Monday, February 14, 2011

The Past: A Nice Place to Visit - - -

If you've lived in America during the last half-century, you've probably heard or read this: "nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." It's probably passed from 'cliche' to 'obsolete,' but the idea is still sound.

There are places I enjoyed visiting, but didn't want to spend my life in. The edge of the Grand Canyon, for example.

Living in the Past - or Future

Using memory or foresight, it's possible to live in a time other than the present.
Living in the Future
I remember the last years of an era when quite a few folks thought science and technology would make a wonderful future:
"...where scientists were wizards, where machines were magically effective and efficient, where tyrants were at least romantically evil rather than banal, and where the heavens were fairyland where dreams could literally come true...."
("Tales of Future Past," David S. Zondy (© 2004 - 2010))
Then the self-described best and brightest decided that science and technology would kill us all - together with the spotted owl. And that's yet again another topic. Topics.

Either way, someone could 'live in the future,' be emotionally committed to a time that hasn't happened yet. It a way, that's the way I live: as a practicing Catholic, I look forward to life in my Lord's presence.

That's not quite true, actually, in a sense. I definitely do not "look forward to" getting face time with Jesus. And I've discussed that before. (August 8, 2010)
Living in the Past
Then there's 'living in the past.' There are lots of flavors of that mental habit.

There's the stereotype old coot who's convinced that all music made since he was about 21 is garbage.

When I was growing up, some folks were convinced that "modern art" was junk. Not, I suspect, because they understood the philosophical problems in Modernism - but because the weird, expensive stuff didn't look like the art they'd grown up with.

And I've discussed my run-in with folks who thought that women wearing trousers was 'unbiblical.' (September 26, 2009)

Given the climate in Minnesota, the 'skirts only' rule was impractical - and arguably unhealthy. Besides, there was no way any of those young ladies could have been mistaken for young men.

There are rules about what men and women wear, but 20th-century Minnesota isn't the Middle East of Abraham's day.

Change, Nostalgia, and Getting a Grip

Some things change.

And some don't. I'll get back to that.

I indulge in a little nostalgia, now and then. But my memory's too good to think that living in 'the good old days' is a good idea.

Now, here's what got me thinking about nostalgia and all that:

'Oh For the Days When All was Right?'

I'm a devout, practicing Catholic.

One of my favorite books is the King James Bible.

I have copies of the Baltimore Catechism, think it's a valuable resource, and have used it as an aid to learning.

But, no kidding: I'm a devout, practicing Catholic, in solidarity with the Holy See. I acknowledge Pope Benedict XVI as the successor of Peter, whose authority comes in an unbroken chain from the Son of God, my Lord.

I don't always like everything I read from the Holy See: But I obey. Sometimes after some research, but that's to make sure that I understand what's being said.

I don't like authority, in general. But when it comes to God and His Church: there really isn't much choice. Actually, there is - and that's another topic.

I recently encountered someone online whose profile has the King James Bible listed under 'favorite books.' Another person recently opined that the Baltimore Catechism was the "best" English-language catechism.

Oddly enough, I may be on the same page as both - or maybe not.

So much depends on what's meant by "favorite book" and "best."

I'll get back to that, after a little background on those two books.

King James Bible: Beautiful Literature

The King James Bible was, in its day, a remarkable piece of scholarship and writing. There's a sympathetic discussion of its history at the Sola Scriptura website.
Disclaimer and Links
Please note: I'm a practicing, devout Catholic. Sometimes I link to sites that aren't favorably inclined toward the Catholic Church or Catholicism: When they are useful as citations or references.

I've discussed the Catholic Church's teachings about the Bible, Tradition, and the Magisterium before:
I don't expect to change the mind of anybody who's convinced that Catholics are superstitious, ignorant dupes and/or Satan-worshiping conspirators. But I do have an obligation to say what's so.

Moving on.
Bibles, Popularity, and Marketing
King James I of England came after Henry VIII set himself up as a sort of mini-pope. Henry's made sense, in a way, since he had trouble producing a male heir - and the Pope didn't recognized 'I want another wife' as a good reason for dropping one woman and picking up another. Not even when the man was king of England. And that's another topic. Several.

By the time James I came along, folks in England were having a hard time finding a version of the Bible that was popular enough. I'm over-simplifying a bit, but this post isn't about the history of England.

Particularly considering that it was the effort of folks working for the monarch of an island nation off the European coast, some four centuries back, the King James Bible's scholarship is pretty good.

As literature, I think it's one of the best major written works in the English language. Here's an example:
"Wherefore God also gaue them vp to vncleannesse, through the lusts of their owne hearts, to dishonour their owne bodies betweene themselues."
(Romans 1:24 (1611 King James Bible),
If that looks a little different from the "real" KJV you've read, consider this: English has changed a little in the last four centuries; and the King James Bible has been updated a bit. Spelling's changed, too - and that's yet another topic.

Here's another example, from a few years before King James got his Bible project done:
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead....
(Henry V, Act 3. Scene I, (1598)
Both passages are fairly familiar, and fairly easy to understand. But the language doesn't work quite that way now.

Which is one reason why we've got newer translations.

And I'm not going to get into the weird roll-your-own theology of the '60s.

The Baltimore Catechism

Like I said, I copies of the Baltimore Catechism. It's a good resource: one that I've used to learn some basic doctrines of the Catholic Church. I'm glad that the The Third Plenary Council of U.S. bishops (1884) decided that Catholic education was important: which got the ball rolling for the "Baltimore Catechism."

That was then, this is now.

After predictable complaints from Americans who don't like what the Catholic Church teaches, the Holy See got an accurate translation into English, of the current Catechism.

The Vatican hasn't rewritten the Decalogue, or decided that the new trinity will be Elvis, Ringo, and Prince: but the current Catechism specifically deals with some issues that have come up in the last one-hundred-plus years.

And the current Catechism is more of a resource text, than a teaching aid.

Is the Baltimore Catechism, the version I've got, "best?" In a way, yes: the question-and-answer format is quite effective for some learning styles.

Is the current Catechism of the Catholic Church "best?" In a way, yes: it addresses a number of issues that are important in the global culture of these opening years of the Information Age. Some of them are important in today's American culture.

A thousand years ago, environmental protection wasn't a particularly pressing issue. Today it is. And the Catechism has something to say about being stupid in using what God created. (339, for starters)

A thousand years from now, folks most likely won't be dealing with quite the same issues that concerned the Vikings, or the United Nations. But my guess is that we'll need guidance about something. And that there will be a newer Catechism to help us learn.

The King James Bible and the Catholic Church

I've sung parts of the King James version of the Bible during Mass. What can I say, this is the Catholic Church: and we take "universal" seriously:
"...Musical proclamation of God's Word is by no means restricted to the liturgy. One of the best known examples of sung proclamation of biblical texts is George Frideric Handel's beloved oratorio, Messiah—written not for the Church but for the concert hall. The words of the prophet Isaiah in the King James Bible, 'For unto us a child is born' (Is 9:5), evoke for many English-speaking Christians Handel's exuberant musical setting of these words. Isaiah's words have become unforgettable to many of us, thanks to the composer's skillful use of musical language that draws particular attention to the words: 'Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace' (Is 9:6, KJV)...."
("Music and the Proclamation of God's Word," USCCB)
Related posts:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, English translation:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.