Sunday, October 31, 2004

Theology in the News... (Or How Not to Write About Theology)

The Telegraph proves the axiom that the secular press love to tell the Church to keep out of the bedroom, but only ever seems to write about theology when it has something to do with the bedroom (warning: surprisingly explicit conent for the Telegraph). Note too the headline and opening sentence -
Vatican sex guide urges Catholics to do 'it' more often
A Vatican-sanctioned sex guide is encouraging churchgoers to make love more often in an effort to offset "impotence and frigidity" and address papal concerns over declining birth-rates among Italian Roman Catholics.

Note the usual fudge - 'Vatican Sanctioned' could mean anything from 'the Vatican hasn't banned it' to 'written personally by the Pope and Ratzinger'. From the article, it sounds like describing the publication as a 'Vatican sex guide' is downright misleading...

In the News...

There was a festive air about Rome today as the city centre was pedestrianised for the national sport - protest marching. Of course, it was more than a bit of a pain if one actually wanted to go somewhere... Also, as one might imagine, the Eastern European clergy in Rome (and not only them, of course) are none too keen on Communists...
Here's a picture of lemurs. (In-joke)
What is it with animals and pumpkins?
Are we seeinf a lack of imagination?
The Telegraph reports that Buttiglione has stepped down. I don't think that we should be surprised at how 'tolerant' the European parliament really is. Additionally, there's an opinion piece from Charles Moore who questions the new powers of the EU.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Underground (literally) Cinema in Paris...

It's commonly known that under the streets of Paris there are miles of tunnels, galleries and catacombs. It's also well-known that tunnel exploration is an increasingly common pastime and there are numerous groups engaged in this activity. Surprising, however, the fact that one of these groups managed to put together an undergound cinema along with bar and restaurant. According to this article in the Times the 'cataphiles' of a century ago did something similar - they staged an 'underground concert' with a 45-piece orchestra.

Ars Moriendi & Other Topics...

I'm a big fan of the Web Gallery of Art and stumbled across this wonderful German woodcut from an Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) book of the 15th Century. (Click on the picture itself for enlargement). I recognize Ss Catherine of Alexandria (with sword and wheel) and St Stephen (in the Deacon's dalmatic holding stones). I suspect that the female saint holding the tower with three windows is St. Barbara. (One window for each person of the Blessed Trinity). The portly saint at the back is a mystery to me, and nor am I entirely clear what God the Father is doing with some rather scarly looking surgeon's implements. A nice touch is the fact that St. Michael has vanguished the demons who cower under the bed.
Also worth a look is the Internet Biblia Pauperum. The site is incomplete and doesn't seem to have been updated recently, but its worth a look to see some more gorgeous woodcuts and some interesting typological connections between the Old and New Testaments. (Hold your pointer over the Latin text for an English translation.)
To finish with, one of my favourite pictures in Rome, the Galleria Doria Pamphilj's Rest on the Flight Into Egypt. I really like his depiction of St.Joseph holding the musical score for the angel and the tender (but unidealized) way in which the Virgin Mary holds the Child Jesus. (Incidentally, the musical score is genuine - the tune is playable)

Killers in the White House?

No, this isn't political commentary, but a question of trivia. Which US Presidents have killed a man?

In the News...

This article in the Telegraph reveals a terrific amount of childishness on everyone's behalf. The French seem to be speculating that Bush is descended from a French family called 'Boucher' and Le Figaro is suggesting that this might help Bush lose the election. Kerry, meanwhile, is trying to hush up the fact that he has (horror of horrors!) a cousin who is a French politician whilst the White House is quoted as saying that Kerry 'looks French'. It all sounds like something from the playground...
Meanwhile, churches in England are somewhat lamely trying to counter Hallowe'en with "festivals of light" or "hallelujah" parties. Rev Janet Russell, vicar of Crowmarsh and Brightwell-cum-Sotwell promises 'lively music'.
Here in Rome, yesterday, we had the signing of the EU constitution, a bad idea for many reasons. Ironically, this godless document was signed 'beneath the gaze of a statue of Pope Innocent X in Rome's city hall, designed by Michelangelo, on the Capitoline, the hill once at the heart of its ancient empire's mystic and political world.' I think that it's great that the birth of the new atheistic superstate can be viewed as a resurrection of the Antichristian Roman Empire (for all Catholic conspiracy theorists) or as the latest ploy of Babylon-on-the-Tiber to take over the world (for fans of Jack Chick and his ilk.)
Jack Chirk is, of course, unusually prophetic and I suspect that his paraonoid fantasy of Jesuit Supreme Justice of the World would terrify Catholics and Protestants alike.

St. Augustine Cometh...

Zenit has fuller details about the Bishop of Hippo's visit to Rome.

Friday, October 29, 2004


One of the nicest volumes I've come across of late is this booklet by a German seminarian which consists of the hymns and tones from the Latin breviary. It also includes a few additional Latin hymns not found in the breviary. It is very disappointing that only the Latin originals of the Marian antiphons made their way into the English translation of the breviary. Italian speakers are somewhat more fortunate as the translators included an appendix of Latin hymns at the back of their breviary. Anyhow, this handy little volume makes up the deficit.
You might be a Catholic nerd if you pray grace before meals in Latin... The standard Latin grace is here, but there are alternatives.
An Anglican parish has a page of graces, including a longer version of the 'normal' Catholic grace.
Benedic, Domine, nos et dona tua, quae de largitate tua sumus sumpturi, et concede, ut illis salubriter nutriti tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus, per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Bless, O Lord, us and your gifts, which from your bounty we are about to receive, and grant that, healthily nourished by them, we may render you due obedience, through Christ our Lord.
The Cistercians give the text of grace as well as a blessing for those chosen to read in the refectory and serve at meals for the week. Finally, this page has a selection of graces from Cambridge University including that most useful of graces for the diner in a hurry or for the Latin-impaired - Benedictus benedicat!

In the News...

A California Biotech firm wants to 'create' Allergy-free cats.

'Dancing Priest' Neil Horan is in the news again - he's been cleared of indecency charges in London. Bizarrely, during the trial, both the defence and prosecution agreed that Horan was in a state of undress in the presence of his accuser (a 7 year old girl at the time of the alleged offence in 1991) and her mother. This report from the Times of London adds that the mother of the girl remained friendly with Horan after the event and even helped him with one of his his books 'A Glorious New World'. Incredibly, the Diocese of Southwark says: "Neil Horan's faculties to practise as a priest were formally withdrawn on health grounds." One wonders why canonical procedings seem not been brought. According to the Glasgow Daily Record
Cornelius Horan, 57, celebrated by performing a three-minute jig outside the Old Bailey in London.
Dressed in a kilt and green jacket and brandishing a bible, he said: 'This is the greatest day of my life and really and truly what saved me was this little book which I took on to Silverstone.'

The Exultet Rolls...

One of the more interesting genres of Medieval church art is the so-called 'Exultet Roll'. Functionally, the roll was simply a roll of parchment from which the Deacon could sing the words of the Easter proclaimation. However, it was also the custom to decorate them with pictures relating to the mysteries of salvation about which the deacon was sing.
This Notre Dame webpage gives details on the Exultet rolls of Southern Italy and reproduces some images from the Barberini exultet roll. Here for instance, we see the bees, sadly missing from the English translation. This Italian page also reproduces some images from the Exultet rolls (scroll down to the 4th set of images) including this one of the crossing of the Red Sea (note the pillar of fire and of cloud) and more bees.
Finally, this page reproduces the Harrowing of Hell from the Barberini Roll and gives the text of the Exultet with a literal translation.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Special Guest...

Rome will be chaotic over the next few days as the city seeks to cope with the necessary security arrangements for the 25 European leaders visiting the city. However, a much more important and influential visitor will be arriving in just over a week's time. The relics of St. Augustine will be in Rome from Nov 7th-15th as part of the celebrations of the 1650th Anniversary of his birth. He will be in the Augustinian church of S. Agostino (where his mother St. Monica lies) with brief visits to the Augustinianum, the Pope's private chapel and Ostia. In his Confessions, he wrote about Monica's death at Ostia:
... she was prostrated by fever; and while she was sick, she one day sank into a swoon, and was 'for a short time unconscious of visible things. We hurried up to her; but she soon regained her senses, and gazing on me and my brother as we stood by her, she said to us inquiringly, "Where was I?" Then looking intently at us stupefied with grief, "Here," saith she, "shall you bury your mother." I was silent, and refrained from weeping; but my brother said something, wishing her, as the happier lot, to die in her own country and not abroad. She, when she heard this, with anxious countenance arrested him with her eye, as savouring of such things, and then gazing at me, "Behold," saith she, "what he saith;" and soon after to us both she saith, "Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be." And when she had given forth this opinion in such words as she could, she was silent, being in pain with her increasing sickness.

