Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The lamb shall lie down with the lion...

A correspondant sends me a baby-animal story (when did I acquire a reputation for being interested in baby animals?) with an Advent theme:
NAIROBI (AFP) - A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise, in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa, officials said.
The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about 300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean, and then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on December 26, before wildlife rangers rescued him.
"It is incredible. A-less-than-a-year-old hippo has adopted a male tortoise, about a century old, and the tortoise seems to be very happy with being a 'mother'," ecologist Paula Kahumbu, who is in charge of Lafarge Park, told AFP.
"After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat and sleep together," the ecologist added.
"The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it follows its mother. If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother," Kahumbu added.
"The hippo is a young baby, he was left at a very tender age and by nature, hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years," he explained.
For pics follow the link.

Interesting article...

From the Telegraph:
The Godolphin Arabian was one of three great Arab stallions brought to England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, from which most modern thoroughbreds are descended.
Contemporary accounts describe him as beautiful, powerful and strong-willed, and many of Britain's rich racing enthusiasts wanted paintings of this magnifi cent animal.
John Wootton was just the man to satisfy this demand. For much of the first half of the 18th century, he was the British aristocracy's favourite equestrian painter and ran what was effectively a workshop production line that brought him fame and wealth.
Such methods are still causing confusion and controversy in the art market today, and nothing illustrated this better than the auction of Wootton's The Great Stallion, the Godolphin Arabian in an Architectural Landscape Held by a Groom at Sotheby's in London last week.
The painting, dating from 1731 and estimated at £250,000 to £350,000, was sold by the Schofield family, which owns Godolphin House, a Grade Ilisted mansion in Cornwall.
Sotheby's catalogue entry for the painting says: "Another version of the present composition is documented as hanging at Crabbet Park and, unsurprisingly for such a famous horse, a number of copies of the composition also exist. It is likely, however, that the present painting is the prime version."
This statement incurred the wrath of the formidable Patricia Egerton who, with her husband David, has owned the Crabbet Park Godolphin Arabian for 37 years. She protested furiously that the Crabbet Park picture is the prime version, and challenged Sotheby's to place the painting it was selling alongside it.
The dispute had similarities to one in 2003 when two versions of Sir Joshua Reynolds's Portrait of Mrs Baldwin were placed side by side, resulting in Christie's withdrawing the painting from auction. The other picture, then owned by the Marquess of Lansdowne, later fetched £3·3 million at Sotheby's.

St Andrew's Day...

I don't know any Greek or Russian bloggers, so I'll just extend my greetings to the Laodiceans and the bloggers occupying the Moral Highlands.
Beatus Andreas expansis manibus ad caelum orabat, dicens: Salva me, bona crux.
Today, the students of the Pontifical Scots College celebrate the feast in their former college chapel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The Osservatore Romano has published the full (mostly ad-libbed) homily of the Holy Father from last Saturday evening's vespers... Here's a snippet:
We have said that this coming is unique - "the" coming of the Lord. Nevertheless, there is not only the Second Coming (in Italian 'Last Coming') at the end of time: in a certain sense the Lord desires to always be coming through us. He knocks at the door of our heart: are you ready (in Italian 'availible') to give me your flesh, your time, your life? That is the voice of the Lord who wants to enter even our time, he wants to enter human history through us. He also seeks a living dwelling-place, our personal life. Behold the coming of the Lord. That's what we want to re-learn during Advent: the Lord can come even through us.

The fate of Limbo?

From Ansa:
(ANSA) - Vatican City, November 29 - The Catholic Church appears set to definitively drop the concept of limbo, the place where it has traditionally said children's souls go if they die before being baptised .
Limbo has been part of Catholic teaching since the 13th century and is depicted in paintings by artists such as Giotto and in important works of literature such as Dante's Divine Comedy.
But an international commission of Catholic theologians is meeting in the Vatican this week to draw up a new report for Pope Benedict XVI on the question. The report is widely expected to advise dropping it from Catholic teaching.
The pope made known his doubts about limbo in an interview published in 1984, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's doctrinal department .
"Limbo has never been a defined truth of faith," he said. "Personally, speaking as a theologian and not as head of the Congregation, I would drop something that has always been only a theological hypothesis." According to Italian Vatican watchers, the reluctance of theologians to even use the word limbo was clear in the way the Vatican referred in its official statement to the question up for discussion .
I'm afraid I don't have time to nitpick the article vis-a-vis what might be meant by 'Catholic Teaching'.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Is 2:1-5

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Hmmmm... That reading is used at Mass today, the short reading for Lauds is taken from it and it forms part of the scripture reading for the Office of Readings. Offhand, I can't think of any other piece of scripture that so dominates the liturgy on a particular day.

Pope John Paul II with Children

Some lovely shots of our dear departed Holy Father with children.
This one in particular is great - someone try and persuade me that Matt of the Holy Whapping didn't dress up like that when he was a kid.

Dismissal of Singapore's Hangman

From The Times:
SINGAPORE has dismissed its only hangman, less than a week before the scheduled execution of a young Australian drug smuggler, whose case has provoked intense sympathy and indignation in his home country.
But Mr Singh has been relieved of his duties after his identity and a picture of him were published last month in The Australian newspaper. “They called me a few days ago and said I don’t have to hang Nguyen and that I don’t have to work any more,” he said. “They must be mad after seeing my picture in the newspapers.”
He said he would miss the A$300 (£129) fee that he received for each hanging. According to The Australian, however, he had been attempting to retire for years but had been prevented by the lack of anyone willing to take over his duties. “In a way I’m happy,” he said.
The paper quoted an unnamed friend of Mr Singh, saying that he had attempted to train two successors but that both had recoiled when the moment came to operate the lever that opens the trapdoor.
I am reminded of a very embarassing incident for the British Government when Albert Pierrepoint (the last Official Chief Hangman) resigned due to a dispute over fees:
Albert Pierrepoint resigned in 1956 over a disagreement with the Home Office about his fees. In January 1956 he had gone to Strangeways Prison, Manchester, to officiate at the execution of Thomas Bancroft only to find that Bancroft had been reprieved. He claimed his full fee of £15 but the under-sheriff of Lancashire offered only £1. Pierrepoint appealed to his employers, the Prison Commission, who refused to get involved. The under-sheriff sent him a cheque for £4 in full and final settlement. Pierrepoint's pride in his position as Britain's Chief Executioner was insulted, and he resigned. It is no coincidence that the year Pierrepoint resigned, 1956, was the only year before abolition where not a single execution took place — he was the only executioner in British history whose notice of resignation prompted the government to write to him begging him to reconsider: such was the reputation he had established as the most efficient and swiftest executioner in British history.
One of the more unfortunate figures in the history of the Church is the Papal States' last offical executioner, Giovanni Bugatti, nicknamed Mastro Titta.
He could not leave the Trastevere neighborhood unless on official business. Officially this was for his own protection, in case relatives of those he had executed decided to take revenge on him. Unofficially it was probably due to superstition regarding his part-time job. On crossing the bridge, the residents of Rome were alerted that an execution was about to take place and people would gather to witness the popular events.
John Allen writes:
Over the course of his 68 years on the pontifical payroll, Bugatti was called upon to perform “justices” 516 times -- a seemingly prodigious number, though it comes out to just over seven working days each year.
His first assignment came on March 22, 1796, and his last on Aug. 17, 1861. Such details are known because he left behind a precise list of each of his “justices,” with the date, the name of the condemned, the nature of the crime and the site of the execution.
Mastro Titta was not, it should be noted, executing the Giordano Brunos or Savonarolas of his day. His “patients,” as they were euphemistically known, were not victims of the Inquisition or theological critics of the pope. They were mostly brigands and murderers who had been convicted by the civil courts of the Papal States.
When an execution was to be held, papal dragoons would provide security. The most common sites were the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge, the Piazza del Popolo, and Via dei Cerchi near the Piazza della Bocca della Verità.
Roman fathers would bring their sons to watch Mastro Titta lower the boom. By tradition, they would slap their son’s head when the blade came down, as a way of warning: “This could be you.”
For his troubles, Mastro Titta received lodgings in the Borgo district of Rome near the Vatican and a steady income from various tax concessions granted by the pope. He also had a generous pension, awarded, according to official documents, in gratitude for his “very long-standing service.”
For each killing, however, papal law specified that the Boia (Italian for “executioner”) was to receive only three cents of the Roman lira, in order to “mark the vileness of his work.”
Yet Bugatti did not comport himself like a man who felt vile. Before carrying out an execution, he would offer the condemned a bit of snuff, a touch of good manners that someone with a guilty conscience would likely have been too sheepish to perform.
Bugatti frequented churches near the Vatican, especially Santa Maria in Traspontina. He was said to be pious and a conscientious Mass-goer. (One imagines him in Santa Maria, in its chapel dedicated to the Madonna della Pietà e delle Grazie, gazing at Mary as she cradles her dead son after a brutal act of capital punishment. What thoughts must have come?)
Yet the executioner was neither isolated nor bereft of other interests. In addition to his work for the pope, Bugatti supported his wife (no children) by painting umbrellas, producing images of papal faces and Roman scenes for the raingear peddled in curio shops around St. Peter’s.
Part of the reason Mastro Titta would have been flabbergasted [at the Pope John Paul II's position on Capital Punishment] is that a papal execution, as he experienced it, was a sacred act, rich with ritual and theological meaning hallowed by centuries of tradition. It was, in fact, a liturgy.
The ritual began with the announcement of an execution, accomplished by posting notices on Roman churches requesting prayers for the soul of the condemned. That was the only official notice that an execution was imminent -- aside, of course, from the erection of a gallows.
The morning of each execution, the pope said a special prayer for the condemned in his private chapel. A priest would visit Mastro Titta to hear his confession and to administer Communion, symbolizing in the sacramental argot of the time that the executioner was fully christened by the church.
The execution was solemnized by a special order of monks, the Arciconfraternita della Misericordia, or Brotherhood of Mercy. The order was born in Florence in the 13th century, where it aided the needy and injured, and at one point numbered Michelangelo among its members. (Florence Nightingale, an Englishwoman born in Florence, was later inspired by the brotherhood to go into health care).
In the Papal States, the monks had a narrower mandate. They delivered pastoral care to condemned prisoners and celebrated the rituals surrounding their deaths.
Pope Innocent VIII in 1488 assigned them the aptly named Roman church of San Giovanni Battista Decollato -- St. John Baptist Beheaded. The church is located around the corner from the Via dei Cerchi, where Mastro Titta carried out many of his executions.
The proximity was helpful, since one of the confraternity’s duties was to cart the corpses of the condemned back to their cloister for burial. Visitors can still see the manholes into which the decapitated bodies were placed.
The brotherhood stayed with the condemned in their last 12 hours of life. They would pray with them, offer the sacraments, and encourage them to ask God’s forgiveness. Under papal law no execution could take place before sundown, the time of the Ave Maria, if the monks had not succeeded in eliciting a confession.
Members of the brotherhood wrote prayer books and catechisms for death row inmates, paying special attention to the requirements for a mors bon Christiana -- “a good Christian death.”
Before the condemned set out for the execution site, their hands were tied and their shirts cut down to shoulder-level so as not to interfere with the smooth functioning of the apparatus. The monks led them through the streets in a sacred procession. Altar boys went first, ringing bells, while the monks chanted special litanies. Incense was burned as they walked.
For these processions the monks donned hooded whitish brown robes and carried a crucifix, usually wrapped with a black shawl. (Some of these robes and crucifixes are also on display in the Criminology Museum).
The monks continued their prayers, composed largely of the Old Testament psalms, up to the moment of execution. They would hold the crucifix toward the condemned, so that it might be the last thing he saw.
After the head was severed, Mastro Titta would walk to the four corners of the scaffold and lift it high for the crowd to see. This was in part meant as a threat, but it was also part of the ritual, a way of signifying that God’s justice had been done.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Can anyone help?

