Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Springsteen Documentary

I just noticed that a 90 minute documentary is about to come out, which will explore the making of Bruce Springsteen's great underrated album, "Darkness on the Edge of Town."  Some of you couldn't sit through 90 seconds, much less 90 minutes, of Springsteen.  I eat this sort of thing up.  Obviously I can't comment on the documentary itself, since I have not seen it yet.  I can tell you this, if you do not yet know much about one of the greatest musicians in the history of American music, Bruce Springsteen, then educate yourself, for your own good, and the good of the Church (just joking about that last part).  Check out this short video:

Bruce Springsteen - "The Promise: The Making of 'Darkness on the Edge of Town'" Sneak Peek from Columbia Records on Vimeo.

Friday, August 27, 2010

George Rutler on the New Roman Missal

Father George Rutler and I are separated by outward communion, he being a Roman Catholic and I a Lutheran, and so we are separated also by certain inevitable (and some important) particularities of theology.  Nevertheless, my admiration for him is strong.  For his style, his thoughtfulness, his sense of history, his spirituality, and his unyielding stand against the tyranny of the modern and the bland.  His eloquence is matched by his humor, and they are actually surpassed by his liturgical integrity and his deep understanding that in the liturgy we do not step into a show in a theater, but we step out of the world, and Christ our Immanuel, the Pantocrator, simultaneously enters our life, our ears, mouth, and heart, and gives us the medicine of immortality; He heals, and in the Spirit He vivifies us anew.  Therefore I appreciate and recommend almost everything Rutler has to say on the matter.  For your edification, please read this piece over at First Things.  And as you do, bear in mind that when he says he is not a liturgist, but rather a pastor, that a "liturgist" in his world is one who is an expert on the liturgy, or what Lutherans often call a "liturgiologist."  Lutherans, on the other hand, often say that the celebrant of the liturgy is the "liturgist."  Oh, and to be sure, Rutler is in fact more of a liturgical expert, by whatever name, in the truest sense, than most of the experts combined.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


The Lutheran Women's Missionary League is a long standing institution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  In fact, it is officially the one and only women's auxiliary of the LC-MS.  As such, it has many faces, as it were, and permeates many parishes of the synod.  And in many ways, certainly, in much of the work of local congregational manifestations of LWML, I'm sure that it fills a wholesome Lutheran role in the life of the Church.  My concern is with much of what I have seen of this organization at the national level, and from its official resources. 

I have not done the research to know this, but would wager that in former days (it has been around for over six decades) the LWML, by and large, saw itself as a way for Confessional Lutheran women to help provide a support for the mission and ministry of the Church, in ways which conform to the unique calling of Christian women in this world.  Today, I get the distinct impression that the LWML's self-vision has turned upside down, and in on itself, so that now it is thought of as a vehicle for missionary work and "ministries" of its own.  Instead of merely helping to support the ministry of the Church, it now, for example, gives awards to pastors who are the best supporters of the LWML.  I'd show you the latest issue of the quarterly magazine (the Fall issue), but it is not online yet.  On page 25, at the top left, you will find the report about the Rev. Richard Rudnik, of Grace in Houma, LA, being "gifted" by the LWML with a bright, flowery stole, for being an "outstanding supporter of the LWML."  Dressing one's pastor in such a lovely stole is symptomatic of a larger trend, by which women are now literally making the pastor over in their own image.

By the way, when did "gifted" enter into normal use?  I mean, I know that Nagel disciples (God love them) love to turn the word "gift" into just about every part of speech known to man, but aside from quoting the great Dr. Nagel (great men have the right to operate by their own rules), must we constantly turn "give" into "gifted"?  Does it sound holier that way?  I don't know. 

As I say, I know the LWML does good work, locally and even internationally, but is this really what the Lord means by "laborers" when He speaks of laborers in the harvest field?  The LWML officially has this view.  Consider this from the LWML pledge: " obedience to His call for workers in the harvest fields, we pledge Him our willing service wherever and whenever He has need of us..."

I am also concerned about the caliber of theology to which the women of the LWML are subjected, just from what I've seen in its magazine.  Ruth Koch (whose late husband was my childhood pastor-it's a small synod after all), in the Summer issue of the Lutheran Women's Quarterly, has adapted from Dr. Laura Schlessinger a top ten list of "reasons to keep the sabbath holy."  I know she adapted it from a Jewish woman, but perhaps she should have done a bit more adapting.  It seems odd, for a piece meant for a Christian audience, to use the word "sabbath" instead of Sunday or Lord's Day, in each of the ten reasons.  Just as out of tune for a Christian, and a Lutheran to boot, is that the list of reasons for "keeping the sabbath" is hardly weighted toward the preaching of the Gospel and the central role of the Eucharist in our life.  Instead, a Lutheran woman gets this as a typical reason:  "On Sabbath, God uses worship and others to draw you into a wellspring of emotion that promotes healing and peace." 

I do not want to belabor my concerns here.  So let me just add one more thought.  What is the need for women to write Bible studies for women, when there are plenty of qualified ministers of the gospel, you know, men who are called and ordained specifically for a life of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments?  Lutheran women are encouraged, on page 11 of the Fall issue of the Quarterly, to pray for their pastors, and to show appreciation for them, especially in October.  That is good.  It would be in keeping with this spirit of appreciation to actually seek out the spiritual guidance of pastors, even in the official magazine of its members, and at conventions.  Killing the Old Adam in the modern Christian woman, bringing women to new life in Christ with the sweet gospel of the forgiveness of sins won for us by the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and given to us in the sacramental treasures of the Church, fostering a love of the liturgy for the sake of the pure gospel:  all of these things could be greatly enhanced by stronger spiritual direction.  Then, the LWML could be a true ministry, and one of which we could be proud.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

John Coltrane - I Want To Talk About You - 1962

Catechism of the Day

What does God say of all these Commandments?
He says thus:

I, the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me,
and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me
and keep My Commandments.

What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all
that transgress these Commandments.

Therefore we should fear His wrath
and not act contrary to them.

But He promises grace and every blessing
to all that keep these Commandments.

Therefore we should also love and trust in Him
and willingly do according to His Commandments.

Quid autem summatim dicit Deus de his praeceptis omnibus?
Sic dicit:

Ego, Dominus Deus tuus, sum fortis zelotes,
visitans iniquitatem patrum in filios
in tertiam et quartam generationem eorum, qui oderunt me;
et faciens misericordiam in millia his, qui diligunt me
et custodiunt praecepta mea.

Quae est horum verborum sententia?
Deus minatur poenam omnibus,
qui ista praecepta transgrediuntur et violant.

