Monday, March 28, 2005

Blog-break and a painting...

I'm afraid that it does not seem that I'll be able to blog for the next week or so. Many and varied duties take me away from Rome and internet access.

As a parting Easter gift I leave you this link to a painting that I only discovered very recently. It's the 1791 Invention of the Art of Drawing by Joseph B. Suvée. It shows the daughter of the Greek potter Butades whose lover has been called away to fight in the war. At their last meeting she is siezed by inspiration and draws his silhouette on the wall as a memento. It's a wonderfully rich painting - the expressions of the protagonists are very engaging and subject to numerous interpretations. It can be read as a commentary on the Platonic doctrine of forms or his aesthetic theories about the inadequacy of art. It can also be viewed as a very human piece of drama. The daughter herself seems lost in capturing something of her lover - almost to the neglect of the man himself. He supports her but there's something in his upward gaze and the way he holds his arms about her that suggests that he's not entirely satisfied - that he resents the attention paid to his shadow and longs for the girl to concern herself with him in the 'here and now'.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Not exactly an Easter hymn...

... but it's my favourite, and I'm singing it in my head for Easter.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe,
Should strive and should prevail.

And that a higher gift than grace
Should flesh and blood refine,
God’s Presence and His very Self,
And Essence all divine.

O generous love! that He, Who smote,
In Man for man the foe,
The double agony in Man
For man should undergo.

And in the garden secretly,
And on the Cross on high,
Should teach His brethren, and inspire
To suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.

Christòs anèsti

I celebrated Easter Sunday morning with the Greek (Byzantine Rite) Catholic community here in Rome and discovered two things:

Firstly, it is the custom in Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches to read the Easter Homily of St John Chrysostom after the Gospel on Easter Sunday.
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary from fasting?
Let them now receive their due!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
Let them receive their reward.
If any have come after the third hour,
Let them with gratitude join in the feast!
And those who arrived after the sixth hour,
Let them not doubt; for they shall lose nothing.
And if any have tarried until the ninth hour,
Let them not hesitate; but let them come too.
And those who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
Let them not be afraid by reason of their delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last no less than the first.
The Lord gives rest to those who come at the eleventh hour,
Even as to those who toiled from the beginning.
To one and all the Lord gives generously.
The Lord accepts the offering of every work.
The Lord honors every deed and commends their intention.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
Rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!
Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy the riches of the Lord's goodness!
Let none grieve their poverty,
For the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let none mourn that they have fallen, over, and over again;
For forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let none fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.
The Lord has destroyed it by enduring it.
The Lord destroyed hell when He descended into it.
The Lord put hell in turmoil even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering him below."
Hell is in turmoil because it has been eclipsed.
Hell is in turmoil because it is mocked.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is destroyed.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is annihilated.
Hell is in turmoil, for it is now made captive.
Hell grasped a corpse, and discovered God.
Hell seized earth, and encountered heaven.
Hell took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and you, O death, are obliterated!
Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is set free!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
For Christ, having risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To God be glory and power forever and ever.

Translation by Mark Baker and edited by André Lavergne
Secondly, when the Feast of the Annunciation (or Incarnation) falls on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, it is transferred to Easter Sunday. So, the Easter Vigil being over, the Divine Liturgy on Easter Sunday morning draws some of its texts from the proper of that feast.
Today begins our salvation and the manifestation of the eternal mystery - the Son of God becomes Son of the Virgin and Gabriel announces the grace. With him we cry to the Mother of God: 'Hail, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with You.'
Even the Gospel was not that of the Resurrection, but one of my favourite biblical texts - the prologue to St John's Gospel. 'The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us'
And two Easter Pictures
I really like Noli Me Tangere depicitons where Christ is actually dressed as the gardener. And Durer is always wonderful.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Holy Saturday - The Harrowing of Hell

What's supposed to be the quietest day of the year, and I'm rushed off my feet! *Sigh*

Anyway, a few images of the Harrowing of Hell.

Christ breaks open the doors of Hell with His cross in this manuscript.
Durer's approach differs somewhat. Christ has already bashed through the door and is pulling John the Baptist up from the pit. Note how Christ looks wearied, almost aged. Eve looks much younger than Adam and behind them you can see Moses with the tables of the law.
From a Medieval Exultet roll.
A charming, almost placid one from a Dutch book of hours.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday - Miscellany

Quid est veritas?
I was amused by the irony of an election poster today. It's part of the left-wing 'Olive' coalition and depicts two of their politicians with the caption La Verità? Eccola! In other words - The Truth? Here it is.
Ecce Homo
An unusual Ecce Homo by Nuno Gonçalves. (Mid 15th Cent.)
A very different (and plaintive) one from about the same era by Antonello Da Messina.
I can't decide what to make of Caravaggio's Ecco Homo - something ambiguous about it.
With Hieronymus Bosch one finds the 'minor' characters more interesting.
And from the British library, a page from the Sforza Book of Hours.
From my Spiritual Reading
I see thee, O good Jesus, nailed to the cross, crowned with thorns, given gall to drink, pierced with the lance, and for my sake dislocated in all thy limbs upon the gibbet of the cross. How greatly thou hast loved me, since whereas thou art thyself most good, for me thou hast desired to be reckoned among the wicked; being thyself most beautiful, for me thou hast desired to be accounted as a leper and the last of men; being thyself strong and powerful, for me thou didst allow yourself to be executed like a thief; being thyself wise, for me thou didst desire to be the butt of mocking words and gestures from those who stood around the cross, and so all that was within or without thee caused thee suffering for my sake. Alas! that head, an object of awe to angelic powers, is pierced with the sharpest thorns; the face on which the angels desire to gaze is spat upon by vile mouths; the hands which fashioned heaven and earth are pierced with sharp nails; the heart which knows the secret things of God is laid bare when the side is opened; the belly from which flow living waters is contracted with hunger and pain; the back which supports heaven and earth is beaten and torn with stripes; the reins which extinguish all impurity are are stripped and scourged; the legs which have wrought pleasure for men are held fast by the points of the nails; the soul which from the first moment of its creation had full fruition of the Godhead, is sorrowful unto death.
From a 'Meditation to Christ Crucified' by The Monk of Farne (Christ Crucified & Other Meditations, edited by David Hugh Farmer)

Good Friday

The Corriere della Sera has a slideshow of Holy Week observances from around the world. Just follow the link on the linked page. Warning - some of the content from the Philipine is not for the squeamish.

The Telegraph has an article about the co-incidence of Good Friday with the 25th of March.

And from today's liturgy...
What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Saviour with a lance.
How can something so terrible be so beautiful?

