22 November 2017

Re-Post: My Introduction to the Bullfight 15 Years Ago

The other day I stumbled across an article on the corrida, or bullfight as most know it, here. I have had a great affinity for Spain and things Spanish for a long time, and the bullfight is no exception. This article, and a book I'm currently reading, got me thinking about the bullfight as a metaphor for Catholic culture. 

Though forced to travel off-season on account of airfare costs for a family of 37, one of my favorite memories was being able to witness an excellent-- a real-- bullfight in a pueblito called Villamuelas, about 60 km south of Toledo in the middle of nowhere Castile-La Mancha. Wikipedia says that the town's population is 737, and I cannot doubt it. Though the bullfight season ends in October, some friends and I were wandering the streets of Toledo in November when we saw posters for a bullfight for charity that afternoon in Villamuelas, featuring the renowned matador Julián López, known as "El Juli"



El Juli was a popular up-and-comer then, and later became an internationally acclaimed matador. Like the corrida itself, he personifies the drama of life-- glory, danger, victory and tragedy. He was seriously gored twice, once in 2005 and most recently four days ago. The photos on this page are all of him-- the last one is of him being carried out of the plaza de toros four days ago. Like life, the corrida is serious business. 

Ernest Hemingway, the most famous American aficionado of the bullfight, remarked that one could never tell how a person would react to the spectacle ahead of time. Grown men could go queasy while petite ladies developed a true passion for it. 

However that may be, the corrida affected me profoundly, and to me the entirety of Spain, and also that of Catholic culture itself, is exhibited in it. From Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon:

Some one with English blood has written: "Life is real; life is earnest, and the grave is not its goal." And where did they bury him? And what became of the reality and the earnestness? The people of Castille have great common sense. They could not produce a poet who would write a line like that. They know death is the inescapable reality, the one thing any man may be sure of; the only security... They think a great deal about death and when they have a religion they have one which believes that life is much shorter than death. Having this feeling they take an intelligent interest in death and when they can see it being given, avoided, refused and accepted in the afternoon for the nominal price of admission they pay their money and go to the bull ring. 



There is a ton of truth in that, though ironically coming from someone with English blood who later committed suicide. I found it absolutely true, and it fit my bullfight experience immediately. 

After deciding while in Toledo to hit the bullfight 60 km away that started in an hour's time, we found a taxi driver willing to take us there. On the way, I negotiated the return fare and a plan for him to pick us up hours later in the middle of nowhere-- a plan I prayed to Our Blessed Mother that she would make work. We got to the town just at starting time, and the taxi fare took most of our ready cash. We approached the temporary bullring with some uncertainty, but the ticket taker with very few teeth took credit cards. This took some time, and as I entered the ring the kill of the first bull (there are six) was just taking place. 

Imagine, the first sight I had of a bullfight, before I took my seat, was to stare at a bull, at eye level, with a sword in its heart. This bull stood there, blood dripping from its mouth, for what seemed like a full minute, as the crowd assumed a deathly silence. Nothing stirred and I was frozen in my steps. Then, suddenly, the bull simply fell over on its side and the crowd erupted. 

Welcome to Villamuelas!

The rest of the corrida was enthralling, thrilling, and strangely compelling. Powerful and noble beasts would rage into the ring, full of strength. The dance of the picadores and banderilleros would tire, weaken and slow it, readying it for the matador. But don't think that the bull was no longer able to menace. Quite the contrary. The challenge of the matador, the acceptance by the animal, and the dance of death played out. 

The audience cheered both, and woe to the matador who failed to respect the bull, either through cowardice, clumsiness or disdain. El Juli was magnificent, and the crowd-- particularly the ladies-- gave him his due. He was skillful and in command. On the opposite end of the scale, there was one matador the crowd more or less jeered (I was informed by the man next to me that he was Mexican, which he thought was enough explanation for the rough treatment). He tried one after another reckless and dangerous pose in order to win the crowd. It had some good effect until the bull reminded him of reality by goring his chest and then thrusting one of its horns into his ear. After every kill, the bull was taken out of the ring with great fanfare. 

