Free Samples of Perfection

If Dear Reader is like Little Clovis, he may never have heard of Leopold Koželuch (1747-1818).

Born Jan Antonín Koželuh, in a town outside of Prague, like many Bohemians of the time he Germanized his surname; and he adopted the Christian name Leopold to distinguish himself from his cousin, also a musician, and also a Jan.

“Koželuch was an esteemed contemporary of Mozart, and in many circles considered the finer composer.” He turned down an offer from Mozart’s former employer, the Archbishop of Salzburg, reasoning that anyone unable to get along with the likes of Wolfgang would doubtless prove a nuisance to himself.

An “early champion of the fortepiano,” Koželuch wrote sonatas for the instrument which are said to be “perfect examples of the form and foreshadowing Beethoven and Schubert.”

Until July 15th, a healthy sampling of these pieces can be obtained for free at this link.

I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying them, and hope Dear Reader will as well!

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The World’s Greatest Dad

Elizabeth Lev explores the virtues of fatherhood as depicted in the works of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682).

Famous for his Madonnas, Murillo was a pioneer in the depiction of the greatest earthly father, St. Joseph.

In order to convey the character of the man Christ chose to educate him in the virtuous of manhood, “Murillo rejected the painterly precedent of portraying Joseph as an old, decrepit man, depicting him with dark flowing hair and strong youthful features bearing a striking resemblance to the mature Jesus.”

As a result, Murillo’s paintings help us to meditate on several “paternal qualities,” including “vigilance, devotion, playfulness, loyalty, and forgiveness.”

May they renew in us our gratitude for all the virtues our fathers have taught us, in loving service to the heavenly Father.

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Giving Good Things

If you then, being evil,

know how to give good gifts to your children:

how much more will your Father, who is in heaven,

give good things to them that ask him?

Matthew 7:11

St. Paul tells us that “all paternity in heaven and earth is named” after “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:15).

For us earthly fathers, this is a tough act to follow. In comparison with his heavenly Father, Christ made no scruple of referring to the rest of us copycats as “evil.”

Was our Lord a man-basher avant la letter? That he was not appears from his paradoxical claim that “evil” fathers “know how to give good gifts to [their] children.”

As St. Thomas Aquinas observes, every human being is blessed with an innate inclination to promote “the union of male and female, and the education of children.” When we listen to our nature, and through it to the voice of our Creator, we “know how to give good gifts to [our] children.”

Sadly, earthly fathers (and mothers) are subject to disordered passions and habits, overlaying and interfering with the light of reason. Not to mention the influence of “political correctness”!

If we wish to do the good that we desire, then, we are in need of aid from a Father incapable of evil, and ready to deliver us from it—if only we ask.

Of all earthly fathers, there is none greater than St. Joseph, whom Christ chose as his father on earth. No one better illustrates the formula for fatherly success in the face of evil and the challenges it poses to our humanity.

Faced with a sinless bride “found with child, by the Holy Ghost,” Joseph was perplexed. “Being a just man,” he knew his own capacity for evil, and could not assume the spotless Lamb of God meant to have him as a father. Therefore, he was “minded to put [Mary] away privately,” knowing that God would protect her or designate someone worthy to do so (Mt. 1:18-19).

Being also a magnanimous man, Joseph was by no means unwilling to do whatever the Lord commanded, knowing well that with God man can do all things (Phil. 4:13). So Joseph turned to the Lord for counsel, and received his fatherly commission.

What kind of prayer did Joseph offer here? It was no passive surrender, but rather a manly devotion of his highest faculties to the service of God.

Matthew tells us that Joseph received an answer “in his sleep,” after “he thought on these things” (1:20). As Devin Schadt notes in his illuminating study of Christian manhood, the Greek enthyméomai is a visceral term, signifying a protracted application of thymos, that power by which we strive to overcome evil in defense of the good.

St. Joseph was a wrestler of the soul, setting himself relentlessly against all evil, whether in the desires of his own heart, the deceits of the devil, or the wiles the world.

It was his willingness to resist evil with all his might, in order to know and do what was good for God’s Son (and Mother), and his faith that God would make him capable of doing so, that made St. Joseph, after the heavenly Father, a father whom we may all celebrate today, and to whom the fathers among us can turn for example and guidance.

Joseph Most Prudent, pray for us!

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A Familiar Trick

The days between Christmas and New Year’s day are allowed as holidays. From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection.

This will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object seems to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation.

For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make him drunk. One plan is, to make bets on their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess.

Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty.

The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed; many of us were led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum.

So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,—feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.

~ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Fighting for Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers:

for they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9

As Father Kirby reminds us, St. Augustine defined peace as the “tranquility of order.” In its proper place, including right relations with other creatures, every being is good. Only the disorder produced by ripping a thing out of its proper position constitutes the (all-too-familiar) phenomenon of evil.

This definition helps us to see that a peacemaker is, at bottom, someone who puts things (back) into their right order.

Though peacemaking can profitably be applied to reconciling others, to make any sense or bear any fruit, it must begin with oneself. This is one reason our Lord identifies peacemakers as “children of God,” for if we are at odds with the source of our being, we can by no means be at peace with ourselves, or help to bring peace into the world.

To make peace is to make order, and therefore to act in opposition to disorder. Though, metaphysically speaking, evil is a mere absence of the good, in practice evil has built up a powerful momentum beginning in the eternal rebellion of evil spirits, and the corruption of human nature through original and actual sin.

As a result, anyone attempting to make peace or order will inevitably run into significant resistance, and be required to put up a heck of a fight.

Unless we have the courage to do combat against our own disordered desires, and to risk (and often suffer) persecution at the hands of those unwilling to curb their own appetites, we have no hope of making peace with our Lord, or true peace with one another.

Fr. Kirby rightly stresses that genuine peace demands that we be willing to engage in conflict. By contrast, the world offers us a “false peace based on appeasement, compromise, and a ‘culture of nice’.”

This worldly peace is false in every way. In its “success,” it fosters a “relativism” according to which the will of man “determines whether something is right or wrong.” In other words, it does violence to the actual order of things.

Additionally, this false peace fails to provide an objective or firm standard to adjudicate the conflicting desires of its various proponents, who will sooner or later turn on one another with at least as much ferocity as the world vainly promised to remedy with its quackery.

Paul Seton wisely recommends that we look to Augustine in this time “when both the Church and the country are under attack from enemies foreign and domestic,” for “Augustine is the opposite of the milquetoast versions of Christianity that are so much with us these days.”

As a “heartfelt disciple of the Prince of Peace,” Augustine “engaged in countless polemics.” Understanding the “place and role of spiritedness in Augustine’s moral and political thought,” and in the order of sanctity itself, is a worthy way to prepare to make the peace our Lord expects of us in our profoundly disordered age.

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Walking the Tightrope

Image by Denis Doukhan from Pixabay

“Conduct me, O Lord, in thy way,” the Psalmist prays, “and I will walk in thy truth: let my heart rejoice that it may fear thy name” (Ps. 85:11).

What sort of fear is it that gives us joy?

I would liken the fear of one who walks in the truth to that of a tightrope walker, who fears to set his step, or shift his balance, too far one way or the other.

Truth, to the funambulist, is quite literally a lifeline. And so it is with the soul seeking salvation.

Of all mortals, the Mother of God had the least to fear from a Creator and Judge who was willing to take up residence in her womb, and nurse at her breast.

Nonetheless, rejoicing in the blessings bestowed upon her, and through her upon the human race, she makes clear the role that virtuous fear plays in preparing us to receive the loving kindness of God:

His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.

Luke 1:50

As we engage in the tightrope walk of faith, here is a little musical accompaniment to guide our balance, and help us sustain it to a joyful end:

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Unquenchable Cravings

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it:

If a man should give all the substance of his house for love,

He shall despise it as nothing.

Canticle of Canticles 8:7

Friday being the day of Our Lord’s Passion, it is good to commemorate it not only by abstaining from meat, or practicing some other penance, but by meditating on his suffering, its salvific power, and the charity that moved him to embrace it.

St. Ambrose bids us follow Christ’s example in this above all:

Love ought to exist in us in such a fashion that we are not called away from Christ by any dangers.

No storm, no profound danger, no fear of death or of punishment diminishes the strength of love; in such happenings as we are tested, in them lies the happy life, even though it is deluged by many dangers.

For the wise person is not broken by bodily ills, nor is he disturbed by misfortunes, but he remains happy even amid troubles.

For the happy life doe not lie in bodily pleasure, but in a conscience pure of every stain of sin, and in the mind of the one who knows that the good is also the pleasurable, even though it is harsh, and that what is shameful does not give delight, even though it is sweet.

The cravings of our spiritual sweet tooth are never quenched without chewing the bitter rind covering the fruits of paradise.

