Cahiers Péguy


In Conversation with Reality

Posted by Fred

Suzanne Vega: People and Places

Close Up: Volume 2: People and Places Suzanne Vega, 2010 Amanuensis Productions/ Razor & Tie, 48:06 minutes

In her Close Up series, Suzanne Vega is releasing new acoustic recordings of songs from the span of her career. The latest, People and Places, follows the first volume: Love Songs. States of Being and Songs of Family are upcoming. People and Places includes “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka” among others. “The Queen and the Soldier” shows how violence comes from denying need. “Angel’s Doorway” recounts the burden of a policemen stationed at the site of the World Trade Center, who protects his wife by leaving his clothes at the door with “those things he’s seen.” Although Vega is often interested in marginal perspectives, she doesn’t comfort herself with ideological self justification or accusations. Instead, she sees interested in the meaning of things.

Suzanne Vega conveys the moment as the sign of something greater, inviting the listener to discover the beauty and promise of fleeting time. “Ironbound/Fancy Poultry” tells the story of a woman who longs for something more as she looks at a ring that’s out of her budget. A vendor’s cry is the refrain:

"Fancy poultry parts sold here.
Breasts and thighs and hearts.
Backs are cheap and wings are nearly free"
For Vega, the banal hawking of meat may well express the cry of the human heart. Or a boy ringing a church bell could remind you of loss, as it does in the song “In Liverpool.”

“He sounds like he's missing something
Or someone that he knows he can't
Have now and if he isn't
I certainly am
Homesick for a clock
That told the same time

Suzanne Vega challenges us to discover signs in the moment, signs that may indicate an absence, or if pursued all the way to its origin, may reveal an even greater presence awaiting us.

reprinted from Traces 1, 2011

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Religious Sense Seminar at Benedictine College

Posted by Fred

Every other Wednesday night at Benedictine College, a group of students and adults gets together in a classroom for a seminar on the book, The Religious Sense, by Msgr. Luigi Giussani. The presentations are a remarkable confrontation between Giussani's book and the personal experience of the presenters and participants. Experience, here, means the testing and learning of life and not, as some would suppose, the restless accumulation of random sensations. This is not an official class, for credit or otherwise. Although some took notes, nobody asked if particular points would be on the test - because we all know that the test is next day: how do we face the statistics class at 8:00 am, or a day of tweaking reports for management.

Last Wednesday, the speaker was David Jones, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. In addition to his military background, David also studied theology at the University of Dallas. In his own way, David brings together the intelligent seriousness of Fr. Giussani with the down to earth ‘situational awareness’ of an "Army of One.”  United States. The seminar opened with the singing of “New Creation” (And so George Washington I found the liberty that Abraham Lincoln could not have given me.), which David reminded us was originally sung at the presentation of The Religious Sense about 8 years ago at Benedictine College. He also noted that he had recently seen a group of students from Benedictine College at the head of the March for Life this past January.

The presentation focused on Giussani’s article, “Religious Awareness in Modern Man,” one of the first writings of Giussani’s to reach a

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The House of Combernon throughout The New York Encounter

Posted by Fred

Mass with Bishop Chomali. New York Encounter

Mass with Bishop Chomali and the Gospel Lites

"The set was simple: the facade of the house of Combernon in France: a couple of doors for entrances and exits, and some shovels and picks lined up in front — ready for manual labor. Not only drama, but also talks, discussions, and music unfolded against this silent presence, this house, which served as a visual theme uniting many diverse expressions of humanity."

Read the rest at A French House in New York City

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Letter to the Christians of the West: Josef Zvěřina, 1971

Posted by Fred


You have the presumption of being useful to the Kingdom of God assuming as far as possible the saeculum, its life, its words, its slogans, its way of thinking. But reflect, I beg you, what it means to accept this world. Perhaps it means that you have gradually lost yourselves in it? Sadly, it seems you are doing just that. It [is] difficult these days to find you and recognize you in this strange world of yours. Probably we still recognize you because in this process you are taking your time, because you are being assimilated by the world, whether quickly or slowly, but late all the same. We thank you for many things, or rather for almost everything, but we must distinguish ourselves from you in one thing. We have much to admire in you, so we can and must send you this warning.