Hi folks...

I find myself bugged by a vaguely remembered song from the 1980s. The overall effect is not dissimilar to Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire' and the lyrics mainly consisted of the names and dates of birth of various historical figures. Does that ring a bell for anyone?

Answers in the comments box. Thanks!

Thank you Fuinseoig...
who correctly identified it as being the suitably obscure 'A House' with their song 'Endless Art.'. For anyone interested, I found a listenable version on line here. Just click the link next to the name of the song and it will play 30 seconds into the file.
I also found the lyrics:
All art is quite useless according to Oscar Wilde
Turner 1775 to 1851
Toulouse-Lautrec 1864 to 1901
Andy Warhol 1928 to 1987 RIP
Ernest Hemingway 1899 to 1961
George Orwell, Jimi Hendrix, William Butler Yates, Jack B. Yeats
Richard Redgrave 1804 to 1888
Henry Moore 1896 to 1986
Henry Miller, Sid Vicious only 21
Brian Jones
Otis Redding 1941 to 1967 RIP

All dead, yet still alive
In endless time, endless art

Masters of their arts
Claude Monet 1840 to 1926
Beethoven, Bach, Brahms
Elvis Presley 1935 to '77
Man Ray, Johnny Ray
John Donne 1573 to 1631
Alfred Lord Tennyson 1809 to '92
Degeneration art, Joan Miro, RIP
Jackson Pollack 1912 to 1956
John Lennon '40 to '80
Henry Lamb, Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, William Shakespeare
Brendan Behan 1923 to 1964
Tennessee Williams 1912 to 1983
Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844 to 1889
Pissaro, Picasso, Degas RIP

All dead, yet still alive
In endless time, endless art

Joseph Conrad 1857 to 1924
Jack Kerouac 1922 to 1969
Keith Moon 1946 to 1978
D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Mozart
Van Gogh 1853 to 1890
Ian Curtis, Salvador Dali, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss, Walt Disney's
Mickey Mouse RIP

All dead, yet still alive
In endless time, endless art
I like songs with long lists of names.

Sometimes I just want a quiet pizza...

To the Middle-Aged Bunch of Americans at the Next Table -
This is a restaurant - some of us here understand English. Therefore, quite apart from the racket you're making, do you really want complete strangers to hear about Auntie Ginnie's hernia operation, what a low opinion you have of your own children and the details of a shady financial tranaction you're planning? There is no need to shout at the waiter - if he understands English, then speaking slowly and clearly at a reasonable volume should suffice; if he doesn't, then shouting is not going to do you any good at all. Pretending you're having a birthday party does not mean that you will be brought free desserts - singing 'Happy Birthday' repeatedly when it's not anyone's birthday is not going to improve my opinion of you. The bill brought to you is not in dollars, okay? What on earth would make you think that a tiny neighbourhood pizzeria would bill you in dollars? I think it's really cute that you've learned a little Italian. Walking up to other people's table and saying 'Mangia, mangia!' is less so. Normal people take their photographs at the table or outside the restaurant - why is it taking you 10 minutes to noisily leave the restaurant and why are you taking all those photos outside the restroom?
Cordially yours,
PS I've met enough civilized Americans to know that you're not the norm - Deo gratias!

In the news...

The Telegraph has a piece about the real story behind 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose'. (Be warned, there's some disturbing material.)
A city asks for the return of its missing Caravaggio:
From the cells of Italy's maximum-security jails to the auction rooms of the international art world, its whereabouts have been the subject of speculation for more than 35 years.
Since Caravaggio's Nativity with Saints Francis and Lawrence disappeared from a church in Sicily in 1969, it is reported to have been glimpsed at a Mafia wedding, buried in a Sicilian chest, sold to an eastern European collector, or simply destroyed.
Yet despite the combined efforts of the Italian police, Interpol and the FBI no trace has been found.
Now the people of Palermo have taken matters into their own hands and launched an effort to persuade whoever has it to hand it back. Inspired by a recently-published novel by a local writer, in which the missing masterpiece is unearthed, more than 1,000 residents have signed a petition appealing to the underworld to tell all.

Population imbalance in the former East Germany:
New figures show men now outnumber women by three to one in some eastern regions, following an exodus of women in search of a better life - and husbands - in the west.
In some towns, the imbalance is so bad that, statistically, a young man of marriageable age has only the slenderest chance of finding himself a wife.
Unable to do anything about the quality of east German - or "Ossie" - men themselves, regional governments are trying to offer other inducements to halt the female exodus.
In two of the worst-hit areas, Mecklenburg- Vorpommern and Saxony-Anhalt, young women are being wooed to stay locally with both free housing and subsidised rent - with the local authority paying for a complete refurbishment of their houses too.
Getting them to woo local men in return may be more difficult. "The classic view of east German men is that they are lazy, good-for-nothing spongers, constantly moaning and expecting to be supported by the state," said Andrea Schell, a sociologist at Berlin University.
"Their dress sense and lifestyle is the butt of numerous jokes; they live in time-warped villages where 40 years of the Cold War kept them cut off from the modern world, and Die Toten Hosen [The Dead Pants - an ageing rock group] T-shirts are still regarded as cool."
The gender imbalance is, in part, a legacy of the old Communist East Germany, whose employment laws guaranteed women equal job opportunities and free child care, fostering a spirit of social and economic independence from men.
According to statistics published by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, the migration of women was especially high from states such as Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where there are only 76 females for every 100 males in the 18-29 age group. In some depressed villages, such as Zemnick, Saxony-Anhalt, only 45 of the 140 inhabitants are women.

