Monday, November 09, 2015

René Girard and Gregorian chant.

French literary theorist René Girard died last week at the age of 91. Though I've read some of Girard's work during my studies in theology in Toronto, the news of his passing made me think not of his writings but of the one time I saw him in person, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Palo Alto, California, where the longtime Stanford professor was a parishioner. Encountered on the steps of the church following the noon Mass, Girard's features were unmistakable - the distinctive nose and cheekbones, bushy eyebrows, and shock of white hair gave him away immediately, with the telltale rosette of the Légion d'honneur on the lapel of his blazer offering a reminder that this French expatriate was still deeply esteemed in his homeland.

Though he was a practicing Catholic who integrated theological concerns into his work, Girard's interest in liturgy and sacred music is little-known. Girard's public statements on liturgical questions were rare but telling: in 2006, for example, Girard joined a group of other French intellectuals in endorsing broader public celebration of the Tridentine Mass, something that became a reality the following year after Pope Benedict XVI released the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In an earlier interview with James G. Williams, published in The Girard Reader, Girard denied that he was "ritualistic" but nevertheless acknowledged his affection for Gregorian chant:
I am not really ritualistic. I pray, but I don't really enjoy ritual that much. I do enjoy the Gregorian Mass. We are lucky to have the Gregorian Mass at Stanford, thanks to William Mahrt, who has been devoted to it since 1963. I attend Mass every Sunday of course, as well as on the obligatory holy days. I am an ordinary Christian.
What Girard called the "Gregorian Mass" in this interview was not the older form of the Roman liturgy but rather the Novus Ordo celebrated in Latin with Gregorian chant, which has long been offered weekly in Palo Alto thanks to the dedication and effort of Professor William Mahrt and the St. Ann Choir. A leading chant scholar as well as a practitioner, Mahrt has written eloquently on the place of Gregorian chant in the Roman Catholic liturgy and lectures widely on topics related to sacred music. Having led the St. Ann Choir without interruption since the time of the Second Vatican Council, Mahrt's efforts have also received the attention of the secular media as well as plaudits from the Stanford community to which he belongs. René Girard may be gone, but Bill Mahrt's work happily continues - and hopefully will for a long time to come. AMDG.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Dies irae, dies illa.

As is now my annual custom, I am marking All Souls' Day by reposting a translation of the Latin sequence for All Souls that I made a few years ago. The translation below as well as my commentary are identical with what I have provided in years past; though I still hope to eventually revise and polish the translation, in the meantime I hope that my annual reposting of this text is helpful and edifying to some readers.

Attributed to the thirteenth-century Franciscan Thomas of Celano and long prescribed as part of the Latin Requiem Mass, the Dies Irae enjoys a special place in Western musical culture thanks to the memorable settings of the Requiem text by composers ranging from Mozart to Verdi to Britten, among many others. For All Souls, I typically avoid any 'classical' setting of the Dies Irae in favor of the traditional Gregorian setting, because some days when only chant will do - and for me this is one of those days.

Below you can find the Latin text of the Dies Irae followed by my own English translation. I decided to translate the text myself out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the various translations that I found online, as a spiritual exercise for All Souls' Day - and, finally, to practice my Latin. The translation was made in haste and could certainly be improved - indeed, I have sometimes thought of starting from scratch and doing a new one - and I welcome comments and criticism; my goal was to convey the sense of the original faithfully and in a style that flows well in English without trying to reproduce the poetic meter of the original. So here goes:

Dies irae! Dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla!

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Iudicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus iudicetur.

Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
Quidquid latet, apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix iustus sit securus?

Rex tremendae maiestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.

Recordare, Iesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuae viae:
Ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus.

Iuste iudex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae:
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis:
Gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

Pie Iesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.


O day of wrath, that day
when the earth will be reduced to ashes,
as David and the Sibyl both testify!

What great fear there will be,
when the judge comes
to judge all things strictly.

A trumpet casts a wondrous sound
into the realm of the tombs,
calling all [to come] before the throne.

Death and nature will both marvel
as the [human] creature rises
to answer its judge.

A book will be brought forth
in which all things are recorded –
all that for which the world will be judged.

When, therefore, the judge appears,
all that is hidden will appear,
and no ills will remain unavenged.