In other news, I guess this is POD Buddhist style - the monks are paying homage to the new King of Cambodia, a former ballet-dancer. (Honestly, that's what the Italian says...)


I am currently reading 'From Dogma to History' by Anglican ecclesiastical historian William HC Frend. In it he provides an overview of the lives and careers of six of the most important ecclesiastical historians of the past 150 years. Of most interest to Catholic readers would be Frend's account of Msgr Louis Duchesne who fell foul of some political enemies during the modernist crisis. One of the reasons that Duchesne managed to acquire so many enemies amongst the French bishops was his unfortunate habit (during the 1850s and 1860s) of debunking some of the more extravagent legends regarding the foundation of some French dioceses. Paris, for example, claimed that its founder St. Denis was none other than Denis the Areopagite from the Acts of the Apostles. Aix en Provence claimed to be founded by St. Mary Magdalene. She is said to have arrived in Southern Gaul with 72 companions including her sister Martha and brother Lazarus. It would be interesting to investigate the links between that legend (supported by the local hierarchy for so long) is linked to the tales about Mary Magdalene put about by Dan Brown and the modern day gnostics.
Parallel to that, I've finally started into de Lubac's 'Medieval Exegesis'. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information at de Lubac's fingertips and a perusal of his footnotes is an education in itself. I was particularly taken by a piece of Latin verse he found associating each of the 4 Latin Doctors with the four beasts traditionally associated with the evangelists.
Gregorius, vir facundus,
Verbo dulcis, vita mundus,
Hominis vultum habuit.
Ambrosius, leo fortis,
Ut Helias, numquam mortis,
Metu vitia tacuit.

Hieronymus, bos secure,
Gradiens, vias Scripturae,
Solidissime tenuit.
Super omnes Augustinus,
Alta petens, vir divinus,
Vultum aquilae meruit.

(Gregory, a fluent man,
Sweet-talking, pure-living,
Had the face of a man.
Ambrose, a mighty lion,
Like Elijah, never hushed up
Vice for fear of death.

Jerome like an ox walking
Fearlessly, held fast
To the ways of Scripture.
Above them all, Augustine,
A divine man who sought the heights,
Was found worthy to bear the face of an eagle.)
de Lubac describes it as a hymn of the Abbey of Marmoutiers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


I am glad that two of my favourite 'blogs, Pontifications and the Shrine of the Holy Whapping are back after a hiatus. The quotes from the Shrine Road-Trip have inspired me to come up with a concept for some Catholic cartoonist to develop...
Imagine if you will, a pair of ultra-POD liturgical crime-fighters (an UberCatholic Mulder and Scully) who travel across America in a converted luxury car (The Holy Roller) fighting liberal liturgists, liberation theologians and the like... I think it should be called The Ecclesiastical Adventures of Anaphora Epiklesis and Anathema Seth.
Incidentally, I was going to write a little piece on the etymology of the term POD (also P.O.D), but I note that Father Bryce beat me to it more than 12 months ago... He notes that George Weigel picked it up from American seminarians in Rome, but Fr Bryce notes that he never heard the NAC faculty use the term. So, the question remains, was the expression pious and over devotional actually ever in use by seminary faculty in America (or elsewhere) or was it the clever invention of a seminarian who was satirizing the attitude of his formators?
Major kudos to Taylor Marshall of Ecclesia Anglican for this helpful cartoon which explains what's in the Windsor report.... And to think I spoiled my eyesight reading that .pdf...

Newman on the Future of Ireland and Britain

Posting that quotation from Macaulay yesterday I am reminded of a passage which has a similar 'feel' to it in Newman's Rise and Progress of Universities which dates from his period as founding rector of the Catholic University in Dublin. The university itself has long been subsumed into the state-run 'National University of Ireland' and the principal monuments of that time are Newman's University Church in Dublin and his writings on education.
Nay, looking at the general state of things at this day, I desiderate for a School of the Church, if an additional School is to be granted to us, a more central position than Oxford has to show. Since the age of Alfred and of the first Henry, the world has grown, from the west and south of Europe, into four or five continents; and I look for a city less inland than that old sanctuary, and a country closer upon the highway of the seas. I look towards a land both old and young; old in its Christianity, young in the promise of its future; a nation, which received grace before the Saxon came to Britain, and which has never quenched it; a Church, which comprehends in its history the rise and fall of Canterbury and York which Augustine and Paulinus found, and Pole and Fisher left behind them. I contemplate a people which has had a long night, and will have an inevitable day. I am turning my eyes towards a hundred years to come, and I dimly see the island I am gazing on, become the road of passage and union between two hemispheres, and the centre of the world. I see its inhabitants rival Belgium in populousness, France in vigour, and Spain in enthusiasm; and I see England taught by advancing years to exercise in its behalf that good sense which is her characteristic towards every one else. The capital of that prosperous and hopeful land is situate in a beautiful bay and near a romantic region; and in it I see a flourishing University, which for a while had to struggle with fortune, but which, when its first founders and servants were dead and gone, had successes far exceeding their anxieties. Thither, as to a sacred soil, the home of their fathers, and the fountain-head of their Christianity, students are flocking from East, West, and South, from America and Australia and India, from Egypt and Asia Minor, with the ease and rapidity of a locomotion not yet discovered, and last, though not least, from England,—all speaking one tongue, all owning one faith, all eager for one large true wisdom; and thence, when their stay is over, going back again to carry over all the earth "peace to men of good will."
Emphasis Mine

Monday, October 25, 2004

Into the valley of Death...

I see from today's telegraph that the Charge of the Light Brigade is to be reinacted.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
From Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade
Quenta mentions the feastday of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales and plugs the webiste of the Tyburn Benedictines. If one is in London then a visit to their convent is a must. The sisters keep perptual adoration in their chapel. I was there some time ago and was given a tour of their crypt chapel with its amazing collection of relics by a very POD Australian sisters. We spent so long swapping stories about the martyrs and the sad history of Tyburn that she was nearly late for vespers! In Quenta's comment box I mention a Newman connection to the convent. What I forgot to mention was that Hope-Scott was part of Newman's legal team for the Achilli case. There is an extract from Newman's writings (possibly the Plain and Parochial Sermons?) on a plaque at the back of their upstairs chapel.
(If you can spare something, I know that the sisters are facing huge building costs to comply with disability legislation.)

Thomas Babington Macaulay on the Church

Today is a busy day for me, so I'll just share with you one of my favourite passages of prose. It's by the English historian Lord Macaulay (not particularly a friend of the church) and touches on the durability of the (Roman) Catholic Church:
There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared to the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which, a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.
(Emphasis mine)

From his Essay on Ranke's History of the Popes

Sunday, October 24, 2004

A sacrament by any other name...

