Sunday, May 28, 2006

Interesting EU Story...

From the Telegraph:
To most of the outside world, it is known as the dull Dutch market town where the treaty that created the European Union was signed in 1992. Small wonder then, that the bulk of Maastricht's foreign visitors come not for the history, but for the abundance of Amsterdam-style "coffee shops" selling marijuana.
Now, however, fed up at the growing numbers of drug tourists, Maastricht plans to move up to half of the offending cafes to the Belgian border - a scheme that has tested the spirit of European integration to its limit.
For the town's mayor, Gerd Leers, the move will simply relocate the cafes safely out of Maastricht and closer to their main market, which locals say is overwhelmingly young Belgians anyway.
But officials in Belgium, where cannabis remains illegal, say the plan will completely derail their own zero-tolerance policy on drugs. Because both countries are signatories to the EU's Schengen free movement agreement, the national boundary exists nowadays only on maps, which means that Belgian towns such as Lanaken, right on the border, may end up looking as if they have their own coffee shop.
Dutch police, however, back Mr Leers. By moving some of Maastricht's 16 coffee shops to within a few yards of Belgium, they hope to export not just the cannabis trade but also its undesired sidekick, illegal hard drugs.
"Their fears are legitimate," said Peter Tans, the police spokesman for south Limburg, the Dutch region that includes Maastricht. "Experience has shown that when you move the coffee shop the problem moves, too, and crime levels where the coffee shop used to be drop dramatically. But we say to the Belgians: 'These are your customers, keep them in your country'."

The Other (Leonardo) Da Vinci Story

From the Times (link includes pictures):
SKETCHES hidden beneath one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works have been revealed to the public for the first time after scientists discovered the provocative images under a thick layer of paint.
A bloody skirmish between knights, a clutch of figures rebuilding a ruined temple and even an elephant were carefully laid out by Leonardo in the preparatory “under-drawing” for his Adoration of the Magi.
In the version of the painting known to the world, in which much of the underdrawing is reproduced, these elements have been hidden.
Parts of the original design were deliberately obscured — sometimes with swipes of charcoal — because in 15th century Florence they were deemed unsuitable for a picture of the infant Jesus and the wise men.
In the brown painting that now hangs in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, the fighting knights on horseback have gone, as have the prone figures — presumably corpses — on the ground. All that can be seen is a pair of prancing horses.
The anonymous painter also covered up several figures who were rebuilding the ruins in the background. Signor Seracini suggests that the monks may have wanted the past to appear abandoned with the coming of Christ. “The main difference in the under-drawing is that it is much busier, there’s lots of movement. About half the human figures disappear in the painting phase,” he said.
Signor Seracini and the art historian Antonio Natali believe that Leonardo planned a battle scene and temple being rebuilt in the background to symbolise war and peace, drawing on the visions of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. The tiny elephant that Signor Seracini spotted might have been a symbol of exotic transport used by the Magi.

Link: The Adoration as was

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tsunami... and rumours of same...

I've been hearing some rumours of late - the suggestion is that Cardinal Sodano may well have his retirement accepted by the Holy Father before the end of the 1st week in June. The question is - will the announcement be made before or after the Papal trip to Poland which begins on Thursday? A well-placed friend suggests that it may well happen before.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Something Typically Italian...

I recently had occasion to travel a bit by car around Italy and was stunned to come across one of the newest products on the Italian market. Whilst in most of the rest of the civilized world, when alcholic drinks companies are not maintaining a discreet silence about the ill-effects associated with abuse of their products they fund 'responsible drinking campaigns' and help sponsor anti-drink driving campaigns to bolster their public image. One Italian company has a different approach. Drive Beer is a low alcohol beer which is primarily marketed on the basis that one can can drink it and drive whilst remaining below the blood-alcohol limit. Apparantly one can have two drive beers and still legally take the wheel. It really is quite astonishing to see posters with a traffic cop and a Formula One racecar driver enjoying a beer together. In addition to their posters they have this website with one of the most annoying advertising jingles ever.
Drive Beer - The Beer for People who Drive. *gob-smacked*