White Crucifixion

Another piece of art that one might expect to be too 'modern' for me to like (but I do!) is Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion.
Chagall was a Jewish artist (though he executed commissions for Catholic churches including some beautiful stained glass windows in Mainz to which no reproduction does justice) and painted this juxtaposition of a crucifixion and Jewish progrom in 1938.
I don't think Chagall (as a Jew) is proposing the figure of Christ as a redeemer. As the images of the persecution of his people whirl about him, the crucified one is passive. Pilate's inscription is written in Hebrew is written above His head, he wears a halo and is bathed in light from above... but yet he is not the suffering or redeeming Christ so familiar to us from Christian depictions. Indeed, the Christ in his utter passivity is closer to the 'pieta Christ' than the 'Crucified Christ' we are more familiar with.
About him we see a Jewish ghetto being ransacked, a synagogue being destroyed, refugees on a boat, and fleeing figures seeking to rescue their meagre belongs and the scroll of the Torah.
Chagall himself explained that Christ (modesty preserved by the prayer shawl) represented the truest type of Jewish martyr. He is the Jewish sufferer par excellence. In the context of what was happening (often, supposedly, in the name of Christianity) Chagall's painting is a bold appropriation of the cross - a symbol which must have seemed hateful to many of his fellow Jews. However, it is significant that Chagall changed his mind in the execution of the work - the fleeing figure in the left foreground was going to have the words 'I am a Jew' written on his placard. Significantly, Chagall ultimately decided to leave it blank.
Viewing this painting as a Christian one is forced to look at the cross from another point of view. We might resist Chagall's appropriation of Christ as being 'just' the exemplar of Jewish martyrdom, but even within the Christian theological tradition this aspect of Christ cannot be neglected. Christ is the ultimate fulfilment, not negation, of the Old Covenant. Similarly, the persecution of the Jews is a particularly sharp reminded that the evil perpetrated on Golgotha has never ceased to be at work in the world. Pogroms and the holocaust serve to remind us that the evil at work in the modern world (and in our lives!) is the same evil that led to the death of the most devout and upright of all the Jews. Our sins and the sins that nailed Christ to the cross are one and the same.
Chagall's appropriation of the cross should also make us think about how we 'use' the cross. In debates about whether a crucifix should and shouldn't be displayed in such-and-such a context the bloody reality of the cross is neglected. Instead of being an image that leads us to repentance and sorrow it becomes a totem, a mere symbol of sectarian identity. A Jewish depiction of the cross should remind us that there is a sense in which even Christians should allow themselves to be scandalised by the horror of Good Friday.
Finally, the passivity of Chagall's Jesus reminds me about the nature of Christian hope. The Christ is dead and even his resurrection does not eliminate what happened in the past. It does not make the evil of Golgotha any the less. The powerless Christ reminds us that there are times when it looks as though there is no way out, where things cannot get better. Christ was there too. Chagall's Christ can be seen as the epitome of von Balthasar's 'Cadaver Obedience'. In obedience to the Father, Christ is brought to a state of utter powerlessness. For the believer, it is a reminder that no matter how bad things get, in assuming full humanity and living life unto the obedience of death the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity is always with us even in the depths of suffering and reminds us that Christian hope is this - the past cannot be changed, not everything will be put right in this world, but if we have faith and trust in 'things unseen', all will make sense in the end.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Last Supper...

As in a 6th Century book of the Gospels - note the fact that Christ and the apostles are reclining.
As portrayed by Duccio - note the paschal lamb and the piece of cloth draped in the right background
A very European depiction from Bouts.

Holy Thursday in Rome
This evening is one of the finest to walk around Rome. The various churches all prepare a elaborately decorated altars of repose (each known as a 'sepolcro' or sepulchre) and it is the custom of natives and vistors alike to stroll from church to church under the light of the nissan moon and pay respect to the Blessed Sacrament at each church they visit.

In the news...

A touching tale from the Telegraph - WWII Spitfire pilot flys again! Also touching is this account of a military funeral for a soldier who died in combat over 60 years ago.
Contact with human society changes the trumpet of an elephant.
The discovery of an orphaned elephant that sounds like a lorry is reported today, suggesting that the traditional trumpeting of elephants could change in response to encounters with human society.

The Smiling Friar and the Schiavo Case!

The Smiling Friar's take on the Schiavo case provokes me to further comment more than I might in his comments box.

Br Andy basically argues, seemingly following Kevin O'Rourke OP, that Terri Schiavo be denied nutrition.

He starts off with a seeming non sequitur
Back to Florida. I find it very sad that so many people attack each other in this case when just 50 years ago there would have been no discussion on this issue, Terri would have died from the heart attack and stroke caused by her eating disorder. Now she lays there in bed, unresponsive to the world (please don't tell me she is responsive, the medical professionals have examined her and they are all saying the same things: most of her brain is literally gone and replaced by spinal fluid).

The issue of what medical science would or would not have been able to do 50 years ago is irrelevant and other than presenting the image of a comfortable and convenient 'slipping away' for the poor patient in question adds nothing to the argument. It's just an emotional appeal for euthanasia ('peaceful death' in Greek.).
The issue of Terri Schiavo's cerebral/mental capacity I will address in due course.

He also argues:
I am also miffed by the analogy of starving a dog to death. If a dog were brain damaged even mildly, most owners would euthanize it. That comparison just does not work. No one is injecting Terri with deadly poison, they are just allowing her to pass away in a manner that is in line with her broken body.
He's miffed? I find this line of thought offensive. Starving an animal to death is cruel. Animals are afforded the respect in law that they be not killed in such a cruel manner. So, a brain damaaged dog should be euthanised. Fair enough.
How do we get from there to the point that it's okay to remove nutrition from Terri Schiavo? Why is something unacceptable to the welfare of a dog permissable to impose on a human being?
There is a very clear point here - removal of food means that Terri is going to die of starvation, not of her injuries. The removal of food is an act morally equivalent to and potentially much more painful than poisioning. (O'Rourke denies this point.) I know he doesn't intend to so argue, but the Smiling Friar is dangerously close to suggesting that poisoning is an equivalent or better solution.
The guts of his argument seems to be the following point, seemingly based on O'Rourke's insistence on cognitive-affective function as being the key determination of when life should be preserved or not:
I will continue to present the arguments that have been brought forward in reference to her ability to further her standing in eternity. If a person cannot think, then they cannot pray. So why prolong her life in a state where she is not cognative? I do not buy the slippery slope argument, this is not a person in a coma or with mild brain damage. This is a person who will not eat or drink on her own. Her brain will not tell her mouth to chew or her hands to open a box of Mac and Cheese. Now that is a little off the point, a baby cannot do this either, but a baby will some day. Terri won't, short of the most profound miracle since Lazarus was raised from the dead by Our Lord.

