Friday, January 17, 2014

The New Evangelization is Rooted in . . . Vatican II


Contrary to popular lore, the new evangelization is not something that began with Pope Blessed John Paul II.  Often sited as the origin of the new evangelization is Bl. JPII's 1979 Poland visit when he said, "A new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever."  However this is not the origin of the new evangelization.

The new evangelization movement began when Pope John XXIII prayed for a “New Pentecost” (novo Pentecustes) in his apostolic constitution Humanae Salutis that ushered in the start of Vatican II (§23).  For Pope John XXIII to call for a new Pentecost is to call for a church in the modern age that is as convicted in their faith as deeply as the apostles were on the day of Pentecost and the years following.  Moreover, there cannot be a new Pentecost without there also being a new evangelization – something Pope Paul VI understood when he expressed the desire the Synod Fathers had for a “new period of evangelization” at the close of Vatican II (§2 Evangelii Nuntiandi). 

Though the new evangelization was a theme present in the ministry and writing of Pope John Paul II, and he was one of the Synod Fathers; therefore, it naturally follows that the new evangelization would be emphasized in his teachings, it is dificult to credit him as the sole instigator of the movement.  However, the roots and origins of the new evangelization are in Vatican II, and not in the Polish address of 1979.  So if you want to understand the new evangelization, first read Humanae Salutis, then the Documents of Vatican II and finally read Evangelii Nuntiandi.  Pay close attention in Evangelii Nuntiandi, as some form of "Evangelize" is used about 195 times in the document.



Monday, January 06, 2014

Batman v. Superman: Helping High Schoolers Understand the Summa

In the Church History Class I teach, we have finally arrived at the Scholastic period.  I simply did not want to gloss over the scholastics without having my students at least try and read St. Thomas Aquinas (we were going to look at the existence of God questions, primarily Book 1, Question 2, Article 3); yet, I was wrestling for a way to try explain Thomas, the scholastic method in a way that they would understand -- I mean an argument free from most technical terms for which the average high school Senior would be familiar.  I wanted the students to first see how the arguments were structured and worked.  After all, Aquinas' Summa is a very foreign style of writing when contrasted to the other books high school seniors read.   Solution:  Batman v. Superman Summa Style.

Book 1 Question 1.  On Victories in Battle


 Article 1:  Whether Superman would win a fight over the Batman.

Objection1: It seems that Superman would defeat the Batman in a fight based solely on his superior superhuman abilities.

Objection 2:  Further Superman gains his strength from the sun and as we know the sun always shines.

Objection 3:  Superman cannot be killed by any means known of today.

On the Contrary, if Superman and the Batman were to face off for a battle of epic proportions, one in which the bards will sing down through the ages, that the victor in deed would be the Batman, for as the saying goes, “The Pen is mightier than the sword.”

I answer that the Batman would have the distinct advantage and easily defeat Superman due to his constant struggle against superior opponents in size, speed, and strength.  As the Apostle says, “In my weakness I am strong.” Furthermore, the Batman has defeated other alien races even after the end of him seems inevitable.  Lastly, the Batman, having been trained in the best universities of the world and having mastered several fighting styles has the tactical and intellectual advantage.

Reply to Objection 1:  It is not might alone that wins battles but also wisdom and strategy, for it is the tortoise that wins the race.

Reply to Objection 2:  As we know, there are places the sun don’t shine, has never shinned, nor will ever shine.

Reply to Objection 3:  The easiest way to defeat Superman is by means of the utilization of kryptonite.  Victory does not necessitate the death o f our opponent.





                                       

Friday, January 03, 2014

Victor Hugo Saved Notre Dame of Paris

In July of 1801 the Notre Dame of Paris Cathedral was returned to the Catholic Church in a state of disarray.  Seven months later, the savior of this now glorious building would be born: Victor Hugo.  Hugo was able to save the Cathedral by means of his popular book Notre Dame de Paris or as known to most English speakers The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  One might even argue that Hugo’s main purpose of writing the text was the save the church, for it was set for demolition and or possible sale in the early 19th century.