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That Kind of Fool

We all need to unwind sometimes, as this charming ditty reminds us:

Time to leave a few rows half-hoed, and pursue a bit of geographical winding and cogitational unwinding with the family.

Posting may be sporadic for a while. On off days, please know that I am praying for my regular, and occasional, readers.

And whilst I’m “gone fishin’”, perhaps before long I’ll catch some renewed ambition!

Blessings to all!

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Look Upon Us

Give to everyone that asks thee.

Luke 6:30

Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee.

Acts 3:6

As St. Peter’s example shows, Christ’s command to give to everyone who asks something of us does not mean we must give everyone what they ask of us.

Whether we measure our love of others by our love of ourselves (Mk. 12:31) or by God’s love of us (Jn. 13:34), the measure of love is that which gives the recipient fulness of life (Jn 10:10), not the satisfaction of subjective desires.

Confronted with a lame beggar, Peter is unable to give him what he asks for—“silver and gold”—because the Apostle himself has forsworn such things in favor of a more radical good: the uninterrupted worship and praise of God (Acts 2:45-47).

Every day this beggar was laid “at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful” (Acts 3:2)—a symbol, the Fathers tell us, of Christ, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and the “door of the sheep” (Jn. 10:7) by which we enter the temple of heaven.

Though the man was physically lame, he might have asked to be brought into the temple, but instead we find him fixed at its entrance, intent upon receiving alms from those, like Peter and John, who came to the house of prayer (Mt. 21:13) in order to pray.

Interrupted by the beggar’s request, the Apostles neither pass him by, nor toss him whatever pennies may have remained jingling in their purses. Instead, “Peter with John fastening his eyes upon” the man, “said: Look upon us.”

Obediently, the man “looked earnestly upon them.” Seeing men who no doubt exuded poverty as well as sanctity, the beggar instantly drops his demand for funds. Instead, he gazes upon them, “hoping that he should receive something of them”—recognizing that what they have to give is something hitherto foreign to him, but of far greater value than what he has consciously craved.

Giving what he has, St. Peter takes the lame man by the right hand, restoring to his “feet and soles” a strength they had been lacking from birth.

For those of us not given the gift of miraculous healing, the lesson may seem obscure. What follows demonstrates the ultimate and universal significance of Peter’s charity.

In taking the Apostle’s right hand, the beggar is cured not only of physical, but also of spiritual lameness. “Leaping up,” he goes with Peter and John “into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

No matter what others ask of us, and no matter what we are able to give, let us strive to do one thing: fastening our eyes upon them, and bidding them look earnestly upon us, let us invite them to walk, and leap, and praise the Lord in his holy temple.

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Finding Free Music

Crucial as the lending library is to the maintenance and advancement of civilization (though like any institution it is eminently corruptible), there is something to be said for the physical possession books of one’s very own.

When it comes to music, some have similar notions about vinyl. Reactionary as I tend to be, and despite having fond memories of buying my first ’45 record (it was this gem), I’ve never quite understood the attraction of listening to a scratchy piece of spinning plastic.

(Well, one advantage cannot be gainsaid: without the existence of the “B-side,” I would never have encountered exotic pieces such as this, much less be able to call them to memory decades later.)

As for CDs, while publishers have occasionally gone to impressive lengths to develop unique presentations, the less we say about the atrocious “jewel case” the better.

For some time now, I’ve been convinced that electronic is the way to go when it comes to audio. Yet streaming, I think, as liberating as it is in some respects, goes one step too far. Deprived of the element of possession, my use and appreciation of a work seem somehow truncated.

Does this mean one is forced to invest large sums of money in building a music library? That is possible, of course, and done wisely might be worth the while.

But I would like to bring Dear Reader’s attention to certain ways of acquiring excellent music, at the most reasonable price there is: nothing.

Nothing, that is, but the willingness to endure a little friendly spam from time to time.

Naxos sends out an email newsletter each month, featuring new releases and the opportunity to download one venerable album (from three choices) at no cost. Mid-month, they send another missive featuring affiliated labels, and offer additional free tracks.

Supraphon, an incredible Czech label, provides free samples of their latest releases to subscribers.

Chandos also has a newsletter including free music, as does BBC Music.

As the years go by, I have enjoyed many, many hours of lovely music I might otherwise have never known, thanks to these generous souls.

Though my tastes have somewhat changed, I will always think with fondness about my first forays, with a Fisher Price turntable, into the realm of audio adventure, and the lessons I learned from certain pop stars who reminisced about times . . .

When I, you, and everyone we knew could believe, do, and share in what was true!

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