Tigers at Verizon Center; Say No to Frank Gehry

…The Georgetown Hoyas’ overtime win over the Memphis Tigers on December 14, 2008, stands as one of the most gratifying experiences of my little life.

Yesterday’s game had different “trajectories.” Three years ago, the Hoyas upset a team that had been in the Final Four the preceding spring. Yesterday, the Hoyas stepped onto the court as 4-point favorites, having beat the Tigers once already this season.

But, dear reader, it was a sweet 11-point win nonetheless!

…Click HERE for yet another example of the emperors with no clothes running the contemporary architecture business.

We southwest Virginians have our piece to say about the proposed Dwight Eisenhower Memorial, as designed by Frank Gehry. Gehry’s protege Randall Stout designed the crashed metal eagle whose carcass litters downtown Roanoke.

Should the pleasant L’Enfant-plan park formed by the intersection of Independence and Maryland Avenues, Southwest, Washington, be boxed in by 80-foot pylons and stainless-steel curtains, as Gehry’s design proposes? Should puppies be jailed in wire-mesh cages for life?

Should the exploits of the great general and two-term president be “feminized,” as Kennicott suggests Gehry’s design succeeds in doing? Should we have a “masculinized” Jackie O. Memorial?

How about a good old, fashioned statue of Ike, and call it a day?

Southwest Washington lost most of its charm two generations ago. But that’s no excuse for turning it into a showplace for architectural preposterousness.

Monticello Monastery

Sometimes, the world-famous internet maddens you with its lacunae. One cannot read St. Augustine’s second sermon on the Apostles’ Creed in its entirety on-line. That said, it is well worth reading the parts of the sermon that Google Books offers, to prepare spiritually for Trinity Sunday…

…Upon entering the reception hall in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, the visitor espies a familiar map on the wall. Perhaps, gentle reader, you will recall the joy with which we considered the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia a few months ago.

What made Thomas Jefferson? Can we say that, above all, he was the son of the man who had made Virginia colony’s most excellent map?

…My peregrinations have taken me to Monticello, to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and to the Cistercian Abbey of New Melleray in Peosta, Iowa, among other places.

Monticello reminds me more of New Melleray than it does of Mount Vernon. Jefferson conceived and built a hilltop cloister to house his quiet life of study and meditation.

Everything about the clever, simple, orderly way in which the necessaries of Monticello are arranged recalls the refreshing straightforwardness of the architecture of a monastery.

And, of course, the quadrangle of the University of Virginia, which Jefferson designed, feels like a brick neoclassical cloister.

Perhaps Sally Hemmings could report that Jefferson did not live his 43 widower years as a perfect monk. But there is no question that he built an edifice designed for reading, working the land, hospitality, and contemplation. This is precisely what St. Benedict directed.

It is ironic, since Jefferson despised monks. Like repels like.

Someday, perhaps, the Lord will afford me the leisure to write the book I have always wanted to write: The Untold History of the Contemplative Life in the United States.

Chapter 1 will consider Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Valentine’s Day Advice and Veritatis Splendor

Am I going to see “The Rite?” Absolutely not. I watched “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” back in 2005, and I haven’t really had a good night’s sleep since.

But there’s an idea for you, Cassanovas. Rent “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” for Valentine’s Day and watch it with your main squeeze. That will be romantic for you, voluptuaries!

…One thing I wasn’t able to mention earlier (because I was too busy scrubbing pots): In my humble opinion, the Well Fargo Center in Minneapolis evokes the Empire State Building in a splendid postmodern way. Agree/disagree, architecture buffs?

…Anyway, if you heard the words of Jesus Ben-Sirach in church this morning, you probably thought of Part I of Chapter 2 of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Here is a summary of paragraphs 38-41:

God left man in the power of his own counsel. (Sirach 15:14)

We are all kings or queens, because we have dominion over our own actions.

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Advice and Veritatis Splendor

Proof Positive

Is the world a little out-of-whack these days? Were you in doubt?

Proposed courtyard enhancement
I have no brief for the Hirshhorn Museum.

It is full of art which I despise. In fact, we can safely say that God despises the art in this museum.

Every once in a while, they put an interesting sculpture out front.