Debemus itaque expavescere et timere iram Dei
et nihil contra huiusmodi praecepta facere.

Rursus promittit etiam suam gratiam et omnia bona
omnibus, qui mandata illa observant.

Merito igitur debemus Deum diligere et illi confidere
et iuxta mandata eius omnem nostram vitam sedulo et diligenter instituere.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thelonious Monk - April in Paris

Catechism of the Day

The Tenth Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife,
nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle,
nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not estrange, force,
or entice away from our neighbor
his wife, servants, or cattle,

but urge them to stay and do their duty.

Decimum Praeceptum
Nec desiderabis uxorem eius,
non servum, non ancillam, non bovem, non asinum,
nec omnia, quae illius sunt.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne a proximo uxorem, servos, ancillas
vel pecudes abalienemus aut abstrahamus,

sed illos adhortemur et urgeamus,
ut maeant et suum officium diligenter faciant.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Being a "fan" of Concordia Theological Seminary

To briefly clarify my attitude toward the Lutheran seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ie., Concordia Theological Seminary, let me say that:

1. Toward the people involved with that institution I have only Christian love, though in some cases it is a love that is commingled with pity and awareness that I share virtually nothing in common with them;

2. Toward the institution itself I have great love for part of its mission, namely, the part that had been its mission for most of its history, and a deep gratitude toward God for the ways in which it is still carried out today.

3.  However, I have great sadness, even a sort of hatred, for the ways in which that mission has been incompetently carried out, and also for the ways in which that mission has been supplanted by a broader, brave new mission.

4.  I have great optimism for the potential for the evangelical and Catholic reformation of CTS.  Even now it has within its own God given resources and within its heritage all it needs to make this potential reformation kinetic.  For its present and future I pray, and thank God already for what He will accomplish.

5.  Having said all of the above, I wish to make it clear that I count myself as neither a "fan" nor a "friend" of Concordia Theological Seminary.  Therefore, its sycophants will please save their time by refraining from asking me to thus register myself, on Facebook, or elsewhere.

Miles davis et John Coltrane - So what

Catechism of the Day

The Ninth Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not craftily seek to get
our neighbor's inheritance or house,
nor obtain it by a show of right,

but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

Nonum Praeceptum
Non concupisces domum proximi tui.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne hereditatem vel domum
proximi dolo malo captemus
et sub specie iuris et recti nostris facultatibus adiungamus,

sed potius eum iuvemus, ut suas fortunas retineat integras.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Christopher Hitchens

It seems I am a bit late on this, but I just learned a few days ago that Christopher Hitchens has cancer.  I got the news from Hitchens' own reflection on what is surely one of the most sobering developments in a man's life, which was his contribution to the current issue (September 2010) of Vanity Fair.  (First, of course, I had to go through the customary ritual of finding his article, which in that magazine involves paging through almost fifty pages of ads before even getting to the table of contents.)  Anyway, it seems as fitting an occasion as any on which to share a few basic thoughts on Christopher Hitchens.

First, even if there were no good and admirable qualities in the man, which isn't the case, but even if indeed he were utterly abominable in every way, I would still find it appalling that he is hated by some Christians.  I have seen advocates of the Christian faith express what amounts to juvenile ranting against Hitchens' outspoken atheism, a sort of ranting that is at times hateful, often also sophomoric in its "argument," and always unworthy of discourse in the public square.  In my view, the reasons to love Christopher Hitchens are manifold, yet first and foremost in the list of reasons is that he and I share a common humanity.  My humanity is informed by my Christianity, which impels me to love him all the more.  And so I pray for his physical well-being, and also for the conversion of his soul. 

When I read and listen to his fierce and absolute antagonism to God and religion, I am reminded of one of the qualities I admire most in him, namely, the radical and thoroughgoing nature of his thinking.  When he takes something on, pro or con, he is utterly serious about it.  This says to me that, if the Lord does convert him on this side of the grave, Hitchens will be the type of intellectual giant with which the Church is blessed once in a great while.  Of course he is opposed to all forms of religion, yet he has said, and this I find very significant, that he has no respect for the Christians whose theology does not take seriously the basic tenets of the faith, eg., the atoning death of Christ, or His resurrection, such as the modern higher critics, for such is a faith that makes no sense at all.

The other main thing that comes to mind when I read his arguments against God, I hasten to add, is that the God he is against is also a god I'd be against if that were my concept of God.  I know it can sound condescending to say that he simply doesn't get or understand the gospel of the Christian faith, and certainly I do not believe that the answer lies simply in sending him some well written explanation of Christian doctrine.  The Christian faith is done a grave disservice when it is treated as though it were merely a body of data.  The gospel is not information.  It is the life of Christ, the Immanuel, Who blesses those who are baptized into His death, with a life full of His grace and truth.  The Spirit of God works faith in men's hearts where and when He will, when this gospel in its purity is proclaimed.  We need to proclaim it, and we need to live it. 

Even apart from religion, I do not agree with Hitchens in every point.  Even where I might disagree with him, when he speaks out on politics or literature or history, I always benefit from hearing his point of view, and from the way in which he argues it.  Hitchens is more than "lettered."  He is hypereducated.  And it is a pleasure to see him hold forth on Orwell, or Paine, or the failure of the United Nations to accomplish real peace anywhere.  Born a Brit, he has in recent years become a proud American citizen, and I might add, one of the greatest advocates today of an underappreciated aspect of American life, namely, our guaranteed freedom of speech.  He is a true First Ammendment absolutist.  I thought, in fact, I might share here a speech he gave in Toronto on freedom of speech.  It was occasioned by a proposed Canadian law against "hate speech."   In its course, this talk will reveal some points with which, of course, I disagree.  Nevertheless, in some ways it shows him at his best.  The video is divided into three parts.  Enjoy.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 3 of 3:

Earl Hines - Berlin 1965

Catechism of the Day

The Eighth Commandment
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander,
nor defame our neighbor,

but defend him, speak well of him,
and put the best construction on everything.

Octavum Praeceptum
Non loqueris contra proximum tuum falsum testimonium.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne proximum falsis mendaciis involvamus, prodamus,
traducamus aut infamia aliqua afficiamus,

sed illum excusemus, bene de eo sentiamus et loquamur
et omnia in meliorem partem accipiamus et interpretemur.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chris Potter Tenor Sax Solo 1

Catechism of the Day

The Seventh Commandment
Thou shalt not steal.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not take our neighbor’s money or goods,
nor get them by false ware or dealing,
but help him to improve and protect
his property and business.

