Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Leader in the Telegraph

Quite a decent reflection on what Christmas is really about in the Telegraph's lead editorial:
Here perhaps is something in the Nativity scene that speaks to all, whether they share the Christian faith or not. What can a refugee mother and child in Congo, or Eritrea — or the Holy Land — do today, while wars flow about them? Nothing. The rulers of the world don't look for advice from poor parents who must wrap their children in rags. But then, what could the child Jesus do, even when wise men from abroad came to do him worship? Nothing. He could not even raise his hand to touch their glittering gifts.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Zen on the Chinese Ordinations

Strong words from Cardinal Zen reported in the Telegraph:
The leader of Hong Kong's Roman Catholics has called on the Pope to excommunicate China's state-appointed bishops, as relations between Beijing and the Holy See plunge to new lows.
China's state-run Church has ordained bishops in defiance of Rome, despite negotiations since the death of John-Paul II aimed at restoring diplomatic ties after more than half a century.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong and one of the Church's key voices on Chinese issues, said that the time had come for the Vatican to take an uncompromising stance.
In the most recent case, at the end of November, the ordination went ahead despite a clear warning from the Holy See that it would be in breach of Canon Law.
"I think people in the underground Church and also in the good part of the official Church don't expect the Holy See to ratify this ordination easily, and they don't expect the Holy See to absolve these bishops from sanctions," he said.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I wish I had my camera... (Or, I assure you I was sober...)

Seen in Piazza Venezia tonight at about 10:30pm: several dozen Santas on rollerblades.

Christmas in...

...Bethlehem for the Christians
Sadly this kind of article is an annual feature:
Fifty-year-old Mr al Soos is the third generation of his family to farm and butcher pigs. His grandfather started the business, selling pork to British troops stationed in Palestine during the 1930s, and its current status as the only pork butchery in the territories makes it a valuable place to gauge the plight of the Holy Land's dwindling Christian minority.
The issue will be in the headlines later this week, when Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, lead a joint delegation to Bethlehem to express solidarity with their beleaguered brethren.
No member of the local Muslim majority would dare enter Mr al Soos's shop, allowing him to be candid in his assessment as he thwacked a cleaver into a wooden chopping board covered with gore.
"It's not as if there is a single thing like this cleaver that cuts us Christians down," he said as he bagged up pork chops for a regular Christian customer. "It's more like a slow, steady pressure, which is slowly killing us off." In the run-up to Christmas, the once large Catholic community could have been expected to buy large amounts of pork for meals and celebrations. This year, he estimated, business was down by two thirds compared with a decade ago.
Bernard Bassil, 50, a water engineer and regular customer at the butchery, likened it to a slow, steady suffocation. "With the problems from the economy where Palestinians don't get any money from the government, there are no jobs to go round. And we know that, if a job becomes available, it will go to a Muslim, not a Christian." He said tension between the Christian minority and Muslim majority is a daily feature of life. It rarely flares into violence or spectacular acts of cruelty, but it steadily corrodes the quality of life enjoyed by Christians.

(Picture of prayers in the Grotto in Bethlehem)
...Japan
The Japanese have their own take on Christmas:
Get yourself a wonderful boyfriend by Christmas; Best Christmas date spots; Christmas for lovers – the magazine headlines tell the story: all a Japanese girl wants for Christmas is the perfect date.
In a country where less than one per cent of the population is Christian, Christmas has been reinvented as the most romantic time of the year.
For many Japanese women being taken to an expensive restaurant on Christmas Eve is a crucial indicator of success, while having to go shopping with female friends marks one as a "loser dog", the Japanese equivalent of a Bridget Jones singleton.
(snip)
Hymns and Christmas classics are played everywhere from gymnasiums to neighbourhood shopping streets.
Overtly Christian imagery is widespread and people greet each other with "Merry Christmas" rather than the more politically correct "season's greetings".

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just one link...

Due to bening unseasonably busy...
Richard Dorment on Angels in Art in the Telegraph.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Kosher' Electricity

From the Telegraph:
Fifty years after a rabbinical ruling made it sacrilegious for orthodox Jews to use mains power on the Sabbath, Israel's national grid has come up with a bright idea for the observant: kosher electricity.
The £6 million scheme, announced last week, will light up lives in highly religious neighbourhoods across Israel, where families have traditionally relied on meagre generator power or even spirit lamps on the holiest day of the week.
(snip)
Now the electricity company will also start producing "kosher electricity", using so-called "Sabbath-goys" to do the work. "We will automate some processes but we will also employ 150 non-Jews to work on the Sabbath," said Elad Sasi, from the Israeli infrastructure ministry.
Mr Sasi said that the official production of kosher electricity would save lives, as the alternative homespun generators cause accidents.
"We have wanted to close these generators for years, because the orthodox don't have a licence to run them and they are dangerous," he said. "Instead of doing it by force, we have come up with a peaceful solution instead." But the £6 million price tag has led to complaints that Israel's orthodox Jews, who are spared otherwise obligatory military service, are being pandered to by the government. In recent weeks the religious community, which makes up almost 10 per cent of Israel's seven million population, has forced a string of leading companies to adopt religious business practices.
Egged, the national bus company, has recently begun to segregate buses by gender on certain routes so as not to offend the strict sensibilities of the religious community.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dear Friend...

It's great to hear from you! We don't have any mutual friends, so I don't hear much about you through others, so it's good to receive a letter from you every now and then. I read your Easter letter with much amusement and dropped you a line over the Summer. I can always count on you to drop me a note at Christmas, and even if circumstances decree that we don't keep in touch much, I know that we can rely on each other's prayers.
This is why it is so frustrating that you send me a Christmas card bringing me up to date on all that's happened to you in recent months, including the fact that you've moved home. Indeed, you've moved country but have neglected to tell me your new address. I certainly sent you a Christmas card along with a newsy letter, but as it was sent to your former address, I have my doubts that it will ever reach you. I can't imagine who I know who might be able to tell me where you live now.

Yours frustratedly,

Zadok

Friday, December 15, 2006

Shiny thiings...

At the exhibition there were many shiny things to divert me...



Conclave Keys - these keys were used to close the outer doors of an 18th Century Conclave. The Prince Chigi held the hereditary duty of Marshall of the Conclave until Paul VI's reforms in the 1970s. This means that the Chigi family have a collection of keys used at various conclaves in recent centuries.



The Mitre of the Three Popes - This mitre, decorated with a vine representing Christ the True Vine, was given as a gift to Paul VI who never wore it. John Paul I did wear it, as did John Paul II early in his ministry.



Tiara of Bl. Pius IX.



Tiara of Pius XI.



The main exit from the museum in the Lateran Palace. At the bottom of the stairs are three sedan chairs used by Bl. Pius IX, Leo XIII and Bl John XXIII.

Conclave 2005

I mentioned earlier that I went to the excellent Habemus Papam exhibition at the Lateran Palace. There was quite an interesting selection of artefacts from the 2005 conclave.



One of the seals used to secure various parts of the Apostolic Palace during the 2005 Conclave.



This captivated me - it's a large board with 120 numbered holes, and a bag of small numbered balls with the names of Cardindals written on them.
For various 'jobs' inside the conclave (scrutineer, etc...) it is necessary that Cardinals be chosen by lot. Thus, the balls with the Cardinals' names on them were used to allocate these jobs by lot.
The balls also fit into the holes of the numbered board, and this was used to keep track of how many cardinals were present for voting in the Sistine Chapel.



A close-up of some of the balls. One presumes that Ratzinger and Sodano were 1 and 2 being Camerlengo and Vice-Camerlengo respectively.




I don't think I need to explain what the stove's for. I got to touch it! :D (Don't tell the curators...)

Maxwell's Silver Hammer?



