Episode 4: Emancipation from Radical Emancipation – The Apprehension of Personal Vocation through Liturgy and the Arts

Recorded November 12, 2011 at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture conference on Radical Emancipation: Confronting the Challenge of Secularism. This recorded session features presentations from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology president, Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, and College of Fellows at DSPT members Ron Austin and Gil Bailie.

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Standing in awe . . .

Imagine reading a splendid poem – using the adjective with all its richness – and being “struck” by its loveliness. It arrests the reader. It takes him to a new place, as we say. It enchants him. Or say one stands before a work of art that inexplicably arrests the viewer in ways for which he would be at a loss to explain.

Now imagine that the person so struck by the beauty of a poem or work of art entertaining thoughts about how it might be altered or improved. The dawning of such a thought would be the end of the enchantment of beauty. Beauty would have fallen into the realm of the practical, the alterable, the mundane. It would have lost its revelatory invitation. It would no longer be a summons.

I suspect that it is this itch to tinker on the part of those of us who lack either the talent or the inspiration to fashion genuine works of art may have been what Heidegger and others found so troubling about a technical civilization – a contradiction in terms.

Or imagine the desire to obtain the beautiful creation, to own it. Understandable though it might be, such a thought would mar the beautiful with the fingerprints of those who snatch at it as a commodity.

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Episode 3: Nothing Remains Intact Without Effort

It is not safe to entrust a doctrinal treasure to the passivity of memory. Intelligence must play a part in its conservation, rediscovering it, so to speak, in the process.

Fr. Henri de Lubac, S.J.

Recorded in August 2009 at Palo Alto, California. Extended remarks from a luncheon honoring San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer and René Girard.

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Modification of Mortification

“The modification in the spiritual attitude that is contained in this transition from patristic to modern piety can be described as the change from a world-condemning ‘dying to the world’ to a world-affirming ‘dying to the world.’ In other words, in modernity what comes unmistakably to the fore is that even the factor of the Christian mortification to the world stands under the more comprehensive sign of mission. Christian death should not lead us to abandon our natural post in the world where revelation and the order of salvation have placed us; rather, our dying must itself be suffered through while we maintain our post.”

– Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar

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Spring Newsletter – Home Alone Edition

New in our store this month are Gil Bailie’s Reflections on T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and The Hollow Men. Our donors who support our efforts with gifts of $5 per month ($60/yr) or more will receive a complimentary copy of the five part Murder in the Cathedral series in May and June. And our Sustaining Donors who generously provide us with gifts of $25 per month ($300/yr) or more will be mailed the complete 5CD set in June as well as the MP3s. Our donors receive at least 12 complimentary CDs and or MP3s in a year. Please join them in supporting our efforts if you are able.

We and our families, are well and currently making do under the circumstances of enforced isolation. The work of the Cornerstone Forum continues amid the disruptions and distractions. We both have close family members who provide medical care to our community for whom we pray daily. Also, in our prayers are all our faithful donors and supporters. In these days we are even more aware of the great blessing we receive through our friends and supporters.

As we look ahead, we understand that the financial stress caused by the current economic turmoil many are encountering will reduce their ability to materially support our work. God help us all as we strive to continue the work we have been given.

Finally, please take a few moments in this Easter season to read Gil’s extended notes on Hope in this time of pandemic.


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Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Vonn Hartung shares a beautiful 10 minute meditation on the Stations of the Resurrection – the Via Lucis.

Easter blessings!

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Memento mori

Remember that you too shall one day die…

We come to the end of the time of Lent on Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, commemorating the Passover Seder meal Jesus shared with his disciples beginning with the washing of the disciple’s feet by their Master and Lord. On that evening Jesus was aware that he was soon to die. In the coming solemn days of the Triduum, having cleansed our hearts, we turn our attention to the contemplation of the work Jesus took upon himself, of taking away the sins of the world.

For us, when Lent began 42 days prior on Ash Wednesday we heard the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return“.

At the start of Lent the news of the coronavirus and its deadly consequences spreading from China was already making headlines around the world. As of Ash Wednesday (February 26) at least 2,800 people had died from the disease. And as of today (April 8) another 80,000 have died since then. The numbers, as sad and sorrowful as they are, are not the important thing to focus on however. Remembering that each of us will join them one day, is important.

Some believe such thinking is morbid. And it would be if only few of us ever died. It seems that is the way most of us live our lives, as if we will not die soon or someday we can imagine. Each day we awake brings us one day closer to that final day. And so we don’t think about it. It’s too ‘morbid’. Nevertheless, the mortality rate for any human born on the surface of planet earth remains unchanged at 100%.

We grieve for those who have died, and it is right; especially for those we knew in life, our family members and loved ones, even our pets. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazaraus. In his first letter to the Thessalonians St. Paul admonishes us, though, to not grieve ‘as the pagans’ do, as those who have no hope. Easter is the sacramental center of that hope, and the true final end of our annual Lenten journey. It is good to also remember that the liturgical Easter season lasts for 50 days ending with Pentecost, the ‘birthday’ of the Church where the hope of the faithful is nourished as we gather, some daily, some weekly, to celebrate the presence of God with us in bread/flesh and wine/blood.

As we remain in our isolation over these days we also deeply long to gather together again at the altar/table of our risen Lord.

Blessings to one and all!

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Episode 2: 2000 years and no new god

A presentation by Gil Bailie recorded in 2003 at the College of the Holy Cross – “The Anatomy of Evil” conference .

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Another entrée into Holy Week

The Man Born to Be King, published toward the end of Dorothy Sayers’s prolific career, is a faithful account of the four gospels in dramatic form. A 12 play-cycle, it was written for radio broadcasting and was performed on BBC first in the early 1940’s. Sayers is completely true to the eyewitness material in the New Testament but, as a great literary artist, she brings us into direct contact with the living text and the reality of the life of Christ. She adds character introductions, minor characters, stage directions, dialogue all the details that help us to remember that, like each of us, these people breathed and lived messy lives and yet they supped with Christ over a meal they had caught and grilled themselves. Through these plays, the worldly reality of the incarnation immerses the reader in scenes much like an Ignatian meditation. C.S. Lewis said that he read it each year in preparation for Lent.

Unfortunately, I am unable to find an online audio recording of the radio plays. So, only the book is available (paperback & Kindle). Nevertheless, the individual episodes are short but the cumulative dramatic effect of following the Lord along the dusty paths of Palestine from Bethlehem to Calvary, and the empty tomb is a powerful entrée to our pandemic Passover.

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Preparing for Holy Week in isolation…

We began Lent with a meditation by the late Dominican priest, Fr. Michael Morris, OP, on the Pieter Bruegel the Elder painting, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent. Now, approaching the annual Paschal drama beginning with Palm Sunday it seemed appropriate to frame this pandemic stricken Lenten 40 days with another reflection on a painting by Bruegel, The Procession to Calvary.

The Procession to Calvary

The 2011 movie by Lech Majewski, The Mill & the Cross, uses cinematic magic to layer real actors into the scenes depicted in the painting. Here the Pascal drama is presented in 16th century Netherlands. Majewski’s interpretation is based on his own life long appreciation of Bruegel’s work aided by the masterful academic and artful in depth study by Michael Francis Gibson. The acting by Rutger Hauer as Bruegel and Michael York as his wealthy patron provide almost the only dialogue as Majewski lets the images and soundtrack tell much of the story as seems right in a movie so embedded in a painting. There is a brief scene of non-sexualized female nudity in the early part of the film.

The movie is available to stream on Amazon/Fandor as well as other streaming sites.

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