Several times this month I considered writing about discouraging news for the Church and what it portends. But after reflecting on Christmas, I think now, more than many recent Christmases, we must remember that to be faithful is to be hopeful. Hopeful for ourselves and for our Church. We do well to remember that in spite of our fears and the hardships of the world, the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ or his Church. Recalling that we are always working from a position of victory, rather than edging toward defeat, I have postponed discussion of our problems in exchange for reflecting on the positive aspects of our faith: our improvements, our vibrant culture, our wondrous history.
David Warren writes on the beginning of the Church’s recovery: “In particular, the quality of our priests seems to be rising; the celebration of Mass is becoming more focused, more reverent; many young are being drawn in, and those who come take the Christian teaching more seriously; the monastic movement is once again advancing, with zeal; the standard of Catholic thinking among our intellectuals is rising — albeit, in each case, from what could be described as “historical lows.”…The need to build families, to build neighbourhood, against all odds, is a yearning deep in human nature. It is perpetually buoyant, and rising back to the surface. With it comes the starch to resist the demonic forces run loose in our society. Mistakes, terrible mistakes, are made (how I know this from the inside!) yet, where the help of God is honestly petitioned, there is recovery.”
Joseph Pearce has a useful reminder in a similar vein on laughter and humility: “Pride pollutes everything it touches, even the good things that God has given us as gifts designed to lead us to Him. If, however, we take ourselves lightly, enjoying the innocent laughter of the humble and spurning the bad jokes of the proud, we will fly like the angels to the place where there is nothing but laughter and the love of friends.”
And in this age of social media, constant news cycles, and omnipresent technological connectivity, let us not forget that one of the best ways to encounter God is through silence. Cardinal Sarah on the silence that makes us tremble: “A refusal of silence (one that is suffused with awe-filled faith and adoration) is a refusal of God’s right to seize us with his love and presence. Sacred silence permits man joyfully to hand himself over to the service of God. It allows him to escape that arrogant mindset which prescribes that God is at the disposal of all his children’s whims. What creature can boast that he possesses his Creator? On the contrary, a sacred silence delivers us from the incessant, profane tumult of our immense cities. It lets us be seized by God. A sacred silence is really the place where we can meet God, because we approach Him with the true attitude of the man who trembles, and holds himself at a distance, all the while waiting with confidence.”
Elizabeth Scalia writes about the need for Catholic artists (and those supporting them) to take constructive criticism in improving their craft: “Catholic art must be great art. The world deeply needs art that can engage the culture in ways that surprise, challenge, stun, enlighten, inspire and, ultimately, evangelize. We have been bereft of popular Catholic literature and drama — and its ability to impact social thinking — for too, too long.”
Fr. Longenecker writes that beauty is the language of worship: “By being appreciated by everyone, the language of beauty unites everyone. All who experience the beauty of worship in a beautiful church are united in their shared humanity and with the apprehension of beauty in a way which takes them beyond and outside of themselves.”
Dorothy Day on desire, sexual morality, and eternal life.
Amy Welborn has an old, but worthwhile piece on the Christmas feasts: “The message is clear and hard: Following this baby, as he reaches to us from the resin manger, looking out at us with the soft-eyed cattle and docile sheep, comes at a price. There is an edge to Christmas, a harshness, and a different kind of promise than that implied by the easy words of peace and glad tidings. It is a mystery, all of it. The Word made flesh indeed, but into a world that was from the beginning set against it, that sought with every bit of strength at hand to stay in the darkness.”
Christmas dates to remember.
Restoring the Ghent Altarpiece.
The Medieval origins of the Christmas carol.
For Catholics, it’s a wonderful life: “It’s a Wonderful Life…should give us hope, that the world formed by a culture of life is a human and humane world, in contrast to the barren world of the culture of death.”
Michael de Sapio on a forgotten Catholic novel and film: “The Miracle of the Bells doesn’t claim to be great literature on the order of Georges Bernanos or G.K. Chesterton (even if Janney’s imagery occasionally recalls the latter). But it is a richly drawn work of popular Catholic fiction, a time capsule of a bygone era of American Catholicism that retains its inspirational charm.”
Virgin and Child statue that survived the Reformation returns to England after 600 years.
The Catholic Future
Samuel Gregg recently wrote in-depth on the quiet revolution of orthodox Catholics in France and how the Church’s eldest daughter may finally be starting on the long road home to Rome.
Why the Diocese of Lincoln is national model for Catholic success.
For the anniversary of “A Man for All Seasons,” George Weigel writes on our need for the real Thomas More.
How the world looked when Jesus was born, according to Roman geographers.
You can see canvas prints of Michelangelo’s famed Sistine Chapel frescoes in Dallas.
How Jesuit brother Andrea Pozzo painted the illusion of a dome in the church of St. Ignatius.
Ed Peters reviews With God in America and writes about the holiness of Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.: “To see Ciszek’s holiness covered in icy mud and coal dust some days, leading tough teens to a New York city park for a game of catch on another, buying drinks for Soviet guards in Moscow, or celebrating Mass for a lone retreatant in America, is to see how the holiness of Christ is truly everywhere, all time.”
For liturgical nerds, Gregory DiPippo has some rubrical notes on the Octave of Christmas.
Following up on last month’s post about St. Edmund Campion, there are two relevant articles worth considering. First, new scans have revealed the architectural ingenuity of England’s persecuted Catholics (you can see one of the scans here). Second, Avellina Balestri has a lengthy biographical piece on Campion, the Diamond of England.
Reminder: Catholic University Professor C.C. Pecknold will be hosting a Twitter seminar on St. Augustine’s City of God on Thursdays beginning on January 12, 2017. Here’s the schedule.
How Alexander Hamilton defended Catholics in a young America.
Fr. Robert Johansen: “The splendor of the incarnate Christ, the splendor of the human race and indeed of all creation remade in him, is the cause of our joy and celebration on Christmas day. The glory of God brought into the world through the Christ child now becomes our glory, a glory we shall possess in full, and a glory that we already begin to possess even now.”