As miserable as I am, what am I say?
whose protection may I invoke,
when even the just lack security?

O most majestic King,
who freely saves those to be saved,
save me, source of mercy!

Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the one for whom you came:
may I not be lost on that day!

Seeking me, you sat down tired:
to redeem me, you suffered the Cross –
may your toil not be in vain!

Just and avenging judge,
may you grant remission [of sins]
before the day of reckoning.

Guilty, now I sigh,
my face red with shame:
save thy petitioner, o God!

Having absolved Mary [Magdalene],
and heard the plea of the thief,
may you give me hope as well.

Though my prayers are not worthy,
be kind to me, o Good One,
that I may be spared the eternal fire!

Place me among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
setting me at your right hand.

When the wicked are confounded
and given over to bitter flames:
call me among the blessed.

Meek and humble, I pray,
with a heart contrite as ashes:
Help me reach my final end.

How tearful that day will be,
when from the ashes will arise
the guilty man for judgment.
Therefore spare him, O God!

Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.

To some modern ears, some of the above lines may seem a bit harsh; the familiarity of the Latin text and the beauty of its poetic form can easily distract us from the admonitory content of the Dies Irae. As stern as these words may be, though, they also remind us that God is merciful - indeed, the very source of mercy - and they call on us to pray: first for our beloved dead and for our own repentance, but also that we may offer to others the same mercy that we seek for ourselves. May all of us who celebrate this Feast of All Souls take these words in the right way, and take them to heart. AMDG.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

George Grant.

Having devoted my last post to Glenn Gould, here is more Canadian Content in the form of a 1973 episode of the CBC interview program Impressions featuring a conversation between historian Ramsay Cook and political philosopher George Grant. Though I've been reading Grant's work for years, I don't think I've ever mentioned him on this blog; the above interview offers a concise introduction to some of his characteristic themes and concerns revolving around questions of national identity, the relationship between religion and culture, and what it means to live in an increasingly technological society. All of these questions matter as much to us in the second decade of the twenty-first century as they did when Grant wrote about them in the 1960s and '70s, which helps to make Grant's work yet more timely for us today. Though Grant's most famous book remains Lament for a Nation, his great apologia for Canadian nationalism, I think that a better introduction to his work for interested parties may be a book like Technology and Empire. One of the essays featured in Technology and Empire, "In Defence of North America," can be read for free thanks to its republication by Communio in 2011. Written in 1968, at a time of considerable political and social ferment on both sides of the Atlantic, "In Defence of North America" may be as good a place as any for the novice reader of Grant to begin, and as a further enticement I offer these excerpts:
. . . those who know themselves to be North Americans know they are not Europeans. The platitude cannot be too often stated that the U.S. is the only society that has no history (truly its own) before the age of progress. English-speaking Canadians, such as myself, have despised and feared the Americans for the account of freedom in which their independence was expressed, and have resented that the other traditions of the English-speaking world should have collapsed before the victory of that spirit; but we are still enfolded with the Americans in the deep sharing of having crossed the ocean and conquered the new land. All of us who came made some break in that coming. The break was not only the giving up of the old and the settled, but the entering into the majestic continent which could not be ours in the way that the old had been. It could not be ours in the old way because the making of it ours did not go back before the beginning of conscious memory. The rots of some communities in eastern North America go back far in continuous love for their place, but none of us can be called autochthonous, because in all there is some consciousness of making the land our own. It could not be ours also because the very intractability, immensity and extremes of the new land required that its meeting with mastering Europeans be a battle of subjugation. And after that battle we had no long history of living with the land before the arrival of the new forms of conquest which came with industrialism.