However, the church about which Hugo wrote, the church that attracted
thousands of visitors in the 19th century after the book’s publication in January of 1831, the church that when fans of Hugo’s book arrived in Paris and sought out the beautiful building that was described in text they did not find for what they hoped.  Instead, they found an eyesore ready for destruction.  This is not to say that Hugo lied in his book or to his audience.  He does spend chapters describing the dilapidated condition of the church as he knew it; however, he compares it to what it was in the 15th century and how he envisioned it in its greatest grandeur. The tourists wanted the 15th century version and not the blight upon the city of Paris that it had become.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris has a tumultuous history of alteration often for the worse.  In the 16th century the Huguenots, French protestants inspired by the writing of the reformer John Calvin, rioted and purged Notre Dame of all things they considered pagan or idolatrous.  During the 18th century the church underwent a “modernization,” which some might call vandalism.  The gothic style had fallen out of fashion and was deemed to be barbaric, very ironic indeed, so several architects worked to make the church into a more modern building.  Stain glasses were dismantled and replaced with clear glass in order to let in more light, and the stunning gothic style choir screens were replaced by a more plain style of screen. Also occurring during the 18th century was the famous French Revolution.  Much damage was done to Notre Dame in the name of reason: the bell tower and spire from the 13th century was removed, some of the bells were melted down and repurposed, 28 statues in the Gallery of Kings were destroyed, the church itself was made into a Temple of Reason, and finally the church was made into a storage hall and stable.


The Restoration of Notre Dame began in 1844 with a decree from King Louis-Philippe I.  It took some 20 years for restoration to be completed and the church rededication by Archbishop Darboy of Parish.  However, the lead-restoring architect, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, lamented the restoration process.  He said, “to restore is not to maintain it, repair it or remake it, it is to re-establish it in a complete state that my never have existed at a given moment” (notredamedeparis.fr).  In other words, the Notre Dame of past beauty is not the Notre Dame of today’s beauty.

Today Notre Dame is still undergoing renovations and preservations, the last completed in 2010.  It houses several relics of Christ (the crown of thorns, a fragment of the true cross, and others) and play host to some 12 million visitors a year.  After centuries of mistreatment, additions, vandalism, and purgings, the visitors find a beautiful Cathedral that was not as it is today.  Fortunately, this is not a bad thing, for Hugo was able to bring about the salvation of a most magnificent building because he was able to capture the once forgotten and lost beauty of a church with his prose.  In other words, he inspired in the heart of his reader the eternal longing for beauty.  When the readers could not find the beauty in the way Hugo described, they set about trying to reestablish what once was, not for the sake of preservation or posterity, but because beauty and majesty speaks to the human heart in a way that no other things can.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

32, Single, Virgin, Male


I am eight years out from claiming the title from the 2005 comedy 40 Year Old Virgin – if I don’t marry by then.  Unlike the movie that sought to depict all older male virgins -- who are not priests or monks -- into being awkward, antisocial, and weird, I hold my head high. I walk without embarrassment, and proclaim that virginity is the natural state in which all people are born and is nothing over which we should shame ourselves.

I know by writing this I make myself vulnerable and open to the attacks from the world.  I will likely be called a “freak,” “weird,” and “unnatural” for retaining my virginity through my thirty-second birthday.  I write this not for the cynic or the jaded who have become bored with their own life and find pleasure in criticizing the lives of others.  For those who criticize virtue and goodness are indeed jealous of the lack of virtue and goodness in their own lives and seek to deprive others of it.  I write this for those who might feel as if their purity and chastity is for naught, for those who feel as if they might falter in their perseverance, or those who feel as if they are alone in their quest for virtue.

Through my thirty-two years of keeping my virginity, I have learned and grown in ways even unexpected to me.  A few of these areas of growth are what I choose to share with the reader.

In Control
I do not attempt to say that the thirty-two years have been without temptation.  There have been times when giving away my virginity would have been easy.  In those moments it was like a man being offered a low hanging fruit from another man’s garden.  Sure, it would have been easy, and no one would know; I would have only cheated myself, and it was not mine to take no matter how low hanging the fruit might be.  These temptations have allowed me to focus on who I am as a person and determine where my own boundaries reside.  My “yes” means “yes,” and my “no” means “no.”

Even more so I have not allowed society to dictate to me the norms of my behavior and life.  Some act as if the whole purpose for virginity is to give it away as soon as possible.  Virginity is a dirty world only whispered in the corners of schools as if it is a disease or drug.  Yet, to date there have been no reported deaths due to virginity.  All the while people gather round their glowing boxes asking it for solutions to save them from the own virginity less they die.