Friday, May 19, 2006

On Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado

The Vatican Press office has issued a statement about the founder of the Legionaries of Christ.
It says that since 1998 the CDF has received complains about 'crimes reserved exclusively to the competency of the dicastery.' Fr Maciel published a denial of these accusations in 2002. In 2005 he resigned as superior of the Legionaries due to reasons of 'advanced age'.
The above items were object of 'mature examination' by the CDF under the norms of JPII's 2001 motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitati tutela.
Having received the results of the investigation, Cardinal Leveda has decided not to pursue a Canonical Process due to reasons of advanced age. He has invited Fr Maciel to a discreet life of prayer and penance renouncing all public ministry. The Holy Father has approved this decision.

Personal Note
I must say that this is a most extraordinary press release. I'm sure that some commentators will see the decision not to pursue a canonical process against Fr Maciel as being a cover-up. However, the question must be asked what one can do in any legal system when the one accused of any crime is of advanced age.
The fact that the Vatican has made public Cardinal Leveda's request to Fr Maciel that he live a discreet life of prayer and penance renouncing all public ministry is significant. It would be very easy to draw the conclusion from that statement that substance was found to the allegations. Indeed, such a statement certainly does not benefit Fr Maciel's reputation. It will be interesting to see what the response of the Legionaries will be.

On maps...

There's an interesting piece about the drawbacks of GPS and the benefits of the traditional map in the Times. it's worth reading in its entirity, but here are some snippets:
HAVE A FRIEND who has fallen in love with the satellite navigation system in his car. His sat-nav has a female American voice. My friend thinks she may be from the Midwest. He calls her Charlene. He likes the way she tells him what to do, coaxingly, but with complete conviction. Sometimes he deliberately takes a wrong turning, just to make her cross. Charlene is lovely when she’s angry, he says. But then, when he gets to where he is going and she purrs “You have reached your destination”, he feels fulfilled. He loves Charlene.
I hate Charlene. I hate her smug topographical omniscience. She never admits she is wrong (a characteristic not confined to mechanical passenger-seat navigators), even though she frequently is: as demonstrated last week by the ambulance that took twice as long as necessary to get a child to hospital because the driver insisted on slavish obedience to his sat-nav. Frequently, Charlene is entirely misleading: dozens of motorists recently followed their navigation systems into a ford in the village of Luckington, ignoring the warning road signs. And she is no help in a crisis. If you drive on to a car ferry, Charlene assumes you have toppled into the drink, but instead of screaming “Oh God you idiot why didn’t you listen to me we are all going to drown”, she just falls sulkily silent.
But above all, I resent Charlene because she and her like are gradually killing off maps, the charts that have revealed the changing contours of our world and minds since the birth of culture. English mapmakers once placed the phrase Hic sunt dracones, “Here be dragons”, on maps to mark the edges of the known world. Charlene has slain what few dragons remained. With a GPS embedded in dashboard, wristwatch or mobile telephone, we will never be lost again.
The paper map will soon die, and with it something central to human experience. There is a joy is not knowing exactly where you are. The electronic gizmo takes you from A to Z, but it does not show you the place you never knew about, off at the side of the map, the road less travelled. The joy of exploration lies in not knowing exactly where you are, or where you are going, in trying to match the visual world outside with the one-dimensional world represented by the map. Wherever you go now, the machine has got there first.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


From the Telegraph, some Anglican tat:
After a wait of almost a quarter of a century, seven of Britain's most distinguished military officers were finally installed before the Queen at Westminster Abbey yesterday as Knights Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of The Bath.
In a colourful ceremony, its pomp and pageantry dating back centuries, the seven, attired in the order's flowing crimson satin mantles, made their oaths and formally took up their places in the Knights Grand Cross stalls in the Abbey's Lady Chapel of King Henry VII.
It had been a long journey. For while they had been granted their knighthoods (GCB) back in the 1980s - and were therefore entitled to display their banner and crest in the chapel - the longevity of previous holders of the honour has made the waiting list for one of the coveted 34 stalls set aside for the most senior knights longer than even the most exclusive of London clubs.
New knights - or Dames Grand Cross - can only move in when a previous occupant has died. Inevitably, some on the waiting list do not make it.