Septimum Praeceptum
Non furtum facies.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne proximo pecuniam aut bona auferamus,
neque falsis mercibus aut impostura ad nos pertrahamus,
sed demus operam, ut illius opes conserventrur,
et eius conditio melior reddatur.

Monday, August 16, 2010

All or nothing at all - John Coltrane

Catechism of the Day

The Sixth Commandment
Thou shalt not commit adultery.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed,
and each love and honor his spouse.

Sextum Praeceptum
Non moechaberis.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ut caste et pudice vivamus in verbis ac operibus,
et unusquisque suam coniugem amet ac honoret.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bill Evans-My Foolish Heart

Catechism of the Day

The Fifth Commandment
Thou shalt not kill.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body,
but help and befriend him
in every bodily need.

Quintum Praeceptum
Non occides.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne vitae proximi nostri incommodemus aut aegre faciamus,
sed illum adiuvemus et promoveamus
in omnibus vitae et corporis necessitatibus et periculis.

One Hundred Years Today

Today, which also happens to be my wedding anniversary, my Aunt Esther (I guess technically she is my Great Aunt) turned one hundred years old. So I skipped Mass this morning, so that I could go up to Oshkosh, where Aunt Esther has lived all her life, and celebrate her birthday with her. She lived her whole life in the same house, but just a few years ago had to move into a nursing home. Aunt Esther, wheeling around in her chair, is still remarkably sharp. I wish I could get up there more often to visit her, but it was a blessing to be with her for this great milestone. I would wish her a happy birthday here, but that would be most silly in the case of a woman who relates to blogs about as well as I relate to the praise band Mass. However, Aunt Esther is in our prayers, our prayers of thanks for her long life so far, and for her example, and our prayers for her continued care, spiritually and physically.

Sixteen Years Today

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Which is to say, in my case, that the Lord determined that I should not be utterly Ruthless in this life.  So He fit me with just the right Ruth for me.  And so it happened that on the Vigil of the Dormition of the Most Blessed Virgin, in 1994, Ruth and I were wedded in sacred matrimony, in a little church in the middle of the farm lands of North Dakota.  The wedding was administered by my father in law, the Reverend Erno Szedlak, at Saint Paul Lutheran, outside of the town of Saint Thomas, North Dakota, one of the oldest Lutheran parishes in the state.  (Just three are older: Saint John, Crystal; Trinity, Great Bend; and Saint John, Hillsboro.  All four, however, were begun within just about eight years of each other, from 1875 to 1882.)  It was a beautiful day, in beautiful country.  North Dakota graciously endured the company of a bunch of Milwaukeeans for the occasion, a couple of which, however, can never go back there. 

A Pastor's kid from rural North Dakota, Ruth has been remarkably adept at adapting to situations very different from that which she knew before she met me.  After she was taken in marriage, she was taken to the inner city of Milwaukee.  We moved into the flat above my father on 31st & Cherry on the North Side.  I of course assumed that everyone lived with fire truck sirens and gun shots and yelling in the street.  Ruth was braver in those days than I appreciated.  Before long, we moved to the university community of the East Side, and lived for a few years under the same roof with Father Stephen Wiest and his family.  That, for me, for both of us in many ways, was simply the ideal situation.  The intellectual, theological, and liturgical atmosphere I breathed in my years with Father Wiest and the campus ministry then in place at ULC-Milwaukee was far more than informative; it was formative.  It was a rich soil, like unto that around which Ruth lived in North Dakota.  It was a "minor" seminary, richer in some ways than seminary itself would prove to be.  Then, for reasons I do not yet appreciate, our path brought us to Fort Wayne for several years.  What does the future hold?  I know even less about that.  However, through it all, Ruth has been with me.  And for that I am grateful. 

A thought on the wedding ring.  It often happens, probably more often than I am fully consciously aware, that my eye's gaze will drift to the ring on my left hand.  This is a great example of what tradition, in liturgy or in devotion, can do for the Christian.  It can help guide our meditation, our thinking, our mindset, and our heart's inclination, even when active cognitive participation falls behind.  The sign of the cross does this for us.  So does, I suggest, the wedding ring.  The cross and gift of Christian marriage, which at once occasions and brings to light my sin, and also is the context for the profound grace of God in Christ, the holy Spouse of my soul, is, one might say, the one great element of value and weight in my life, apart from which my sinister side would be left by itself.  So it is fitting that on my sinister side, that is, on my left hand, there is this ring, always there, reminding me of the high calling of marriage, and of the grace which is displayed in the person of the one called to the same calling with me. 

Therefore, I think of the wedding ring as a devotional aid.  It can be of use to the Christian as a sacramental.  By this I do not mean that it is sacramental, in the adjectival sense.  Rather, I mean to say that it is a blessed object, which serves our prayer and devotion, as would a crucifix in its own way, or a holy card in its own way.  A man generally does not care for his ring as a woman cares for hers.  It is not very important that it remain shiny, etc.  Yet I do urge Christian husbands, new and older, to consider your ring a thing of great spiritual value.  You carry a heavy responsibility, one of which you are not worthy, and one which itself occasions many opportunities for forgiveness.  Let the carrying of your ring remind you of such weighty things.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vigil of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The continuation of the holy Gospel, according to Saint Luke.  At that time, as Jesus spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Saint John Chrysostom:    When you hear that woman saying, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked," and the Lord answering, "Rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it," do not think that in saying this He is belittling His Mother.  Rather, He means to show that the title of mother would be of no use to her if she did not excel in goodness and faith...If relationship to Him had been useful to Mary by itself, it would have been useful also to the Jews, who were Christ's relatives according to the flesh; it would have been useful for the city in which He was born; it would have been useful to His close relatives.

Saint Augustine:     Mary was more blessed in accepting the faith of Christ than in conceiving the flesh of Christ...Finally, for His brothers, His relatives according to the flesh who did not believe in Him, of what advantage was that relationship?  Even her maternal relationship would have done Mary no good unless she had borne Christ more happily in her heart than in her flesh.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian:     He took blessedness from the one who bore Him and gave it to those who were worshipping Him.

Catechism of the Day

The Fourth Commandment
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother,
that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not despise our parents and masters, nor provoke them to anger,
but give them honor, serve and obey them,
and hold them in love and esteem.

Quartum Praeceptum
Honora patrem et matrem,
ut bene sit tibi et sis longaevus super terram.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne parentes et dominos nostros contemnamus neque ad iram commoveamus,
sed honore afficiamus, illis serviamus, morem geramus,
amore eos prosequamur et magni faciamus.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Favorite Things - John Coltrane

Catechism of the Day

The Third Commandment
Thou shalt sanctify the holy day.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not despise preaching and His Word,
but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

Tertium Praeceptum
Memento, ut diem Sabbati santifices.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne divinos sermones et eius Verbum contemnamus,
sed ut sanctum reputemus, libenter, audiamus et discamus.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thelonious Monk - Epistrophy

Catechism of the Day

The Second Commandment
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God,
that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft,
lie, or deceive by His Name,

but call upon it in every trouble,
pray, praise, and give thanks.