I came across a passage of St. Augustine recently in which he recored that it was the custom of the Christians in Carthage to refer to Baptism and the Eucharist as salvation and life respectively. This reminded me of a conversation I had some years ago with an Englishman wherein we discussed the names given to the Sacraments in pre-reformation England (many of them having Anglo-saxon roots). I no longer remember all the details of our conversation, but it did set me thinking about the words we use to name the sacraments.
Baptism comes from the Greek 'to dip in water'. This explains why a recent effort at Biblical translation called John the Baptist 'Jack the Dipper'. Of course the older English term (still commonly used) for Baptism was 'Christening' - i.e. making Christian.
In its role as sacrament par excellence the Eucharist probably has more names than any other sacrament. (If you want to sound liberal one should avoid using the definite article before the word 'Eucharist') It comes from the Greek for 'thanksgiving' - it may be argued whether this implies that the Eucaristic ceremony itself was seen by early Christians as being a service of 'thanksgiving' or whether the Christians themselves were thankful for the gift of the Eucharist. The word 'Mass' comes from the Latin for dismissal - again it is argued whether this is a reference to the 'Ite missa est' at the end of the Mass or the earlier dismissal of cathechuments. We also refer to 'Holy Communion', 'The Sacrament', 'The Blessed Sacrament', 'The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar' and so on. The Protestant tradition prefers to refer to 'The Lord's Supper' for their eucharistic services. It is notable that none of the names given to this sacrament directly refer to the central essence of the Sacrament itself. It seems that the great mystery and gift of Christ's Body and Blood is so great that it evades direct naming! I remember my English friend telling me that the old English name for the sacrament was the 'housel' coming from an Anglo-saxon word meaning gift. He also informed me that altar rails are still occasionally called 'housel rails' in English churches.
This is a much more directly named sacrament - it can be called 'Confession', 'the Sacrament of Penance' or 'the Sacrament of Reconciliation'. The fact that recent magisterial documents have reverted to speaking of the 'Sacrament of Penance' rather than 'Reconciliation' has raised eyebrows in some quarters. The older English name for confession was 'Shrift,' a term sometimes applied to absolution. The verb is 'to shrive' which could refer to the act of the priest or the penitent. Surprisingly it actually comes from the Latin root 'scribo' (I write). This was accepted into the Anglo-Saxon tongue as being connectioned to the idea of a 'prescription' and so 'to shrive' was to prescribe a penance. Also linked to this word is 'Shrove Tuesday' and one of my favourite lines from Shakespeare is Friar Laurence's quip addressed to Romeo: 'Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift'
This seems to take its name from the idea of completing or consolodating one's commitment to Christian faith. There seems to be a dearth of alternative names - perhaps this has something to do with its reputation as being 'a sacrament without a theology'. In the Eastern Churches and (I think) in pre-reformation England the sacrament is/was refered to 'chrismation' - i.e. anointing with chrism.
This sacrament's name carries with it the idea of being set apart or put into an 'order' in a hierarchy. The old English term was 'priesting'. (Need I explain?)
This comes from the Latin 'maritus', a husband and ultimately from 'mas/maris' a male. Faminists needn't worry because the term 'Matrimony' comes from 'mater,' the Latin for mother. We often still use the old English word 'Wedding' which comes from an Anglo-Saxon verb meaning 'to pledge' or 'to engage'. This shares a root with the German 'wetten', to bet. I'm not sure if that says anything about the dangerous business of chosing a spouse.
Sacrament of the Sick
The modern title needs little explaination. In previous years it was known as 'Extreme unction' which suggests that it was one's last anointing. It is still refered to as 'anointing'.

Ice bar in Milan

The newest arrival on Milan's vibrant bar scene serves up the whole evening on ice -- ice walls, ice tables, ice sofas, an ice bar, even ice glasses.
In other news, Yahoo publish this unflattering picture of Kerry in Church. (For what it's worth, I suspect that Kerry's beginning to show the strain and Biush will shade it...)
In other religious news we learn about horse baptism in South Africa and Britain's Royal Navy officially recognizing one of its technicians as a Satainist!

Funeral Homily

Don Jim Tucker posts an excellent funeral homily.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Halloween Display - A Symbol of Hate?

No, it's not the Wiccans who are taking offence this time. In this Florida news story the 'International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement' (I presume this is some kind of African-American association) took offence at a Frankenstein hanging from a tree.
"There is no history of hanging ghouls in this country but there is a history of hanging African people," said Yeshitela, leader of the St. Petersburg-based group.

Also, Mark Shea reminds us that the earth is 6,000 years old today! Hurrah!

Friday, October 22, 2004

In the news...

Martin Luther's toilet discovered... (No, really!)
In Israel, right wing rabbis are being accused of provoking civil war.
Also worth a look, though not exactly news, is Lauren's Ode to Ouzo.

Festum Asinorum

I posted some days ago about the custom of the boy bishop and my discovery of a fascinating book about the medieval mystery plays. Well, there's more to Hone's book than just mystery play - he devotes quite an amount of space to even more scandalous Romish follies (Hone took a somewhat disapproving tone towards us Papists) such as the so called 'Festa Asinorum', usually translated into English as the 'Feast of the Ass'.
The feast in question was one of those pre-Counter-reformation celebrations which mixed the sacred and profane in a manner which would put the most 'adventurous' of modern liturgists to shame. It was normally associated with one or other of the church's official feasts which involved the donkey - Christmas, the Flight into Egypt, Palm Sunday, etc... The date and details vary from place to place (mainly in France) but the principal features were a procession in honour of the donkey and a mock-liturgy or liturgies in which the donkey played a central role. (In a footnote Hone notes that traces of the custom could also be found in the treatment of the donkey on Palm Sunday in pre-reformation England. Early in the day one of the priests would prostrate himself before the donkey until 'another priest roused him by the application of a rod of the largest size.' That evening, the choirboys would bargain with the sexton for the use of the doney. They would then take it about the parish singing and collecting money.)
In 11th century Sens the Festa Asinorum took the following form:
On the eve of the day appointed the clergy would process to the Cathedral door and two choristers would sing in high-pitched voices:
Lux hodie, lux laetitiae, me judice, tristis
Quisquis erit, revomendus erit, solemnibus istis
Sunt hodie procul invidiae, procul omnia moesta.
Laeta volunt, quicunque colunt asinaria festa.
Poetically translated by Hone:
Light to day, the light of joy - I banish every sorrow;
Wherever found, be it expelled from our solemnities tomorrow.
Away be strife and grief and care, from every anxious breast,
And all be joy and glee in those who keep the Ass's feast.
The ass, vested in precious vestments is then brought into the Cathedral by two canons whilst the hymn Orientis Partibus is sung.
The Latin lyrics and an English translation can be found here. For the tune click here. (Incidentally, there is a group of musicians based in Assisi called Orientis Partibus. I have their album 'Iubilum' and on it they perform their signature piece, complete with donkey noises!)
The 1st Vespers of the feast was then celebrated, a night-long affir of nonsense chants and parodies of the music of the liturgical year. At intervals wine would be supplied to the particpants when they chanted 'Conductus ad poculum' (brought to the glass). After the 'vespers' the chapter would perform skits in the streets preceded by a huge lantern. When they returned to the Cathedral for the morning offices they would be soaked with pailfuls of water. Between the offices the donkey (still in the Cathedral) would be fed and watered.
At the chant 'Conductus ad ludos' (brought to play) the ass would be led into the nave while people and clergy danced around and brayed like donkeys. After this interlude, the ass was led back into the choir and the 'services' continued. The 2nd vespers would conclude with an invitation to feast ('conductus ad prandium') and the festival concluded with another series of skits in the streets.
One of the variants of the festival recorded by Hone was that of Beauvais. There the 'festa' took place on the 14th of January to commenorate the flight into Egypt. Atop the ass would be placed a handsome girl and a baby (representing the Madonna and child) and these led the procession to the church of St. Stephen. There, the mass would be interupted by the imitation of an ass's bray at various stages and the celebrant would replace the 'Ita Missa est' with a triple 'hee'haw'!

Who's hot, who's not...