Formal installations take place just once every four years, and are attended by the Prince of Wales, who is the Order's Great Master, with the Queen attending once every eight years.
Yesterday she arrived at the Abbey to a fanfare, wearing the crimson mantle - held by a pageboy - over a white lace dress, and a sparkling diamond tiara.
She joined the solemn procession of knights - several septuagenarians, more octogenarians and at least one nonagenarian, with some leaning heavily on sticks - through the Abbey to the chapel.
During the installation service, which dates back 281 years, she knelt before the altar to make the traditional offering of gold and silver, symbolic of surrendering worldly treasure. The coins were two gold sovereigns -one from 1926, the year of her birth, and the other from 2006 - and two shillings - from 1570 and 1571, the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Field Marshal Sir John Stanier, 80, who at 24 years has had the longest wait of all, was the senior knight to be installed, which required him to draw his sword and hold it aloft, while the others partially drew theirs before replacing them in their sheaths in unison.
All uttered the oath, which still contains the original pledge to "defend maidens, widows and orphans".(snip)
Yesterday's newly installed knights would be relieved that the medieval rituals, which demanded that the knights bath, then sleep in coarse russet cloth before being woken to spend a night of prayer and vigil in the chapel, have never been implemented.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Do I need a reason to post such beautiful prose?

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles, and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in — glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendor and joy. Oh! what a revolution! and what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone.
From Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France

Strange Story from Canada, eh?

I remember reading somewhere that Catholic cultures are inclined to use more blasphemy when they swear, whilst in traditionally Protestant areas various body parts and physiological activities are the preferred swear words. But this story from Canada is bizarre:
MONTREAL (CP) - Montreal's Catholic churches are trying to take back the tabernacle and the chalice, reminding Quebecers that the common French-language cuss words are still sacred objects to the church.
The churches launched a cheeky publicity campaign on the weekend to teach the true meaning of words that roll so easily off the tongues of many francophones when they stub a toe or strike a thumb with a hammer.
Several Montreal churches were festooned with gigantic black posters with the names of religious objects in blood-red letters and the true definition in smaller white type.
"Tabernacle!" shouted one example. "Small cupboard locked by key in the middle of the altar containing the ciborium."
Another explained that "ciboire" (ciborium, in English) is a container that holds the "hostie" (hosts) for communion.
Both words, along with "calisse" (chalice), "sacristie" (sacristy) and "sacrement" (sacrament) have also become curses in Quebec's version of the French language. Among others.
While some of the words were used in a blasphemous fashion all the way back to the 1800s, they became especially common as francophones turned their backs on the Roman Catholic church over the past 40 years.
"There are a lot of people in our society who don't even know what these words mean anymore," said Rev. Jean Boyer, a Montreal priest who was visiting Notre-Dame Basilica on Sunday.
"We're hoping once the shock passes, people will think more about the true meaning of the words. There are many young people who don't even know that in old times this was blasphemy."
It's a uniquely Quebec problem for the church, says Monique Carmel, a linguist and professional translator.

On Love...

The Cntyr has put together a very charming little florilegium concerning human and divine love.
Searching for some original content for this post I stumbled across this page (alas with some broken links) which links to some sections of the Song of Songs chanted in the various Jewish traditions.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What mothers mean to us...

Via Google Video of the Day we have this hilarious English beer advert (NB video link) starring comedian Peter Kay.

In the news...

Dr Jaroslav Pelikan (RIP). I'm reading one of his books at the moment.

