Tuesday, August 26
Cryptology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Here you can find a fascinating article on the origins of secret codes developed and used during the Renaissance. As someone who is not very good at figuring out cryptologies but finds them fascinating (I spent a good part of my afternoon experimenting with Abbot Trithemius of Spannheim's polyalphabetic tabula recta), this is a very interesting and informative article, detailing everything from substitution codes to messages hidden in musical notation, knot cyphers and even a primitive form of binary encoding! Most ingenious. Enigma has got nothing on these guys.
Moretto da Brescia. Allegory of Faith. c. 1530. In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg
From Cardinal Ratzinger: "For the early Christians, there was no difference between what today is distinguished as orthodoxy and orthopraxis, as right doctrine and right action. Indeed, when this distinction is made, there generally is a suggestion that the word orthodoxy is to be disdained: those who hold fast to rigid doctrine are seen as people of narrow sympathy, rigid, potentially intolerant [...]. Such a [distinction] would have been incomprehensible and unacceptible for those in the ancient Church, for they rightly understood the word "orthodoxy" not to mean "right doctrine" but [...] the authentic adoration and glorification of God. They were convinced that everything depended on being in the right relationship with God, on knowing what pleases Him and what one can do to respond to Him in the right way. For this reason, Israel loved the law: from it, they knew God's will, they knew how to live justly and how to honor God in the right way: by acting in accord with His will, bringing order into the world, opening it to the transcendent." Thus Ratzinger.
Oh, from the otherwise unremarkable comic strip Kudzu today. The local Protestant preacher's amateur baseball team is facing off against some Catholic monks.
PREACHER: Those Trappists are a bunch of big show-offs!
PLAYER: They're disciplined, all right--you mean the Gregorian infield chatter!?
PREACHER: The illuminated stat sheets!
The Martyrdom of the Theban Legion. St. Alexander of Bergamo, commemorated today, was a member, though he escaped their torture only to relent and lay down his life for Christ soon afterwards. From Jacopo Pontormo's painting (1531) at the Pitti Palace, Florence.
Today is one of those days on the sanctoral cycle where there are so many possibilities, it's hard to pick a favorite. There are numerous early martyrs commemorated today. Among others, there's St. Alexander of Bergamo, who is associated with the legendary Theban legion of St. Maurice; St. Ireneus and St. Abundius of Rome, who was drowned in the Roman sewers; St. Adrian of Nicomedia, husband of St. Natalia and patron saint of arms dealers, soldiers and butchers; and the relatively late St. Victor of Cerezo, who was crucified by the Muslims in North Africa around 950. There's also St. Gelasinus of Heliopolis, a Phonecian actor stoned to death on stage (while in a bathtub, no less) in 297 (tough crowd), who sounds eerily like yesterday's comedic convert, Genesius of Rome. We also recall Bl. Thomas Percy, martyred under Elizabeth in 1572 and the bishop Bl. Vyvain of York, who died more peacefully before him in 1285. On the calendar today is also St. Teresa of Jesus Journet e Ibars, a Catalonian nun and foundress from the nineteenth century who is patroness of people rejected by religious orders, old people and pensioners. On the Russian Calendar, a post-schism monk with the unfortunate name of Adrian of Uglich is recalled today, though he also has a feast-day on something called Cheesefare Sunday. We also, more importantly, recall the martyred Pope St. Zephyrinus today, an early pastor of the universal Church who endured the ridicule of heretics, the fall of Tertullian to the Montanists, and the persecutions of the Romans. A most noble pontiff.
And here's the list of classes that will be keeping me busy:
PLS 341: Fine Arts TH 9:30=10:45
PLS 343: Mechanics/Life Sciences MWF 8:30-9:20
PLS 347: Ethics MW 11:00-12:15
PLS 381: Great Books Seminar III TH 1:05-2:45
THEO 610A: Advanced Greek MW 3:00-4:15
Directed Readings on the Enyclicals of John Paul II: TBA
Monday, August 25
Today we had combined choir rehearsal for the opening school year Mass, including practice of a version of "All Creatures of Our God and King" that replaces all instances of the phrase, "O Praise Him," with another "Alleluia." Besides simply being unnecessary and a shot at the faterhood of God, the change also causes the song to make no sense. The verses are addressed as a command to those "all creatures" to praise God; as far as I can tell, "Alleluia" is not an imperative verb, and certainly not with respect to the subject of the command. The whole affair is pretty ridiculous, especially since we do the real, non-inclusived version of this hymn at Easter each year - it seems that the whole student body (or faculty) can't deal with this. Appealing to the lowest common denominator, or most easily offended, is one of my pet peeves in youth ministry, and it does creep into the atmosphere here at times. In the first category, place our constant use of the "Mass of Creation" at schoolwide Masses, when there are plenty of other well-known or easily learnable settings out there.
Anonymous the Elder, I'm terribly sorry about the delay in my response about Theology of the Body below. Things have been a bit crazygonuts around here. I've written some more thoughts on the subject. Fellow Whapsters, please feel free to chime in at the comments box under the post entitled "They're Using Coconuts!"
El Greco, St. Louis of France with His Son Philip III; at the Louvre, Paris
A happy (and slightly belated) St. Louis's Day to all, especially Franciscans, Missouri residents, and French kings in our audience. St. Louis IX, son of Bl. Blanche of Castille (whose strong personality irritated him), was a noble paragon of Christian monarchy, a friend of St. Thomas Aquinas, an exemplar of chivalry in his crusading spirit, and notable for his humility. After building the gem-like court chapel of Ste. Chapelle to house the holy relics of Christ's passion he brought back from the Levant, St. Louis walked in procession in sackcloth, bearing the reliquary on his shoulder. St. Louis also once said, to an impious courtier who posed him the question of whether it would be worse to be a leper or a mortal sinner, "he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise." Thus St. Louis. He died today in the year 1270 at Tunis on the Barbary coast, and is invoked by parishioners of the archdiocese of St. Louis, barbers, builders, button makers, construction workers, Crusaders, dying children, those in difficult marriages, distillers, embroiderers, French monarchs, grooms, haberdashers, hairdressers, hair stylists, kings, masons, needle workers, parents, parents of large families, prisoners, sculptors, sick people, soldiers, stone masons, stonecutters and tertiaries. Charpentier wrote a splendid hymn in his honor entitled Dies Tubae. St. Louis was also the patron of a shortlived Spanish mission, San Luis de Talimali, situated near my hometown of Tallahassee, which was burned to the ground in 1704 by British soldiers and their Creek allies.
Today is also the feast of St. Genesius the Comedian, the noted legendary martyr who converted to Christianity while on stage in the midst of a pagan Roman farce mocking the Church. He is patron of, among other things, comedians, torture victims, and lawyers, which perhaps suggests the Church has a bigger sense of humor than that She is usually credited with. Today is also the feast of St. Genesius of Arles, another martyr; the nun St. Hunegund; St. Joseph Calasanz, founder of the Piarists; Bl. Maria of the Translation of the Holy Sacrament, from Argentina; and lastly the Constantinopolitan nun St. Patricia, whose blood is preserved in Naples and liquefies miraculously around the time of her feast-day. Naples and environs are a site of many blood relic prodigies; the most famous is St. Januarius, whose blood liquefies several times yearly. In addition to St. Patricia's, the blood of St. Pantaleon kept at Ravello (also, unfortunately, the adopted hometown of Gore Vidal) changes from brown to red on his feast-day. I actually saw the blood with my own eyes on my travels; it is kept in a glass phial and remains liquid much of the year, a dark, murky brown, and dew often fogs the upper part of the container. It is a strange thing to see.
A Dominican, a Benedictine and a Baptist preacher are all fishing in a boat in the middle of a small lake. Around noon, the Dominican says, "I'm hungry. I think I'll go to shore and get a sandwich." So he steps out of the boat, walks across the water and goes to the shop on shore. A few minutes later he comes out with a sandwich, walks across the water, sits down in the boat and starts eating.
A while later, the Benedictine says, "I'm thirsty. I think I'll go to shore and get a coke." So he steps out of the boat, walks across the water and goes to the shop on shore. A few minutes later he comes out with a coke, walks across the water, sits down in the boat and starts drinking.
The Baptist preacher starts thinking to himself. "All denominations are equal right? If they can do it why can't I?" He says, "I need some more bait." So he steps out of the boat, and sinks like a rock.
