Monday, January 31, 2005

The Prophesies of St John Bosco

Given the day that's in it, a friend mentioned to me the prophesies of Don Bosco. This sent me on-line where I found more than one set of prophesies...
The first set mainly relates to 19th Century European policies, including this message for the Austrian Emperor:
Thus says the Lord to the emperor of Austria: "Be of good cheer and look after
My faithful servants and yourself. My wrath is now spilling over all the nations
because they want to make people forget My laws, glorifying those who defile
them and oppressing My faithful adherents. Will you be the rod of My power? Will
out carry out My inscrutable design and become a benefactor of the world? Rely
on the Northern Powers, but not on Prussia. Enter into relations with Russia,
but form no alliance. Join forces with Catholic France; after France, you shall
have Spain. All together, become one in will and action.

The next prophesy is at the bottom of this page:
In a prophetical dream of Don Bosco, he saw two saints holding strips. In the
strip of one of the angels, it was written "LEPANTO 1571". In the strip of the
second angel, it was written "199_". Saint John Bosco knew that it was the
indication that of a year, and wrote the number of the year, but erased later.
Saint John Bosco was so impressed with the dream, that the scene described by
him was perpetuated in the two columns at the main entrance of his Church, in
Roma. What took place in 1571 was the Battle of Lepanto, between Muslims and
Catholics. What will happen in 1999?
I'm not sure what church is being referred to - there is a large Salesian Church near Termini railway station - I shall have to look when next there.
The ever-fascinating Multicultural Prophesies and Predictions Index includes the following:
In the midst of this endless sea, two solid columns, a short distance apart,
soar high into the sky. One is surmounted by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin,
at whose feet a large inscription reads Auxilium Christianorum (Help of
Christians). The other, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of
proportionate size, and bears beneath is the inscription Salus credentium
(Salvation of believers).
The flagship commander -- the Roman Pontiff --
standing at the helm, strains every muscle to steer his ship between the two
columns, from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.
The entire enemy fleet closes in to intercept and sink the flagship at all
costs. They bombard it with everything they have: books and pamphlets,
incendiary bombs, firearms, cannons. The battle rages ever more furious. Beaked
prows ram the flagship again and again, but to no avail, as unscathed and
undaunted, it keeps on its course. At times, a formidable ram splinters a gaping
hole in its hull, but immediately, a breeze from the two columns instantly seals
the gash.
Meanwhile, enemy cannons blow up; firearms and beaks fall to
pieces; ships crack up and sink to the bottom. In blind fury, the enemy takes to
hand-to-hand combat, cursing and blaspheming. Suddenly the Pope falls, seriously
wounded. He is instantly helped up, but struck a second time, dies. A shout of
victory rises from the enemy, and wild rejoicing sweeps their ships. But no
sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The captains of the
auxiliary ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope's death
coincides with that of his successor’s election. The enemy's self-assurance
Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely
between the two columns; first, to the one surmounted by the Host, and then the
other, topped by the statue of the Virgin. At this point, something unexpected
happens. The enemy ships panic and disperse, colliding with and scuttling each
Some auxiliary ships, which had gallantly fought alongside their
flagship, are the first to tie up at the two columns. Many others, which had
fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until;
the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves. Then they too head for the two
columns, tie up at the swinging hooks and ride safe and tranquil beside their
flagship. A great calm now covers the sea.

With the additional note:
There will be an Ecumenical Council in the next century, after which there will
be chaos in the Church. Tranquility will not return until the Pope succeeds in
anchoring the boat of Peter between the twin pillars of Eucharistic Devotion and
Devotion to Our Lady. This will come about one year before the end of the
Another account of the two columns prophesy is given here.

Marriage Prep in the CoE

The Times has the following article on Marriage Prep in the CoE (warning: some may find parts of the report offensive), with some interesting anedotes:
But he singles out for praise another couple who had the courage to stand by their “innermost convictions”.
Being Hell’s Angels, they wanted to get married over their motorbikes in church, and he only dissuaded them by pleading that oil stains would ruin the carpet in the nave. They still felt that church was the only place for a wedding, but had no hymns because their friends did not know any and instead of ushers there was a minder with a pickaxe handle up his sleeve.
They married in their leathers, although the bride had a small white veil over her helmet. They left the church with a police escort to avoid trouble from rivals. “Their faith was unorthodox, but mattered to them,” says Mr Body in Growing Together.

Also interesting is this not-quite apology for mistakenly performing a graphology analysis on the writing of Bill Gates thinking it was that of Tony Blair.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Smoking Ban in Italy...

