Monday, January 31, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The...Aw, Who Am I Kiddin', It's All Ugly

I have been meditating on The Cult of Ugliness in America, a thought-provoking talk transcript by Fr. Anthony Brankin, all morning. Our world is flying at breakneck speed toward what can only be called a diabolical reality. How many of us are in tune to it and preparing ourselves? Have we been so dulled by post-modern culture that we can't see what direction the wind is blowing?

...when I say that you live cheek-by-jowl with this ugliness, I mean to say that in coming to and going from this hall you are surrounded by miles and miles of unyielding ugliness: McDonalds and Burger Kings sandwiched between Amocos and tenements. You do not mistake that for beauty, but it is so ubiquitous that you may no longer recognize it as specifically ugly.

You may never even make a mental note of the ugliness of all the malls with their false fronts and even falser interiors, or of the condominiums that are just as empty and sterile on the inside as they are on the outside. That’s just how everything looks now.

And, of course, that’s just for starters, for there is likewise in our world a spiritual ugliness no less all-pervasive than and somehow related to the visual ugliness all about us.

You will turn on your car radio only to hear of some new school shooting, and you won’t even be sure if this is the eighth or ninth such massacre in as many months. You will, however, be able to form a mental image of the alleged perpetrators, for you have seen the look and the fashions on your own block and maybe even within your own families: the chopped, colored hair, the mutilations, the tattoos, the rings in the nostrils and eyebrows, the baggy clothes, the backward baseball caps, the surly looks and the sullen grunts. You’ve even heard their music — God have mercy on us; we’ve all heard their music.

Then, of course, when you finally reach home, you will turn on the television news to hear of our scientific culture’s progress in the harvesting and sale of babies’ body parts. You will see news bytes of the political candidates trying to outdo each other in their dedication to killing babies.

Perhaps then, after supper, you will turn the channel to a show where you are treated to hour after hour of actors and actresses spewing vile lines in ever more tawdry productions. Could television programming be any less accurately described than by saying it consists of ugly, mean people doing ugly, mean things to each other? Indeed, the ugliness is so universal, so part and parcel of our lives, that it hardly registers in our minds anymore.

And having drunk fully of this awful cup, you go to bed.

I know this all too well. I'll bet you do, too. There are weeks that I just can't wait to get to Mass at my beautiful Church where I can kneel before the tabernacle and gaze upon the Crucifix from my pew; gain encouragement from the saints in statues and stained glass who all help me pray; hear a beautiful, no-nonsense pro-life sermon by Deacon George; take communion on my tongue, server with paten at the ready.

I also know (all too well, as you do, too) that what I experience when I walk into my church is NOT the norm:

 Yep, a Catholic Church in Spain.

Now, you might think that at least on Sunday you could be rescued from all of this visual and spiritual ugliness by going to church; but ugliness is there, too, for chances are that your church has already been despoiled by modern Catholic barbarians who haven’t even the artistic sense of the Unitarians who sit on your towns’ historic preservation boards.

The modernists will already have removed the tabernacle to a closet and the crucifix to the rectory basement. They will have torn up the sanctuary and torn down the shrines; and they will have done their expensive best to ruin whatever vision of spiritual loveliness the first parishioners and the first architect possessed. But, again, you are so used to it by now that what they have done to your church in the name of reform barely registers anymore in your minds — at least not until you have to confront what they have also done to the Mass — ever-perky, ever-childish, ever-changing, ever-boring, ever-therapeutic, until you are no longer sure who should be more embarrassed, you for still being there or the liturgists who invented it all.

No, the cult of ugliness is so pervasive, so all around us, in every nook and cranny of our lives, that we stand the risk at every moment of missing it, of no longer being able to see it or even be repelled by it.
 *Sigh.*  A time machine would sure be nice right now; but THIS just might work better.

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