While he's under water, the Dominican leans over to the Benedictine and says, "Do you think we should tell him about the stepping stones?"
The idea couldn't be better: "For those with serious Hobbit habits longing to venture into Middle Earth for more than a few hours, New Line plans to screen all three films back-to-back-to-back on December 16 in a daylong marathon that will carry over with The Return of the King's global release on December 17."
The timing couldn't be worse... finals week.
I must be obsessed, because I'm still trying to figure out if I could possibly swing it. Who needs to study anyway, right?
Thanks to Dom Bettinelli for the link.
On a side note, shouldn't the trailer be out by now?
Sunday, August 24
After a rather extended blogging hiatus (it's kind of tough when one's computer is packed up somewhere), I have returned to The 'Bend. Since attending the much missed 10:00 Basilica Mass (see Dan's post below), I've been shelving my beloved books, hanging up my Pope on a Slope poster (You know you're a Catholic Nerd when...), and just making the place homey in general. At any rate, my new and improved blogging (now with ND news!) should be picking up again in a day or two. Until then, happy St. Bartholomew's Day!
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Indiana (Televised on Hallmark Channel)
Opening Hymn: Joyful, Joyful We Adore You (Hymn to Joy)
Gloria: New Mass For Congregations, Andrews
Responsorial Psalm: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Proulx)
Alleluia: Murray, OSB
Offertory Anthem: Cantique de Jean Racine, Faure
Sanctus/Memorial Acclamation/Amen/Agnus Dei: Proulx, Mass for the City
Communion Hymn: Take and Eat, Joncas
Communion Motet: Ego Sum Panis Vivus, Palestrina
Closing Hymn: In Christ There is no East or West (McKee)
Saturday, August 23
St. Rose of Lima. Bartolome Esteban Murillo, undated. Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Madrid.
And a happy St. Rose of Lima's day to St. Blog's Parish, especially to all Dominican tertiaries, to Emily on her middle-name-day and to the three generations of Rosas among my relatives. St. Rose, baptized Isabel, was given her more well-known name at Confirmation, a sacrament dispensed to her by none other than Bishop St. Turibius de Mogrovenjo, and later went on, after founding the first social work institutions in Peru and receiving invisible stigmata and a mystical marriage from Christ, to become the first canonized Saint of the Americas, proclaimed in 1671 by Pope Clement X. In addition to being patroness of Peru, Central America, the Americas, Latin America, florists, embroiderers, needleworkers, South America, and the Phillipines, she is also the patroness of those ridiculed for their piety, a protectress I'm sure my fellow Whapsters can appreciate. Check out this image of her from Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
Today is also the feast of a St. Zaccheus, who may either be the Gospel figure or the martyred deacon Zaccheus whose feast day is more typically celebrated with his cousin Alphaeus on November 17. Today is also the day which recalls St. Ebbe or Aebbe the Younger, an abbess of a double monastery at Coldingham in Scotland, who with her nuns was burned to death by Viking raiders on 2 April 870 after she and her charges had mutilated themselves to escape being raped. Lastly, today is the feast of Bl. James of Mevania (or Bevagna), a Dominican friar known for his life of strict poverty and has the peculiar honor of having been beatified (or at least having his cult confirmed) by two popes on two separate occasions. Well, why not?
Karl Rahner, Hans Kung and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger all die on the same day, and
go to meet St. Peter to know their fate.
St. Peter approaches the three of them, and tells them that he will interview each
of them to discuss their views on various issues.
He then points at Rahner and says "Karl! In my office..." After 4 hours, the door
opens, and Rahner comes stumbling out of St. Peter's office. He is highly
distraught, and is mumbling things like "That was the hardest thing I've ever done!
How could I have been so wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into
Heaven, a testament to the mercy of Our God.
St. Peter follows him out, and sticks his finger in Kung's direction and "Hans! You're
next..." After 8 hours, the door opens, and Kung comes out, barely able to stand.
He is near collapse with weakness and a crushed spirit. He , too, is mumbling
things like "That was the hardest thing I've ever done! How could I have been so
wrong! So sorry...never knew..." He stumbles off into Heaven, a testament to the
mercy of Our God.
Lastly, St. Peter, emerging from his office, says to Cardinal Ratzinger, "Joseph,
your turn." TWELVE HOURS LATER, St. Peter stumbles out the door, apparently
exhausted, saying "That's the hardest thing I've ever done..."
Friday, August 22
Coronation of Mary by Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1461), 1454.
Regina Coeli Laetare, Alleluja
Today we remember the Queenship of Mary, promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1954 in his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam: "[T]he Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation." And furthermore, he tells us, "We ask that on the feast day be renewed the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Upon this is founded a great hope that there may arise an era of happiness which will rejoice in the triumph of religion and Christian peace. Therefore let all approach, with greater confidence than ever before, to the throne of mercy and grace of our Queen and Mother, to beg help in difficulty, light in darkness and solace in trouble and sorrow." Thus Pius. As a member of the Knights of the Immaculata, who make the consecration to Jesus Christ through the Virgin, I can think of no more fitting devotion.
Today is also the feast of St. Gunifort of Pavia, an Englishman martyred at Pavia in unknown times and circumstances. His legends resemble that of the curious figure of St. Richard the King from Lucca, and by no means should be confused with the spurious "St." Guinefort who seems to have been a greyhound (why do I keep bringing that up? Because I am incorrigible).
Today we also recall St. John Kemble and St. John Wall, two of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who were executed for their alleged complicity in the trumped-up Titus Oates plot in 1678. Also on the calendar today are St. Sigfrid of Wearmouth, a Benedictine abbot who died this day in 686 and St. Arnulf of Eynesbury, a hermit who seems to have been forgotten about the turn of the last millenium and may actually be identified with St. Arnulf or Arnold of Metz, the patron saint of beer and protector of brewers.
Lastly, today is the feast day of the ninth-century churchman St. Andrew of Ireland, sometimes called Andrew of Fiesole or of Tuscany. He seems to have been an Irish travelling-companion of St. Donatus of Fiesole and later his archdeacon or the restorer of the abbey of San Martino in Mensula. In art, he is portrayed as a deacon curing a paralytic girl. Sometimes he is shown appearing to a sleeping priest; with his sister St. Brigid miraculously transported to his death-bed by angels; or with an Irish wolfhound at his feet. (What is it with dogs and saints this week, anyway?) His cultus is largely confined to the environs of Florence.
Nonetheless, our primary joy today flows from Mary: Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluja!
Thursday, August 21
"Show Thyself as a Mother!": The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard, by Alonso Cano, 1650, in the Prado, Madrid
"I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
"I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?"
--Canticle of Canticles v, 1-5
"They're Using Coconuts!"
In thiiiiiis corner, Mark "The Albino Mole Rat" Shea... In the otherrrrrr, the corpse of His Grace the late Archbishop Marcel "Not Marcel Marceau that Stupid Mime Who Was Probably a Heretic Anyway" Lefevbre... Fr. Johansen has a splendid look at the major Rad-Trad smackdown going on at Mark Shea's blog concerning Theology of the Body and Greg Popcack. I don't have the strength anymore to follow it myself as it's all too depressing, but his more humorous digest of the latest round of shouting-matches sounds about right. Suffice to say, my position is thus: Lefevbre, if you mess-a with the Theology of the Body, I break-a you face, even if you're speaking in flawless Latin and surrounded by lovely clouds of incense. However, I lack the initiative or energy to throw myself against Mark's wild detractors.
I realize that not all who attack the Theo of the Body are Lefevbrists, and not all Lefevbrists necessarily dislike the Theo of the Body...but the attacks have been coming from a RadTrad quarter...so sorry if my snap judgement is given to stereotyping. Whatever the case, Fr. Johansen manages to cheer me up. An excerpt:
"Don't you eroticize the Blessed Mother! She didn't have breasts. The Lord was nursed by a bird which gave him to drink milk from a Blessed Coconut. I read about it in the visions of Grunhilde of Thuringia. I have a deep devotion to the Holy Coconut of Nazareth."
I wonder what they'd make of the Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard? Come on, people, we're Catholics, not a bunch of body-hating Gnostics! Haven't we handled all this already? Anyway, tough crowd. I imagine they'd probably burn us at the stake over St. Flutius.