That conquering relation of place has left its mark within us. When we go into the Rockies we may have the sense that gods are there. Bu if so, they cannot manifest themselves to us as ours. They are the gods of another race, and we cannot know them because of what we are, and what we did. There can be nothing immemorial for us except the environment as object. Even our cities have been encampments on the road to economic mastery.
Much of the above resonates with my own experience, both as an American who has spent time in Europe and as an American living in Canada who has come to appreciate a particularly Canadian sense of place which regards the land as something incompletely conquered and, in some sense, alien. The contours of the relationship between Europe and North America and the role in both places of cultural Christianity (or, in a broader sense, the Hellenic inheritance) are rather nicely captured in this admittedly long and dense but lucid paragraph close to the end of the same essay:
I know how distant from North Americans is the stance of contemplation, because I know the pervasiveness of the pragmatic liberalism in which I was educated and the accidents of existence which dragged me out of it. To write so may seem some kind of boasting. But the scavenging mongrel in the famine claims no merit in scenting food. Perhaps for later generations of North Americans it is now easier to turn and partake in deeper traditions than they find publicly around them. The fruits of our own dominant tradition have so obviously the taste of rot in their luxuriance. It may be easier for some of the young to become sane, just because the society is madder. But for myself it has taken the battering of a lifetime of madness to begin to grasp even dimly that which has been inevitably lost in being North American. Even to have touched Greekness (that is to have known it not simply as antiquarianism) required that I should first have touched something in Europe which stayed alive there from before the age of progress through all its acceptance of that age. By touching Europe I do not mean as a fascinating museum or as a place of diversion, but to have felt the remnants of a Christianity which was more than simply the legitimising of progress and which still held in itself the fruits of contemplation. By that touching I do not mean the last pickings of authentic theology left after the storms of modern thought (though that too) but things more deeply in the stuff of everyday living which remain long after they can no longer be thought: public and private virtues having their point beyond what can in any sense be called socially useful; commitments to love and to friendship which lie rooted in a realm outside the calculable; a partaking in the beautiful not seen as the product of human productivity; amusement and ecstasies not seen as the enemy of reason. This is not to say that such things did not or do not exist in North America (perhaps they cannot disappear among human beings) but their existence has been dimmed and even silenced by the fact that the public ideology of pragmatic liberalism could not sustain them in its vision. The remnants of that which lay beyond bargaining and left one without an alternative still could be touched even amidst the degeneracy of Europe's ruin. They generally existed from out of a surviving Christianity or Judaism (neither necessarily explicit) which pointed to a realm in which they were sustained. I remember the surprise - the distance and the attraction - of letting near one at all seriously a vision of life so absent in day to day North America. I remember how such a vision inevitably jeopardised one's hold on North America: how it made one an important stranger in the practical realm of one's own society. But the remnants of such a Europe were only one remove from what was one's own. It was the seedbed out of which the attenuated Christianity of our secularised Calvinism had come. To touch the vestiges of this fuller Christianity was a possible step in passing to something which was outside the limits of one's own.
To read the rest, click here. To read even more Grant, get your hands on a copy of Technology and Empire. AMDG.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Glenn Gould on Bach.

As a Canadian summer slowly slides into fall, here is an old favorite which I watch again every few months, a 1962 CBC broadcast program featuring Toronto's own Glenn Gould musing about the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (and performing the cantata "Widerstehe doch der Sünde" with countertenor Russell Oberlin and a small ensemble). Here is a bit of what Gould has to say:
Bach, you see, was music’s greatest nonconformist, and one of the supreme examples of that independence of the artistic conscience that stands quite outside the collective historical process. The age of Bach, speaking in a very general sort of way, was what we can now call the age of reason – perhaps an age of reason; there have really been quite a lot of them. It was fundamentally an age in which man struggled against fear, against predeterminancy. It was an age in which he asserted confidently the wonders of science and of human initiative. It was at times an age of hubris, of defiance for the gods.

But at its most poetic, it was still an age in which the wonderful utilities of science and the proud genius of man could coexist with the magical, mystical, fearful rites of belief – and so the art and poetry and music of the Baroque at its best is touched with this feeling of compromise, this conciliation between the will of man and the inexorable power of fate.

But even during the lifetime of (Johann) Sebastian Bach, this vibrant spiritual compromise which gave such anguish and purpose and passion to his music, became for other artists of his generation ever more difficult to achieve. And slowly but surely fact and logic, the explainable and the predictable became the basis of philosophic premise. And by the time of his death, the world was a very different place from that into which he had been born. It was a world which longed to be logical, a world for young men and for young ideas.

