If you don’t know your catechism… don’t know your Homer… your Dante… well….

Today is one of those days when there are several good reads on the interwebs.  I can recommend two more from Crisis both from today.

First, there is an important piece from Aaron Seng, “The Catechism Crisis”.  He is the head of the initiative Tradivox, which is collecting and reprinting old catechisms.

In a nutshell, he says that if the Catechism of the Catholic Church is perpetually to be amended, then it is hardly a sure reference.  It is even less sure if the things being added produce confusion rather than clarity through unprecedented innovation, as in the case of the change about the death penalty.  What will happen is a Protestant-like requirement to be up to date with the latest evolution (devolution?) of teaching, whereas in the past Catechisms over the centuries presented the Faith in a consistent way.   As Seng ironically quips: “Oh, you have the 1997 edition of the Catechism? Sorry, we don’t believe that anymore. Check the new edition.”

It is said that more changes to the CCC may be coming.  Imagine what they might be.

The perennial harmony of teaching on faith and morals seems to be teetering on a knife’s edge.

If you don’t know your catechism, friends, then you don’t know yourself.  And our modern catechisms are being compromised by certain additions which suggest that faith and morals are moving targets.

And yet we still have to know our catechism.  If we don’t, …. well….

Next, there is a terrific piece by Paul Krause, “Reclaiming Homer”.  As someone who was in Classics, this got my attention.

I’ve written recently about the “woke” attack on the Western Civilization through attacks on the Western Canon.  Everything ever produced by dead white European males… with the exception of eugenics and communism… has to go.

At the top of their hit list will be Homer.  Mind you, they don’t understand Homer, for the most part. They haven’t read Homer, except for a few of them.   But they viscerally understand that Homer is the enemy.

What Krause does, and does masterfully, is show how Homer, properly understand, really confounds the objectives of woke cancel culture … if such a chaotic, anarchic, will-to-power ignorant rage mob can have objectives that aren’t handed to them by their puppet masters.

Go over there and read Krause’s description of the contrast between Hesiod’s view of the universe and Homer’s.  You might want to rush out to get yourself a copy of the Iliad.   I used to like the translation by Robert Fagles.


If you don’t know Homer, well….

Tradition, friends.

Finally, as a perfect addition to the above, Robert Royal of The Catholic Thing, is going to have an online course on Dante’s Divine Comedy.  That could be a great pursuit.  HERE   I think it will be quite good.  He knows his stuff.

And if you don’t know Dante … well.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. VForr says:

    I have that same brown covered Catechism pictured in Seng’s article. I bought it for 25 cents at a book sale. At that same sale, I also acquired copies of Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, St. Therese’s autobiography, and St. Louis de Montfort’s Secrets of the Rosary. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

  2. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s a really good lecture series available by Fr. Gregory I. Carlson (under the name Gregory I. Carlson on most websites selling it), with the weird title Life Lessons from Homer’s Odyssey. I mean, it does include some moral commentary that is very insightful; but mostly it explains the structure of the Odyssey, and exactly why it ends where it does. I thought I knew a lot about the Odyssey until I listened to this series of lectures, but this raised my understanding and enjoyment of the poem about 5 zillion percent. Homer was a poet for all the ages, and the lectures are even free on some library systems.

    There are a lot of audio versions of most of the great classics, and a fair number of the narrators really do a good job. Again, most libraries have them for free. There’s also Librivox, which doesn’t have a bunch of really good actors doing their narrative all, but it’s free and spirited amateurism.

    If you can get hold of George Guidall reading the Iliad and the Odyssey, that’s probably the best; but his version is out of license/”print,” IIRC, so look for used or library copies.

    And of course, there’s Project Gutenberg and archive.org for public domain versions, there’s cheap annotated versions of the public domain stuff on Amazon, there’s the Hathi Trust for US people to use US university holdings of books outside US copyright, and so on.

  3. Johann says:

    I would (in addition to the JP2 Catechism and Compendium) recommend the following books:
    Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent
    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott
    Denzinger/Enchiriodon Symborlorum by Denzinger/Hunermann
    Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine by Sheehan/Joseph
    Basically any Catechism book by Fr. John Hardon SJ

  4. Pingback: Really sitting down to read…because when else will you? | Pluot

  5. eamonob says:

    That’s The translation of the Iliad we read in college. I don’t remember if I still have that copy or a different translation…gonna have to find it and check, then reread. I still need to finish the last part of Purgatorio and then read Paridiso.

    I think, in addition to these great classic works, Dostoyevsky is important to read as well. His are some books that I’m always surprised survived the Soviet Union.

  6. Derek Brown says:

    The Robert Fagles translations are great. I also recommend, and even prefer, translations by Robert Fitzgerald. His translations into english are poetic and elevated above common vernacular, without being too lofty.

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Victor Davis Hanson a month ago:

    Canceling Classics Is Not Virtue Signaling, It Is Broadcasting Ignorance

    “Classics teach us about the great challenges of the human experience — growing up, learning from adversity, never giving up and tragically accepting that we are often at the mercy of forces larger than ourselves.”

    “Great Western literature also questions, or even undermines, the very landscape it creates. Why is Athena, the tough female god, so much more astute than male Olympians like the touchy braggart Poseidon?

    “How does a supposedly docile, wifely Penelope outsmart the purportedly best and brightest male suitors on Ithaca?

    “Why are slaves such as poor Eumaeus more generous, loyal and savvy than the free and rich? “Odyssey” does not just present the so-called white patriarchy; it simultaneously questions it.”