In the Telegraph:
For what is claimed to be the first time, the four concerti that make up The Four Seasons have been recorded in a vocal version - using the four sonnets thought to have been written by the Venetian composer to accompany them.
Juliette Pochin, a Welsh mezzo soprano who has been hailed as "the next Katherine Jenkins" has used a selection of lines from Vivaldi's sonnets and sung them in Italian over parts of The Four Seasons. In effect, her voice replaces the solo violin.
When Vivaldi wrote the concerti in 1726, the sonnets appeared as prefaces.
Bucolic, and rather obvious, they are not of the quality of Shakespeare but as Vivaldi noted, "they explain the music more easily". Pochin's 10-minute suite appears on her album Venezia, a celebration of the music of Venice.

The Times tells of another llicit Chinese episcopal consecration:
CHINA threw down a fresh challenge to the Vatican yesterday by installing a third bishop in its state-approved Catholic church in defiance of Rome.
Zhan Silu, 45, became bishop of the Mindong diocese in southeastern Fujian province, where the Catholic Church is particularly strong but where most of the faithful are members of an underground church loyal to Rome.
His appointment is controversial because it was sanctioned by China’s state-approved church but has not been blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. It jeopardises any progress achieved in recent tortuous and quiet contacts with the Vatican towards normalising relations, which have been frozen since the 1949 Communist takeover.
China’s state church has twice angered Rome in recent weeks. It unilaterally consecrated a bishop in Wuhu, in the eastern province of Anhui, and another in Kunming, in southwestern Yunnan, drawing warnings from the Vatican that both could be excommunicated.
Last week an assistant bishop was appointed in the northeastern Shenyang with Vatican approval. But the damage to the fragile breakthrough in relations may be long lasting.
The bishop said that he would have liked the Vatican’s approval but it never came.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Very cool art...

From Daniel Mitsui we have this extraordinary crucifixion.
I like that a lot. I do wish that he hadn't labelled everyone, though. Much better to let the symbolism speak for itself. (But that's a minor quibble.)
It's funny that I should stumble across this particular depiction because I visited an exhibition about the history of the Swiss Guards in the Vatican last week and noticed some old flags presented to the various Swiss Cantons some centuries ago. (I meant to take note of exactly when...) Anyway, some of them had depictions of the crucifixion as part of their design, and included in these depictions were Christ's linen garment with three dice on top. It's something that one occasionally sees included in depictions of the crucifixion. I'm actually a little curious about the specific history and significance of this inclusion which is most uncommon.

In the papers...

From the Telegraph, this story about tackling crime in Naples:
Tourists checking into hotels in Naples this summer are to receive an unusual gift as part of an innovative scheme to protect visitors from gangs of "Rolex-snatchers".
Every guest will find a cheap plastic watch by their beds emblazoned with a motif of either a pizza or Mount Vesuvius.
Attached to the watch will be a piece of paper saying: "Leave your Rolex in the hotel safe, and keep track of your holiday time with this simple sign of welcome."
It is hoped that the tackiness of the watch, the centrepiece of a £150,000 programme dubbed "Operation Bluff the Bandits", will deter the crime-ridden city's myriad bag snatchers and pickpockets.
There's a story about the spread of a certain brand of Protestantism in the Ukraine (some readers may find the content offensive):
The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is not quite sure which part of Sunday Adelaja's weekly services it likes the least.
The dubious Russian pop and the pom-pom-waving Cossack dancers are certainly contenders. The hot babes in choir dress swaying to the music might win the vote of its many older and weaker-hearted clergymen.
Or it could be the thousands of Ukrainian teenagers squealing as the diminutive Nigerian pastor preaches the word of God.
In the 1,000 years that it has been in existence, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has faced down many threats ranging from Reformation-era heretics to Soviet iconoclasts and modern day schismatics.
But never before has it had to see off an intruder who encourages his congregants to "shake their booty and praise the Lord". Mr Adelaja is a serious threat, even if it took the Church a while to realise it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Inquietum est cor nostrum...