By the way, for the record, I see nothing wrong per se with being monarchist...but, come now, crowning the Duke of Orleans King of America? That nouveau-riche upstart? You want a Hapsburg in charge. Jeez. Come on, you know, Charles the Fifth, Maria Theresa, they knew their stuff...
I mean, come now, an Orleanist? You ever heard of Louis-Philippe with that idiotic umbrella--
(Sound of duct tape being placed over Matt's mouth. Assorted mumbling).
Angels, Good, Bad and Ugly
After introducing you to St. Uriel the other day, I think it only appropriate to dispense more esoterica from my mental treasury of Angelic lore. Particularly the story of the Council of Rome that lead to Uriel's temporary excision from the calendar, as well as the more permanent removal of several other angelic figures.
While I have a great love of obscure and arcane scraps from the realm of Catholic legend, the trouble with angels is that their seizure by various occult groups has made most tradition about them difficult to sift through, as sometimes the source of many of these pious traditions is somewhat murky. Even a dictionary on the subject written by the usually-trustworthy Catholic Matthew Bunson (of Our Sunday Visitor and well-known for his eclectic encyclopedias on the Papacy, vampirism, Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes) too readily dips into dubious sources. For example, I discovered in his book the other day that someone had identified the angel "who encamps around those who fear [the Lord]" from Psalm xxxiv as Midael, a high-ranking officer in the heavenly army. Unfortunately the source of this was Francis Barrett's 1801 work The Magus, whose name alone sounds toxic.
Still, with a watchful eye, one can sift the folklore from the pseudo-magical nonsense. St. Uriel, having been rehabilitated from his condemnation and a constant in all lists of the seven archangels, is a good place to begin. His name means "fire of God" and some have called him both a member of the Cherubim and Seraphim, one curiosity of some of the archangels being their apparent ability to belong to several choirs of the heavenly host simultaneously. Other accounts call him the heavenly choirmaster, angel of music, and regent or prince of the sun.
St. Uriel's personality in legend and literature is one of great submission to the Divine will. He'll endure just about anything. Milton, in Paradise Lost himself praises his sharpness of mind and sight, while the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter reports that such was his devotion to God's will that he was able to watch over Hell without flinching, thus keeping an eye on the devil's machinations. The Sibylline Oracles report that on the day of Judgment he will shatter the gates of Gehenna and call out its inhabitants to their final condemnation. He also seems to have been the cherub who guarded the gate of Eden and the angel who wrestled with Jacob.
But what about his companions? We know there are seven archangel, for sure. Beyond that point, it gets confusing. The Catholic Encyclopedia also names Sariel, Idzikiel, Hanael, Kepharel and Jeremiel or Remiel as possible candidates. At Palermo, in addition to Uriel, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Shealtiel, Jehudiel and Berachiel are commemorated on April 20 as yet more members of the Seven. Consulting lists compiled by St. Gregory, pseudo-Dionysius and other theologians throw in even wilder names such as Chamuel and Zadkiel and further bury us under a confusing angelic morass.
In that morass, there's a few fun tidbits. Jeremiel, for example, may act as bailiff on Judgment Day. Chamuel might have comforted Christ in the Gethsemane and wrestled with Jacob (though he will have to fight St. Uriel for that legend). Zadkiel spared Isaac on Mount Moria and seems to be in charge of the choir of Dominations.
Now what happened to the other de-comissioned extra-scriptural Angels I spoke of previously? On October 25, 745, a synod was convened at Rome by Pope St. Zachary, who feared that the devotion given to many of these angelic figures was growing wildly out of proportion, and that their role in faith had to be further defined. Given the modern-day manias concerning Angels and auras and spirits, perhaps this does not seem as paranoid as it might at first glance. The result was to re-ground the faithful and set the stage for the golden age of Angelology which would come under such commonsensical individuals as St. Thomas Aquinas. This is not to say that there weren't a few interesting legendary casualties along the way. On the whole, though, excepting St. Uriel, the most interesting thing about the rest of this de-haloed crowd are their names.
The angels, besides St. Uriel, who were removed from the calendar in 745, were Tubuas, Inias, Simiel, Raguel, Sabaoc (or Sabaoth, misspelled by me as Sadoc) and Adimus. On the whole, most of these names have little legendary associated with them.
With a few exceptions. Raguel seems to have been the angel who took Enoch to heaven. Where, a preposterous Hebrew legend relates, that patriarch was transformed into the "Lesser YHWH," the ridiculously powerful angel Metatron. Yes, I know, metaphysically impossible. I don't know, I just work here. Raguel himself, the "friend of God" has a few tales associated with him, being in charge of watching over his fellow angels' behavior like a sort of one-man Internal Affairs Department, as well as being in charge of the motion of the Earth. He also is known as Rasuil, Rufael or Akrasiel, which is doubtlessly very confusing for him. Pope St. Zachary had his suspicions and had him axed from the calendar, and he would know, wouldn't he?
Besides him, legends are pretty sparse about the outcasts. Inias (not "Sadoc" as I thought earlier) is known in popular folklore for his reaction to his demotion, not for anything he did before. He was the one whose "means of striking back is to disturb the sermons or profound speeches of churchmen by performing a loud and particularly obnoxious episode of flatulence."
So maybe we didn't lose too much but a handful of funny names and some methane. St. Uriel is respected and back on the calendar and still a big deal in parts of South America. And he's about the most interesting one in the bunch. Though maybe invoking Inias might come in handy after going to a Mexican restaurant. On the other hand, doubtless his duties have been taken over by St. Bean the Great of Mortlach.
I'm sorry I have to part after leaving that image in your head. Never mind.
A Further Apology to Chris over at Maine Catholic, Socio-Religious Gender Problems of Fifth-Century Egypt and some remarks on various St. Alans
Chris, I have to apologize for my semi-humorous treatment of your patron saint over here on his last couple of feast days! St. Christopher deserves better than to be confused with Rin Tin Tin, and there are plenty more legends associated with him than just having a dog's head. Though I still think those icons are kinda cool. Incidentally, the Vatican never culled him completely from the calendar. Unlike the hatchet-jobs done on St. Catherine and St. Barbara, he was removed to local calendars, which vary from nation to nation, diocese to diocese or province to province.
By the way, what's so bad about keeping St. Apollinaris Syncletica on the calendar? I happen to be quite fond of the old girl (presuming she existed, of course). The scary thing is I knew about her before you ever mentioned her on your blog. Funny about all those cross-dressing Egyptian hermitesses, that seems to have been a common problem back in the fifth century. Or even the eleventh, if the Cistercian martyrology is to be believed. Anyway, back to reality.
One more thing about Chris's patrons, since he mentioned he knew of no St. Alan for his middle name. There happen to be several canonized or beatified men named Alan or Alanus: I hope this cheers you up! Here they are:
St. Alanus or Almus of Melrose (d. 1270), a Cistercian abbot at Balmarino in Scotland whose feast is celebrated on June 28.
Bl. Alanus de Rupe or Alaine de la Roche (c. 1428-1475), a Dominican confessor with a popular but unconfirmed cultus and who was noted for spreading devotion to the Rosary and whose feast is given as Sept. 8.
St. Alanus of Quimper (5th cent.), a bishop whose feastday (Oct. 26) is shared with that of St. Alorus, another bishop of Quimper, and of little certain is known besides the antiquity of their liturgical cultus.
And lastly, there is St. Alanus of Gascony (7th c.), a Benedictine monk and founder of the monastery at Lavauer in France, whose feast is celebrated on Nov. 25.
"Saint Beppi," workaholic Russians and Our Lady of Knock
Today is the feast of St. Pius X, Pope, a great man whose holiness in no way should be clouded by the unfortunate schismatic associations that have clouded his name. St. Pius X is the latest pope to be canonized (1954), after his namesake St. Pius V, who had been raised to the glory of the altar in 1672 by Clement X. He was a man of humble origins (with the nickname of "Beppi"), the son of a mailman from Riese, and his humility carried over even when he had risen to the Apostolic See. His papacy was marked by a landmark devotion to the Eucharist, encouraging daily reception, as well as his well-known motu proprio on Church music, Tra le Sollecitudini. On the whole it concentrates on polyphony and Gregorian chant, two pillars of the reforms since encouraged by Vatican II, though perhaps not followed through as much as we would like. Pius X once wrote that preparation for Holy Communion was crucially important and said, even after he died to take the young communicants before his tomb, for "even there, I will bless them." He also coined the phrase "summation of all heresies" for Modernism and authorized the famous Oath against it. He died, it is claimed of grief, on August 20, 1914, fearing the destruction of the First World War.