    “Homer also offers archetypes and points of lasting reference — not just for future literary creation, but for all of us as we mature and age, and as we seek examples to warn or encourage us.”


  8. Semper Gumby says:

    Genesis and Exodus are Scripture and epic works of literature.

    “Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good.”

    “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood, equip the ark with various compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch.”

    “The Lord said to Abram: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”

    “A survivor came and brought the news to Abram the Hebrew, who was camping at the oak of Mamre…When Abram heard that his kinsman had been captured…”

    “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him.”

    “The Lord took note of Sarah as he said he would, the Lord did for her as he had promised.”

    “So when Joseph came up to his brothers they stripped him of his tunic, the long ornamented tunic he had on. Then they took him and threw him into the cistern.”

    “Pharoah therefore had Joseph summoned, and they hurriedly brought him from the dungeon. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh then said to Joseph: “I had a dream but there was no one to interpret it.””

    “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. But shepherds came and drove them away. So Moses rose up in their defense and watered their flock.”

    “After this Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me go back, I pray, to my kinsmen in Egypt and see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt; for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” So Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt, and in his hand Moses took the staff of God.”

  9. Priam1184 says:

    “Rage, goddess, sing the accursed rage of Peleus’ son Achilles…” I read somewhere once that Homer’s Achilles is the first and greatest tragic hero of Greek tragedy. There is a memorable scene in Book I of the Iliad where Achilles is sitting on a beach at Troy and talking to his mother, the sea nymph Thetis, and bewailing the fact that he was this great warrior and could do all these great things but that he still had to die and then everything would fall into misery. To me this was a succinct expression of the pre-Christian pagan vision of life and it reminds me every time that I think of it that we should thank Jesus Christ for all He has given us and thank his Mother for bringing Him into the world.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    Priam1184 raises an interesting point about the pagan, pre-Christian worldview, and we should be thankful that Jesus Christ showed us a better way (1 Cor 12:31).

    Though I’d differ with the interpretation that Achilles was “bewailing the fact that he was this great warrior and could do all these great things but that he still had to die and then everything would fall into misery.”

    That interpretation sounds more applicable to Alexander the Great bemoaning that he had no more worlds to conquer.

    Briefly, the Iliad opens in the final year of the Trojan War, with “flashbacks” to scenes from the origins of the war and earlier events during the war. The Odyssey is the epic tale of the hero Odysseus attempting to return home after the war.

    At the beginning of the Iliad the warrior Achilles pleads to his mother, the goddess Thetis, for revenge against King Agamemnon. Earlier, Agamemnon was forced to return the captured Chryseis to her father in order to end a plague inflicting the army. In compensation, Agamemnon took Briseis from Achilles. Angered by the loss of Briseis (Achilles had captured Briseis and developed an attachment to her), Achilles also sought revenge because he knew life was short and honor was at stake.

    The Trojan War is generally agreed to have occurred, in one form or another, during the 13th-century BC. As Priam1184 points out, Homer’s Iliad begins with “Rage, goddess, sing the *accursed* rage of Peleus’ son Achilles…” The Iliad and the Odyssey richly reward the reader.

    Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean in the Sinai, the 13th-century is also generally agreed to be the time of the Exodus. The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) begins:

    Hear, O ye heavens, the things I speak, let the earth give ear to the words of my mouth. Let my doctrine gather as the rain, let my speech distil as the dew, as a shower upon the herb, and as drops upon the grass. Because I will invoke the name of the Lord: give ye magnificence to our God.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    True, two volumes by Homer and three by Dante don’t fit easily into a pack. Ship’s libraries or your MWR library welcome donations of the classics.

    The Odyssey is a maritime expedition. The Inferno is a reconnaissance patrol- instead of an IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield), a Spiritual Preparation of the Battlefield.

    Dante’s Inferno opens with:

    Midway upon the journey of our life
    I found myself within a forest dark,
    For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

    Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
    What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
    Which in the very thought renews the fear.

    So bitter is it, death is little more;
    But of the good to treat, which there I found,
    Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

    I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
    So full was I of slumber at the moment
    In which I had abandoned the true way.

    Jokes about second lieutenants with map and compass getting lost in the mess hall aside, one can rely too much on modern gadgets such as GPS (i.e. video screens and electric guitars at the altar) and forget the fundamentals.

    Another classic is Beowulf, this epic is only about 50 pages. Written around the 10th century AD, possibly by a monk, it’s a tale set in Scandinavia in which Beowulf and his buddies fight monsters, drink beer in mead halls and slay a dragon. Beowulf inspired JRR Tolkien. An excerpt, after a battle against a dragon hoarding treasure:

    Then with the treasures he found the famous prince, his lord bleeding, at the end of his life. Again he began to dash water upon him, until speech came from him. Then the warrior spoke, the aged man in his pain; he gazed on the gold:

    “I give thanks in words to the Prince, the King of glory, the eternal Lord, for all the adornments which I behold here, that I have been able to win such for my people before my death-day. Now have I sold my old life for the hoard of treasures; attend ye now to the need of my people.”

    Wrapping up for now with a brief look at the Bible. Numbers 13, the Israelites scouting the land of Canaan, is an IPB. For maritime adventure see the journeys of the Apostle Paul, and night action on the Sea of Galilee involving rough seas, a boat and Jesus Christ.

    Speaking of waves, some of the lads out there (no longer lads) are likely to remember from 2003 Pat Green’s upbeat music and lyrics to “Wave on Wave.”

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