Secundum Praeceptum
Non assumes nomen Domini Dei tui in vanum.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum timere et diligere,
ne per nomen eius imprecemur, iuremus, incantemus,
mentiamur aut dolis fallamus,

sed in omni necesssitate illud invocemus,
adoremus et cum gratiarum actione laudemus.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

John Coltrane - Naima - 1965

Catechism of the Day

The Small Catechism of Doctor Martin Luther

The Ten Commandments
as the head of the family should teach them in all simplicity to his household

The First Commandment
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

What does this mean?
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Catechismus Minor Doctori Martini Lutheri

Decem Praecepta
quomodo paterfamilias ea suae familiae simplicissime tradere debeat

Primum Praeceptum
Non habebis deos alienos coram Me.

Quae est huius praecepti sententia?
Debemus Deum supra omnia timere, diligere et illi confidere.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bishops and Synods

The Ecumenical Councils of the Early Church, from time immemorial, have been esteemed very highly by the Church, and have even been perceived to be divinely inspired in their theological decisions.  Saint Gregory the Great, for example, said of the first four Ecumenical Councils, that their authority is comparable to the value of the four Gospels.  Luther had great veneration for them as well, especially in their christological pronouncements.  What is perhaps more surprising is that the Church's general esteem for her councils is not limited to the Ecumenical Councils.  Charles Joseph Hefele writes in his A History of The Christian Councils (Edinburgh, 1894) of the respect given to the councils of the second and third centuries.  He offers a few examples of the general view of the Pneumatic guidance of the councils.  For example:

Cyprian in his time wrote, in the name of the Council over which he presided, A.D. 252, to Pope Cornelius, "It seemed good to us, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit" (Placuit nobis, Sancto Spiritu suggerente).  To the same effect the Synod of Arles, A.D. 314, expressed itself, "It seemed good, therefore, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His angels" (Placuit ergo, praesente Spiritu Sancto et angelis ejus).  And it was this conviction, which was so universal, that led the Emperor Constantine the Great to call the decree of the Synod of Arles a heavenly judgment (coeleste judicium); and he added, that the judgment of the priests ought to be so received as though the Lord Himself sat and judged (sacerdotum judicium ita debet haberi, ac si ipse DOMINUS residens judicet). 

This might cause us some pause today, for one might reasonably ask, how can a council claim such authority?  At this point I think it is crucial to bear in mind that church councils are gatherings of bishops.  And the Bishop stands in the Office of Christ Himself.  We might even say that the Bishop stands in Persona Christi Capitis (in the Person of Christ the Head).  Even in the nonepiscopal world of the Missouri Synod, the local parish Pastor, who might not even have any presbyters or deacons with him, nevertheless fills an essentially episcopal office, so that we ought to say that the pastor stands in the stead of Christ. 

As Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Smyrnaeans, "Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church."

In fact, we do confess this ritually when the Pastor absolves sin.

Take, this, for example, from The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941:
Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  R. Amen.

Similarly, in Luther's Order of Confession, which we use at Saint Stephen, we have this sweet exchange:
Priest. Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God's forgiveness? 
Response. Yes, I believe. 
Priest.  Be it done unto thee as thou believest.  And I, by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive thee thy sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
R. Amen.
(P. Num meam remissionem credis esse Dei remissionem?
R. Ita, dilecte domine.
P. Fiat tibi, sicut credis.  Et ego ex mandato Domini nostri Iesu Christi, remitto tibi tua peccata in Nomine Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
R. Amen.)

It is innate to the priestly office that through the man called into that office Christ Himself absolves sin.  Likewise, through the priest He speaks the consecretory Words which announce the awful presence of His own Body and Blood, the mysterium tremendum.  Besides these facets of Christ's work among us in the Church, however, there is another, one fulfilled by bishops, priests, and deacons, but which we might say is fulfilled in a special way in the episcopal office, namely, the work of teacher.  The Bishop as teacher is the mouthpiece of the magisterial Christ, that is, Christ the Teacher.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, the "chief catechist" of the Church, has a solemn duty, as defender of God's people, to stand up against heresy, both gross and subtle.  He does this in manifold ways, in the pulpit, in the classroom, in the confessional, in the home, and even in print.  Yet he also fulfills this role in the Church when he speaks on important matters with his brothers, gathered in synod. 

I dare say that a Christian gathering of Missouri Synod pastors, faithfully confessing the evangelical and Catholic faith of our fathers, would have more authority, certainly in the eyes of the Church that has gone before us, than does the LCMS in Convention.  Not that I have disrespect for the Missouri Synod per se, or the Synod Convention when it acts faithfully.  The concept of the Missouri "Synod," however, ought to bring to our minds the sense of a faithful and brotherly Ministerium, which on occasion gathers together, on behalf of the Church, to tackle pertinent issues of doctrine and practice, to handle matters of church discipline and worship. 

Robert Preus rightly argued, in one of the final works of his life, that the theologians, such as seminary professors, have a Call to teach theology not merely in one parish, or even classroom, but to the whole Church (toto ecclesia).  In doing so, he was rightly advocating a longstanding Lutheran precedent.  (And this calls into question, incidentally, the raison d'ĂȘtre of inventive creations like the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, which gives laymen equal say with Doctors of the Church.)  Yet the testimonies we have from the Early Church, as the ones above, show us that there is an even more ancient mode of Church teaching than that of the professional theologian, one which predates seminaries and universities as we know them today, namely, that of the Bishop, both in the exercise of his teaching vocation in his own church and also when gathered with his brothers.  My prayer is that the church in our country will begin to behave more and more in keeping with this ancient model.

Monday, August 9, 2010

V for Vendetta Quote

I have never been a Graphic Novel kind of guy.  Yet I must admit that some of my favorite films in modern times are based on graphic novels, or written almost as if they were, like The Matrix, and V for Vendetta.  Anyway, let me share with you my favorite quote from V for Vendetta.  It is in the context of the prison journal of the lesbian character, Valerie, found by Evey in her own prison of sorts.

"Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free...I shall die here. Every last inch of me shall perish. Except one. An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us."

