Periodically, however, someone will suggest that the Church’s teaching on usury needs to be revitalized. Recently following a link from Darwin’s wife led me to the blog Siris, whose author Brandon has written a number of posts on the subject. Brandon differs from a lot of internet anti-usury warriors I have encountered in the past in that he actually seems to know something about the Church’s teaching on the matter (as opposed to trying to reconstruct a theory of usury from scratch, or simply relying on Belloc’s erroneous treatment of the subject). Brandon’s 2009 post on the legitimate grounds for charging interest (what are called “extrinsic titles” to interest) is quite good as a primer, and my only real objection with Brandon’s treatment is that he doesn’t seem to realize some of the implications of what he writes.Blackadder writes about usury at The American Catholic. And part of the fun is seeing Blackadder and Brandon, who (aside from Darwin) are my favorite guys on the internet, engaging in discussion.
2. Speaking of favorites coming together, Bearing reviews a new booklet: St. Benedict for Busy Families. I've always loved the Rule of St. Benedict (if not its modern reformulations by promoters of maternal organization), and Father Dwight Longenecker seems just the right man to apply Benedictine principles of an ordered life to the messy business of family.
Fr. Longenecker encourages us to be centered not on the bells but on the principles of Benedictine spirituality. Those principles are embodied in what Fr. Longenecker calls the "two holy trinities:"
- The Benedictine monastic vows:
- conversion of life
- The daily pursuits of individuals living in a Benedictine community:
(Note that popular culture generally associates monastic vows or even, confusing it further, priest's vows, as being "poverty, chastity, and obedience." That's the Franciscans, not the Benedictines; although it turns out that Benedictines are supposed to embrace chastity just like any Christian, and own nothing or very little as a consequence of obedience to their Rule, Benedictines do not vow poverty and chastity).
Fr. Longenecker considers each of these six principles and, without going out of his way to show us exactly how to apply them to the vocation of family life, explains their purpose, and tries to show where joy can be found in them.
3. Pentimento, with her characteristic excellence, meditates on "real men":
Many of the men in this subculture were what I can only call essentially wounded in their masculinity. It was as if their self-identification as men had been haphazardly constructed out of subersive images of masculinity refracted to them from the culture; as if, finding certain norms of masculinity repellent (not without reason, it must be said), and not having had male role models to demonstrate for them any ontological qualities of manhood, these young men had skirted around the edges of male behavior, and had finished by taking affect for essence. Their own masculinity seemed to have been forged in opposition and negation, cobbled together out of strong, oppositional attitudes to what repelled them culturally, rather than out of any positive attitudes, such as the wish to take on essential male roles -- engaging, for instance, in meaningful ways in the existential struggle to fight real enemies, and providing for and protecting the vulnerable, including women and children. In addition, some of these men seemed to have self-consciously adopted certain styles, tastes, hobbies, and mannerisms associated with other times and places than twenty-first-century New York, identifying themselves more with, say, Europe before World War I, or fin-de-siècle Paris, or the New York of the Gilded Age. One man from this set whom I dated asked me seriously once whether I considered myself American (he didn’t, in spite of the fact that, like me, he was).Pentimento and I have moved in different Catholic sets, and so the young Catholic men that I know, starting with my brothers, are generally mature and grounded -- perhaps because of their strong family structures and serious paternal role models. But I'm fascinated by this glimpse into a subculture of enthusiasms and imagery and the desire to re-invent oneself through a picturesque if not fully comprehended past culture.
Speaking of past elegance and modern reinventions: The WSJ profiles the restoration of the elegant Midland Hotel, now styled the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, in the heart of London.
Londoners have always loved this gothic monster, despite the casual treatment it received from its reluctant owners, and they liked buying their rail tickets in the paneled booking hall at St.Pancras. They appreciated the soaring towers, pointed arches, the polychromy of brick and stone decoration and the carvings of birds and beasts. Where else would you possibly choose to have as a background for boarding the Hogwarts Express (from platform 9¾), as the young magicians do in the "Harry Potter" series?5. Speaking of Harry Potter and the WSJ, today's review of Harry Potter leads me to stifle a sob that my live-in babysitter left yesterday:
Today guests arrive in a new reception lobby that occupies the space where the taxis used to drop off their passengers for the train station. Echoing the station roof (at the time of its construction it was the largest single unsupported span in the world), sky-blue steel beams carry a glass roof that lights the new, large lobby. The hotel may be furnished with contemporary cream leather furniture and coolly elegant flower arrangements, but you can still sense the power of the past. The quality of now-pristine original architecture is immediately striking. You sense exactly how Scott imagined the 19th-century public realm. His station hotel is as grand and as Gothic as the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
The original wood-paneled booking office, which always occupied part of the ground floor of the hotel building, is now a stylish bar, its gothic windows overlooking the station concourse. GA Design, the interior designers, has struck a balance between the demands of international corporate hotel design and the reinvigoration of the past. It is when you reach the grandest of grand staircases that Scott's vision is at its most complete. A wrought-iron balustrade guides you up three flights beneath the ribbed gothic vaults where every surface is painted with heraldic devices, a star-studded firmament and red walls decorated with hundreds of hand-painted fleurs-de-lys. This is undoubtedly Scott's masterpiece, and a significant example of Victorian Gothic revival architecture.
In the revival of the building's fortunes, original carpets have been copied and deliberately faded. Murals have been carefully restored and light fittings copied. Restoration accuracy has made the original building live again, but perhaps the most difficult element has been to make a modern luxury hotel work perfectly in the old building and to unify it to the new wing. Rooms and suites have high ceilings, new bathrooms and contemporary furnishings. The Gothic corridors were originally designed to be wide enough for two Victorian ladies to promenade in their crinolines, and today their width seems wonderfully generous.
So many good films come to bad ends, but not the tales of Harry Potter. The final episode of Harry's epic journey, part 2 of "The Deathly Hallows," is the best possible end for the series that began a decade ago. In contrast to part 1, which was a ponderous exercise in stage-setting and dramatic incipience, this film, directed by David Yates and adapted by Steve Kloves, is a climax worthy of the term. It's a dark and thunderous pageant that sets its bespectacled hero in the midst of vast forces, yet never loses track of who he is—a brave boy, to borrow both parts of Dumbledore's fond phrase, on the way to becoming a wonderful man. (Daniel Radcliffe, in his turn, has grown from likeably bland at the outset to impressively—and still likeably—confident.)6. Speaking of Daniel Radcliffe, do you know he's starring in the revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Even Trying?
Daniel Radcliffe busting a move to The Brotherhood of Man confirms the review I read a while ago that pegged him as a surprisingly nifty dancer. For my money, you don't get much better than guys in three-piece suits performing zany choreography.
7. Speaking of singing, go and listen to my sister Anna Egan's lovely operatic chops.