Bp Schneider + Crdl Sarah's new books
#1
Last Sunday, I looked down at the copy of Christus Vincit that the woman ahead of me laid down on her pew. Five daughters sat next to her. Having finished it the night before, I wanted to tap her and give a thumbs-up: "hey, great book, right"? But being a Low Mass, well, any time for chitchat is elsewhere, and she left right after. She was not the "type" you'd expect who'd be reading a theological title if you passed her on the street. So, I felt grace must be emanating, for so many purchasers to be elevating Archbishop Schneider's debut set of interviews with Diane Montagna to the top of the charts at Amazon (next to such as Taylor Marshall's Intervention lately) that at the humbler level of the working-class, downscale neighborhood, small FSSP-sponsored chapel I attend in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, word about this book had gotten around fast. That encouraged me as much as the troop of three young children a few weeks before who had in plastic bags fresh copies of the pink Baltimore Catechism for the FSSP father to bless after Mass.

My friend happens to be the graphic designer for Angelico Press. I'd asked him a few weeks ago about the striking image. He told me that it was not his first choice, but that the press editor after looking at various mock-ups my friend had submitted finally tinkered with this Flemish Christ as the one. The eyes of this Northern Renaissance Savior hold you, within surprisingly narrow features of smaller eyes than expected, and a dignified, noble mien. It works, somehow, as "Christ triumphant," in its steady gaze.

I liked it, and the chapters progress well from topic to topic. The format lends itself, as it did with The Ratzinger Report way back, then Peter Seewald's interviews with Pope Benedict, to this back-and-forth, wide-ranging, very readable exchange on traditional issues. I get more out of such works as I can sense real people having a conversation, the best way to be "catechized."

Then, last night, I concluded the recently.issued third in a series with Nicolas Diat as the interviewer of Cardinal Sarah. His first, an autobiographical God or Nothing, had its moments for the fresh depictions of the prelate growing up in (post-)colonial Guinea under the Holy Ghost French fathers and then the Marxist dictatorship, and in going abroad for his studies and returning to his homeland. But he harbored now and then a haughty tone concerning those less blessed among the faithful--as when concerning a vexed issue that hits home to me and millions in the Church and a predicament has for most of my life hammered sinful me long and hard--with what seemed to me condescension, representing for some situations the gap between unbending clerical authority and wavering lay experience that no pastoral counsel has to date securely bridged.

Its successor, the ruminative Power of Silence, is a very different work, structured and numbered like Pascal's Pensees. It emerges from a visit by Cardinal Sarah to the Grand Chartreuse charterhouse of the Carthusians. It is meant for meditation and contemplation. I have the audio and the book both, which I am dipping in and out of for spiritual reading rather than "study."

His newest, The Day Is Now Far Spent comes out charging, and it roused my hopes for a take-down, given his run-ins with the present pontiff on the Congregation of the Liturgy and his attempt to restore "ad orientem" worship of the Mass, to no avail, as part of a Novus Ordo reform. It settles into, however, extensive passages with giant chunks, or seemingly entire speeches or missives, from Paul VI, and especially John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis, which convey the world-view of Cardinal Sarah: one that warns of the seductions of capitalist, globalized, consumerist, secular society. These passages help the reader ground him or herself in recent papal teaching, but they drag down the tone of the interviews, which seem more like term papers with far too extensive block quotes. Less so than Bishop Schneider's adroit interlocutor Diane Montagna with her subject, the pace of Cardinal Sarah's answers to Diat's questions feels scripted, like a student answering adroitly but verbatim his research notes on an exam.

The two approaches, furthermore, reveal telling insights. The Angelico Press book comes from a publisher which has featured many traditional studies of the Latin Mass and related contexts from such luminaries as Martin Mosebach, reflecting a Fraternity-friendly, and Society-flexible as it were, approach towards these movements. The Ignatius Press Sarah book comes from one of the leading Catholic (neo?-)conservative media, and it expresses centrist, papal-focused, and "polite alternatives to the present Vatican line" communicated in diplomatic language. Sarah supports, briefly here, the implementation of more Latin outside of EF liturgies.

Bishop Schneider and Cardinal Sarah, I reckon, have much more in common than whatever "office politics" separate them. But while I read Christus Vincit with excitement, I wrapped up The Day Is Now Far Spent admiring far more its moving chapters on the practice of the virtues and about the lessons along the road to Emmaus than the preceding material that explained far more about post-conciliar papal pronouncements than it did the good Cardinal himself. After all, he's higher up in the ranks than any bishop from Kazakhstan. I have a feeling that our African ecclesiastical spokesman had to rein in any criticism of higher-ups at the Vatican. All the same, Bishop Athanasius urges traditional Catholics to pray harder than anyone else...for Pope Francis.

P.S. Not sure whether to put this under "Arts etc." or "Catholicism," as it's a pair of Catholic books, so forgive me.
The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people may hear today (Francis of Assisi); Win an argument, lose a soul (Fulton Sheen)
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#2
Very intriguing post.  I think I will go ahead and purchase Bishop Schneider's book.  I'll comment more later.
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