From the Confessions of St Augustine, Chap 1 of Book 1:
GREAT art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou "resistest the proud, " -- yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee. But who is there that calls upon Thee without knowing Thee? For he that knows Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art. Or perhaps we call on Thee that we may know Thee. "But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher?" And those who seek the Lord shall praise Him. For those who seek shall find Him, and those who find Him shall praise Him. Let me seek Thee, Lord, in calling on Thee, and call on Thee in believing in Thee; for Thou hast been preached unto us. O Lord, my faith calls on Thee, --that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher.'

Folks, I'm afraid that I have been quite busy of late, but I thought I'd share one of the things that has been bouncing around my little head for the past few weeks.
It's about the start of St Augustine's Confessions. It seems to me that people have jumped on the famous line our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee without fully considering the context. Certainly, the restlessness of our hearts and the insatiability of our will does in some sense point to the fact that our destiny is not confined to this passing world, but I sometimes think that we make the mental leap from this restlessness to our supernatural destiny. One of the difficulties that the believer needs to face is that the mysteries of Christianity become commonplace, and we fail to grasp how extraordinary the life of the believer is. This intuition of Augustine is a hard-won and subtle insight that grounds the potential of our communion with the Divine and the possibility of our Redemption.
Furthermore, I am not sure that we are not doing Augustine an injustice by reading that line in isolation. Firstly, I think it can lead us to take our supernatural destiny as less than gratuitious. Secondly, I think that we run the danger of confusing our natural (and insatiable) will with a genuine love and desire for the Divine. I think that it is significant that Augustine seems to suggest that it's not simply some kind of natural desire within him that is crying out to God, but rather he says: my faith calls on Thee, --that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher.' Augustine himself is wrestling with the problem of knowing God and the relationship between Creator and creature, but I suspect that we neglect the role of explicit (supernatural) faith in this reflection at our peril.

Monday, May 08, 2006

On things liturgical...

I note the following aside at Shouts in the Piazza about the feast of Corpus Christi:
The Pope still celebrates it on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday while everyone else (including the rest of the diocese of Rome) celebrates it on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. So...which one?
The explaination is simple - the Italian Episcopal Conference have moved the celebration to Sunday. However, the change doesn't apply to the Vatican City. That's why the Pope still celebrates on Thursday, even though the Papal Corpus Christi procession is on Italian soil.
And from the Telegraph:
Home owners worried about crime in their street, the problem of rising damp or lacklustre sex in the bedroom can now call on divine assistance.
The Church of England is going into partnership with estate agents to offer blessing services to people moving home.
From this week, house buyers in a number of dioceses will be offered the services of a vicar, who will say special prayers to cover almost every eventuality.
Clergy behind the scheme want to tap into the explosion of interest in New Age practices such as feng shui as a way of tempting people back to church.
The Rev Chris Painter, a vicar in Eccles, Greater Manchester, has helped to pioneer the initiative. He is confident that it will show that Christianity can adapt to an increasingly secular age.
"There is still a huge interest in spirituality and this is a way of our meeting that, but not in a traditional way," he said.
"The current trend in New Age spirituality is aimed at self-fulfilment, people wanting to be happy and achieve things. We are trying to focus on Christianity and show people that God has an interest in our lives."
Many Christians will be familiar with blessing services. In the case of non-churchgoers, clergy will spend time with them to ensure that they are happy about the process before the blessing is given.
As the vicars go from room to room, they will lay hands on everything from the bed, praying for a healthy sex life, to the lavatory, asking for "good health and to give thanks for sanitation".

Pope to meet fewer politicians...