The smoking ban in Italy seems to be going relatively smoothly (Deo Gratias!) but it seems that Italian parlimentarians are taking a relaxed attitude:
ROME - They smoke in the corridors. They smoke in group meetings. They smoke in their offices and they even smoke in committee. Italy's parliamentarians may have voted for the smoking ban, but they have great difficulty in actually observing it. Senators are the most reluctant to comply: there are smokers in all parts of the Senate building.
In the Lower House, there is some embarrassment about lighting up in the Transatlantico hall or the Buvette, the bar. Smokers go out into the courtyard, which Forza Italia's (FI) Ferdinando Adornato has rechristened "Sirchia Court", after the minister for health. Yesterday at Palazzo Montecitorio, several members of the Lower House were puffing away out of doors, despite the freezing cold. But the ban is ignored in group meetings and in personal offices. FI's Giuseppe Romele admits as much. "Smoking still goes on in the groups, and I smoke in my office, but not in committee. We're well-behaved there". Mr Romele voted in favour of the law and says he supports it, but he has appointed himself chairman of an unofficial smokers' committee.

Masons & Murder Case...

Apart from the acknowledging fact that Freemasonry is incompatible with Catholicism, I'm never quite sure what to make of the Masons - they certainly seem to engage in their fair share of cronyism, but beyond that I'm an agonstic. In Italy, in particular, it seems to be the custom amongst Conservative and Traditionalist Catholics to blame everything from jewel thiefts to falling Mass attendences on the Masons - however, given that good old-fashioned apathy, incompetence and soical factors offer normally offer just as good an excuse, I'm inclined to take the more extravagent claims with a grain of salt.
It's interesting, however, to note the following in a Telegraph article about a recently solved murder:
Park was arrested on his return. The inquiry was hampered by the fact that the 1976 file had gone missing. It is thought to be more than coincidental that Park and a senior police commander, now dead, were freemasons.

Jane Austen's Guide to Dating

Those who know me in real life are generally surprised to discover that I'm quite a fan of Jane Austen; I'm therefore not sure whether this story from the Telegraph makes me want to laugh or cry:
The latest dating manual to offer hope to America's single women, however, harks
back to an earlier and more chaste era. Jane Austen's Guide to Dating, the work
of the British-born writer Lauren Henderson, 36, leaves the world of rampant
rabbits, serial cosmopolitans and toxic bachelors behind, to advise girls on how
to snare a man the Regency way.
It worked, after all, for its author, who -
misled for years by common New York dating wisdom (don't return his calls; keep
an egg-timer by the phone, and so forth) - finally looked to Austen to tell her
what to do. She has, she boasts, ended up landing her very own Henry
What's more - every girl's dream - her book has already been optioned
for a Hollywood film.
Undeterred by potential drawbacks - Austen's books tell
us nothing about sex, are set in an age whose social mores bear scarcely more
relation to downtown Manhattan's than they do to downtown Kabul's, and are
novels rather than self-help manuals - Henderson has discovered, at the heart of
the oeuvre, 10 key principles of dating.

The Telegraph also includes this guide to the major male characters in Austen's novels. Poor Jane is probably spinning in her grave!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Aquinas on Curiousity...

It's hard to pick out something representative of Aquinas - however, I think that the following captures something of his approach to human and divine knowledge and manages to combine two themes so often divorced these days - knowledge and virtue:
As stated above (166, 2, ad 2) studiousness is directly, not about knowledge
itself, but about the desire and study in the pursuit of knowledge. Now we must
judge differently of the knowledge itself of truth, and of the desire and study
in the pursuit of the knowledge of truth. For the knowledge of truth, strictly
speaking, is good, but it may be evil accidentally, by reason of some result,
either because one takes pride in knowing the truth, according to 1 Cor. 8:1,
"Knowledge puffeth up," or because one uses the knowledge of truth in order to
On the other hand, the desire or study in pursuing the knowledge of
truth may be right or wrong. First, when one tends by his study to the knowledge
of truth as having evil accidentally annexed to it, for instance those who study
to know the truth that they may take pride in their knowledge. Hence Augustine says (De Morib.
Eccl. 21): "Some there are who forsaking virtue, and ignorant of what God is,
and of the majesty of that nature which ever remains the same, imagine they are
doing something great, if with surpassing curiosity and keenness they explore
the whole mass of this body which we call the world. So great a pride is thus
begotten, that one would think they dwelt in the very heavens about which they
argue." On like manner, those who study to learn something in order to sin are
engaged in a sinful study, according to the saying of Jer. 9:5, "They have
taught their tongue to speak lies, they have labored to commit iniquity."
Secondly, there may be sin by reason of the appetite or study directed to
the learning of truth being itself inordinate; and this in four ways. First,
when a man is withdrawn by a less profitable study from a study that is an
obligation incumbent on him; hence Jerome says [Epist. xxi ad
Damas]: "We see priests forsaking the gospels and the prophets, reading
stage-plays, and singing the love songs of pastoral idylls." Secondly, when a
man studies to learn of one, by whom it is unlawful to be taught, as in the case
of those who seek to know the future through the demons. This is superstitious
curiosity, of which Augustine says (De Vera
Relig. 4): "Maybe, the philosophers were debarred from the faith by their sinful
curiosity in seeking knowledge from the demons."
Thirdly, when a man desires
to know the truth about creatures, without referring his knowledge to its due
end, namely, the knowledge of God. Hence Augustine says (De Vera
Relig. 29) that "in studying creatures, we must not be moved by empty and
perishable curiosity; but we should ever mount towards immortal and abiding
Fourthly, when a man studies to know the truth above the capacity
of his own intelligence, since by so doing men easily fall into error: wherefore
it is written (Sirach 3:22): "Seek not the things that are too high for thee,
and search not into things above thy ability . . . and in many of His works be
not curious," and further on (Sirach 3:26), "For . . . the suspicion of them
hath deceived many, and hath detained their minds in vanity."