If TV is, as TV execs have said, a reflection as to how the real world lives, then as a thirty-something male the expectation from society is that I should be sleeping around with girls by the third date, having sex with every drunk floozy who throws herself at me, spending nights at a lover’s place, or even sharing the same house or apartment.  Moreover, every relationship would be either a syrupy-puppy-love-barf-at-all-the-cuteness-fest or completely abusive and dysfunctional.  If this is what American culture and society expects of a thirty-something single male then I will gladly be wrong, and I will boast boldly in my wrong.

Regrets, Nope
One thing for which I am grateful for is that I have no regrets, no shame, no guilt.  Not once have I had to second guess my decisions not to have sex.  Not once have I awoke with a stranger in my bed.  Not once have I had to do what my friends called “The Walk of Shame” (Leave a girl’s place early in the morning, before she awakes, so as not to have to face the consequences of the previous night’s actions.).

1,000 Ways to (Make) Love
Because I have refused to give into cultural expectations, I learned sex isn’t the only way to express love towards someone I love.  As the saying goes, learn to make love 1,000 different ways.  That is, learn to express your love to another by as many means possible.  I have not met, as of yet, one girl who does not like flowers.  Girls like flowers.  Girls like being heard (even if you have nothing to say in return, just listen).  Girls like to laugh, hold hands, hug, and spend time with the person they like and/or love.

Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S)
There is an odd adage that states, “Sex complicates things.”  It has been repeated often enough that there must be some truth in it.  Yet, interestingly enough, it is a phrase I have only heard from sexually active singles and unmarried couples.  I find the opposite sex mysterious enough already that I don’t feel the need to make things more complicated than things already are.

Why does sex complicate things in an unmarried relationship?  Simple, it signifies and expresses a reality it cannot make present.  The body speaks of union, but the heart and mind speak otherwise, and it thereby causes confusion.  To liken it to a sacrament, premarital (or even extramarital sex) is like trying to celebrate the Eucharist with milk and cookies instead of bread and wine.  Yes, it might be delicious, but it cannot make present the reality it signifies.  I do not mean to say that sex inside of marriage is not complicated.  But the difference here is that in the marital union grace is dispensed to strengthen and help during those complicated moments.

Respect, Love, Not Use
I remember the moment when I realized girls were not just things guys tolerated for a while with hopes of having sex with one.  In a lengthy “make-out” session with a girl when I was in high school, a thought entered my mind.  “Entered” is too tame a word; it was more like superman smashing through a brick wall.  The thought was simple, short, but would later prove profound.  The thought was “using and used,” and it repeated itself like a broken record in my head for the reminder of the night.  This thought was not from me.  It did not originate in me.  I was drunk on emotions, and my brain was flooded with a hormonal cocktail, and all I wanted was more.  I would have never thought such a thought, but there it was.

Eventually, during a break, I went to use the bathroom, and as I washed my hands the thought blossomed, “You’re using her . . . You’re using her as a thing, an object . . .You just want pleasure, not love.  You don’t care for her . . . She might as well be a toy and not a person.”  My initial response to this blossoming thought was, “So what.  I’m getting what I want.”  The reply I received was shattering to me:  “You know, she is using you.  She is insecure.  She is using you because she wants to feel loved.  Do you like being used?”

I left the bathroom a changed person.  I realized selfishly using another person as a means of gratification was wrong.  I did not want to use her, and I was even more appalled at the idea of letting myself be used in a similar fashion.  Little did I know at the time that I had a revelation similar to something a certain Cardinal wrote years prior.  This Cardinal – who later became Pope John Paul II – taught that selfish, unjust use of a person was the opposite of love.  “Wait! I thought hate was the opposite of love?” My whole life I have been taught that hate is the contrary to love.  Now here is a Cardinal – the Pope at that – telling me otherwise.

Through further reading and studying, I learned that when a person is unjustly and selfishly used as a means to an end the result is that user cares not for what is best for the one who is being used.  For love is to willfully desire the best for the other person.  I might hate a person, but still desire the best for them and in doing so love my enemy.  But I cannot love the person I selfishly use, because I make the person I use into an object, a thing, something which I no love care what is best for it.   In those long make out sessions, I was doing the very opposite of what Christ wished: love your neighbor; not use your neighbor as a tool for your own selfish ends.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From a Guy's Perspective: Should Girls Wear Bikinis?