Lest you complain of animal cruelty, consider this: these bulls lead a full life, are very well treated, are not tightly confined, and face only a fifteen minute contest, at the end of which they are killed quickly. Compare that to the life of the hamburger you ate for lunch yesterday. 

It is hard to find our place in the metaphor sometimes. Am I facing the dangers of life like the skillful matador, respecting danger and using my experience to overcome it well, relying on my training, being brave but not foolhardy? Am I playing to the crowd with reckless bravado, sure to get gored? Maybe I'm in the background, jabbing the danger at the back end of a long lance, allowing my horse to take the punishment. Maybe I am a banderillero fighting the enemy so that another may defeat it and get the glory. Then again, am I just a passive spectator of life, watching as others do the dirty work, moved perhaps but powerless to engage? Maybe I'm a person "with English blood" who is repulsed by the reality of life? 

Or, maybe, just maybe, I will be forced to be the bull-- a soft and easy life, until the end, when I must submit to my own inevitable martyrdom in the arena. A scenario every Catholic today might consider, no?



I'm pretty far afield now, but remember that article I mentioned at the top of the post? An excerpt:

My girlfriend, a recent convert but still possessed of strong doubts about the activity, asked what it was among the gold and gore that draws me back to the plaza de toros time and time again. I replied that it was the absolute reality of the corrida. As an art form, it represents man’s struggle with death and how it should be best faced, which is with a striking and elegant defiance. It represents a man standing alone on the sand with an animal intent on killing him. My first instructor in how to torear, the matador Juan José Padilla, almost joined their ranks two years ago when a bull removed his eye and a chunk of his skull. He was back in the ring five months later, sans depth perception, a triumphant return...

Whatever one thinks of the ethics of injuring and killing an animal as part of a public spectacle—I find it no less reprehensible than killing one at a third the age and after a far worse life for meat I do not medically need to eat—there is honor and glamour in earning your status and fortune by dancing with death.

This is why it stands in such stark contrast to what passes for honor and glamour at home in Great Britain. I just attended the book launch of an acquaintance who published his memoirs at the ripe old age of 26. It is more accurately described as a travelogue of his sexual adventures, something made clear by its title Laid in Chelsea. It is currently at number three on the Sunday Times bestseller list. The reason for this literary success is because the author, Ollie Locke, is famous for being in a reality television show called Made in Chelsea.

The fact that having your life filmed and broadcast, and then writing about your carnal exploits, can bring wealth and glory sums up so much that is wrong with modern Britain, a generalization that extends to our Saxon cousins in the US. Spain may be financially bankrupt, but at least it isn’t morally so.

...The British and American inability to distinguish between them is at the heart of our ethical and aesthetic decline.

One of the commenters to the article, commenting on the moral/financial bankruptcy point, went so far as to phrase it a bit stridently, that this was "the difference between a culture steeped in Roman Catholic traditions and one whose secularist values constitute the inevitable bequest of Protestant heresy."

I don't know. Maybe so-called 'reality television' is Henry VIII's greatest legacy. Maybe that's a stretch. What I do know is that there is more reality in the bullfight than in any reality television show. And reality is Catholic, plain and simple. 

To end the travelogue, our loyal cabbie was there to pick us up in the Castillian dusk. We struck up a conversation about the corrida and about Spain. The talk led to the faith, as it often seems to do. He was Catholic, but in his own words did not practice the faith "as well as [he] used to". We chatted pleasantly, considering the poverty of my Spanish. When we arrived in Toledo I gave him my rosary that had been blessed by Cardinal Rigali. It was a wrench to give it, but it felt right. 

After all, it was a fair bargain. I gave him a rosary, and he gave me the corrida.

21 November 2017

Apropos, of...

Syme strolled with her to a seat in the corner of the garden, and continued to pour out his opinions. For he was a sincere man, and in spite of his superficial airs and graces, a humble one. And it is always the humble man who talks too much; the proud man watches himself too closely. He defended respectability with violence and exaggeration. He grew passionate in his praise of tidiness and propriety. All the time there was a smell of lilac all round him. Once he heard very faintly in some distant street a barrel-organ begin to play, amd it seemed to him that his heroic words were moving to a tiny tune from under or beyond the world. 

