Tuesday, February 28


Caption Contest!

(One last bit of silliness before Lent...)

"And all this can be yours, your Holiness, for just three payments of $99.95..."

Reason #256 to love Cardinal-Designate Zen

He's a snappy dresser, if this photo is anything to go by.

What do all these have in common?

(And no, I have no idea what the 2nd one is.)

In Episcopal (not Episcopalian) News...

The Pope has accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Galveston-Houston.

Here's the official announcement. (In Italian)

(Via Catholic Ragemonkey)


What do Manuel the Spanish Waiter and G.K. Chesterton have in common?

British actor Andrew Sachs, apparently. After his stint on Fawlty Towers playing the notoriously incompetent and much-put upon Manuel, he ended up doing the voice of Fr. Brown in a BBC Radio drama series based on GKC's stories about the priest-detective. Who'd've thought it? The flexibility of British actors never fails to amaze me--though Sach's later stint as Dr. Watson on another radio series is less surprising. Manuel's special knowledge might have helped out in the case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, after all...

Monday, February 27


The other day I posted a question on whether an atheist could validly perform a sacrament, if he has been properly ordained. At the time, quoting Sacrosanctum Concilium ("the sacraments presume faith"), I thought that an atheist could not.

However, in the course of reading Schillebeeckx, who may have coined the pharse "sacraments presume faith" (he certainly uses it), he argues that an atheist could validly perform the sacraments, as long as he intended to act as the Church acts. This intention does not require, he says, a living faith; it requires only a vague knowledge of what it means to act in the name of the Church and a vague knowledge of what the act itself is intended to symbolize (and therefore to effect).

"All theologians agree that for validity it is not necessary that the minister
should believe personally in the msyery and the meaning of the sacraments. If
he does not believe, of course, the ministery cannot have the intention to
administer a sacrament precievesly as a sacrament... A non-believer, however,
can want to perform an act which has meaning only in the perspectice of the
ecoenomy of savlation, even though he cannot appreciate it in the that light
himself. In this case, in the performance of the visible eccelsial act he
fulfils the intention of Christ and of the Church as an outsider would. He must
have, therefore, at least some vague knwoledge of the fact that the act asked of
him is ecclesial. In this he might be acting out of respect for the religious
opinions of a fellow man who has asked him to do this... [even if he ridicules
the practice] as soon as he consents to the requst and performs the act
voluntarily [in the name of the Church] he performs an ecclesial symbolic act.

Thus the honest inward will to perform the Church's outward rite is sufficient.
So when a person has the inward intention truly to perform a visible act of the
Church (the intention to do what is accepted by the faithful as an act of the
Church, of which the minister must have a least an elementary awareness) what
is done is truly an act of the Church, and consequently valid."

(Christ the Sacrament: pp105-106)

My next question is whether an atheist could validly recieve the sacrament.
Which came first, the stole or the chausable?

At Least the English Know


"The Game of Ecclesiastical Conquest"

The Reformation Is Now

I've read a number of articles in the secular press telling Islam that what it needs most is the blessing of a Reformation, like Christianity had at roughly the same age, which Reformation would instill the virtues of secularism, separation of church and state, and (what these articles imply but don't articulate) religious indifference.

According to the historical narrative of these journalists, the overbearing Catholic Church of the 16th century needed the Reformers to come along and announce that the Church wasn't in charge. A relieved peasantry woke up, said "Gosh, guess so!" and, in the burst of creative activity that followed, they ceased to be peasants and became respectable middle class citizens, embarking upon that quest of perfection through Science! and occasionally attending church services in the meantime.

"Oh, if only that would happen in Arabia...," they lament.

Fortunately, the Reformation is happening in Islam, right now. Unfortunately, our secular journalists have no idea what actually happened in the Reformation.

It is true that, a century after the 95 Thesis, Europe was a much more secularized place, and (at least in its northern half) the Church either served the state or played little public role at all.

It is not true, however, that this was in anyway a peaceful process, or that it was born from a desire to secularize. As I remember, the religious Europe of 1525 and the secular Europe of 1675 were separated by...
(1) Fierce religious in-fighting
(2) The Peasant's Revolt
(3) The Thirty Years' War

In otherwords, a whole lot of religious violence. In fact, it was only after over a century of violence that many Europeans began to write-off religion as "frankly, not worth it." It was that exhaustion with religion that resulted from the Reformation, rather than the Reformation itself, that gave birth to the fiercely secular regions of Europe today.

The general pattern of religious reformation which emerges, then, is..
(1) Long stability due to regulation of religious interpretation and governance
(2) Disruptance of that stability by individuals claiming the right of person religious interpretation
(3) Passionate in-fighting amongst the various factions
(4) Gradual exhausting with the cause of religion, due to the resultant violence
(5) Increased Secularism

In Christianity, we moved from the centralized governance of pope and bishops, to the self-interpretation of the Protestants, experienced in-fighting in the 30-years' War, and now have secularized northern Europe.

In Islam, you will note, it is Al-Qaeda which has abandoned the traditional schools of Islamic thought. As one Muslim blogger describes,

"Having severed the connection between themselves and 1400 years of scholarship and thought, having trashed the tradition of ijaza and person-to-person teaching, they comb through the books in their living rooms, making up that which suits whatever it is their hearts desire."

Formerly, only established schools had the right to issue fatwas (religious rulings), but the Islamic reformers have, for the first time, issued fatwas appart from the religious establishment. Now, we see the beginnings of religious in-fighting. Our same blogger observers,

"They wish for a civil war between the Sunnis and Shi’a not just in ‘Iraq but in the whole world. They wish to stomp out, by any means necessary, the Shi’a and Ahlu Tasawwuf, before they move on to the Baha’i, the Jews, the Christians.".

After enough violence, ordinary Muslims will write-off the project; "enough violence" being (to judge historically) a century of very bloody warfare.