I am always bothered by the modesty issue surrounding girls’ swimwear and most specifically the bikini.  Should girls wear to what amounts to being little more than water proof undies?  Well, I’m not going to answer that question.  I’m a guy, and I really think the bikini issues should not be an issue.  Too many of the remedies offered for immodest swimsuits only scratch the surface of a larger problem.
The most common argument I hear from others for the reason why girls should not wear a bikini boils down as follows: help a guy to protect his eyes, or be modest for the boys in your life, or some variation of that argument.
As a guy, I am insulted by that line of reasoning because I feel it makes men out to be lust machines capable of only staring at a woman's butt, breasts, and abs.  It makes men appear weak willed, sexual beasts only interested in one thing when they get a glimpse of a girl’s upper thigh.  This view does nothing to raise up guys and increase the expectations from the boys in our culture.  We might as well just roll our eyes and say “boys will be boys.”  If a girl really is worried about guys staring lustfully at her, I'd have to ask the question as to where in the world does this girl hang out that guys can't help but stare and lust?  Like I said previously, if you want to tackle the issue of modesty by addressing clothing only, you are missing the point and doing it wrong; it amounts to what would be like trying to treat cancer with two Advil.
Girls, if you really want to help guys, modesty begins not with the clothes you wear or the swimsuit you decided not to wear to the beach, but in the heart and mind.  Later, the mind and heart is expressed in your words, deeds, and choices.  St. Francis de Sales would agree when he said, “Our words are a faithful index of the state of our souls.” 
The bikini or tankini or mankini question is only a surface issue.  It misses the real problem.  For every guy friend or boyfriend that looks upon a girl with lust there is a girlfriend who tolerates it.  For every guy that acts like a jerk towards a girl, there is a girl who tolerates it. For every guy who calls a girl “hot” there is a girl who is tolerant of his language.  This is where girls fail guys most on the modesty issue.
I learned a lot about how to treat girls not from my family but from a few female friends in college.  Some lessons were hard learned and sometimes embarrassing or at least awkward.  How was I supposed to know?  I have only one older sibling: a brother.  Moreover, I attended an all boys’ school from grades 6 through 12.  While is school I was too busy with athletics, music, and academics, I didn’t have time nor the interest in dating.  So what did I know about girls upon entering college?  I was supposed to get the door for them.
However, I became friends with a few girls who were like sisters I never had.  We were interested in building each other and helping each other become better people.   So whenever I said something inappropriate or uncouth in their presence they would call me to task on it. 
“She’s hot,” I’d say.
“Let’s not refer to people in terms of degrees of temperature.  People aren’t bowls of soup,” my friend would reply. “What did you mean to say?”
“She’s pretty.”
“Well just say that.”
I didn’t know at the time what my friends were doing, but they made me take inventory of what I said.  When I called the girl “hot” I was objectifying her.  Making her into a thing to be used and not seeing her as a person to be loved.  She was little more than hot coffee or iced coffee, and medically speaking the only time a person should be hot is when they are sick.  On hindsight, it makes perfect sense as to why my friends focused on language for they were journalism majors who were taught that language and words have the power to change the way a person thinks.  This is exactly what they helped do for me.  By changing how I spoke about girls changed how I thought about and how I viewed girls.
So girls, if you really want to focus on modesty, call all your guy friends to task on their immodest behavior and their immodest language.  Help them to think differently about girls, so that they can see you are the beautiful person you are.

This was written in a somewhat for a reply to "The Bikini Question"

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Church and the University

[Continuing prepping for next school year by doing a chapter by chapter summary of Thomas E. Woods's How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.]

