Archive for March, 2007

The New Agrarian

I just discovered a fine website that should appeal to anyone who read Caelum et Terra: The New Agrarian.

I know we don’t talk much here about the agrarian ideas we discussed in the magazine; partly the realism that sinks in at a certain age, partly weariness, but we still value rural life and this site looks like a very good resource.

(My wife and I have been looking at houses in the country lately, so…)

Daniel Nichols

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Discovering Traherne (2)

Maclin Horton

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When this piece by Allan Carlson appeared in Touchstone a while back, I remember thinking that if it were online I would link to it. I was browsing their archives yesterday and it’s there now. I doubt much of it will seem particularly new to readers of this blog, and I see some things that I expect some might disagree with, but I found his "Lesson Two" especially interesting.

Maclin Horton

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Som Great Thing: Discovering Traherne

Maclin Horton

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An Update

Some time ago I posted about a young man from my parish, who had enlisted
in the military right out of high school, all idealistic and enthused (Original post here.) He
had returned from a tour of Iraq disillusioned and embittered and opposed to the
war. I had asked you all to pray that he would not be redeployed back to Iraq,
and as President Bush announced that he was escalating the war I had worried
about him.

I saw his father yesterday at the Divine Liturgy and he reported that his
son had been deemed unfit for further combat because of the severe psychological
trauma he had endured in Sadr City.

Thank God he will not be returned to Iraq, but please pray for him as he
undergoes treatment, that he will be healed.

And pray too for strength; it is widely known that soldiers and officers
resent those who are excused from combat because of stress and often mistreat
them. Pray that he will endure whatever may await the rest of his term of
service with grace.

Daniel Nichols

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It is said that it takes 25 years to master the art of iconography. By that
standard I am a mere novice, as I have been painting/writing icons for only 5
years. I am thus always striving to learn more and to improve my

As I cannot afford the expensive workshops that are offered around the
country- and would not be eager to be separated from my family for the weeklong
classes even if I could- I learn mainly by studying existing icons, stopping at
every Orthodox or Byzantine Catholic church I can, buying books when I have a
bit of extra cash.

To that end I recently purchased three books.

The first of these, A Brush with God, is by Peter Pearson, a well
known iconographer. Though he begins with a discussion of the theology of icons,
the bulk of the book consists of instruction in the technique of icon painting,
apparently intended for beginners. As his technique is very different from what
I had learned, and as I like the look of his icons, I tried a few of the things
he teaches. I would say on the basis of that experience that a beginner would be
thoroughly confused if he tried to paint an icon using this book as his sole
guide. As with other iconography instructions I have tried to follow the author
does not address the problems one inevitably encounters. Further, Mr Pearson inexplicably omits certain essential steps that are needed to avoid disaster. To
cite one example, he instructs the student to use a compass to draw the circle
for the halo, but does not mention that you need to protect the panel from the
stylus if you don’t want a small hole in the middle of the forehead of the
figure you are portraying (I use a guitar pick and masking tape).

While the book is lovely to look at and is a helpful addition to the
library of the experienced iconographer, I cannot recommend it to a

In the text of the book Mr Pearson mentions in passing his friendship with
Brother Robert Lentz, OFM, the controversial painter who paints so-called icons
that stray far from canonical iconography. Besides traditional subjects- which
he paints with great skill- Br Lentz has painted "icons" of Christ as the horned
pagan god, and of "saints" like Albert Einstein, Cardinal Bernadin, and the
murdered gay activist Harvey Milk. Catholic "iconographers" like Br Lentz and
the Jesuit Fr William Hart McNichols, who hijack Byzantine painting styles in
service to their own religious and political agendas, scandalize Orthodox
believers and no doubt contribute to the opinion held by many Orthodox
Christians that only the Orthodox can paint icons.

To Mr Pearson’s credit, I have never seen him stray from the accepted
models, but the comment raised suspicions.

At the end of the book I read that he is a priest of the Diocese of
Bethlehem, PA. Having never heard of such a diocese I googled it and discovered
that the only such diocese is in fact Episcopalian. Mr Pearson mentions in his
book that he grew up Catholic, and I had heard from a fellow iconographer that
he is a former Benedictine monk.

Although it does not seem to be reflected in his iconography, which is
traditional, for a Catholic to move to and be ordained in the Episcopal Church
is an act of apostasy. His book still has value, but this fact casts a shadow on
the thing.

The second book, The Mystical Language of Icons, by Norwegian
iconographer and Catholic convert Solrunn Nes, does not pretend to be an
instructional manual, though there is a brief overview of the steps involved in
painting an icon.

Rather, it is a lavish full color guide to the major icons, with Ms Nes’
exquisite works as examples. She paints in a variety of styles- Greek, Russian,
Cretan, Italo-Byzantine, and Bulgarian- in a luminous palette, and her work is
beautifully rendered.