Nope... Leo's Golden Hammer. I mentioned last week that there's an interesting exhibtion on at the Lateran Palace at the moment called Habemus Papam dealing with the 'election' of Popes from St Peter to Benedict XVI. Well, I was there this afternoon and can't recommend it highly enough. It has some absolutely astonishing artefacts, including the above - the golden hammer used by the Camerlengo to verify that Pope Leo XIII was dead. (The custom is that the Camerlengo taps the forehead of the deceased Pope and calls him by his baptismal name 3 times before verifiying his death.)



In addition to dealing with conclaves, the exhibition also deals with the development of the Petrine ministry during the ages, and the aboriginal Papal Election when Christ gave Peter the keys. There's a fascinating selection of pieces of art which protray Christ and St Peter, including the above late 4th Century relief.



And for Papal history buffs, this is incredibly cool - this is the letter sent by the Cardinal electors of the 1292-1294 Perugia conclave to the pious hermit Pietro di Murrone asking him to become Pope. He accepted, and as Pope St Celestine V has the distinction of being the only Pope to resign his office; ostensibly for the good of his soul, though there is some evidence that great pressure was placed on him by some unscrupulous Cardinals who found it difficult to cope with a saint in the Chair of Peter.

Day of Penance

Amy reports that Fr Cantalamessa has called for a day of fasting and penance in response to the clerical sex abuse scandals in recent times.
He is not the first person to suggest this, and I must confess that the first time I heard that suggestion my reaction was to think, "I've done nothing wrong, it's those horrendous clerics who should be doing penance!" However, I had an insight recently which has changed my thinking on this.

The Fathers of the Church present Jacob as being a prefiguration of Christ, and one of the ways in which he pre-figures Christ is that scene in Genesis (Gen 27) when Jacob secures the birthright of his brother Esau by covering himself in goatskins, and thereby deceiving his blind father Isaac into thinking he is his hirsuite son Esau. Now, we might have some difficulty associating this act of deception with the redeeming work of Christ. But of some of the patristic authors noted the use of goats in the Old Law as sin offerings, and as symbolising sinners in the New Testament. (c.f. Matt 25, for example) Jacob putting on the goatskins is a foreshadowing of Christ taking on the burden of our sins. Christ became sin, although He was sinless. (c.f. 2 Cor 5:21)

And so it seems to me, a willingness to do penance for the sins of another, without regard for the merits of the one who sinned, is a very powerful way of imitating Christ and conforming our minds to His. Obviously, our penance does not have the redemptive value of Christ's sufferings, but as we form members of His Body the Church, it seems to me that such penance is certainly a participation in the redemptive work which only He can truly accomplish. (c.f. Col 1:24)

We must resist this awful temptation to think that by doing penance of this kind we are somehow getting abominable sinners 'off the hook'. What a horrid way to look at things. We seem to have the impression that what we should desire is that the perpetrators of this vile abuse should be cast into he eternal hellfire. It may well be that their sins warrant that. But that is not what we should ultimately desire for them. Should we not rather be praying that they reached a stage of repentance and conversion? We can never allow ourselves to take the place of the elder brother of the prodigal son who begrudges the mercy shown to our fellow sinners, rather than rejoicing that there is no sin which God can not or will not remit for those who repent and turn back to Him. The tears and prayers of St Monica gave us St Augustine. Should we not cry out to heaven and ask that our penance and sacrifices might have a role in bringing the worst of sinners to repentance?

This is not something novel. St John Vianney would give serious sinners light penances in the confessional and make up for it by his own mortifications. I know more than one holy priest who encourages the lesser sinners amongst their penitents to multiply their penances on behalf of those who come to them with extremely grave sins. Devotion to the Sacred Heart has always included an element of offering prayer and sacrifice in reparation for the sins of others. The Divine Praises were initially introduced as an act of reparation for the sin of that sunny against the Holy Name. Prayer for the holy souls necessarily involves taking on some of the burden of another's sin.

We don't really take the unity of the Church as one Body seriously in this age. Penance in reparation for the sins of clerical sex abuse and as a mark of solidarity with those who suffer because of this abuse would be a powerful reminder that the sins of some members of the Church wound the entire Body. If we are Christians, we will drop any pretence of egotistical individualism and realise that we can't form One Body in Christ if we ask the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
I think Fr Cantalamessa has hit the nail on the head - some demons can only be exorcised by prayer and fasting. (c.f. Mark 9:29)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Very cool discovery in St Paul's

From the Telegraph:
Archaeologists digging to reach the tomb of St Paul have stumbled across a life-size "sketch" of the dome of St Peter's produced by one of its architects in the 16th century.
The excavation of St Paul's tomb at the church of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls in Rome is now complete, and the sarcophagus will be on view from the beginning of next year.
However, three feet below the floor of the enormous church, which is the second-largest in the city, the project's team came across a surprise from the Renaissance.
An architectural drawing of the arches and walls of the dome of St Peter's had been carved into 1,726 marble slabs by Giacomo Della Porta, who took over the design and construction work of the dome after the death of Michelangelo. The slabs had formed the floor of the church at the time.
"It was a complete surprise," said Carlo Visconti, one of the engineers. "It is a curious find, and perhaps we shall think about putting it on view to the pilgrims, tourists and students who will come to see St Paul's tomb."
He added that there was a simple explanation for the drawing. When Michelangelo died, he did not leave behind scale drawings of the dome. Consequently, Della Porta decided to sketch out the cupola in life-size and the only covered place large enough for him to work in was the church. "He needed to do the sketch to work out his calculations," said Giorgio Filippi, an architect at the Vatican.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Original Sin vs Ancestral Sin

Those of us in the West who still care about Original Sin will enjoy this article by Ephrem Hugh Bensusan arguing in favour of the compatabiliuty of the Eastern and Western expressions of this dogma. [Biretta doff: Pontificator]

Ukrainian (Ruthenian) College of St Josephat Cassock

I posted recently on the still extant Scots College Cassock and some time ago on the variety of College soutanes which used to exist in the Eternal City... Well, thanks to an anonymous commenter, we now have a picture of the Ukrainian College Cassock which I thought I had seen about the city, but was unable to find a photo of. Note the blue cassock & the orange sash. [Castor corrects me in my comments box - the sash is yellow nowadays, not orange, reflecting the Ukrainian national colours.] The other cleric has a slightly unusual notched collar, which is sometimes, but not necessarily, assocated with Jesuits.
Anyone got any recent photos of Propaganda Fidei seminarians in their red and black cassocks?
Update
A reader sends this picture of a South American College Seminarian wearing the blue sash of his college dress. One can't see whether his cassock has blue piping.

Dear John,

You're going to have to give me a few more clues. It was very nice of you to send me a Christmas card, but how am I supposed to know which John you are? Do you realise how many Johns there are in my long-tailed extended family? Are you my uncle John, my first cousin John, or one of the several second cousins of mine who bear that moniker?
You sent me a very pretty 'Aid to the Church in Need' Christmas card. Perhaps, therefore, you're one of the several clerical friends I have called John - I don't expect you to sign your Christmas card Msgr John, Canon John or Fr John, but maybe if you included even a partial address on the inside of the card, I could figure out which of you sent me this card.
Or perhaps you're a friend that I spent time studying or working with. The card bears the postcard of quite a large metropolitan area where I lived for a number of years. You are a unique individual, of course, but I must have a dozen or so friends and acquaintances from that city called John. Your handwriting is non-descript and I frankly can't decide which of my 'friends called John' is most likely to have sent me a card so promptly as to reach me in such good time.
So John, whoever you are... be assured that I would reciprocate your seasonal sentiments if I could figure out who you are, but I would appreciate it in future if you could provide even the tiniest hint concerning your identity so that I'm not reduced to dusting your card for fingerprints or DNA testing the postage stamp to establish who you might be.

Coridally yours,
(The one and only) Zadok the Roman

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More De Lubac... (On the liturgy...)