I just find this mind-boggling. This is so different from any type of Catholic bioethics I've ever encountered that it seems to me sufficent to simply list the various objections to this position:
1. Ms Schiavo's capacity and medical condition is in grave doubt - part of the argument made to restore feeding is the determination of her medical status and her capacity for therapy.
2. Even in more 'clear cut' cases, the determination of the existance of the cognitive-affective function and its impact on one's relationship with God is speculative.
3. Catholic bioethics is rightfully wary of linking the right to life to any stage of human capacity or incapacity short of encephalic death.
4. The removal of nutrition is an act which directly and of itself leads to death. It is not the same as allowing a fatal and incurable illness to run its natural and inevitable course in as painless a way as possible. It is a seperate act which has death as its end. I fail to see what form of double-effect argument can avoid the fact that Ms Schiavo is due to die due to imposed starvation and not due to her injuries.
One could go on, but I think that I've raised enough questions regarding the argument proposed.

Finally, I will admit that I don't find this sort of argument pleasant, and suspect that I could probably have better spent my time in prayer for all involved.

[Edited to add: I see that Fr. O'Rourke is mentioned on Open Book too. I wonder what implications Fr O'Rourke's thesis on cognitive-affective function has for the nature of the human soul and its relationship with the body. How does his denial of the possibility of amicitia with God for one without such a function relate to the spiritual nature of the soul? I think this bears further and deeper reflection.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


A collection of links to pictures of penitents - mostly connected with Holy Week processions in Spain/Italy.

A beautiful photo from Granada, Spain.
Taranto, Italy.
The Sanctuary of St Nicholas near Forino, Italy.
Southern Spain.
Spain, again.
Malaga, Spain.
Medieval penitents.
Seville, Spain. And also in purple.
Badolato, Italy.
Librizzi, Sicily.
Quito, Ecuador. (Purple!)
A page of photos from Rota, Spain.
Andalucia, Spain.
Valladolid, Spain.
Particularly sinister, Spain.
Finally, the official Holy Week site for Seville.

For Spy Wednesday...

Some Judas iconography...

Gotta love Giotto.

As Holy Thursday draws near...

The Last Supper
I know, I'm a bit ahead of myself, but I have a very demanding Triduum, so I'm getting this in early.

Anyway, it's a bit more 'modern' than I usually like my art, but one of my favourite depictions of the Last Supper is that of the German priest Sieger Köder which can be seen in this pdf file.
What I like about this work is its simple style and the clear way that the artist has worked in a number of theological motifs. We don't see the face of Christ directly in the painting, but it's reflected in the chalice of wine. The Chi-Rho symbol may be discerned in the broken bread which lies on the white tablecloth overshadowed by the cross. The disciples are huddled together in the light which seems to be coming from the head of the table where Christ sits, whilst if we peer into the shadows at the back of the room we can discern the figure of Judas who is about his deadly business. (Does Köder owe Aquinas an apology?) The disciples' faces are also a story in themselves - John trustingly inclines towards Christ and accepts the bread offered by His generous hands, poor Peter looks confused and the others have varying expressions ranging from surprise to tiredness.
There's a great charm about this painting and I've found that it's a good way to get intellegent children to reflect on what happened at the first Last Supper and what happens every day at Mass.
Also worth a look is Koder's other depiction of the Last Supper, his >Washing of the Feet. Again, there are some clear theological motifs, ranging from the fact that again we don't see Christ's face directly to the prayer shawl wrapped about His shoulders.
Other Stuff
Lauren would probably string me up if I didn't plug her new Cafepress Store. (Never trust a skinny Domincan!)
There's an interesting editorial in the Telegraph about Blair and the religion question. A related article reveals the huge religious ignorance amongst the British.
Another Holy Week penitent in Spain. And a more colourful variation on the same theme from the Philipines. Not penetential at all is this cultural celebration in China.
And finally...
Lots of goodies for bibliophiles on the British Library's new website. They are making an increasing number of their treasures availible on-line.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Holy Week and preparations for the Triduum

I'm not sure how much I will be posting this week, but I hope that this photo will put you in a suitably penitent mood for the Sacred Triduum.
An Indian Palm Sunday from the Corriere.
Some parrots from Columbia - the Church there has been urging the faithful not to leave the parrots homeless in their enthusiasm for palms.
Okay... why would anyone want such an ugly/scary pet?
Finally, I was puzzled to hear of the devotion of some Italians to an Irishman called 'San Cataldo' - a little reseach reveals the following astonishing story:

Born in Munster, Ireland, 7th century. Saint Cataldus was a pupil, then the headmaster of the monastic school of Lismore in Waterford after the death of its founder, Saint Carthage. Upon his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he was shipwrecked at Taranto in southern Italy and chosen by the people as their bishop. He is the titular of Taranto's cathedral and the principal patron of the diocese. This epitaph if given under an image of Saint Catald in Rome:
Me tulit Hiberne, Solyme traxere, Tarentum Nunc tenet: huic ritus, dogmata, jura dedi.Which has been loosely translated as:
Hibernia gave me birth: thence wafted over, I sought the sacred Solymean shore. To thee Tarentum, holy rites I gave, Precept divine; and thou to me a grave.It is odd that an Irishman, should be so honored throughout Italy, Malta, and France, but have almost no recognition in his homeland. His Irish origins were discovered only two or three centuries after his death, when his relic were recovered during the renovation of the cathedral of Taranto. A small golden cross, of 7th- or 8th- century Irish workmanship, was with the relics. Further investigations identified him with Cathal, the teacher of Lismore.
Veneration to Catald spread, especially in southern Italy, after the May 10, 1017, translation of his relics when the cathedral was being rebuilt following its destruction at the hands of Saracens in 927. Four remarkable cures occurred as the relics were moved to the new cathedral. When his coffin was open at that time, a pastoral staff of Irish workmanship was found with the inscription Cathaldus Rachau. There is a town of San Cataldo in Sicily and another on the southeast coast of Italy (Benedictines, D'Arcy, Farmer, Husenbeth, Kenney, Montague, Neeson, Tommasini).
Saint Catald is depicted in art as an early Christian bishop with a miter and pallium in a 12th century mosaic at Palermo (Roeder). He is the subject of a painting on the 8th pillar of the nave on the left in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem (D'Arcy, Montague). There are also 12th-century mosaics in Palermo and Monreale depicting the saint (Farmer). Catald is invoked against plagues, drought, and storms (Farmer).