Chapter 4: The Church and the University
Intro
Woods begins the chapter by telling the reader that the Middle Ages was not an age of “ignorance, superstition, and intellectual repression” (47).  Instead, the Middle Ages was a period of learning and inquirer y in which its greatest contributions to the world in the form of the university system (47).  Quoting historian Lowrie Daly, Woods tells us that the reason the university came about because it was “the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge” (47).
Degrees could not be awarded without the “approbation of pope, king, or emperor” (48).  Degrees issued by the pope or emperor were universally accepted and acknowledge across all of Christendom while degrees issued by the king were recognized only in the nation or that particular king.
Town and Gown
Just as today, there was an uneasy tension that existed between university students and the towns in which the students went to study.  On the one hand, the locals loved the influx of money the students brought with them.  On the other hand the locals found the students to be a nuisance, irresponsible and intolerable (49).  Locals often took advantage of students  by raising prices unjustly on books, rent or food (50).  To help all students, many of who were studying to become clergy, the Church “provided special protection to university students by offering them what was known as benefit of clergy” (50).  This privilege gave the students the right to have their grievances and cases heard in a church court instead of the state/secular court (50). 
Popes, because the university was young in the Middle Ages, became the protector and helper of the university.  For instance, In the papal bull Parens Scientiarum Gregory IX gave the Univeristy of Paris a right to self govern itself and to chose its own riles and courses and studies.  “On several occasions, the pope even intervened to force university authorities to pay professors their salaries” (51).  When universities, especially in the early years of a university, did not have a physical location relocation became a cause of concern for the town in which they were located.  For thriving university to relocate would and could be devastating to a local economy.  Therefore, eventually the states and local governments went to the extent to offer grants and special privileges to universities.
Academic Life
The main course of studies began with a focus on the liberal arts.  The mode of education came by means of attending lectures, reading, informal class disputations, and attending formal disputations of others.  Commentaries on various writing was one of the initial ways learning about a specific subject and text.  Over time, the commentaries incorporated a series of questions.  Eventually this would form into the classical scholastic argument to which St. Thomas Aquinas was famous for in his Summa Theologiae.
“Though their high-powered logic courses . . . medieval students were made aware of the subtleties of language and the pitfalls of argumentation” (57).
Age of Scholasticism
Scholastic studies, contrary to assumptions of this period of time, were not a mere appeal to authority.  “Rather, the commitment to the discipline of logic reveals a civilization that aimed to understand and to persuade.  To that end, educated men wanted students to be able to detect logical fallacies and to be able to form logically sound argument (58).   The devotion to logic and reason resulted in one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God: St. Anslem’s ontological argument.  Simply stated, Anslem’s argument might be summarized as “That than which nothing greater can be conceived” (59).  Another proponent for the merging of faith and reason, or specifically of using reason and logic to explain the faith, was St. Thomas Aquinas.  This is most evident in his Summa, but perhaps the most famous part of this work is in his arguments for the existence of God. 
Quoting historian Henri Daniel-Rops, Woods recounts the chapter when he writes, “Thanks to the repeated intervention of the papacy . . . high education was enabled to extend its boundaries; the Church, in fact, was the matrix that produced the university, the nest whence it took flight” (65).

Friday, May 24, 2013

How the Monks Saved Civilization

[Continuing prepping for next school year by doing a chapter by chapter summary of Thomas E. Woods's How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.]

Summary of Chapter 3 “How Monks Saved Civilization”

Woods writes that the “history of monks” can be summarized in “Christ’s words: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you’” (25).  In seeking Christ first and laboring out of love, the monks reinvigorated Europe by means of a simple life style -- “comparable to that of a contemporary Italian peasant” – devoted to work and prayer (27).

The most notable of monks were the Benedictines founded by St. Benedict of Nursia in the 5th century (26).  In the West, St. Benedict’s writings, known as “The Rule of Saint Benedict,” became the foundation for western monasticism where according to The Rule all were equal in the eyes of Christ; therefore, St Benedict never took into consideration the worldly status of a perspective monk (27).

Though the main purpose of the monks was to find a way of salvation by retiring from the world, they also had a habit of bringing with them knowledge of the arts, learning technology, and more.   The monks were not stupid and their contributions are many:


·         The monks were agricultural specialists and an agricultural college.  They tamed the wild and make that which is unlivable into a home.
·         Monks embraced difficult tasks and inspired others to labor and that in work there is dignity.
·         Selective breeding of horses and cattle (genetic engineering)
·         Brewing of Beer
·         Raising of bees
·         Orchards
·         Vineyards
·         Corntrade in Sweden
·         Irrigation in Lombardy
·         Routed springs to Paris so the city could have water
·         Used water, rivers and streams, to Mill flower
·         Champagne (Dom Perignon)
·         Pioneers in the making of Wine
·         Cistercians were specialists in metallurgy
·         Monk - Eilmer flew 600 feet with a glider
·         Skillful clockmakers


The monks of then, as well as those of today, were known for their charitable works.  Every person whjo darkened the doors of the monastery was “received as though they were Christ” (38).  Two such actions, hospitals that had the “bell of the wanders”  and the “Bell Rock”, a bell to warn ships of dangerous rocks (33).  Copenhagen is said to own its origin to an Abbot who built a monastery with the specific intention of aiding those who were shipwrecked.