The situation is full of irony: Islam is having the Reformation the Secular West desires it to have. But the very people who despise secularism, Al-Qaeda, will prove to be the most effective proponents of Arab secularism. However, the West ought've been careful what it wished for, because this process will be bloody indeed. It takes a high cost to dissuade a continent from ferverent practice of its religion, as the 16th century teaches us well.


The Catholic Truth Society of London says that their publication of the Copmendium will be out on March 31.

Will we ever get it in America?

Sunday, February 26

I would like to request prayers for the repose of the soul of the father of a dear friend of the Shrine, and for her and her family. Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in æternum, quia pius es. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
"1,000 people a day should see this!"

Cometh Lent. I'll be cutting back my Internet time during this most dolorous of seasons, so to keep this blog interesting, email me if you find anything blog-worthy (see the side bar for my address), and I'll post it.

It's win-win: you get to contribute what you think is funny/interesting, I get to offer up meritorious sacrifice, and everyone else who visits will still have plenty of stuff to read.

Holy Father, You've Made It

You haven't really made it in the Catholic world until bad artwork is sold of your image.

But Benedict has made it. :)

Here is a great collection of holy cards, many of them happily not lamenated.

One Learns Something New Every Day

From The Church Visible, Ch. 17, "The Fascia":

Originally, the fascia became commonplace because of the looser-fitting nature of the cassock style of the day [1624]; however, Urban VIII mandated its use as a symbol of one's commitment to a life devoted to Christ. For the same reason, the fascia was forbidden to altar servers and to all other persons who adopted the cassock for specific liturgical functions unless they were either seminarians or individuals ordained to the priesthood. [...] It is important to note that the sash is not meant to be worn as a belt; the proper placement of the circular segment of the fascia is above the belt and just below the breastbone.

Caption Contest

"Would you like ground pepper on your salad, President Moisiu?"

I do sometimes wonder what the Pope does with all the peculiar diplomatic gifts he gets every day. I have also decided that of all the Cardinals, I find Cardinal-Designate Zen the most theraputic. It cheers me up just to look at him. I mean, he's just so darn cheerful. That, plus the name and the fact he sticks up for the Church and human rights on the mainland.

(Incidentally, there is a Venetian noble family named Zen, I believe. It would be amusing if someday there were two Cardinals Zen at once, and only one of them Chinese.)

And, of course, Archbishop Caraffa of Bologna wins the most stylish award.

Friday, February 24


Kind of amusing ...

This site generates a "word cloud" for your blog, with all the words that show up most frequently on the page. Of course, it's rather small, and then they try to sell you a t-shirt when it's all done, but fun nonetheless.

Thursday, February 23

Say it ain't so!!!!
Abortion: Illegal In the United States

Pending their Governor's signature, South Dakota has passed a law making abortion illegal.

This means that abortion will be illegal in one of the fifty United States for the first time since Roe vs. Wade.

The law will be challenged immediately, where it will be struck down immediately by lower level courts who must obey previous Supreme Court precedent. But, it will doubtless be appealed to the Supreme Court, where that precedent might finally be overturned.

Most interestingly, this is garnering relatively few headlines. If I were NARAL, that fact would terrify me.

Wednesday, February 22


The Truth Will Set You Free

For those of you who are interested in the goings on here at Our Lady's University, there is a new blog, run by ND students, on the current debates on academic freedom and Catholic character. As well as sampling from the best of the Observer editorials, they will also be publishing editorial comments and letters to the site. Have a look!

Cardinal Pictures!

As noted below in the comments, American Papist has pictures of the new Cardinals on his blog.

Also, I'd just like to note that Cardinal Zen will be joining the ranks of great cardinal names, along with Cardinal Martini, Cardinal Stickler, and, of course, Cardinal Sin.

New Cardinals!

(A rather different kind of hat from Drew's post)

The announcement for the consistory came out today:
(I'll translate the titles later, but I have to run off to class at the moment, and they are fairly easy to figure out)

1. Mons. WILLIAM JOSEPH LEVADA, Prefetto della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede;
2. Mons. FRANC RODÉ, C.M., Prefetto della Congregazione per gli Istituti di Vita Consacrata e le Società di Vita Apostolica;
3. Mons. AGOSTINO VALLINI, Prefetto del Supremo Tribunale della Segnatura Apostolica;
4. Mons. JORGE LIBERATO UROSA SAVINO, Arcivescovo di Caracas;
5. Mons. GAUDENCIO B. ROSALES, Arcivescovo di Manila;
6. Mons. JEAN-PIERRE RICARD, Arcivescovo di Bordeaux;
7. Mons. ANTONIO CAÑIZARES LLOVERA, Arcivescovo di Toledo;
8. Mons. NICOLAS CHEONG-JIN-SUK, Arcivescovo di Seoul;
9. Mons. SEAN PATRICK O'MALLEY, O.F.M. Cap., Arcivescovo di Boston;
10. Mons. STANISŁAW DZIWISZ, Arcivescovo di Cracovia;
11. Mons. CARLO CAFFARRA, Arcivescovo di Bologna;
12. Mons. JOSEPH ZEN ZE-KIUN, S.D.B., Vescovo di Hong Kong.

And three too old to vote:

1. Mons. ANDREA CORDERO LANZA DI MONTEZEMOLO, Arciprete della Basilica di S.Paolo fuori le Mura;
2. Mons. PETER POREKU DERY, Arcivescovo emerito di Tamale (Ghana);
3. P. ALBERT VANHOYE, S.I., il quale fu benemerito Rettore del Pontificio Istituto Biblico e Segretario della Pontificia Commissione Biblica.

UPDATE: The Cafeteria is Closed has information on each of the new cardinals.
Non perfectus est

Though I now have an awesome tie (see below), the ensemble is, of course, incomplete without.. a hat.

Specifically, an Alpine one:

Not bad, but sadly the boar brush isn't included.

