Saturday, January 31, 2015

Burying the Alleluia

Today is the fourth Sunday after Epiphany (you were that right), which means tonight the Alleluia is sung for the last time until Mass on Holy Saturday. A double alleluia is affixed to the dismissal at Vespers as a farewell until the same words revive after the Vesperal Mass in seventy days. In typical Roman fashion, this is a somber and "low key" way of doing something very great in importance, preparing for the great fast and Lent. The Byzantine churches will have meatfare and cheesefare Sunday in the coming weeks, wherein the faithful slowly say adios to meat and dairy products, although fish cooked in oil is allowed typically on Palm Sunday (a feast rather than a penitential day in the Greek rite). 

A Melkite priest once pointed out the oddity of allowing the universally exercised option to sing "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ" during the new Roman Mass in Lent. The old Office substituted Laus tibi, Domine, etc for Alleluia after the Deus in adiutorium, but the Mass always utilized a tract based on the psalms instead. As the Alleluia prefaced the Gospel throughout the year, its absence startles the faithful when the words of Christ are sung. The option "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ" is especially odd because Alleluia is Hebrew for "Praise to you, O God." Clearly, the Consilium was influenced by the Department of Redundancy Department's findings! Bishop John of Syracuse wrote Pope St. Gregory the Great once to complain of the novelty of "singing the Alleluia outside of Paschaltide" after the manner of the "Greeks." Gregory retorted that the Roman Church had adopted the practice some time ago, but its exclusion during Lent remained.

Antiphon from psalm 140 at the Vespers part of the pre-Sanctified Liturgy.
The melody is an English translation of the Ukrainian-Slavonic tune.

By contrast, the Byzantine churches will not cease the Alleluia, but will continue to sing it throughout Great Lent, even on Good Friday. Indeed, the Great Doxology will continue to be sung between Orthros and the Divine Liturgy (of which the Roman Gloria is merely an excerpt). The Byzantine rite's excessive and eccentric praxis knows no bounds during the Great Lent. The changes to the liturgy, aside from the longer anaphora of St. Basil the Great and some changes to a few prayers, are really more additions. The Akathist to the Mother of God is sung on Fridays in preparation for the Annunciation on March 25th, something I continue to do. Unlike the Roman rite, which has a unique Mass for every day of Lent, the Byzantine rite never celebrates the Divine Liturgy outside of Sundays and feasts, but sees Communion as necessary to endure the Fast, so the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy "of St. Gregory" is celebrated. Some days will witness a long penitential service called the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, with its many prostrations and kisses of the ground. 

After the high of Christmastide, let us prepare to lower and humiliate ourselves during the Fast and accept the wisdom of the Church in our preparation.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Cost of Good Taste

Good taste has a cost, at least a social cost. In past times, the best of taste was affordable to those of who lived in their society's mount Olympus of status, either made or hereditary. The old money are now irrelevant and the new money concern themselves more with creature comfort than creativity. Luxury trumps beauty in cost, as beauty is more or less out of production except for in a few furtive and well concealed places. Good taste has experienced a degree of democratization unthinkable perhaps in earlier times. Say that you read Chaucer or Homer for fun and they will mock you, but Shakespeare has become far more acceptable among people with a smidgen of education than he once was.

Why has good taste become more socially affordable? State run schools did nothing for it. My father recounts his music teacher in high school forcing them to listen to Beethoven's symphonies while the students ignored it and bought Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock after school. Perhaps the myth that education makes a person intelligent has contributed to this insular trend. The mad rush of middle class and upper-middle class families to put their children through higher education exposes a significant part of the populace, at least momentarily, to things of permanent and everlasting gravity before they progress to skills-based endeavors for their careers. Another possibility is that travel has made good taste more accessible. It seems everyone with a degree or above the median income figure knows someone who has seen the Sistine chapel ceiling or the Mona Lisa, which hardly could have been said a few decades ago. The downside of this newfangled accessibility is that good taste costs money to perpetuate and create, a lot of money. Money which individual middle class consumers neither have nor wish to spend. The good taste of the past is objectified, treated as an interesting museum piece while little concern is made for the future aside from outdoor shopping parks.