Doctor Communis, Doctor Humanitatis, Doctor Angelicus

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, and there are few better tributes to this man than the passage from Ecclesiasticus which the Church proposes for our reflection as the scriptural reading from the Office of Readings for the Common of Doctors of the Church.
He who devotes himself to the study of the law of the Most High will seek
out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be concerned with
prophecies; he will preserve the discourse of notable men and
penetrate the subtleties of parables; he will seek out the hidden meanings of
proverbs and be at home with the obscurities of parables. He will serve among
great men
and appear before rulers; he will travel through the lands of
foreign nations, for he tests the good and the evil among men. He will set
his heart to rise early to seek the Lord who made him, and will make
supplication before the Most High; he will open his mouth in prayer and make
supplication for his sins.
If the great Lord is willing, he will be filled with the spirit of
understanding; he will pour forth words of wisdom
and give thanks to the
Lord in prayer. He will direct his counsel and knowledge aright, and
meditate on
his secrets. He will reveal instruction in his
teaching,and will glory in the law of the Lord's covenant. Many will
praise his understanding, and itwill never be blotted out; his memory will not
disappear, and his name will live through all generations. Nations will
declare his wisdom, and the congregation will proclaim his praise. - Ecclesiasticus 39:1-10

Enbrethiliel's Chesterton Thursday was devoted to Chesterton's biography of the 'Dumb Ox' and major congratulations are due to Lauren over at the Cnytr 'blog who is entering the novitiate of the Third Order (i.e. for lay people) of the Domincans on this day. Ad multos annos!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

God and Mammon

This post (scroll up!) over at the Shrine about book called 'Pray and Be Rich' reminds me of an anecdote I heard a while ago:
It is said that a very well-to-do and extravagant Cardinal was to give an
address at one of the Jesuit educational institutions here in the City.
(The Romans knew there was only one Urbs!) Anyway, two of the
Professors were discussing theology on the front steps when a very expensive top
of the line German automobile pulled up, the prelate in question emerged and swept past the
watching academics in a flutter of red watered-silk. Raising an eyebrow, one of them
turned to his colleague and commented 'Mercedes habet.'

Another Wonderful Clerical Obituary

From the Telegraph, the obituary of Rev. Vivian Green:
The Reverend Vivian Green, the former sub-Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, who died on January 18 aged 89, was best known as an ecclesiastical historian but also wrote authoritatively on subjects as diverse as the Hanoverians, the Swiss Alps and the history of Oxford colleges; in 1995 he was unmasked as the man on whom John le Carré based his fictional spymaster George Smiley.
Very much the archetypal bachelor don, except for his habit in younger days of striding round Oxford in leather trousers, Green treated theological themes with warmth and humanity, and greatly relished what he called "faction and dispute". Critics, though, sometimes regretted that his tendency to concentrate on the external aspects of faith led him occasionally to neglect the spiritual appeal of Christianity.
In The Madness of Kings (1993), Green aimed to portray the effects of the regal insanity on the fate of nations, though the book was more notable as a series of entertaining portraits of such lamentable personalities as Charles IV of France (who thought he was made of glass), Christian VII of Denmark (who rubbed gunpowder on his stomach and picked his nose in public) and the Emperor Wenceslas (who had his cook roasted on a spit) as well as better-known "madmen" such as Nero, Hitler and George III.

Terrible as an army with banners?