Writing in 1956 on the relationship between the Church's communion and the Eucharist
"O sign of unity, O bond of charity." There is indeed something exalting in a mystery of this kind for him who receives this in a spirit of faith and tries hard to carry it on into his personal life and awareness -- or rather, to carry it out there. Hence the lyricism with which someone like Saint Augustine, for example, speaks of it. Yet we should not let ourselves be mistaken as to its nature. As Simone Weil puts it, "Undoubtedly there is a real intoxication in being a member of the Mystical Body of Christ. But today a great many other mystical bodies which have not Christ for their head, produce an intoxication in their members that to my way of thinking is of the same order." Those lines may serve as a warning for us in their very lack of understanding of the mystery of faith. In the present welcome efforts to bring about the celebration of the liturgy that is more "communal" and more alive, nothing would be more regrettable than a preoccupation with the success achieved by some secular festivals by the combined resources of technical skill and the appeal to man at his lower level. To reflect for a moment on the way in which Christ makes real the unity between us is to see at once that it is not by way of anything resembling mass hysteria, or any sort of occult magic. The faithful do not gather for the commemoration of Christ as an assembly of initiates come to partake of a secret that is to set them apart from the common herd. They are not a mob from which a common personality is to be conjured up by the intensifying of its latent properties, resources, values, and predilections (not to mention its powers of self-deception and even its potentialities of the diabolical kind). The Catholic liturgy is luminous in its very mysteries, balanced and reposeful in its very magnificence; everything in it is ordered, and even that which calls most strongly to our being at the level of the senses comes by its meaning only through faith. Its fruit is joy but the lesson it teaches is one of austerity; the sacrifice that is its centre is "a symbol and representation of the Passion of the Lord", and sacrament of his sacrifice, and the memorial of his death. Through the communion that is its consummation it feeds us on his Cross, and it would be of no value if it did not bring about interior sacrifice in all those who take part in it. The "unanimous life of the Church" is not a natural growth; it is lived through faith; our unity is the fruit of Calvary, and results from the Mass' application to us of the merits of the Passion, with a view to our final redemption.
(The Splendor of the Church, 154-5)

This photo is just asking for a humourous caption...

What could he be burning?

Scots Cassocks

Andrew Cusack shows us a picture of 3 Scots Seminarians in their traditionally colourful cassocks.
As I explained last year seminarians in Rome generally wear plain black cassocks (when the event demands that a cassock be worn - please let's not start debating that!) these days. The North American College apparantly maintain a few of their traditionally coloured cassocks for servers at important liturgies. The Seminarians at Propaganda Fide also retain their distinctive red and black cassocks and, as the photo shows, the Scots retain their purple and crimson cassock.
I once heard a Scotsman explain that they still retained their distinctive colours because a former rector (the typical canny Scot) managed to acquire a huge quanitity of purple cloth at an extremely reduced price several decades ago, and they're still using it. Even if that's not true, it's a story that's worth repeating.

Interesting Exhibition

Habemus Papam
There's an exhibition on these days in the Museum which is located in the Lateran Palace. (Main Entrance: Just to the right of the main facade of the Lateran Basilica).
It's called 'Habemus Papam' and covers the election of Popes from St Peter to Benedict XVI. I haven't been myself yet, but hope to visit shortly.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

S.Maria Maggiore, 8th December 2006


The facade of the Basilica.


Mosaic of Christ. Before the construction of the Baroque Facade and Loggia of Benedictions, these mosaics served as an apse when the square in from of the basilica was used for religious functions.


St Paul


St Peter


Interior of Basilica, prior to solemn vespers.


Pauline/Borghese Chapel - home to the Salus Populi Romani painting, traditionally attributed to St Luke. Pope Pius XII, as Fr Eugenio Pacelli, celebatated his first Mass there in 1899 and attributed the safety of Rome during World War II to the intercession of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani.
After paying homage to the Immaculata at Piazza di Spagna, the Pope comes to venerate this image in S.Maria Maggiore each 8th December.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fulgens Corona - Pius XII


FULGENS CORONA -ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII PROCLAIMING A MARIAN YEAR TO COMMEMORATE THE CENTENARY OF THE DEFINITION OF THE DOGMA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION:
1. The radiant crown of glory with which the most pure brow of the Virgin Mother was encircled by God, seems to Us to shine more brilliantly, as We recall to mind the day, on which, one hundred years ago, Our Predecessor of happy memory Pius IX, surrounded by a vast retinue of Cardinals and Bishops, with infallible apostolic authority defined, pronounced and solemnly sanctioned "that the doctrine, which holds that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary at the first moment of her conception was, by singular grace and privilege of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the Human race, preserved from all stains of original sin, is revealed by God, and therefore to be firmly and resolutely believed by all the faithful." (Dogmatic bull Ineffabilis Deus, of Dec. 8, 1854.)
[...]
7. In the first place, the foundation of this doctrine is to be found in Sacred Scripture, where we are taught that God, Creator of all things, after the sad fall of Adam, addressed the serpent, the tempter and corrupter, in these words, which not a few Fathers, Doctors of the Church and many approved interpreters applied to the Virgin Mother of God: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed" (Gen. III-15). Now, if at any time the Blessed Mary were destitute of Divine grace even for the briefest moment, because of contamination in her conception by the hereditary stain of sin, there would not have come between her and the serpent that perpetual enmity spoken of from earliest tradition down to the time of the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception, but rather a certain subjection.

8. Moreover, since the same holy Virgin is saluted "full of grace" and "blessed among women" (Luke I. 28, 24), by these words, as Catholic tradition has always interpreted, it is plainly indicated that "by this singular and solemn salutation, otherwise never heard of, it is shown that the Mother of God was the abode of all Divine graces, adorned with all the charisms of the Holy Spirit, yea, the treasury well nigh infinite and abyss inexhaustible of these charisms, so that she was never subjected to the one accursed" (Bull Ineffabilis Deus).

9. This doctrine, unanimously received in the early Church, has been handed down clearly enough by the Fathers, who claimed for the Blessed Virgin such titles as Lily Among Thorns; Land Wholly Intact; Immaculate; Always Blessed; Free From All Contagion Of Sin; Unfading Tree; Fountain Ever Clear; The One And Only Daughter Not Of Death But Of Life; Offspring Not Of Wrath But Of Grace; Unimpaired And Ever Unimpaired; Holy And Stranger To All Stain Of Sin; More Comely Than Comeliness Itself; More Holy Than Sanctity; Alone Holy Who, Excepting God, Is Higher Than All; By Nature More Beautiful, More Graceful And More Holy Than The Cherubim And Seraphim Themselves And The Whole Host Of Angels."

Exciting news in the Telegraph

About the tomb of St Paul:
The tomb of St Paul the Apostle has been found under one of Rome's largest churches and the stone coffin will shortly be raised to the surface to allow pilgrims to see it.
The remains of St Paul, one of the Christian Church's most important leaders and the supposed author of much of the New Testament, have been hidden under an altar at St Paul Outside-the-Walls for almost 200 years.
"I have no doubt that this is the tomb of St Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who made the discovery.
Dr Filippi will present the results of his scientific tests on the remains of the saint on Monday at the Vatican. St Paul's sarcophagus was found after five years of extensive excavations at the church, which is second only in size to St Peter's in Rome. Dr Filippi began looking for the tomb at the request of Archbishop Francesco Gioia, within whose jurisdiction the church falls.
In 2000, the Archbishop was inundated with queries from pilgrims about the whereabouts of the saint. The same requests have persuaded the Vatican that there is enough demand from tourists to warrant raising the sarcophagus to the surface so that it can be viewed properly.
"We wanted to bring it to the light for devotional reasons so it can be venerated," said Dr Filippi.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ordination Pics - The Pontificator...

Pontificator has posted his ordination pictures. Congratulations! There's an interesting contrast between the sobriety of Advent's purple and the joy of ordination.

News of St Paul's tomb?

There's going to be a press conference on Monday, December 11th to announce details of the works done on the sacrophagus of St Paul at St Paul's Outside the Walls.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Churches of Rome Wiki...

A wiki is a type of online reference book which the readers can edit. I've just stumbled across this interesting Churches of Rome Wiki which focuses on the churches of this fair city.

Fascinating archeological discovery...