Some day, my hat will come. Probably the same day as that freaking Compendium.

Tuesday, February 21


Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
Cry out to the Rock of our salvation!
(Ps 95:1)

Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men.
All hail! The Shepherd King of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav’n the strain prolong.

Beleaguered by the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord.

His signet is the Fisherman's;
No sceptre does he bear;
In meek and lowly majesty
He rules from Peter's Chair:
And yet from every tribe and tongue,
From every clime and zone,
One thousand million voices sing
The glory of his thone!

So raise the chant with heart and voice,
In Church & school & home:
"Long live the Shepherd of the Flock!
Long live the Pope of Rome!"
Almighty Father bless his work,
Protect him in his ways,
Receive his prayer, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him length of days!

Happy Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Supreme Court takes up legality of late-term abortion:

The US government is appealing rulings by lower courts that a 2003 law banning the procedures decried by opponents as "partial-birth abortion" is unconstitutional, mainly because it fails to make exceptions for a mother's health.

The case will be closely watched for clues on how President George W. Bush's picks for chief justice, John Roberts, and associate justice, Samuel Alito, will rule on abortion.

Very interestingly, the Government itself is behind the appeal...
I think it means that, as much as Alito and Roberts had to pretend they'd never heard of that, "what was the word? abortion?" thing, the President is pretty confident about his picks.

You Go, Catholic Church

Karl Keating supplies some encouraging statistics in his news letter.

In the last forty years...

Disciples of Christ lost 57 percent of its membership (-1 million people)
Presbyterian Church USA lost 44 percent (-1.8 million)
Episcopal Church lost 35 percent (-1.3 million)

Assemblies of God gained 377% (+2.2 million)
Southern Baptist Convention gained 53% (+5.7 million)

Catholic Church gained 45% (+21 million)

(Source: Lucy)
I would like to make a very strong clarification:

In *no way* do I consider the decline of the main-line Protestant denominations a good thing.

Catholics depend upon them to keep a critical mass of this country Christian, and a critical mass of this country depends upon them for eternal salvation.

The solace which I found in these numbers is that, while every Catholic I know is aware of close family members who left the Church, and we all know the vocation numbers a grim, and Mass attendance is not as high as we'd like, the entirely negative story most statistics give of the Catholic over the last 40 years is happily moderated by this statistic. And we all need good news sometimes.



This is by far the coolest thing I've ever seen on eBay.

When wouldn't it be appropriate? First Communions, parties, job interviews...


Maybe I'm contradicting myself about what I said in the last post about talking about Benedict's arms (let's be nice in the comments-boxes, folks), but I was just tooling around the 'net and found a few interesting photos regarding the use of the tiara during the present pontificate, the death of which appears to be somewhat exaggerated. I don't mind the triple-banded mitre that much, given that it still sets apart the Pope from the bishops as the bishops all use the gallero or pontifical hat on their arms (think of it as a "stealth tiara"), but I am also glad to see a multiplicity of versions of the arms appearing, for which there is a fair amount of heraldic precedent. JP II very occasionally used the mitre above his arms, and there are plenty of instances of differing crowns, helmets, knightly insignias and pavillions being used interchangeably with the same royal arms. Anyway, Benedict's left it on the flag, and he certainly enjoys all the other fun papal stuff. Plus, the Petrine pallium is definitely a keeper.

So, we're familiar with the standard version of the Pope's arms, with the curious three-banded mitre and the pallium, but Wikipedia notes, "However, there have been papal documents since his inauguration that have been appearing with the papal tiara present." I'd not seen much photo evidence of this, outside of a few unofficial representations, but it appears that the papal tiara appears above Benedict's arms in the bit of gardening back behind the Vatican where the hedges and flowerbeds are cut to resemble the papal arms. I say, use 'em both and enjoy the variety. I just wish they'd switch to a variation with a better drawing of the pallium and the mitre.

This image appeared in the October number of the Italian Salesian Bulletin, if you're interested. And we've talked about this already, but here's a close-up of the Swiss Guard flag where the papal arms appear with their traditional accountrements:

One could argue that Benedict or his gardeners didn't want to unnecessarily rip up the flower beds, or that departing from the existing Swiss Guard flag pattern would be too much work, but Benedict's triple-banded mitre appeared in the border of complex, Renaissance-style tapestries displayed at recent beatifications, arguably more work to re-design and weave than a single planting bed or a new military banner that was going to be replaced anyway.

These last two images are from the (somewhat contentious) discussion that arose on the American Heraldry Society back after the election (yes, I know, I am a geek), incidentally, which also includes some interesting examples of pontifical colleges whose arms include the tiara, and some other fun POD heraldic stuff.

The American Heraldry Society, incidentally, cooked up an interesting theoretical compromise between the tiara and the mitre, suggesting the Pope should use a variant of the historic camelaucum, the primitive ancestor of both tiara and mitre. The results are intriguing, if a little strange. The main problem I see with this is the camelaucum is even more removed from reality than the (unworn) tiara, having not been used since the early Middle Ages. It's a little too archaeological, in the sense criticized by Pius XII in Mediator Dei. Anyway, the camelaucum never had the little cross on top or the stripes, so it's a wholly artificial headgear, neither historical nor contemporary.

For more information, see Wikipedia's article on the subject.

Curiosities of the Tiara

I posted this on the New Liturgical Movement, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle in the discussion on the rumored SSPX reunion. Just some random Catholic facts for your amusement and edification. I'm not intending this to become a comments-box discussion on Benedict XVI's coat of arms, since that's ancient history as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, it's still on the flag.