The Corriere della Sera has this picture of the Indian Army on Parade for the celebration of the 56th Anniversary of the Indian republic.
In Japan it seems that constitutional preparations are being made to allow for a woman to sit on the throne.
A dynasty descended, according to legend, from the sun goddess Amaterasu is running out of male heirs after Crown Prince Naruhito, the 44-year-old son of Emperor Akihito.
It's interesting to note that Hirohito (the Emperor during the 2nd World War) was seemingly willing to surrender his claim to divinity - something that was copperfastened by the American drafters of the post-war Japanese Constitution which stated that the Emperor only derived his power from the people of Japan.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Vicar in TV Reality Show...

We have this from the Telegraph:
The Rev James McCaskill, 32, has been given a year to revive the fortunes of St Mary Magdalene in Lundwood, a former mining community near Barnsley. The three-part programme charting his efforts is due to be broadcast by Channel 4 later this year.
Also from the Telegraph is this apparant revival of muscular Christianity:
Churches and Christian groups worldwide are organising military-style boot camps and "weekend warrior" retreats to help men fight their perceived emasculation within church-going societies. The inspiration for the movement is Wild at Heart, a book by Colorado-based author John Eldredge, who believes "God designed men to be dangerous". The book has already sold 1.5 million copies in English and been translated into 16 languages.
This contrasts with a much more civilized approach to Christian anthropology put forward by Matt at The Shrine.
For those who like that sort of thing, there's a bull-fighting picture in the Corriere della Sera. The matador was, we are informed, only slightly wounded.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

This made my day...

This article from the Telegraph made my day...

Manuel Fraga, the regional premier of Galicia and a former minister under
Franco, backed the Vatican's stance against condoms.
"I have spent my life
telling the truth without condoms and I plan to die without ever having worn
one,'' he said.
Mr Fraga, who some see as an embarrassing anachronism, has
survived many gaffes. During a shooting trip with Franco's family he
accidentally shot the dictator's daughter, Nenuca, in the backside.

Edited to add:
Hi to all the vistors from Cnytr's 'blog. Have a nice stay! :)

Friday, January 21, 2005

The choice between life and limb

This article from the Telegraph tells of some of the theological and cultural problems facing tsunami survivors and their carers:
Muslim tsunami survivors fear amputation will bar them from paradise, reports Sebastien Berger in Banda Aceh
Many Acehnese, considered the most devout Muslims in Indonesia, believe that a person must be physically complete at death to be able to enter paradise.
Major Simon Hawkins, an Australian artillery major, speaks fluent Indonesian and has taken it upon himself to persuade reluctant gangrene victims to agree to amputations.
He also has to contend with a pre-tsunami perception that amputees are generally beggars.

On a much lighter note, how long before we see these on ebay?
Russia is to sell thousands of Second World War tanks, machineguns and cannons in an attempt to raise funds and remind the world of its pivotal role in defeating Hitler.
The Kremlin hopes that they will be bought by museums and enthusiasts as interest in vintage weaponry peaks during the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, a landmark that will be celebrated with great fanfare in Russia.

POD - Muslim Style...

The Stoning of Satan
In these days many Muslims are making their pilgrimage to Mecca - this photo from the Corriere della Sera depicts one of the most significant moments of the pilgrimage - the pilgrims toss rocks at a stone pillar, signifying Satan. I wonder if this is what might be described as 'full and active participation of the faithful'?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Coming of Age Day in Britain...

The Telegraph reports on something which highlights the void that generations of religious indifference have left in Britain:
An annual coming of age day is being planned by the Government to allow
18-year-olds to mark their transition to adulthood.
It all sounds like a religious ceremony, with God scrupulously excluded.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

In the News...

In the Telegraph : Rabbis ban Jews from holy mount
Israel's leading rabbis have issued a ruling forbidding Jews from entering the disputed Temple Mount in Jerusalem, amid concerns about desecration of the sacred site.
The ruling is a direct challenge to messianic Jews and hardline groups such as the Temple Mount Faithful, a movement that has been growing in strength but is considered by many Jews to part of a fanatical fringe.

Potholers discover ancient Roman mosaic
Potholers exploring a site near Nero's palace have discovered a mosaic showing ancient Romans trampling grapes to make wine.
The 10ft by 6.5ft mosaic depicts three naked figures crushing the grapes with their feet, while a fourth entertains them by playing a double flute and another man piles the fruit in a basket.
Using a remote-controlled camera, the potholers filmed the fragment at the edge of the largely unexcavated, 14-acre bathing complex in Rome built by the Emperor Trajan, itself lying on top of the ruins of Nero's lavish residence, known as the Golden House.
The Corriere della Sera has this picture. (Warning! Some viewers may find Classical Nudity offensive)

The Soteriological Significance of Christ's Masculinity

or 'Where Angels Fear to Tread...'
A while ago, (over at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping) I commented as follows to the suggestion that the phrase 'the soteriological significance of the Christ's masculinity' was meaningless.
Talk about a delicate area! I think that one can talk about "the soteriological significance of the Christ's masculinity".
Obviously, salvation is wrought by the Word taking Human nature, but one could argue that viewing Christ as the New Adam makes His masculinity of sotierological significance.
That's just one example of what "the soteriological significance of the Christ's masculinity" might be.