When Bach died, it was not he but rather his sons who were considered to be the masters of music – masters of a music so very different from that which their father had known. It was then composers like the teenager Joseph Haydn who were soon to lay the groundwork for a new musical style in which all of this scientific optimism, all of this naively logical philosophical thought of their generation would find a counterpart in an art in which the aim would be not the communication of man with God, but rather man with man, in which those traits of (Johann) Sebastian Bach which parallel in music the realization of the incredible richness and indefinable complexity of the human estate could find no place. It had become an age in which the focus of musical activity had moved from the church to the theater, in which the new art would rationally reflect a rational world, in which it would be required to deal with probabilities and not to participate in mysteries. This is not to say that the aspiration to transcend the human condition would be forever lost to art; certainly it’s the essence of Beethoven’s work, for instance, that we feel him struggling to strike beyond the realization of human potential. But the grandeur of Beethoven resides in the struggle rather than in the occasional transcendence that he achieves – and it might perhaps never again be possible for us to own more than a glimpse of that inordinate state of ecstasy which (Johann) Sebastian Bach never thought to question.
For a bit more Glenn Gould, consult this post written three years ago at the time of his eightieth birthday. You might also be pleased to learn that the Glenn Gould statue in downtown Toronto has been augmented by a new historical marker, which reminds me that I have yet to make good on plans to make a pilgrimage to the site. AMDG.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

David Warren on Sainte-Chapelle.

Of the various historical sites I visited during my recent sojourn in Paris, Sainte-Chapelle merits special note. Built at the behest of King Louis IX and consecrated in 1248, Sainte-Chapelle is widely considered to be one of the finest Gothic structures in the world; I know some people who would go even further by describing Sainte-Chapelle as the most beautiful church building ever constructed, and, though I tend to be suspicious of unqualified superlatives, in this instance I can certainly appreciate the sentiment.

There are few experiences quite like that of seeing the Upper Chapel of the Sainte-Chapelle for the first time, as one ascends the narrow, winding staircase from the Lower Chapel and suddenly finds oneself in one of the most dazzling spaces ever built by human hands. Toronto-based writer David Warren captures something of this experience in a recent entry on Sainte-Chapelle posted on his blog Essays in Idleness:
Survival is never an accident, in this world. The story of the survival of Sainte-Chapelle, to the present day, nearly eight centuries after its conception, is so tangled that I won't begin. The miracle is that it is still there, right in the centre of Paris, notwithstanding such facts as the French Revolution; that it has been preserved and repeatedly repaired. God is surely mixed up in every turn of this unlikely story.

Tourists still flock through, with the tour guides, trudging the way tourists trudge. Except, the chapel explodes before them, and in the brilliant light of midday they are stunned. Human eyes are not prepared for such beauty: it is like looking into the Sun. They could not have imagined that such a shrine could be built with human hands. They are looking at the product of a civilization almost infinitely greater than their own. It is like an encounter with the extraterrestrial.
As Warren later observes, the survival of Sainte-Chapelle is particularly significant given humankind's generally dismal record in such matters, with iconoclasts of various stripes doing their bit to completely destroy the architectural and artistic legacy of past generations in the name of ideological purity:
It is a bleak fact that most of the great works of art in the highest phases of civilization have been, over time, destroyed — either pointedly and purposefully, or as "collateral" from some larger intentional act of destruction: war usually, or riot. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, can be troublesome, too, in districts that are prone to them. But man, as a destructive force, is by far the worst enemy of great art.

"Modern man," in his tower flats and suburbs, who thanks to "progress in education" may not realize that milk comes from cows, needs to have these things explained to him. The grand minsters and shrines whose ruins may enchant him, did not dissolve like cakes in the rain. They were wrecked on purpose, and the missing stone was "privatized." They became stone quarries. For without protection, founded in love, nothing survives.
As I have noted before, iconoclasm kills; efforts to eradicate the physical evidence of the past are usually carried out in tandem with efforts to eliminate human beings whose existence is deeply inconvenient to the iconoclasts. As "extraterrestrial" as Sainte-Chapelle may seem to denizens of a contemporary, secular society, the preservation of such sacred spaces represents an act of cultural defiance, an implicit challenge to radical groups like ISIS who would seek to cleanse the world of cultural artifacts that seem to threaten their vision of the world.

Last month, I was very moved to read the story of Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Assad, who spent his entire adult life working to preserve the ancient city of Palmyra and was beheaded by ISIS for his refusal to turn over priceless artifacts which the terrorists wished either to destroy or to sell on the black market to finance their activities. The world needs monuments like Sainte-Chapelle and Palmyra to call us back to an awareness of our best selves, and we also need heroes like Khaled al-Assad who are willing to sacrifice themselves in defense of things of enduring value. AMDG.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ah! Ich habe deinen Mund geküßt, Jochanaan.