As valuable as the ancient icons are- and it is doubtful that anyone will
ever surpass the heights achieved by the medieval Russian iconographers- one can
learn much from studying the work of contemporary iconographers, whose work is
unfaded by time. I expect that Mystical Language is a work I will
return to time and again for knowledge and inspiration.

I ordered the third book, Icons and Saints of the Orthodox Church,
by Alfredo Tradigo, expecting a modest addition to my iconography bookshelf.
Instead, to my surprise and delight, I acquired the most comprehensive reference
book on iconography I have yet encountered. Its 375 pages are packed with full
color illustrations of just about every conceivable icon, with an exhaustive
commentary which includes a text from Scripture, the Liturgy, or the Saints, the
historical sources for the icon, and a theological discussion on its
significance. It is a thorough and systematic guide to the subject, part of the
J Paul Getty Museum’s series Guide to Imagery. Other works in the
series include volumes on Angels and Demons, Saints, and Symbolism in Art.

The work was originally published in Italian, and all of the names
associated with it are Italian, and presumably Catholic. Let us hope that such a
labor of love will help undo the harm done by aberrational Catholic

A caveat, though: the volume is 5 1/2 X 7 3/4 inches in size. As it
includes many intricate and highly detailed icons, some with vast numbers of
figures and scenes (think The Last Judgement) I found it irksome and a
strain to the eyes to use. However, when I reflected that a more appropriate 11"
X 14" size would place it outside my price range I did the logical thing and
bought a magnifying glass, which solved the problem handily. (Incredibly, I
bought this book from Amazon.com for $21, which included shipping!)

All three of these volumes are a welcome addition to my library, the last a
particularly rich find. I recommend the last two books without qualification,
and the first to iconographers interested in expanding their technical

Daniel Nichols

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For those who might be interested but don’t ordinarily read the conservative press: Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Enemy At Home, which was the topic of Daniel’s post a few weeks ago (well, actually the topic was an interview with D’Souza about the book), has generated quite a lot of reaction in the conservative/right-wing world. D’Souza in turn is replying to his critics on the right in a four part series at National Review Online. You can read part 1 here, part 2 here. Part 1 also includes links to most of the pieces attacking the book.

I confess I have not read D’Souza’s critics and probably won’t read the book, so I won’t try to comment broadly except to say that I do think D’Souza makes some good points in these two pieces. As I noted in the discussion following Daniel’s post, on the basis of interviews it sounds like the book would be a frustrating mixture of the insightful and the incorrect, and the bald truth is that I don’t have a strong enough interest to try to sort it out. It’s distressing that many on the right seem to just want to say Islam is evil and Muslims are crazy and that’s all there is to it. And I say that as one who is not terribly hopeful about our future in relation to Islam–I might add that I’m equally distressed by the attempt to paint Islam as entirely benign (often accompanied by lurid exhibitions from the black legend of Christianity).

Maclin Horton

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Nap Time

Maclin Horton

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Eulogy for My Father

Julianne Wiley (Juli Loesch), who is  well known to CetT readers and many others, sent me this eulogy a few days ago and I asked for her permission to post it.
Maclin Horton

Edward Rudolph Loesch
May 11,
1914 – February 24, 2007

My father, Edward Loesch, descended from people who fled from Otto von
Bismarck’s regime in Germany in 1870. They were good German stock: wine-barrel
makers and draft dodgers. There’s a story about Edward’s grandfather Adam
Loesch, the barrel-maker. In the late 1800’s, a fellow offered to put him in
charge of his whole barrel-making operation for the newfangled petroleum
industry — a fellow named Andrew Carnegie. But did Adam Loesch take the job?   
No-o-o.   He was no fool. He said, “There’s no future in oil. The future’s in

So that was the Loesch side: skilled, stubborn, and not notably talented at
making money.

Edward was born in 1914, the second of 5 brothers and sisters. He was just 16
when the Depression forced him to leave school to work and support his younger
brothers and sisters. He was born blind in one eye, and was never in the
military; he spent his early manhood working for the Civilian Conservation

Around the same time that he left school, he also left the Christian faith.
He read the works of Clarence Darrow, Julian Huxley and the Little Blue Books of
E. Haldeman-Julius which covered all kinds of atheistic and freethinking topics
from history and philosophy to the “crimes of the Roman Catholic Church.” He
never did become one of those argumentative atheists, but he was very much
captivated by his agnosticism and by his doubts.