I'm therefore interested to note (biretta-doff to Don Jim Tucker of Dappled Things) this from Camassia:
A couple of researchers who studied married couples noticed that men and women tended to have somewhat different ideas about how to show your love for someone: men lean toward "instrumental help" (doing things for people, in other words), while women tend toward "verbal self-disclosure" (talking about intimate matters). The authors argued that society in general thinks of love more in the "female" terms of emotive intimacy, which means women are regarded as being better at love, which has negative consequences for both sexes.
Now, I'm sure sociologists and psychologists and whatnot can argue about whether this is an innate difference between the sexes or not, but another thing that strikes me about the two forms of love is this: only one of them can really be scaled up successfully. That is, emotional intimacy is necessarily limited to a close group, while instrumental help can be raised to a mass level. That is probably why the love that Jesus talked about most of the time was of the "male" variety -- his famous love-your-neighbor example of the Good Samaritan, for instance.
So it seems likely to me that the feminization of love happened along with the privatization of love that I described before, where love belongs to the family but social Darwinism reigns outside it. Historically there was a tendency to err the other way -- to understand intimate relations like marriage entirely instrumentally, in terms of reproduction and what it gains the family or tribe, and ignore people's emotions. So while I've been speaking in broad strokes here in critiquing society's attitudes toward love, I do think a balance is necessary.
This poses the question as to whether the work of Redemption might be understood as falling under that description of 'instrumental help'. Does this shed light on why the 2nd Person of the Trinity became incarnate as a man rather than a woman? Is this a stronger type of 'soteriological significance of Christ's masculinity'?

Mary at the Foot of the Cross (contd...)

I mentioned some time ago the tradition of a connection between Our Lady being spared the normal pain of childbirth and the anguish she suffered at the foot of the cross. I'd been informed that patrisitic testimony for this could be found in Chrysostom, but failed to find it. However, St John Damascene (+777) does refer to this in his 2nd wonderful Sermon on the Dormition/Assumption of Our Lady.
The bosom of the earth was no fitting receptacle for the Lord's dwelling-place, the living source of cleansing water, the corn of heavenly bread, the sacred vine of divine wine, the evergreen and fruitful olive-branch of God's mercy. And just as the all holy body of God's Son, which was taken from her, rose from the dead on the third day, it followed that she should be snatched from the tomb, that the mother should be united to her Son; and as He had come down to her, so she should be raised up to Him, into the more perfect dwelling-place, heaven itself. It was meet that she, who had sheltered God the Word in her own womb, should inhabit the tabernacles of her Son. And as our Lord said it behoved Him to be concerned with His Father's business, so it behoved His mother that she should dwell in the courts of her Son, in the house of the Lord, and in the courts of the house of our God. If all those who rejoice dwell in Him, where must the cause itself of joy abide? It was fitting that the body of her, who preserved her virginity unsullied in her motherhood, should be kept from corruption even after death. She who nursed her Creator as an infant at her breast, had a right to be in the divine tabernacles. The place of the bride whom the Father had espoused, was in the heavenly courts. It was fitting that she who saw her Son die on the cross, and received in her heart the sword of pain which she had not felt in childbirth, should gaze upon Him seated next to the Father. The Mother of God had a right to the possession of her Son, and as handmaid and Mother of God to the worship of all creation. The inheritance of the parents ever passes to the children. Now, as a wise man said, the sources of sacred waters are above. The Son made all creation serve His Mother.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Small Game Hunting...

There's a fascinating obituary in the Telegraph - for one of those characters that only the CoE could generate.

As vicar of the North Devon fishing village of Appledore he wore a green
Marines beret, white cassock and sandals. He liked to do his parish visiting on
horseback, often leaving hoof prints in gardens, and allowed his two cream
labradors to enter his church immediately before and after services. He was also
an enthusiastic user of pubs where, he used to say, there was often more
fellowship and more joy than in church. "A pub is a sort of confessional," he
claimed. "People communicate freely after a few drinks; they tell you their
personal problems."
"PJ", as he liked to be called, advocated burial at sea,
church blessings for divorcees and christenings conducted in lighthouses. His
success in getting Lundy Island incorporated into his parish reconciled his love
of God with his need to be on the water. If bad weather broke the one telephone
connection with the island, he used carrier pigeons to tell his wife that he was
delayed, though the GPO warned him that he was infringing its monopoly.
was not always emollient. When a woman told him that the only thing she
remembered about her marriage was that the vicar had worn sandals, he replied:
"Can't be much of a marriage." But Daniel Farson, hardly a natural sympathiser,
concluded in a Sunday Telegraph article that, paradoxically, it was PJ's strict,
personal discipline which allowed him to break free from convention rather than
an apparent, light-hearted approach to his calling.