Friday, March 18, 2005

Quis habitabit in monte sancto tuo?

In preparation for the Sacred Triduum I shall be spending the next few days (hopefully in prayer) atop a mountain.

Back Tuesday/Wednesday.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dies Sancti Patricii Hibernorum Apostoli

Beannachtai na feile Padraig! Happy St Patrick's Day.

The ever erudite Cnytr has an excellent post commemorating the day.

With all the leprechauns and green beer it's easy to miss the significance of Patrick's missionary work. Firstly, thanks to his labours and those of his companions the warlike Irish were converted to Christianity in the space of less than two generations without any martyrdoms. Secondly, Patrick represents the Church re-discovering its missionary nature. After the Apostolic era and early Patristic era and the mission to the gentiles there wasn't a huge amount of strictly missionary activity within the church. Christianity seemed to spread 'naturally' within the Empire and this situation was exacerbated by the conversion of Constantine and the consequent elevation of Christianity to the level of an official empire. It was therefore quite a bold step of Patrick to move beyond the bounds of the 'safe' world of the Empire to the barbaric island of Hibernia where he had already been a slave. Indeed, his missionary efforts seem to have been opposed by the bishops of Britain who did not seem to recognise the value of bringing the Gospel to these barbarians.
The fact that the conversion to Christianity so unbloody inspired many an Irish monk to exile himself from his homeland as a substitute for the martyrdom otherwise denied him and it was this that contributed so much to the presevation and restoration of learning after the dark ages.

Patrick wrote of his mission in Ireland as follows:
Now, it would be tedious to give a detailed account of all my labours or even a part of them. Let me tell you briefly how the merciful God often freed me from slavery and from twelve dangers in which my life was at stake, not to mention numerous plots, which I cannot express in words; for I do not want to bore my readers. But God is my witness, who knows all things even before they come to pass, as He used to forewarn even me, poor wretch that I am, of many things by a divine message.
How came I by this wisdom, which was not in me, who neither knew the number of my days nor knew what God was? Whence was given to me afterwards the gift so great, so salutary, to know God and to love Him, although at the price of leaving my country and my parents?
And many gifts were offered to me in sorrow and tears, and I offended the donors, much against the wishes of some of my seniors; but, guided by God, in no way did I agree with them or acquiesce. It was not grace of my own, but God, who is strong in me and resists them all, as He had done when I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel, and to suffer insult from the unbelievers, hearing the reproach of my going abroad, and many persecutions even unto bonds, and to give my free birth for the benefit of others; and, should I be worthy, I am prepared to give even my life without hesitation and most gladly for His name, and it is there that I wish to spend it until I die, if the Lord would grant it to me.
For I am very much God's debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them everywhere, for a people just coming to the faith, whom the Lord took from the utmost parts of the earth, as He once had promised through His prophets: To Thee the gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth and shall say: `How false are the idols that our fathers got for themselves, and there is no profit in them'; and again: `I have set Thee as a light among the gentiles, that Thou mayest be for salvation unto the utmost part of the earth.'
And there I wish to wait for His promise who surely never deceives, as He promises in the Gospel: They shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, as we believe the faithful will come from all the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Weeping Irish Madonna of Gyor in Hungary...

On the eve of St Patrick's Day, it's worth remembering the great suffering endured by Irish Catholics over the centuries. During the times of persection, the Irisìh Catholic clergy and nobility were scattered throughout the continent of Europe. An indication of how huge this diaspora was is given by the fact that over the period of religious persecution there were over 30 colleges for the training of Irish clergy and religious across Europe - from Portugal in the West to Poland in the East.
It was only when I came to Rome that I discovered that March 17th is celebrated with solemnity in the Hungarian diocese of Gyor. The full story is told here.
In brief, William Lynch the Catholic Bishop of the tiny diocese of Clonfert fled to Europe in the 17th Century and finally ended up in Hungary - at Gyor to be precise. Appointed an auxiliary of the diocese he laboured there for 10 years until his death. In his will he left an image of the Madonna which he brought from his own Cathedral to that of Gyor. The article explains:
The people of Gyor and its vicinity admired the picture, which came from a faraway land and felt it was divine intervention that had brought and left the treasured relic in their custody. Her arrival had marked a series of their victories over the Turks, and during the years many came to pray before the Madonna; it was felt that many national disasters had been averted through her intercession.
In 1697 the Hungarians enjoyed greater peace than they had known for many years. But during that year in Ireland, a greater blow than ever was to fall upon Bishop Lynch's coreligionists. In that year Parliament passed an edict that all priests were to be expelled from the territory of Ireland and from all the British Isles, the churches confiscated and all traces of the Catholic religion wiped out. A national Irish church was established and the dead could only be buried by ministers of that religion.
On March 17, 1697, Saint Patrick's Day, as thousands were praying during early morning Mass in the Cathedral of Gyor, priests and faithful suddenly saw that the eyes of the Madonna on the picture donated by the Irish prelate were shedding tears and blood, which dropped down upon the Child in the crib over which she was bending. This miracle lasted more than three hours. The face of the Madonna was wiped with linen (this linen is still preserved in the Cathedral of Gyor), but the blood and tears did not cease to flow. The picture was immediately taken from the wall and removed from its frame; the phenomenon continued. News of the marvel immediately spread to the far corners of the city and not only Catholics, but Protestants and Jews flocked to see the miracle. It was witnessed by thousands, and many of them gave testimony of what they saw. A document signed by more than a hundred persons bears the signature of the imperial governor of the city, the mayor, all the councilmen, the Bishop, some priests, Calvinist and Lutheran ministers and a Jewish rabbi--all of whom, volunteered to give their testimony to an undeniable fact.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

St Philip Neri and Palazzo Massimo...

Tomorrow I hope to make my way to Palazzo Massimo in the centre of Rome because the 16th of March is the only day the 2nd floor chapel is open to the public:
Closed to the public and art historians alike, the palace is, however, open just one day a year, 16 March, in memory of the miracle performed by San Filippo Neri on that day in 1583. The young Paolo Massimi was recalled from the dead by the saint, who spoke with the resurrected child for a while, but was unable to convince him to stay in this world. Thrilled at the thought of hearing the angelic choir once more, the boy confessed his willingness to die and returned again to heaven. The room in which he died is now a chapel in which masses are recited continually on the morning of 16 March.

In memory of Caesar a link to one of my favourite posts on the Shrine - When Matt met Reggie.

News and stuff...