Getting Other Perspectives

It seems that my impressions of Grace WELS, Downtown Milwuakee, piqued the interest of some whose perspectives somewhat differ from that of a traditionalist Lutheran.  See here, for example, as well as here, another take on the matter, with some interesting discussion.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Springsteen - Chimes of freedom - East Berlin 1988

This clip is from a show Springsteen played at a bicycle track in (what was) East Berlin. It was by far, unless I am mistaken, the largest audience he has ever played: about 160,000 people. I myself would probably tend to prefer a good rock concert in a bar or club, or a hall that holds less than a few thousand, because I think the sound and feel would be much better. However, I'm sure that despite the logistical challenges, this was probably a great concert. I say that for two reasons. 1. Springsteen is known for his stubborn perfectionism which manifests itself with things like marathon sound checks, and attention to all the little details of a concert. 2. More importantly, it must have been, quite simply, a deeply meaningful experience for these East Berliners, still living under Communist rule, to have the opportunity to gather for a classic three hour Springsteen concert.

This song, of course, is Bruce's version of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom." I also found interesting the interview Bruce gives, which the video shows after this song. In the promo material for this show, and on the tickets, Bruce was ridiculously linked directly with American aid to Nicaragua.  Presumably the East German government was responsible.  Before this song, not included in this video, Bruce said this:

"I want to tell you I'm not here for or against any government.  I came to play rock 'n' roll for you East Berliners in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down."

About a year and a half later, the Wall came down.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Beeswax as Example of Form Suiting Purpose

In Caryll Houselander's thoughtful work on the Mother of God, The Reed of God, she makes the following argument, which besides its broader purpose, has the additional benefit of being a good case in itself for the use of pure beeswax altar candles.  Keep in mind that when she speaks of what the "Church insists," she has in mind the rubrics of the Church of her time and communion.  The overall thought, however, is great fodder for meditation on the genius of the churchly tradition of using beeswax in the service of the liturgy.

When human creatures make things, their instinct is to use not only the material that is most suitable from the point of view of utility but also the material most fitting to express the conception of the object they have in mind.

It is possible to make a candle with very little wax and a lot of fat, but a candle made from pure wax is more useful and more fitting; the Church insists that the candles on the Altar be made of pure wax, the wax of the soft, dark bees.  It is beautiful, natural material; it reminds us of the days of warm sun, the droning of the bees, the summer in flower.  The tender ivory colour has its own unique beauty and a kind of affinity with the whiteness of linen and of unleavened bread.  In every way it is fitting material to bear a light, and by light it is made yet more lovely.

You Are My Sunshine Medley

The Hail Mary in Luther's Prayer Book

I need to get this book (Luther's Works, AE 43) back to the Central Library today (and while I'm Downtown today I've got a couple of job interviews-ora pro me), but before I head out I thought I'd share a passage therefrom.  The topic is worthy of much discussion, but for now I will let Luther speak for himself.

Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him.  Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her.  Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat.

It is very much the same when I am moved by a view of the heavens, the sun, and all creation to exalt him who created everything, bringing all this into my prayer and praise, saying: O God, Author of such a beautiful and perfect creation, grant to me...Similarly, our prayer should include the Mother of God as we say: O God, what a noble person you have created in her!  May she be blessed!  And so on.  And you who honored her so highly, grant also to me...

Let not our hearts cleave to her, but through her penetrate to Christ and to God himself.  Thus what the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail, Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ.  Amen."

You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor.  Similarly there is no petition in the first words of the Lord's Prayer but rather praise and glorification that God is our Father and that he is in heaven.  Therefore we should make the Hail Mary neither a prayer nor an invocation because it is improper to interpret the words beyond the meaning given them by the Holy Spirit.

But there are two things we can do.  First, we can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her.  Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her...

In the first place, she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin-something exceedingly great.  For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.

In the second place, God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her.  Moreover, God guarded her and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her.

In the third place, she is blessed above all other women, not only because she gave birth without labor, pain, and injury to herself, not as Eve and all other women, but because by the Holy Spirit and without sin, she became fertile, conceived, and gave birth in a way granted to no other woman.

In the fourth place, her giving birth is blessed in that it was spared the curse upon all children of Eve who are conceived in sin and born to deserve death and damnation.  Only the fruit of her body is blessed, and through this birth we are all blessed.

Furthermore, a prayer or wish is to be added-our prayer for all who speak evil against this Fruit and the Mother.  But who is it that speaks evil of this Fruit and the Mother?  Any who persecute and speak evil against his work, the gospel, and the Christian faith...

Therefore, notice that this Mother and her Fruit are blessed in a twofold way-bodily and spiritually.  Bodily with lips and the words of the Hail Mary; such persons blaspheme and speak evil of her most dangerously.  And spiritually [one blesses her] in one's heart by praise and benediction for her child, Christ-for all his words, deeds, and sufferings.  And no one does this except he who has the true Christian faith because without such faith no heart is good but is by nature stuffed full of evil speech and blasphemy against God and all his saints.  For that reason he who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary and all other prayers because to such a person the words apply: Let his prayer be sin [Ps 109].

Riverwest 24 Hour Bike Race

Last week here in Riverwest we had our 24 hour bike race, RW24. Riverwest is a very diverse neighborhood which has an awesome sense of community and celebration. This race is just the latest manifestation of this spirit. It has become an annual event, and it's a lot of fun to watch and support, and to take part in the block parties that coincide with it.

Just between you and me, next year I want to enter the race. The only question is what I'm going to name my team...and whether I can get anyone to ride with me...and whether I'll have a bike.  But I'm determined to do it.  Maybe I can even use it as a fund raiser for Saint Stephen's.  My other hope is that the winner of next year's race will be some team that does not have Chicago in its name.  We love you, Chicago, but do you have to have your hand in everything?

Here is an article about the race, published in the Shepherd Express and written by Sarah Biondich.  As Sarah puts it, "The RW24, like many of Riverwest’s existing traditions, is really a manifestation of the neighborhood itself. Rather than the shaved legs, carbon-fiber bike frames and competitive pelotons of elite racing, think tattoos, handlebar mustaches and DIY bikes with fixed gears."

Here is a blog article you might find interesting, for both the commentary and the pictures.  I particularly like the little girl with the Pabst Blue Ribbon shirt.

In this video, you will also get a taste of how this race has quickly become part of the community.  The speaker, issuing the proclamation is our Alderman, Nik Kovac.