One of the most important contributions the monks made to Western Civilization as well as history is the sharing, copying and keeping of books.  By sharing books, technology, science, and learning could e easily spread to other monasteries and be put to use.  Most copies of classical texts come to us almost exclusively from the monks.  “The fact is, the Church cherished, preserved, studies, and taught the works of the ancients which would otherwise have been lost” (41).  The monks ensued that literacy and culture “would survive political and social catastrophe.

Learning was a central theme to the monastic life.  Where the monk went so too education followed.  They set up schools that would eventually become the foundations for the university (45).

"The monastic contribution to Western civilization, as we have seen, is immense. . . Who else in the history of the Western civilization can boast such a record?  The Church that gave the West its monks also created the university" (45).

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Light in the Darkness

[I am doing brief Summaries of "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" by Thomas  E. Woods, Jr., Ph.D.   There isn't much to the first chapter, so I am starting with Chapter two.]


How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization
Chapter 2 Summary “A light in the Darkness”

The author begins this chapter explicitly stating that the term “dark ages” was once applied to the time stretching from roughly 500 AD to 1500 AD.  However this is no longer the case, as the more research is done over that time frame the more historians adjust the date of the “dark ages.” 
According to the author there was a “cultural and intellectual retrogression” that occurred during the dark ages.  Thus the darkening was no a luminescence but instead a darkening of the mind.  However, contrary to popular belief, the cause of the darkening was not the on the result of the spread of Christianity.   Quoting Historian Will Durant, the author writes, “The basic cause of cultural retrogression . . . was not Christianity but barbarism, not religion but war” (9).  The author spends much of the rest of the chapter laying out how it was the Catholic Church that acted as a light during dark times, and How it had the task of civilizing a savage world.
The invading barbarian tribes/hordes were little interested in the life of the mind; therefore, they were a very illiterate and learned people who did not care much for literature, sciences, justice,  and art.  The barbarians were a very superstitious people who in many cases did not have much of a true system of belief as was the case with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  Therefore, when the church set out to convert the barbarians, they had a much easier time for “It is a fact of missionary history that the Church has found it immensely easier to convert people directly from primitive paganism or animism that to convert them once they have adopted another faith like Arianism or Islam” (12).
The main groups of Barbarians the author mentions are the Goths,  the Vandals, and the Franks.  There are two main tribes or families that were of great importance to the Church during this period of time: the Merovingians and the Carolingians.  The Merovingians entered into an unspoken relationship with the Catholic Church in which the Gaul’s would protect the Church.  This occurred with the conversion of their King, Clovis.  This relationship remained till about the 8th century.
Once the Merovingians declined in power, the Church was left in want of protection; She the turned to the Franks, specifically the Carolingians, and more specifically Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charles the Great (Charlemange).  The Church peacefully managed the transfer of power from the Merovingians to the Carolingians (16).  During the Carolingian period, Charlemagne “had been so persuaded of the beauty, truth, and superiority of the Catholic religion that he did everything possible to establish the new post-imperial Europe on the basis of Catholicism” (11).  He “strongly encouraged education and the arts, calling upon the bishops to organize schools around their cathedrals” (16).
During the Carolingian education there was a resurgence in classical education with an emphasis on the quadrivium (astronomy, music, arithmetic and geometry) and the Trivium (logic, grammar, rhetoric).  A uniform system of writing was developed  by monks called “Carolingian minuscule.”  This script introduced “lowercase letter, spacing between words “ and proved “crucial to building the literacy of Western civilization” (18).  Moreover, as Europe’s collective intellect plummeted into darkness “The Church, as the Educator of Europe, was the one life that survived repeated barbarian invasions” (20).  It was the unwavering determination of the Catholic Church that kept Europe from falling into an even darker age (21).  Even when monasteries were destroyed and libraries burned and monks killed by the barbarians, a new group of monks could be moved in and learning restored. 
Lastly, Pope Sylvester II, “The most learned man in Europe of his day,” sought out ancient manuscripts.  Pope Sylvester commented on the importance of learning and not simply having blind faith we he said “The Divinity made a great gift to men in giving them faith while not denying them knowledge . . . those who do not posse it are called fools” (23).  The pope’s views on knowledge and learning would go on to influence much of the schooling in Europe for ages to follow (23).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Hobbit Cover Translated

[Taking a 15 min break from work to post this.  Sorry for the typos.  I did not have time to proof it properly. I also wish I had more time to go into more depth with this.}

The original cover of "The Hobbit" was illustrated by Tolkien, and it had on the cover runes as part of the border. 