Amy Welborn links to this article by Sandro Magister about who wields power in the Vatican. Personally, I'd be inclined to take these articles and all such speculation withe a grain of salt. This is particularly true if one tries to use this speculation to see inside the next conclave.
That being said, it's an interesting read. Without a doubt the Pope's declining physical health (he has sounded much weaker in recent weeks) is a cause for concern and does make Archbishop Dziwisz's role increasingly important. However, I find the notion that he might have made Dziwisz Cardinal in pectore an almost laughable suggestion. Indeed, the fact that Magister would repeat such an incredible rumour casts a shadow of doubt over the rest of the article.
Also well off the mark is the old chestnut that is put about regarding Ratzinger and Dominus Iesus. No sensible commentator could buy into the old caricature of Ratzinger being several degrees to the right of the Pope. It was no surprise that the Pope backed Dominus Iesus. (Incidentally, when Dominus Iesus came out initially the commentary which impressed me most was the welcome given by some Protestant clergy who, despite not being able to accept the ecclesiology, saw that the main point of the document was the Christological focus and they welcomed the document's strong defence of the uniqueness of Christ's salvific role.) It is also disingenuous to hint that the CDF's power has increased. Granted, Ratzinger's letters to bishops are a relative innovation, but would theologians really consider Ratzinger's hand any heavier than the pre-conciliar Holy Office?
More interesting is Magister's reportage of Sodano's October 2nd homily. Both Re and Sepe had been tipped some months ago to replace Sodano in the Secretariate of State this Autumn. That hasn't happened yet and perhaps it mightn't happen in the near future. Magister is correct to notice Julián Herranz Casado, certainly a man on the rise.
As I've said before, it's not safe to take this kind of speculation too far - a conclave has a dynamic all of its own and when a Pope dies the power of his staff dies with him. The exercise of power is not always the best way to make lasting friends and it's is not hard to imagine that the Holy Spirit might have a word or two to say about who the next Pope will be.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


A visit from Meredith to my comments box has reminded me to add her excellent Basia me, Catholica sum to my Blogroll. She's been quiet over the past few weeks, but I hope that a recent flurry of posting heralds increased 'blog activity.
(Hmmm... 'Basia me, Catholicus es' would be a nice inscription for a Bishop's ring...)

Hen's Teeth and Horses' Toes?

The fact that there is a conference in Rome at the moment about Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his work has reminded me of one of the more unusual accusations made against a theologian of this century.
I don't profess to know much about Teilhard de Chardin or his work - what little I do know suggests that he made a sincere, if ultimately ineffective attempt to form a synthesis of the theological and scientific worldviews. It is easy to critise his work with the benefit of hindsight (and the advances made in the philosophy of science) and he has very much fallen out of fashion, but the questions of the cosmic significance of Christianity and the relationship between religious and scientific speculation are not trivial and I would be reluctant to be too quick to judge the orthodoxy of his intentions.
Anyway, in 1912 and 1915, some bones came to light which were found in a quarry in Sussex. British paleontologists came to the conclusion that the remains belonged to the so-called 'missing link' and were hugely important in understanding the evolution of man. The stage of evolution to which these bones attested was called 'Piltdown Man' after the quarry in which they were discovered. However, in the 1950's, it was realised that the remains were faked - they turned out to be a mixture of artificially aged human and primate bones.
So, where does Teilhard come in? In 1983 Stephen Jay Gould (admittedly no friend of religion) published his famous article Hen's Teeth and Horses' Toes wherein he conjectures (based on circumstantial evidence) that Teilhard was partially responsible for the hoax. Personally, I'm tickled by the idea that the young Jesuit playing a practical joke with such far-reaching consequences, but it's probably only fair to mention that opinion is very divided on who may be responsible and Gould's 'evidence' is very, very circumstatial. This page, for example, has a number of links protesting Teilhard's innocence and there are several other suspects.

Wedding Attire...

Fr. Bryce has posted about this couple who married in pirate attire. This started a comment box discussion on the decency or otherwise of modern bridal attire.
This reminds me of the quick response of a wily pastor who was confronted with a bride who was showing too much. As she made her way up the aisle he asked his server to get a surplice from the sacristy. When she arrived at the sanctuary he put the surplice over her inadequate dress and gave her a blessing. The congretation took it as being part of the wedding ceremony.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Trollope says...

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilised and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling audiences to sit silent, and be tormented.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

Quenta relates a disturbing experience. I'm not in the habit of topping other people's stories (okay, I am...) but I was once woken from my sleep by my radio alarm-clock just in time to hear a news report about someone sharing my (not very common) name being killed in a car accident. Not the best way to start the day...
On a lighter note, I'm slightly surprised not to have read more on the Catholic Blogosphere about the Pope's next book. Apparently it will be of a philosophical and historical nature and will carry the title 'Memory and Identity'.
Finally, I was recently introduced to the fascinating story of that 'Strange Vagabond of God', John Randal Bradburn. There's a short article here about his life, as well as one about the three wishes concerning his death. For more info see the website of the John Bradburn Memorial Society.


A: I like my chasubles to be of the musical sort.
B: ?!?
A: I prefer fiddlebacks.
B: Ah!

Some advice from Fr. d'Alton

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about Fr. d’Alton. I came across the following anecdote about him in the unpublished memoirs of a priest-friend who recounts the advice given by Fr. d’Alton to a young cleric who sought his advice regarding how he should advance his career in the Curia:
You should learn how to talk a lot without saying much of anything. Never adopt a position that you will be remembered for. Move in the correct social circles, attend all the necessary social events, learn how to dress appropriately for each occasion. Be neat and formal without being extravagant or dandyish. Cultivate contacts in high places without alienating those on the lower rungs of the ladder. Avoid controversial company and don’t get involved in arguments. Keep your ear to the ground, your finger in the air, your nose to the grindstone and never burn any bridges. Don’t fall prey to the temptation of making a theologian or philosopher out of yourself. Acquire an air of moderate (not excessive) piety. Attend to your duties with diligence, but don’t make yourself indispensable in any one post.
Follow these simple rules, my son, and poco a poco (by and by) you will rise to the top like scum in a pond.

Monday, October 18, 2004

"The Anglican Communion is at a crossroads..."

... or so Archbishop Eames would want us to think. :)
“The Anglican Communion is at a crossroads. I honestly believe this is one of the best descriptions of Anglicanism at the moment. We are living in a pluralist, sad, divided world.” He hopes that Roman Catholics will read the report and say “Well, the Anglican Communion is at a crossroads.”
I'm unable to 'blog today, but suggest that readers have a look at the fallout after the Windsor Report on Titusonenine.
The other Anglican on my Blogroll has gone on retreat. Very wise!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Interesting listening....

The English language audio archive has some interesting listening this week...
The famous Father Reggie Foster (the Pope's Latinist) discusses Cicero's letters (amongst other things...)
Musicologist Msgr Philip Whitmore has a nice piece on settings of the Ave Maria
Gill Bevilacqua has an interesting commentary on the Sunday Gospel

Prayers of the Faithful

I hold a fairly simple philosophy about 'Prayers of the Faithful'/'Bidding Prayers'. One starts with the Pope and Bishops, one finishes with the Faithful Departed and in between one keeps it simple, short and balanced between the overly-specific and totally vague.
It's interesting therefore to browse through the 1977 Collegeville collection entitled 'Prayers of the Faithful' which seems to include more than its fair share of the trendy and the banal.
Take for example the following:
For activists who spend lonely days fighting strip mining companies, water and air polluters, and others who ravage this world, that they will find support and strenght, let us pray to the Lord
Can you smell the liberation theology? Down with those evil strip-miners! Another suggested prayer is:
For rich men the world over that they will give of their wealth to the needy, let us pray to the Lord
I suppose the general rule is that we should keep things nice and PC and gender inclusive - except when we're dealing with the male-oppressor. A rather curiously worded prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent goes as follows:
That all leaders may learn from Pontius Pilate's example that they must listen to the truth no matter who speaks itm let us pray to the Lord
If one weren't paying attention, one would think that Pilate was being set before us as a role model. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Recent Upheavals in Anglicanism...

I've been following titusonenine on the difficulties faced by the Anglican Communion since the consecration of Gene Robinson and the upcoming Windsor report.
From a (Roman) Catholic point of view, what particularly interests me is the fact that the whole debate highlights just how different Anglican ecclesiology and sacramentology (for want of a better word) is. There doesn't seem to be a coherent or common understanding of what a Bishop is or from where he derives his power. (This, of course is nothing new - I've commented previously on the Jerusalem Bishopric controversy.)
In this post we are linked to this article from yesterday's Times of London. What surprised me most about the article, however, is the following quote:
The Diocese of Sydney is expected shortly to vote through “lay celebration”, permitting the celebration of Holy Communion by non-ordained lay people. Although apparently not as sensational as the ordination of practising homosexuals, lay celebration is in “ecclesiological” terms an even more radical development.
Now, I can understand why the evangelicals mightn't get particularly worked up by that proposal, but I'm surprised that the High Anglicans aren't making more of a fuss.

26 years Ago Today...

