Thursday 20 June 2013

Reinventing Jesus

Striking poses in a church is not Superman's usual schtick, but here he is in his own comic (4 June 2004) startling a priest by turning up for... a sort of confession. He is still wearing the classic costume, which was later redesigned for the "New 52" and the spectacular MAN OF STEEL, recently released. But why is it that Hollywood – and DC itself – keeps going back to the origins of Superman and reinventing him every few years? There is something archetypal here. Superman was the invention of two New York Jews. An answer to Nietzsche, some say; or an answer to the refugee's experience of being an outsider in American society. The new movie makes much of Superman as a "saviour" for mankind, sent by his father to "save them all."

Superman is the most consistently "moral" hero in the DC universe. The contrast with Batman is often made. The Man of Steel never lies, never kills the innocent – nor even the guilty, except super-villains in the defence of Earth. He is not a vigilante, or a soldier; more a policeman. He is always willing to sacrifice himself for others. He is just as heroic when stripped of his superpowers, as happens from time to time. In the comic series he has died and been reborn (it's complicated). In this frame the words in the little yellow boxes read "Superman – save me." Superman is rushing across the universe to answer a plea for help that turns out to come from another DC hero, Green Lantern. The director of the

Saturday 8 June 2013

Teaching the language of faith: 2

So what is mystagogy? (For much more on this see All Things Made New.) In mystagogy we are trying to understand and interpret the meaning of the Bible and Liturgy, the Sacraments and the world itself in the light of Revelation. It therefore affects the way we regard even the “secular” subjects of the school curriculum.

This approach corresponds in the field of biblical exegesis to the doctrine of the “four senses of Scripture” (Catechism 115-118). There it means in order to attain a broader understanding of Scripture, we need to look not only for historical (literal) and doctrinal (allegorical) meanings, but also for moral (tropological) and mystical (anagogical) meanings. According to a medieval rule: “The letter teaches what took place, the allegory what to believe, the moral what to do, the anagogy what goal to strive for.”

That was the understanding of the early monks and desert hermits. St John Cassian (d. 435) writes of the four meanings as follows: “History embraces the knowledge of things which are past and which are perceptible…. What follows is allegorical, because the things which actually happened are said to have prefigured another mystery…. Anagoge climbs up from spiritual

Friday 7 June 2013

Teaching the language of faith: 1

When our Catholic schools try to teach religion, and specifically the Catholic faith, they face a problem that is not often recognized. The material based on the Catechism is perfectly fine as far as it goes, and the Compendium of the Catechism and YouCat are of course readily available for use in schools. But there is a serious disconnection between these excellent summaries of doctrine, the teaching and use of Scripture in R.E., the school’s Catholic liturgy, and the curriculum in general.

The secular parts of the curriculum are generally regarded as separate from the more recognizably religious elements. Indeed how could geography or history or mathematics be taught in a way that "connects" with R.E. except by turning these subjects into an excuse for religious propaganda? (The

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Three books to read

To readers who have enjoyed or been intrigued by Beauty for Truth's Sake, I recommend three books in particular – out of all those you'll find in the Bibliography – for detailed study. (1) James S. Taylor, Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education (SUNY). See also this review and this interview with Taylor. (2) Louis Dupre, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (Yale). Explains better than almost any other book the deep origins of modernity. (3) Vance G. Morgan, Weaving the World: Simone Weil on Science, Mathematics, and Love (Notre Dame).