The mitre was at one time the sole prerogative of the Pope. Indeed, the tiara and the mitre in all likelyhood descend from the same bonnet, a curious thing shaped like a sugar-loaf and either called the camelaucum or the phrygium--ironically, the same infamous oriental cap of liberty later resurrected by the Jacobins of revolutionary Paris. The Phrygian cap--worn by freed slaves in ancient days--was purportedly bestowed on Pope Sylvester by Constantine as a sign of the Church's new freedom. While this is undoubtedly a legend, at least one author has suggested that the popes of the era must have had some distinguishing head-piece, and we have definite evidence for the camelaucum from the seventh century onwards.

The crowns were added one-by-one; the first allegedly was added by St. Symmachus (498-514), which is in all likelyhood a fairy tale. Symmachus did a great many other things, though, including combatting a Byzantine-backed anti-Pope that went on through increasingly garbled complexities, including four truly bizarre years with the pope stuck out at St. Peter's and his rival living at the Lateran, even daring to hang up his portrait in the series at St. Paul-without-the-Walls. It appears the crown was really first added sometime around the reign of Charlemagne, or perhaps in the thirteenth century.

The second was Boniface VIII's idea, purportedly to show both temporal and spiritual power, and the third either by Benedict XI or Clement V. Nobody is quite sure why--the heraldist Giluiano Cesare de Beatiano, advancing a theory that would make even Jack Chick blush, claims it to represent temporal power over the known continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. The late Bruno Bernard Heim asks, sensibly, why nobody got around to adding coronets for Australia or the Americas; on the other hand, St. Robert Bellarmine nonetheless backs up (without the continental argument) the assertion of the tiara's temporal significance, which is no surprise as it's never really been associated with the liturgy, with the apparent exception of an Eastern-Rite liturgy once celebrated by John XXIII of blessed memory.

The best explanation would appear to be that the crowns represent the supremacy of the Pope over the Church Militant, Suffering and Triumphant, and also his triple ministry of priest, pastor and teacher of the faithful. Or, as the old coronation rite once put it, his tripartite authority as the Father of Kings and Princes, the Rector of the World, and the Vicar of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Earth.

A few brave souls have undertaken to usurp the tiara from time to time. This was once considered a capital crime, if intended to misuse the pope's jurisdiction. Heim writes that "today the law has become unnecessary." (It is not known at time of writing if Archbishop Heim had ever been aware of the wellspring of nuttiness that was the late Gregory XVII of befuddled memory). Then there's the Patriarch of Lisbon who actually still uses the tiara heraldically, with a double-barred cross and crozier. The Patriarchate is a fairly young ecclesiastical institution and formerly subject to some peculiar issues of jurisdiction. It was created by the Golden Bull of 1716 as a Portuguese compliment to the Patriarchate of the West Indies--a relatively minor office, without pay, held ex-officio since 1572 by the chief chaplain of the Spanish Army. (It appears to have been vacant since 1963).

The Patriarchate itself started out equally small and was for a time largely restricted in authority to the Portuguese chapel royal, a chunk of Western Lisbon, and a number of suffragams. The former Archbishop of the place still controlled the remainder of Lisbon and a substantial ecclesiastical province which included San Salvator in the Congo and, apparently, the Brazilian city of Bahia de todos os Santos with its 365 churches--now voodoo-infested, if Umberto Eco is to be believed. This curious arrangement with its two cathedrals was eventually scrapped, though the double cathedral chapter persisted until 1837.

The Lisbon tiara is somewhat different in shape from that of Rome's, though like Rome it seems to have several variants, either bulbous or conical. Some call it a triregnum to distinguish it from the papal variety, though that too is often called a triregnum as well, to further confuse things. The origin of this singular bit of ecclesial headgear has less to do with Lusitanian pontifical megalomania than King John V's (1707-1750) hobby of coming up with new ornaments for his patriarch in an effort to establish a sort of non-schismatic Western Rome. (The first patriarch of Lisbon, Thomas d'Almeyda, seems to have been a pretty nice guy, even saintly). The sedia gestadoria was also used there, and the cathedral chapter has three ranks patterned after the three orders of the College of Cardinals, as well. This rather charming sort of liturgical weirdness is uniquely Portuguese, as the Portuguese Braga rite retains rubrics concerning a serpent-shaped Paschal candlestick, as well as a prayer to be said in the sacristy while combing one's hair--apparently once a fairly common practice.

While Portuguese claims that the Pope said it was okay strike me as somewhat suspicious (there's a hint of "the dog ate my homework" in there somewhere), Rome never really made much of a fuss over the matter. Ironically enough, it seems that the old 1917 Code of Canon Law says that any century-old privilege is automatically considered valid, since proof of the origins of such a right is no longer required by law. I'm not sure if this is in the 1983 Code. On the other hand, there was that fellow Antoine-Anne-Jules, Cardinal de Clermont-Tonnerre (d. 1830), who had the fantastic cheek to stick a tiara atop his arms because of his alleged ancestral relative, Pope Nicholas II. One has to draw the line somewhere.

For Our Readers on Campus...

John Powers of The Society of St. Barbara informs me that the esteemed Dr. Denis McNamara, Assistant Director of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary will be giving a presentation entitled "Sacrament of Heaven: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago" on Wednesday February 22 at 6:30 PM, Room 114, Bond Hall. All are welcome. Dr. McNamara is the author of the recent Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago. (Be there. Aloha.)

Incidentally, if you haven't been to the book's official website in a while, there's a whoooole lotta more stuff up, including some nice visual tours, and photos galore.

Monday, February 20


Email tagline from a friend

"It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it."
~G.K. Chesterton
I would be flabbergasted.

Saturday, February 18


Overheard, and unsure of the context

Between two girls on campus:

"Hey, I'm bored, let's go over to the Vatican. See what Benny the Sixteenth is up to..."

Friday, February 17

Definitive proof that young Master Andrew Cusack is in fact a character in an Evelyn Waugh novel.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm envious!
Apparently, you are allowed to vote once every twenty-four hours in this year's Catholic Blog Awards--so vote early and often. The Shrine's Dan, as a resident of Chicago, however, can vote twice every twenty-four hours. Andy's offered plenary indulgences, but I think I'll go for a more direct route, and one with the approval of Francis Cardinal Arinze. Anyone want a turkey?

