Our Friend Big Beard Speaks

October 12 will go down in baseball infamy, as far as I’m concerned.

But in Mother Roma, the Archbishop of Canterbury rocked the house with the Vatican-II talk of the century. I have no doubt that our Holy Father smiled his way through the whole thing.

Vatican II teaches, above all, the importance of contemplation.

Click HERE to read.

The best part:

…the possibility, quite simply, of living more humanly – living with less frantic acquisitiveness, living with space for stillness, living in the expectation of learning, and most of all, living with an awareness that there is a solid and durable joy to be discovered in the disciplines of self-forgetfulness that is quite different from the gratification of this or that impulse of the moment.

The good Archbishop strayed from his own advice and wasted a few sentences endorsing particular ecumenical institutions, which may or may not offer much, when you get right down to it.

But the heart of his matter is, in my book, the heart of the the matter.

Contemplation of the Oomun Pear-sewn

In the seminary, we would get each other laughing sometimes by saying the phrase “human person” in a booming Polish accent. Oomun pear-sewn.

The second half of the 20th century saw the heroic career of a certain Polish prelate: first in the drafting of Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, then in the innumerable encyclicals, letters, homilies, speeches, and books of Pope John Paul II.

This Polish saint must have used the phrase “oomun pear-sewn” half a million times. Reading it all, in vast reams, night after night, semester after semester—we needed some light moments sometimes.

The human person. The only material being capable of contemplation.

There is a time to be born and a time to die…There is a time to weep and a time to laugh…A time to keep, a time to cast away, a time to rend, a time to sew, a time to be silent, a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3)

These are the words of a unique creature, a creature with a transcendent dignity. These words are the fruits of the uniquely human personal action: contemplation.

We made fun. But, upon reflection, I am left thinking that: Perhaps the pre-eminent gift of the Second Vatican Council is the re-affirmation of the perennial Christian teaching that human action only makes sense when it serves human contemplation. The ultimate reason for our existence: to take delight in God and in His works, and to praise Him.

The disposition of practical affairs is subordinate to the personal realm, and not contrariwise, as the Lord indicated when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Gaudium et Spes 26)

So taught Vatican II. So taught the Polish Pope. “The personal realm,” the unfathomable depth of the oomun pear-sewn, the reason why everything exists.

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.

Mary Has Chosen the Better Part

Now a Timberwolf
Now a Timberwolf
Will the Wizards win 40 games this season? That would be 21 more than they won last season, more than doubling their win percentage.

I was sorry to see Darius Songaila go. But the Wizards’ off-season trades have been excellent. I think they will play better-than-.500 ball and will contend for a playoff spot…

…For the record: I can think of a lot of places where I would love to sit and drink a cold beer.

The White House is not one of them…

…As they continued their journey, He entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him.

She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” –Luke 10:38-42

There is plenty to do. But the life of action in this world is for the sake of reaching the life of contemplation in the next.

It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek. –Vatican Council II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 2