A shocking article (again, some disturbing detail) in the Times about babies who (briefly) survive abortion:
A GOVERNMENT agency is launching an inquiry into doctors’ reports that up to 50 babies a year are born alive after botched National Health Service abortions.
The investigation, by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), comes amid growing unease among clinicians over a legal ambiguity that could see them being charged with infanticide.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which regulates methods of abortion, has also mounted its own investigation.
Its guidelines say that babies aborted after more than 21 weeks and six days of gestation should have their hearts stopped by an injection of potassium chloride before being delivered. In practice, few doctors are willing or able to perform the delicate procedure.
In practice, according to Stuart Campbell, former professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s hospital, London, a number do survive.
“They can be born breathing and crying at 19 weeks’ gestation,” he said. “I am not anti-abortion, but as far as I am concerned this is sub-standard medicine.”
The issue will be highlighted by Gianna Jessen, 28, who survived an attempt to abort her. She is to speak at a parliamentary meeting on December 6 organised by the Alive and Kicking campaign, which is lobbying for a reduction of the abortion limit to 18 weeks.
Jessen, a musician from Nashville, Tennessee, was left with cerebral palsy but is to run in the London marathon next April to raise funds for fellow sufferers.
“If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were my rights?” she asked.
“If people are going to talk about abortion, then it’s important for them to know that these are babies that can be born alive and survive.”

Don Jim has a very sensible piece about how media bias gives the impression that all the Vatican is interested in is sex:
If a person were to sit down and read the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the journal in which all the official acts of the Vatican are recorded, he would probably find that about 1% of Roman pronouncements -- actually, probably less -- have to do with sex. If you were to read through all the statements and addresses and public discourses delivered by Pope Benedict since he took the throne in April, you could probably count the statements on sex on a single hand -- two hands at the most. The vast, vast majority has nothing to do with sex.
The problem, of course, is that people don't read complete digests of what the Pope says or of what the Vatican does. They don't thoughtfully peruse every document issued by all the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Most people get what they know about Vatican pronouncements from the mainstream media, and the media (which are in the business of selling information -- nothing wrong with that) offer the kind of information that is most likely to grab people's attention and interest them enough to look at the TV for 15 seconds or read the first paragraph or two of a newspaper article. And, like it or not, sex, violence, and controversy are a whole lot more interesting to most people than the nature of Christian charity, building wells in sub-Saharan Africa, or the basis of the New Evangelization in the vows of baptism. So, the market wins out, and your daily bit of Vatican information is about sex -- preferably something controversial about sex.
The same thing goes for Papa Ratzinger's supposed fixation on homosexuality. After twenty years in the Holy Office, Cardinal Ratzinger signed off on, what, two (very short) documents that dealt with the subject? Whatever one happens to think about that handful of pages, one could hardly call it an obsession. And if you set aside those official documents and look solely at his published work as a theologian and writer -- all those heaps of books that none of his harshest critics seems to have opened -- there is next to no sex in them at all. There's a great deal about beauty, about worship as the inner longing of man, about the saving wounds of Christ, about the Cross as the Tree of Life, about faith as a light in life's darkness, about the unity that emanates from Christ's Body, about our brotherhood in Christ's Church, but off the top of my head I can't remember ever having read any passages about sex in general, or about homosexuality in particular. Many of us bloggers and comment box denizens have already written more about sex in the last two months than Ratzinger has in his entire career.

There's uproar in Naples about some unsuitable inclusions in the traditional nativity scenes:
NAPLES – There are naked women exposed to the view of passers-by, transvestites strolling through the alleys, armed gangsters and gypsy children begging in the street.Is this yet another harsh exposé of low life in Naples?Take a closer look.It’s a Nativity scene,or rather the latest Nativity scene carved by the Scuottos, one of the most famous families of craft sculptors.
“It’s more scandalous to see a [TV glamour girl Loredana – Trans.] Lecciso among the shepherds than a female nude”, says Salvatore Scuotto.“These scenes are part of real life so they can be included in the Nativity in the spirit of the eighteenth-century craft sculptors.Obviously, our work will be on show in two churches and will probably excite comments.But we wanted to launch a cultural provocation.The real scandal is the commercial operations that put statues of Bin Laden, Bush, Berlusconi, Di Pietro, Al Bano and Loredana Lecciso in the Nativity scene”.When asked, Giuseppe Ferrigno, the artist who invented the “celebrity shepherds”, poured oil on troubled waters.“There were naked women and celebrities in eighteenth-century Nativity scenes.It’s a lot of fuss about nothing”.

To understand that, you need to realise that Italian (and particular Neopolitan) nativity scenes are not the simple Holy Family, shepherds and kings affair we're familiar with - they are reconstructions of entire villages showing the birth of Christ amidst the bustle of everyday life.

Pope Stuff...

I was at the 1st Vespers of Advent yesterday evening and was most impressed by the Holy Father's homily. He actually ad-libbed most of it - the official text is but a fraction of the whole. In his professorial way he presented a variation on St Augustine's idea of every Christian being called to give birth to Christ his heart. The Holy Father said that the Christian life is allowing Christ to 'take flesh' in each of us. (Our Lady is the paradigm of this.) I hope Zenit or someone posts the 'full' homily as I want to meditate on the text some more.
I also thought that my readers might appreciate this link to the Osservatore Romano papal photogallery.
This one is nice - 'Tutti pazzy per Papa Razzy' (Totally Krazy about Papa Ratzy - the Italian is deliberately mis-spelled, you see.)
At the tomb of Pope John Paul II.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Embarassing mistake...

From the Telegraph:
A multi-million pound campaign to boost Germans' low self-confidence has backfired after it emerged that its slogan was first coined by the Nazis.
The £20 million Du Bist Deutschland - You Are Germany - campaign was devised to inspire Germans to stop moaning and do something good for their country.
But a historian from Ludwigshafen has provoked an uproar with his discovery that the same Du Bist Deutschland cry was used at Nazi rallies in the 1930s.
Stefan Mörz uncovered photographs of a 1935 Nazi convention in which soldiers display a banner reading, in gothic script, Denn Du Bist Deutschland (Because You Are Germany). The slogan was topped with the head of Adolf Hitler. Leading Nazis such as Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels attended the event.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ear-ring saint...

Last week, I asked (to underwhelming response) whether any reader could identify a male saint who is (occasionally) protrayed wearing an ear-ring.
The only example I could come up with is St Maurice of the Theban Legion (picture here from this page) who is sometimes shown as a Moor wearing an ear-ring.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Crazily busy for a number of reasons... I did find time to post this on the Cnytr blog while the Cnytr's computer is broken.
Also, read the Roamin' Roman on Monday's St Cecilia celebrations. I rmember attending the St Cecilia mass in her basilica a number of years ago and was struck by the boy choristers of the Sistine choir making a special prayer to St Cecilia in front of her remains just before the presentation of the gifts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Brief commentary on the document...