For the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, here is some decidedly non-liturgical music which I always revisit on this date: the finale of Richard Strauss' opera Salome, in which the eponymous princess sings an unsettling aria to John's severed head. Premiered in Dresden in December 1905, Salome became an instant sensation, controversial for the unorthodox tonality of its score as well for the perceived salaciousness of its storyline and libretto, which were taken from a play by Oscar Wilde. As Alex Ross writes in The Rest is Noise, many of Strauss' contemporaries saw Salome as "something beyond the pale - an ultra-dissonant biblical spectacle, based on a play by an Irish degenerate whose name was not mentioned in polite company, a work so frightful in its depiction of adolescent lust that imperial censors had banned it from the Court Opera in Vienna." In some sense, the opera's finale anticipated the scandalized response of its audience: after watching in horror as his stepdaughter lovingly caresses the bloodied head of the martyred prophet Jochanaan, Herod orders his guards to put the girl to death. For those who wish to read along as they listen, here is the relevant section of the libretto, first in Strauss' original and then in my own translation from the German:
Ah, ich habe deinen Mund geküßt, Jochanaan.
Ich hab' ihn geküßt, deinen Mund.
Es war ein bitterer Geschmack auf deinen Lippen.
Hat es nach Blut geschmeckt?· Nein.
Doch schmeckte es vielleicht nach Liebe.
Sie sagen, das die Liebe bitter schmecke.
Doch was, was tut's, was tut's?
Ich habe deinen Mund geküßt, Jochanaan,
Ich hab' ihn geküßt, deinen Mund.

HEROD (turning to the Soldiers)
Man töte dieses Weib!


Ah! I have kissed your mouth, Jochanaan.
I have kissed your mouth.
There was a bitter taste on your lips.
Was it the taste of blood? No.
But perhaps it was the taste of love.
They say that love has a bitter taste.
But so what? What does it matter?
I have kissed your mouth, Jochanaan.
I have kissed your mouth.

HEROD (turning to the Soldiers)
Kill that woman!
The title role of Strauss' Salome is notoriously difficult, calling for a soprano with great vocal power and range who also possesses the physical agility to perform Salome's infamous dance before Herod and who can otherwise convincingly portray a teenage girl. One singer who could manage all of this was Teresa Stratas, who performed the role in a 1974 film adaptation of Salome conducted by Karl Böhm. The version heard in this post features Montserrat Caballé, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Erich Leinsdorf with James King as Herod. Caballé more than matches the vocal and dramatic demands of the role, while Strauss' music is compelling enough to set the mood and to allow the listener to easily imagine the scene in the absence of the visuals one would see in the opera house.

Many who heard the early performances of Strauss' Salome regarded the opera as a lurid spectacle which misappropriated the Gospel text for impious purposes. Though Strauss certainly did not see Salome as an exercise in Christian apologetics, his retelling of the death of John the Baptist offers an effective reminder of the chilling reality of the mysterium iniquitatis. A vulnerable young woman made the object of others' lust and psychological manipulation, Salome cannot help but repeat the same destructive patterns of behavior in her fatal obsession with John the Baptist. The familiarity of the Gospel account should not be allowed to dilute its moral force, and in times like ours - times characterized by a general state of global action in the face of horrors like the genocidal rampages of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram - perhaps the shocking drama of Strauss' Salome is needed to shake us from complacency. AMDG.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

From Andalusia to Savannah.

This post concludes the chronicle of the Southern road trip that Matt Dunch and I took in the spring, with stops in Louisiana, Alabama, and, as seen here, Georgia. Keeping with the Catholic and literary emphases of the trip, on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker we paid a visit to Andalusia Farm, the rural homestead where Flannery O'Connor lived from 1951 until her death in 1964 and where she wrote most of her published fiction. Open to the public since 2003, Andalusia still looks much as it did when O'Connor lived there with her widowed mother; exploring the property, it's easy to imagine Flannery at work on a short story, writing letters to friends in faraway places, or tending to her peacocks (though it bears mentioning that, with the recent death of Manley Pointer, only one living peacock remains at Andalusia, down from a group of forty in Flannery's time - sic transit gloria mundi).