No where is this problem more arrant and apparent than in ecclesiastical architecture. Diocesan churches built in the last sixty years, aside from the brutal stylistic cues reflective of the commissioning parties' theological tendencies, are religious shopping parks. They are informal, comfortable, non-combative except during Christmas, and everyone can do whatever they want in whatever place they want. As much as I dislike the baroque altar and plaster statues, they did emphasize the Divine in an unambiguous way cushioned auditorium seating fails to do. And many in the congregation will have seen the Sistine chapel.

Without good taste among those with wealth, taste is doomed to be ossified and stilled in amber, a relic for those of future times to discover. In recent days I have revived a passion for antique automobiles instilled in me by my father. When he was my age (25) he drove to work every day in a 1935 Rolls-Royce Phantom II that he bought from a pair of Yale students for the measly sum of $1,100 only to sell it a decade later at the apparent profit of $4,500 (the moron who owns it now turned it into a hot rod). That car was built during the Great Depression for an English client and would have been the ultimate status symbol of the time, an outward sign of one's social class. When my father bought that car it was thirty years old, considered technologically Byzantine, and impractical—before the classic car market developed. Now, cars of that sort are owned by collectors while new Rolls-Royces are over-sized aluminum boxes stuffed with leather and walnut veneers—something has to distinguish it from its BMW parts. The car is a loud, tasteless way to say "I've made it" rather than a stylish way to say "I've got it." 

When I see an article about some seemingly small enterprise like learning calligraphy for making altar cards or iconography I become excited, much as I do when young people attempt the forgotten medium of poetry. Good taste wed with creativity will survive, albeit in smaller and smaller circles, hiding from both new money and equality!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rights & Privileges

A moment of lucid self-criticism has occurred in the comments here about the relationship between the Pope and the other patriarchs and bishops throughout the Church. There is a dispute as to whether or not the reference to the Council of Florence about the rights and privileges of the Eastern Churches applies to Pastor Aeternus, the document on the papacy. If it is not part of the document I do not see how it is anything less than an interpretive note that clarifies the teaching's place in light of Florence and the historical relationship between the Pope and other bishops as well as between the Pope and the various Eastern patriarchs.

What most reflective Roman Catholics and all Eastern Catholics find troublesome in Pastor Aeternus is not the infallibility portion, but the "universal ordinary jurisdiction" point. "Ordinary" does not mean normal, it means ordinary in the sense that the bishop of a diocese is its ordinary rather than auxiliary. Cardinal Hergonrother's clarifying document Pasce agnos states:
“The Pope is circumscribed by the necessity of making a righteous and beneficent use of the duties attached to his privileges. He is also circumscribed by the respect due to the General Councils and to ancient statutes and customs, by the rights of bishops, by his relation with civil powers, by the traditional mild tone of government indicated by the aim of the institution of the papacy itself: ‘to feed’."
The "customs" and "rights of bishops" have never, to my knowledge, met a Conciliar definition. The bishopric of Constantinople hopped ahead of Antioch and Alexandria at a council in the line of patriarchs. The pentarchy of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem was proclaimed at two general councils. Sacramental orders were defined at Trent. Yet no binding teachings—again, to my knowledge—exists in depth about the rights of bishops. Patriarchs are even more difficult because, regardless of their historic value and fatherhood over theological and liturgical traditions, they are human inventions and not divine institutions like the episcopacy and the Petrine succession. The function of prudence is thus difficult to explain. 

One must remember that, irrespective of the Ultramontanist fervor of the 19th century, papal "ordinary jurisdiction" can never be normal. Indeed, it is the historical exception, from the earliest days onward. Some interventions were not welcomed, such as the deposition of the imposter Photios from the archbishopric of Constantinople and Clement's seemingly uninitiated letter to the Church a Corinth. Others, like the various judgments over the validity of Baptisms, the admission of controversial figures to Communion, and legal matters, were invited by others, suggesting that the initiating bishops and patriarchs thought the Bishop of Rome both had sufficient power to make episcopal adjudications outside his patriarchate and that such an occurrence was not the norm. 