Having read the Italian version and the pretty decent English translation on Rocco's blog (by Robert Mickens of the Tablet) I note the following:
A Caution
Firstly, this is not yet the official document - it's not unknown for false information to be circulated to some curial officials to identify the source of leaks. Is it genuine? The content and format ring true... however, the leaked Italian version mis-spells the Cardinal Prefect's name!
I note too the form of approval given by the Holy Father:
Il Sommo Pontefice Benedetto XVI, in data 31 agosto 2005, ha approvato la presente Istruzione e ne ha ordinato la pubblicazione.
In forma specifica?
Now, I note that the Pope hasn't conceded approval 'in forma specifica' according to this pdf on an Italian magazine's website. That means that whilst approving it, canonically speaking he hasn't thrown the weight of his legislative authority behind it (and there's nothing unsusual about that for an Instruction issued by a Congregation) and so the document only has the administrative authority of the Congregation for Catholic Education behind it. In short, in so far as this document might conflict with provisions of the Code of Canon Law or other legislative acts of the Pope, it cannot over-ride them.
I note too that the wording of the approval is slightly strange - normally for these documents mention is made of the specific meeting of a congregation or audience with the prefect at which the Pope approves them. I don't recall ever seeing any document approved in quite this form before. (Canonists, I'm wide open to correction on these points...)
So, in terms of content it's plausible... but are those anomalies above sufficent to cast doubts on its authenticity?
The Content
It begins in an interestng key, putting the problem in terms of the 'affective maturity' needed for the 'Spiritual Paternity' a priest needs to give to the community (men and women, the document pointedly notes) as a result of his conformation to Christ.
Regarding homosexuality itself, the document (unsurprisingly) reaffirms the grave sinfulness of homosexual acts - or more precisely, their grave sinfulness as testified to by Holy Scripture and the tradition's having constantly considered them as 'intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law'.
As for homosexual tendancies, they are disordered and constitute a trial for people who have them. The document makes clear that the people themselves need to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Any trace of unjust discrimination is to be avoided and the people in question are called to fulfil the will of God by uniting their difficulties to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross.
The Key Point
Following from all the above, the document makes clear that the Church cannot admit to seminary or Holy Orders those who (1) practice homosexuality, (2) present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or (3) support the so-called gay culture. (In Italian cultura gay)
Readers will note that there's no specific 'decontamination period' of chastity for admitting formerly practicing homosexuals into seminary as some commentators speculated. There is, however, a requirement that homosexual tendencies which arise as a result of a 'transitory problem' such as delayed adolescence should be overcome at least 3 years before ordination to the diaconate.
On Discerning Fitness for Ordination
The document continues with some boilerplate about the formation of priests. It puts stress on the personal responsability of bishops and religious superiors regarding the quality of the candidates called to orders and the grave task of seminary rectors and other seminary formators in determining the qualities of candidates for ordination.
Spiritual directors have an important role in the internal (or private) forum to disuade candidates with deeply rooted homosexual tendancies or who practice homosexual acts from applying for orders. The same applies to confessors.
Ultimately, the document explains, it is the candidate himself who has the primary responsability for his formation - the candidate entrusts himself to the discernment of the Church, the bishop and the seminary. Concealing one's homosexuality from them in order to reach ordination betrays an inauthenticity inconsistent with the priestly vocation. [This section rings particularly true in terms of its consistency with previous documents referring to the responsability of the candidate for his formation and the trust he must place in the judgement of the Church and the formators.]

No great surprises, methinks. The usual suspects will begin allegations of a witchhunt. A lot will depend on how exactly the document is to be implemented - the question of whether the document is approved 'in forma specifica' or not, could prove important in terms of the weight given to it. Expect much canonists' ink to be spilled.

Thanks to Tim Ferguson who fills some canonical lacunae in my comment box. What he says is worth reproducing in full:
On Bishops and the Implementation of Instructions
Individual bishops do not have the authority to decide which Instructions to implement, but they do have the discretion of how to implement them. An Instruction, of it's nature, is an executory decree issued ad intra - to those who possess executive authority (cf. canon 34).
Unless the Instruction is contrary to a law - even a particular (diocesan or national) law, the Instruction must be utilized.
On the standing of Instructions
Zadok - you're exactly right - I've scanned a number of curial instructions, and the formulary normally used is something like "In an audience given on such-and-such-a-date to the Prefect of the aforesaid dicastery, the Holy Father approved the present Instruction and ordered it to be published."

Another fine point - you state that the Instruction, as an administrative (or executive) decree cannot override the provisions of the Code or legislative acts of the Pope. You're correct, but incomplete - an Instruction (that's not approved in forma specifica) cannot overturn or derogate (go against) particular law either - those capable of introducing particular law are: The diocesan bishop, the Bishops' Conference, a plenary council or a provincial council (and a local community, through custom - cf. cc 23-28.

Mr Ferguson, thank you! Serves me right for posting canonical stuff without checking the code.
Now, it's late here and I'm going to bed - I don't even want to hear about any typos in this post... I'm tired. ;)

Readers, feel free to post comments, but I'd rather not have to wake up to a raging argument in the comments box.

_That_ Document

Via Amy Welborn's comment boxes a link to what appears to be a leaked copy of the Vatican's new document on homosexuality and seminary admissions.
Unsurprisingly Rocco's got an incredibly quick English translation up already by Robert Mickens of the Tablet.
BTW, also check out Rocco on the Assisi bru-ha-ha.

In the news...

Villa find in Positano:
An archaeological dig on the Amalfi coast has revealed the first luxury villa to be built in the idyllic fishing village of Positano, a popular haunt of today's rich and famous.
Two storeys of a first century millionaire's abode have been found under a church which was hidden for 2,000 years by the same volcanic eruption that devastated Pompeii in 79AD.
During renovation work on the church's crypt last summer, roof beams were found poking up just a few inches down.
They revealed an enormous building that certainly would have belonged to an important person in Imperial Rome.
A subsequent initial dig by archaeologists unearthed, about 6ft below the ground, two storeys of remarkably brightly-coloured wall frescoes and marble mosaics of mythical characters. They had been perfectly preserved.

Last 'Christmas Truce' soldier dies:
The last veteran of the Christmas truce during the First World War died in his sleep yesterday, aged 109.
Alfred Anderson, who was born in 1896, was 18 on December 25, 1914, when British and German troops climbed out of their trenches and crossed no-man's land to shake hands, sing carols and share cigarettes.
The soldiers famously played football together, kicking around empty bully-beef cans and using steel helmets as goal posts. The unauthorised truce spread across much of the 500-mile Western Front, where more than a million soldiers were encamped.
Recalling the truce last year, Mr Anderson said: "All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.
"But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry.

Another military obituary:
AS A havildar (sergeant), Umrao Singh was the only non-commissioned officer of either the Royal Artillery or the Indian Artillery to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the Second World War. Forward observation officers are frequently at great personal risk when in exposed positions so as to direct artillery fire in support of armoured or infantry units. But Singh won his award for valour in what all gunners regard as their near-sacred duty — defence of the guns.
The 33 Mountain Battery, Indian Artillery, in which Havildar Umrao Singh was a field-gun detachment commander, was subjected to a sustained bombardment from Japanese 75mm guns and heavy mortars for one and a half hours on December 16, immediately before his gun position was attacked by two companies of Japanese infantry. Twice wounded by grenades during the first assault, Singh fought off the enemy with the detachment’s Bren light-machinegun while directing the rifle fire of the gun crew.
The second Japanese attack killed all the crew other than two members and himself, but was nevertheless beaten off. When the third assault came only a few rounds of small-arms ammunition remained and this was quickly used. With his last shot gone Singh seized a “gun bearer” — a heavy crowbar-like rod used for turning the gun trail — and closed with the attacking Japanese. He led the two surviving gun-crew members in hand-to-hand fighting until they were overwhelmed. He was seen to strike down three enemy infantrymen before falling under a rain of blows to the head.
Six hours later, after a counter-attack recovered the battery position, Singh was found unconscious beside his field-gun and almost unrecognisable from head wounds. Ten Japanese dead lay around him.
The citation for the award of the Victoria Cross read: “Havildar Umrao Singh set a supreme example of gallantry and devotion to duty.” His gun was still fit for firing and was in action again that day. He received his VC from King George VI at Buckingham Palace on October 15, 1945.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Before I retire...

Some interesting things on ANSA...
This article says a lot about Italy:
(ANSA) - Rome, November 20 - Using contacts remains the main way to find a job in Italy, according to a survey released on Sunday .
The poll of 100,000 private firms by the Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce (Unioncamere) found that almost 43% were in the habit of hiring people they knew while 39.4% admitted to hiring on the basis of 'recommendations' from friends and relatives .
Only 7% of companies said they used job agencies and only 17% said they recruited by advertising job vacancies .
Another recent survey found that most young people in Italy think that pulling strings or using contacts is a necessary evil, particularly when it comes to finding a job .
The study, carried out by the Eures research agency, said the age-old practice of 'raccomandazioni' (recommendations) was not only still alive and kicking but was getting stronger in the south, where unemployment levels are particularly high .

Shock-absorbers for David:
(ANSA - Florence, November 21 - Michelangelo's statue of David could in the future be placed on a shock-absorbing trolley to prevent it crashing down in the event of an earthquake .
The system, a complex collection of wheels, runners and shock absorbers, would allow the masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture to move a few centimetres in any direction without coming under strain .
Authorities have long been concerned about the stability of the statue, whose ankles are allegedly too thin to support its 5,572 kilograms safely. There are visible cracks in the left ankle and in the carved tree stump which bears part of the statue's weight .

