Friday, March 18, 2011

I Hope I Get Points for Trying; or, the Meaty Book that stuck in my throat

A friend of mine lent me a book - The Restoration of Christian Culture by John Senior - which I have been trying to get through for the past couple of weeks.  As 'meaty books' go, it's pretty meaty.  But it reminds me more of a pot roast that's been left a bit too long in the oven and then served without gravy, potatoes or vegetables to make a complete meal. Mr. Senior's writing style is very much like Pope John Paul II of blessed memory; extremely dense, with circular statements that wind around themselves and require several re-readings of the text in order to make sense of them.  Had this been my own book, I would have found it helpful to use my handy-dandy marking crayons and a pen to underline and make notes in order to better understand what he was getting at. As it is I managed to make it through about half the book before deciding to skim the remainder out of charity and not further subject myself to a literary-induced headache (in addition to several episodes of wanting to find the author and fling the book at him in utter frustration).

It goes without saying that the author despises television.  But he also inveighs against radio and recorded music as well.
Electronic reconstitutions of disintegrated sounds are not real sounds any more than reconstituted, sterilized lactates are milk. ... Catholics have accepted some of the worst distortions of their Faith in the order of music, art and literature without a shiver of discontent because they never really heard the "Tantum Ergo" or the Ave maris stella" - not for lack of faith, but because there had never been ordinary music in the home to have created the habit of good sound and sense.
And just where are we supposed to hear those two hymns?  Not in any parish around here on a regular basis.  It's lovely if one has a parish where the traditional hymnography of the Church has been preserved and fostered, but the reality is that most of them have lazy, cowardly music directors who think the purpose of a choir is not to lead and support the congregational singing, but to perform for and entertain the assembled people (because, you know, they are too stupid and dense to have an original meditative thought or to have the ability, much less the desire, to actually pray the Mass).

A little later in the book is a section about work.
But one of the bitterest questions the majority of us must ask is whether, even if we do a good job, the work is good to begin with, that is, if it is really necessary to the common good. ...
A test of your own good work would be to think what you will say some day to your grandchildren when they ask, "What did you do in your day, Grandpa (sic)?"  Burke said that though it is true that there is a dignity in work, not all work is dignified - hairdressing, for example.
Unfortunately Mr. Senior doesn't elaborate on his opinion that hairdressing is 'undignified' work.  I imagine he might think that my work, inasmuch as it is not 100% liturgical/clerical tailoring, is not only not necessary to the 'common good' but is also not dignified unless my talent is being put to use for the Church. I don't know whether that's objectively true or not; I only know that there are certain regular monthly expenses of maintaining a household and providing for my children that must be met, and God having given me the gift or talent of being able to sew and tailor clothing, I use that talent to provide as best I can for my family; much of the time the end of one month meets nicely with the beginning of another without undue stretching or monetary panic.

He goes on at length about Latin too, but I freely admit I practically skimmed over that part.  Yes, we are Catholic, but there's more to Catholicism than Latin, and while I like Latin and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I am much more at home with prostrations and Hospodi, pomiluj instead of genuflections and Domine, Miserere nobis.


The kind of Catholic home that the author imagines as ideal is all very nice if it's possible, but at the risk of confirming to the friend who lent me the book that I really am a despicably secular person it probably won't ever happen here at Magpie Manor. The sort of life Mr. Senior advocates as ideal is impossible without a community of like-minded folks with whom to share the journey, and for my family to undertake this would be like mountain climbers attempting Everest without the aid of the Sherpas.  Neither I nor my children receive anything but the most perfunctory overtures of friendship from other Catholic families we know (excepting the family of the friend who lent me the book; I'm beginning to think she's taken me on as a sort of special project) - I think the fact that I'm divorced is really scandalous to most of them, and I'm just not outwardly pious enough to suit them.

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