Well, it isn’t my voice on the CD. Some years ago I wrote a poem, “Surgamus et aedificemus,” based on Nehemiah 2:18. Then my good friend Peter Kwasnewski set it to music, and eventually it was recorded by the Scottish choir Cantiones Sacrae for their CD that dropped this past December:
You can hear their performance of Surgamus and see the musical score here, at Peter Kwasniewski’s Youtube channel. For now, here’s the text from the CD booklet:
You can purchase the CD from England here, or if you want to save a few bucks just go to Peter’s website and donate $15, letting him know that you would like the CD. He’ll send you one.
The latest newsletter from the monks of Norcia, Italy, includes a list of everything the monks read aloud during their meals this past year. It is an interesting list in itself, but for this reader there is a pleasant surprise in the left-hand column:
A high school textbook taught me the standard line: similes
are comparisons, and metaphors are similes without the word “like” or “as”. So
when I say, “Achilles was a lion,” I mean that Achilles was like a lion. I just
don’t say “like”.
The absurdity bothered me to no end. How could anyone with ears think that “Achilles was a lion” sounds like “Achilles was like a lion”? Is the one sentence that much stronger just because it is one word shorter? On the other hand, how could I hope that anyone else heard the same difference that screamed at me? When you’re in high school, there are certain feelings you just don’t share, like your ambition for glory, or your romantic daydreams, or your ceaseless frustration over the textbook definition of “metaphor”.
Imagine that you opened the first door of your Advent calendar and found this secret message, put in the calendar long ago especially for you. It would seem strange, would it not? A message in a calendar? But the Advent calendar tells a story that begins long, long ago—and it begins with a message in a calendar.
God does not use a calendar, because God does not use time. He is eternal, which means that he does not live in seconds and minutes and hours and days and months and years. But he wanted to give his life to men, who do live in time, so when he prepared a world for men the first thing he made was a calendar. Continue reading “The Message in the Calendar”
A crack runs through the sanctuary of God, a crevice across the floor, spewing smoke from under the altar; The crack widens into a chasm, the crevice into an abyss, belching clouds to hide the heavens. From the blackness emerges a scorpion, a locust with sting in its tail, and takes its stand at the altar; From the deep creeps a face like a man’s, a head with hair like a woman’s, and presides over the mystery of ages. Locusts swarm over locusts, the mass of scorpions writhes, it kindles a coarse fire. Locusts entangled with locusts, scorpion legs around scorpion tails, in a fire that burns but does not warm, a fire that consumes but gives no light, and they smile with teeth like a human’s. The people shuffle into the Temple, they drag their feet into the sanctuary; they are obliged to Mass every Sunday. They come like lambs to the slaughter, they breathe the smoke and the ashes; there is no other path to communion.
Although I have not written much lately, I have posted a few things for the Aquinas Institute on their blog. Most recently I put up something about Advent–read it while it’s relevant!
Otherwise, I have done technical grunt work for a local food bank. My son and I built their website, and this week we had to move the entire site to a new web host as part of our effort to enable online donations. Right now we’re waiting for the SSL Certificate to come through, so your browser may or may not claim that the site is “unsafe”. It’s harmless: we don’t actually know how to hurt you.
I had dreamed that today, as I turn 40 years old, I would ship out my finished book to a publisher. But God had other plans. As I round the pole and head on back toward the finish line of life, I have:
a beautiful, snugly baby boy
two (close to three!) teenagers who enjoy me and like to talk with me
a whole pack of middle kids who want to sing songs and hear stories
fifty or so fun and thoughtful students who are committed to learning (except for the day before Thanksgiving Break)
a new lead on solving these health issues
a wife who is still sane despite everything I just listed.
Oh, and I have a draft of the book. It’s a theology of Scripture inspired by St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine. Footnotes need work (bother footnotes), and the last chapter is just a ta-a-ad incomplete, but it’s a book.
When I first met the woman who would become my wife, her family had been saying a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus every night for as long as she could remember. It was a variant on the Renewal of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart. Now Jacinta and I have said that same prayer every night with our kids for years and years.
A few weeks ago, we began Project Bard: we determined to build a treasury of songs by singing more or less every night–rounds, hymns, camp-fire songs, whatever. To approach the ocean by little streams, we began with some of the goofier selections from Cedarmont Kids’ 100 Singalong Songs for Kids.
We always end our singing session with night prayers, so one day it hit me: why not sing night prayers? It wasn’t hard to adapt our Sacred Heart prayer to a traditional hymn tune from the Roman Breviary, drawing on Fr. Samuel Weber’s Hymnal for the Hours. The result was just a little thing for my family, not really memorable poetry, but given Austin Kleon’s principle about sharing your work, and given that today is the memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, I think I’ll toss it up here: Continue reading “Sacred Heart Enthronement Hymn”
These days, anyone familiar with the medieval “question” format has probably met it through the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas. To the modern eye it seems stuffy or even pretentious, with its stilted language and logical distinctions and its appearance of completeness. We prefer the humble “essay,” a word that means an “attempt,” an effort in the right direction.
But over the years I have come to love the “question” format. Each “article” within the “question” is a dehydrated debate. Just add imagination, and you have a rowdy crowd of objectors who even disagree with each other and an enthusiastic team of supporters whose support is sometimes as embarrassing as the objections, and in between them the master whose mental agility alone can keep order. Here are just a few of the things I like about the “question” format: Continue reading “5 reasons I love the scholastic “question””