Catholic Phoenix: Some Features
Currently, Catholic Phoenix offers you, valued reader, three wonderful features:
They’re features either because of their recurrent theme (as in Drapeau’s The Year I Just Finished), or because they constitute a genre (as in Denys’s epistle-cum-response posts). You know what you’re getting, and you can go back to get more because you like what you get. They’re features because they’re distinct from the normal way of offering posts here at Catholic Phoenix.
A Disquisition on the Terms Quodlibet and Quodlibetal
Most of what can found on Catholic Phoenix is quodlibetal. This means that contributors aren’t assigned a set subject to blog about. They write about what they will (quodlibet is Latin for what you will or what pleases).
That lovely adjective is a form of quodlibet, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines thus:
An academic exercise within a university in which a master or bachelor would discuss questions on any subject; the written record of such an exercise.
It goes on to explain in a historical note:
These exercises originated at the faculty of theology in Paris in the 1230s, and similar exercises continued into the 18th cent. at the University of Oxford.
In the medieval university, the idea of the quodlibetal disputation was that someone who had truly mastered a subject, whose thought had been fully informed by a discipline, could give at least a likely sounding answer to any question relating to the matter that was proposed. Ask whatever you will (quodlibet’s general meaning in Latin), the master will give you some kind of intelligent response—or at least one that sure sounds smart falling from the master’s lips.
The Mundane Mind Gives a Certain Kind of Inquiry a Bad Rap
The tendency of the quodlibetal to devolve from the heights of resplendent knowledge into the depths of slippery plausibility on inconsequential points earned the quodlibet another meaning: a minor or quibbling point or argument.
One suspects, though, that the quodlibet might have gained its reputation for inconsequentiality because much of what seemed minor and quibbling in scholastic disputations seemed so to minds utterly uninterested in what was being pursued in the academy or university. Who can’t help but think it’s a mind at least half-barbaric that dismisses every question containing the slightest metaphysical traces with a snide reference to the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin?
The Sense in Which Catholic Phoenix is—and isn’t—Quodlibetal
By referring to the format as quodlibetal, Catholic Phoenix doesn’t mean to suggest that its contributors hold themselves out as masters of Catholicism, theological experts who can answer any Catholic question whatsoever. But it does suggest that, Catholicism forming their minds and disciplining their hearts, the contributors bring the Faith to bear on any and all issues presented by the world they inhabit.
The Musical Meaning of Quodlibet: An Apt Metaphor for Catholic Phoenix
Because those issues can cover a range wide and diverse, including within itself both the lofty and profound as well as the superficial and ephemeral, and not wishing to leave our readers shocked if they find at Catholic Phoenix a mingling of the high and low, elite and popular, sacred and secular, we end with these two uses of quodlibet in its musical sense and the definition which they exemplify:
- A quodlibet can only be brought to life if an audience is familiar with the component parts.
- Bach could end his Goldberg Variations with a quodlibet based on the popular tunes of his day.
- Quodlibet, n., Music. A musical composition combining several different melodies (usually popular tunes) in counterpoint, often in a light-hearted manner.
Not a bad metaphor for Catholic Phoenix.