Many of the residents in the neighborhood stayed up all night, to watch the bikers, and take part in the celebration. My next door neighbors, for example, had a tent set up in front of their house, with several tiki torches, and a cooler full of beer. Here is a picture or two of them:

Heads up. There a bike coming.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Coffee & Worship at Grace WELS

This past Lord's Day, after Mass at Saint Stephen's, I mounted my brother's Huffy, and headed north, across the 6th Street Viaduct, and into the Downtown.  By the time I got to Juneau Town I was a bit huffy myself, so I decided to stop in at the coffeehouse at Grace, the Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church at the corner of Juneau & Broadway, right across from the old Blatz Brewery (which has been converted into luxury condos). Actually, when I got Downtown I realized that it was earlier in the day than I thought, since we didn't have Bible study this week.  So I decided that not only was I going to get something to drink in the Lutheran coffeehouse, but that I would also sit in on their late Mass, which was scheduled to begin about a half hour later.

The coffeehouse. 
First I must say that I have never gone into a "Christian" coffeehouse and come out feeling like I had a really satisfying, genuine coffeehouse experience.  Perhaps you, dear reader, were not familiar with the phenomenon of the Christianized coffeehouse.  Fort Wayne had a couple of them, at least when I lived there.  Grace's coffeehouse, Grace Place, is a modern looking facility, with a couple of friendly ladies behind the counter.  They made me an adequate cup of cafe mocha.  I sat down, relaxed, and read from one of the bibles that were stacked on a shelf.  And so there was nothing wrong with the experience, per se.  Yet, I ended up concluding that in certain ways it was not unlike those Evangelical coffeehouses I knew in Fort Wayne.  Something about them gives me the heebie-jeebies.  All things considered, I would rather be a Christian in a real coffeehouse than take the concept of the coffeehouse and "Christianize" it. 

Again, I will say that those who were there were competent, and friendly.  And I do not impugn the motives of those who decided to start this thing, and those who run it, for I cannot claim to know those motives.  I am merely sharing some general thoughts on the concept. 

On the one hand, one could say this operation is providing business for Stone Creek's coffee.  On the other hand, Grace Church is also, with this coffee shop, providing a nice little business for itself.  This leads to a broader question.  Ought the Church be about the business of being in business?  The answer, to be clear, is no; the Church is healthiest when it focuses on simply being the Church.  She serves her children and the world best when she makes sure that Christ her Lord is preached clearly and relentlessly, and when her sacramental life is strong and central.  I am not opposed to social activities and groups and programs and clubs rising up within a parish.  That is a natural outcome of a lively ecclesial community in the modern world.  What I question is when these things become official "ministries" and get organized from the top.  All of this is to say that we ought to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.  Then, all these other things will be added unto us.

The church.
Speaking of those fundamental things, like the Gospel and the sacraments, after I sat down in the church and the service got started, I was disappointed when I realized that it was not, in fact, a Mass at all.  It had many of the basic parts of one, but without the Eucharist.  This is not hugely surprising, in retrospect, but I was for some silly reason assuming when I entered and sat down, that I would get to see the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar.  So as I say, that was a bit disappointing.  Of course, many Missouri Synod churches are likewise negligent in celebrating the Eucharist on a weekly basis.  I wonder what Grace's eucharistic schedule is, since I haven't really seen any indication in the printed schedules, or the web site, unless it's published on the web site where I haven't yet seen it.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me say that when I walked into the church, I was greatly impressed by the beauty and upkeep of what is a classic Milwaukee church.  It is about the same age as my own church, Saint Stephen's.  The present structure of Saint Stephen's, if I recall, was built in 1901.  Grace, from what one woman told me, was built in 1900.  They are both very good examples of the type of beautiful gothic churches built by Lutherans in Milwaukee at the turn of the twentieth century.  Saint Stephen's presently suffers the effects of a deeply declined and depleted parish.  Grace, on the other hand, is a very lively parish, which is obviously able and willing to take good care of its physical space.  One of the features which I really like is the canopy above the altar, with detailed wood columns.  Large stained glass windows in the north and south transepts depict scenes from the life of Christ.  There are too many details to recount here, but suffice to say it is a spectacular interior, worthy of the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Upon entering the church, I was immediately greeted by three men.  I suppose they were the ushers or "greeters" or what have you.  They showed me where to find a worship bulletin, which comprised twelve pages stapled together, with three additional inserts.  I entered the nave, and took a moment to look around the church.  Then, I took a seat in the back pew.  After a few minutes I noticed that the last four or five pews are reserved for families with children, so I got up, and relocated to a spot a few pews up. 

At the start time, the younger of the two pastors, Pastor Daron Lindemann, comes to the front of the chancel, attired, curiously, in an alb and a stole.  On the one hand, if this were to be the Mass, it would have been appropriate for him to wear a chasuble over that alb (and now I wonder if they use chasubles when they do have the Mass).  On the other hand, as I say, after a while I caught on to the fact that this was not to be the Mass; therefore he ought to have worn a surplice instead of the alb.  I wonder if any such distinctions are observed at Grace.  If not, Grace is not alone (gratia sola non est?).  Too many Missouri Synod pastors are likewise infected with liturgical ineptitude to the point of not even knowing what to wear.  But I digress.  Pastor Lindemann stands there in front of the congregation, in what I must say is a weird stance for the chancel of the church, with his arms down at his side, giving an impromptu greeting and summary of the theme of the service.  Through the rest of the service he continued to use the same posture, whether walking from one point to another, or reading the lections, or whatever, with his hands down at his side.  I suppose he was told somewhere along the line that this would be a natural, or winsome, way in which to conduct himself in the church.  It's goofy, and should have been corrected in his first year of seminary.

The service then commences with a hymn, "With the Lord Begin Your Task," an eighteenth century hymn translated in the modern age by W. Gustave Polack.  My reaction to this hymn is twofold.  First, in general I think the Church could live without hymns that tell us what to do.  Hymns, at their best, should combine confessing the faith with prayer to Almighty God, rather than merely ordering us around.  After singing a hymn in which I tell myself to begin my task with the Lord, maybe I should go on to sing a hymn in which I tell myself to lift high the cross.  Second, it is unnecessary and less than ideal for the Church to sing hymns in which God is addressed by the pronoun "You."  Did the makers of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal do this to all of its hymns?  I could page through it to get that answer, but I'm not that interested.

After the hymn, Pastor Lindemann, who already greeted the people informally, now greets them liturgically.  Both this greeting, and the response of the people, are right out of the modern Roman Rite's Novus Ordo:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.
R. And also with you. 

At least the Novus Ordo directs the priest to say the Trinitarian Invocation before doing this greeting.

After an innovative confession of sins, there is the singing of a piece called "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good," followed by the prayer of the day.