And the whole of this article on the abortion controversy in Italy deserves careful reading.
In the Correra della Sera English page, there's news of a plan to cope with Venice's flooding problems:
VENICE – The idea is simple: to bloat the subsurface of Venice and lift the city, defending it from high water. How? By injecting seawater 700 metres underground. The effect would be to raise the city by 30 centimetres over ten years. It is not an alternative to the Moses barrier system currently under construction, since 30 extra centimetres is not enough for the worst high water events. The proposal is complementary and would protect the city from moderately high tides, ensuring increased protection against predicted rises in sea level in the future.
Professor Gambolati has been studying the subsurface of the upper Adriatic since 1972. “Seven hundred metres underground, there are sand formations that are 100% water-saturated. They will expand if more water is injected, creating an increase in volume and raising the surface level”. The choice of depth depends on the fact that the 150 metre-thick sand formation, which is not perfectly horizontal and lies at a depth of 550-600 to 750 metres, lies under a 20-25 metre-thick layer of impermeable clay. This means the water cannot escape. The layer contains salt, not fresh, water so there is no risk of pollution.
“The project would cost 100 million euros at most”, Professor Gambolati assures, “I can categorically rule out any damage to buildings from this procedure. The historic centre of Venice has sunk 13 centimetres since the early 20th century, in an anything but uniform manner, but absolutely nothing has happened”. Now a pilot project costing 15 million euros has been presented to verify the hypothesis on a one square kilometre model by observing how the surface level rises over three years.
Michele Jamiolkowski, professor of geotechnical engineering at the Polytechnic of Turin, disagrees. An expert on the Venetian lagoon, Professor Jamiolkowski has also chaired the committee that stabilised the Leaning Tower of Pisa and drafted an expert opinion on water injection for the Venice-based CORILA consortium. “This idea is science fiction. I set no limits to research but it is too difficult, time-consuming and expensive to find out what the subsurface of Venice is like that far underground. And it’s highly unlikely that the sequence of soil strata will permit an operation of this kind. There is a further danger that lifting, the mechanics of which is completely different from subsidence, will not be uniform, causing permanent damage to the whole of the built environment”.

Also from the Corriere, this wonderful picture of St Peter's. The view is from the Pincian Hill, and the unusual sunset is due to the frosty air conditions.
Speaking of the weather...
I put on my overcoat today for the first time since last winter and was pleased to find stuff I had left in the pockets - a €2.00 coin (used to tip the waiter at lunch), a black pen (where do my red pens keep vanishing to?) and a little booklet issued by the Vatican Bookshop with the Latin and vernacular names of all the dioceses in the world. Why do I keep buying things like that?
(PS One of the best Latin place names in the world - Petricula, better known as Little Rock.)

Buddha Boy...

Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha.
Devotees claim that Ram Bomjon, who is silently meditating beneath a tree, has not eaten or drunk anything since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago.
Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager's forehead.
"It looks a bit like when you shine a torch through your hand," said Tek Bahadur Lama, a member of the committee responsible for dealing with the growing number of visitors from India and elsewhere in Nepal.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Pope Joan...

One of the pieces of 'supporting evidence' given to support the theory there was a Pope Joan is the claim of having seen her statue in St Peter's. I'd always presumed that the reference was to an allegorical figure on one of the tombs of a Pope, so I was surprised to only notice this huge statue (presumably an allegorial representation of the Papacy) to the right of the main entrance to the basilica. I must have walked past it DOZENS of times without noticing it.
Another Protestant claim about Rome is having seen a cross with Mary on it rather than Jesus. There's actually a grain of truth (only a grain!) to that - more info when I have a picture of it.

Oh dear...

From the Telegraph:
The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who once made a living as a singer on cruise ships, is to release a second album of love songs in the run-up to next year's election.
The media tycoon is teaming up with his favourite songwriter, Mariano Apicella, a former car park attendant turned guitarist with whom Mr Berlusconi, 69, made his first album, which was released two years ago.
Mr Apicella revealed that the pair are working on a new CD and said: "We hope to have it ready by Christmas or at the very latest the New Year. As with the last one, it will be a series of 12 love songs, six of which have been written by Mr Berlusconi.

Strange news from Israel:
Their black hats and coats are symbols of Judaism, their flowing beards and curls a snapshot of Israel recognised around the world. But for many secular Israelis, the country's ultra-orthodox community has long seemed pampered as well as pious, excused from work and military service for a cossetted life of spiritual study.
Now cuts to government funding and their welfare payments have pushed many of the country's 650,000-strong ultra-orthodox community into poverty.
The cuts mean that while their capital may be high in Heaven, many haredim - or those wTheir black hats and coats are symbols of Judaism, their flowing beards and curls a snapshot of Israel recognised around the world. But for many secular Israelis, the country's ultra-orthodox community has long seemed pampered as well as pious, excused from work and military service for a cossetted life of spiritual study.
Now cuts to government funding and their welfare payments have pushed many of the countrho "tremble before God" - are facing destitution, and for the first time they are adopting an earthly solution: jobs.
Although the Haredi community, where men dedicate themselves to hours of religious learning in schools known as yeshivas, and families often count eight or more children, is feeling the crunch after recent budgets, many secular Israelis consider them a privileged sect that lives off state handouts.
Others feel bitter because religious students are exempted military service, and the secular Shinui Party - which since 1999 has rocketed from one Knesset seat to become the third biggest party with 14 - has campaigned for the haredim to be ushered into the job market.
"The problem is that they will not join the workforce," said Ronny Brison, a Shinui parliamentarian.
"Eighty per cent of the male haredi population refuses to do so. As far as the economy is concerned they're a loss to us. We simply cannot afford it."
Ultra-orthodox leaders say the cuts target the devout and are part of a wider battle between Israel's secular and religious camps. "The state is fighting against yeshivas and big families because that hits the ultra-orthodox," said Shlomo Benizri, from the orthodox Shas Party in the Israeli Knesset.
"Secular people want us to forget our religion. They hate Judaism. It is a battle against the religious people of Israel."
Mr Benizri said that for a family with eight children, welfare payments have dropped by 3,500 shekels (£450) a month in the past two years.
"Life has become difficult for Orthodox people," he said. "No new clothes for school and if you open the refrigerator you will not find anything to eat."
Some ultra-orthodox are bucking the trend. Sporting the skullcap, long black coat and beard of his scripture-studying brethren, father-of-10 Ephraim Reich, 43, has built a data and imaging company, Imagestore, that employs more than 300 men and women.
Since the welfare cuts have bitten he has almost doubled his staff, and on the workfloor in Modi'in Illit, just inside the West Bank, the 100 employees are exclusively ultra-orthodox.
For Mr Reich, the advantages of hiring such employees, who require special eating facilities and have little specialist education, are obvious.
"They are very smart and extremely reliable," he said. "Religious people are hungry for work. They are not parasites, like some people say. No one had opened the right doors for them. This is a revolution in religious working practices."
Interesting... I don't know too much about the haredim, but I always thought that Jewish thought looked favourably on religious scholars who could earn their own keep - recall St Paul's tentmaking. (And speaking of St Paul : 'For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.' 2 Thess 3:10)
The latest Christmas craze:
New Yorkers are dreaming of a topsy-turvy Christmas. The latest craze to hit the city is to decorate homes with upside-down Christmas trees.
Shops and mail-order firms are finding that the plastic inverted spruces, which come fully wired with fairy lights and all the tinsel trimmings, are a sell-out in a city where floor space is always at a premium. "We have three on display and they are in enormous demand," said Cynthia Sayed, the manager of the Heart to Heart florist on Third Avenue, Brooklyn.
The historical explanation, however, does not ring true to Sheryl Karas, the author of The Solstice Evergreen: The History, Folklore and Origins of the Christmas Tree, who has become so inundated with queries about the meaning of an upside-down Christmas tree since the craze began that she has stopped taking calls, referring people instead to her internet weblog.
"The original meaning had to do with eternal life," she writes. "The tree symbolically points to Heaven so that inverting the tree could be seen as sinister if one thought about it too much.