Thursday, February 16

I thought they only did stuff like this in reruns of Barney Miller.

POD, Bolivian style. The feast of SS. Peter and Paul, San Javier, Bolivia, as depicted on La Gran Chiquitania, a website dedicated to one of my favorite preoccupations, the remarkably cultured Jesuit missions of Bolivia and Paraguay.

Notes on St. Nicholas

We've talked here on the Shrine about how Santa Claus seems to lack the punch of St. Nicholas of Myra (literally, since the jolly old elf decked Arius in the hall...well, the jaw...at Nicaea), but apparently it seems that in European folklore, anyway, the old guy still packs something of a punch. I know it's not Christmas or even close, but this was too good to pass up. From Christina Hole, The Saints in Folklore, 1965:
In Holland, St. Nicholas comes riding up from Spain on a white horse on the eve of his own festival. [...] Later in the day, he appears in person, resplendent in crimson robes and a golden mitre and followed by his Moorish servant who [...] carries a birch in his hand to beat naughty children. Then comes the dangerous moment. St. Nicholas makes a speech in which he knows a most disconcerting knowledge of every childish crime that has been committed within the past few weeks. Sometimes he demands the recitation of specially learnt prayers [...] If any child has been particularly bad, there is even talk of putting him into a sack and carrying him off to Spain. Luckily, however, the saint always relents in the end, and when these alarming preliminaries are over the presents are distributed. [...]

[The Moorish servant] is mild indeed compared to the strange pre-Christian figures who sometimes accompany the Saint in other districts. Often he is attended by a band of horned and masked demons, clad in animal skins or swathed up to their necks in rustling straw. They make a horrible noise with clanging cowbells or chains [...] In some mountain districts of Austria, St. Nicholas comes at dusk on December 6, attended by two pages and three or four demons of particularly horrible appearance who are known as Krampuses. These are the goat-men, who wear immense wooden masks with glaring eyes and jagged teeth, surmounted by horns [...] [T]hey wait outside while he distributes his gifts. There they drum and howl continuously and press their hideous faces against the window, but at leas there is a barrier of brick and glass between them and the frightened children.
Wow. Someone call HRS.

I want the mug

The Most Eminent Lord Cardinal George now has a fanclub.

In a recent exchange, a friend posed the question,

"Does the worship of the physical element in the Eucharist (even if Christ is present) miss the point of the practice. I say it does, you say quite the opposite."

And here I don't pretend to embark upon a systematic answer. But I would like to point out a strength (again, if not a true reply) of Eucharistic adoration, and of an "objective" presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

First, we must consider the manner and modes in which Our Lord is present at Christian worship. Certainly, God is omnipresent, which has led ignorant liturgists to argue that "the parking lot is just as sacred as the church building or the Eucharist: God is EVERYWHERE!" Of course, this is manifestly silly: God is everwhere. But, the God-Man, Jesus Christ is fully present, as the man and God, not everywhere, but wheresoever be his humanity which, as the Resurrection of the Dead affirms to us, integrally includes bodily (physical) presence: that is, a human (even a God-man) is "fully" present only where

Therefore, Christ is "fully" present only when his body is also present; any other form of his "presence" is lacking--specifically lacking his body.

Therefore, while"Christ is present" as the Word of God (Logos) when the Word of God (Scripture) is proclaimed, this presence is not complete in and of itself, because it is not embodied. The Gospel is not read for the sake of reading the Gospel, but rather it is only complete only when it is heard and kept and born in the person of the believer who--like Mary--hears the Word of God and keeps it. Therefore, this presence of Christ is real (the Logos is present) but lacking, until it is embodied in its hearers.

We know that, because we are the body of Christ, whenever"two or three" of us meet together in His name, He is present, as well; therefore, we say that Christ "is present" in the people assembled for worship. This is an embodied presence, where the God-Man is fully present insofar as the assembly truly is His Body.

And, again, Christ is present embodied in the minister of worship, insofar as the minister is acts as priest--sharing in the priesthood of Christ, through Whom alone we, by connecting our worship to the pleasing oblation of the Cross, can rightly praise the Father.

All of this is well and good, to an extent: it has a limited usefulness, however, against the Post-Modern Critique of liturgy. Recent liturgists have held that, "If Christ, in all the manners in which He is present in Christian worship, is present in the interaction or intersubjectivity of the assembled worshippers... how can we really say, why do we need to believe, that Christ--or God Himself--is anything more than interpersonal interaction, anything more than intersubjectivity? Afterall, the moment we stop actively trying to "conjure up" Christ's presence through communal prayer, it dissappears: His presence, in these three modes, depends on human subjects with right intention, and therefore it is entirely subjective (in the mind of the human subject) intersubjective (in the minds of human subjects interacting with each other). The presence of Christ depends upon the subjectivity of those assembled.

And here is why the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is an essential witness to reality of God and the reality of Christ, apart from human subjectivity. When one believes that, regardless of what the assembly does, whether or not other people are present, Christ is nevertheless embodied in the Eucharist, then we have an "objective presence" (that is, a presence which does not depend on human subjectivity for its valdity, a presence which the human subject can strive to appreciate, but which in no way depends on our realizing it to validly be Christ's presence), then the Post-Modern Critique of Liturgy breaks down. The fact that, even if no one recognizes His full (that is to say, phsyical and spiritual) presence in the Eucharist, He is nonetheless there, affirms undeniably that Christ--that God--is more than "intersubjectivity," more than the warm feelings of an assembled congregation.

If Christ's presence in the Eucharist is anything less than a full, physical presence that depends upon no one's acknowledgement for its validity, then Christian worship easily degrades (as it truly has in many, many places) into little more than the pursuit of that warm "Jesus-feeling."