Today is recalled also Our Lady of Knock, the famed Irish apparition well-known for having been completely mimed, or at the least, wordless. It occurred at 8 PM on this day (also a Thursday) in 1879, and was approved by the local archbishop as worthy of devotion in 1936. We also remember St. Gilbert, a French Benedictine monk of Soissons, later Abbot at Valenciennes, persecuted by a wicked count. While little is known of him, why not read something from the pen of his most famous namesake today? Today is also the feast of St. Bernard (or Giovanni) of Tolomeo, founder of the Olivetan Benedictine congregation. Today is also, in the Russian Orthodox Church, the feast of St. Abraham of Smolensk, sometimes called the "Venerable Abraham the lover of work, of the Kievan Caves." If only we could be all lovers of our work as well!
Wednesday, August 20
This is actually from Monday's Office of Readings, but it's something like 1500 years old, so what's a couple of days, really?
From Saint Gregory the Great:
"Holy men beset by tribulation must endure the assaults of those who use violence and verbal attacks. The former they resist with the shield of patience, but against the latter they launch the sharp arrows of true doctrine. In both types of fighting they win the day through the wonderful arts that virtue bestows, for with wisdom they teach the wayward while showing a courageous contempt for outward hostility; the straying sheep they set on the right path by their teaching; the attacker they suffer and overcome."
How's that for marching orders? (I always did prefer the term "Church Militant" to the rather boring "Pilgrim Church") Even amongst the warfare imagery, though, there's also a pertinant reminder to use prudence in our evengelization and to speak the truth in love, which can be all too easy to forget when Prostestants, liberals, and the culture in general start calling Mom names.
My favorite part of this passage, though, is the assurance that we will "win the day" through virtue, wisdom, and courage. Something to remember in the dark days of our culture.
The Muscular Sadness of Tomas Luis de Victoria
CD Review: Tomas Luis de Victoria. Requiem: Officium Defunctorum, 1605. Gabrieli Consort and Players. Deutsche Grammophon GmbH.
By far, the Requiem of Tomas Luis de Victoria, is the best of the Gabrieli Consort's musical offerings. Which is why, with all that marvelous intensity, it is almost unbearable to listen to. It is perfect recording of a perfect work, capturing a deep, powerful and beautiful sadness. The Requiem is a pure work of Renaissance genius embued ever-so-subtly with the first emotional stirrings of the dawn of the Baroque age. In particular, two pieces stand out, a splendid Taedet animam meam that introduces the Requiem mass proper, an extract from the Matins that would have preceded the burial of the Empress Maria of Austria, and the remarkable quadripartite Absolutio that would have been performed immediately after the liturgy to the accompanying polyphonic singing of the Libera me domine. In between are plenty of marvels as well, combining the openness of Spanish polyphony with the luxuriousness of the Italian school, as well as a majestic chanted Dies Irae.
These two motets, at beginning and end, in particular are expressed with remarkable vigor and power, a muscular, palpable sadness. Once again, the Gabrieli Consort excells at setting the scene for these pieces, providing the physical feel of the Requiem service by accompanying the singing with continuo provided by a dulzian (an archaic form of bassoon), sometimes called a bajon. This was a custom at Spanish Imperial funerals, as records of the time testify, and gives the work a degree of color and realism lacking in other more monochromatic recordings. Such attention to detail is genius, and the genius of Victoria is worthy of such care.
These realistic liturgical touches bring us back to the first time the Requiem was sung. The origins of the Requiem, published in 1605,lie in the remarkable funeral of Empress Maria of Austria, the daughter of Charles V and wife of Maximilian II. She had retired to Spain in 1581, spending the end of her days at the Convent of the Descalzas Reales, where she died in 1603. Victoria, the Empress's choirmaster at the convent, wrote the music for her obsequies. It was a splendid scene, as a manuscript preserved in the Biblioteca Nacional at Madrid tells us.
At the Vigil, according to this account, "...all the servants of Her Majesty [were] dressed in mourning capes, their heads covered with hoods... The royal chapel was hung with black velvet and damasks, as also were the pillars of the church crested with escucheons of the Imperial arms. In the centre, the sumptuous catafalque was supported on a frame 18 feet wide and 54 feet high without counting the Imperial crown at its pinnacle... [F]rom the corners of the catafalque sprung four spires with four candlesticks, each made of gratings of square wood filled with lights, being two thousand surrounding it; at the corners...stood mace-bearers with cowls, black cloaks, and maces of gilded silver..." The Vigil lasted from two to five in the afternoon, being followed the next day by three solemn Pontifical Masses, the final one being the Requiem, celebrated by the Bishop of Zaragoza, concluded by a pangyric in her honor and the incensation and absolution of her remains. "[W]ith this were concluded the royal obsequies of Her Majesty, which were the most solemn and sumptuous there have ever been in Spain." It is a testament to Victoria that you can see the Imperial obsequies in your mind's eye, for the music is truly worthy of such magnificent funereal pomp.
This recording would make a splendid addition to any CD library. Listen to it, meditate on it: this isn't just Gregorian for the bubble bath. This is a window on earthly grief transfigured by heavenly glory.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, circa 1898; reprinted with the kindly permission of the Archives Department of the Annexe of the Albion Museum, London
A Caligari Cabinet of Curiosities:
A Journey into the Warped Comic-Book World of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Last week, I spent a very pleasant, albeit unorthodox, evening with my father. We sat in the big dark wood-paneled living room of the white elephant we call our home, and read together the first two sections of the old League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book. We like to call the living room the house’s Great Hall, which makes us sound as if we conducted ourselves like Regency gentlemen (not entirely a false impression) but is nonetheless, architecturally speaking, hyperbole.
By now, you’re wondering what the heck is going on here. Why is this young nerdling reading comic books (ahem…graphic novels, whatever) instead of something more edifying? Say Summa or, at the very least, the Manuale Exorcismorum. And why me? Dan’s our X-Men fanatic around here, always mumbling about Dark Phoenixes or something. Of course, the only thing I recall about X-Men was thinking Famke Janssen almost has the same last name as a sixteenth-century Dutch semi-heretic.
You, of course, mustn’t confuse the X-Men with the sedevacantalist graphic novel SSPX-Men (involving Archbishop Lefebre and some radioactive grains of incense…I kid). Nor should you confuse it with the League, though some people are calling it a nineteenth-century incarnation of the theme.
For a brief synopsis, League, authored by Alan Moore, takes well-known characters from nineteenth-century fiction and place them together in a slightly-warped version of the turn of the last century and pits them against vintage villains as Fu Manchu and Moriarty. Mina Murray, the spunky heroine of Dracula, acts as the group’s leader. H. Rider Haggard’s adventurer Alan Quatermain played this role in the film; here the White Hunter shows up, in a flawed, age-worn and perhaps more interesting version of the movie character. I have to admit it was great fun, and almost...almost intellectually stimulating. The movie based on it was a tedious video-gamey shootout, though it had some charmingly hokey moments, lovely period sets and fun steam-powered gadgetry. However, the comic has an interesting edge to it, and it spares us from being subjected to Dorian Grey. Moore has a weird, imaginative genius, and the comic seems like a Jules Verne story illustrated by Edward Gorey to a script by Tim Burton. It may be creepy, but gosh darn, it’s certainly not tedious. Plus, I’d place Mina Murray up there with Irene Adler (i.e. The Woman to fellow Holmesians in the audience) in terms of totally sweet headstrong Victorian Women.
It’s well-drawn, clever even. You’ll find obscure references to Sherlockiana, “steampunk,” Victorian scientific romances and even real literature. It’s the only comic where you’ll find allusions to Trollope, Dracula, and James Bond on the same page. On top of that, the fake Victorian advertisements are twistedly funny, including a paint-by-numbers portrait of Dorian Grey (!!), the “Caligari Self-Assembly Cabinet” and Holmes “Play in a Day Violin Course,” which, if you’re a silent-film buff or a mystery fan are hysterically funny. Be warned, though, fellow Nerds: there’s some unfortunate prurient bits in Chapter Two (so skip over that part, please, trust me here...uck). However, besides the expected murder and mayhem there’s not much else objectionable (compared to, say, Father Ted...I'm kidding, Dan). Plus, the villain’s a Freemason: what’s not to like?