From the Telegraph:
The Vatican has sharply cut back the number of political audiences to prevent the Pope being exploited by visiting politicians looking for headlines.
From now on, only heads of government and heads of state will be granted an audience with the pontiff.
A set of tough new rules has been drafted to protect 79-year-old Pope Benedict XVI from the flood of requests that arrive daily.
The Vatican outlined the rules in a letter to papal nuncios, its ambassadors abroad. One month's notice is needed and meetings will be restricted to Friday and Saturday mornings.
If there are several heads of state in Rome for a summit, they will meet the Pope at the same time.
This seems to match what I'm seeing on the ground - without a doubt, Benedict is not granting as many audiences as Pope John Paul did.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I'm listening to the 2006 Reith Lectures on the BBC at the moment. Orchestra conductor Daniel Barenboim is lecturing about the relationship between music and society. Anyway, I had to share the following snippet from the 2nd lecture:
And the most extraordinary example of offensive usage of music, because it underlines some kind of association which I fail to recognise, was shown to me one day when watching the television in Chicago and seeing a commercial of a company called American Standard. And it showed a plumber running very very fast in great agitation, opening the door to a toilet and showing why this company actually cleans the toilet better than other companies. And you know what music was played to that?
The Lachrymose [sic] from Mozart's Requiem. Now ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry, I'm probably immodest enough to think I have a sense of humour but I can't laugh at this. And I laugh even less when I read some, a document which I've brought here to read to you in its entirety. It was published, I'm afraid I don't know in what newspaper, but it is the Editor's note. The following is a letter sent in by Christine Statmuller of Basking Ridge, it is in reference to her previous letter which ran in the April issue of The Catholic Spirit. 'Thanks for printing my letter in which I objected to the use of music from Mozart's Requiem by American Standard to advertise their new champion toilet. As you can see from the enclosed letter below, it achieved results, thanks to the letters from other incensed readers.' And the letter is as follows:- 'Thank you for contacting American Standard with your concerns about the background music in the current television commercial for our champion toilet. We appreciate that you have taken the time to communicate with us, and share your feelings on a matter that clearly is very important to you.'
'When we first selected Mozart's Requiem, we didn't know of its religious significance.'
'We actually learned about it from a small number of customers like you, who also contacted us. Although there is ample precedent for commercial use of spiritually theme music, we have decided to change to a passage from Wagner's Tannhauser Overture,'
'which music experts have assured us does not have religious importance.'
'The new music will begin airing in June.'
I think that says it all!


From The Cafeteria is Closed:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 161.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.
Hmpf! The nearest book (the Penguin Edition of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's) has only 160 pages.
Let's try the second nearest book...
And when I asked him how he could tell this from the molten lead, he answered, 'There are seven metals belonging to the seven planets; and since Saturn is the Lord of lead, when lead is poured over anyone who has been bewitched, it is his property to discover the witchcraft by his power.' From Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witchcraft) by Jacobus Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer.

In S.Maria in Trastevere...

I found myself in S.Maria in Trastevere today, and thought this fresco of the Council of Trent was worth snapping. I'm guessing that's 'Heresy' being squished at the bottom right.

And I was taken by the statue of St Anthony. Look at all the petitions. If your church has a stautue of St Anthony, I can guarantee that it's one of the big money-makers for your parish.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fascinating (Brideshead Revisited Companion)

I stumbled across this fascinating website whilst trying to find out about the Savoy Chapel where the divorced Rex was able to marry Julia. I had assumed previously (and incorrectly) that it might have something to do with the Savoy Hotel, but I discover that it is a 'Royal Peculiar':
178 Savoy Chapel
Julia later explains to Charles how sordid the whole affair had been. She points out that the Savoy Chapel was ‘the place where divorced couples got married in those days - a poky little place’.
The Chapel in fact has an interesting history. Savoy is today a province of France but in the Middle Ages was a more-or-less independent dukedom. King Henry III of England married Anne of Savoy and so began the Anglo-Saxon involvement with the word Savoy. Her uncle Peter of Savoy built a palace in London which contained the original Savoy Chapel; both were destroyed in the Peasants’ Revolt (1381). On its site Henry VII started to build the Savoy Hospital for homeless people in the last years of the fifteenth century; it was not completed until 1512. It was huge, with a nave 200 feet long designed to hold a hundred beds. All that now remains of that great endeavour (dissolved in the Reformation) is the side chapel we call the Savoy Chapel, though the hotel and the theatre which were later built on the site were also named Savoy.
The Chapel is in fact in the private possession of the monarch, and has been since 1937 the official chapel of the Royal Victorian Order. The fact that the chaplain is answerable only to the monarch and not to the church authorities allowed divorced people to book it for remarriage.
I'm also pleased to find an explaination for cousin Jaspar's comment about Boar's Hill:
26 Keep clear of Boar’s Hill
Boar’s Hill was a village to the south-west of Oxford. Many dons lived there. It was supposed to contain many young females who were always on the lookout to entrap eligible young undergraduates into devotion, engagement and marriage. But a more likely explanation of Jasper’s aversion is that a number of ladies (e.g. Lady Keeble) maintained literary salons in Boar’s Hill which encouraged a stifling rather than liberating air of intellectual seriousness. These might on the other hand be sufficiently attractive to inveigle students away from their books to the delights of intelligent social discourse.
There is a splendid and famous view of Oxford from Boar’s Hill.