The Eucharist, then, as a full (spiritual and physical) presence of Christ which is remains present regardless of whether it is recognized as such by individual human subjects, is a necesary check on the many presences of Christ (in Gospel, assembly, and priest) which all depend upon intersubjectivity: that is, it is a witness that Christ, well present in the human subjects of his Faithful, nevertheless truly does Transcend our subjectivity, and remains completely Himself totally apart from us, as a God--and a Presence--which we can both fail to grasp and, therefore, must strive to grasp.

Rather than missing the point of the practice of Christian worship, adoring the Eucharist as a presence of Christ that does not depend upon human subjectivity for its validity protects Christian worship of the Christ who is within us from becoming a worship of the assembly itself. Worship of the Eucharist, rather than missing the point of worship, ensures the Christocentricism of worship.
"...These ancient fence drawings show evidence of famine, stolen babies, and family bike rides...or family...pie-sittings..."

(I have to admit one of the first things I noticed was today's email was signed by a guy named

Wednesday, February 15

Cool Quote on Poverty

"The less we own, the more it is our own."
- John "the Meister" Eckhart

Yahoo Sells its Soul

Via DaveTown:
NEW YORK Yahoo Inc. supplied personal information to Beijing authorities on a Chinese dissident who was sentenced to a harsh prison term, according to a press freedom group. Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday that cyber-dissident Li Zhi, who was given an eight-year prison sentence in December 2003, was convicted based on electronic records that Yahoo provided to the government, citing a plea by Li’s lawyer, Zhang Sizhi.
Yet another reason to use ProLife Search.

What Matt is listening to:
Jordi Savall and Capella Reial de Catalunya, Homenatge al Misteri d'Elx: Drama Sagrat per la Festa de l'Assumció de la Verge, 1709.

Tuesday, February 14


Of Mitres, Mitred Abbesses and Clerical Kings

Discussing the phenomenon of mitred abbesses today it is hard not to bring up issues of women's ordination. The comparison, however, largely serves to underscore the difference between the authority the great abbesses of mediaeval days wielded and that which would-be priestesses desire. The mitred abbess, and her regal Germanic cousin the princess-abbess (Reichsäbtissin, Fürstäbtissin) are creations of medieval Christendom, rather than a mythical feminist early Christianity populated by misunderstood bishops' wives turned by a linguistic trick into bishopesses. While abbesses reportedly signed the canons of the Synod of Whitby ahead of the priests present, there is a long and sizable gap between the obsolenscence of (unordained) deaconesses and the appearance of the first mitred abbess. In the extraordinary instances where abbesses overstepped their bounds and claimed some share of sacerdotal authority, it was more a matter of personal aggrandisement unconnected with their legal feudal rights and unlinked to some wider ideology.

The prominence of the figure of the abbess seems to me largely due to the sizable role of the abbey played in the civilizing of Europe amid the turmoil of the barbarian invasions, and its subsequent prominence in the feudal order. It is only perhaps with the increasing marginalization of religious life--and with it, the prominent role of monasteries and convents in civic and civil life--over the past four or five centuries that their power has really waned. The places where the princess-abbess remained the longest were also those places where feudalism survived, the tangle territories of the Germanies.

The disappearance of the abbess as a political figure also seems in part accountable to the neo-classical biases of the Renaissance that reintroduced to Europe a pre-Christian Roman legal attitude that barred women from the comparative liberties of the Middle Ages. A queen or duchess ruling in the stead of her absent husband or underaged son fit more clearly into the feudal system than into the absolutist monarchies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The abbess--often ruling over numerous local fiefs, holding sizable feudal rights, and sitting on the local imperial Council of Prelates alongside abbots and the occasional bishop--was a continuation of that custom. The abbess's "official" source of power was as a temporal ruler, which nonetheless testifies to the broad-mindedness of the Middle Ages with regards to female authority. In the few instances where her official power was ecclesiastical (as in the extraordinary case of the abbess-nullius of Las Huelgas in Spain), it was juridical rather than sacramental.

There were comparatively few mitred abbesses as opposed to Reichsäbtissinen; I know of only two for certain--Las Huelgas in Spain, Conversano in Italy. There were at probably quite a few others, such as Nonnburg in Austria, whose abbess may have been mitred at one time if I recall correctly, and wore a ceremonial crown as late as the 1920s. Their rights to partial pontificalia date back to a time when the mitre was itself comparatively new, and confined to the pope and cardinals. Shortly thereafter we find a veritable surfeit of mitred privileges granted to notable foreign bishops, abbots, cathedral canons (whose use actually predates that of abbots, as in the case of the chapter of Besançon that dates back to 1051), and even temporal rulers.

The case of mitred kings is particularly interesting, representing the ideal of close relations between pontiff and ruler, as well as the ruler as serving as an icon of Christ the King. In some cases, the lines between spiritual and temporal started getting blurred in some places, as at least one authority reports that during the High Middle Ages the Holy Roman Emperor would be ordained as a priest before his coronation, a priesthood admittedly without responsibilities, but a priesthood all the same. Incidentally, the Emperor also had the peculiar right to sing the Christmas Gospel with a drawn sword, and also honorary membership in several cathedral chapters.

However, the mitre was usually bestowed on most worthy kings as a sign of fealty to Rome, and did not accompany ordination. The oldest example of such a privilege goes back to Nicholas II, who granted the mitre to Duke Spytihnev of Bohemia, while Alexander II decorated his successor Vratislas in the same fashion. Roger of Sicily purportedly received the right to the mitre, along with crozier, ring, dalmatic and sandals from Lucius II. Regal robes, for that matter, often hinted at the ecclesial, and indeed at the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, the traditional robes included garments closely patterned on a dalmatic and a stole. This has less to do with women's ordination than the quasi-sacerdotal charisma that attached itself to kingship in medieval days.