Plumbing and the (new) Fall of Rome:
An urgent rescue operation is being launched to save some of Rome's most important ancient ruins, including the palace where Julius Ceasar once lived, from the ravages of increasingly violent rainstorms that are undermining their foundations.
Archaeologists fear that buildings on the Palatine Hill, most more than 2,000 years old, are becoming dangerously unstable and pose an increasing risk to the 3.5 million tourists who visit the area each year.
Repairs could take up to 10 years, engineers have said, and are expected to cost between €100 and €200 million (£68 and £136 million) - a small price to pay, they say, to preserve some of Rome's historical treasures.
These include the towering Palace of Septimus Severus, the Domus Augustana, where the emperors lived, and traces of an iron-age village where legend has it the city's founders, Romulus and Remus, were once suckled by a wolf.
"We need to do the same as Greece did 30 years ago, with the Acropolis, whose problems were a lot less than ours," said Carlo Giavarini, a conservation engineer at La Sapienza University who is involved in the rescue plan.
"The first thing we have to do at the Palatine is understand how to divert the water that is undermining the walls. The ancient Romans knew how to do it, but not us."A maze of 2,000-year-old irrigation tunnels runs beneath the hill as part of the complex original plumbing for which the Romans were famed. But they are largely unmapped and have become blocked or have broken in many places. One of the first challenges will be to find ways to dig out these aged drainage systems and link them to new ones serving the half-square-mile area.
Romans were shocked earlier this month when a 15ft section of a wall, one side of a passageway along which visitors walk to the Forum, collapsed. The wall was just 5ft high - lower than most of the structures in the area - and nobody was hurt, but its collapse heightened fears that more serious accidents involving higher buildings could occur.
Although the wall was just 500 years old and may have been put up by the Renaissance equivalent of cowboy builders, engineers discovered extensive damage to its foundations caused by water seepage. There are ominous signs of similar damage to other, older buildings. Angelo Bottini, the archaeological superintendent of the area, said the collapse was "a very loud alarm bell".
Other areas were at risking of falling down, he said, "and this time they could fall on to the crowds of visitors".

Fascinating - memoirs of a jewel thief:
The handwriting is childish and the spelling atrocious. Yet the unpublished memoirs of Renato Rinino provide a fascinating insight into how he pulled off the greatest royal jewel theft of modern times.
The 150 pages of chaotic notes by the prolific cat burglar point to alarming security lapses at St James's Palace, then the London home of the Prince of Wales.
"I saw an enormous, old, red building. I was so close up to it that I had to tip my head back to look," Rinino wrote. "I didn't know exactly where I was and I didn't really care. It wasn't quite clear but something was making me think I had to get inside."
Rinino, then 32, could see that there were security cameras but the scaffolding for the renovations made him take his chance. "I climbed up to the second floor, opened a window and put my first foot inside. There was an overwhelming smell of old things. Definitely rich people here, I thought.
"I waited a minute after opening the window - that's how many seconds you get before most alarms go off. Seeing as nothing happened I put the other foot inside and shut the window quickly."
"When I opened the boxes, I realised that the moment I had been waiting for for years had arrived. When I pointed my torch up close at the jewels, with complete darkness all around, they sparkled all the more."
Even with his rucksack full and closed, Rinino continued to tour the palace and reached the unoccupied security control room. "I had almost guessed by now where I was. And then I saw an enormous painting - big like everything else in that house - a painting of the Royal Family, all of them together. That's how I realised where I was. Me! Just a poxy little thief."
With Scotland Yard after him, he fled to Italy, hiding smaller jewels inside shampoo and bubble bath bottles and taping the largest jewels to his skin. In 1997, police caught up with the Rinino for other crimes and he was sentenced to three years in jail. Months later, he confessed to being the royal jewel thief and most of the valuables were returned to Prince Charles.
The final chapter of Rinino's story may be a comfort to those who believe that crime doesn't pay. In October 2003, aged 41, he was shot dead in Savona, Italy, by a husband who believed that the jewel thief had been sleeping with his wife.

Buona domenica!

Reader Challenge...

You will remember that I posted a list of female saints, blesseds and venerables who wore ear-rings. Can any of my readers point to images of a male saint who is (at least occasionally) depicted with an ear-ring/ear-rings? There's at least one out there.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


'nuff said.
Also check out this Yahoo slideshow to see pics of the enthronement of Prince Albert of Monaco.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Further Curious Anglican Chants...

After hearing the 'Anglican Weather Forecast' I had to try and find out more about the artists. It was performed by a (now defunct?)4-member group of schoolmasters called the 'Mastersingers.' What's more, you can also hear them:
Announcing new broadcast frequences for the BBC in 1978 (On a website dedicated to Vintage Broadcasting)
Singing the Highway Code [British road safety reguations] hosted by one Chris J.

Hat-tips here and here.

Anglican Weather Forecast...

Regular commentator Jeff provides the following audio-link to an 'Anglican weather forecast'.
On a slightly related note, the Wikipedia article about the cult of the BBC's Shipping Forecast. Listen here...

In the News...

Italian map find...
The oldest map of anywhere in the western world, dating from about 500 BC, has been unearthed in southern Italy. Known as the Soleto Map, the depiction of Apulia, the heel of Italy's "boot", is on a piece of black-glazed terracotta vase about the size of a postage stamp.
Its engraved place names are indicated by points, just as on maps today, and are written in ancient Greek.
The sea on the western side, Taras (Taranto), today's Gulf of Taranto, is named in Greek. But the rest of the map is in Messapian, the ancient tongue of the local tribes, although the script is ancient Greek.
The seas on either side of the peninsula, the Ionian and the Adriatic, are depicted by parallel zig-zag strokes.
Many of the 13 towns marked on the map, such as Otranto, Soleto, Ugento and Leuca (now called Santa Maria di Leuca) still exist.
It was known from ancient Greek literature that the concept of a map existed and that some had been drawn but none had been found.
The ancient Chinese had a well-defined system of map-making, but modern cartography descends from techniques laid down by the ancient Greeks.

Napoleonic Pearl:
The fifth largest pearl in the world has become the most expensive in history after being sold at auction for almost £1.6 million.
Known as La Regente, the pearl, above, was bought by Napoleon Bonaparte for his second wife, Marie Louise.

Jane Burden Mural Mystery:
SHE WAS a poorly educated but stunning model, married to the leading Arts and Crafts designer of his day. And, like many a model before and since, she had an affair with the artist.
William Morris was besotted with Jane Burden from the moment he was introduced to her by their mutual friend, the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
She was 18, he 25. Now, in the house where they spent the first five years of their marriage, a mural celebrating their love has been discovered after lying hidden behind panelling for 140 years.
The find at the Red House in Bexleyheath, southeast London, which Morris had built for his marriage to Jane in 1860, has excited the property’s present owners, the National Trust. But they do not know who painted it; was it Morris, or one of his circle in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood?

It might have been Rossetti, who painted Jane on many occasions and with whom he subsequently had a torrid liaison.
“This is a remarkable find because the painting has been hidden from view for so long,” Robert Quarm, curator of the Red House, said yesterday.
“Morris was very much in love with Jane at the time of these paintings, which were done a long time before the affair. We always wondered if something like this lay behind the panelling, as the house was the centre of an artistic community, and they put much of their energies into decorating it.”
The mural, in glowing, earthy colours, bears the French proverb Qui bien aime, tard oublie (He who loves truly, forgets not easily), a quotation from Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowles. The 14th-century author of The Canterbury Tales was a major influence on Morris. It is tempting to think that Morris, who was devastated to discover that his wife was sleeping with his best friend, covered up the mural in a fit of jealous rage.
The more prosaic truth, however, is that the panelling was erected by a subsequent owner who clearly thought it was not the best example of Pre-Raphaelite art in the house, which has other, better, wall paintings by Rosetti and Edward Burne-Jones.
Morris had a successful interior design business in London, but he was so tormented by his wife’s infidelity that he travelled to Iceland to bury himself in writing poetry and translating Norse sagas. The couple never divorced. Morris died in 1896; Jane outlived him by 18 years, and was still being drawn by artists in her later years.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Jeweller's Shop

From this page run by the Irish state radio station there's a recording of a radio drama adaptation of the late Holy Father's The Jeweller's Shop. (The play begins about 2 and a half minutes into the recording.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cold weather coming!

It's been exceptionally mild so far this November and I've been waiting for the inevitable cold snap. I've noticed that the cold weather has a nasty habot of arriving overnoght. Well, it looks like tomorrow's going to be the day. According to the Corriere della Sera, there's cold weather coming down from the Alps and we Romans can expect a drop in temperature tomorrow evening of the order of 6-8 degrees celsius (that's about 10 to 14 degrees Farenheit), so we can look forward to Italians wrapping themselves up as though they were facing Arctic conditions.
Better get my scarf out of storage.


A number of interesting stories...

Abortion Pill Row:
(ANSA) - Ancona, November 14 - A heated row over an abortion pill continued to rage in Italy on Monday, with Health Minister Francesco Storace accusing local governments who want to introduce the drug of encouraging women to abort .
"At a time when the government is trying to get families to have children, regional governments appear to be in a contest to see who can stop families having them," the minister said .
"The regions are in a race to see who can debase values and promote abortion," the minister said .
His comments followed a decision by three of Italy's 20 regions - Piedmont, Tuscany and Liguria - to introduce the RU486 abortion pill on an experimental basis .
Storace said on Monday that "a child's right to be born is not a religious issue but a right that concerns everyone." He also defended his controversial call for pro-life volunteers to be involved in the running of family planning clinics, arguing that Italy's abortion law is "designed to prevent abortion not just legalise it" .
"Catholics shouldn't be made to feel ashamed of living in this country," the minister said. Opposition MPs slammed the minister's stance on both the abortion pill and the family planning clinics, with some demanding his resignation .
They argued that the RU486 pill was safer than a surgical abortion and that it was a woman's right to have access to it .
They said the minister's plan to open family planning clinics to pro-life representatives amounted to "psychological terrorism." But the Catholic Church also weighed into the debate, with Italy's highest-ranking cardinal saying that abortion amounted to murder .

