Quick Hits: Seven Gifts, female spirituality, Escape from Nihilism, Thomistic Evolution
- Catholic pianist-composer Mark Christopher Brandt has now released the second in a series of four fully improvised piano recordings. Seven Gifts (available as a CD or DVD) is based on the same concept as the first installment, Seven Moons, so you can visit my review of the earlier album for a lengthier explanation of the project—but rest assured, the musical content is all new. The eight pieces, seven named after the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and a closing piece titled "Come Creator Spirit," were all created on the spot in the studio, with no editing afterward. (If you will, pause for a moment to imagine how much courage that takes. It's why nobody does it.) The DVD version gives an inside look at the process as it went down in the moment. Full disclosure: Mark is a personal friend. With that propriety out of the way, the music on this album is terribly exciting and absolutely worth your time and money. In addition to that, both the CD and the DVD include a beautiful essay by Mark on art, music and Christian spirituality. My bet is it's the best thing you'll ever read on the subject from a contemporary musician.
- We live in a society where female sexuality—and therefore female spirituality—and therefore male sexuality and spirituality as well—is twisted, abused and finally repressed. Last year, blogger Elizabeth Duffy offered a beautiful and courageous reflection on the connection between the two in "The Most Intimate Encounter: Called to Consummation." She looks at it from every angle: relationship to Christ, spiritual maternity, and marital intimacy, drawing from her own experience, the struggles of a few great female saints, and the example of the Blessed Mother. The article is actually inspiring for men as well because, as the great mystics of the Church tell us, all souls are feminine in relation to Christ. Or if that is too hard for some to swallow, it is nevertheless simply the case that we are all called to intimacy and communion, and we all need to face our own sexuality without fear in order to become the men and women God calls us to be.
- The great Catholic natural law philosopher J. Budziszewski was once a nihilist:
Visualize a man opening up the access panels of his mind and pulling out all the components that have God's image stamped on them. The problem is that they all have God's image stamped on them, so the man can never stop. No matter how much he pulls out, there's still more to pull. I was that man. Because I pulled out more and more, there was less and less that I could think about. But because there was less and less that I could think about, I thought I was becoming more and more focussed. Because I believed things that filled me with dread, I thought I was smarter and braver than the people who didn't believe them. I thought I saw an emptiness at the heart of the universe that was hidden from their foolish eyes. Of course I was the fool.
J-Bud's specialty as a writer is surely exposing human self-deception, the way people pretend not to know what they inescapably know. He can do this because he practiced the art of self-deception professionally and taught it to young people once upon a time. And yet somehow, by the grace of God, he escaped.
- There's still plenty to be said in the conversation between faith and science, and about the conversation itself, particularly when it comes to evolution (see my review of a recent book on the topic). For instance, a crack team of Dominican friars and scholars is newly assembled to elucidate what the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas can contribute to the topic of Catholicism and evolution. They are looking to surprise you with the "novelty and brilliance" of what Aquinas has to offer here, arguing that his thought relating to this subject is little understood, but that it has the potential to resolve and transcend many of the dichotomies often posed, such as chance vs. design. Their website already boasts a thirty-article series on "Disputed Questions in Evolutionary Creation."
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