As an artist and a writer the concepts behind comic books have a certain intellectual interest. It potentially is a format that combines the strengths of filmmaking, novel-writing, and serial television in a package which seems in a sense almost like the modern equivalent of a medieval manuscript. Comics remind us Catholics the profound respect the Faith has for the communicative power of images, and their embellishment of and unity with the more “Protestant” written word in expressing the glory of God. It’s no surprise that the first “comic strips” were in illustrations for the Spanish codices containing the Cantigas de Santa Maria, songs in praise of the miracles of the Blessed Virgin. These episodic illuminations showed the healing of lepers, grateful offerings to the shrine of the Virgin, and myriad other wonders. Comics were invented by Catholics!
In the future, I’ll stick to real books, but nonetheless it was a fun divertissement. If you’re the sort of person who reads the footnotes to the Annotated Sherlock Holmes or are curious to see what Captain Nemo does on his day off, you couldn’t find a better way to spend a quiet Victorian evening than with Alan Moore and his wild imagination.
I have to dash. Our heroes are, at present, trying to stop the aerial bombardment of Limehouse by the insidious Dr. Moriarty’s Cavorite-powered superweapon, and time and the Napoleon of Crime wait for no man.
Curt Jester has an idea for getting your average Catholic in top condition: Liturgical Boot Camp.
If I may suggest an addition to Basic Training: "You call that a profound bow soldier? I can't see the back of your head! This is the Incarnation we're talking about here! Give me 100 genuflections now! I want to see that knee hit the ground!"
While I'm on the subject of great rants on the blogosphere, take a look at Victor Lams' thoughts on Marty Haugen. Since Marty is from my area, he's a bit of a local celebrity here in the Twin Cities. Thankfully, my home parish doesn't use much of The Great Liturgical Composer's pieces of work, but I can get my fill of his systematic attempt to rob the liturgy of its meaning at almost any other church in the diocese. Personally, I'd love to see this New Age-y hack's music banned from our churches. Of course, if the Mass of Creation were suddenly to be put on the index, half of our music ministries would probably be rendered unable to sing the ordinary, anything else having too much actual musical value for them to handle. Maybe we should also have a Music Ministry Boot Camp. ("You call that polyphony?")
OK, I feel better now. And now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.
Another Ghost of Saturday Night Live Past Returns to Haunt Us
Okay, it was loopy enough when Ahhhnuld and Arianna Huffington were in the race, but now the California recall election (alias the Battle of the Funny Accents) has been joined by none other than Fr. Guido Sarducci, the only comedian ever officially banned from St. Peter's Basilica, according to the inimitable Fr. Sibley. Fr. Sarducci did color commentary for Weekend Update during the Papal Elections of 1978 and is a noted expert in many fields, teaching numerous courses at the Five-Minute University: Religious Journalism, Principles of Existentialist Continualism, Theology and the Art of RV Maintenance, Biofeedback and How to Stop It, Basic Kitchen Taxidermy and Self-Actualization through Macrame. He also seems to wish he were a gondolier and is translating the works of Steven Foster into Italian.
Of St. Bernard in General, St. Bernards, Wolves, Domini canes and An Apology Concerning Dog-Face
Today is the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Every day this great saint would wake up and ask himself, "Why am I here" and unlike most existentialists, he always had an answer: "to lead a holy life." He revived and reformed the great order of the Cistercians, as well as helping bring about the foundation of the Knights Templar at the Council of Troyes. The Templars had nothing to do with any of that baloney in the Da Vinci Code, pace Dan Brown, though, if Umberto Eco is to be believed, nonetheless "The Templars have something to do with everything." (See this link for a source to satisfy all your Templar memorabilia needs, yeah right, like you have any...). St. Bernard composed a marvellous rhythmic prayer to the members of Christ Crucified and is patron of all professions associated with bees, especially wax-melters and candlestick-makers (probably because of his mellifluous, or honeyed, tongue). One of his emblems is a white dog, which goes along well with the wolf of St. Francis, the swan of St. Hugh and the black-and-white Dominican hound of St. Dominic. And of course, there's a whole breed of canine named after the guy. Woof!
Speaking of dogs and saints, today is also another feast of the martyr St. Christopher, who is said, according to some rather dubious legends, to have belonged to a race of men with dog's heads instead of human ones. Though perhaps this is a garbled version of another account which reduces this rather fabulous image to merely being a facial deformity (at least according to the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate's website, which sports one of these odd icons). An even more clear and less weird picture of the linguistic origin of this strange story about cyncecephoroi and cannibals comes from here. Check it out. I'm afraid in the past I've given the saint a terrible time about his curious physique (sorry, Chris). Strictly speaking, the canons of iconography dictate he be depicted with a normal face, though not everyone seemed to pay attention to this.
Today is also the feast of the Martyrs of Thrace, a Persian martyr named Heliodorus and another St. Bernard, this one a Cistercian from Valdeiglesias, who is patron of the town of Candelada in Spain. Today is also the feast of St. Gobert, a Benedictine monk, a former count and crusader, who died in Brabant in the Low Countries in 1263. Today is also the feast of St. Lucius, a martyr who is not to be confused with the more famous and dubious St. Lucius of Britain (otherwise Llewrug Mar, or, the Great, grandson of St. Cyllinus), the legendary first Christian king of the island who seems to be associated with the Grail legend and was eventually been made bishop of Chur, where he was martyred about 176. But that's not our St. Lucius. The odds are he's probably just a duplicate of King Abgar the Ninth of Edessa, anyway. Drat.
Tuesday, August 19
Sorry for the lack of posts this evening, but I've had to pack the car and take care of other loose ends - I should have new material by Thursday night or Friday. Tomorrow, I'll be on the road from New York to Cleveland, catching the Indians-Twins game at Jacobs Field, a ballpark I've long wanted to visit. Thursday, I complete the journey to Notre Dame and move back into Keenan Hall. Everyone have a nice day and a half in my absence, and I can't wait to begin posting from the University so tied in with the mission of this weblog.
Continuing the "Marxist" Theme for Today
Jeff Miller over at The Curt Jester says he looks forward to our "daily church/saint whap up"! Cool! Glad someone enjoys our warped forays into hagiography! Jeff has also contributed a useful addition to the worlds of theology and humor with his A Night at the Jesus Seminar parodying the deathless Contract Scene from A Night at the Opera! So, are you following me here? "Well, stop following me, or I'll have you arrested!"
This has been sort of a busy week at work, and I've also had packing and personal engagements to take care of. Expect some new blogging this evening; tomorrow I leave for ND, but by Thursday night I'll be bringing you reports straight from stately Keenan Hall.
I enjoy the Marx Brothers' movies because they remind me other people also realize what it's like living in a small dorm room.
"I am a Marxist, of the Groucho Variety"
Movie Review: A Night at the Opera. The Marx Brothers, Kitty Carlisle, and Margaret Dumont. MGM, 1935.
Classic movies are big around the Shrine. Dan introduced us to the labyrinthine world of Hitchcock fairly early along in our friendships with him, a recommendation I am indebted to. I'm always singing the praises of Casablanca, myself, and Em enjoys To Catch a Thief. Andy, well, he's sticking to Jackie Chan for the moment (and the Hong Kong master really does have his own particular genius, I must admit) but just give us time.
Why the Marx Brothers? It's usually a thankless task to dissect humor, but it's worth considering. I love the guys, I really do, but what makes it better to watch some black-and-white actor with a bad Italian accent hit a fat policeman over the head with a frying pan than, say, any gag from Jim Carrey's oeuvre? Is it just because it's old? Some of the tricks may be the same, for people have been laughing at the same jokes since the days of Mausoleus of Halicarnassus, but there's a real comic genius at the heart of the Marx Brother's uproarious work. In A Night at the Opera, it's the wonderful combination of three of my favorite things: opera, anarchic wit, and of course, the inevitable frying pan gag.
Sure, it's just comedy, but it's well-made comedy. There's a certain pure pleasure in seeing something done well, even if it may seem a trifle plebean. Like the perfect hamburger, for example: it may not be coq au vin, but if done properly it is still heavenly. Not a moment is wasted in A Night at the Opera: everything advances both the plot and is also hysterically funny. Even something so seemingly-simple as signing a contract (with duplicate copies--you know what duplicates are, right? "Sure, they's five kids up in Canada," says Chico, obliviously) culminates in Groucho and Chico essentially ripping the thing to shreds and then Chico can't even sign the thing because he's illiterate.