The balance between Rome and the rest fell away for a variety of reasons: the Chalcedonian schism, the permanent alienation of the Greek patriarchate and its re-invention after 1453, the [positive] outcome of the Investiture Controversy, the Reformation, and the loss of the Papal states. As the various non-Latin Churches, with few exceptions, separated from the larger Church, less leverage existed to check Rome's behavior and keep the diversity of traditions at the forefront of her mind. Justinian calls to mind an formerly-exempt bishopric in Spain, exempt in that it was once free of an archbishopric above it until Pius IX gave into regal requests. Local elections of bishops were once approved by the pope and almost always revolved around local candidates. In the modern day, bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth is abnormal in that he is from Forth Worth.

Neglecting that a balance did once exist and forgetting that human constructs exist in the Church amid Divine institutions (the Papacy and the Vatican are only the most obvious of this interplay) lets one slip into thinking "It's either 19th century Ultramontanism or nothing." This is folly. Prudence. Prudence wins out. Unfortunately, prudence is not a doctrine, nor can it ever be. I would favor a strong, exactingly worded understanding about the relationship between the Bishop of Rome and the non-Latin patriarchs. Would this be a teaching though? I doubt it. Like the pentarchy of yesteryear, it would establish human interactions with Divine things, namely bishops.

In the mean time, read Fortescue's The Early Papacy. It is valuable, not only a historical reference book, but also as an insight as to how the ancient Church understood Rome's role and how popes should behave relative to the universal Church. Lastly, take cues from the ancient church, but do not idolize a golden age. The good Dr. Fortescue said it best himself:
"Go and teach all nations, until Photius is intruded at Constantinople; and I am with you all days, even to the year 451."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lesser Known Fathers X: The Shepherd of Hermas IV

This will be the fourth and final installment on the obscure patristic text The Shepherd of Hermas, which follows a series of mystical visions about the end times and the nature of the Church given to Hermas, a freed Roman slave and brother of Pope St. Pius I. These parables are, to say the least, esoteric and abstract, which, along with the failed end times prediction, probably impeded its entry into the the canon of Scripture. This work still makes for great spiritual reading and need not be read sequentially. As a Lenten exercise, I would recommend spending some time with the first book of the Shepherd. We resume with the four final parables:

In the seventh parable the angelic shepherd explains to Hermas why he must suffer on account of the sins of his family, their loss of faith or presumed apostasy in a period of persecution. It is fitting, the angel says, for the head of the house to suffer for the sins of its inhabitants, to render satisfaction for the ills of the whole. Our modern ears hear offence at the idea of justice issued communally, but in these times entire peoples suffered for the sins of a few or many of them, if not for aiding those sins then for not condemning them. "The person who repents," the angel teaches, "must torture his own soul, and must be thoroughly humble in his every action.... and if he endures the afflictions which come upon him, then assuredly He Who created all things and endowed them with power will be moved with compassion and will bestow some remedy." 

The eighth is the parable of the willow tree. Hermas watches the shepherd lop off many branches of an enormous tree and, amazed that the tree can survive such extensive pruning, watches the angel distribute them. Some remain green, some whither, some are eaten by moths, but a few grow shoots and even fruit. The angel sends the holders of these branches to the tower that represents the Church. Hermas, still confused, asks for an explanation. The angel unravels the mystery. The tree that can survive indefinite pruning is the Law of the Son of God, which provides shade to His people, who are protected by the archangel Michael. This Law many ignore, many abuse, but many accept and even allow to flourish within them. These last men are the ones with the fortuitous branches. Some of the withered and cracked branches repair, overcoming Hermas and the shepherd with joy, but others remain broken, just as some sinners repent and bring joy unto God in doing so while others betray the Church in their sins and apostasy. Among those who keep the laws of God and repent there "is no place for rivalry" as to who is the greatest, for all should be happy to be within the tower that is the Church. The latter group, those who live partially in the world and partially in the Church, those with the somewhat withered branches, may be either saved or lost depending on their will move into one camp or another, to claim the fruit of their deeds.