Oxford discrimnates against private schools and women...
Military Discipline?
I was discussing the question of military discipline with someone recently, so I'll link to this report in the Telegraph about bullying in the British Army. The Editoral gives a decent take on the situation:
In other areas, the Services are distinctly unlike civilian organisations and therefore should be treated differently. There is an absolute need for a hierarchical structure (condemned by the committee yesterday) where orders are sacrosanct. There is a need, too, for a rigour and robustness that instils uniformity and the ability to respond swiftly and readily to the call to kill or to die.
That rigour and robustness cannot sit alongside the professional counsellors that the committee demanded yesterday. But those qualities can and must coexist alongside the decent treatment by superior of inferior.
This opinion piece very strongly argues the need for a certain (but not unmitigated) brutality in the training of soldiers.
To my mind the main questions that arise are:
Where is the line drawn between rigour in training and bullying? (To my mind the question of the arbitrary treatment of recruits is a key issue - being uniformly tough in compliance with regulations is something no recruit should complain about... Arbitrary mistreatment is another manner.)
What influence does the manner in which soldiers are trained have on their ability to exercise authority? (Can some of the prisoner-abuse carried out by [a few] British and American soldiers be attributable to a mistaken understanding of how authority is justly exercised?)
The listing of the (alleged) victims and how they died makes for grim reading...

There seem to be developments in a very important British case about the right to life.
An elephant.
Bruce Springsteen and Bono - I wonder if the latter got that rosary from the Pope?
Is the Vatican planning a formal response to the DaVinci Code?

More Confessions...

Having returned home to his family, Patrick has his famous vision:
And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were, `The voice of the Irish'; and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice, they were those beside the Wood of Voclut, which is near the Western Sea, and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: `We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more.'
And I was quite broken in heart, and could read no further, and so I woke up. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord gave to them according to their cry.
And another night, whether within me, or beside me, I know not, God knoweth, they called me most unmistakably with words which I heard but could not understand, except that at the end of the prayer He spoke thus: `He that has laid down His life for thee, it is He that speaketh in thee'; and so I awoke full of joy.
And again I saw Him praying in me, and I was as it were within my body, and I heard Him above me, that is, over the inward man, and there He prayed mightily with groanings. And all the time I was astonished, and wondered, and thought with myself who it could be that prayed in me. But at the end of the prayer He spoke, saying that He was the Spirit; and so I woke up, and remembered the Apostle saying: The Spirit helpeth the infirmities of our prayer. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings, which cannot be expressed in words; and again: The Lord our advocate asketh for us.

Monday, March 14, 2005


A fun story about Humphrey, the cat at No.10 Downing Street.
A sickeningly cute picture of Coco, winner at Crufts.
Some Arab sources cast new light on Cleopatra's charms.
And just to show there's more to St Patrick than green beer and corned beef and cabbage (a dish they never eat in Ireland!), I'll be posting a few extracts from his Confessions over the next few days.
The basic aim of the Confessions is a humble justification of Patrick the Bishop and his mission to convert the Irish. He is held in low regard by his English fellow-bishops and accusations of unsuitability have been made against him. He writes:
Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire.
I know well the testimony of my Lord, who in the Psalm declares: Thou wilt destroy them that speak a lie. And again He says: The mouth that belieth killeth the soul. And the same Lord says in the Gospel: Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgement.
And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide, but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgement of the Lord Christ.
For this reason I had in mind to write, but hesitated until now; I was afraid of exposing myself to the talk of men, because I have not studied like the others, who thoroughly imbibed law and Sacred Scripture, and never had to change from the language of their childhood days, but were able to make it still more perfect. In our case, what I had to say had to be translated into a tongue foreign to me, as can be easily proved from the savour of my writing, which betrays how little instruction and training I have had in the art of words; for, so says Scripture, by the tongue will be discovered the wise man, and understanding, and knowledge, and the teaching of truth.
As a boy Patrick was captured by Irish slave traders and put feeding pigs in the west of Ireland. It was in these hostile conditions that he discovered his faith:
Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned, who does not know how to provide for the future, this at least I know most certainly that before I was humiliated I was like a stone Lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry out aloud and so also render something to the Lord for His great benefits here and in eternity - benefits which the mind of men is unable to appraise.
And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant this to His servant; that after my misfortunes and so great difficulties, after my captivity, after the lapse of so many years, He should give me so great a grace in behalf of that nation, a thing which once, in my youth, I never expected nor thought of.
But after I came to Ireland, every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed, the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me, as I now see, because the spirit within me was then fervent.
To be continued...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A triple blessing - and Susanna day.

The Triple Blessing
This being what used to be called Passion Sunday I was in St Peter's for the Penitental Station procession and vespers. As is usual, vespers was followed by the traditional benediction of the faithful with two of the great relics of the basilica - the Veil of Veronica and a large fragment of the True Cross. However, on my way into St Peter's Square I received a benediction of a third kind - for the second year in a row, one of the pigeons has decided to bestow on me his particular favour - something that is said to portend good luck. I'm just worried about the Biblica precedent.
On the same night I returned from burying him, and because I was defiled I slept by the wall of the courtyard, and my face was uncovered. I did not know that there were sparrows on the wall and their fresh droppings fell into my open eyes and white films formed on my eyes. I went to physicians, but they did not help me. Ahikar, however, took care of me until he went to Elymais. Tobit 2:9-10
Susanna DayTomorrow the lectionary presents us with one of those thumping great stories from the Old Testament starring one of my heros, the Prophet Daniel. Daniel's wit in securing the acquital of the innocent Susanna and the condemnation of the creepy old peeping-Toms is a wonderful example of God's justice and a funny story to boot. However, its subject matter has been known to cause concern in some circles - there is a story (possibly apocryphal) that the Monday of the 5th week of Lent was celebrated as 'Susanna Day' in a particulary exclusive and 'correct' girls' boarding school run by a very posh congregation of teaching sisters. It was said that the students were allowed sleep in on Susanna Day and dispensed from hearing Mass so that the sordid tale of Susanna bathing in the garden not corrupt them.
Little or no original contentI have a very busy few weeks ahead - expect very little in the way of posting, etc... until after Easter week.