Before reading the Old Testament, Pastor Lindemann gives a little summary of what he will read.  Not only is such a practice unnecessary, it is an unfitting, even distracting, intrusion into the liturgy of the Church.  He does the same with the Epistle and the Gospel.  Before the Epistle the congregation sings a Psalm of the Day, which is done in the modern, irritating style of singing a refrain after about every four or five verses. It was a setting composed by David Cherwien in 2005.  It's style is reminiscent of the Hymnal Supplement 98, which I endured at Kramer Chapel.  It is also reminiscent of many a modern Roman Catholic Mass I have witnessed, with the music leader trying to motion for everyone to join in the singing.

The sermon was preached by the older pastor, Pastor James Huebner.  He preached on the Lord's Prayer.  What I like about his preaching is that he has a rather lively manner.  It actually seemed that he was preaching to me, and cared about his message.  What I did not like was that it was mostly a sermon giving advice on how to pray better, but didn't really say anything about the death of Christ. 

After the sermon the congregation stood and confessed the Apostles' Creed.  I suppose one good thing about this not being the Mass was that I didn't have to suffer the Nicene Creed as it is printed in that hymnal, a version which constitutes, as far as I know, world Lutheranism's first feminist version of the Nicene Creed. 

Then, after an offering was taken (while "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was played on the piano), there was the Prayer of the Church, which was made up of the parts of the Our Father, interspersed with explanations of those parts.  After this prayer, the congregation sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

The service concluded with a concluding prayer, a final blessing, and a hymn, "Lord, Teach Us How to Pray Aright."  And just when I thought I got away from "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," it was played as the postlude.  Pastor Liundemann asked everyone to greet each other in the pew after the final hymn.  I love meeting people, and so forth, but I wanted no part of fraternizing in the holy space of the church, so after the hymn, I slipped out of there.  I retrieved my bike, and headed home.

It was an interesting experience, much that was good, and much which I hope that neither I nor anyone else will have to experience again.  Over all, Grace does a magnificent job of marketing what they sell.  (Already today, for example, I got a post card from them in the mail.)  I'm simply less than content, as a traditionalist Lutheran, with what they are selling.

Street Festivals in Milwaukee

Summer in Milwaukee is famously a time for the great festivals, especially Summerfest, the world's largest music festival, and the other festivals which take place at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park, or what we normally just call the Summerfest Grounds.  These include big festivals like German Fest ("Milwaukee's Original Haus Party"), the largest German festival outside of Germany; Polish Fest, the largest Polish festival in the U.S., maybe North America; Irish Fest, the largest Irish themed festival in the world, and the largest of the ethnic festivals in Milwaukee; Festa Italiana (which we usually just call Festa), the largest Italian festival in North America, the highlight of which is the Italian fireworks; Indian Summer Festival, the highlight of which is the Pow Wow; and of course Mexican Fiesta.  There are also festivals which are not quite as big, but just as interesting and enjoyable, such as Arab World Festival, and African World Festival.  (African World Festival, incidentally, made its comeback this year, after being down for the past two years.)  Besides these, of course there is the State Fair, which, for those not intimately familiar with Milwaukee, takes place not at the Lakefront, but at its own home in West Allis, State Fair Park.

These are great festivals, which are iconic of good times in Milwaukee.  And I have enjoyed all of them over the years.  The problem is that the cost of these events, just the entrance fee alone, becomes too much of an expense, at least for me, especially with our present economic realities.  The good news, however, is that those are not the only festivals in Milwaukee.  For example, there are some fantastic street festivals.  Some of these, in fact, are among my favorite annual events in the city. 

Allow me to share a bit of my experience this year with three of Milwaukee's choicest street festivals.  First, there is the Locust Street Festival.  This year, Ruth and I enjoyed it with our friends Mike and Amy (with their baby daughter Jillian), who were in town that week for the annual Retreat of the Society of Saint Polycarp.  The Locust Street Festival takes place just two and a half block south of our apartment, right in the middle of Riverwest, one of the greatest neighborhoods in the world, by the way.  So we walked over to the action.  There was an abundance of music, all sorts of vendors, and all manner of people.  Oh, and there was also a wonderful plenitude of dogs, dogs of many breeds, all of which were very happy to be greeted and shown affection.  We even saw a priestess, dressed in her clerical collar, selling smoothies.  If there's one place in the world where a priestess is at home, it is at the Locust Street Festival. 

Then there is, of course, Bastille Days, probably my all around favorite.  Bastille Days is the largest French themed festival in North America, and it fills up not only Cathedral Square Downtown, but surrounding streets as well.  Obviously, one could find tasty crepes and any number of vendors offering items related to French culture.  Yet there are so many other things to see and experience as well.  There is good music throughout the festival.  I particularly enjoyed one band's very jazzy version of "Saint James Infirmary."  There's the dog show, and the waiter competition, and the food demonstrations, and the street art.  At the Milwaukee French Immersion School booth I had the chance to meet the new superintendent of MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools).  I shared with him that I have been thinking of looking into teaching, and he encouraged me because, even though MPS is making cuts this year, they are looking for teachers in certain areas.  More on that some other time.  I also had the opportunity to get my fortune read, but I passed on that.

Another great street festival, which I always enjoy, is the Brady Street Festival. More than all the others, at the Brady Street Festival I always tend to bump into friends. It's like a normal day on Brady Street, except magnified by a thousand. There are things you'd expect on Brady Street, like the fashion show, the music, the good food, and the vendors, and then are are some things you might not expect, like the camel ride, the rock climbing, and the BMX stunt team show. Indeed, I cannot tell a lie. Brady Street Festival also features the famous drag show. In some parts of the country people go to drag races. On the East Side of Milwaukee we have drag shows. It just goes to show that a traditionalist Lutheran is capable of enjoying a great festival while not necessarily endorsing every aspect thereof. The festival also features an excellent cheese tasting tent. This year I hit the festival a couple times, once with my friend and fellow Polycarpian Mike. I remembered to bring my camera with me this year to the Brady Street Festival, so let me now share with you a few pictures, some capturing festival scenes, and some just showing certain characteristic Brady Street scenes.

This is Yellow Jacket, a vintage clothing shop.