Surprisingly, those obligatory moments where Chico demonstrates his piano skills and Harpo plucks his harp don't bring the show to a screeching halt; Harpo's music is heavenly, a bit of a chaser for our ears, while Chico has the funniest hands in show-business. Even so, the best demonstration of their ability to make even the most mundane moments seem comic comes in the more leisurely Animal Crackers, where Chico pounds out the song Somewhere my Love Lies Sleeping (With a Male Chorus). But A Night at the Opera is still wonderful nonetheless.
For here they manage to take pure physical humor to a whole new level, as in the famous "Overcrowded Cabin" routine, which defies description and must be seen to be believed. Slapstick is punctuated by uproarious bon-mots and verbal humor gets a spike of juice by the occasional kick in the pants. Even a sight gag gets its very own caption:
Groucho: You see that man over there eating spaghetti?
Mrs. Claypool: No...
Groucho: Well, you see the spaghetti, don't ya?
Nothing's absurdist here: that can be funny in its own way, but for two hours, it's a bit much. Instead, the real joy is seeing Groucho, Chico and Harpo in supreme control of every humorous jot or tittle, even in situations where Our Heros (disguised as ridculously bearded Russian aviators) find themselves being pursued by an angry mob down the steps of New York's City Hall.
It helps, of course, their supporting cast is almost as good as they are. Margaret Dumont is possibly the best straight-man (person?) Groucho could ever ask for, acting both as love interest and shocked foil to his insanity. Walter W. King does a good job of chewing the scenery as the evil tenor Lasspari, though he also gets a couple of good laughs out of us simply by having played the lead from I Paggliaci, which requires him to wear a ridiculous clown costume (with the sourest of looks on his face, no less). Kitty Carlisle is somewhat of a cypher, but a lovely cyper. Her role may be rather sketchy beyond here serene beauty, but at the same time, she gives her part enough spunk and class to make it interesting. Plus, as the female half of the obligatory sweet Young Lovers, she helps bring the movie to a suitably operatic and uplifting close. You can't ask for much more than that, especially after having just watched Harpo brilliantly demolish the entire backstage of the New York Opera Company.
A Christian has a union with Jesus Christ more noble, more intimate and more perfect than the members of a human body have with their head.
--St. John Eudes
Today we have a rather mixed bag when it comes to saints; none too famous, none too obscure (well, some too obscure), but all with stories to tell. Most prominent of them is the seventeenth-century St. John Eudes, founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and the Sisters of Charity, and author of the devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Today, around the same time St. John was propigating his message of submission to the Sacred Heart, Bl. Peter Zuñiga and the Japanese crew of the ship carrying him were beheaded at Nagasaki. Today we also remember St. Louis of Tolouse, a reluctant bishop, son of the King of Naples, who was a great-nephew of St. Louis of France and of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. He is shown in art as a Franciscan vested in an episcopal cope spattered with the fleur-de-lys emblem of his royal house of Anjou. Today as well is the feast of St. Magnus, a widower, monk and bishop who was the father of St. Agricola of Avignon. St. Magnus is patron of fish-mongers while his son is considered a protector of storks. Also on the calendar today are St. Guenninus and Bl. Guerricus, who share nothing save a similar-sounding and peculiar name.
Monday, August 18
St. Uriel, Archangel, from a Peruvian Spanish Colonial work
Angels of the Andes:
An Appreciation of the Heavenly Side of Spanish Colonial Art
I was recently in Denver, and had time to stop and view one of my favorite American museums, the Denver Art Museum. It may not be on par with the Chicago Art Institute or the Metropolitan, but nonetheless it has an excellent and rather sizable collection of lesser-know (but still high-quality art). While I tend not to stray beyond the European and Chinese galleries in museums, it also has a fascinating selection of American Indian and Western American art, including some spectacular examples of Northwest Coast Indian woodwork.
My favorite floor is the one devoted to Spain's reign in the Americas. I have a great love of Spanish colonial art and music, as anyone who's followed this 'blog knows, and Denver was the first place I was introduced to it in great detail. Rather than merely being limited to the crude (but engaging) santos carvings of New Mexico as in many other American museums, their Hispanic collection includes sophisticated and ornate works from Mexico to Peru, including numerous lace-bedecked images of the Virgin, intricate allegories and a remarkable sample of a series showing the Seven Archangels vanquishing the demons of the Seven Deadly Sins. The cultus of the Archangels was particularly strong in Spanish America, a land then still without the great panoply of local saints seen in Europe and thus in need of more universal protectors. Indeed, it's one of the few places in art you can glimpse the elusive Archangel Uriel.
Pious tradition holds that the choir of archangels has seven members; the rolls of their membership, both Catholic and heterodox, vary wildly. Since the revival of their cultus in the eighteenth century after laying dormant since the ninth, the current list seems to be the usual Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, as well as Uriel, Shealtiel, Jehudiel and Berachiel (though the Catholic Encyclopedia gives another list). These names were rediscovered when, three centuries ago, an ancient fresco containing their images and appelations was uncovered in an old church in Palermo dedicated to them. Besides that, there's a church in Germany which honors them.
However, in general, they're scarce in Europe. The unfortunate association of St. Uriel and some of those more obscure angels with the occult and the unorthodox Jewish mystical school of Kabbala tended to leave a bad taste in the mouth (as will any web search devoted to ferreting out useful information on him, as it seems to turn up a host of crackpot new-age sites with little interest in fact and less in holiness). One negative account even made Uriel, rather than being the "fire of God," the hellish "President of Tartarus." Though, in all fairness, that title might also indicate the heavenly angel who locks the Devil into Gehenna at the end of time. Whatever the case, he'd been stricken from the calendar before, in 745, when a number of other angels of apocryphal provenance were removed. Legend has it that one of them, an angel named Sadoc, was so annoyed at his demotion that he would interrupt Mass with loud flatulent noises. Another account places his excision from the calendar at the time of the Renaissance. Nonetheless, St. Uriel proved resilient and ended up getting a new feast for him and his six archangelic compatriots on April 20, celebrated to this day at Palermo.
Whatever the case, the Seven enflamed the imagination of Spanish America, particularly the lands once under the rule of the Inca, already so high in the mountains as to scrape the angelic firmament. Angels are all over the place in Peruvian art, holding up the sudarium, trampling devils, lauding the Virgin and Her Child, or even firing off matchlock muskets. Some of these angels seem so androgynous to us in their lacy skirts and curls that modern art historians have branded them "female-dressed angels," who recall the bodiless nature of the Heavenly Hosts. I'm inclined to think this supposed effeminacy has more to do with the Baroque mania for filigree than anything else. But then, there are the ones with guns, quite masculine. They verge on being sacred dandies in their fine swaggering military clothes, modelled on the uniforms of Spanish soldiers. So close is that correspondence that many of them are shown drilling with muskets in poses straight out of a seventeenth-century drill handbook. St. Uriel is typically one of them, a very suitable candidate for a marksman with his association with divine fire. It is a strange and picturesque note, reminding us of the psychological affect that European weaponry had on the Indians of our continent.
The "Angels with Guns," as they are called today, were first painted to impress the newly-conquered Incas by the power of God's bodiless agents. In time, however, the weapons became tokens of Divine protection, a bellicose comfort against demonic temptation. In many ways, it's no stranger than seeing St. Michael in medieval armor, St. Barbara in the clothes of a German princess or St. George dressed as a fashionable Renaissance gentleman. Though somehow the image of St. Michael in camoflage with an AK-47 doesn't quite strike the same quaint note.
Be that as they may, I find them quite charming, and at the same time, the recollection of Spain's military might, the sight of that belch of flame, and the memory of the smell of black powder from my father's shotgun still makes me wonder at how much more magnificent and powerful the Host of Heaven must be on parade.
Scuola San Rocco, after John Singer Sargent
Coryats Crudities and Gabrieli’s Delicacies
CD Review: Music for San Rocco, 1608. Gabrieli Consort and Players. Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, 1996.
“...to laud and prayse God and His Saints with Psalmes, Hymnes, spirituall songs and melodious musicke...”