The scandal of particularity (Female Jesus?) and some wasps

The Telegraph reports on controversy in an Italian town following the decision to cast a woman as the Crucified Christ in the Good Friday Passion Play.
On Good Friday, after night has fallen on the medieval Umbrian town of Alviano, the crowds flock to a spellbinding re-enactment of the Passion of Christ.
From the ancient piazza they watch as the bare-chested actor playing Jesus, head crowned with thorns, is tied to a cross 35ft above the ground, fixed to the ramparts of the 15th-century castle.
This year, however, the figure spotlit on the cross will be a woman - a 29-year-old ballerina named Elena Angeli - who was cast by the play's director, Corrado Sorbara, to show the "other, feminine side of Christ".
His controversial decision has split the town in two. While elderly residents talk of heresy and blasphemy, prompting the mayor to call for the play to be scrapped, younger people support Mr Sorbara's choice.
It's just another reaction to the scandal of particularity and the philosophical paradox of the concrete universal. The fact that God chose a particular people and deigned to come among us as a man is something that the hearers of the Gospel have always struggled with. We find a resistance to it in early gnosticism and it also offends our modern-day egalitarian instincts. Ironically, God's supreme mercy and kenosis is seen as too restrictive, whereas the de-specificised gnostic view which detaches salvation from its historical context ultimately tends towards the denial of the reality (and neccesity) of that salvation.
On a more positive note, there's an interesting report of how special wasps have been used to help preserve a Cranach alterpiece.
A sixteenth-century altar in one of Germany's most historically important cathedrals has been saved from woodworm not by the application of chemicals, but by a swarm of wasps.
The Cranach altar in the Erfurt Cathedral was being destroyed by the wood-eating insects, but officials delayed taking action because they feared that chemical treatments might damage its 11 painted panels.
Instead they adopted a pioneering technique which may now be emulated in historic buildings across Europe: releasing 3,000 parasitic wasps, which feed on woodworm larvae.

An Obituary
Telegraph Defence correspondant and pagan priest.
After his departure from the newspaper, Greenfield became involved in paganism and his former colleagues heard tales of him dancing naked at stone circles. He was 65 before he had his first tattoos and he told a friend that the thing that most embarrassed him about his past was that he had worn a tie-pin.

Because some people only read this 'blog for the animal pictures...

Some cute manly animals!

Mid-term Break by Seamus Heaney

Today's gospel about Lazarus reminds me of one of the most powerful poetic evocations of bereavement I've ever read - Seamus Heaney's Mid-term Break.
I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

(Incidentally, I note that Heaney spent a 5 year term as Oxford University's Professor of Poetry, a non-residential post previously held by John Keble whose sermon National Apostasy was the event which kick-started the Oxford Movement.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Pension Fraud

This kind of thing is not terribly uncommon:
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Police have detained a man who buried his dead mother in his basement and disguised himself as her to draw her retirement pension, a Turkish news agency reported Friday.
Tipped off by suspicious bank employees, police detained 47-year-old Serafettin Gencel in his home after he tried to withdraw his dead mother's pension, Anatolia news agency reported.
A bank employee had become suspicious upon hearing Gencel's male-sounding voice and notified the bank manager who told Gencel to come back in two days time for the money, Anatolia said. The manager secretly photographed him and called police who raided his home and detained him.
What's amusing about this is that the police have made the photo availible.

PG Wodehouse and dropped letters...

A fascinating article about PG Wodehouse's habit of dropping letters out his window so as to not have to walk as far as a postbox. An experiment carried out recently suggested a 50% success rate in contemporary Britain.

Lorem Ipsum

Okay... you have to be a nerd to enjoy this:; a site that recounts the history and generates 'Lorem Ipsum' - pseudo-Latin dummy text.
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Donec auctor, lectus vitae vehicula laoreet, arcu nisl adipiscing ipsum, sed vestibulum justo ligula ac dolor. Mauris ut mi viverra enim mattis tincidunt. Vestibulum et erat at dui suscipit tincidunt. Suspendisse porta lorem a erat. Maecenas nec diam venenatis eros egestas dapibus. Suspendisse mauris tellus, faucibus ut, porta eu, semper vel, metus. Nunc fringilla ultrices purus. Pellentesque ultrices, magna vitae laoreet nonummy, augue massa sollicitudin pede, at lacinia nulla leo ut lacus. Suspendisse varius. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nunc dignissim leo eu erat. Quisque cursus nunc ut purus. Mauris nec mi sit amet purus blandit dictum.
Phasellus eu turpis. Phasellus et odio in neque faucibus auctor. Aliquam dignissim, neque in congue hendrerit, nibh metus aliquam pede, eget ultricies velit felis nec enim. Etiam rhoncus volutpat eros. Aenean consectetuer sapien non ante. Duis consectetuer. Duis ultrices nulla eget massa. Aenean a leo in enim lobortis sagittis. Pellentesque turpis velit, ornare eu, sollicitudin id, mollis sed, libero. Donec wisi ante, eleifend at, varius aliquam, iaculis in, augue.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Israeli Defence Forces frown on DnD

I'm not sure whether this confirms my (default Euroliberal) prejudices about the Israeli defence forces or whether I actually agree with them on this one.
Does the Israel Defense Forces believe incoming recruits and soldiers who play Dungeons and Dragons are unfit for elite units? Ynet has learned that 18-year-olds who tell recruiters they play the popular fantasy game are automatically given low security clearance.
“They're detached from reality and suscepitble to influence,” the army says.
Fans of the popular roleplaying game had spoken of rumors of this strange policy by the IDF, but now the army has confirmed that it has a negative image of teens who play the game and labels them as problematic in regard to their draft status.
So if you like fantasy games, go see the military psychologist.

St Brendan...

Via titusonenine - an article on the story of St Brendan.
Catholic nerds and Hibernophiles know that he got to America before Columbus.
It's little known that St Brendan may well have been the most famous Irish Saint in the middle ages.

Female miners in Japan

From the Telegraph:
Japan is to end a ban on women working in mines and tunnels, based on an ancient superstition that their presence could make a mountain goddess jealous.
In the Shinto religion, mountains are considered to be divine. Miners have believed for centuries that the goddess of a mountain might become angry and collapse tunnels and cause accidents if other women come into her space.

Animal Picture... and stuff...

Obligatory cute animal picture...
Some paranoid luncacy in Britain as pencil cases are banned in one school...
There's a strange demographic shift in the former East Germany as wealthy Poles snap up bargain properties...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Disturbing... no, downright sick!

Study: Newborn Euthanasia Often Unreported
At least five mercy killings of newborns occur for every one reported to authorities in the Netherlands, doctors there reported just months after the first startling news of the controversial practice.
While still very rare, euthanizing terminally ill newborns is more common than first believed, according to Dutch doctors, and other experts say it also occurs, quietly, in other countries.
In France, 73 percent of doctors in one study reported using drugs to end a newborn's life, but those cases aren't reported to authorities. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Dutch doctors surveyed and between 2 percent and 4 percent of doctors in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany and Sweden reported doing so.
In the United States, some doctors and ethicists - both supporters and opponents of euthanasia - say newborn euthanasia has happened occasionally for decades, although it is much more common, and accepted, to withhold or stop intensive treatment and let the baby die. Experts said the new Dutch report will generate discussion but won't change American public opinion or practices.