The angel leads Hermas to a plain between twelve hills—some green, some brown, some burned, one lush, and one beautiful. On a mountain adjoining the plain virgins build a familiar great white tower, beginning with six stones, then ten, then twenty-five, and so on. Virgins, those weak and naive to the world, are the strong builders and pillars of the Church and of heaven in the eyes of "the Master," who comes to inspect the tower and finds some of the stones cracked and wanting. He discards of them as He discards of those who leave the Church and invites new stones in their places. Some of these new stones are not cuts, still round. These rest on the sides of the tower and are not forced into slots just yet.

Hermas and the angel inspect the tower and complete its surroundings with plaster, seal it, and clean the detritus. The angel then departs Hermas, who is perplexed that he is being left alone in the event the Master returns. The angel returns at morning after Hermas and the virgins spend the night in prayer. Why, Hermas inquires, is there a gate and a rock at the tower? The rock, the shepherd explains, is the Son of God, anciently predating the Creation of the Father and hence an "adviser" in the Creation by the Father. The gate, however, is not new, but only known now in the last stages and the consummation of the world. "No one shall enter the kingdom of God," the angel concludes, "unless he accept the name of the Son of God." The kingdom of the God is a city like those which existed at the time of Hermas and today exist only for tourists: walled all around, with the exception that the kingdom of God has but one gate. The stones cast away were those unworthy of entering through the gate because they held not the name of the Son of God—the shepherd never says "Jesus" or any linguistic variation of "Christ." The Son of God, the rock upon which the tower is built, "sustains the world" which rests upon Him, echoing the phrase "the stone the builders have rejected has become the cornerstone." Some stones cracked and turned black because they are like unto those who know God and sin against Him, a greater offence than not knowing God and sinning against natural reason. Again, the angel pastor admonishes Hermas to repent and forfeit guile, grudges, and urges to sow seeds of disunion within the Church.

Then follows the last of the parables and the end of the work. The shepherd and another angel visit Hermas after writing the preceding work and remind him that God has power over repentance. They know Hermas is not about to live a life of full repentance immediately, but that he wants to do so and to follow the commandments of God. As an enduring test, they leave the virgins from the tower with Hermas. If he follows God in purity, they will remain in his abode. If he deviates, they will leave. How the soul and grace are the same!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Episcopal Visit

Today Msgr Michael Olson, bishop of Fort Worth, visited the Ordinariate community (St. Timothy's) at St. Mary's church. He Confirmed half a dozen candidates and received them into the fold of the Church. Fr. Christopher Stainbrook celebrated solemn Mass in the Anglican Use with the bishop attending much as a bishop would attend the old rite in Missa coram episcopo. The traditional rites of receiving a bishop at the door were also used and the Angelus was sung after the Mass. Always a joyous occasion when a successor to the Apostles visits his flock.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Used Book Stores

They still exist! I got the Brothers Karamazov and an Agatha Christie, both in hardcover, for $14. It is a glorious mess!

Wisdom from St Anthony

“A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.'”


Sorry for not posting anything of substance for a while. The new job has taken up much of my time and I need to create a balance so I can get back to writing about important things. I am planning an article on the political side of the 20th century reform movement collation with this older one. Our series on the early traditionalists is once again on hold for research purposes. Not knowing French is prohibitive because the traditionalist movement was born in France. I will post the last of the Shepherd of Hermas however and maybe one other piece this weekend.

Our friend over at Ecclesial Vigilante has an interesting piece on Bridal Mysticism and what Leon Podles calls the "Church Impotent." In short, the extension of some of St Bernard's ideas on Christ as the spouse of the faithful outside on monastic communities may have been a bad idea. I am a bit apprehensive about dissenting from St Bernard here and find his sermons on this matter very edifying, but perhaps the emotions of his sermon outweighed its actual content. The traditional belief is that Christ is the bridegroom of the Church as a whole, as the Fathers and the liturgy attest; Mattins in the Byzantine rite during Great and Holy Week (sung the night before, like Tenebrae) is called the Bridegroom service; the old episcopal rite of consecration used to admonish the new bishop to guard "the Holy Church, God's bride." The matter is worth a thought.