From the Telegraph:
Archaeologists claimed yesterday to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant.
The site, emerging from the soil in a few acres in the hills of the Israeli occupied West Bank, is richly decorated with brightly coloured mosaics and inscriptions referring to Jesus Christ.
According to the team, led by Yitzhak Magen and Yevgeny Aharonovitch, the church dates to the late 4th century, making it one of Christianity's first formal places of worship.
"I can't say for sure at the moment that it's the very first church," said Mr Aharonovitch, 38, as he oversaw a team carrying out the final excavations before winter yesterday. "But it's certainly one of the first." He said the site contained an extremely unusual inscription which referred to itself, Shiloh, by name.
"That is very rare and shows early Christians treated this as an ancient, holy place," said Mr Aharonovitch. According to the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, was kept by the Israelites at Shiloh for several hundred years.


But there's a catch:
The team at Shiloh is considering whether to dig under the beautiful mosaics that they have uncovered, in order to find traces of the Ark. "We have to decide whether to fix the mosaics here or take them to a museum," said Mr Aharonovitch.
Jewish residents in the modern settlement of Shiloh, which sits on a hill amidst Palestinian villages, want the team to keep digging.
David Rubin, a former mayor of Shiloh, said: "We believe that if they continue to dig they'll reach back to the time of the Tabernacle," referring to the portable place of worship where the Israelites housed the Ark.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor

Via Antonia, some plain common sense from the Archbishop of Westminster.
ANDREW MARR: OK. Let me turn to what the Prime Minister said, on the subject of condoms. Because World Aids Day coming up and the United Nations have produced some pretty horrific figures about the number of people infected with HIV. Is there any chance that the Catholic Church is going to move its teaching a little bit, at least to the use of condoms inside marriage where, for instance, one of the partners is already HIV positive?

CARDINAL CORMAC: Before I answer that question can I say this, that over a quarter, worldwide, but especially in Africa, over a quarter of healthcare particularly for Aids victims, is given by the Catholic Church and its agencies.

Now that's very important. And let me also say that the way to combat Aids is primarily, as everybody should know, you know, behavioural change, monogamous partnerships between a man and a woman. And...

ANDREW MARR: But out there in the real world as you very well know, that's not how many people behave and condoms do stop people getting Aids.

CARDINAL CORMAC: Well I'll say two things. The Pope has had a vast report on the particular case that you mention within a very restrictive area of marriage. But I have to say, the pouring the Prime Minister has said, you know, in the...

ANDREW MARR: ...face up to reality.

CARDINAL CORMAC: ...he's also saying I've got to give more and more aid including more condoms into Africa. You know, I think what I'd like to say to the Prime Minister, it'd be much better if we used that money to provide more anti-retroviral drugs, medicines, for the millions of children and women who are affected. Now ..

ANDREW MARR: Where are you going to use your money?

CARDINAL CORMAC: I mean I speak to bishops in Africa and they told me, they told me that their dioceses are flooded with condoms and they said, and I asked them, well has it affected, said well, sad to say it's meant more promiscuity, and more Aids.

So I think you've got to look at this I think within the whole context of the African culture.

ANDREW MARR: Any rethinking though going on inside the church on this?

CARDINAL CORMAC: Well, as I've said, in a particular restrictive case, I think Pope Benedict asked for a report. But in general I think that the church stands by what it says.

On Slogans

An interesting report from the Telegraph:
When the German car-maker Audi wanted to promote its vehicles, its "Vorsprung durch Technik" slogan became one of the best-known lines in advertising.
But although overseas admirers of Teutonic engineering grasped the point of the "progress through technology" sales pitch, the English catchphrases deployed to push cars and clothes back at the Germans have merely confused them.
The average German's grasp of English may be competent, but campaigns such as the Jaguar's "Life by Gorgeous" are met with bafflement.
(snip)
The study, by the Cologne agency Endmark, asked Germans aged 14 to 49 to translate 12 common English slogans that appeared on billboards locally. Around two thirds of those surveyed did not properly understand what was being said.
Bernd Samland, the head of Endmark, said: "Advertising experts sometimes disregard the cultural differences and push for the 'One World, One Brand, One Claim' motto.
"But our study shows that the message often simply does not get across."
Mr Samland quoted a slogan advertising Beck's beer, "Welcome to the Beck's experience", which fewer than one in five understood. Most thought the message meant "Welcome to Beck's experiment". Mr Samland added: "It's not purely a matter of not understanding English, as the age groups chosen were those most likely to have sufficient command of the language."
This demonstrates an interesting linguistic point... If one is not a native speaker of a language, then context becomes very important in understanding the meaning of a text. Advertising slogans of just a few words are therefore surprisingly difficult to translate. I'm a fairly competent reader of Italian, and will happily trawl through pages of theology in Italian. However, pithy advertising slogans cause me much more difficulty because there isn't the same amount of context around them - not understanding a single word or misreading the tense of a verb doesn't make much difference in a theological treatise because the surrounding sentences provide the context that supplies the meaning of the word, or corrects the inital misreading. One doesn't get that with a short slogan of a few words, and not getting the meaning of each and every word leaves one stranded.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More postively, ordinations-wise...

Best wishes to Pontificator as he prepares for ordination on the 1st Sunday of Advent. Ad multos annos!

On the Chinese Episcopal Ordinations...

There's quite a forthright press release from the Vatican about the latest illegtimate Episcopal Ordinations in China. My rough translation:
Communication Concerning the Illegitimate Episcopal Ordination at Xuzhou (Continental China)
The Holy See feels obliged to make known its position concerning the Episcopal ordination of the priest Giovanni Wang Renlei which took place Thursday 30 November in Xuzhou, in the province of Jiangsu (Continental China).
1. The Holy Father received the news with much sorrow because the said episcopal ordination was conferred without pontifical mandate, that is without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church regarding the nomination of bishops. (cf CIC 377, 1)
2.This ordination is the latest one of the illegal Episcopal ordinations which have tormented the Catholic Church in China for decades, creating divisions in day as communities and tormenting the consciences of many clerics and laypeople. This series of extremely greve acts, which offends the religious sentiments of every Catholic in China and in the rest of the world, is the fruit and consequence of a vision of the Church which does not correspond to Catholic doctrine and subverts fundamental principles of her hierarchical structure. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council makes clear, "one is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the Head and members of the body." (Lumen Gentium 22)
3. The Holy See, becoming aware at the last moment of the planned Episcopal ordination, did not neglect to take those steps possible in that brief period of time available to prevent an act which would produce a new laceration of ecclesial communion. Indeed, an illegitimate Episcopal ordination is an act so objectively grave that Canon Law lays down severe sanctions for those who confer and receive it, assuming that the act was completed in conditions of true freedom. (c.f. CIC 1382)
4. It is consoling to note that, despite past and present difficulties, almost the entirety of bishops, priests, religious and lay people in China, aware of being living members of the universal Church, have maintained a deep communion of faith and life with the Successor of Peter and with all the Catholic communities all over the world.
5. The Holy See is aware of the spiritual drama and of the suffering of those ecclesiastics - consecrating bishops and ordinands - will find themselves forced to take an active part in the illegitimate Episcopal ordinations, contravening in this way the Catholic tradition which in their hearts they wish to follow faithfully. It shares in the interior disturbance of those Catholics - priests, religious and laity - who see themselves obliged to welcome a pastor whom they know to be not in full hierarchical communion with neither the Head of the College of Bishops nor with the other bishops throughout the world.
6. Concerning Episcopal ordinations, the Holy See cannot accept being placed before already accomplished facts. Therefore, it deplores the manner in which the ordination of the priest Wang Renlei went ahead in Xuzhou, and hopes that events of this kind will not repeat themselves in the future.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Found in the Sacristy...