The Corriere della Sera reveals that the ice hotel phenomenon has hit China.

There's an impressive story from New Jersey about a six-pounder hamburger. Mmmmmmm!

Finally, it takes the Brits to come up with anything like this - an article in today's Telegraph about shooting wasps.

The tradition for shooting insects goes back hundreds of years. Queen
Christina of Sweden
had a pathological hatred of fleas in the 17th century and
is said to have kept a small cannon in her bedroom to fire shots at the
Paul Hargreaves, of West Grinstead, West Sussex, suggested a modern
day variant – using a Berloque Pistole loaded with a 78 rpm gramophone needle.
"This unique miniature pistol makes short work of wasps at distances of up to
six feet," he said.
The disadvantage is that anyone attempting to massacre
wasps with the pistol could be risking a jail sentence. According to the
Worshipful Company of Gunmakers, the weapon is classified as a prohibited weapon
under the Firearms Act. Owners could face five years in jail.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Euthanasia and the CoE

According to today's Telegraph, one of the Archbishop of Canterbury's senior advisers has said that there is a 'very strong compassionate case' for mercy killing.
Canon Robin Gill, a professor of modern theology at the University of Kent, insisted that people who help terminally ill relatives who are in great pain to end their lives should not be prosecuted.
"The archbishop's choice of Prof Gill represents a willingness to enter into a more constructive dialogue than before about this important issue. We hope that it will encourage other members of the clergy to speak out in support," said Deborah Annetts, the chief executive of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
A spokesman for the Church of England last night distanced it from Prof Gill's views. They did not reflect those of anyone else in the church, he said.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Pentagon planned love bomb

Okay... It's not the 1st of April, so I'm reluctantly taking this Telegraph article at face value:
The Pentagon examined the possibility of developing an aphrodisiac bomb that would cause enemy troops to find one another sexually irresistible, newly declassified documents reveal.
It also considered development of a "Who? Me?" bomb that would produce odours that suggested that other soldiers were passing wind or had serious halitosis to disrupt enemy morale.

Two Deceased Noblemen

I was disappointed not to have gate-crashed the funeral of the late Prince Ruspoli whose obituary apprears in today's Telegraph.
In his handsome prime, the Maserati-driving prince was the toast of his haunts on the Via Veneto, at St Tropez and on Capri. Men, particularly actors, imitated his careless dress sense – going barefoot in summer when it was a novelty. The most celebrated anecdote about him was that he used to promenade with a parrot on his shoulder. Although he always insisted it was merely a wounded raven he had found on the tennis court, the image inspired the comic Totò's screen portrayal of The Emperor of Capri (1949).
Ruspoli's friends were all the right people; he shared a villa with Roger Vadim and Jane Fonda, while Brigitte Bardot came to the baptism of his son. He knew Truman Capote, Willem de Kooning and Balthus, and took lessons in hypnotism from Orson Welles. Ruspoli developed a life-long interest in magic and the occult after witnessing a demonstration of Welles's powers.
While sitting in a café, Welles asked him what he would like to see happen. Ruspoli told him that nothing would please him more than that a pretty girl at a neighbouring table drop her Bloody Mary down the front of her shirt. The glass duly obliged.
Matt (over at the Shrine) mentions an encounter with the Prince and his brother. The Telegraph notes: His younger brother was a somewhat eccentric figure on the fringes of politics. Also of note is the conclusion to the obituary:
He was a firm believer in reincarnation.
Also deceased is the holder of that great Irish noble title The McGillycuddy of the Reeks. (All Irish noble titles begin with 'The'.) Of course, anyone with a knowledge of Irish history would take a claim to a title of Gaelic Nobility with a pinch of salt - strictly speaking Gaelic titles were not inherited by primogeniture, but upon the death of a Chieftain an election was held amongst the senior male members of the Clan to decide the most suitable successor. In terms of antiquity, the Gaelic titles compare favourably with those of most other European countries, but due to certain 'political' difficulties with the English the validity transmission of these titles is fraught with historical uncertainty.

