other Evelyn Waugh novels, but finally got around to reading this one. At first it was hard not to picture what I had seen on the television, but as I read I got wrapped up in the beautiful prose, the choices of the characters, and the elegance of the formality and manners of the time period (1920’s and 30’s England).

This is a religious novel, not because it delineates theology, but because it tells the story of a Catholic family, their weaknesses, and their adherence to the beauty of their faith, even though they may not understand it fully or be particularly good at it. Life is so filled with mystery, and this is a story about imperfect people embracing the beauty of that mystery. As St. Augustine wrote, “If you do understand, then it is not God.”

A lot of times when reading a bad novel, I hear the gears of the author’s mind in the background. Waugh, especially in this novel, is invisible and is completely out of the way of the story and the characters.

I recommend this novel to anyone wanting to read a master of the English language and those who enjoy the spiritual journey.

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Science and the Story that We Need by Neil Postman | Articles | First Things

The principal spiritual problem confronting those of us who live in a technological age was spoken of some years ago in a prophetic poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, in her collection Huntsman, What Quarry?

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.

Read this really good article from 1997 at: Science and the Story that We Need by Neil Postman | Articles | First Things

Resource for Catholic Songwriters

There is a good online resource for songwriters who are also Catholic.  It is called http://catholicsongwriting.com. It is a site that I built and maintain.

It is free to use this site and free to sign up to use the PDF worksheet.

It is not meant just for songwriters who write religious music.  Instead it is for Catholic songwriters who write any genre of music and who want their faith to inform their creative choices. If you write folk songs, jazz, classical, hip-hop, or rock songs – it doesn’t matter.

The homepage gives a step-by-step method for:

  1. Praying on the Mass readings of the day, the Saint of the day or liturgical feast day
  2. Using the worksheet to organize the words that arise out of prayer
  3. Choosing the song structure and coming up with a melody

A lot of this was subconsciously based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, whereby one uses the imagination to place oneself into a scriptural reading.

And ultimately, anyone can use this resource.  No one checks your religion card at the front door.  It is meant to help all people make the world more beautiful.

Please visit http://catholicsongwriting.com.

The Bible is Not Enough

Imagine two classrooms where math is being taught.

In the first classroom, the school has provided the students with a teacher in addition to a textbook for each student.  The teacher gives the students assignments out of the textbook, and the students go through the lessons.  When they get stuck, they ask the teacher for extra help, and the teacher provides guidance and clarity.

In the second classroom, the students find a textbook on each desk but no teacher.  They are left to themselves to go through the lessons of the book at an appropriate pace.  When they don’t understand something they ask themselves.  Often they argue about things like, “Is that symbol ‘X’ meant to be a variable, or perhaps the multiplication sign, or maybe even the Roman numeral X?”  There is much disagreement, and so they split into three separate factions that come to three different conclusions about the truths of math.

This is analogous to Christianity.  There are many Christians who believe that the Bible alone is the sole authority when it comes to Divine revelation and truth.  However, since this very limited approach was introduced 500 years ago, there are now tens of thousands of different opinions on how to interpret the Bible, much like the math class that can’t agree on what the “X” symbol represents.

As I Catholic I believe that there are two sources of Divine revelation, the written tradition and the oral tradition.  In fact, the first book of the New Testament, Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, was written around 51 AD, about 17 years after the resurrection of Christ.  What this means is that the early Christians didn’t have the Bible.  They only had the oral tradition.  None of them quoted Paul because Paul hadn’t written anything yet.

For the next few hundred years there were a lot of writings about Jesus. In the 300’s, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, led by the Bishop of Rome, deemed that some of the writings about Jesus were true and some were not.  That is why today at basketball games you might see a sign that says John 3:16, but you won’t see one that says Thomas 3:16, even thought there was a Gospel of Thomas at one time.

There is only one truth in math, and there is only one truth in God.  My advice to anyone seeking to learn more about Christ is this: Enroll yourself in the school that provides you with a teacher, possibly even the editor who compiled the textbook, and not the school that only gives you the textbook.

 

Nothing Has Changed

Let me start off by saying that I did not vote for either a Republican or a Democrat in this previous election.  I see myself as a bystander who opposes the two-party system, and I have some observations to make about how the people I know have changed in the past month.

Whereas Fox News used to employ fear mongering as a way to boost its ratings, I see that NPR, the network stations, CNN, MSNBC and the other left-leaning media outlets are now doing the same thing.  The news stories of the latter group are all finding negative angles about the presidency that they clearly forgot to mention this time last year.

For example, NPR mentioned how the president’s trips to Florida were costing the tax payers extra because of added security needed.  I can’t imagine they ever brought this up about Obama taking trips.  Fox News, on the other hand, is now glossing over the bad parts as CNN and MSNBC used to do.

This negativity is having an effect on a lot of people, especially people who spent their vote on a losing party.

Most of the people whom I know who didn’t like Obama are religious people.  They saw Obama’s policies as offensive to their right to practice religion; take for example the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  After 8 years of not hearing the mainstream news media cover issues in a balanced way, the people on the right learned to ignore the news or seek the other side of the story somewhere else.  Unfortunately, the dumbed-down Fox News was the only place some of them knew where to turn.  In addition to learning to ignore the news, being religious people, they also knew how to place their hope and trust into something higher than U.S. politics.  There was a certain calm that I don’t see in the other side now.

I know a lot of people who loved Obama who have no clue that the mainstream media is biased in their favor.  They laugh at that. Many of them have been placated or put to sleep over the past 8 years and have no idea how we got this new megalomaniac as our president.  In addition, most of the people I know on the left are not religious people. Many, not all, lack that understanding that there are powers higher (much higher) than any earthly government.  So the combination of being rudely awoken and a lack of the virtue of hope has had a painful impact on their lives.

This is not a time to be reactive.  It is a time to be reflective.  Go to church, pray, meditate…whatever you do.  If you don’t know how, then ask someone you know who appears to be happy how he or she does it.  The only demons we can fight are the ones within ourselves, and they are delighted that so many people have lost their sense of joy.