... the world was surprised by the papal election of a 'foreign' Cardinal with a strange sounding name. Addressing the crowds in St. Peter's Square, the new Pope John Paul II captured the affection of the masses with his words:
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Beloved brothers and sisters, we are still all very saddened by the death of the very dear Pope John Paul I. The Cardinals have chosen a Bishop of Rome from a distant land… distant, but near through the communion of faith and the Christian tradition. I was afraid in receiving this nomination, but I did it in the spirit of obedience to Our Lord and with total trust in his Mother, the Most Holy Madonna.
I don't know if I can explain myself well in your - in our - Italian language. if I err, correct me. And so I present myself to you all, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, and also to begin again on this path of history and of the Church with the help of God and of men.

Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius

Friday, October 15, 2004

Happy Ramadam & All That...

The Corriere della Sera has this picture from Jakarta. the caption explains that a nightclub worker is covering a nude statue because Ramadam is starting.
One doesn't need too much Italian to understand Gianelli's cartoon commentary on Berlusconi's increased prime ministerial powers.
In Bulgaria, they've recovered this this stolen Titian painting of 'The Sacrifice of Abraham'.

Catholic Bands...

Matt of the Holywhapping's suggestion that there be an all-girl Catholic Rock Group called the Sanctus Belles has had me racking my brains for similar titles. How about their male counterparts, the youthfully mitred 'Boy Bishops. A larger outfit might call themselves The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus.
Any other suggestions?
Incidentally, I note that the CoE are at it again! It seems that in Wymondham Abbey they've restored the Boy Bishop. (Still, at least it's not liable to tear the Anglican Communion apart...)

More mysteries...

More goodness from William Hone's book about mystery plays.
Mary and Joseph have by this time reached the home of Elizabeth and Zachery.
Joseph A! A! wyff, in feyth I am wery;
therefore I wole sytt downe & rest me ryght her'.
Lo wyff! her is the hous of Zakary
Wole ye I'clepe [call] Elyzabeth to yow to aper?

Mary Nay, husbond, and it please you I shall go ner.
Now the blyssed trynite [!!!] be in this hous!
A! cosyn Elizabeth! swete modyr! what cher?
Ye grow grett; A, my God! how ye be gracyous!

Elizabeth A non, as I herd of yow this holy gretynge
Mekest mayden & the modyr of god, Mary,
Be yo' bret, the holy gost vs was inspyrynge,
That the childe in my body enjoyd gretly,
And turnyd down, on his knee to our god reverently,
Whom ye ber' in your body.
The cousins then exchange blessings and news and sing the Magnificat together. Mary then suggests that they adopt the practice of praying it 'Euery day amonge us, at our eve song.' (I'd never heard that explaination for the structure of vespers before...)
There then follows a somewhat comic interlude in which Joseph questions the dumb Zachary: 'Why shake ye so yo' hed? hane ye the palsye? Why speke ye not ser'? I trowe ye ar' not wroth.' The play finishes with the birth of St John the Baptist three months later.
It was then followed by another play called the 'Trial of Mary and Joseph'. In this two 'detractors' speak ill of Mary and Joseph - Mary because she broke her vow of virginity, Joseph because he either violated Mary or was a cuckold. The local Episcopus (!!!) overhears and tries Mary and Joseph along with two 'Doctors of the Law'. Thankfully, the virtue of Mary and Joseph is vindicated by the use of a truth serum (the water of vengence). One of the detractors also drinks the water and 'becomes frantic from the draught' until forgiven and healed by Mary.
Te mystery plays continue and draw heavily on Protoevangelium of James. Curiously, despite its non-canonical status, readings from the Protoevangelium were included in the Roman Breviary before the reform of the office.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ancient Mysteries...

I've stumbled across another gem, a book called Ancient Mysteries Described, Especially the English Mystery Plays, founded on Apocryphal New Testament Story, Extant among the Unpublished Manuscripts in the British Museum by William Hone, dated 1823. It's in smashing condition (some of the pages haven't even been cut!) and contains some wonderful illustrations of scenes from the mystery plays.
I haven't had time to examine it properly yet, but the following caught my eye:
Mary discoursing with Joseph informs him that Elizabeth is with Child and proposes to visit her.
Joseph - A! godys sake! is she with child? sche
Then wole her husbond zakarye be mery;
In Montana they dwell, fer hens, so moty the
In the cety of Juda, I know it veryly,
It is hens, I trowe, myles two & ffyfty.

Personally, I'm somewhat surprised that St. Joseph is so loose in his use of God's name and to discover that the parents of St. John the Baptist were from Montana.

EWTN Errors...

It seems to be the fashion in the Catholic Blogosphere to spot errors on the EWTN Questions and Answers. Most surprising of all is the blunder of Fr. Robert J Levis who claims that in Latin I doubt whether the name "Jesus" can be declined. It remains "Jesus".
Now, I've seen it argued that in Latin 'Jesus'/'Iesus' is either wholly irregular or a very irregular 4th Declension noun. Whichever one decides, it should be obvious to anyone with a smattering of Church Latin that 'Jesus' is declinable
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum
Cor Iesu
Societas Iesu
Ad Iesum, per Mariam...

Situations Vacant - Primatial See seeks Archbishop

From the Daily Telegraph we note that the Church of England are advertising for a new Archbishop of York.

Proof that Christ Never Rose!

Holy Observer: CBS News Claims Documents Disprove Christ's Resurrection.
(Biretta doff to the Pontificator)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Ambrose Bierce...

I was looking for sa particular homily of St. Ambrose, but stumbled across the following from Ambrose Bierce which is too good not to share...
SACRAMENT, n. A solemn religious ceremony to which several degrees of authority and significance are attached. Rome has seven sacraments, but the Protestant churches, being less prosperous, feel that they can afford only two, and these of inferior sanctity. Some of the smaller sects have no sacraments at all -- for which mean economy they will indubitable [sic] be damned.
From The Devil's Dictionary

From the Latin Docere

"The following counsel of prudence may be recommended to all Catholics: 'Cultivate the habit of thinking that if the Church teaches it as a matter of faith or morals then somewhere there is a good case for it drawn from revelation, tradition or natural reason.' This may seem utterly obvious, but there are many who would regard what I say as intellectually naive and as encouraging an attitude of docility. Well, the more I pursue questions of doctrine, the more I am impressed by the richness of the Church's resources, and so far as docility is concerned, it is a virtue whose corresponding vice is ineducability. Better to be teachable than not."
From Prof John Haldane's Faithful Reason: Essays Catholic and Philosophical


Over at Flos Carmeli (Ora pro nobis!) Stephen Riddle has an interesting post on poetry and translating the Psalms.
To my mind, some of greatest paraphrases of the psalms can be found in the hymnody of the the English Nonconformist Isaac Watts. Particularly fine is his hymn O God Our Help in Ages Past which is a paraphrase of Psalm 90.
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

This sounds about right...

You are starch. You are rigid, opinionated,
hard-willed and not too friendly about it. You
keep people out of places, or you keep them in,
and without you a lot of things would collapse.
hopefully you'll never have the authority to
burn people at the stake. Sir. Ma'am.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Amazing what one can stumble across...

Whilst searching for something entirely different, I stumbled across the Escatological Homilies of Archbishop Wolfstan of York (d. 1023).
Particularly nifty is the fact that one can used the 'Compare two texts' facility to view the Latin/Old English alongside a translation into modern English.
Over at Corriere della Sera we discover that in Malaga they've discovered a previously unknown Goya painting of the Immaculate Conception. In Hong Kong, this 1st Dynasty Ming bowl fetches over €2,000,000 at auction.

Stay With Us Lord...

Mane nobiscum Domine is now availible in English translation.
Browsing through it I note a few passages which strike me:
15. There is no doubt that the most evident dimension of the Eucharist is that it is a meal. The Eucharist was born, on the evening of Holy Thursday, in the setting of the Passover meal. Being a meal is part of its very structure. “Take, eat... Then he took a cup and... gave it to them, saying: Drink from it, all of you” (Mt 26:26, 27). As such, it expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with us and which we ourselves must build with one another.