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unitiy

For those of you in Rome there will be an interesting initiative for the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity at the Church of S.Maria in Via Lata. At 8pm each evening the Divine Liturgy (Mass) will be celebrated in a different rite of the Catholic Church. This is being done in conjunction with several of the Colleges (Greek, Russian, etc...) which educate seminarians of the various Eastern Rites. The schedule is as follows:
Tuesday 18th January Romanian-Byzantine
Wednesday 19th January Greek-Byzantine
Thursday 20th January Syro-Maronite
Friday 21st January Armenian
Saturday 22nd January Ukranian-Byzantine
Sunday 23rd January Roman
Monday 24th January Syro-Malabar
Tuesday 25th January Russian-Byzantine
Due to various commitments I'll only be able to attend a few of these celebrations, but I'm sure that both Matt and Lauren who have both spent a deal of time in Rome over the past couple of years but are now back in the States are insanely jealous!
If you know any liturgy-nerds in Rome, do pass on the word. Oh, and all the liturgies are celebrated by Catholic clergy in Communion with the Holy See so there are no scruples about receiving communion, etc.

Saint Ita...

Today the church remembers Saint Ita who earned herself the title 'Foster-Mother of the Irish Saints'. She is believed to have educated many of the great Irish monastics, most notably the real discoverer of America St. Brendan the Navigator. She had a convent at Killeedy (from the Irish for 'Ita's Church') in Limerick, but is reputed to be buried at Wether's Well, in Ardfert, Co. Kerry. This well is close to St Brendan's episcopal seat and is said to be the place of his baptism. Indeed, it acquired the title 'Wether's Well' because of the legend that three wethers (sheep) sprung from the well as a baptism offering when the saint was baptised.
Amongst the miracles attributed to Ita are her healing of a beheaded man. She was also noted for her austerity, washing her hands when a gift of money was forced upon her.
It is said that she nursed the infant Jesus in a vision and was thereby inspired to write a hymn.
(The linked hymn is from this site of Medieval Christian texts.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Orwell, Chesterton and some other stuff

Orwell and Chesterton
One mightn't immediately associate Orwell and Chesterton, but Enbrethiliel over at Sancta Sanctis does just that in this post and this one. Now, I've not read the Napoleon of Notting Hill yet (shame on me!) but the connection between 1984 and The Man who was Thursday does seem solid. It's interesting that various seemingly authorative sources seem to be mistaken on this point and it's an interesting example of how a typo or a simple piece of misinformation can spread unchecked until someone, well, checks.
Am I alone?
In the comments box to this post I have been exposed as someone who quite simply doesn't like Tolkein. Now, I know he was a great Catholic writer, but I've manfully struggled to enjoy the Lord of the Rings series several times and have found them quite simply indigestible. I'm sure the fault is mine because Tolkein-worship seems to be one of the obligatory characteristics of Catholic 'bloggers, but surely I'm not alone. Anyone else willing to own up to not liking these novels?
(In case my readers are worried, I'd better include the disclaimer that I do like Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Gilbert and Sullivan, CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh and PG Wodehouse, so I'm not totally weird.)

Down to 120...

The recent death of Cardinal Schotte (may he rest in peace) has brought the number of Cardinal-Electors back down to 120, the maximum established by Paul VI. The Corriere della Sera has this photograph from the funeral. I was going to play a game of 'name that Cardinal', but the predominance of slightly chubby bespectacled grey-haired prelates makes it a difficult exercise.

'Christ-like' shell to go on sale

I received this news story from a correspondant.
A bar manager in Switzerland has announced plans to sell an oyster shell
resembling the face of Jesus Christ, according to local media.
Brandi, 38, may hope to repeat the success of a Florida woman who sold a piece
of toast said to bear an image of the Virgin Mary for $28,000.
The Italian
said he had found the shell, whose contents have since been eaten, in a batch
two years ago.
The oyster stuck to his hand as if God was calling him, he

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Gilbert & Sullivan, ET and the Second Vatican Council

The ever-readable Meredith (who doesn't post half-often enough!) references one of my posts. She writes on the topic of Catholic Gilbert & Sullivan Parodies. She cites Knox as being a particuarly early example, and then quotes a parody from Michael Novak's 1961 novel The Tiber was Silver who put it in the mouths of North American College Seminarians. The following line in particular struck me:
I'll study probabilities and probably pontificate
On what we'll find in outer space or on the moon (at any
In the run up to the Second Vatican Council the bishops of the world were polled to ascertain what they wished to discuss at the upcoming council. Many were perplexed and quite a number of submissions reveal a certain parochialism or lack of vision when compared to the magnitude and importance of the Conciliar documents themselves. It is said of one respected preconciliar Irish theologian that he thought that all major issues of dogma had been settled and that the only issue he could imagine the Council settling was a clearer defintion of what constituted menial work on a Sunday. Probably the most honest submission was from a missionary bishop based, if I recall correctly, on some island in the Pacific Ocean who eventually replied to the repeated requests for a submission with the apology that he was but a simple pastor and did not think he had anything useful to contribute.
However, probably the most unintentionally amusing submission (and the lines above reminded me of this) is that of the then Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle (Archepiscopus Vashingtonensis) who in his list of Res Fidei includes:
5. De possibilitate existentiae creaturarum rationalium in aliis

