Sunday, April 27

I Have Seen a Saint
Today is Divine Mercy Sunday – a designation of the first Sunday after Easter by Polish-born Pope John Paul II in 2000 promoting the Divine Mercy devotions popularized by the early 20th-c. Polish seer and Saint Faustina Kowalski based on her mystical encounters with Our Lord. A bare five years later the Pope would die on the very eve of that new Feast.  It is appropriate that this Feast has today, nine years further on, seen the solemn canonization of the late Holy Father as Saint John Paul the Great, Pope and Confessor. (I'm presuming that last is how he will be styled.)

Which means that I can say, “I have seen a saint” – with my own eyes. Granted, I have probably seen a great many saints in the more general sense, those who are commemorated on the Feast of All Saints, 1 November each year, but never other than once in my life have I been even remotely in the presence of one who would eventually be formally recognized as such by the Church.

And “remotely” it was indeed, almost three decades ago, on Saturday 12 September 1987, when I stood amidst a crowd of about 130,000 around a huge outdoor pavilion altar erected near the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena, in sweltering heat and humidity and a beating sun punctuated by rain as the Pope offered Mass. Here is the rather sketchy account from the journal I was keeping quite intermittently at the time:

Sunday, April 20

Solemn High Mass of Easter, Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Natchitoches, Louisiana

Rather unexpectedly – for me, at least (it is true what I say, I'm always the last to know – in this case even though I'm in the Chant Schola that provided music...) – the weekly 5 pm Sunday Mass in Latin at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was for this Easter Sunday 2014 a full-blown Solemn High Mass, with several priests, deacons, and seminarians filling the various roles making a High Mass “Solemn.” It was the second Solemn High Mass within two months, a full fifty years after the last one previous. As was the one a few weeks ago during the Lenten Mission with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf [LINK], it was astoundingly beautiful. We are truly blessed here at the Basilica to have this wonderful, traditional form of worship available to us.  Here are a couple of pictures I took from the choir loft with my phone.

Typical attendance at the Traditional Latin Mass is from about twenty to over fifty.  It is the fourth Mass of the weekend, and has been offered on a regular basis only since the beginning of Advent last December.  I counted 35 in the congregation that I could see, but since the Baptists don't have a monopoly on the "Back Row" mentality and I know there are usually some people in the several back rows over which the choir loft extends, I would bet there were at least a few more than that.

Fr. Ryan Humphries, Rector, provided the homily [available here:  LINK - 20 April, Easter Sunday, TLM].

Christus resurrexit! Alleluia, Alleluia!

"Christ my hope is arisen...."

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A lamb the sheep redeemeth:
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconcileth sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended
In that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What thou sawest wayfaring.
The tomb of Christ, who is living.
The glory of Jesus' resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yea, Christ my hope is arisen;
To Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen,
Our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia!

Victimae Paschali Laudes, ca. 1030

Friday, April 18

The Beginning of the Modern Titanomachy

Exactly one year ago I commemorated “The Birth of the Modern Mythology” on or about 18 April 1938 [LINK]. I based that date for the release of Action Comics #1 (June 1938) upon a flurry of other websites' and bloggers' celebrations that appeared then although, as I noted, my customary “go to” source for such historical data for DC Comics – Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics – cites 3 May as the “Approx. On Sale Date” for that epochal event [LINK]. Since “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (Ralph Waldon Emerson via my 9th-grade Algebra teacher Mr. Kemper), this year I am going with Mike's Amazing World for the 75th anniversary of the second most important event in comics history, the appearance on newsstands of Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) [LINK] even though the “flurry of other websites' and bloggers' celebrations” appeared a couple of weeks ago, 'round about 30 March, e.g., at Bleeding Cool [LINK]. That latter posting does give the rationale for the earlier date, basing it upon an official catalogue of copyright entries, and I suspect the mid-April 1938 date for Action Comics #1 comes from a similar source. Bearing in mind what I said last year regarding the haphazard nature of newsstand distribution during the early years of comics publication, however – and based on my virtually nonexistent knowledge of how these things actually work – I imagine the earlier date is when a just-printed, hot-off-the-presses magazine would have been submitted to the copyright authorities and was just entering the distribution chain, which back then would take weeks to ripple copies out across the country. More than likely, however, by two to three weeks later – 18 April 1939 – most outlets would probably have gotten their copies, and grubby little fingers everywhere could be scrounging up dimes to find out about “The Amazing and Unique Adventures of The Batman!” The short story that they would find therein, Bill Finger's and Bob Kane's “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” was a barely-disguised rip-off from an adventure of the pulp juggernaut The Shadow of a couple of years before, November 1936's Partners in Peril [LINK], and frankly gave little hint of the greatness that would eventually come – but it's been reprinted many, many times and can be most easily read (for free) via Comixology [LINK]. There was little indication that as the Olympians overthrew the Titans of old, Batman would one day outstrip the previous year's Superman in popularity, although not (I would argue) in historical significance.