It is in this context that one can make the most sense of mitred abbesses. The abbess of Conversano acquired for herself the right to a pectoral cross, ring, crozier and mitre at some point--though the crozier itself is hardly unusual and is still a symbol of their authority today. There was some abuse of this power, as she claimed canonical power over the clergy (not unlike many kings and dukes who interfered in the appointment of bishops), and annually received their homage while solemnly vested in her ornaments. For this she was nicknamed the "Monster of Apulia" and ended up on the receiving-end of numerous clerical complaints. Rome nonetheless agreed that she had a right to the homage and arranged a compromise in 1707 by which the ceremonial was simplified. She was allowed only to place the mitre and crozier on a table by her side, rather than wear them as in days past. Ih 1750, the homage and her jurisdiction itself were completely done away with.

There appears to be a pattern of less tame abuse extending beyond the use of pontificalia to more serious juridical and sacramental infractions. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:
Thus, in the Capitularics of Charlemagne, mention is made of "certain Abbesses, who contrary to the established discipline of the Church of God, presume to bless the people, impose their hands on them, make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of men, and confer the veil on virgins, employing during that ceremony the blessing reserved exclusively to the priest," all of which practice the bishops are urged to forbid absolutely in their respective dioceses. [...] The Monastieum Cisterciense records the stern inhibition which Innocent III, in 1220, placed upon Cistercian Abbesses of Burgos and Palencia in Spain, "who blessed their religious, heard the confession of their sins, and when reading the Gospel, presumed publicly to preach."
It appears, though, this was not connected with any organized resistance to males-only ordination. Considering that abbesses had the authority to hear non-sacramental "confessions" (the "chapter of faults") from their charges as a form of disipline, either in private or public, though without absolution and pennance, and lay confession was not unknown even in the days of St. Ignatius Loyola (though even then not without some doubts as to its sacramental efficacy), such outrageous behavior is more easily understood.

There is at least one instance when an abbess was granted some measure of juridical power that was not allowed to cross over into the realm of spiritual abuse. This was the mitred abbess (also called abbess-nullius or abbess-general) of Las Huelgas in Spain, the
noble lady, the superior, prelate, and lawful administratrix in spirituals and temporals of the said royal abbey, and of all the contents, churches, and hermitages of its filiation, of the villages and places under its jurisdiction, seigniory, and vassalage, in virtue of Bulls and Apostolical concessions, with plenary jurisdiction, privative, quasi-episopal, nullius diacesis
whose priviledges were confirmed in 1628 by the bull Sedes Apostolicae of Urban VIII. By royal decree, the abbess-nullius held unlimited secular authority over fifty villages, held civil and criminal courts, granted letters dismissorial for ordination and licensed local clergy. This situation persisted as late as 1873, and seems to have not been particularly problematic for Rome. Bear in mind the Spanish crown itself had a fair amount of power over the local Church, and so the non-clerical abbess's powers over clerics may have been less surprising in her day than in ours.

The Reigning Abbess-General's powers are echoed throughout the Germanies in a minor key, though there they are exclusively secular, as they held their principal authority as the rulers of fiefdoms and as members of the unwieldy Imperial Diet. The Abbess of the Princely Convent of Buchau was represented in the Diet and sat on the Swabian Bench of Prelates, and held a fair number of estates. Similar cases of ruling abbesses, often with the title of Princess of the Empire, princely ecclesiastical or spiritual rank (fürstliche geistliche würde), and seats among the Lords Spiritual of the German diet, are too numerous to mention.

There are even more exotic notes, such as the Chapter of Säckingen, whose members were ranked as higher-level civil servants; the canonesses of St. Gertrude at Nivelles who bore the title of knight (militissae); or the Free Worldly Abbey of Elsey (Das freiweltliche adelige Damenstift Elsey), one of a number of "convents" whose members did not wear habits and could marry, serving (presumably) as a social club and prayer society for high-born ladies.

In Bohemia, the abbess of a similar institution known as the the Theresian Royal and Imperial Ladies' Chapter of the Castle of Prague had received the right in 1791 to crown the Queen of Bohemia. The last surviving Princess-Abbess, Archduchess Maria Annunziata von Habsburg-Lothringen, died as recently as 1961, though the chapter was dissolved in 1918.

The mitred abbess is an interesting figure; it is unclear to me whether she has anything to teach us today, or whether she is merely a historical curiosity. At Las Huelgas and elsewhere, powerful abbesses operated with the blessing of Rome, while elsewhere, a legitimate juridical authority ended up bleeding, through pride, into an illegitimate quasi-sacramental one.

Nonetheless, even in the instance of the Abbess of Conversano, Rome recognized her priviledges, even if the details were changed. The socio-political conditions that led to the rise of the abbess are not present today, and unlikely to return. (Though, on the other hand, some well-placed Ann Arbor Dominicans staffing certain branches of certain diocesan curias would not be amiss today!) In a more secure age, such as the medieval epoch, such fascinating jurisdictional oddities could flourish without troubling the general frame. These abbesses shows that the Catholic Church has had a place for women in authority in the past--and that she sought, in the best cases, to foster a strong maternal authority not dependent on claims of priestly ordination and uniquely conditioned to the noble charisms of the feminine genius.

"The Biggest Catholic Vote Since..."


We've been nominated for "Best Presentation" and "Best Group Blog," awards we've won in the past.

If you continue to deem us worthy, please vote! (1 year partial indulgence*)

*Not really..

Badesse Mitrate

Some folks have been asking about mitred abbesses; I hope to post some more on the subject (as well as the secular use of the mitre by medieval kings, to which this phenomenon is distinctly linked) in the near future, but here's some info on the Abbesses of Conversano [misspelled "Converano" at one point on the site, but otherwise it appears to be in order], a typical example of the genre. At least one of them was so contentious in insisting that her convent's feudal rights be recognized that, if Bruno Bernard Heim is to be believed, she was nicknamed "The Monster of Apulia"!