I stumbled across the following two posts at the blog of the Roman Sacristan whom I'd not visited before...
First, some nice photos of the Church of SS. John & Paul which (coincidentally) I visited earlier today.
And also this amazing link to an 8.6 GIGApixel image of Ferrari's Life of Christ in the church of S.Maria delle Grazie in Florence. The detail is amazing...
Some of the things that struck me:
The contrast between the Good Thief (his soul being taken to heaven) and the Bad Thief (being tortured by demons) in the Crucifixion scene.
Our Lady's swoon in the same scene. (Birth pangs?)
The angels playing music in the cave in Bethlehem.
The relief of the Laocoon in Pilate's palace - anyone want to expound on the intended symbolism?

Greek Royals & the Family Silver

From the Telegraph:
The Greek royal family in exile, stripped of almost all of its property after a coup in 1967, is to sell silverware and other heirlooms rescued from one of its palaces in the hope of raising at least £2 million.
The treasures will be auctioned in London in January, Christie's announced yesterday.
The property is formally described as coming from the collection of King George I of the Hellenes, modern Greece's first monarch, who reigned from 1863 to 1913. But the vendor, who refuses to be named, is almost certainly the deposed King Constantine II of Greece, who has lived in London in relatively straitened circumstances for more than 30 years.
The sale is the first public auction of Greek royal property since the monarchy was abolished in 1974. It is to comprise 850 lots, mostly silver, but also exquisite Fabergé ornaments, furniture, jade and paintings.
Constantine, a cousin of Prince Philip and godfather to Prince William, was allowed to remove the objects – many of them gifts to George I from inter-related European royal families – from his favourite palace, Tatoi, in 1991 during a brief thaw in his long-running legal battles with successive Greek governments.
(snip)
onstantine, now 66, left Greece in 1967 with his family and little more than the clothes they were wearing. His counter-coup against a group of republican army colonels who had seized power failed and the royal family fled to Rome, moving to London in the early 1970s. He was stripped of his crown in 1974.
Successive Greek governments have resisted demands to return royal estates and property to him and it has long been a mystery how he supported himself, his wife, the ex-Queen, Anne-Marie of Denmark, and their five children in England. It is not known whether he moved money out of Greece in the run-up to the coup and it has been commonly assumed that he has lived off gifts from Greek monarchists and the English royal family, to whom he is close.
(snip)
Small items of silver – sauce boats, salt-cellars and entrée dishes – are priced as low as £100. A total of 264 silver plates from the royal banqueting service will be sold in sets of 12 with estimates of £4,000-£6,000.
The most expensive silver is a pair of giant pilgrim flasks (estimate £80,000-£120,000), made by Garrard in London in 1866 and given to Christian IX of Denmark by the British royal family.
The single most expensive item is an early 20th-century gold-mounted Fabergé clock with an estimate up to £250,000. Constantine's collection contains another 100 pieces of Fabergé, including an egg, boxes and miniature animals.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This seems to be a fitting photo to post

Detail of the Apse Mosaic at St Paul's Outside the Walls - Christ, St Peter & St Andrew

Interesting Conference Coming Up...

Sponsored by the Acton Institute:
Centesimus Annus and Deus Caritas Est

December 12, 2006, 6pm. at the Pontifical Gregorian University

Speakers:

* George Weigel
* His Eminence Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
* Professor Jean Yves Naudet
* His Imperial and Royal Highness, Otto von Habsburg

I understand that it will be followed by a reception.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Virgin Mary & Labour Pains...

No, I'm not inviting this debate over to my comments box, thank you very much. ;)
Rather I came across this from one of John Paul II's audiences:
On Calvary, Mary united herself to the sacrifice of her Son and made her own maternal contribution to the work of salvation, which took the form of labour pains, the birth of the new humanity.
I half-remember encountering this idea (Mary suffering labour pains at the foot of the cross) somewhere else, perhaps in a patristic source or a breviary reading. Can anyone point me to something like that?
Update
Thanks to Fr Vidrine who gives a citation of St Bonaventure in my comments box:
I think you're referring to this reference of St. Bonaventure: “That which in the Nativity She brought forth with joy, in the Passion She gave birth to with sorrow” (Commentary on Luke, c. 23). Here he joins the mystery of Our Lady’s suffering at the foot of the Cross with the mystery of Our Lord's birth at Christmas. Our Lady does not experience the pains of childbirth at the Inn of Bethelehem, but at the foot of the cross as Mother of the Church.
I've not read a huge amount of St Bonaventure, so I doubt that it's that text I'm remembering, but at least that reference establishes the scolastic (if not patristic) credentials of the idea.
I've also stumbled across this article in an art magazine (which I've only started to read) called The pain of Compassio: Mary's labor at the foot of the cross by Amy Neff. Please bear in mind that it's an art history article, so I wouldn't expect the theological precision of a theology article, but on page 18 it seems to provide some useful citations for the idea in question:
28. Albertus Magnus, Postilla super Isaiam, 110.49; my translation, from Albert Fries, Die Gedanken des Heiligen Albertus Magnus uber die Gottesmutter (Freiburg, Switz.: Paulusverlag, 1958), 151. For other texts in which Albertus Magnus repeats similar ideas, see Fries, 10, 184, 220, 321, 335-38; and idem, Was Albertus Magnus von Maria sagt (Cologne: Amerikanish-Ungarischer, 1962), 11 6-25. Fries notes that the conceit of Nature exacting payment from Mary was derived from the writings of John of Damascus. It also seems to be connected to the idea, presented in Alain de Lille's De planctu Naturae, that man's birth is through the goddess Natura, his rebirth through God. A concise summary of Alain's concept is in E. R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. E. R. Trask, 2d ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 118-19.

29. Saint Bonaventura, from the chapter on Fortitude in the Collationes de septem donis Spiritus Sancti, in Opera omnia, vol. 5 (Quaracchi: Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventura, 1891), 487a; quoted in Emma Therese Healy, Woman according to Saint Bonaventure (New York: Georgian Press, 1956), 239-41.
And there's lots more.... I guess I'm going to read the whole thing when I get a chance and see if I can't recall the text (was it St John Damascene?) where I picked up the idea originally.
Bingo!
Neff quotes Rupert of Deutz:
At the foot of the cross, Mary] is truly a woman and truly a mother and at this hour, she truly suffers the pains of childbirth. When [Jesus] was born, she did not suffer like other mothers: now, however, she suffers, she is tormented and full of sorrow, because her hour has come. . . . in the Passion of her only Son, the Blessed Virgin gave birth to the salvation of all mankind: in effect, she is the mother of all mankind.
with the following bibliographical detail:
21. Rupert of Deutz, Commentaria in Evangelium Sancti Iohannis, ed. Rhabanus Haacke, O.S.B., Corpus Christianorum: Continuatio Mediaevalis, vol. 9 (Turnhout: Typographi Brepols Editores Pontificii, 1969), 743-44; my translation, for which I also made use of the French trans. in Therel, 125.
I'm pretty sure I've seen that quotation from Rupert referenced in some theology article I read about Mary's motherhood of the Church.
It's worthwhile chasing down the pictures she refers to using google. Here, for example is a late 15th century crucifixion by Rueland Frueauf the Younger where Our Lady is seemingly depicted on a birthing-stool at the foot of the cross.