-- G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

20 November 2017

That's One Way to Say It

I read the following statement today in an article about a failed merger between a parish that celebrated the TLM and two that did not:

There are some differences between a traditional Latin Mass and a Novus Ordo Mass, which is what most Catholics experience in church today.

14 November 2017

No Cupich for You!

USCCB, exercising some welcome spine on the only Catholic issue they have left to them, deny the Chairmanship of the Pro-Life Committee to Bergoglio's soft-on-heresy, seamless-garment henchman, Blaise Cardinal Cupich.  Archbishop Naumann is a known, determined, true pro-life advocate. He should lead this committee.

Now if the Bishops could stand up for ANY doctrine of the Church by like means...

13 November 2017

On Second Thought

That autobiography will likely never be written, alas. My attempts at sustained prose, always frangible in the best of times, now produce only lucubrations. 

I Have Decided on a Title

For my C.S. Lewis-esque, philosophical novelization of my autobiography:

Six Hours at the Cleveland Airport

08 November 2017

If You Remember When Histories Recorded History...

I'm only on page 14 of the 811-page Volume One of the Kindle edition of Shelby Foote's  The Civil War: A Narrative, but I'm ready to declare it a masterpiece. If you like history one iota, get these books. 

07 November 2017

And Still It Goes On

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

--from The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats

______

It is a truism to modern man that change and decay move faster and faster, and unrelentingly so. The destruction of the good in the visible Church since Vatican II is well-documented. All of us have witnessed the destruction, some of us from the beginning. 

The Mass was taken away and now we have the minimally good, and maximally awful, novus ordo missae

The ceremony of innocence is drowned

The seminaries and convents were opened up, its citizens urged to go out into the world to do something better than adore God in the tabernacle, to obey the rule of their founders, and sanctify the world while sanctifying themselves. Well, they went out and didn't come back. The few who remained now front an aging shell of effeminate Episcopalianism-- but I repeat myself.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

The catechism was taken away and now we are free to believe any error we choose, to our own ruin.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Surely Christ was near with justice, yes? Surely He would put an end to it? And yet it went on.

These days, the pace of change and destruction is so fast, so brutal, that it numbs our very ability to be outraged, sad, indignant, or even to feel any way at all about it.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Oh-- there was a tiny return by a remnant to the true Mass, with some daring to hope for the temporal solution? Well, it is under attack again, rumored always to be wiped out. Even the novus ordo is too Catholic for this crowd. Do away with accurate translations. Make up a new "ecumenical" "mass". 

Oh-- there was a tiny resurgence in tradition by way of new religious orders? Orders that could remember their reason for existence? That weren't cesspools of sodomy or sodomitical politics, with some daring to hope for the temporal solution? Well, ask the FFI how that is going. And the threat over other orders, all well documented, continues. 

Oh-- there was a tiny attempt to return to real catechesis and apologetics, attracting young people hungry for truth, with some daring to hope for the temporal solution? Well, everyone who actually believes that stuff, to paraphrase Ann Barnhardt, is sacked. From the Curia. From the dicasteries. From the chanceries. From the tribunals. From the seminaries. From the academies. From the rectories. And in their place we get intellectually dishonest, effeminate communists. 

And still it goes on.

1960 passes with the Third Secret unrevealed. 1965 passes, and the council's time bombs are placed. 1969 passes, with the abomination of the novus ordo regime. 1978 passes. 2000 passes. 2013 passes, with the putative abdication of the Holy Father and the new regime of Francis. The papacy works tirelessly to undermine the very faith Peter was charged to protect. The disastrous Synods pass. Disastrous papal documents pass. Outrageous statements from Francis pass like water through a sieve, Seuss-like: on a plane! on a train! at a presser! near his dresser! I do not like your insults, sir, I do not want even one more slur! Signs and wonders in the natural world, portents in our very souls, all pass. Destruction, depression, an erosion of the ability to care. Every day a new outrage, with outrage in all-too-short supply.

And still it goes on.