In the news...

The Times has an article about the possible election of any one of a number of homosexual candidates as Episcopalian bishop in California. The whole thing is worth a read. Most interesting are the candidate profiles:
Bonnie Perry Rector of All Saints in Chicago. Certified kayak instructor and “recreational tree climber” who has introduced “pet blessing” ceremonies and offering champagne in the communion cup. Her partner of 18 years is Susan Harlow, a minister of the United Church of Christ and theology professor
Michael Barlowe: Diocesal officer in California added to shortlist by parishioners’ petition. Shares “lifelong commitment to unconditional love” with Paul Burrows, rector of an Episcopal church in San Francisco
Robert Taylor South African-born protege of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and first openly gay dean of an American cathedral, in Seattle. Enjoys “the outdoors, exercise, music, reading and movies” with his friend Jerry Smith
Mark Andrus “Social justice” activist and yoga-practising Bishop Suffragan in the Diocese of Alabama. Married with two children
Eugene Sutton Charismatic canon of the National Cathedral in Washington DC and the only black candidate. Wife is a professional musician. Four children
Jane Gould Rector of St Stephen’s Church in Massachusetts. Previously chaplain of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with history of anti-war protest dating back to Vietnam. Husband is a writer and teacher. Two children
Donald Schell Rector of St Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, added to shortlist by parishioners’ petition. Wife is an Aids activist. Four children

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vatican Response to the Chinese Ordinations...

Strong Words for the Chinese in today's Bolletino! Reuters reproduces the jist of it.
Incidentally, I'm puzzled by any suggestion that the ordinations could be considered invalid. As far as I know, the form of the rite used was sufficent for validity and I would have thought that even if the intention of the 'Patriotic Bishops' was to ordain a bishop to spite Rome, implict in this is the intention to actually ordain a bishop.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Art & Music and Stuff...

The Cnytr has an excellent post about the Alba Madonna and Fra Angelico's Adoration of the Magi. Personally I'm fascinated by the Baptist in the Alba Madonna:
The figure of John the Baptist as a child completes the tri-figure scene. In contrast to the leftward-gazing Madonna and child, John gazes up at the two in childlike admiration, but not without a touch of melancholy. His expression seems to be that of a small boy about to cry over something genuinely tragic. Grasping the bottom of the cross in a seeming act of homage and in reference to the traditional depiction of John the Baptist as holding the cross-herald with the “Ecce Agnus Dei” banner, John’s figure stands outside of, or perhaps on the very edge of, the central triangular shape created by the virgin’s head and elbow, completed either with the torso of the Christ child, or else with John’s face.
Over at Hymnography Unbound we have a critique of Mozart's liturgical music as liturgical music:
I am similarly suspicious of Mozart's use of rhythm on the word "sanguine." Obviously this is a high point of the mysticism of the text, yet Mozart throws in this precious syncopation at just that moment. Then he starts again with a clean D major--even a pristine D major because one of the notes is left out and only the bare and indisputably D major notes (D and F#) are left, and sung in the high voices, like a boy's choir that has no concept of the meaning of sacrifice. It is as though the Blood never happened, except as a platform for Mozart's excessive exercise in rhythm. I could go on and on.
I frankly admit that I'm out my depth there, but in an earlier post she says something interesting:
I would say that all truly liturgical artists must be careful to be highly derivative, in the best sense. There is no original revelation, just further or subjective reflections upon the one revealed Truth. And yet the expressions of the subjectively tasted realities must be in such deep continuity with what has come before in the tradition--if they are to be used as liturgical art--that there seems nothing particularly new or fashionable about them. It should be just the same thing, told a little differently this time, but in almost exactly the same way as well.
When she writes that I immediately think of Haugen's hideous Mass of Creation. That's one piece of so-called liturgical music that always strikes me as being at heart pagan.