Yet it must not be forgotten that the Eucharistic meal also has a profoundly and primarily sacrificial meaning.(13) In the Eucharist, Christ makes present to us anew the sacrifice offered once for all on Golgotha. Present in the Eucharist as the Risen Lord, he nonetheless bears the marks of his passion, of which every Mass is a “memorial”, as the Liturgy reminds us in the acclamation following the consecration: “We announce your death, Lord, we proclaim your resurrection...”. At the same time, while the Eucharist makes present what occurred in the past, it also impels us towards the future, when Christ will come again at the end of history. This “eschatological” aspect makes the Sacrament of the Eucharist an event which draws us into itself and fills our Christian journey with hope.
One earns liberal brownie points by extracting the first part of paragraph 15 and quoting it in isolation. :)
An interesting suggestion is in paragraph 17:
”. One specific project of this Year of the Eucharist might be for each parish community to study the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The best way to enter into the mystery of salvation made present in the sacred “signs” remains that of following faithfully the unfolding of the liturgical year. Pastors should be committed to that “mystagogical” catechesis so dear to the Fathers of the Church, by which the faithful are helped to understand the meaning of the liturgy's words and actions, to pass from its signs to the mystery which they contain, and to enter into that mystery in every aspect of their lives.
I'm not sure how much enthusiasm the average parishioner would have for a study of the GIRM, but I like the fact that the Holy Father is drawing our attention back to the Patrisitic forms of Cathechesis. There are any number of patristic homilies in the Breviary which could serve as an inspiration for this sort of approach. The fact that we don't see more of it probably rests on the fact that the enthusiasm for the Fathers of the mid 20th century seems to have petered out to an extent, a lack of integration between the spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of priesthood and (alas) the great number of priests who neglect the breviary.
The Holy Father closes his letter with exhortations to all the members of the church and the followinf conclusion.
31. We have before us the example of the Saints, who in the Eucharist found nourishment on their journey towards perfection. How many times did they shed tears of profound emotion in the presence of this great mystery, or experience hours of inexpressible “spousal” joy before the sacrament of the altar! May we be helped above all by the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose whole life incarnated the meaning of the Eucharist. “The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery”.(26) The Eucharistic Bread which we receive is the spotless flesh of her Son: Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine. In this Year of grace, sustained by Mary, may the Church discover new enthusiasm for her mission and come to acknowledge ever more fully that the Eucharist is the source and summit of her entire life.


A Welcome Discovery...

One of the most entertaining (and occasionally earthy) guides to 16th century Italy is the biography of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571). Probably the most accomplished goldsmith of his time (and well aware of this fact) Cellini was also a talented musician, a voluptuary and an adventurer. I was therefore pleased to find that his autobiography is on-line. In it we find a proud, boastful, superstitious man, who cared little for his own life and the life of others. He is also shown to be an exemplary artisan with a passion for his craft, a man of sincere (if tainted) religious sensibilities and a keen observer of the personalities about him. He also had a talent for getting 'mixed up' in the events of his day, and it is no surprise to find him defending Rome when it sacked by the troops of Charles V.
Bourbon’s army had now arrived before the walls of Rome, and Alessandro begged me to go with him to reconnoitre. So we went with one of the stoutest fellows in our Company; and on the way a youth called Cecchino della Casa joined himself to us. On reaching the walls by the Campo Santo, we could see that famous army, which was making every effort to enter the town. Upon the ramparts where we took our station several young men were lying killed by the besiegers; the battle raged there desperately, and there was the densest fog imaginable. I turned to Alessandro and said: “Let us go home as soon as we can, for there is nothing to be done here; you see the enemies are mounting, and our men are in flight.” Alessandro, in a panic, cried: “Would God that we had never come here!” and turned in maddest haste to fly. I took him up somewhat sharply with these words: “Since you have brought me here, I must perform some action worthy of a man;” and directing my arquebuse where I saw the thickest and most serried troop of fighting men, I aimed exactly at one whom I remarked to be higher than the rest; the fog prevented me from being certain whether he was on horseback or on foot. Then I turned to Alessandro and Cecchino, and bade them discharge their arquebuses, showing them how to avoid being hit by the besiegers. When we had fired two rounds apiece, I crept cautiously up to the wall, and observing among the enemy a most extraordinary confusion, I discovered afterwards that one of our shots had killed the Constable of Bourbon; and from what I subsequently learned, he was the man whom I had first noticed above the heads of the rest.
Historians generally take that account with more than a few grains of salt. Later, Cellini descibes the following scene:
I aimed some swivels and falconets at points where I saw it would be useful, and killed with them a good number of the enemy. Had it not been for this, the troops who poured into Rome that morning, and were marching straight upon the castle, might possibly have entered it with ease, because the artillery was doing them no damage. I went on firing under the eyes of several cardinals and lords, who kept blessing me and giving me the heartiest encouragement. In my enthusiasm I strove to achieve the impossible; let it suffice that it was I who saved the castle that morning, and brought the other bombardiers back to their duty.
More credibly, it is generally accepted that Cellini did wound the Prince of Orange whilst melting down the Pope's regalia:
I SHALL skip over some intervening circumstances, and tell how Pope Clement, wishing to save the tiaras and the whole collection of the great jewels of the Apostolic Camera, had me called, and shut himself up together with me and the Cavalierino in a room alone. This cavalierino had been a groom in the stable of Filippo Strozzi; he was French, and a person of the lowest birth; but being a most faithful servant, the Pope had made him very rich, and confided in him like himself. So the Pope, the Cavaliere, and I, being shut up together, they laid before me the tiaras and jewels of the regalia; and his Holiness ordered me to take all the gems out of their gold settings. This I accordingly did; afterwards I wrapt them separately up in bits of paper and we sewed them into the linings of the Pope’s and the Cavaliere’s clothes. Then they gave me all the gold, which weighed about two hundred pounds, and bade me melt it down as secretly as I was able.[...] While the furnace was working I never left off watching how to annoy our enemies; and as their trenches were less than a stone’s-throw right below us, I was able to inflict considerable damage on them with some useless missiles, of which there were several piles, forming the old munition of the castle. I chose a swivel and a falconet, which were both a little damaged in the muzzle, and filled them with the projectiles I have mentioned. When I fired my guns, they hurtled down like mad, occasioning all sorts of unexpected mischief in the trenches. Accordingly I kept these pieces always going at the same time that the gold was being melted down; and a little before vespers I noticed some one coming along the margin of the trench on muleback. The mule was trotting very quickly, and the man was talking to the soldiers in the trenches. I took the precaution of discharging my artillery just before he came immediately opposite; and so, making a good calculation, I hit my mark. One of the fragments struck him in the face; the rest were scattered on the mule, which fell dead. A tremendous uproar rose up from the trench; I opened fire with my other piece, doing them great hurt. The man turned out to be the Prince of Orange, who was carried through the trenches to a certain tavern in the neighbourhood, whither in a short while all the chief folk of the army came together.
When Pope Clement heard what I had done, he sent at once to call for me, and inquired into the circumstance. I related the whole, and added that the man must have been of the greatest consequence, because the inn to which they carried him had been immediately filled by all the chiefs of the army, so far at least as I could judge. The Pope, with a shrewd instinct, sent for Messer Antonio Santacroce, the nobleman who, as I have said, was chief and commander of the gunners. He bade him order all us bombardiers to point our pieces, which were very numerous, in one mass upon the house, and to discharge them all together upon the signal of an arquebuse being fired. He judged that if we killed the generals, the army, which was already almost on the point of breaking up, would take flight. God perhaps had heard the prayers they kept continually making, and meant to rid them in this manner of those impious scoundrels.
We put our cannon in order at the command of Santacroce, and waited for the signal. But when Cardinal Orsini became aware of what was going forward, he began to expostulate with the Pope, protesting that the thing by no means ought to happen, seeing they were on the point of concluding an accommodation, and that if the generals were killed, the rabble of the troops without a leader would storm the castle and complete their utter ruin. Consequently they could by no means allow the Pope’s plan to be carried out. The poor Pope, in despair, seeing himself assassinated both inside the castle and without, said that he left them to arrange it. On this, our orders were countermanded; but I, who chafed against the leash, when I knew that they were coming round to bid me stop from firing, let blaze one of my demi-cannons, and struck a pillar in the courtyard of the house, around which I saw a crowd of people clustering. This shot did such damage to the enemy that it was like to have made them evacuate the house. Cardinal Orsini was absolutely for having me hanged or put to death; but the Pope took up my cause with spirit. The high words that passed between them, though I well know what they were, I will not here relate, because I make no profession of writing history. It is enough for me to occupy myself with my own affairs.
Cellini's account is fascinating - it has a historical value and gives a captivating insight into a partiular type of mind.

