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One of the natural landmarks that I noted on my jaunt through southern Arizona was Picacho Peak, a 1500 foot tall hill standing out in the middle of the desert just to the south of I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson.

As I drove by it, I noticed signs announcing an upcoming Civil War in the Southwest reenactmentWhat? I thought to myself.  This can’t be right – there wasn’t any organized fighting in this part of the country any nearer that the campaigns of Canby and Sibley in New Mexico.

Well, it just goes to show how much I really know.  As it turns out, there was, indeed, a battle fought at Picacho Peak in April, 1862.  Granted, it was no more than an extremely minor skirmish involving a dozen Yankee cavalry troopers and a handful of Johnny Reb pickets, but it nonetheless seems to now hold the historickal claim of being the most western battle fought during the course of the Civil War.

If you go to the first link and scroll down a bit, you’ll find an interesting little YouTube presentation on the battle.  (I’d repost it here, but they seem to be a bit touchy about copyright infringement.)

Over at First Things they’ve reprinted Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s 2002 article on how he came to Rome after growing up a Missouri Synod Lutheran.  The whole thing is well worth reading, but among many other things that resonated with me was the way Fr. Neuhaus described the difference between himself and his Catholic playmates as a child:

I doubt if ever for a moment the Spooner boys thought that maybe they should be Lutheran. I am sure that I as a boy thought—not very seriously, certainly not obsessively—but I thought about being a Catholic. It seemed that, of all the good things we had, they had more. Catholicism was more. Then too, I knew where all those good things we had came from. They came from the Church that had more. Much later I would hear the schism of the sixteenth century described as, in the fine phrase of Jaroslav Pelikan, a “tragic necessity.” I thought, then and now, that the tragedy was much more believable than the necessity. But in my boyhood, the division did not seem tragic. It was just the way things were.

“Catholicism has more.”   I remember feeling that same way almost as soon as I started gaining some kind of religious conscience, and the thought grew on me as the years went by.   The first time I heard an Episcopalian described as a “J.V. Catholic” or as a “Catholic Lite”, I thought it was pretty funny, almost a badge of pride.  But after a while, especially as I began to understand more fully the traditions claimed by the Anglican faith in the course of my own attempts to become closer with the Church, the joke wore off and the tragedy began to manifest itself.  Thus, I came to my own decision along a path very much parallel to Fr. Neuhaus’s:

Mine was a decision mandated by conscience. I have never found it in his writings, but a St. Louis professor who had been his student told me that the great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran. That impressed me very deeply. I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others. And so I discovered not so much that I had made the decision as that the decision was made, and I have never looked back, except to trace the marks of grace, of sola gratia, each step of the way.

Sorry to bring this up again, but the timing of this article and my own meandering post below seemed provident.  Plus, the second anniversary of my reception into HMC is coming up in less than two weeks, so I’ve been giving the idea some considerable thought.

I see where Andrew Lloyd Webber has unleashed a sequel to his Phantom of the Opera, this one entitled Love Never Dies.

Apparently the new show has received a fair bit of criticism, but the reviewer for the Telegraph comes away in something close to Rapture*:

What I have no doubt about whatever is that this is Lloyd Webber’s finest show since the original Phantom, with a score blessed with superbly haunting melodies and a yearning romanticism that sent shivers racing down my spine.

There is something personal about Lloyd Webber’s relationship with the Phantom, as if in the character of the tortured and deformed composer he is confronting something of his own inner darkness. The character might just be a terrifying self-portrait, hanging in the attic of his imagination.

Oh, cut it out.

Who was it who said something about tragedy appearing the second time as farce?  I don’t think much of 19th Century Romantic sensibilities to begin with.  But at least some of those johnnies had some bottom to them.  This latter-day jimcrack version of the suffering artiste is just risible.

I mean, Jeesum crow, even the title of this opus is a bad Hallmark Card cliche.

I got dragged to the Kennedy Center to see the original Phantom back in the early 90’s and friends, I tell you truly, I Just. Do. Not. Get. It.  What I saw was an overblown, sentimentalized concoction of the worst sort of shallow, soap opera book, gimmicky stage direction (I had to laugh at the whole chandelier thing) and gooshy, shmaltzy score that seemed specifically designed to appeal to the sensibilities of a 13 year old.  Coming away, while many of those around me seemed transported and nearly in tears, for myself I felt like I had just scarfed a ten pound bag of Hostess Twinkies and was beginning to feel the effects kick in.

Lord knows that given the kind of coin Mr. Lloyd Webber has pulled in over the years, the audience for this stuff must be pretty vast.  But rayther than get dragooned into seeing another one of his productions, I think I’d prefer to spend a quiet evening at home pulling out my own toenails.

(* You’ll have to go over via the sidebar and hunt up the full review yourself, if you’re so inclined, as my linkie thingum doesn’t seem to be cooperating at the moment.)

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