I sometimes like to reflect on the English Catholics of the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. They saw a King, honored by the Pope for his defense of the faith against the Protestant heresy, turn so far around through his own arrogance and lust that he declared himself the head of Christ's Holy Church. They saw religious orders suppressed, their holy places taken. They saw their bishops apostatize, and the few who remained true killed and exiled. They were jailed, tortured, and killed; their lands and property taken; they were abandoned by their former friends, whose apostasy was rewarded.  They must have thought, "Surely this is the end. Our Lord will do something. This must be the Thing that brings it about." Still, it went on. Going to Mass was a crime, then it was impossible. The country, instead of being smitten in God's justice, actually prospered in the temporal sphere. 

I think that those Catholics of that time are some of the most heroic ever, right up there with the martyrs of the Roman persecutions. 

Yet it went on. And it goes on. Back then the Pope was unable to stop the destruction. Now, the pope is a cheering instigator and facilitator of it.

What to do? What do we always do? Wait. Hope. Pray. Keep the faith. What else is there?

As Yeats accurately wrote, putting in writing what Our Lord Himself said and we ourselves feel: 

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Pray for the Church, pray that Mary's Immaculate Heart will triumph. It will. She promised. The Lord will return. He will. He promised. What He says to us He says to all: Watch.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!



02 November 2017

Persecution for Faithful Witness to Christ vs. Calling Good Evil and Evil Good: Both Have Eternal Consequences

When St. Thomas More was asked to accept Henry VIII’s adultery, the pressures that he had from his family, friends and the King himself, could have forced him into invoking the non-imputabilty of his apostasy.  He chose, despite all, like the Christians of the first century, the road to martyrdom. A road the encyclical Veritatis splendor traces with these words: “[…]the martyrs and, in general, all the Church's Saints, light up every period of history by reawakening its moral sense. By witnessing fully to the good, they are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf. Wis 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Is 5:20). (Veritatis splendor, nn. 91-93).

--Roberto de Mattei at Rorate Caeli

First there is the disputed Chapter 8 of "Amoris Laetitia."  I need not share my own concerns about its content.  Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that.  The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching.  In "Amoris Laetitia," your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching.  As you wisely note, pastors should accompany and encourage persons in irregular marriages; but ambiguity persists about what that "accompaniment" actually means.  To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.  Moreover, only where there is truth can there be authentic love, for truth is the light that sets women and men free from the blindness of sin, a darkness that kills the life of the soul.  Yet you seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of "Amoris Laetitia" in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism.   This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.  Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions.  Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by "ad hominem" arguments.

Second, too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine.  Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life.  Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology.  But it is precisely Christian doctrine – including the fine distinctions made with regard to central beliefs like the Trinitarian nature of God; the nature and purpose of the Church; the Incarnation; the Redemption; and the sacraments – that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.  Those who devalue the doctrines of the Church separate themselves from Jesus, the author of truth.  What they then possess, and can only possess, is an ideology – one that conforms to the world of sin and death.

[…]

I have often asked myself: "Why has Jesus let all of this happen?"   The only answer that comes to mind is that Jesus wants to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.  Ironically, your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness.  In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.

Holy Father, I pray for you constantly and will continue to do so.  May the Holy Spirit lead you to the light of truth and the life of love so that you can dispel the darkness that now hides the beauty of Jesus’ Church.


--from the July 31letter of theologian Thomas Wienandy, O.F.M., Cap., to Pope Francis (the letter for which, yesterday, he was sacked by the moral giants of the USCCB).

31 October 2017

Thought for the Day

[Luther] has now been declared a heretic; and so also others, whatever their authority and rank, who have cared nought of their own salvation but publicly and in all men’s eyes become followers of Martin’s pernicious and heretical sect, and given him openly and publicly their help, counsel and favour, encouraging him in their midst in his disobedience and obstinacy, or hindering the publication of our said missive: such men have incurred the punishments set out in that missive, and are to be treated rightfully as heretics and avoided by all faithful Christians, as the Apostle says (Titus iii. 10-11).


Our purpose is that such men should rightfully be ranked with Martin and other accursed heretics and excommunicates, and that even as they have ranged themselves with the obstinacy in sinning of the said Martin, they shall likewise share his punishments and his name, by bearing with them everywhere the title “Lutheran” and the punishments it incurs.

--from Decet Romanum Pontificem, Papal Bull of Excommunication of Martin Luther, Pope Leo X, 1521.