To tide you over, here are some images of the parish that the Fort Worth Ordinariate community, St Timothy's, currently uses. The church is St Mary's of the Assumption (what a relief to have a parish with a normal name). Many features, like the dried out wood doors in the narthex, imbue a maturity of character that reminds me of New England and European churches.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Guess It's My Turn say something about the French magazine shoot up. The national presses are reacting to this, rather than the removal of the Christian population from northern Iraq, because it impinges upon their ultimate sacrament: the right to say or do anything with impunity. Charlie Hebdo wrote and published blasphemous things about Christianity and promotes Marxist politics. This was not a magazine for normal people attacked on account of its upright content or daring reporting. This was a fringe magazine attacked and massacred because it pushed the wrong people too far. Catholics are the press's punching bag. We take it and have for years now. Muslims, or a very active minority of them, would rather the publisher die than themselves die of laughter. I have absolutely nothing good to say about Islam and believe it to be, when fully practiced in devotion, the remnant of an insane cult. That said, Charlie Hebdo is hardly off the proverbial hook. Imagine a school field trip to the zoo. The class bully steals everyone's lunch money and buys himself a juicy burger. He punches out a nice young man so he can sit next to the fellow's girlfriend on the bus. At the zoo he taunts the animals, making foul faces at the lions and chirping at the bears. Then, unassumingly, he does the same to the monkeys, only monkeys, while not quite as potent as lions or bears, are quite creative at being devious. The monkey takes a rock from his cage and hurls it through the bars, striking the bully o n the head and leaving him in a coma. Is it tragic? Yes. Did he deserve it? No, but one could be forgiven for not being overwhelmed at the matter.

Truth be told, I feel most sorry for the hostages the Muslim terrorists killed. They earned no part in this mess.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Baptism in the Jordan

"John is baptizing. Jesus cometh. He cometh that He may make holy him who baptizeth Him; He cometh to bury the old Adam in the waters; He cometh to hallow the blessed flood of Jordan. He Who is Flesh and Spirit cometh to open for all that should ever be baptized that power of generation whereby new peoples are constantly begotten of water and the Holy Ghost. The Baptist will not receive Him. Jesus striveth with him. I, saith John, have need to be baptized of thee. Thus speaketh the candle to the Sun, the voice to the Word.
"Jesus came up out of the water, having, in a manner, washed the whole world, and brought it up with Him. And He saw the heavens opened not divided, even those heavens which Adam had once shut upon himself and us his descendants, when the cherub's fiery sword barred the gates of Paradise. And the Holy Spirit bare witness, witness unto Him Who is of One Substance with Himself. And witness was given from Heaven, unto Him that came down from heaven." (St. Gregory Nazianzus)


Sunday, January 11, 2015


Msgr. Charles Pope's article If the Second Vatican Council Had Never Happened, Would We Still Have a New Mass? Quite Possibly has generated a lot of hell on traditionalist blogs. Louie Verrecchio has given the standard FSSPX/FSSP type response here, which does seem to lose sight of the greater picture and which separates the "liturgy" and the Mass (Holy Week, the Office etc being things of different importance from the grace machine that is the Mass). A more thoughtful reply came from the Maestro here. Commentators may be creating a false dichotomy between the Council and the liturgical overhaul. That the Council or evil Bunigni caused the Pauline Mass is a bit silly. They were the immediate causes, but hardly the prime cause. The Council and the reformed liturgy rather originated from the same genus of reform which had been lurking in the Vatican for some time. Dislike the Liturgia Horarum? The 1911 Commission wanted to turn the Office into, essentially, that and would have if not for the War to End All Wars. Discipline and the Vatican's politics underwent a quiet revolution from the start of the 20th century until 1958, when John XXIII ascended the Petrine chair. Those paying attention were less surprised when the new liturgy appeared in the 1960s. The person most discombobulated was the mother who attended a low Mass Sunday morning with her family, the young schoolboy in the diocesan pre-seminary, the elderly person whose daily Mass saw them through a life of work. In short, normal people unconcerned with Roman politics. We will cover the political origins of the reform movement in another article I have planned as a follow up to The Pre-Conciliar Church, but for now it suffices to say that the Council did not cause the new liturgy nor was a new liturgy inevitable on its own. They were two branches shooting from one trunk.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Environmental Catholicism

My post a few days ago seems to have been misunderstood by more than a few readers. I was poking some fun at myself via the pope's shenanigans. It should not be taken seriously. The "price of heresy" referenced was my salary, a usurious violation of the doctrine of immaculate water quality! Again, I will say that not a few problems in the Church continue because people take themselves far too seriously!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Angel Queen