From Congar (On Ecclesiology)

The pre-conciliar works of the Ressourcement theologians shed an interesting light on our understanding of the Second Vatican Council, especially when we consider the influence that their theological ideas had on the Fathers of the Council:
While there is certainly cause for rejoicing in the present-day return to favour of the title "the People of God" and in the response it shows itself capable of arousing, and while we must of course recognize the importance of the place it occupies in Scripture, it would appear at that we should not choose it as our central concept in ecclesiology, as has been sometimes suggested. It expresses directly one aspect of the Church only, and this, moreover, only from a more or less external point of view -- at any rate, as far as the primary meaning is concerned. This view will also have the advantage of keeping us clear of the danger involved in all those tendencies that wish to make of the Church the invisible society of the Saints and the elect. (Congar, The Splendor of the Church, 106-7)
Personally, I am strongly of the opinion that the fundamental key to understanding the doctrine of the Church in Lumen Gentium is the analogy drawn between the Church and a sacrament:
Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. (Lumen Gentium 1)
So likewise the new Israel which while living in this present age goes in search of a future and abiding city is called the Church of Christ.(98) For He has bought it for Himself with His blood, has filled it with His Spirit and provided it with those means which befit it as a visible and social union. God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity. (Lumen Gentium 9)

A New Theory About Stonehenge

From the Telegraph:
Stonehenge was the Lourdes of its day, to which diseased and injured ancient Britons flocked seeking cures for their ailments, according to a new theory.
For most of the 20th century archaeologists have debated what motivated primitive humans to go to the immense effort of transporting giant stones 240 miles from south Wales to erect Britain's most significant prehistoric monument.
Stonehenge was built in different stages between 3000BC and 1600BC and theories about their meaning and purpose have ranged from the serious to the wacky. The most widely accepted view is that it was to honour their ancestors.
Now Timothy Darvill, professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University, has breathed new life into the controversy with the publication of a book which proposes that the monument was in fact a centre of healing. Prof Darvill also backs the recent view that modern-day druids and hippies who celebrate the summer solstice at the site in the belief that they are continuing an ancient tradition should in fact carry out their rituals in December.
In his book Stonehenge: The Biography of a Landscape, Prof Darvill points to evidence that many of the human remains excavated from burial mounds around Stonehenge, dating from around 2300BC, show signs of the individuals having been unwell prior to their death.
Okay, but aren't most people 'unwell prior to their death'?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

In the news...

From the Telegraph, a fascinating article (read it all) on the decline in Britain's Jewish population:
It is the continual rise in the number of Jews marrying gentiles that poses the biggest challenge facing the community. In 1990, there were estimated to be about 340,000 Jews in Britain, but the population has declined by a fifth to only 270,000 today. According to the 1996 Jewish Policy Review, nearly one in two are marrying people who do not share their faith.

That calendar...

People have been asking about whether the new Pope calendar is availible outside of Italy.
I honestly don't know - I certainly haven't been able to find it for sale anywhere on the internet. it is published by the Society of St Paul, but it doesn't seem to be availible through their website.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A snippet of St Bernard

1.2 Love is expressed in action and in feeling. As to love in action, I believe men have been given a law, a settled commandment. (Dt 5:6) But what need has love of commandment? You are commanded to show love in action so that you may have merit; the sensation of love is its own reward. We do not deny that this present life can, by divine grace, give experience of its beginning, and of the progress, but we stoutly maintain that is is fully known only in the happiness of the life to come. How then were things which could not in any way be fulfilled made commandments? Or, if you would rather say that it is the sensation of love which is commanded, I do not disagree, so long as you agree with me that it can never and never will be possible for any man to fulfil it. For full dares to claim for himself what even Paul owned he did not understand (Phil 3:13)? The Lawgiver knew that the burden of law was greater than men could bear, but he judged it to be useful for this very reason to advise men that they were not able to fulfil it, so that they might know clearly what end of righteousness they ought to strive as far as their powers permit. So by commanding what was impossible he made men, not prevaricators, but humble, so that every mouth may be silent and all the world made subject to God, for no one will be justified in his sight by keeping the law (Rom 3:19-20). So accepting that command and aware of our own insufficiency, we shall cry to heaven and God will have mercy on us (1 Mc 4:10). And we shall know on that day that God has saved us not by the just works we have done, but because he is merciful (Ti 3:15).
This is what I should say if we were agreed that the sensation of love is commanded by law. What it seems to us is love in action much better, for when the Lord said, "Love your enemies" he spoke immediately afterward of actions, "Do good to those who hate you" (Lk 6:27) [Sermon 50]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I have to boast...

That calendar appeared in the shops today, and I had to be the first in St Blog's to have it hanging on my wall. ;)
It's a lovely publication - and a very reasonable €5 for a pretty decent sized calendar - the photo is about 1 foot square - with lots of saints' days, Italian quotations from Deus Caritas Est and some lovely photos. The pictures of Papa Ratzinger reading or in his study are particularly nice, and the fact that the proceeds help fund an orphangage in Rwanda is an added incentive to buy.

Rome in Crisis?

The Roman theological schools have been thrown into crisis by Pope Benedict XVI's recent disavowal of infallibility. High-level meetings between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (The Holy Office), the Rectors of the Pontifical Universities and the standing committee of the International Theological Commission have struggled to come up with a plan of action following the Papal decree abolishing infallibility...

Or not.

If one were to read today's Daily Telegraph however, one would suspect that a major crisis has been provoked by the preface of the Pope's forthcoming book:
The Pope has shocked theologians and opened a chink in the theory of papal infallibility by saying that people should feel free to disagree with what he has written in his latest book, a meditation on Jesus Christ.
Entitled Jesus of Nazareth, the first book that Pope Benedict XVI has written since his election as Pope in 2003 will be published next spring.
Let me assure you of one thing, dear readers... No serious theologian is in the least shocked that the private work of a theologian-Pope carries with it the guarantee of infallibility. Indeed, it doesn't carry with it any magisterial authority whatsoever and I don't recall anyone claiming that the books that Pope John Paul II published carried any magisterial authority either.
So where is this article coming from? The journalist seems to have lighted upon the following statement of Professor Giuseppe Alberigo, Professor of Church History in Bologna who says:
"I really believe this is the first time this has ever happened," he said. "It is an extraordinarily important gesture. What it means is that the Pope is not totally infallible. As well as being the Pope, he is a common man, hugely studious in this case, but like all men he is subject to debates, arguments and discussions." He added that Pope John Paul II "could never have made a distinction between 'official' Pope and 'ordinary' Pope".
It's worth noting that Prof Alberigo is a historian, rather than a theologian, but it seems extraordinary that such a distinguished scholar should be so blind to the lack of theological significance to Pope Benedict's reminder that he was writing as a private theologian. The fact that in his private writings a Pope does not enjoy the charism of infallibility is basic theology - I suspect it forms part of pretty much every introductory course on Revelation or Ecclesiology. I'm willing to believe Alberigo when he says that no Pope has ever come out and explicity said that a particualar piece of private writing is non-infallible, but can Alberigo be blind to the fact that the Church teaches that the charism of infallibility extends to quite a narrow range of Papal activities? Alberigo is supposed to be an expert in the Councils of the Church [he edited the very useful critical edition of the documents of all the Ecumentical Councils from Nicea to Vatican II] - I therefore find it extraordinary that he doesn't have a keen understanding of what Vatican I and Vatican II teach about the infallibility or otherwise of the Papal magisterium.
Incidentally, it's worth reminding ourselves where we might have heard of Professor Alberigo before. Sandro Magister mentioned him back in June of last year:
Forty years after its closing, Vatican Council II is still waiting for its story to be written “not from a partisan stance, but according to the truth.” Cardinal Camillo Ruini made this statement while presenting a newly issued book, published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The author is Bishop Agostino Marchetto – a scholar of Church history who later served in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps and is now the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People – and it is entitled “The Ecumenical Council of Vatican II: A Counterpoint to Its History.” The presentation of the volume took place in Rome on June 17, in the “Pietro da Cortona” room of the Capitoline Museums.
Why “counterpoint”? Cardinal Ruini explained immediately. Marchetto’s book acts as a counterpoint, or indeed as the polar opposite, to the interpretation of Vatican II that until now has monopolized Catholic historiography throughout the world. It is the interpretation advanced by the five-volume “History of Vatican Council II” directed by Giuseppe Alberigo and published in six languages between 1995 and 2001. In Italy, it was published by il Mulino and edited by Alberto Melloni.
Ruini began by making a “somewhat joking” comparison between the history of Vatican II as recounted by Alberigo and the history of the Council of Trent written by Fr. Paolo Sarpi, which was published in London in 1619 and immediately placed on the index of prohibited books. This was a brilliant and successful reconstruction, but it was highly inflammatory and partisan. Seventeen years later, a reply came to Sarpi from Jesuit Fr. Pietro Sforza Pallavicino and his “Istoria,” which was much more extensively documented but no less passionate and partial. It would be three centuries before the Council of Trent would see its first balanced and thorough history, which was published by Hubert Jedin between 1949 and 1975. And Ruini called for precisely this: a “great and positive history” of Vatican Council II, preferably before another three centuries go by. The final pages of Marchetto’s book, he said, give some indications for producing this “new and different” history.
The central thesis of Alberigo and his “Bologna School,” founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti in the 1960’s, is that the documents produced by Vatican Council II are not its primary elements. The main thing is the event itself. The real council is the “spirit” of the council. It cannot be reduced to the “letter” of its documents, and is incomparably superior to these.
In other words, Alberigo is seen as being one of those figures criticised by Pope Benedict XVI in the course of his 2005 Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia for advancing the so-called 'Hermeneutic of Discontinuity':
The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.
[...]
The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.
[...]
The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech inaugurating the Council on 11 October 1962 and later by Pope Paul VI in his Discourse for the Council's conclusion on 7 December 1965.
Here I shall cite only John XXIII's well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes "to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion". And he continues: "Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us...". It is necessary that "adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness..." be presented in "faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another...", retaining the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Roman Liturgy...