In the news...

A curious article in the Telegraph about the blossoming romance between Bill Clinton and his predecessor George Bush Snr.
There's also a report of a bizarre plan by the British to keep the Welsh (*snigger*) loyal during WWII.
The British would like to have Robbie Williams played at their funerals, whilst the tastes of the Italians and French are more traditional.
The Times has a curious story about a 'Reality Television' show which will involve a mass exodus of women from an English village. (On the 2nd page of the article a parallel is drawn with Lysistrata)
Another picture of that crocodile.
Arty Stuff
Here's more Gustave Dore than you can shake a stick at. Wonderful stuff!
Some interesting Irish images are found here - especially worth a look are the Ardagh Chalice, the eagle of St John from the Book of Kells and these 19th Century caricatures of the Irish.
Regarding Irish art, one of my favourite paintings is Aloysius O'Kelly's recently discovered Mass in a Connemara Cabin. The linked page includes the best reproduction of the painting I've been able to find on-line. It depicts the Irish custom of the 'Station Mass' - the custom of the Mass being celebrated in private houses on a scheduled basis. The practice is a carry-over from the times of persecution when Catholic churches were forbidden in Ireland. Even after churchbuilding was permitted, the practice facilitated those in the more rural parts of Ireland to attend Mass and confession who would otherwise have been impeded by hardship. It probably hasn't fulfilled that specific role for upwards of 130 years or so, but the practice persists in some of the rural parts of Ireland.

This Sunday in Rome...

This Sunday, the 5th of Lent, the station is at St Peter's.
That means that the normal 5pm Solemn Vespers will be augmented by a Penitential Procession and Litany inside the Basilica. Members of the faithful can participate simply by turning up in the Basilica, whilst clergy and seminarians should report to the sacristy in the Choral Dress appropriate to their status.
The Vespers will then be followed by the blessing of the Veil of Veronica - a particularly solemn and moving ceremony. I could have sworn that Matt of the Holy Whapping had 'blogged about this last year, but can't find anything in the Shrine's archives.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Life is busy...

... so don't expect anything approaching content from me in the near future.

There's an interesting article in the Times about how celebrity can be purchased in New York
A picture of one of those stolen Munchs.... it's not that bad, I guess...
This crocodile was recently captured on Lake Victoria. He's said to have killed 83 people over the past 20 years

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

In the news...

Bronze Age find off Devon Coast
84 Mafia Arrests in Sicily
Incredibly, more artworks by Munch have been stolen
Some Hindu POD - prayers to Shiva in the Ganges. (Or is it Neptune himself?)
The 'twist of the dog' - the picture is mildly disturbing, the Italian caption is downright crazy!

Monday, March 07, 2005

From the Cnytr who is Lauren - A Quizy-thingy. (And a Baptism!)

Major congratulations to the Oligarch and Zorak on the baptism of their firstborn. One of the finest baptismal homilies I ever heard dealt with the multiple significance of the anointing at baptism - I was particularly taken by the analogy the preacher drew between baptismal anointing and regal anointing. Congratulations to the little Mantis (if I may so call her) on becoming a Princess of the Kingdom of Heaven and to her parents and godparents whose faith secured and whose example will transmit the inheritance due to her.
It 's comforting to say that 'practice makes perfect'....
You are 'Gregg shorthand'. Originally designed to
enable people to write faster, it is also very
useful for writing things which one does not
want other people to read, inasmuch as almost
no one knows shorthand any more.

You know how important it is to do things
efficiently and on time. You also value your
privacy, and (unlike some people) you do not
pretend to be friends with just everyone; that
would be ridiculous. When you do make friends,
you take them seriously, and faithfully keep
what they confide in you to yourself.
Unfortunately, the work which you do (which is
very important, of course) sometimes keeps you
away from social activities, and you are often
lonely. Your problem is that Gregg shorthand
has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
The scary thing is my regular handwriting looks just like the graphic above!

Sunday, March 06, 2005


I'm constitutionally incapable of living tidily. Despite forcing myself to dump several kilos (!!!) of papers that I have no earthly use for (in addition to being a certified bibliofile, I'm also a pathological note-taker and gather of brochures, programmes, etc...), (mostly) shelving the piles (not stacks) of books which surround my bed and giving all the flat surfaces a much needed dust, my room still looks like a paper recycling centre after being hit by a hurricane.
Anyway, in the absence of doing anything worthwhile, I've decided to take a leaf out of Cnytr's book and exercise my Latin skills on something by the Angelic Doctor.
Secunda ratio est ut perfecte subveniret suis amicis omnibus. Habebat enim amicos suos non solum in mundo, sed etiam in Inferno. In hoc enim sunt aliqui amici Christi inquantum habent caritatem; in Inferno autem multi erant qui cum caritate et fide venturi decesserant, sicut Abraham, Isaac, Iacob, Moyses, David et alii iusti et perfecti viri. Et quia Christus suos visitaverat in mundo, et eis subvenerat per mortem suam, voluit etiam visitare suos qui erant in Inferno, et subvenire eis descendendo ad eos. Eccli. XXIV, 45: penetrabo omnes inferiores partes terrae, et inspiciam omnes dormientes, et illuminabo omnes sperantes in domino. Tertia vero ratio est ut perfecte de Diabolo triumpharet. Tunc enim perfecte triumphat aliquis de aliquo, quando non solum vincit eum in campo, sed etiam invadit eum usque in domum propriam, et aufert ei sedem regni et domum suam. Christus autem triumphaverat contra Diabolum, et in cruce vicerat eum: unde ait Ioan. XII, 31: nunc iudicium est mundi, nunc princeps huius mundi (scilicet Diabolus) eiicietur foras. Et ideo ut perfecte triumpharet, voluit auferre sedem regni sui, et ligare eum in domo sua quae est Infernus. Et ideo descendit illuc, et diripuit omnia sua, et ligavit eum, et abstulit ei praedam suam. Coloss. II, 15: expolians principatus et potestates, traduxit confidenter, palam triumphans illos in semetipso. Similiter etiam quia potestatem et possessionem acceperat Christus caeli et terrae, voluit etiam possessionem accipere Inferni, ut sic, secundum apostolum ad Philip. II, 10: in nomine Iesu omne genuflectatur, caelestium, terrestrium et Infernorum; Marc., ult. 17: in nomine meo Daemonia eiicient.
Now, stripping out all the scripture quotations (go look them up folks!) I translate as follows:
The second reason [that Christ descended into Hell] was to give a 'high five' to his homeboys Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and the rest of the crew that got there before him.
The third reason is that not satisfied with getting medieval on those Demons on neutral territory, he really wanted to rub their faces in it by visiting their 'hood and whopping them in their crib.

