Fleeting & endured

There is always a possibility that the sky is not falling. That is among the reasons we pray. Not that the Lord will prevent the sky from falling; for it might be part of His overall plan. Rather that we may remain in a state of grace, if the sky is falling; or in the equally testing event that it is not falling, today.

Much, I suspect, of my own anxiety at present is caused by insufficient attention to Church history. “Traditionalists” (i.e. the Catholic faithful), already set on edge by an unending stream of (often crass) verbal abuse from our supreme pontiff, mixed with occasional flattery for heretics, imagine that in such circumstances the end must be near. We hear our worst enemies cheering him on. The cover of the current Spectator magazine, showing the pope riding a huge wrecking ball (here), expresses a sentiment shared among, for instance, many of my own gentle readers. And, too, people like me.

But “traditionalists” should be the first to realize that bad things happen, and have often happened, within or to the Church. And they continue to happen, one darn thing following another, until, as I was trying yesterday to suggest, the wreckers finally demolish themselves. “Be patient, fast and pray,” is the wisdom of ages. (I am still trying to acquire it.)

“Creative destruction” is what the liberals often think they are doing. (“Making a lio” is apparently the Argentine expression.) As they do not, and ultimately, cannot build anything to replace what they are wrecking, or rather, anything of durable worth or value, the adjective is just a lie. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”

Moreover, in this case, the liberals have a more formidable than their usual opponents. For as we have seen, through the centuries, that Church, when wrecked, has an uncanny ability to reassemble herself. (It was among the endowments of her Founder.) Sometimes I can understand their frustration, trying to kill something they hate, that just won’t die.

In my walks around the Greater Parkdale Area, which have taken place over a few decades now, I notice the fate of buildings. Beautiful old buildings, or at least quaint, which had become beloved landmarks within each neighbourhood of the city, are replaced by “functional.” For some mysterious reason, in a row of twenty mediocre buildings, but one quietly outstanding, the developers will target that one first.

Their pleasure is fleeting; our sadness is endured.

Half a century of observation tells me this is not the sad coincidence that may at first seem. Rather, to the mind that is ugly, the outstanding building is an affront. Consciously, or perhaps unconsciously, it is singled out for the new McDonalds. Or the finest sprawling sandstone mansion is selected, for the site of a dreary new apartment block, or other rental building.

But live long enough, and one will watch these, too, come down, as the functions quickly change. I think of a certain “professional building” I had often the misfortune to walk by, still taking it for “new” after thirty years. Imagine my delight, the other day, to find it is now an asphalt parking lot. A rare case of architectural improvement.

I allude, by analogy, to the fate of the viciously ugly ICEL liturgies, from the cultural nadir of our Church, themselves now replaced in the “reform of the reform” by new “functional” texts, under what is arguably a slightly improved building code. One turns from an opponent, to a fan of demolition.

At Bathurst Station, on the Bloor subway line, an experiment was made. The place was attracting too many loiterers of the low life, and their drug dealers. So the transit management, having read the professional literature of crowd control, piped in classical music — mostly Bach and Mozart chestnuts — and this quickly drove all the reprobates away. Then they switched to excruciating squealing sounds, to drive out the pigeons. (And the reprobates returned.)

Here I am reaching for the old Latin maxim that, de gustibus non est disputandum. There is a vague schoolboy notion that it came from Horace, but had it, he would have been droll. It may have been meant as droll from the beginning, for even the pagan Romans knew that beauty is not, really, in the eye of the beholder. Like the sacred, it is carried by divine commandment, heard or unheard, seen or unseen, heard seen and loved, or heard seen and hated.

Beauty itself can repel the evil, as it attracts the good. And it is vice versa with the ugly, don’t you know.

“Unless the Lord build the house,” it is going to be ugly. But in that we repose an occasion for mild hope. For it is not going to last long, either.