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


* 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?
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.
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
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
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
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."
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...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fans of Rome 'blogs...

will want to check out Daily Rome where Julie of the Catholic Clipper 'blog posts photos and slices of Roman life.

On the Feast of St Leo...

From one of his sermons:
And so, dearly beloved, when the Son of God says, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me,” He uses the outcry of our nature, and pleads the cause of human frailty and trembling: that our patience may be strengthened and our fears driven away in the things which we have to bear. At length, ceasing even to ask this now that He had in a measure palliated our weak fears, though it is not expedient for us to retain them, He passes into another mood, and says, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou;” and again, “If this cup can not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done” These words of the Head are the salvation of the whole Body: these words have instructed all the faithful, kindled the zeal of all the confessors, crowned all the martyrs. For who could overcome the world’s hatred, the blasts of temptations, the terrors of persecutors, had not Christ, in the name of all and for all, said, to the Father, “Thy will be done?” Then let the words be learnt by all the Church’s sons who have been purchased at so great a price, so freely justified: and when the shock of some violent temptation has fallen on them, let them use the aid of this potent prayer, that they may conquer their fear and trembling, and learn to suffer patiently.

Procol Harum in the news...

From the Times:
Its haunting organ fused Bach with pop to create one of the most enduring hits of the flower-power era — and next week A Whiter Shade Of Pale returns to centre stage.
The Procol Harum song is at the centre of a million-pound royalties dispute to be heard at the High Court in London on Monday. Released in 1967, it became a global smash, selling 10 million copies. It is still used in advertisements and regularly features in “greatest song of all time” polls.
The song has always been credited to Gary Brooker, Procol Harum’s frontman, and lyricist Keith Reid. Now almost 40 years on, Matthew Fisher, the band’s classically trained organist, claims that the song’s signature winding melody line was his work. Fisher, 60, now a computer programmer in Croydon, South London, is claiming a share of the song’s copyright and past sales, which could earn him up to £1 million.
The dispute is complicated because all sides agree that Johann Sebastian Bach originally inspired the song’s mournful melody.
With Bob Dylan’s records then popularising the Hammond organ sound, the band called on Fisher to embellish the track, but the organist argues that his contribution was far greater. Musicologists will tell the court that he transformed the organ melody into something far superior to the chord structure that Brooker borrowed from Bach.
His organ melody includes lines running in counterpoint to the vocal melody and also the memorable eight-bar solo that appears between verses. He transformed the tempo and rhythm of the cantata “lift”, cleverly disguising its classical source.
Brooker, who strongly contests the claim, concedes that Fisher, who left the band in 1969, “refined” the song’s use of Bach. But the organist believes he created an original melody.
A keyboard will be installed in the High Court for Fisher to demonstrate his contribution, his solicitors said.

Youtube Videos of 'A Whiter Shade of Pale':
Procol Harum
Annie Lennox (Not as good as the original & Annie looks decidedly manic...)
A crazy evil re-mix by Sarah Brightman


From the Telegraph:
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, owned by the Royal Family for almost 400 years, has lain unloved and seldom seen in a storeroom at Hampton Court for decades. Misattributed as a copy of a Caravaggio by an unknown hand, it was valued in thousands rather than millions.
The Royal Collection, whose experts have cleaned, restored and studied the picture for six years, declared yesterday that it is authentic and one of only around 50 surviving canvases by the Italian master. "I am convinced it is by Caravaggio," Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, said. "We are extremely excited, it's the most important discovery in the collection in the last decade."
The painting was bought by Charles I in 1637 and after being sold with most of the Royal Collection during the Commonwealth, it was re-acquired by Charles II.
Years of grime, varnishing and zealous over-painting to cover up damage convinced generations of art historians that it was of little merit. It was recently valued at "a few tens of thousands of pounds", mainly because Charles I's stamp was on the back.
Competing with 7,000 other paintings in the collection, it has not been hung in a royal palace for years and no gallery has asked to borrow it.
It will now be shown in Rome at the end of the month in honour of the Italian curator, Prof Maurizio Marini, who first suspected that there might be more to the work.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mater et Caput

Air travel becomes more hellish...

If it's not bad enough that bringing liquids on board is restricted, things are conspiring to make travel by plane even less pleasant:
One of the last refuges from incessantly ringing mobile phones is about to disappear as Emirates plans to allow passengers to use them on aircraft from January.
The sound of people telling friends and relatives that they are “over Greenland” will now be added to the drone of engines and the wail of babies.
The airline has spent £14 million developing technology that will allow passengers to use their mobiles in the air without the phones interfering with cockpit systems.
Phones are currently banned on all flights as soon as the engines are started because they cause signal surges that can interfere with navigation and communication systems.
Emirates believes that it will get approval from European air-safety regulators by January to become the first airline to offer the service.
And a rather bizzare tale from the Times:
A doctor at a family planning clinic told a patient that she needed an exorcism because there was something sinister moving around inside her stomach, a medical tribunal was told yesterday.
Joyce Pratt, 44, allegedly told the patient, who was seeking contraceptive advice, that she might be possessed by an evil spirit and needed religious rather than medical help.
She gave the woman crosses and trinkets to ward off black magic, allegedly told her that her mother was a witch, that she and her husband were trying to kill her, and suggested that she visit a Roman Catholic priest at Westminster Cathedral in London.
During the consultation at the Westside Contraceptive Clinic in Central London the doctor was said to have told the patient that she had black magic powers that could help to alleviate the problem.
The patient, identified only as Mrs K, was said to have left the clinic “very shaken and intimidated”.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Who the fridge is Jackson Pollock?