Monday, October 11, 2004

One of the reasons I enjoy Pontifications...

... is the fact that the Pontificator posts excellent stuff such as piece on the reality, historicity and power of the Resurrection.
Now, I am always slightly wary of bringing up the question of the historicity of the Resurrection except in answer to a direct question as it seems that everyone has their own definitions of the terms involved and there's often the danger being misunderstood. I am reminded of a theologian who used to preface his discourses on the Resurrection and post-Resurrection appearences with the disclaimer that if anyone understood him to be saying that it didn't happen, then they were misunderstanding him.
One of the keys with respect to historicity is the distinction between 'what actually happened' and 'how much of what actually happened is accessible to the techniques and method of the historical discipline'. (If I recall correctly, those Germans had the good sense to invent several words for history, each conveying a different shade of meaning.) As a unique and a priori wholly improbable event, it seems to me that from a secular point of view one cannot prove the Resurrection in the same way that one can prove that Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo.
That said, historical inquiry can deal with the events surrounding the Resurrection (the crucifixion, the empty tomb, the extraordinary claims of the disciples, etc...) to raise a huge question for the secular enquirer regarding what happened. Either there was a most extraordinary hoax or it was as the Apostles claimed. Further than that, one can only (fruitlessly) argue the probabilites of each scenario. For the believer, such a historical investigation at least provides the neccessary historical possiblity for belief. (It's always worth bearing in mind that ultimately it is grace that makes it possible to have faith in the Resurrection.)
It is, of course, the case that very few (if any) of us make our initial approach to this question in the historical manner. We are normally brought up in a particular tradition of faith (or lack thereof). We access the event of the Resurection through our own religious and ecclesial experiences. How this works in practice does vary - some by experience learn to accept the Church as a reliable witness. Others experience the power of grace in the sacraments or through particular individual experiences. This is why I was interested to note that one of the commentators at Pontifications quotes from 1 John 5:
7 For there are three that testify:
8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.
10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.
11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

So, it seems to me that there is certainly a historical case to be made, (and the Catholic intellectual tradition makes it particularly appropriate that this case be made) but that faith is not the endpoint of a chain of historical scientific reasoning, but also demands grace. The more important aspect therefore is the salvific power of the Resurrection. (As an aside, one could imagine, for example, someone who investigating the issue convinced himself that Jesus did rise from the dead, but perversely held that this didn't have any consequences for himself personally. This I would not count as faith.) It is an awareness of this salvific power which brings us to belief.
Of course, it is not always easy to seperate the historical and non-historical aspects when looking at these issues. One of the arguments in favour of something extraordinary happening after the death of Christ is the incredibly transformation of a dejected group of Apostles into a missionary church which spread throught the Roman Empire. Is this historical evidence for a miracle or an example of grace at work? (I don't say the two exclude each other.)
One could go on to discuss the nature of the appearances of Christ and issues such as why the death and Resurrection of Christ is salvific. (From a Catholic point of view it is interesting to note that there is probably less definitive dogma regarding why the Cross and Resurrection are salvific than one might expect.) But it's getting late, so maybe that's a discussion for another day.
[Edited to add:
Also in a similar vein is this post dealing with the centrality of the Resurrection to the earliest Christian proclaimation.]

Something to give Matt of the Holy Whapping indigestion...

Via this post at Titus One-Nine, I present this link to (possibly) the Ugliest Cathedral in the World. (Cardinal Mahoney, eat your heart out...)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Remind me...

why I haven't included Don Jim Tucker on my Blogroll before now. He's what's known as a 'Rome-cured curate' and I've been reading his 'blog regularly for months.
Another newcomer to my Blogroll is Baronius whose Republic of Virtue 'blog I hope to become more familiar with... (Why so many 'blogs affiliated to the Oratorians around here?)


More obscure reading material (and the obligatory Newman reference)

Some time ago I stumbled across a fascinating book - 'Leaves from my Diary 1894-1896' by Abbot Gasquet OSB. Gasquet was the sometime prior of the notable English Benedictine foundation of Downside, Abbot president of the English Benedictine Confederation and in 1914 was made Cardinal of S. Georgio in Velabro (which was Newman's titular Church). He later took S. Maria in Portico as his church.
The Commission
The pages from his diary relate to his work on Leo XIII's commision which investigated the validity of Anglican Orders in 1896. The work of the commision, curiously enough, was provoked by the lobbying of French priests who were favourable to the theological views of the High Anglicans of the time. (Disappointingly, I have it on good authority that in the recent past an Anglican Bishop from the South of England was in the habit of nipping across the English channel to a French monastic community for a 'dirty weekend' - the monks permitted him to 'concelebrate' Mass with them.) The French hope to change the position of the Holy See from a general presumption of invalidity to that of doubtful validity. It was thought that if Anglican orders could be considered 'doubtful' then the practice of 're-ordaining' Anglican clerical converts would be change to conditionally ordaining them.
Continental Confusion
It comes across very clearly in Gasquet's diary that the French and many of the Continental European clergy had only the haziest conception of the actual state of the Church of England at the time. They were ignorant of the various parties within Anglicanism and considered the 'High Anglicans' who deigned to mix with them as being representative of Anglicanism as a whole. They were quite unaware that many Anglican clergy of the time would actively resent the notion that they might be 'sacrificing priests'.
Roman Rumours
It is clear that the power of the rumour was no less strong, and probably stronger, in those days prior to modern electronic communications. Consider the following from the Abbot's diary of 1895:
Easter Sunday, April 14th
I came to the Abbey of Cava for a few days yesterday. The abbot and monks were all ago, anxious to hear when they might expect to have the news of the submission of the English Church to the Holy See, which they all believe to be imminent, if it had not already taken place. I tried to undeceive them, but did not succeed, I fear.
In the afternoon I went to pay an Easter visit to the Archbishop of Salerno. He overwhelmed me with kindness, chiefly, I believe because he thought I should be able to give him information about the return of England to the unity of the Church. He was fully persuaded that one might at any time have in the "Giornali," the full account of the submission of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope. I did my best to laugh him out of his notion, but I fancy he regarded me as a "scoffer," and will continue to look in the newspapers for the happy event he was taught to expect by some French priests who recently visited him.

Newman and Anglican Orders
As an aside, I note the following from Ker's biography of Newman who bases himself on Newman's Letters and Diaries:
His 'difficulty' about being re-ordained ('I could not say that Anglican orders were invalid') had been removed by the assurance that although ordination would not be explicitly conditional, the 'condition' would be 'implied... in the Church's intention (p321)
This particular passage relates to the period of time immediately after Newman's reception into the Church in 1845 (Quenta 'blogged the recent 159th anniversary) and prior to his studies in Rome at Propaganda Fide.
It is worth noting that Newman himself, at that time, wasn't willing to positively assert the definite validity of Anglican Orders and was surprised to find that some in Rome did consider him validly ordained (Ker, p466). Later in life, he grew gradually more and more sceptical regarding the validity of Anglican Orders.
Portrait of Newman from the excellent Newman Reader.

A lesser-known sight...

I trust that a post-retreat glow is evident... Anyway, before I went on retreat, I spent an enjoyable few hours about the city with Lauren of the Cntyr 'blog (who double-'blogs) and re-encountered one of those curiosites that one learns about as a resident of a city, but which don't make it into the guide-books. Coming down from Santa Sabina we passed an iron gateway leading into a private house. (Anyone wishing to locate it will find it on the Via S.Anselmo, about a third of the way up, on one's right as one ascends the Aventine.) The gateway is decorated with a crest and an inscription in Latin. The house itself is said to have been the home of an excommunicate priest who refused to recant various modernist propositions early in the last century. Deprived of his living (as the Anglicans might put it...) he withdrew to his home on the Aventine and as his parting shot to the world (and the Supreme Gatekeeper's successor) he erected this gate bearing his coat of arms and the motto 'Sine spe, sine metu - 'Without hope, without fear.'

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

'Blog break...

Going on retreat for the next few days... No more posting until Sunday/Monday.
Oremus pro invicem

The Bad Popes...