This is the front window of Eco Pet.
A very theologically astute window at Saints and Sinners Tattoo Company
Dogs can party too.
Boutique Vieux et Nouveau, a women's fashion clothing shop.
Another happy partier.
Brewed Cafe.  A great coffeehouse for reading, socializing, or enjoying all the art on the walls.
Hosed on Brady, a fire house themed bar, located right next to Milwaukee Fire Station Engine 6.
Okay, so it's not a real rock.  But it was still fun to watch.
Dragonfly is another vintage shop.
Saint Hedwig, one of Milwaukee's great examples of ecclesiastical architecture, had three weddings in a row that day.
I seized a moment between weddings to take a picture or two inside Saint Hedwig.  This is a shot of the sedelia.
This musician was happy to have his picture taken.  The guy in the cowboy hat next to him is my friend Todd.  He and I used to work together at Downtown Books.
The Up and Under, one of the great bars of the East Side.
The front window at Brewed Cafe.
The Dragonfly is on the first floor of this building.  Note the creature perched at the top of the building.
The front doors of Saint Hedwig.
Brickwork above the portal.
good music.
more good music.
Art for festival's sake.
This dancing chicken had some really good moves.
Finally, just to show that I'm not the only guy in the modern world in a beret, this man was also very willing to have his picture taken.  He is one of the cheese vendors, hawking his fine cheeses. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Navigating Brew City on a Bicycle

This week I am using a bicycle, on loan from my brother.  I have not owned, or probably used, a bike for a number of years, and I am woefully out of shape.  So I don't look like Lance Armstrong out there (it is not uncommon for bicyclers to pass me by on the street, especially when I'm on a block that goes uphill), but I am really enjoying it.  It is a great way to get around the city.  And of course there is the matter of the bus fare I save, hardly an inconsequential factor for me these days.  I've got to get one of these things.  It won't help much in a snowstorm, of course, or for that matter in a hundred year rainstorm like we had a week or so ago, but I think I wouldn't mind getting around the city on bike for much of the year.

On Sunday I rode the bicycle to Saint Stephen's (my wife is visiting family for a few days).  I was hardly the only one bicycling Downtown and on the East Side on a Sunday morning, but what is unusual is to see a guy riding a Huffy Magellan wearing black slacks, black long sleeve clerical shirt, a round clerical collar, and a beret.  It took me a little over a half hour to get from my place in Riverwest to the church down in Walker's Point.  By the time I got to Third Ward I was very thirsty, and so I stopped at the Alterra in Walker's Point, bought a bottle of water, smelled the coffee, smelled the brownies, and then left.  By the time I got to the church I had more perspiration than is becoming for a deacon.  It didn't bother anyone, though, since unfortunately attendance was so low. 

As I was biking back home after Mass, I decided to take a break when I got to the East Town area, and get a coffee at the coffeehouse at the WELS church across from the old Blatz Brewery, Grace Church.  Yes, there is a WELS church with a coffeehouse.  But my experience at Grace deserves its own blog post. 

Since then I've been using the bike both when I need to get from place to place, and for leisure.  Last night, for example, I rode to the UWM campus, and then to the Lakefront.  Thanks, Daut.  I could get used to this.

The Prepositional Art

Language is higher than a science; it is an art.  By this I do not mean that it has no rules.  In fact, I mean that we must master these rules, rather than letting ourselves be mastered by mere rules. 

You have, for example, no doubt heard that it was said by them of old time, Never end a sentence with a preposition.  But I tell you that such a rule is silly if followed absolutely. 

I find helpful in this regard the Chicago Manual of Style, the 15th edition of which has the following on page 188:

The traditional caveat of yesteryear against ending sentences with prepositions is, for most writers, an unnecessary and pedantic restriction.  As Winston Churchill famously said, "That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put."  A sentence that ends in a preposition may sound more natural than a sentence carefully constructed to avoid a final preposition...The "rule" prohibiting terminal prepositions was an ill-founded superstition.

Consider also this word from the inimitable work of Strunk and White, page 112:

The question of ear is vital.  Only the writer whose ear is reliable is in a position to use bad grammar deliberately; this writer knows for sure when a colloquialism is better than formal phrasing and is able to sustain the work at a level of good taste.  So cock your ear.  Years ago, students were warned not to end a sentence with a preposition; time, of course, has softened that rigid decree.  Not only is the preposition acceptable at the end, sometimes it is more effective in that spot than anywhere else.  "A claw hammer, not an ax, was the tool he murdered her with."  This is preferable to "A claw hammer, not an ax, was the tool with which he murdered her."  Why?  Because it sounds more violent, more like murder.  A matter of ear.

Now, to be sure, let me say that I am not as loose with this rule as one might be tempted to conclude from my comments thus far.  I do think it should be kept to a greater extent than it is generally today.  The difference, again, is that between abandoning the rule, on the one hand, which I do not condone, and learning to rise above it and master it, on the other. 

Also, let me add that some of these books, such as the Chicago Manual, or Strunk & White, to illustrate when it would be preferable to ignore this rule, give specific examples with which I personally might not agree.  There is a degree of subjectivity involved here.

Now lest anyone conclude that what I advocate is the devolution of the language, it is worth pointing out that the rule of not ending a sentence with a preposition does not come to us from the classic age of the English language, but was part of the well intentioned and mostly brilliant enterprise of teaching that language later.  The King James Version of the Bible does not know this rule.  It violates it left and right.  Take, for example, this sentence from the fourth chapter of the Book of Judith:

Thus every man and women, and the little children, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, fell before the temple, and cast ashes upon their heads, and spread out their sackcloth before the face of the Lord: also they put sackcloth about the altar, and cried to the God of Israel all with one consent earnestly, that he would not give their children for a prey, and their wives for a spoil, and the cities of their inheritance to destruction, and the sanctuary to profanation and reproach, and for the nations to rejoice at.

Or this from Genesis, chapter 16:

And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

Or this from John 4:

But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

Nor does Shakespeare keep this rule, as we see, for example, when Queen Gertrude says in Hamlet:

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off.

Or, indeed, later, when Hamlet economically says:

Go on.

Of course, the list of examples could be multiplied.  But you get the point.  Finally, I am reminded of something Christopher Hitchens wrote in an essay against the decision of the Oakland School Board to treat "Ebonics" as an official "genetically based" dialect.  In the midst of a broader argument, in which he explains that those born in the British Isles tend to have very distinct local dialects, he pokes fun at the wooden nature to which the language can succumb when such rules are kept too religiously:

Margaret Thatcher had to take several courses in elocution to rid herself of bumpkin and awkward tones and to become the queenly figure that I left England to get away from. (To get away from whom, I mean to say, I left England.) (Unacknowledged Legislation, 232, in the article "Hooked on Ebonics")

Monday, August 2, 2010

Trying AdSense

In my attempt to look for inventive ways to add new sources of income, I have begun using AdSense on this blog, an advertising concept which contextualizes ads to the nature of each blog.  The problem is that though the ads might be Milwaukee related, or religion related, quite often they promote things for which I have no sympathy whatever, and in fact would ordinarily be inclined to use my own blog space to protest.  Therefore, this experiment might not endure for very much longer.  Just thought I'd let you know what's up with these strange ads here.