Rule of St. Benedict: Listen

The immortal opening words of the Rule of St. Benedict are the most commonly commented upon.  They set the tone of the Rule, which is mostly a pastiche of Scriptural citations heavily dependent on the wisdom books.

Obsculta, o fili, præcepta magistri, et inclina aurem cordis tui et admonitionem pii patris libenter excipe et efficaciter conple, ut ad eum per oboedientiæ laborem redeas, a quo per inoboedientiæ desidiam recesseras.

Listen, O son, to the master’s precepts; incline the ear of your heart; accept freely the admonition of a loving father; complete it effectively, that you may return through the labor of obedience to Him from whom you have fallen away through the sloth of disobedience.

The central theme of the Rule is obedience.  All commentaries begin their explication of obedience with this opening word, “Listen,”since the root of obedience is audio.  To listen, to incline the ear of the heart, is the beginning of obedience. Continue reading Rule of St. Benedict: Listen

St. Augustine on Beatitudes (II)

I threatened a cheap follow-up to finish talking about St. Augustine’s approach to the beatitudes.  Here it is!

Recall that St. Augustine took the Beatitudes as an 8-stage program for the moral life: the itinerary to happiness.

  1. Become Poor in Spirit (Humble)
  2. Become Meek (Teachable)
  3. Mourn over the attachments holding us back from happiness
  4. Labor to tear away from those attachments
  5. Be merciful to others on the same journey
  6. Become pure of heart
  7. Become a peacemaker
  8. Return to the beginning (and face persecution)

To really get St. Augustine (and Christianity), you have to understand that he thinks all this is impossible.  We have too much blindness and an invincibly stubborn will; the flesh is weak and the spirit really isn’t all that willing.  Throw out Pelagius and read more St. Paul. Continue reading St. Augustine on Beatitudes (II)

Orlando Furioso: Audio Edition?

A few months ago one of my ERC nerds asked me how long it would have taken to recite the entirety of Orlando Furioso.  We spitballed a bit: it’s fairly easy to imagine reciting a canto in about an hour, which would give you 3 cantos in a big sitting and a fortnight to recite the whole thing.  Master Fries helpfully commented that Beowulf is meant to be recited in nine nights.

One thing that is a little hard to wrap the head around is just how long a sitting may have been.  In days of yore when the sun went down, that was it for the day.  There were few diversions beyond feasting, making babies, and sleeping.  So it’s no stretch to imagine a recitation of more than three hours–maybe as many as six? Continue reading Orlando Furioso: Audio Edition?

Orlando Furioso: Canto IX Humor

This is one of those cantos that gives you a good feel for Ariosto’s sense of humor.  We finally get Orlando moving, he sets out to find Helangelica after his prophetic dream at the end of Canto 8, and the first person he meets tells him about a quest to destroy a damsel-eating sea monster on an island near Hibernia.

If you don’t read the poem all at once, or skim it a bit, the significance might not register.  What is presented to Orlando as a kind of side-quest is where Helangelica is.  She’s been taken by the corsairs of Ebuda and is held there as Ork-bait; because she is so beautiful and charming they are saving her for later and rounding up other beautiful women in the mean-time. Continue reading Orlando Furioso: Canto IX Humor

Christmas Liturgy Reflections

I’ve become a TLM Native over the last five years.  As a result, my liturgical reflections may have a few unfamiliar terms to them.  Structure of the mass is quite the same though.

Asperges me: There’s something amazing about singing the Asperges me on Christmas day.  It’s very sad–here we are on the birth of the savior singing about how he’s going to wash us in His blood.  But it’s more than that–this helpless little infant holds the power of destroying sin in his hands.  Imagining the babe of Bethlehem wielding the hyssop of salvation is…something else.  God has chosen the weak. Continue reading Christmas Liturgy Reflections

How Many Commandments? Part II

Previously I threw out a joke about there being more or less than ten commandments in the Ten Commandments and then took a look at how Aquinas sets forth the logic of the Ten.  Honestly I never stop giggling over that question: hazard of teaching adolescent boys.

Let’s resume trying to figure out how many there are.  If we back up to Q100 a4, Aquinas looks at a few variations on breaking down the ten.  He’s obviously familiar with a tradition that separates “I am the Lord your God,” “You shall have no gods before me,” and “You shall make no graven image” into three commandments, since that is what the first and second objections are about.  He’s also aware of the oddity I mentioned last post about coveting.  It seems logical to keep the covet commandments as one.  That’s the third objection.  These objections foreshadow the disagreement between Catholics and Reformed Protestants on enumeration. Continue reading How Many Commandments? Part II

Rule of St. Benedict: Ownership

Most of my thoughts on the Rule of St. Benedict are inchoate and in flux.  One that I’ve been kicking around for a long while has to do with ownership.  Like my other work on the Rule, this starts out as a school-centered idea but it applies pretty easily.  Let’s call this a pre-draft of a talk I’ll have to give some time in the future.

The Rule does not command a vow of poverty, as the later mendicant movements (that’s Dominicans and Franciscans, for the newly-initiated) would do.  Historically this has led to successful monasteries becoming, at least for a time, centers of vast wealth.  The great reform movements in monastic history–as well as the fore-mentioned mendicant movement –all strove to overturn, reverse, and prevent the spiritual rot in monasteries that this wealth accumulation inevitably caused. Continue reading Rule of St. Benedict: Ownership

Cool Math

I love YouTube series on math.  My wife asked me over the dinner table if I could prove that pi is irrational.  After a quick peek at the internet, the answer is, “No.”  Meaning very intelligent people can, but I cannot.

However, there is good news!  I can prove that e is irrational.  Or at least I can follow the proof.  If your algebra is sharp, you can too.  Check this cool video.

Math is…neat.  I almost went into math in college, but it was too much work for me.  I’m more of a dabbler.

How Many Commandments in the Decalogue (Srsly)?

I love asking my students this question every year.  It’s well established by then that I have a sick sense of humor, and they just can’t figure out what my angle is.  Of course, once one of them bravely suggests that maybe, just maybe the answer is…TEN?, I ask if they are sure.  Then pandemonium breaks loose.

the-ten-commandments1 CATHtencommandments prot

Now they get clever.  Someone inevitably says one, thinking of the Greatest Commandment.  Someone will riff on that by saying two, splitting the Greatest into divine and human.  Someone will think they are being clever and try to say 613, but they won’t quite know what they are talking about and end up using another big, wrong number. Continue reading How Many Commandments in the Decalogue (Srsly)?