—Coryats Crudities, London, 1611
The Gabrieli Consort’s Music for San Rocco, 1608 was the third CD I bought when I began my love-affair with early music about two years ago. It’s a splendid recording, both wonderful as an introduction to the music of Baroque Venice and as an addition to a much larger collection. It reconstructs a concert given at the Scuola San Rocco in honor of their patron saint (whose feast came only a few days ago, on 16 August) which was described with great gusto by the English traveler Thomas Coryat in his book Coryats Crudities. Indeed, this CD was recorded on-site at the Scuola itself! Talk about authentic. It doesn't get much better than this.
Many historians have traditionally interpreted this event as a Vespers service, but the Gabrieli Consort decides here instead to treat it as a “spiritual recreation,” or sacred concert, a distinctly Venetian para-liturgical practice. Recreated here, it gives us a marvelous window into the life of the Scuola. Thus we are treated to a program simply of music, rather than one of the Gabrieli Consort’s liturgical reconstructions with their chanted prayers and clacking thuribles. While I derive great pleasure from these atmospheric additions, they’re a bit perplexing to the laymen. Furthermore, it’s hard to resist the unadulterated Italian joy of just hearing one marvelous Gabrieli piece after another.
Though they won’t wear you out, I promise. The star attractions, Giovanni Gabrieli’s motets, are interspersed with instrumental toccatas and canzonas dominated that serve to cleanse the palate and soothe the ears with their gentle festivity. Gabrieli’s occasional bombast can wear thin if overdone, but the Consort does an admirable job of balancing extravagance with subtlety within the choral pieces. There are quite a few elegantly understated works here. We can hear the sonorous sound of Suscipe, clementissime Deus, where six low voices are paired with six sackbutts (a splendid but rare combination showing off the elegance of the Renaissance proto-trombone) in praise of San Rocco, as well as two subtle and sweet Bartolomeo Barbarino countertenor solos sung to the delicate pluckings of a lute.
The CD’s highlights, however, are wonderfully grandiose. There’s the Gabrieli staple In Ecclesiis, played here with an exciting raw vigor lacking in other recordings. There is also the concert’s final piece, a 33-part Magnificat. It's a wonder. It exists only in partial form in a choirbook discovered in Graz, Austria, though Paul McCreesh, the Consort’s director, has lovingly reconstructed the missing parts from a comparable and more famous 17-part Magnificat. However, that smaller version (which has been recorded by the Taverner Consort in their pleasant albeit timid Venetian Church Music compilation) pales next to this glorious hymn of the Virgin, sung to the extravagant accompaniment of a dozen sackbutts and seven chamber organs. This piece alone makes the CD worth the cost.
Every time I listen to this recording, I find a new favorite piece on it. Gabrieli’s sacred music is timeless, and never fails to uplift the soul with its joyous and infinite variety.
St. Helen, Discoverer of the True Cross, and More
Today is the feast of St. Helena, Empress, widow and discoverer of the True Cross. Relics of that holy wood can be seen at the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, along with the crossbar of the Good Thief's own scaffold and the titulum or sign that stood over the cross of Christ. A new theory proposes that the titulum displayed there is authentic for the following reasons: the languages written on it are in a different order than in the gospels, something a forger would have never thought of, and even more interesting is that the inscriptions are actually written backwards, as it would have been done by a Hebrew working in Roman service, or intended for people for which Latin was a second (or third) language and were used to reading right-to-left.
Today we also remember St. Florus and St. Laurus, two brother-stonemasons, whose martyrdom in Illyria (with St. Proclus and St. Maximilus) seems a duplicate of that of the Four Crowned Martyrs of Rome; as well as Bl. Aimo Taparelli, O.P., noted as being one of the few Inquisitors-General of Lombardy and Liguria to live to a ripe and happy old age, unlike the more unfortunate St. Peter Martyr, another Lombard, and Aimo's own predecessor, Bl. Bartolomew Cervario. There's also the martyr St. Agapitus of Palestrina, catalogued in the Gelasian Sacramentary, and who has nothing to do with Renaissance polyphony. In Greece today, they remember the Thousand Martyrs of Armenia, two patriarchs of Constantinople, and Four Ascetics whose names are unknown to history.
Sunday, August 17
For highlighting my piece on Catholicism in America in his weekly "best of" roundup of different blog material. Welcome to the blogosphere, Earl!
"A blog? That's like that place where they found those 'blog-people,' right, Ted?"
Thanks to all our readers for their insigthful comments, for recommending us to others, and for putting up
with our personalities and at times madcap humor............
"No Dougal, those are bog people......blog people are far stranger than the simple, ancient bog people."
.......Look forward in the coming weeks to more book and music reviews, "appreciations," and other typical material, as well as some class-based material once school starts, Matt's reports from Rome, and a series about the traditions of different religious orders. Let us know if there's anything else you'd like to see us do here, and feel free to contact us personally, as some of you have, with regards to important issues like Catholic identity at Notre Dame - we're here to serve.
With today's High Mass at Saint Agnes Church on 43rd Street between Lexington Ave. and Third Ave. in New York. First, a note on this church. Saint Agnes is about five years old now, the replacement for a Victorian Gothic structure that burned down in 1993. Built in a restrained baroque, the current church features one main altar effectively designed for use either ad orientem or versus populum, as well as side shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Sacred Heart, Saint Pius X, Saint Francis, Saint Therese, and others. Behind the main altar is a beautifully vivid painting of Saint Agnes, the Blessed Mother and other saints, with Saint Agnes situated in a sort of Romanesque gazebo - the painting has been criticized by some due to the fact that Saint Agnes's skirt stops above the knee - this seems to me rather ridiculous, especially since the figure in the painting is tall enough that this is not really high at all. The traditional design also includes an altar rail, used at every liturgy. The church also features a very good bookstore that, while tending to skew more traditionalist than my preferred Pauline Books and Media (I went on a shopping spree there yesterday, I shouldn't be allowed there alone.......), does feature some gems, including a selection of Tridentine missals and the beautiful Rosary I bought there a while back. That said, here are the details of today's liturgy:
Prelude: Nigra sum, sed formosa, Opus 18, No. 3 by Marcel Dupre
Introit: Dum clamarem ad Dominum, exaudivit vocem meam (Psalm 54)
Kyrie and Gloria: Mass XI, Orbis factor
Gradual: Custodi me, Domine, ut pupillam oculi (Psalm 16)
Offertory: Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam (Psalm 24)
Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei: Mass XI, Orbis Factor
Communion Antiphon: Acceptabis sacrificum justitiae (Psalm 50)
Antiphon of Our Lady: Salve Regina, Plainsong (note: after hearing Dominicans sing the tonus monasticus version, there's really no going back to this one)
Postlude: Magnificat du premier ton; Dialgue sur les grands jeux by Jean-Adam Guilain
Beginning next Sunday: Weekly Mass postings from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart - for those of you who get the Hallmark Channel, tune in!
Saturday, August 16
Glorification of St. Roch, after Tintoretto
A King, an Empress, and a Pilgrim
Well, anyway, while I sweep up the crumpled confetti off the floor and try to wash away the stale beer smell out of the Shrine after the wild and crazy Assumption party we had here last night (yeah right, as if), let's have a look at the saints of the day. Today's most important feast is that of King St. Stephen of Hungary, who was baptized by St. Adalbert (or Voitech) of Prague in 985. He grew, surprisingly, into a devout Christian and converted his nation, gaining the title of Apostolic Majesty from Pope Silvester II, used by his descendents and subsequent dynasties ruling Hungary well until 1918. The Holy Crown of St. Stephen, another gift of the Pope, is Hungary's most prized relic, and even today, a thousand years later, remains a sign of the Hungarian people's sovereignty and independence. Interestingly enough, it sat out much of the Cold War in a vault in Fort Knox (along with Indiana Jones's ark of the covenant, probably...I'm kidding) but now is displayed proudly in Budapest after being returned in 1978. St. Stephen was married to Bl. Gisele (the sister of St. Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor), and their son was St. Emericus (also known as Americus, Imre or Emeric), the namesake of Amerigo Vespucci and a minor patron of the Americas.
I wore a red shirt and green socks to remember St. Stephen today. Hungarian colors, and all that. Hey, it works for me.