Lourdes Miracle for Italian Woman
(ANSA) - Paris, November 14 - The Catholic Church has officially recognised the 'miraculous' cure of an Italian woman who visited Lourdes more than 50 years ago when she was suffering from a lethal form of rheumatic heart disease .
Anna Santaniello, who is now 94 and lives in southern Italy, says her illness disappeared during a pilgrimage to the French shrine in 1952 .
The international Catholic committee which runs the shrine has now acknowledged the 'miracle', making Santaniello the 67th person to have officially been healed at Lourdes .

Four Arrested for Stealing Trevi Coins
(ANSA) - Rome, November 14 - Four people were arrested on Monday for stealing coins from the Trevi Fountain, the famous Roman landmark they had been hired to clean .
Every day thousands of tourists throw coins into Bernini's baroque fountain in the hope that this will ensure their return to the Eternal City, a legend made popular in the film 'Three Coins in the Fountain' .
The coins are regularly collected and then given to charity .
The four arrested, aged between 18 and 50, were employees of the firm sub-contracted to clean the fountain .
They were arrested soon after the job and were still in possession of some 1,200 euros in coins .

Feast of St Albert the Great...

I'll let all the Dominicans out there talk about him... However, I did find one or two nice pictures...
St Albert in his Study (or laboratory...)
Some postage stamps... (Two Alberts... The Great and Durer)
Writing about botany...

Two nations seperated by a common language...

From the Telegraph:
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's comedy of manners which has become a hit film in Britain, is now repeating its success in America, partially, it is thought, because of a specially-tailored romantic ending.
An eight-minute segment has been added for US audiences who love ultra-happy endings.
Elizabeth Bennet, played by Keira Knightley, kisses Mr Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) "in a moonlit haze of post-nuptial bliss" as he repeatedly sighs her name.
British viewers were given a more reserved conclusion, with Elizabeth's father, played by Donald Sutherland, giving his consent when Darcy asks for her hand in marriage. Then, in an expansive mood, he declares of his unwed daughters: "And if any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at my leisure."
Sutherland said that it was decided that US audiences needed a "sweeter film".
MacFadyen said in an American interview: "You got the more sugary [ending]. The Brits hated it."
The embrace upset the 450 members of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who ridiculed it at a preview screening.
Elsa Solender, a member and former president of the society, said: "It has nothing at all of Jane Austen in it, is inconsistent with the first two thirds of the film, insults the audience with its banality and ought to be cut before release."

Hmpf! The film still hasn't made it to Italy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A few photos...

Funerary monuments
(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
S.Maria in Aquiro

Campo Verano

Saints with earrings...

I asked a few days a throwaway remark in a news report provoked me into asking whether any of you could name saints who wore ear-rings. Well, (as I thought you would...) several of you found pictures of St Therese of Lisieux wearing ear-rings. One of you also pointed towards Venerable Teresita Quevedo (thank you Marlena!) of whom I'd not heard before. (More info here!)
I've also found Blessed Maria Corsini vedova Quattrocchi (the ear-rings are more visible in this painting). Another ear-ringed venerable is the Little Flower's mother, Ven Zelie Martin. A further blessed portrayed with ear-rings is Bl Eurosia Fabris Barban.
Finally, this painting by Caravaggio proves that Mary Magdalen wore ear-rings. (What do you mean there's nothing in the Bible about that? We're Catholics! It doesn't have to be in the Bible!)

News and stuff...

From Reuters:
DUBLIN (Reuters) - A nursing home in Ireland has hit on a cheering way to
keep up the spirits of its elderly patients -- by providing its own pub.
Mary's Hospital in County Monaghan, near the Irish border with Northern Ireland,
believes ready access to a good pint may help its patients -- average age 85 --
actually live longer.
"We would say the whole social aspect of life does
extend the years -- it means the patients aren't bored to death," Rose Mooney,
assistant director of nursing told Reuters.
The pub, which opens at 11 a.m.
and closes at 9 p.m. and charges normal bar prices, had also led to an increase
in the number of visitors, she said.
Having its own bar made the hospital,
which has around 140 patients, unique in Ireland, she added.

Via Zorak: Macca Bee - the ideal gift for Hannukah.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Prayer of Abandonment

A friend once cryptically remarked that this is a particularly powerful prayer and should never be said lightly. That remark always gives me pause for thought, and I never quite feel 'honest' saying the following:

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Bl. Charles de Foucauld

Another fascinating obituary...

From The Telegraph:
Colin MacLeod, who died on November 2 aged 39, was a dreadlocked anti-motorway protestor who led a kilted clan of eco-warriors from their tree-top protest houses into establishing a Gaelic-based movement for cultural renewal in inner-city Glasgow.
In 1997, following the dismantling of this village, which he had called "The Pollok Free State", MacLeod adroitly re-invented his group of clansmen as a registered charity and made a local radio request that all trees blown down in a winter hurricane be brought to waste ground in Govan. There he set about having them carved into the first full-sized Hebridean war galley built in Scotland for 400 years.
This ambitious project, coming from a man whose entire working capital might be carried in one pocket of loose change (and often was), caught the imagination of the press and the public, and soon a number of exquisite small wooden rowing skiffs were being enthusiastically built in a (notionally sacred) timber- framed barn which had been thrown up on waste ground in a travellers' yard.
Within months bemused teams of the long-term unemployed were learning to sing Gaelic rowing songs as MacLeod dragooned them into weekends on deserted Hebridean islands, where they would sit around camp fires telling stories or reciting poetry, before sleeping out under the stars. In the following years MacLeod's "clan", named the Gal-Gael, became established in a former garage in Glasgow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Rocco, Rocco, Rocco...

Don't you just hate it when journalists do that?
Now, I'm quite a fan of Rocco's Vatican reportage - there's no doubt, but that he has his finger on the pulse. However, his blog can disappoint at times due to tendancy to engage in what I'd describe as Conservative-baiting. Now, I'm all in favour of ideological cages being rattled on occasion. However, in reporting the address of the Pope to the new American ambassador he says:
The second paragraph can be read as a pointed reference to the administration's stance on the post-9/11 torture and detention camps which have been heavily reported on the last few weeks. No mentions of abortion, gay marriage, Christian cultural jihad, etc., but a distinct recommitment on the part of the Holy See to working toward solving "the more significant problems... such as the scandal of continued widespread hunger, grave illness and poverty in large areas of our world," specificially citing "the crushing debt that feeds the cycle of poverty" in much of the developing world.

Now... that didn't sound quite right and on reading the address we find that the list of 'more significant problems' appears in the following context within the Pope's address:
For this reason, I appreciate your kind reference to the Holy See’s efforts to contribute to finding effective solutions to some of the more significant problems facing the international community in recent years, such as the scandal of continued widespread hunger, grave illness and poverty in large areas of our world. An adequate approach to these issues cannot be limited to purely economic or technical considerations, but demands broad vision, practical solidarity and courageous long-term decisions with regard to complex ethical questions; among the latter I think especially of the effects of the crushing debt that feeds the spiral of poverty in many less developed nations
This list of 'significant problems' refers back to a list of issues on which the US Ambassador has complimented the Vatican. It's therefore sloppy (at best) to suggest that the Pope has left abortion out of the hierarchy of significant problems. The list of significant problems comes from the American Ambassador, not the Pope; the Pope was merely responding.
Normally I'd post something like that in the comments box of the blog in question, but he seems not to have allowed comments on that post.

In the news...

Some good news in the Telegraph:
Abigail Witchalls, who was left paralysed after being stabbed in the neck while walking her son, gave birth to another boy yesterday.
Her second child was born in the hospital where Mrs Witchalls, 26, was taken after the attack in a country lane near her home last April.
Doctors at St George's Hospital, Tooting, south London, did not expect Mrs Witchalls to survive and she received the last rites in intensive care.
She was a month pregnant at the time and the baby was born one month premature.
Both mother and son, who weighed 5lb 6oz, were said to be doing well and were visited by the rest of their family.
A hospital spokesman said: "Abigail and Benoit Witchalls are delighted to announce the birth of a healthy baby boy at 2.30pm today weighing 5lb 6oz, a little brother for Joseph. The delivery went very well."
A spokesman for Surrey police said: "The investigation team is delighted that Abigail has managed to have this baby and that mother and child are doing well."
Mrs Witchalls, a Roman Catholic, has said her faith has helped her cope. Prayers of thanksgiving for the birth will be offered today at her church, Our Lady of Sorrows, in Little Bookham.