My post on Fr. Gregory Hesse (whose memory I hold in high regard) has reach the comment section on some website called Angel Queen:

"A perfect reason to NEVER read that website, Tom. Irascibly ungrateful, myopic and borderline vainglorious – that lot. Yes, it had its nod and winks and nudges, but the bastard that wrote it never once took on the cataclysmic consequences that Canon Hesse made entirely plain. The “eccentricities” about which the “author” flapped his gums are the blasphemies and schismatic violence done the Church by the liberals. He missed Canon Hesse’s arguments entirely. Which, in his case, was entirely to be expected. Thanks for the reminder. “Trad World” is filled with rummy pretentionists." ("gmptrad")
"Love one another as I have loved you." (John 13:34)

I would like to think that Fr. Hesse and I could have bonded on matters of enology, politics, and liturgy!

In all seriousness, much of the post-Conciliar debacle continues because people take themselves far too seriously. Try to perpetuate and multiply the good things the Lord has given us rather than moan about what ills others have visited upon us. It is an easy way to lose one's mind and one's faith....

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I'm In Trouble

I work for one of the many companies in Texas that does this.... Gas prices are down 30%+ in the last year, too.... The price of heresy is quite high!

Monday, January 5, 2015


Why is Rome making more of them when they should be sacking the lot? In all seriousness, I understand the interest in promoting Christianity in missionary territories—although I wonder if some of the South American appointments are a way of offsetting the prestige of the traditional cardinatial sees in Europe—but I fail to see how more cardinals is an answer. The college is largely a democratic bureaucracy. I wish for a return to the medieval model of the college, when very few episcopal sees were guaranteed red hats and the pope surrounded himself with people who were considered capable regardless of whether they were priests, deacons, monks, or bishops. What would be wrong with an abbot as a cardinal? Or some of the better parish priests of Rome? Or any professors of theology, liturgy, or canon law who happen to be only priests or deacons? Or, heaven forbid, bishops of dioceses who are simply good bishops? The red hat has become the end of the promotion change for ambitious clergy: priest—>monsignor—>Curial monsignor—>bishop of no see auxiliary bishop—>bishop—>archbishop—>cardinal—>head of Vatican congregation—>friend of Cardinal Kasper.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz

Have you ever wanted to read a sci-fi novel that takes a critical look at the place of science and technology in a world populated by people stained with Sin? No? Well, read the review anyway. A Canticle for Leibowitz tells the story of the Church's decline in influence in an increasingly technological world after having preserved knowledge from the previous era of civilization after a nuclear holocaust later called the "Flame Deluge." Canticle is supposed to be science-fiction, but it takes a strong magnifying glass to the place of science and its themes, even nearly six decades after its Cold War debut, can hardly be called fiction.

Author Walter Miller, who wrote Canticle after blowing up the monastery at Monte Cassino, divided the novel into three sections which could be seen as three separate novellas, each centuries separated from the one before it. Each section, about a hundred pages, reflects the common conceptions and misconceptions about a real life time it imitates. The first section, Fiat Homo, begins six hundred years after the Flame Deluge and takes place during a new Dark Age devoid of substantial knowledge or intellectual endeavors. Reading survives as a purely functional skill rather than an intellectual tool. The story, told almost entirely from the Abbey of St. Leibowitz, has three abbots, each in turn a Catholic product of the age. The abbot during the Dark Age equivalent is very devout, very strict, and less concerned with earthly matters. The abbot in the last segment, Fiat Voluntas Tua, is certainly a good priest, but also invested in earthly cares.