He was a hard-working man all his life. When he was a kid in Erie, PA, he and
his brother Clarence used to go down to the docks when the fishing boats came in
and buy fish for, oh, maybe a dollar a bucket. Then they’d scale, gut and fillet
them and sell them to the stores and restaurants for maybe two dollars a bucket.
Like his father, he worked as a core maker at an iron foundry.

After he married my mother, Wynne, he worked as a a lumberyard man, and, for
many years, a laundry worker. Edward walked home from work every night, tired
and sweaty and sometimes with burns on his arms which he got from inadvertently
touching hot presses. When my brother and I were little kids, we’d run to him
and, though hot and tired, he”d pick us up, or lay down on the couch and let us
crawl all over him.

Once he worked as a plastic injection molder, and the chemicals made it hard
for him to breathe. I remember him lying on his back on the kitchen floor,
greenish, wheezing, and my mother in tears telling him he had to quit that job.
“And then what? Go on Welfare?” he challenged her in an unexpectedly bitter
tone. But Wynne came right back at him: “I’d rather be on Welfare than be a
widow.” She won that argument. He quit— and got a different job.

So these were his interests: his wife and children, his garden and his books.
He’d sit at the kitchen table with two books open before him: botany, say, and a
dictionary. He was an infallible speller. And he loved words.

He liked music. He listened to the classical station on the radio. When my
brother Jim sang with the Cathedral boys’ choir, Father — still an agnostic
—would attend Mass on Christmas and Easter: didn’t believe that stuff, of
course, but he appreciated the Gregorian chant.

It was an awful thing when he lost his sight: that is, when he had a series
of operations on the one eye he COULD see out of, and the operations failed. He
was 70 when that happened — when he was plunged into total and permanent
darkness. It was probably the major crisis of his life. He was lost, just lost.
He couldn’t garden. He couldn’t read. He felt he’d be useless — a burden —
and that was the worst thing of all.

At his lowest point, he said to my mother, “Maybe I’ll just walk out into
traffic and get killed —- you know, do myself in — and you and the kids can
collect the insurance.” “YOU WILL NOT,” said my mother. She won that argument,

And of course he was no burden. His disabled brother, our Uncle Gerald, lived
with Ed and Wynne, and I remember my sightless old Father going up the stairs
with some soup he’d cooked for Gerald’s supper — or, even more impressive,
coming DOWN the stairs walking BACKWARDS, in front of Gerald, so that if Gerald,
who had a wooden leg, would trip and fall, Father, the blind, could supposedly
catch him. “And you’ll BOTH break your necks,” said Mother. She had a lot to put
up with, with those two.

In the end, it was these three old people living together like a tottery
3-legged stool: blind Father, Mother disabled from a stroke, and wooden-leg
Uncle Gerald, whom we always regarded as being as helpful as a turnstile at a
square dance. My father would cook, and clean — after his fashion— and when
it snowed — this is in Erie, PA, where you can get 10-12 feet of snow in a
typical winter — he’d get out there and shovel the sidewalk.

In all his difficulties, and whatever his conflicts, I never heard him say a
mean word, or a stupid one.

He, and my mother, AND Gerald moved into our home here in Tennessee in 1994.
Within one month, my mother was dead from lung cancer; and my Father felt so
lost; and one year after that, Uncle Gerald, also an agnostic, had one of those
classic deathbed conversions, got right with Jesus and the Catholic Church, and
died. That left Edward.

Because of his blindness, he never saw his son-in-law, by husband Don, and he
never saw his grandsons Ben and Vanya, However, he was very much a part of the
homeschooling program. He’d be sitting in his rocking chair, and the boys would
take turns reciting their spelling words and their multiplication tables. Even
when Edwards mind started failing, his spelling and math were both infallible.

He came back to the Church about 5 or 6 years ago. He easily made a
transition into being a weekly Communicant and the one person I could always say
night prayers with. Even when he had only 5 or 6 functional neurons left in his
brain box, he was cheerful, and grateful.

He had the courage to be dependent.  He had the courage to openm his heart
and let us love him.  He called every one of  the CNA’s “doll” and kissed their
hands. And could say the Our Father to the very end.

He was ready to go. In the last 3 weeks, he was unable to leave his bed and
increasingly unable to eat or drink: he did like his Fudge Ripple ice cream. He
received his last Communion and his Last Anointing from Fr. Akata. I read him
the Seven Penitential Pslams and promised him some Fudge Ripple. His last word
may have been Amen. Or maybe Ice Cream.

He once was lost, but now he’s found. Was blind, but now he sees.

Julianne (Loesch) Wiley

[editor’s note: the Wileys are in tough financial shape and Julianne is having a hard time finding work after having spent years as home-schooling mother and care-giving daughter. If you can help her find work that can be done at home on a computer, she would be happy to hear from you. You can email her here.


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A Glimpse of Moral Common Sense

Maclin Horton

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