Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy
So illness and incapacity can be used by God and by us for our sanctification. But there’s another angle, as well. Sickness can be a mode of sanctification for others. My wife had a brain tumor diagnosed when she was thirty-eight years old. We had then been married fifteen years. She lived another nineteen years. Looking back, I can see that taking care of her—being dropped into the situation where I had to take care of her—was an instrument of divine grace for my sanctification. I used to think that Victor Austin might just possibly be remembered as a teacher or as the author of this or that work of scholarship. Somewhere along the way, God revealed to me that the most important thing about Victor Austin is that he was the husband of Susan Austin.
2) An intriguing piece by The New York Review of Books (also linked by PrayTell) on the restoration of Chartres Cathedral. Raises a number of concerns about architecture, culture, and the marginalization of liturgical experience from the arts:
Observant Catholics, whose primary interest in the cathedral is religious rather than aesthetic, have been particularly appalled by one aspect of the program: the repainting of Our Lady of the Pillar, the early-seventeenth-century devotional statue of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child familiarly known as the Black Madonna. As Jean Markale argues in Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres (1988)—an intriguing study of the links between the Christian sanctuary and the Druidic shrine it superseded—there was a direct precedent for Our Lady of the Pillar in the Celtic black mother goddess Sulevia, another case of early Christianity co-opting indigenous beliefs to attract pagans. Whenever and however Chartres’s Black Madonna acquired its mysterious patina—through oxidation or smoke from candles and incense—it was familiar as such to centuries of the faithful until its recent multicolored makeover, which has transformed the Mother of God into a simpering kewpie doll.
We know that ancient Greek statues were painted in vivid polychrome and adorned with earrings, spears, and other metal accouterments. But the idea of actually adding such long-lost elements to, say, the Parthenon Marbles would be even more controversial than the longstanding debate over where those sculptures should be housed. Officials in charge at Chartres now are engaged in a pursuit as foolhardy as adding a head to the Winged Victory of Samothrace or arms to the Venus de Milo. One can only pray that by some miracle this scandalous desecration of a cultural holy place can be reversed.
3) Last night was the final episode of the Colbert Report, featuring one of America’s best-known Catholics, Stephen Colbert. This piece from The Washington Post does a nice job of describing why a comedic bit mattered to the United States for over nine years:
The joke caught on and never exhausted itself. What we were seeing was the perfect indictment of the world of political punditry, yes, but also a send-up of our inflexibility when it came to opinions, reason and the truth. “Truthiness,” an early invention of the Colbert shtick, allowed its host to have it both ways, as a buffoon who holds objectionable opinions that he intends his liberal-leaning audience to object to by pretending to bask in his jingo-wingo patriotism. “Anyone can read the news to you,” Colbert said on the show’s first episode. “I promise to feel the news at you.”
And so I look at every guest as a guest. They’re a guest in my home and I am grateful that they would come here and I hope people have a good time. And, if they don’t, that’s my fault. Or, rather, it’s my responsibility. Because if I get into an actual aggressive discussion with a guest about something that perhaps we’re disagreeing about — and I’m expressing my disagreement satirically —and if they don’t enjoy that, that’s OK because I have a responsibility for what I’m saying. But I actually do want people to have a good time.