The front porch at Andalusia, a good place to sit on a spring day.

Flannery O'Connor's bedroom and study at Andalusia, located just behind the porch seen in the preceding photo. The pair of crutches near the bed offers a poignant reminder of the acute lupus that struck Flannery in her mid-twenties and left her increasingly housebound; since Flannery was unable to climb the stairs to the second floor of the house, this former sitting room on the first floor became her bedroom as well as the place where she did most of her writing at a desk right beside her bed. Among other items in the room, I was struck by the presence of a volume of the Breviarium Romanum sitting atop a pile of books on the bedside table.

The dining room at Andalusia, just across the hall from Flannery's bedroom.

The 544 acres of the Andalusia property include rolling hills and woods as well as developed farmland.

This pond is also on the Andalusia property; it's only a short walk downhill from the house to the pond, but it was sobering to think that Flannery O'Connor would have been unable to make the walk for much of the time she lived here.

Andalusia Farm is located on the outskirts of Milledgeville, a small town about one hundred miles southeast of Atlanta. Born in Savannah, Flannery O'Connor moved to Milledgeville with her family when she was thirteen and spent most of her remaining years there. After graduating from Peabody High School in Milledgeville in 1942, Flannery stayed in town to attend Georgia State College for Women, now known as Georgia College. Georgia College has changed a lot since Flannery's time - it became coeducational in 1967, and, notwithstanding the 'college' moniker, it is now a university - but the campus still has a genteel, easygoing quality.

The library at Georgia College is home to Flannery O'Connor's personal papers as well as a memorial room including items like this college yearbook (where Flannery's surname is inexplicably misspelled "O'Conner").

Also on display in the Flannery O'Connor Room at Georgia College is this typewriter used by the lady herself.

The interior of Sacred Heart Church in Milledgeville, where Flannery O'Connor and her mother attended daily Mass and where Flannery's funeral was held following her death in August 1964.

West Hancock Street, Milledgeville's quiet main drag, seen on a pleasant spring evening.

Flannery O'Connor's grave in Milledgeville's Memory Hill Cemetery.

Moving two and a half hours east of Milledgeville and further back in the chronology of Flannery O'Connor's life, this is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, where Flannery was baptized in 1925.

Lafayette Square in Savannah, where Flannery lived for the first thirteen years of her life; obscured a bit by trees and the fountain in the middle of the square, Flannery's childhood home is visible in the center of this photo.

A historical marker outside Flannery O'Connor's childhood home in Savannah. Though the house is open to the public, Matt and I decided to forego a visit in order to see other sights on our one full day in Savannah; after an especially evocative stop at Andalusia a day before, I suspect that this house would have been a bit of a letdown in any event.

Pulaski Square, one of the twenty-two squares of Savannah that help to give the city its particular charm.

Here is Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah.

Of course, Savannah is known to most people for reasons that have nothing to do with Flannery O'Connor - in recent years, the city has attracted particular notoriety thanks to John Berendt's 1994 book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and a subsequent film adaptation by Clint Eastwood. To acknowledge the Midnight connection, here is the Mercer-Williams House made famous by the book and the movie.

Less of an international tourist draw than the Mercer-Williams House but just as deserving of a visit, here is the Jepson Center for the Arts, one of several Telfair Museums in downtown Savannah. Housed in a lovely modern building designed by Moshe Safdie, the Jepson Center collection includes a respectable selection of works by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol as well as a Midnight icon, the Bird Girl sculpture seen on the cover of Berendt's book.

Showing that a particular Southern tradition is alive and well in Savannah, this downtown clothier features seersucker fashions for both men and women.

Broughton Street in downtown Savannah, captured at nightfall on the last evening of our trip.

On the aforementioned Broughton Street, here is my intrepid traveling companion at Chive Sea Bar and Lounge during the final dinner of our trip. Matt was the one who first came up with the idea for our Southern road trip, so it seems appropriate to end this series by thanking him again for the inspired suggestion that we spend part of the spring exploring a part of the world that was largely new to both of us. I'm grateful for his company and for the adventure, which offered a fine vacation in the weeks preceding my ordination to the priesthood. AMDG.