He then went on to explain that he wanted to Council to ascertain whether the dogmas of the Incarnation and Redemption excluded this possibility and expressed the wish that Church teaching might be harmonious with modern science. (And lest I be disbelieved, those of you with access to a decent theological library can find the Archbishop's letter in the Acta of the Council, Series I, Vol II, Pars VI pp463-4.)
The Archbishop's letter dates to 1959, so it'd be nice to think that Novak somehow got word of its contents before writing the above pardoy. However, it's far more likely that then as now, the implications of space travel and extraterrestrial life was a popular extra-curricular debate amongst aspiring theologians.

In the News...

There's a surprising proportion of interesting articles in today's Telegraph.
British doctors are criticising the film Vera Drake for demonstrating a potentially fatal (to the mother as well as the child) abortion technique.
This article on American soldiers deserting for fear of being sent into combat will (justly) anger some of my American readers. One of them explained his situation as follows:
"This is a criminal war and any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an
atrocity. I signed a contract for four years, and I was totally willing to
fulfil it. Just not in combat arms jobs." (Emphasis mine)

The Telegraph are only now reporting the old news about the upcoming 'Satanism Course' at Regina Apostolorum. Note the indiscriminate use of the word 'Vatican' - Regina Apostolorum is actually run by the Legionaries of Christ, not the Vatican. Also of interest is the response by a Satanist:
"The Vatican has been masters of media manipulation for millennia,
suppressing art which it cannot control, perverting into propaganda that which
has the misfortune to fall beneath its shadow," he said. "Many teen-agers are
drawn towards Satanism because they despise religion... for the rational reasons
that it is mindlessly authoritarian, deeply sexually dysfunctional, and has the
blood of countless millions on its bejewelled fingers."

Friday, January 07, 2005

Obscure Subjects...

Browsing through an Italian bookshop today I came across a volume dealing with (I kid you not) 'Antique Ottoman Carpets in Transylvania'.

A Crime of Passion

A peculiarly French crime reported in today's Telegraph.
An art-loving French waiter who stole paintings and other works worth millions of pounds from museums and galleries across Europe was driven by "passion in its purest form", the opening day of his trial heard.
Stéphane Breitwieser, 33, admits helping himself to 239 art treasures, including Lucas Cranach the Elder's 16th century masterpiece, Sybille, Princess of Cleves, valued at up to £5.5 million, during a six-year crime spree.
To the horror of the art world - and, apparently, of Breitwieser - after his arrest in 2001 his mother, Mireille Stengel, chopped up paintings she found in his bedroom and threw the debris into a waste disposal unit and a canal.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Newman on Pugin

I stumbled across this today:

In details Pugin is perfect but his altars are so small you can't have a
Pontifical High Mass at them, his tabernacles so low that you can scarce have
exposition, his East windows so large that every thing else is hidden in the
glare and his skreens (sic) so heavy that you might as well have the function in
Sacristy, for the seeing of it by the congregation.
-John Henry Newman

Another one!

Another strange pharmaceutical e-mail... I don't even want to know what this one's about.

Our lozenges are merely like typical tablets but they are specially developed to
be coddled and dissolvable below the tongue. The lozenges is took up at the rima
oris and moves into the fluid direct rather of acting through with the
breadbasket. This effects in a quicker much more mighty result which still up to
28 hours!

The Journey of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
T.S. Eliot

Random observations...

I've been out of the Eternal City for a short while and the following things struck me today:
  1. Italians generally applaud when their plane lands. I think it a much more prudent
    to defer this until my baggage makes its way safely back to me.
  2. There was an gypsy woman begging outside the Scala Sancta today - her sign was in English and read 'I am old and fat and no one gives me work. Heeeeelp.' Want to bet that a 'friendly' Anglophonic college student wrote that for her?
  3. I came across a street of cars with fliers under their wipers. They were advertising a private investigation firm which offers to provide proof of marital infedelity for as little as €150 for the 1st 4 hours investigation.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

How to be Catholick!

Cacciaguida's given me an idea - if one wants to sound like a serious Catholick one simply renames the a few of the Church's feasts by sticking -mas at the end...
So, March 25th becomes Ladymas, March 17th Patrickmas, Jan 2nd is Basilmas (I like that one) and so on...

Monday, January 03, 2005


Then look no further than this e-mail I received this morning:
My victuals one of the planetary's most widely prescribed antidepressants; it has been inflicted for many more than 90 million people planetary. person you know is acquiring finer because of this product.
I've no interest in buying this product, but the sheer badness of the prose certainly cheered me up.