One of the more interesting books I have read of late is Russell Chamberlain's 'The Bad Popes'. This exceptionally readable book covers the period from senatrix Marozia's domination of the Papcy (the so-called 'Pornocracy') in the 10th century to the sack of Rome by the troops of Charles V. In between one finds an account of Medicis, Borgias, the ineffectual hermit-Pope Celestine V and the extraordinary tale of Gregory VI, probably the most moral man ever to 'purchase' the Papacy. Yet despite looking at what might seem to be fodder for anti-Catholicism, Chamberlain's approach is very fair. He does not overplay the more lurid aspects of the tale and is sometimes surprisingly generous in his assesment of men who are often totally villified. He also makes excellent use of contemporary sources to give a genuine flavour of the period, whilst never failing to bear in mind the agendas at work in any contemporanious account. Of particular interest are the snippets gleaned from the diary of John Burchard, Papal Master of Ceremonies in the late 15th century. All in all, this is any enjoyable and informative read.
In a related vein...
It might be asked whether Chamberlain covers the lowst point of Papal history. I have heard it argued (I'm not inclined to agree myself) that the lowest point of all was the vacillation of Clement XIV over the supression of the Jesuits. Elected on a promise to suppress them, he then tried to escape this promised before finally being forced to do so in 1773 with the brief 'Dominus ac Redemptor'. Clement himself is buried in the Franciscan Church of XII Apostoli. Ironically, it is within short walking distance of the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Jesuit university in Rome. According to custom, every February and June students from the university gather around his tomb and read the brief of supression before facing their Jesuit examiners. There is also a Jesuit residence adjacent to the church, and according to legend, the Jesuits contrived to ensure that the room in the building nearest to Clement's remains was a lavatory.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I am not an Anglican, nor was meant to be...

... but on occasion I derive great pleasure from Project Canterbury, an electic repository of Anglican texts. My latest discovery is the gently humourous My Curates by 'A Rector'. Despite being over 100 years old, I suspect that many of Rev. John Smith's observations could be applied to not a few Catholic Curates. (I believe several young clergymen affect what is termed "a clerical voice," which they trust in time to exchange for an episcopal one.
I was particularly taken by the following anecdote:
At the age of thirty I accepted a small living in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of our Cathedral. After some years, the parish of S. Peter's, Mulworth, was presented to me. From this I have retired to my present Cure, which is in the gift of our Bishop. For him I have a sincere regard, and I think it but proper and courteous to address him as "My Lord." Why should I not? It is a customary mode of address, and a term of respect due to the chief Pastor of the Diocese. The title is given to Roman Catholic prelates out of deference to the office of Bishop; so that, apart from legal arguments or Parliamentary considerations, there need be no qualms of conscience in using the phrase. And if we come to derivations, what is the meaning of "Lord" but "bread-dispenser?" Surely such is a most applicable designation for a Bishop.

Of course, there can be a lavish overplus in the use of the expression, which savours of obsequiousness as well as pleonasm. For example, when dining lately with our Bishop, I heard a New Zealand Missionary say, "My Lord, what is your Lordship's opinion of the Bill your Lordship is introducing into Convocation?" Nobody disliked the redundancy more than did the Bishop himself. The question reminded me—for alas! profane thoughts will beset us—of the eighteenth clause in the Athanasian Creed.

That 18th clause (I hardly need tell you) reads 'And yet they [the Persons of the Blessed Trinity] are not three Lords but one Lord.'
Consulting my 1953 edition Rituale Romanum (purchased in a moment of weakness) I note that the Athanasian Creed (or the 'Quicumque vult' as we Catholics are wont to call it) formed part of the Ritus Exorcizandi Obsessos A Daemonio. It was (is) recited immediately after the Magnificat and Benedictus which follow the prayer of exorcism. According to this article critical of the 1999 rite of exorcism this use of the Athanasian creed in the pre-1999 rite was the last surviving liturgical use of the 'Quicumque vult'.
On a completely unrelated note...
The photo archives of Corriere della Sera include a picture of this laudable Chinese religious practice. There they burn (amongst other things) mobile phones and video games as offerings to their dead - I've often thought that in a Christian context that phones which ring in church should be consigned to the flames.
Also from last month is this curious attempt by Brazilian soldiers to make an image of Pope John Paul II.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Angel of God, my guardian dear...

I had expected to see a little bit more on Guardian Angels about the Catholic Blogosphere yesterday, so to rectify that I thought I'd post a snippet from Newman's Dream of Gerontius wherein the guardian angel reflects on his sacred mission:
Then was I sent from heaven to set right
The balance in his soul of truth and sin,
And I have waged a long relentless fight,
Resolved that death-environ'd spirit to win,
Which from its fallen state, when all was lost,
Had been repurchased at so dread a cost.

Oh, what a shifting parti-colour'd scene
Of hope and fear, of triumph and dismay,
Of recklessness and penitence, has been
The history of that dreary, life-long fray!
And oh, the grace to nerve him and to lead,
How patient, prompt, and lavish at his need!

O man, strange composite of heaven and earth!
Majesty dwarf'd to baseness! fragrant flower
Running to poisonous seed! and seeming worth
Cloking corruption! weakness mastering power!
Who never art so near to crime and shame,
As when thou hast achieved some deed of name;—

How should ethereal natures comprehend
A thing made up of spirit and of clay,
Were we not task'd to nurse it and to tend,
Link'd one to one throughout its mortal day?
More than the Seraph in his height of place,
The Angel-guardian knows and loves the ransom'd race.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Quid distat inter Scottum et sottum?

I recently heard recounted the tale that Charles the Bald was in the habit of holding drinking competitions with his court philosopher John Scotus Eriugena. It is said that they would sit opposite each other and quaff until one or other yielded to intoxication. Once, the emperor asked 'What seperates a Scot from a sot?' Despite being in his cups, the philosopher quickly replied 'the table'.
One of the great things about the internet is the fact that one can check whether the reparte translates into Latin, and so it does!
Quid distat inter Scottum et sottum?
Tabula tantum!

Even better,this page actually gives a 12th century citation for the anecdote.


Emily of the Holy Whapping casually drops a hint that today's her 21st Birthday. In her honour I present one of the finest drinking songs ever written, the aptly named Drinking Song by the Divine Comedy. (To my mind, their second and third albums Liberation and Promenade are just about as good as modern music gets - who else sings Wordsworth?)
Well, bloody my nose
And blacken my eye
If it ain't some young Turk
In search of a fight
And chanticleer's chest
Is sagging with pride
For honour has yet
To be satisfied

Why I'm Sticking to Bottled Water
And while I'm in the congratulatory mood, I'd better mention the good news of Jamie of Ad Limina Apostolorum and his wife. Following closely on the heels of Zorak and Oligarch's announcement I'm beginning to think that there's something in the water supply.

News from Corriere della Sera & The Telegraph

It seems that in addition to Mother's Day and Father's Day, the people of Lombardy have begun celebrating Grandparents' Day. The 'festa dei nonni' celebrates the role of grandparents in 'the transmission of wisdom and experience of life and death.'
They also publish this picture of hostage Kenneth Bigley's wife praying in a Buddhist temple in Thailand. Mrs Bigley has made a vow that she will be come a nun (Buddhist, presumably) if her husband is freed. They also include this shot from China of a man balancing a 150 kilo car on his head.
Over at the Telegraph we have this story about a missing page being restored to the Sforza Book of Hours.

A special guest...

It is fitting that on this the 1st of October, Feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, that we welcome the relics of St.Thérèse to Rome.

She will be arriving this evening at the church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina at 21.00 at which time mass will be celebrated by one of the auxiliary bishops of Rome. To the best of my knowledge, the relics will remain in the church for veneration for the next week or so.
This is not, of course, her first time to visit Rome. One of the most touching moments of her life was when she begged Pope Leo XIII to be allowed enter Carmel despite being below the canonical age.
I also understand that her relics have previously visited the Russicum, or Russian College. It is a curious fact that this college is dedicated to St. Thérèse. Despite having no overt connection with Russia, her great zeal for souls as a contemplative earned her the patronage of the missions and the Russicum itself was funded from the surplus funds of the cause of St. Thérèse.
There is a nice gallery of pictures here.
May St. Thérèse pray for us!