The building itself is an architectural disaster. The courtyard of the place IS unpleasant. But…

To put an inflatable balloon in there,* in the name of “curating public space” to foster “international dialogue” on “broad issues” for a “pluralistic audience…”?!?!

The monstrous ridiculosity would, in fact, be practically invisible from the street (thank God). BUT:

This is more than just something that should not be done.

This is something that, if it is done, everyone responsible should be jailed. The Mall is no place for such foolishness. (Not that anywhere else is.) If this city had any self-respect, there would be jail time for anyone who even thought of such an aesthetic joke.

(*If you click through this link, you will discover just how much of a fool Phillip Kennicott really is.)

…If you want to do a good deed, and you are a Facebooker, join the “Friends of Father Mark” (not me) group. You could also check out his reasonably priced offerings on his website. He is a good man, a friend. He is innocent. He has large legal bills. Someday, his accusers will face a very harsh judgment.

Architecture Day

twin towersI was always against the Twin Towers, architecturally speaking.

I thought they looked like the effluvia of an intergalactic spaceship the size of Iowa that had stopped over lower Manhattan to deposit its waste in two briquettes, pinched out squarely from its enormous wrought-iron rectum.

I didn’t like the idea of the Death Star going to the bathroom in the middle of one of our grandest cities of Earth.

That said, when I visited my brother in New York in 2002, and I laid eyes on the lower Manhattan skyline, I was mad as hell. The ugly towers–fixtures of life, my old friends–were gone. The enemy had attacked our home, knocked down our buildings, and killed our people.

new mell naveI still miss the hideous buildings. Isn’t it strange that, after eight years, justice has yet to be done? The perpetrators of the attack went to judgment in the course of their murderous rage, of course. But what about the mastermind? I do not wish him damned; I do not want revenge. But he must face justice.

…I have had the opportunity to kneel and pray a few times in the abbey church of New Melleray, outside Dubuque, Iowa. It is the most peaceful place I have ever been. When I get to heaven, please God, I hope the Lord will let me spend it in this church.

It is simply the most perfect church on earth. But I knew from the first moment I spent there that there was something about the location of its windows that was in fact too perfect to be the result of human design.

new mell sanctuaryIt turns out that the walls of this perfect church were originally built to house a dormitory. It used to be a two-story residence for the monks. Then, when they built other buildings, and completed their cloister, they removed the floor separating the first and the second storeys of this part, and turned it into their church. Amazing.

(N.B. The tabernacle is within the wooden structure behind the altar. This aspect of the church is odd, I grant. I also wish the altar were wider. And of course if the Lord let me spend eternity there, he would also let me say Mass facing east. But the walls and windows are perfect as is.)



Philip Frohman

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
This morning I had the privilege of con-celebrating Holy Mass in a church designed by the same architect who designed the church building that helped to teach me to love God between the ages of twelve and sixteen.

Philip Frohman designed the National Cathedral on Mount St. Alban in Washington. His design employed the “pure Gothic” style.

When I was a student at St. Albans, I spent a lot of time staring up at the cathedral. I wrote poems and stories about it, including one about a cathedral janitor who begged to be allowed to go up to the roof to see the view. (The top of the cathedral tower is the highest place in Washington.) When he got up there, he realized that what he really loved was to look UP at the cathedral, not look out from it. From the roof, he could see everything else, but not the one thing he loved so much, the cathedral itself.

My father was an altarboy at the National Cathedral when he was a student at St. Albans in the 1950’s. He always loved the cathedral. My aunt and my cousin were married there.

Our Lady of the Wayside, Chaptico, Md.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Chaptico, Md.
After he designed the cathedral, Frohman converted to Catholicism. I have not been able to find any information about how his conversion came to pass. If you know anything about it, please chime in.

After he became Catholic, Frohman designed two parish churches in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. One of these parishes is under the care of a good friend of mine.

Our Lady of the Wayside church is probably about one-twentieth the size of the National Cathedral. But it possesses beautiful English Gothic touches. Being in the sacristy this morning felt like being in the Verger’s passageway in the cathedral (where I have not been in many years).

May God be praised in the beautiful buildings dedicated to His service!

Perhaps it will please God someday to have the beautiful National Cathedral finally come under the care of the Roman Catholic Church.