"Do not conform to this world, but transform yourselves by the renewal of your minds, so that you will be able to recognize the will of God, what is good, what is pleasing to him, what is perfect" (Rom. 12:2). Do not conform! Me syschematizesthe! How well this expression reveals the perennial root of the verb: schema. In a nutshell, all schemas, all exterior models are empty. We have to want more, the apostle makes it our duty, "change your way of thinking, reshape your minds" metamorfoùsthe tè anakainósei toù noós. Paul's Greek is so expressive and concrete! He opposes schèma or morphé – permanent form, to metamorphé – change in the creature. One is not to change according to any model that in any case is always out of fashion, but it is a total newness with all its wealth (anakainósei). [It's] not the vocabulary that changes but the meaning (noùs).

So not contestation, desacralization, secularization, because this is so little compared with Christian anakainósis. Reflect on these words and your naïve admiration for revolution, Maoism, and violence (of which, in any case you are incapable) will abandon you.

Your critical and prophetic enthusiasm has already borne fruit, and we cannot indiscriminately condemn you for this. We simply realize, and tell you sincerely, that we have more esteem for St. Paul's calm and discriminating invitation, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor. 13:5).

We cannot imitate the world precisely because we have to judge it, not with pride and superiority, but with love, just as the Father loved the world (Jn. 3:16) and for this reason pronounced judgment on it.

Do not phroneîn – think, and in conclusion hyperphroneîn- but sophroneîn, think with wisdom (Cf. Rom. 12:13). Be wise, so that we can discern the signs of the will and the time of God. Not the fashion of the moment, but what is good, honest, and perfect.

We write as unwise to you who are wise, as weak men to you who are strong, as wretched men to you who are even more wretched! And this is stupid of us because there are certainly among you some excellent men and women. But precisely for this reason we need to write foolishly, as the Apostle Paul taught us when he took repeated Christ's words that the Father has hidden wisdom from those who know a lot about these things (Lk. 10:21).

This translation of Fr. Zvěřina's letter is taken from pages 110-112 of the book Generating Traces in the History of the World: New Traces of the Christian Experience, by Luigi Giussani, Stefano Alberto, Javier Prades.

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A Liberated Liberal Arts

Posted by Fred

(with apologies to Peter Maurin)

I'm for the liberated liberal arts not the monetized
and politicized liberal arts,
the virginal liberal arts, not the pandering liberal arts.
The humanities after all, belong to the humans and the humane.
Why should the university be the gatekeeper of the human?

In the university, students do not learn to connect
the particular to the whole, but instead
to regard each subject as the master of all the others
during class... and as an abstraction immediately afterward.

A bachelor of arts is a certified human;
a master of arts is a certified teacher;
a doctor of arts is a certified teacher of teachers;
but certification is not essential to the human.

What’s essential to the human person is
connection to the whole, establishing ties,
that is, religion.
Without religion, says Peter Maurin,
so-called education is:
“plenty of facts
but no understanding.”

Without religion,
universities are no longer the wardens of merit, but
the gatekeepers of mammon and power.
In their book Trust Agents, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith advocate
gatejumping for the sake of the human.
A gatejumper builds credibility
man to man — without the approval of gatekeepers.
Gatejumpers are not automatically worthy of trust
but at least they don’t rely on credentials
purchased with borrowed funds.

Is it just for students to complain
that the liberal arts are too pricey when they borrow
with the expectation of earning many times the amount?
Is it just for the university to train adjunct professors at costs
beyond what can be recovered?

If you want to be human,
learn the liberal arts at personal cost.
Read The Quiet Light as background to The
Divine Comedy
. Read Christopher Dawson
for a non-sanitized history. Fr. Giussani gave books
to his friend, Enzo Piccinini.
These books became Books of the Christian Spirit.
And Spirito Gentil is a classical music series
with notes from Fr. Giussani.

So on vacation, on lunch break, in the evenings,
and weekends, get together with friends to
learn appreciation for music and drama;
learn politics and philosophy and economics and
the sciences.
For Christ’s sake,
for humanity’s sake,
for yourself and your children,
and their children.

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