I'm currently working my way through Diarmuid McCulloch's 'The Reformation' wherein I read:
If one would have been justified [sic] in anticipating a good night out in the company of Martin Luther, the same cannot be said of the buttoned-up French exile who wanted to stop the citizens of Geneva dancing. Calvin had been in delicate health from his youth, and he was not inclined towards conviviality; his only recorded frivilous indulgence [sic again], apart from an occasional round of quoits, was the game known to schoolboys in twentieth-century England as shove ha'penny. He did, however, relish getting his own way, which he identified with doing the will of God.
In the Telegraph is the obituary of the Mossad agent who captured Eichmann. I recently heard that Eichmann insisted on testifying in long German sentences during his trial, almost inevitably postponing the verb until the end of the sentence. This is said to have caused difficulty for his translators because (as I understand it) the norm in Hebrew is for the verb to come at the start of the sentence.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Peanut butter and jelly...

Thanks to the generosity of some American acquaintances, I sampled my first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. That and the '10 things' meme got me wondering what things I haven't done that most of my readership have.
I've not been able to list 10... but here goes...

I've not...
... smoked tobacco (I've taken snuff, though...)
... attended a non-Catholic church service
... worn brown shoes since reaching the age of reason
... been admitted to hospital for an overnight stay
... been in the United States
... eaten in a vegetarian restaurant
... read a full JRR Tolkein book
... watched a full Star Wars film


Motherly love - a pelcican feeds her 1 month old offspring.
An invitation or an insult for Charles Windsor?
The Times presents its preferred candidate for (Anglican) Archbishop of York.
There's always funny stuff at
I saw this yesterday, but Zorak posted it before me: The Onion's take on the next conclave.

Friday, March 04, 2005

You might be a Catholic Nerd if..

... you find something like this splits your sides.

I haven't posted some Newman in quite some time...

Now the doctrine which these passages contain is often truly expressed thus: that the soul of man is made for the contemplation of its Maker; and that nothing short of that high contemplation is its happiness; that, whatever it may possess besides, it is unsatisfied till it is vouchsafed God's presence, and lives in the light of it. There are many aspects in which the same solemn truth may be viewed; there are many ways in which it may be signified. I will now dwell upon it as I have been stating it.

I say, then, that the happiness of the soul consists in the exercise of the affections; not in sensual pleasures, not in activity, not in excitement, not in self esteem, not in the consciousness of power, not in {316} knowledge; in none of these things lies our happiness, but in our affections being elicited, employed, supplied. As hunger and thirst, as taste, sound, and smell, are the channels through which this bodily frame receives pleasure, so the affections are the instruments by which the soul has pleasure. When they are exercised duly, it is happy; when they are undeveloped, restrained, or thwarted, it is not happy. This is our real and true bliss, not to know, or to affect, or to pursue; but to love, to hope, to joy, to admire, to revere, to adore. Our real and true bliss lies in the possession of those objects on which our hearts may rest and be satisfied.

Now, if this be so, here is at once a reason for saying that the thought of God, and nothing short of it, is the happiness of man; for though there is much besides to serve as subject of knowledge, or motive for action, or means of excitement, yet the affections require a something more vast and more enduring than anything created. What is novel and sudden excites, but does not influence; what is pleasurable or useful raises no awe; self moves no reverence, and mere knowledge kindles no love. He alone is sufficient for the heart who made it. I do not say, of course, that nothing short of the Almighty Creator can awaken and answer to our love, reverence, and trust; man can do this for man. Man doubtless is an object to rouse his brother's love, and repays it in his measure. Nay, it is a great duty, one of the two chief duties of religion, thus to be minded towards our neighbour. But I am not speaking here of what we can do, or ought to do, but what it is our happiness to do: and surely it may be said that {317} though the love of the brethren, the love of all men, be one half of our obedience, yet exercised by itself, were that possible, which it is not, it would be no part of our reward. And for this reason, if for no other, that our hearts require something more permanent and uniform than man can be. We gain much for a time from fellowship with each other. It is a relief to us, as fresh air to the fainting, or meat and drink to the hungry, or a flood of tears to the heavy in mind. It is a soothing comfort to have those whom we may make our confidants; a comfort to have those to whom we may confess our faults; a comfort to have those to whom we may look for sympathy. Love of home and family in these and other ways is sufficient to make this life tolerable to the multitude of men, which otherwise it would not be; but still, after all, our affections exceed such exercise of them, and demand what is more stable. Do not all men die? are they not taken from us? are they not as uncertain as the grass of the field? We do not give our hearts to things irrational, because these have no permanence in them. We do not place our affections in sun, moon, and stars, or this rich and fair earth, because all things material come to nought, and vanish like day and night. Man, too, though he has an intelligence within him, yet in his best estate he is altogether vanity. If our happiness consists in our affections being employed and recompensed, "man that is born of a woman" cannot be our happiness; for how can he stay another, who "continueth not in one stay" himself?

From The Thought of God, the Stay of the Soul

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ten things...

Via Cnytr:"ten things you've done that your readers probably haven't"...

1. ...been on a TV quiz show.
2. ...served the Pope during the Easter Triduum
3. ...downed a pint of Coca-Cola in one go as part of my birthday celebrations. (Twice)
4. ...been to a party with some Swiss Guards.
5. ...driven a train.
6. ...spent Good Friday morning chasing cattle cross-country.
7. ...discovered an autographed copy of a work by John Henry Newman in a libabry.
8. ...been in hospital to have a fishbone removed from my throat.
9. ...fended off the attack of some Barbary Apes who were trying to steal my glasses.
10. ...been beaten around the head by a Papal Master of Ceremonies.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Rice pudding and stuff...

So why has the Great Wall of China stood for so long? Rice pudding!
The Corriere della Sera (in Italian...) reports that Ratzinger has met the Pope and spoke to him in German and Italian! He is also confident that the Pope is fit to work on the issues brought to him. It's also reported that the Pope is preparing to celebrate Mass!
It's quite cold here in Rome, but not as cold as it is in Madrid. There's also an interesting picture of a bread deliveryman in Equador.