Another royal dog-lover...

In the Telegraph:
Prince Henrik, the prince consort of Denmark, has shocked animal lovers by declaring that dog meat - fried or grilled - is one of his favourite dishes.
The 72-year-old prince, a Frenchman by birth, said his penchant for dog meat had developed from the time he spent growing up and studying in Vietnam.
But the disclosure, made in an interview with a Danish magazine, has shocked the nation, particularly as the prince is the honorary president of the Danish Dachshund Club.
He has several dachshunds and, despite publishing a cookery book called Ikke Altid Gaselever (Not Always Goose Liver), has even published eulogies to them.
He invited Danes to try eating dog meat themselves. "I do not mind eating dog meat at all," he said. "The dogs I eat have been bred to be eaten anyway, just like chickens.
"It tastes like rabbit, like dry venison, or like veal - just drier." He said the meat tasted best when it was sautéed or grilled and cut into thin slices.
A book of Prince Henrik's poems, in which he praised his dogs, was published last year. A poem to his dachshund Evita compares her paws to "wings".
"I love to stroke your coat and to see how it shines/ You dear, you special dog..../ You receive me with papal pride."
He previously provoked nationwide debate when he suggested that parents should use the skills of dog training to bring up their children.
Since the prince's admission in the magazine Ud&Se, Danish newspapers have reopened their files on a royal dachshund that disappeared from Amalienborg palace, Copenhagen, in the early 1990s. Despite a countrywide search, it never reappeared.
Prince Henrik learnt Danish and changed his name, religion and nationality to marry Queen Margrethe II in 1967. But he has repeatedly complained about the Danes' lack of willingness to accept him.

Monday, May 01, 2006

England's Disappearing Choir-boys

From the Telegraph:
There is an alarming number of empty seats in the choir stalls of Britain's cathedrals because, for the first time for centuries, too few boys want to become choristers.
Choir schools are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their places despite generous help with fees, partly because boys prefer football and computer games to the commitment of daily evensong and Sunday services.
The shortage is having a knock-on effect by depleting the pool from which lay clerks - adult male singers - are largely drawn, threatening the future of a musical tradition that has existed for more than 1,000 years, and which is the envy of Europe.
The Choir Schools' Association, which represents 44 schools attached to cathedrals, churches and college chapels, said that figures fluctuated annually, but the numbers of boys applying for each place had fallen from 2.7 in 2000 to 2.4 in 2003. The figure dropped to 1.9 last year.
Philip Moore, organist and Master of the Music at York Minster, said that they should have 24 boys but only had 20.
He said that the numbers had been hit by the decline of parish church choirs, a recruiting ground for the boy choristers needed to produce the distinctively pure sound of English cathedrals.
Church choirs have not only been hit by the falling attendance but also by evangelical clergy who have introduced "happy clappy" worship with guitars and drums.
Paul Hale, the Rector Chori at Southwell Minster, said that they had 11 boy choristers when they should have 16. "Because people don't go to church so much, they don't have the commitment, so we are not getting the flow of boys from church choirs," said Mr Hale.
England's cathedral choir schools are an interesting vestiage of the pre-Reformation time that survives in Anglicanism.