Today is the feast, also, of St. Uguzo of Milan, whose origins are obscure, and seems to have been an alpine shepherd killed by his employer who grew jealous of his virtues. The Roman Martyrology also tells us today of St. Serena of Rome, the sometime wife of the Emperor Diocletian, though this information derives from the spurious acta of St. Cyriacus. We can also find reference in the Martyrology to St. Roch of Montpellier (or Rock, or San Rocco in Italian) whose feast remains popular with Italians in their native land or abroad. He had a long and rather melodramatic history which revolves around his adventures as a pilgrim as well as his work as a healer during the plague. Arriving home, unrecognizably transformed by the ravages of disease, his uncle, the local governor, mistook him for a spy and had him arrested. Only after his death did a birthmark vindicate his identity. St. Roch is the patron of plague victims and cancer survivors, as well as physicians, surgeons, cattle, prisoners, Istanbul, street-pavers, old clothes dealers, cooks, and invoked against all contagious disease,. He is portrayed in art as a pilgrim with an open wound on his leg. He has a marvellous Scuola Grande named after him in Venice with some of the finest paintings of him extant as well as numerous scenes of salvation history, done by Tintoretto. The story goes that there was a contest held to have the paintings done, and each artist was given a small stretch of wall, but Tintoretto broke the rules and painted the entire space of the room. Fortunately, he won and his work was not painted over!
In San Rocco and his Scuola's honor tonight, we're eating risotto and saltimbocca (strictly speaking, Roman, not Venetian, but we do what we can), and listening to Music for San Rocco, 1608 by the inimitable Gabrieli Consort, actually recorded on site at the Scuola! I love feast days!
Friday, August 15
Bl. Isidore Bakanja, Martyr of the Scapular
Since Emily and Dan have done so admirably in digging up the saints occulted by this feast day, I feel obliged to have a bit of hagiographical fun as well, lest my fellow Whappers think I'm losing my touch! Today is also the feast day of St. Napoleon (or Neopolus) of Alexandria, an early martyr about which little is known, though his cult was heavily promoted in France during the years of his namesake's reign (surprise surprise). I've even seen some rather remarkable Bonapartist illustrations of him published after the restoration of Louis XVIII that show him with the facial features of the Corsican upstart. Rather a bit much, since Old Boney was excommunicated for his dealings with the Papal States. As a consequence, he seems to have become an unofficial patron of soldiers. Weird. Vive le vrai Roi tres chretien, à bas l'empereur!
Today, furthermore, recalls Bl. Isidore Bakanja, a Catholic African convert and devotee of the Scapular martyred by the Belgians during the darkest days of the Congo Free State. For attempting to disseminate Christianity among the African serfs (and thus awaken them to the missionaries' fight for justice and native rights), and for refusing to surrender his scapular, agents of the thuggish colonial administration had him beaten mercilessly with a spiked elephant-hide scourge and left him chained from a tree for days. A colonial inspector rescued him and took him home, and heard his tale just before two missionaries could give him the last rites on this day in 1909. Today is also the memorial of Bl. Claudio Grazotto, a Franciscan brother and well-known and talented sculptor of the first half of the twentieth century. Speaking as an artist, that's pretty darn cool.
Today also marks the feast of Saint Tarsicius of Rome, the patron of altar boys. (some of my favorite people are altar boys!) According to Damasus I, Tarsicius was martyred defending the Holy Eucharist. Tradition has it that he was carrying the Eucharist to prisoners awaiting martyrdom when he was waylaid by bystanders curious to see what he was carrying. When he refused, they beat him and tried to pry his arms away from his chest to relieve him of his precious cargo. As he prayed, his arms miraculously became stronger than iron. He was rescued by friends, but refused to open his arms until he was brought before the Pope. As he was carried into the Pope's presence, he died, his arms fell away from his chest, and the air was filled with an odor like lilies.
Saint Tarsicius, pray for us, that we may have the fortitude to defend the Blessed Sacrament against all forms of irreverence and profanation!
We present our Top Ten Criteria for Being a "Whapster":
10. Pilgrimage from South Bend, IN to Bologna.........on foot!
9. Wear the ankle chaplet given to St. Flutius in his vision of the Holy Whapping
8. Sit with us in LaFortune Student Center until it closes........then get up for 9:00 a.m. Saturday Mass!
7. Memorization test featuring saints in the Roman Canon, Litany of Dominican Saints and Blesseds, and Litany of Carmelite Saints and Blesseds
6. Humiliating initiation ritual featuring a crown of roses.
5. Take strenuous psychological test. Fail.
4. When giving advice, you always manage to cram in the phrase, "With great power comes great responsibility." Bonus points if you can also say, "My gift is my curse."
3. You consider buying an ostentatious luxury condo and naming it "Alexander VI House"
2. Your first instinct when you see a girl in a denim skirt or a guy in a polo shirt and khakis is to call the nearest vocation director.
1. When watching Mel Gibson's Passion, you plan to look very closely at the scene where Jesus walks up the stairs of Pilate's palace.
The parade of paintings continues.......
...........is On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies, edited by Brian E. Daley, S.J. of the Notre Dame theology dept. Featuring both accounts of the Assumption and more theological homilies, the inexpensive volume contains work by John of Thessalonica, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Germanus, St. John Damascene, and others. As I've said before, Daley is a superb teacher, a superb scholar, and a superb Jesuit, and is also very much involved in Orthodox-Catholic ecumenical relations. He is a great asset to Notre Dame, and is book a great asset to any theological library.
Can our blog use every painting of the Assumption on the Internet? Stay tuned.
Because of its rather recent dogmatic definition and its Mariological (and thus, to some "un-ecumenical") nature, the Assumption can be a stumbling block to many, such as Nicholas Kristof in today's NY Times. (Thanks to Mark Shea for the link) But I think that upon further reflection, it's easy to see how the Assumption would flow out of other doctrines about Mary; in essence, it is the natural conclusion of her entire life, and the fulfillment of two important passages from St. Paul.
In Colossians 3:3, St. Paul says that "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Thus, the Assumption rests on the same hinge as the Immaculate Conception: in order for Mary to have "been raised with Christ," her life has to have been formed, from the very beginning by an experience of His saving grace. As Karl Rahner puts it in Theological Investigations, "Mary is she who is taken into predestining grace in Christ's becoming flesh as the victorious and definitive presence of God's mercy in the world, overcoming all sin; and therefore in her case this temporal interval has no meaning. Not because she did not require redemption, but because she is the one member of the redeemed without whom it is impossible to think of the Redemption as victorious." Von Speyr puts it a little differently, writing in Mary in the Redemption: "It cannot simply be said that the Son suffers on the Cross from the Mother. She is redeemed in a pre-light of the Cross. This demonstrates the magnanimity of the Father, a gift in advance from the Father to the Son." Thus, Mary has "been raised with Christ" with the grace of the Immaculate Conception and with her fiat at the Annunciation, that is, her acceptance of the mission that comes with that grace. Moving to the second part of the Colossians quote, regarding Mary's hiddenness, let us turn to Saint Louis de Montfort, writing in True Devotion to Mary: "Mary was singularly hidden during her life. It is on this account that the Holy Ghost and the Church call her Alma Mater - 'Mother secret and hidden.'" Mary is the exemplar of being "hid with Christ in God," appearing very little in the New Testament - St. Paul's ideal in Colossians is her reality. Thus, she is "raised with Christ" immediately, since in death (perhaps) as in life she is the model and example of the Church.
The same applies to Ephesians 1:12: "We who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory." This idea of being the "praise of glory" is the center of the mystical theology of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, and this is nowhere more evident than in her Last Retreat, written just weeks before her death. "Her soul is so simple," Elizabeth says of Mary, "Its movements are so profound that they cannot be detected. She seems to reproduce on earth the life which is that of the divine Being, the simple Being. And she is so transparent, so luminous, that one would mistake her for the light, yet she is but the 'mirror' of the Sun of Justice: 'Speculum jusititiae'!" What a beautiful image to reflect upon, on this feast of the Assumption. By perfectly living this life as "praise of glory" on earth through her hiddenness and prayer, Mary, as von Speyr would say, allowed her mission to be absorbed completely in Christ, and thus became the first to share bodily in His Resureection. We are called to be, like Mary, "hid with Christ," and "the praise of his glory." The closer we exemplify this ideals, the more joy we will have in experiencing one day the life that Mary alone lives now, body and soul with Christ. I don't claim to have offered a definitive, airtight, theological proof for the dogma of the Assumption here, but I hope I've at least provided some material for reflection.