The Benedictines at St Paul's Outside the Walls seem to promise quite an evening on Saturday with their 'Solemn Vigil of Christ the King' - starting at 8pm from the Basilica Courtyard. Their invite says:
The ancient basilicas of the Roman Empire, intended for administrative, commercial and judicial functions, gave their shape to the first buildings of Christian worship.
Christianity adapted that pagan heritage to its own needs with the greatest of ease, giving over the courtyard to the catechumens who were not allowed enter, the triumphal arch to the processions in honour of the victorious Christ who triumphed over death, the judicial apse to Christ the Pantocrator, and the name itself Basilica, an abbreviation of basilica domus - the house of the basileus (king) to the house of Christ the King.
In the solemn vigil of Christ the King, the Benedictine monks of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls will celebrate the Divine Regality by meditating on elements of the basilica's art and the sacred music of the "Basilica Domus".

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pope: "Anyone is free to contradict me"

In the Corriere della Sera there's more info on the Pope's new book.
Roughly translated, the 1st two paragraphs of the article read as follows:
Vatican City - Benedict XVI has finished writing his book about Jesus Christ. It is entitled "Jesus of Nazareth. From the Baptism (sic) to the Transfiguration" and is a sort of theological summary (or Summa Theologica) about the figure of Christ. The announcement of the issuing of the first of the two volumes of the work, which will be printed by Rizzoli next spring, was given in the Vatican press room.
"This book is absolutely not a magisterial act, but is purely an expression of my personal search for the Lord's face. Therefore anyone is free to contradict me" notes Benedict XVI. In the preface Joseph Ratzinger clarifies that the work is not to be held binding from the Magisterial point of view, "I only ask that sympathy from my readers without which there is no understanding."
The third paragraph is simply blurb from the printers.

Papal Book on its way!

From the Bolletino:
Il Santo Padre Benedetto XVI ha terminato di scrivere la prima parte di un libro il cui titolo è Gesù di Nazareth. Dal Battesimo nel Giordano alla Trasfigurazione e lo ha consegnato, nei giorni scorsi, alla Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has finished writing the first part of a book entitled Jesus of Nazareth. From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration and in the past few days handed it over to (publishers) Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Interesting... Firstly, it's the first part of the book - suggesting that there will be more to come. Secondly, it seems to begin with the Baptism in the Jordan, so it would seem to deal with the public ministry of Our Lord.
Hat-tip: Amy.
Another Baby Bishop
Also in the Bolletino is the announcement of the appointment of an Auxiliary Bishop to the notorious Austrian diocese of Sankt Polten where there was some very unsavoury stuff happening in the seminary. In the aftermath of that scandal, the then bishop and his auxiliary resigned in 2004, to be replaced by an Opus Dei bishop and now the man brought in to clean up the seminary has been made his auxiliary. Anton Leichtfried is a priest of Sankt Polten, trained in Rome and prior to his appointment as seminary rector in Sankt Polten had spent much of his priesthood outside of the diocese of Sankt Polten either studying or working as a seminary spiritual director. Fr Leichtfried was born on the 30th of May 1967 - making him all of 39 years old. On consecration he will become the 2nd youngest Catholic bishop in the world, with only the Ecuadorian Auxiliary Bishop Caicedo his junior by a mere month and a half.

This liturgical week... (for Romans)

Two of my favourite liturgical celebrations happen this week.
Wednesday is the Feast of St Cecilia - worth attending is the evening Mass (I'm not sure precisely what time...) in her basilica where the Sistine Choir honour the patroness of musicians.
Thursday is San Clemente. The Irish Dominicans are kicking off the celebrations at 8.15pm on Wednesday night in the Church of San Clemente with Domincan-rite Compline and Salve Regina sung by the Utrect Gregorain Choir. On the feastday itself is a procession with the relics of San Clemente through the neighbourhood, followed by Mass. The procession starts at 6pm, I think.
Matt of the Holy Whapping was there back in 2003 when the procession was held on the eve of the feast. (This year it is on the feast day):
The St. Clement's day festival in Rome is so Italian it could happen in New York. It has that concentrated, wonderfully cinematic Italianness one simply can't find beyond the watery bounds of Manhattan. After a long and harrowing detour around the Palatine and back towards the Campidoglio to avoid another tiresome pacifist demonstration that was cluttering up central Rome from Il Gesu to the Vittoriano, I arrived to find the procession had already begun. So I followed the lights and the music.
A scraggly-looking brass band played vigorously at the head of the cortege, followed up a banner-bearer, torchers in the black and scarlet habit of the clerks of the Propaganda Fide, as well as assisting Dominican clergy in surplice and tunic. Then came the great gilded head-reliquary of the saint on a litter borne on the shoulders of four men in identical martyr-maroon sweatshirts with the Latin inscription Nihil dificile volenti, the meaning of which is entirely lost on me. After them followed Dominicans in cappa and tunic and surpliced acolytes. And then us, the laity, some bearing burned-down wax tapers.
A truly Italian touch came in the fact that at each corner of the sedia were plastic flame-shaped red lights that blinked on and off the whole time. Only in Italy.
On either side, people ran ahead and lit spark fountains affixed to the walls or taped to stop signs, blazing away with magnesium whiteness until the flammules died in a halo of gold on the sidewalk. Overhead were strung extravagant exotic displays of lights that had a faint hint of some small-town orientalist movie palace. It was great. It was tacky. It was pious. It was holy. It was Italy.
We processed into the church through the side door, the banner dipping as we entered. Incense, and the first notes of the organ prelude. Six candles shone on the altar, and four more burned before the grating of St. Clement's tomb, decorated with the palm branches of martyrdom. The prayers alternated between the American-accented Italian of Cardinal Stafford's prayers and the Irish-accented Latin of the Dominican schola. Everywhere was the scarlet of blood and the white of papal purity, in the vestments of the clerics, in the festoons of flowers bedecking the choir enclosure, in the banner on the high marble ambo.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tiara Spotting...

The Church of SS. Nome di Maria, (near Trajan's Forum) this afternoon.

But look more closely... Habemus Tiaram...

The Arms of Cardinal Rosales of Manila
I'm pretty sure that some churches still have JPII's arms up... I'll snap a shot the next time I see one.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

St Ambrose on the Good Samaritan


Let no one, that is, of whatever condition, after whatever fall, fear that he will perish. For it may come to pass that the good Samaritan of the Gospel may find some one going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, that is, falling back from the martyr’s conflict to the pleasures of this life and the comforts of the world; wounded by robbers, that is, by persecutors, and left half dead; that good Samaritan, Who is the Guardian of our souls (for the word Samaritan means Guardian),may, I say, not pass by him but tend and heal him.
Perchance He therefore passes him not by, because He sees in him some signs of life, so that there is hope that he may recover. Does it not seem to you that he who has fallen is half alive if faith sustains any breath of life? For he is dead who wholly casts God out of his heart. He, then, who does not wholly cast Him out, but under pressure of torments has denied Him for a time, is half dead. Or if he be dead, why do you bid him repent, seeing he cannot now be healed? If he be half dead, pour in oil and wine, not wine without oil, that may be the comfort and the smart. Place him upon thy beast, give him over to the host, lay out two pence for his cure, be to him a neighbour.
But you cannot be a neighbour unless you have compassion on him; for no one can be called a neighbour unless he have healed, not killed, another. But if you wish to be called a neighbour, Christ says to you: “Go and do likewise.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On the 'new' Fra Angelicos...