Original Cover with Notes


I'm not going into the history of the runes Tolkien uses, but did you know the runes actually say something?  I bring this us because in college the professors would sometimes spend a considerable about of time on the title of the book and sometimes even the cover art.  Their reasoning was that the cover and title is part of the work of literature and should not be glanced over.  For instance if you read "Finnigans Wake" by James Joyce the professor might spend time discussing "Finnigans" and might propose questions such as "Is it only one Finnigan or is there a multiplicity of Finnigans?"  or "Did Joyce mean "Finnigan's"?  Another example is the book "Cane" by Jean Toomer, which was written during the Harlem Renascence and is excerpts of life around the United States as experience by African Americans.  With the proper mindset the title of the book can call to mind slaves working in the sugarcane fiends in the south, the canes slaves were beat with by their owners, as well as a a walking device.

Why does this matter to "The Hobbit"?  Simply put, the book, according to the cover, has a duel authorship.  One Bilbo Baggins who wrote his memoirs, and the other J.R.R Tolkien who wrote "The Hobbit" based on the memoirs of Bilbo's journey.

This matters because if you get a copy of a first edition of "The Hobbit" you will notice several discrepancies that many modern readers of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" are unfamiliar with.  One such instance of this is that in the first edition Gollum loses the riddle game and very peacefully shows Bilbo out of the cave.  Gollum appears to be a much gentler creature.  The obvious reason for the discrepancies is that when Tolkien was writing "The Lord of the Rings" he had to go back and make revision to certain characters and even the ring itself.  However, Tolkien himself is part of the story, so the way the revisions are explained, which I think is part of Tolkien's genius, is that Bilbo told the first edition story himself, and it was only later revealed after the publication of the first edition that the real story of Gollum and the ring was made known.  Therefore it was then revised later by others to be in the current state that we have the book today.


Cover with translated runes
"The Hobbit or There and Back Again being the record of a years journey by Bilbo Baggins of  Hobbiton. Compiled from his memoirs by J.R.R. Tolkien and published by George Allen and Unwin Ltd."





Runes

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tolkien and the Feast of the Annunciation

Happy Tolkien Reading Day as well as happy Feast of the Annunciation.

Some years back the Tolkien Society was asked if there was a day in which Tolkien fans could gather, read, and celebrate Tolkien.  The day the Tolkien Society chose for this is March 25 and is known as Tolkien Reading Day (TRD).  Why March 25th?  It is the day that the Ring of Power in The Lord of the Rings is cast into the fiery inferno from which it was made, Mount Doom.

Of all 365 days of a year, why chose March 25 instead of say, June 3rd?  It is somewhat simple if you are familiar with Tolkien's Catholic imagery in "The Lord of the Rings."  March 25 in the Catholic tradition serves as the feast of the Annunciation, the day the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear a son by means of the Holy Spirit and he would save the world from their sins.  But there is more, in early Christianity, March 25 was viewed as not only the day God the Son became incarnate, but there was also a tradition that said he also died on March 25th.  That's right, Jesus was made flesh and died on the same day.  This is keeping with a tradition that believed that prophets of God died on the same day they were born or conceived.  In fact, many early Christian churches celebrated Christ's death on this fixed date before Easter and Good Friday became a movable feast based upon the cycles of the moon as with the Jewish Passover.

What am I saying? To the Christian March 25th is the day that Lucifer is defeated by means of the incarnation and death of Christ.  Likewise, the day Sauron is defeated is also March 25th when the Ring was cast into Mount Doom.  One might argue that Tolkien is preparing his reader for Christ by means of a story. After all, he does write of a pre-Christian world.  It would only makes sense that there are foreshadowing of Christ to be found in it like there are in other pre-Christian cultures.



There are other events that are said to have happened on March 25th.  They are:

  • The Creation of Adam (Jesus is the New Adam)
  • The Passing of Israel through the Red Sea (Prefiguration of the defeat over the enemy as well as baptism)
  • The Binding of Isaac (Prefiguration of the Crucifixion of Christ)
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