Mmmmmmm, meat!
Australians are being urged to start eating more kangaroos, defying a traditional reluctance to tuck into a national icon.
Europeans are keener to eat kangaroo than Australians. Of the 300,000 tons of meat produced each year, 60 per cent is exported to countries such as Germany, France and Belgium, 20 per cent goes to the domestic market and the rest becomes pet food.

Rowan Williams
From the Times:
THE Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has revealed how his first encounter with God was not at an Anglican or even a Roman Catholic service but at a Mass of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Dr Williams was only 14 when his local Anglican curate took him along to an Orthodox Mass in Swansea celebrated by a visiting Russian priest.
Although his long journey of faith began at his “mother’s knee”, Dr Williams said the Russian Orthodox Mass was one of only two moments in his teenage years when he met the “living God”.

The Spirit of the Age
Evident in this opinion piece from Janice Turner (who?). "The extent to which parents have jurisdiction over our children is a cause for profound unease." *cough* *choke*

Worth a look...

Via Amy Welborn: Another Rome-based blog with lots of pictures... The Roamin' Roman

Friday, November 11, 2005

Katrin's choice: how do I tell my son about great-uncle Heinrich. . .?

A fascinating piece in the Times:
KATRIN HIMMLER’S son is a bright, curious six-year-old. “I’m dreading the moment,” she says, “when I have to tell him that one half of his family tried to kill the other half.”
Frau Himmler, a political scientist, is the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, head of Hitler’s SS and mastermind of the concentration camp system that murdered millions of Jews.
She is married to an Israeli whose family was confined to the Warsaw ghetto, which was burned to the ground by troopers acting on her great-uncle’s orders.
Sometime soon her son will have to be told of the 20th-century tragedy that is part of his heritage. Katrin Himmler, 38, has tackled the problem by writing an account of the family which she will give to her son as soon as he is old enough to read.
Frau Himmler’s father was a nephew of the SS leader, the most sinister figure in the Nazi leadership. He could not find the vocabulary to answer his daughter’s question: “What does it mean to be a Himmler?” He instead gave her books on the Nazi era. “Then came the television film Holocaust,” she said. “I was 11. I sat at my desk, crying and crying because, of course, the name Himmler was repeated again and again.”
There were three Himmler brothers. Katrin’s grandfather, Ernst, died fighting in the closing days of the war. A second brother, Gebhard, was held in an American prisoner-of-war camp.
Heinrich was caught by British troops near Hamburg. He was in a sergeant’s uniform, an eye patch replacing his pince-nez glasses. During a body search he bit on a cyanide capsule.
Frau Himmler had to reconstruct the family relationship from these abrupt endings, and as she trawled her family’s collective memory she encountered resistance. Heinrich Himmler’s daughter, Gudrun Burwitz, continues to cherish her father’s memory. She was the guiding spirit behind Stille Hilfe (Silent Aid), a charity which funnelled money to relatives of war criminals and which encourages neo-Nazis. “

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A favourite passage from 'The Dream'

I'm taking Newman's Dream of Gerontius for my early-Novermber reading and am continually struck by the angel's description of the moment of particular judgement. Gerontius's soul is being sped towards the throne of judgement and his guardian angel explains the essence of this judgement:

When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,
That one so sweet should e'er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn'd,
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight:
And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.

Compare and contrast with Jack Chick's faceless Christ and Michelangelo's Christ in the Sistine chapel.

The psychology of the Italian male...

(ANSA) - Rome, November 7 - Italian men are no longer mamma's boys and feel
they are forced to pay lip service to family affection, according to the latest
survey .One Italian in two feels they "can't be themselves" around their 'loved
ones' and seven out of ten describe their family relations as "a prison they
can't break out of," according to the popular psychology magazine Riza
Psicosomatica .A clear majority of the 1,000 young people polled said they felt
they had to "continually feign affection" for their family - and one in three
said this was even the case for the once-venerated mother .
Mamma irritates this generation of ageing adoloscents by complaining about
a host of things, Riza said .Top of the list was "constantly badmouthing
girlfriends or wives," followed by "heavy criticism that makes us feel we're not
hacking it," "continual comparisons with more successful peers," and
"criticising the way we dress or do our hair." "These are the classic laments of
generations of teenagers," Riza said .

Another baby animal...

Baby rhino & mother.

Feast of St Leo the Great...

Listen to Fr Reginald Foster read some of St Leo's sermons.
In Cambridge, the Domincans have a cat of that name.
In other news...
Britain has only eleven WWI veterans left.
There were two prescriptions for an ultra long life on offer yesterday,
both from men who should know.
Bill Stone is 105 and swears by clean living,
a contented mind and trust in the Lord. Henry Allingham, on the other hand,
attributes his 109 years to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women".
Mr Allingham, born on June 6 1896, and Mr Stone, born on Sept 23 1900, are,
together with nine others too frail to travel, the last British men alive known
to have served in the First World War.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A victory over death and hate

That was the title of this article in the Times:
IN A LAND synonymous with violence and bloodshed, the fate of a 12-year-old
Palestinian boy stands out as an extraordinary example of human compassion
surmounting the most bitter of ethnic divides.
Ahmad Khatib was shot dead
last Thursday by an Israeli soldier who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon.
Less than a week later his organs have given new life to Jews and Arabs alike
after his parents gave them to Israeli hospitals.
Ahmed’s heart is now beating inside an Israeli Druze
Arab girl. His liver is keeping a Jewish child and a mother alive. His lungs
have been transplanted into a teenage Jewish girl, and his kidneys divided
between a five-year-old Bedouin and a three-year-old Jewish girl. The
humanitarian gesture by Ahmed’s father, Ismail, rare enough in itself, is all
the more extraordinary given the nature of the boy’s death, the latest of more
than 3,600 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli fatalities during the five-year
His mother, Ablah, said: “We have no problem whether it is an Israeli or a
Palestinian (who receives his organs) because it will give them life.”
beneficiary of Mr Khatib’s magnanimity is Samah Gadban, a 12-year-old girl from
Israel’s Druze community in northern Galilee. She had her first bath yesterday
and sat up in an armchair after receiving Ahmed’s heart during an eight-hour
transplant operation at the Schneider children’s hospital in Petah Tikva on
Samah’s father, Riad, called the donation a “gesture of love” to his
daughter. Sitting beside Samah’s bed her mother, Yusra, said she had already
lost one son to the same heart condition, and had named her daughter after the
dead boy. The name means Forgiving in Arabic. “She has been waiting for a donor
for five years,” said Mrs Gadban, 49, from the village of Beqaa in the Golan
Reuven Rivlin, speaker of the Israeli parliament, praised the family’s
action as a “remarkable gesture” after decades of conflict.

The headline made me think of the cross, and it's beautiful to see a little something of the logic of the cross in this situation.

A little spiritual reading...

Enbrethiliel continues to cast pearls before the swine of the blogosphere. There's a wonderful moment of epiphany in 'Surprised by Eternity' whilst 'To Have Eternal Life' looks at a familiar parable from a new angle.

When I was younger, I read a Chinese proverb that went, "To become immortal, a
man must father a son, write a book, and plant a tree." I don't know about you,
but last night, I imagined it had this little story behind it:

Just as the Wise Man was about to shut his eyes in meditation once more, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, "Good Master, what must I do to receive eternal life?"

The Wise Man answered, "Why do you call me good? No one is good. You know the
precepts: Be respectful at work, be humble at home, do unto others as you wish
them to do unto you, remain sincere while studying widely and asking questions,
respect the old, trust your friends, educate the young."The man replied, "I have
followed all these social teachings since my childhood."Then the Wise Man looked
steadily at him, saw a seeker indistinguishable from all others who had come to
ask him that question, and said, "For you, three things are lacking. Father a
son, write a book and plant a tree, and your bloodline, your thoughts and your
work will live on after you. Then retreat to this monastery and meditate with me
on the transistory nature of earthly things."On hearing these words, the young
man's face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man with no less than
eternity in his heart.

Tom at Disputations had a nice reflection for the Feast of All Dominican Saints:
In Christ we are washed clean, not bleached. The perfections of our
relationships with others in heaven will include, in some cases, the perfections
of communion in a perfected religious order.