Fiat Homo begins with Brother Francis, an aspiring novice with the Order of St. Albert's priory in the midwestern United States, who is in the desert fasting and praying during Lent in hope of making a solemn profession. Francis meets a feisty old man who he presumes to be a pilgrim. The pilgrim attacks Francis with his walking stick and then vanishes. Francis, dazed after the squabble, finds himself in a nuclear fallout shelter from the Flame Deluge six hundred years earlier. In it he finds a skull, some blueprints, and a scrap of paper with the name Leibowitz written on it. Leibowitz was an engineer who survived the Deluge, but lost his family. He converted to Catholicism, became a priest, and founded the Order of St Albert, a community of monks dedicated to preserving knowledge from previous times in hope that it might benefit a holier society. After the Deluge, an event called the Simplification ensued, a process of de-intellectualizing survivors and extirpating deleterious knowledge, leaving the world without information or learning. Francis' abbot meets his discovery with feigned doubt until New Rome—the old one gone—approves of the find and canonizes St Leibowitz. After the canonization a cadre of two-headed highway men, from a people genetically mutated and deformed by the nuclear holocaust, kill Francis.

Fiat Lux picks up the story centuries later when the various political entities in the region are at odds, leaving the monastery and New Rome in the middle of turmoil. "Mayor" Hannigan wishes to unite North America into one country under his rule and has taken an interest in advancing his position and his technology. Hannigan sends his cousin, Thon Taddeo, to the abbey to investigate their relics of St Leibowitz. Taddeo is the secular scholar incarnate: a blend of Einstein, a romanticized version of Newton, with a little of Voltaire's cynicism and rationalism tossed into the blender for good measure. His mild disdain for religious people is amplified when he discovers one of the monks, without any real theoretical knowledge, manages to recreate the light bulb, which the monk terms Lucifer—a play on the two meanings of the word, the devil and the morning star. Taddeo is intelligent and eager, but also hopelessly vain. He refuses to admit that the people before the Deluge were human because, as the abbot puts it—much as modern cheerleaders for scientism bifurcate the pre-Newtonian world from the post. If people from before the Flame Deluge were human then Taddeo is not a discoverer, but merely a rediscoverer. The abbot flocks to the mountain home of a hermit named Benjamin, the Wandering Jew. Benjamin insists that he is over six centuries and that he knew Brother Francis. If he is telling the truth then he might be the man Francis met in the desert, he might be St Leibowitz, or he might be both. The abbot learns that Taddeo's team is researching not only the relics of the Saint, but also the fortifications within the monastery in the event of a war. The middle segment ends with Taddeo's long elegy for the Dark Age of Fiat Homo and a new warm welcome for the age of a new Enlightenment. The Wandering Jew enters during Taddeo's speech, gazes at the scholar, and says "It's not him." Those familiar with the Wandering Jew myth will understand.

The final section, Fiat Voluntas Tua, greets the reader in a space age under the threat of nuclear war after two cities are destroyed. A U.N. equivalent hopes to stave off the inevitable while the Church makes plans to survive after earth. I will not summarize this part of the book, especially the spectacular and moving ending which can only be understood by a person of faith.

Canticle tells a recurrent history, although not one based on George Santayana's apodictic aphorism about repetition. Canticle tells our own past, present, and future without the cloudy vision of contemporary affairs, politics, and allegiances about who is right and wrong. Instead, Miller's novel narrates the reader through Sin's effort to weave its pattern in the world by tempting men through knowledge and technology while monks of God attempt to temper and tame those things, to make them befitting to a holier world. The powers of the world, be they the Green Star euthanizers of Fiat Voluntas Tua or Thon Taddeo of Fiat Lux or the highway men of Fiat Homo, ignore the Church's wisdom, her knowledge of human nature, and her patience to pursue the best thing for the world in the here and now. The last chapters capture this best, when the abbot deigns without success to convince a woman not to murder her child and herself by euthanasia. He tells them that God does not want suffering, but instead wants them to fight and to preserve the precious gift of life. The desire to better the here-and-now compels the characters outside the monastery to ignore every opportunity for a lesson and sets the stage for the denouement.

Another constant theme is the importance of knowledge. How much is enough? How much is too much? Taddeo abjures the abbot, perhaps rightly, for waiting until men are saints before introducing the abbey's collected information to the world. Could the Church ever really make men fit for the knowledge that could destroy them? If knowledge really a temptation or is it like fire, something good or bad depending on its subjective use? The process is one long temptation in man's attempt to recreate the Garden of Eden.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is well worth a read to anyone interested in the Church, in history, in science, and in ethics. Sci-fi nerds may well be disappointed. Pick up a copy.