Monday, April 7

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Okay, I'm not even going to answer the question, Did you like it? Anyone who knows me knows the answer. And this is not going to be a long, detailed review. I'm just going to throw some thoughts out there that came to me during and after seeing the movie.

Due to various things going on, I was afraid I wouldn't get to see it before next weekend, but I managed to get to the early-evening showing last night, thus on its third official day of US release. Although I'm not one for whom spoilers ruin a film experience, I had managed to avoid any real plot details beyond the most general or those known to anyone who read Ed Brubaker's great run almost a decade back now in one of the more recent “reboots” of the Captain America comic book series, the first 25 issues or so of which I have in a wonderful Omnibus edition the centerpiece of which is The Winter Soldier story arc that did the unthinkable – brought Bucky back from the dead. (It’s also available as a series of smaller trade paperback volumes.) So I was as close as possible for a comic book reader – and fan of the earlier Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings – to being a “blank slate.” Of course, the particular showing I attended would be in 3D, and I still agree with my son (who saw the movie the previous evening, but did not tell me anything other than he thought I'd like it – duh!) that 3D does not add much of anything to most movies, in fact seems to dull color and detail. It certainly did not ruin the experience for me, though. And I was anxious to see it, especially after belatedly, Friday night, finally watching the DVR'd episode of Agents of SHIELD from Tuesday, which ended with an “as-if-in-story” sequence directly from the movie, where the Winter Soldier takes on Nick Fury and his wonderful SUV – and had already seen such Internet headlines as, “So What The @#$% Happens to Marvel's AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.? SPOILERS” on Newsarama, although I had not clicked the link [LINK] (I have now, and it has some good ideas), as well as various “leaks” that the rest of the season of that TV show will deal directly with the fallout from The Winter Soldier. And I am very glad I did – because nothing is the same anymore. I will say this, though – for the first time since the TV show debuted, I'm actually looking forward to the next episode. So far I'd been watching the series more out of a sense of duty, and enjoying it all right, but finding it disappointing – and (no less astonishing to me than anyone else, given my initial revulsion last year when it debuted) enjoying the second season of Arrow a lot more. Hopefully, The Winter Soldier is going to give SHIELD's ratings a big boost – although were I Marvel Studios I would have included a this-weekend-only after-scene basically flogging Tuesday night's episode. That is a lost opportunity.

This was a marvelously (pardon the pun, which believe it or not was totally unintentional) complex and textured film, driven largely by character, primarily Steve Rogers as a living relic of an earlier age when the world seemed a lot more black and white stuck in a modern world where issues seem much more complex. Are they really? That’s a question for another time. They definitely do a great job tapping into the current zeitgeist of societal fear centering on the ubiquity of information, how much the government knows about individuals, what it is doing or may do with that information – NSA spying, drone attacks, pre-emptive strikes, how much freedom we are willing to trade for secrecy. It’s what has made Person of Interest so compelling, bounding ever higher in the ratings, writ large and translated to perfection into the world of comic book movies.

Tuesday, April 1

The Ballad of the White Horse (1911)

By G. K. Chesterton, Methuen Press Illustrated 10th Edition by Robert Austin (1928), Marygrove College Press Annotated Edition by Bernadette Sheridan, IHM (1993), Reprinted Ignatius Press (2011)

Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass.
(Book 1, Lines 1-4)

The White Horse near Uffington,
historic Berkshire
So begins something I should have read long before now, for many different reasons. As hinted in the rather complex edition history delineated above, it is an Important Work of Literature. It is, indeed, usually regarded as the last great heroic epic poem in English. Although I frankly have always found reading poetry to be tough slogging, there is a certain charm in the narrative poems that are the foundation of so many national literatures – The Iliad and The Odyssey, Beowulf, and so forth. Typically products of a culture's pre-literate “heroic age,” a critical formative period in which the basic ethos of a people is being established, oral cycles of songs and poems – a distinction they did not necessarily make – eventually put into the written forms which come down to us, usually express most purely the fundamental characteristics that subsequent generations looked back to and strove to emulate. Sure, they are inevitably idealizations, but they nonetheless provide critical insight into what the bard and the audience considered of utmost importance. They are valuable historical resources – not to mention generally great stories if you can get into them. They're not called “epic” for nothing!