From the Times:
Teri Horton bought the paint-splattered canvas at a California junk shop for a joke. But the joke may be on the art world instead.
The retired lorry driver paid $5 for the drip painting in 1991, bartering the price down from $7. Now a fingerprint on the painting has raised the possibility that it is in fact a masterpiece by Jackson Pollock, the world’s priciest artist.
If it is accepted as authentic, the picture would be worth $40 million to $50 million (up to £26.2 million). Last month Pollock, who died in a car crash in 1956 aged 44, was reported to have set a world record price of $140 million for No 5, 1948.
Ms Horton, 74, of Newport Beach, California, had never heard of Pollock. Indeed, when told that the painting might be by the abstract expressionist, she asked: “Who the f*** is Jackson Pollock?” — now the title of a documentary about her ensuing 15-year struggle with the art world.
Ms Horton then put it in storage. The first indication that she might have something special came when, to clear out her clutter, she offered it for sale to friends. An art professor at a nearby university told her that he thought she might have a Pollock, beginning a long quest to authenticate the work.
The International Foundation for Art Research rejects the idea that the painting is a Pollock. Thomas Hoving, a former director of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, who investigated the claim for the documentary, said: “I think somebody had a house in some sunny part of the world, Palm Beach or something, and wanted an abstract painting, maybe like a Pollock, in colours that would have fit the room.”
But Peter Paul Biro, an art restorer, says that he has matched a fingerprint on the painting to one on a paint can from Pollock’s studio in East Hampton, New York. “Since Pollock was known to work alone and had no assistants or pupils the probability of the fingerprint on the blue paint can being Pollock’s is very high,” he writes on
He then sought to match the fingerprint on the painting to a Pollock work of undisputed provenance. In September he discovered what he says is a second matching print on Naked Man with Knife, at Tate Modern, London.
“The new data now firmly identifies Jackson Pollock as the contributor of the fingerprint on the blue paint can, as well as on the Horton submission,” he said.
I try not to be sceptical about modern art (honest!), but I think that Pollock's 'art' is a huge joke...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Calories are good!

Much hand-wringing amongst the health gurus over the new Burger King promotion in the UK:
It's the calorific equivalent of downing four and a half pints of lager, gorging on five chocolate bars or scoffing 13 digestive biscuits in one sitting.
Weighing in at a belt-busting 923 calories, Burger King's Double Whopper with Cheese is so fattening that a typical man would need to walk for nine miles to burn it off.
As a new advertising campaign for the Double Whopper targets the supersize burger at men fed-up with healthy "chick food", campaigners yesterday warned that Britain is going through a health food backlash.
The food group Sustain is so incensed by Burger King's "irresponsible" advert, that it has lodged a complaint with the industry watchdog.
The new campaign for the Double Whopper – which promotes the burger with the question "Are you man enough?" – comes just a few months after McDonald's unveiled the Bigger Big Mac for the World Cup containing 669 calories.
"Burger King's response to the obesity crisis seems to be to bury its head in the sand, and continue to produce larger and larger burgers," said Sustain's children's food campaigner Richard Watts.
"It is irresponsible to link stuffing your face with a burger that contains more than half your daily allowance of fat with 'manliness'."
The Double Whopper comes in two varieties – a plain burger with 841 calories, and a cheese version with 923 calories. The latter has 57g of fat and 3.5g of salt.
"This kind of advert shows the food industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself," added Mr Watts. "If the Government is serious about defusing the health time bomb of obesity, they need to end adverts for this kind of product before the 9pm watershed."
*rolls eyes*
Further signs of the decline in Western society is evident in this article about the new James Bond:
For decades, the debate among 007 fans has been who is the best Bond — Sean Connery or Roger Moore.
Now a new contender has arrived, in the shape of Daniel Craig — the blond 38-year-old, who despite being a cold-blooded killer, manages to fall in love with his Bond girl and show emotional vulnerability.
"It's terrific," said one critic. "This is going to be the prequel to all other Bonds. There are a lot of fans who prefer either Moore or Connery but Craig could be better.
"This will make Craig a worldwide star. The James Bond films are watched absolutely everywhere."
"Casino Royale is the story of how Bond got started, before he became 007," he said. "Daniel Craig is such a good actor. He plays him as strong but emotionally vulnerable. For the first time you see Bond's sensitive side."
There is no sexual innuendo in this film; Craig's Bond is more sophisticated than that. And the film makers have been sure to show the consequences of violence — he bleeds.
Now I grant that in the past Bond did (briefly) mourn his murdered wife, but 'emotional vulnerability'? No innuendo? No Moneypenny? What is wrong with Hollywood? It's only a matter of time before they produce a film about the retired 007 who gets in touch with his inner-self and settles down in a 'domestic partnership' with Q.