Remember the newly discovered Fra Angelico panels?
The Cranky Professor thinks that there may be more to the story than meets the eye:
My suspicions were raised by this throwaway line in the story: She had been curator of manuscripts at two universities in America, Princeton and Huntingdon [sic].
Hmmm. Someone who is curator of manuscripts at the Huntington Library (not university, silly Englishman) is not a naive. So I googled and read this in her obituary on a page of the Early Book Society Newsletter:
Jean’s lovely little home in Oxford was filled with treasures: Jean was the largest private collector of manuscript leaves by the Spanish forger, and she owned several important pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Miss Preston may have been the twit's maiden aunt, but she's not sounding nearly so naive as to live for 45 years with two Fra Angelico panels without figuring out what they were - the woman collected forgeries! That's someone who is well beyond mildly aware of her collection. I think she reveled in looking at the two paintings for a long, long time without ever having to increase her insurance premium. I salute Miss Jean Preston!
Well spotted, sir!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

St Ireneus on the Incarnation

Whence then is the substance of the first formed man? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth. For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth. From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh and there should be that which was written in the beginning,man after the image and likeness of God.
And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation. For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.
- Exposition of the Apostolic Preaching 33-34

The Plot Thickens...

From today's Bolletino:
Il Santo Padre ha convocato per gioved� 16 novembre una riunione dei Capi Dicastero della Curia Romana per esaminare la situazione creatasi in seguito alla disobbedienza di Mons. Emmanuel Milingo e per compiere una riflessione sulle domande di dispensa dall'obbligo del celibato e sulle domande di riammissione al ministero sacerdotale presentate da parte di sacerdoti sposati nel corso degli anni piu recenti. Non sono previsti altri argomenti all'ordine del giorno.
My Translation:
The Holy Father has summoned a meeting of the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia for Thursday the 16th of November to examine the situation arising following the disobedience of Mons. Emmanuel Milingo and to reflect on the requests for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy and on requests for readmission to the priestly ministry given by married priests over the past few years. No other topics are foreseen for the agenda.
Hmmmmmm... so contrary to media reports, a discussion of a possible liberalization of usage of the 1962 Missal is not (formally?) on the agenda for that particular meeting.

I just love re-discovered artwork stories...


... and this one is a cracker...
Two lost paintings by the Renaissance artist Fra Angelico have been discovered hanging behind a door in a modest two-bedroom terrace in Oxford.
The panels, which measure 15 x 5in (38 x 12cm) are expected to fetch more than £1 million at auction.
For more than 30 years they belonged to Jean Preston, a 77-year-old spinster who travelled everywhere by bus, and who was unaware of their significance until shortly before her death in July.
Each panel is painted with the standing figure of a Dominican Saint in tempera on a gold background. They had a probate value of £400 when Miss Preston's father bequeathed them to her in 1974. He was thought to have paid considerably less for them in America in the 1960s.
The discovery, hailed as one of the most exciting art finds for a generation, has solved a 200-year-old mystery.
The works were commissioned in the 1430s by Cosimo de Medici, patron of the Italian Renaissance, for the high altar at the Church and Convent of San Marco in Florence, where Angelico then lived.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pelagian Drinking Song...

They've been a bit quiet recently, but I can't for the life of me think why I haven't linked to In Veritate Ambulare. Anyway, the fact that they posted the Pelagian Drinking Song is to their credit...
Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.

No, he didn't believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
He laughed at original sin.

Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall --
They rather had been hanged.

Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Their orthodox persuasions.

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Especially barley brew!
--Hilaire Belloc, "The Pelagian Drinking Song"
By the way, can anyone suggest a tune to which this might fittingly be sung? (Those who know Zadok are preparing themselves... hearing my not-quite-tenor, not-quite bass voice is comparable only to the experience of a Florence Foster Jenkins concert.
The Telegraph has this piece on the British debate about the euthanasia of new-born babies:
The Church of England intensified the debate on seriously ill newborn babies yesterday when it said that in rare cases it may be better to allow a child to die.
Overriding the presumption that life should be maintained at all cost, the Church said it would be right to choose to withdraw or withhold treatment, knowing it would result in death, if intervention were futile.
The statement comes in a submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body that will publish the results of a two-year inquiry later this week into the ethics of prolonging life in foetuses and the newborn.
It prompted fury from disability rights groups, led by Simone Apsis, the parliamentary officer for the UK Disabled People's Council (UKDPC), representing 70 groups. "How can the Church of England say Christian compassion includes the killing of disabled babies either through the withdrawing or withholding of treatment or by active euthanasia?" she said.
" It appears that the whole debate on whether disabled babies are worth keeping alive is being dominated by professionals and religious people without any consultation with disabled people."
In a submission to the Nuffield Inquiry last week, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (RCOG) called for an open discussion about the ethics of euthanasia for the sickest of babies.
It called for a debate about the option to end the suffering of a severely damaged newborn baby, which may have been aborted if the parents had known earlier of the extent of its disabilities and potential suffering.
Meanwhile, the Church of England, in its submission, states: "The fetus and neonate are unique individuals under God. We cannot accept as a justification for killing them the argument that their lives are not worth living. This is not incompatible with accepting that it may in some circumstances be right to choose to withhold or withdraw treatment, knowing that it will possibly, probably or even certainly result in death."
The Church says such a course of action would only be justified if two conditions were satisfied.
"First, there would have to be very strong proportionate reasons for overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained. Second, all reasonable alternatives would have to be fully considered so that the possibly lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance."
Claire Foster, the policy adviser on medical ethics for the Church, said: "We have not changed our position. The Church of England has always held that every life is valuable to God. But we are saying there may be times when treatment is futile and therefore it would be appropriate to withdraw treatment."
(snip)
The Christian Medical Fellowship, which represents more than 5,000 doctors across the country, said a decision to withhold treatment from a baby should not be confused with euthanasia.
Dr Peter Saunders, general secretary, said in some cases, withdrawing or withholding treatment was appropriate.
"There is a point in medicine where we say enough is enough," he said. "In those cases it is good medical judgment to withhold."
On a much lighter note, I'm pleased to see that Tradition is making a comeback in one British school:
THE fountain pen, complete with leaky nibs, bursting cartridges and indelibly stained shirts, is making a compulsory comeback in a last-ditch attempt to save the nation’s handwriting.
The spread of vowel-free text messages among the young and the rise of grammarless e-mails across all age ranges is leaving children, university students and even teachers unable to write legibly by hand.
But now a leading independent school has ordered pupils aged nine and over to write only with fountain pens.
Bryan Lewis, the headmaster of The Mary Erskine & Stewart’s Melville Junior School in Edinburgh, believes that his pupils’ educational attainment and sense of self-worth will all benefit.
“All teachers who join our junior school are taught a handwriting style by my colleagues and they, in turn, teach all our children the same style,” Mr Lewis said. “They are helped by our insistence that children from primary 5 onwards write in fountain pen.
“Learning to write in fountain pen not only results in beautiful presentation but also has the not-insignificant bonus of developing children’s selfesteem.”
Mr Lewis’s policy is likely to be well-received by those in authority. Tony Blair is a fountain-pen user and has been known to give heavyweight Churchill pens as gifts.
Funnily enough, I had a teacher who insisted that we learn how to write with fountain pens... I can't imagine how much more illegible my scrawl would be if she didn't do that...