Fr Z has definite news on the Indult!

Someone I spoke to tonight, who has a friend in the Apostolic Palace, told me the document "will be signed" on 11 November.

There you go! The Feast of St Martin of Tours, obviously intended as signal to the French Episcopacy to show them what a REAL bishop is like. You can be sure that St Martin never celebrated using any missal other than that of St. Pius V of happy memory.
Cast iron CERTAINTY, from the mouth of the Pope himself that we'll all be celebrating the Tridentine rite before Christmas...
or not.
Fr Z makes it very clear that it's a rumour, and there are other dates circulating.
I think it's important to bear in mind that whatever Pope Benedict's intentions are about a liturgical renewal, it's important that these things be done properly rather than hastily.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It's time to play Mornington Crescent

Tottenham Court Road
St John's Wood
Aldgate East
British Museum (yes... this is allowed)
Seven Sisters
Ruislip Manner


Sign generator...
(If you need this post explained to you, I'm very sorry for you ;) )

Indults & Rumours of Indults...

According to Fr Z, not yet, but it seems to be something on the way.

Reminder - Get thee shriven!

It's very laudable to secure the various indulgences for the faithful departed at this time of the year. However, it's important to remeber that to secure a plenary indulgence one must make a sacramental confession within eight days either side of the indulgenced act.
So, there's a particular incentive to make use of this wonderful sacrament at this time of the year - it would be good if priests would mention this to their faithful and allow extra opportunities for confession in late October and early November.

Ding Dong...

A little video from Youtube to entertain you this weekend - a live performance by the very talented (and,alas, lefty card-carrying animal rights freak...) Nellie McKay.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Godesses of Nepal

Fascinating article in the Telegraph:
Isolated from family and friends, the young "living goddesses" of Nepal are revered, their every need accounted for and their every motion interpreted as divine instruction.
From the age of four, many girls chosen as "kumaris" live their childhood lives through a series of rituals, having little contact with the outside world. Those most revered are forbidden from letting their feet touch the floor.
But the nation took a major step yesterday towards abandoning the centuries-old tradition, after its Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into whether the human rights of the girls are being violated.
There are around a dozen living goddesses in the Kathmandu area. While lesser kumaris attend school and lead relatively normal lives, the most important are confined to special "kumari houses" and only allowed out for religious ceremonies.
According to tradition, kumaris are selected from the Buddhist community and subjected to rituals, including being left in a room of severed goat and buffalo heads for a night. If they prove their fearlessness, and meet other criteria, they are worshipped as a goddess by both Hindus and Buddhists until they first menstruate, when a replacement is found.
Although in recent years the most important kumaris have received home tuition to compensate for lost schooling, campaigners say that they are ill equipped to fully reintegrate into society when their years in the kumari house end.
"Maybe some people say that a goddess doesn't need human rights," said Anup Singh Suwal, a community leader who supports reform. "But after she is a goddess she has to become a human again."

The Times has a piece on escalating mafia activity here in Italy.

More from the Campo...

Following on from yesterday's post, I can now upload a few more of the pics which I snapped in Rome's monumental Campo Verano cemetary. Blogger was being tempremental yesterday, and not all of them would upload.

The Jesuits
The Jesuits have a very substantial and well-cared for vault - three storeys high.

I think that it's to their credit that many of the Jesuits from around the world who die in Rome are buried here, rather than having their remians shipped to their home countries.

The Dominicans
I was hoping to pay my respects to the Domincans - but their vault wasn't open.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

La Festa dei Morti

It might be doubted how seriously the average Italian takes his Catholicism. The story is told, after all, of the Italian who was asked why he didn't attend mass every week. He explained that certainly he was a Catholic, but not a fanatic.
One thing Italians to take seriously though, is their beloved dead. A visit to the family vault is an essential part of the November routine. The Roman public transport system lays on additional services on those bus and tram routes which serve the cemeteries. And so it was that I made my way to the Campo Verano, Rome's monumental burial ground, knew that Napoleon's instigation.My first port of call was the North American College's vault. Until the middle of the 20th century, it is not unusual for seminarians to be buried in Rome, rather than return home for burial. Consequently, quite a number of the Roman colleges have vaults here.
As you can see,the interior of the vault is like a little chapel with an altar. The seminarians are buried in the niches on either side. On the right, one can see the resting place (click image to enlarge) of Servant of God Frank Parater. (Bloggers Chiara and Cnytr both have a devotion to Frank.)
After visiting the NAC vault, I made my way to that owned by the Vatican for the clergy of St Peter's. Quite a number of the tombs have wordy Latin inscriptions. It is notable that sometimes, however, the most distinguished and noble men have the simplest epitaphs.