Whispers in the Loggia *** The New Liturgical Movement *** Catholic World News *** More Catholic World News.

I honestly have no idea what's really going on. I am somewhat cautiously optimistic. What is interesting is that some (including my Lord Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos) have been making a comparison between these plans to raise the excommunication and Paul VI's raising of the excommunication on the Patriarch of Constantinople. However, the mutual de-anathamization was about events so far in the past as to be largely a gesture (a significant one, yes, but still a gesture) and that makes me wonder, canonically, what the raising of this excommunication would really mean. Presumably it would only accompany an agreement to return to full communion with Rome.

My main concern is that the Vatican will offer a great deal and the SSPX will not take it. I think a lot of this depends on how secondary are the other issues (Vatican II, ecumenism, etc.) that have since come up since the break in 1988 in relation to the Mass. I was talking to a friend yesterday and he thought, based on his contact with SSPX literature that many of their doctrinal criticisms of their reading of Vatican II would drop away if they were just given the Tridentine Mass and an assurance of autonomy. I'm not so sure based on Bernard Fellay's belligerent statements, though I would be very happy to be proven otherwise. Or how will their laity react in comparison with their priests and bishops? Thoughts, anyone?

(And please keep it clean!)

The Curt Jester proudly announces...

...the new Rite of Exorcism of the Spirit of Vatican II.

(Biretta Tip: Pontifications)
...And by the way, what was up with the weird disco music during the Parade of Nations at the Olympic opening ceremonies? Nothing says splendor and ceremony like a bunch of folks milling about in strangely-colored casualwear waving and snapping pictures of each other while YMCA plays in the background. But then, modern secular liturgy usually disappoints.

On the other hand, while we were watching it, we wondered whether that was just the TV and they were playing something more solemn in the stadium...like, say, Numa Numa. And then there was that clearly over-caffeinated English announcer. (Ishmaelia! Franistan! Ruritania!) Granted, the Slovenian team was pretty well-dressed. And you gotta love the lone guy from San Marino. I think even Liechtenstein has a bigger team... What I'd like to see, though, is the Vatican Olympic Team. Hmmm. I mean, they already have a flag and a national anthem (two, in fact), what else do they need?

Leka Zogu: The One Name More Fun to Say than Boutros Boutros-Ghali

Just in case you were lying awake and wondering what the pretender to the (already rather sketchy) throne of Albania was up to.

Nos, Nobis, Noster

Don Jim picks up on something we at the Shrine noticed some time ago--the Papal we (i.e., like the royal we) is used pretty consistently in Benedict's official documents. (Something even cooler than the temporal sword, and a little less likely to set off alarms at the airport or upset parishioners). It's just the English translations that, so to speak, attempt to blow the whistle on our fun and make this ancient custom (cough) kick the bucket.

This also brings to mind the mental gymnastics required by the royal we--such as Elizabeth II's statement regarding her and hubby Prince Philip that began, "we--I mean the both of us--"

What I wonder is did John Paul II use it as well, and we just never found out (which is entirely possible), or is this another restoration of the Benedictine era?

Win a Free Turkey from Francis Cardinal Arinze

"Suppose a priest comes at the beginning of Mass and says: 'Good morning, everybody, did your team win last night?' That's not a liturgical greeting. If you can find it in any liturgical book, I'll give you a turkey," Cardinal Arinze said.

More, via The New Liturgical Movement.

Because I Have Strange Bedtime Reading Habits

From Bruno Bernard Heim's grand (if somewhat persnickety) magnum opus Heraldry in the Catholic Church: Its Origins, Customs and Laws:
In days of old, as we know, the princes of the Church often made use of the honorific emblems and insignia of secular heraldry. Thus their arms could not readily be distinguished from those of the nobility. [...] Among the secular emblems at one time allowed to adorn ecclesiastical arms was the temporal sword. It was by no means rare for bishops, abbots and even abbesses [Ecclesiastical girl power!] to bear a sword, placed in saltire with the crozier, or alone in pale behind the shield. This was the so-called temporal sword, which indicated the power of [...] high justice granted to prelates in their territories by temporal sovereigns.
It seems some of these swords survived well past their theoretical expiration date; the Abbots Nullius of Einsiedeln, Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and by no means present-day temporal sovereigns, used one in their coat of arms well into the twentieth century.
The sword behind their shields was the symbol of this power. Since the secularisation of ecclesiastical principalities this custom has ceased entirely and the sword has disappeared from ecclesiastical arms; no regret need be felt at its passing.
Well, maybe a little regret. Like mitred abbesses, speaking of girl power: likely to confuse folks, somewhat peripheral, but fun while they lasted.

Heim later appends an extraordinary achievement of arms which perch a mitre on one corner of the shield and a crested helm on the other. Though this is not so bizarre (and, may I say, starkly POD) as the churchman who, instead of an ill-placed knightly helmet and mantling beneath his galero with a memento mori skull surrounded by writhing snakes!

Monday, February 13


JP2, We miss you

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. "

I love B16. But, listening to one my favorite CD's, I just can't help but marvel at the absolute greatness that was JPG's life: the deepness of prayer, the strength of voice and soul, the depth of knowledge and love, and his amazing place in the course of world history.

Nothing but my experience of the Real Presence has convinced me more solidly that there is a God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, than the life and person of John Paul II.

He spoke the message quoted above across the globe, and constantly from Rome, and in my bedroom I heard him, saw him, and for the first time heard and saw greatness, a living example of the saints about whom I would read. Whereever I am in life, I'm there because of him, and to Whom he introduced me.


Some day my Compendium will come . . .

I Love when Real Life Looks like the Movies

What shall the fate of the Lefebvrists be?

Despite some bitterness,* updates as they happen.

*On Bitterness

Augustine of Canterbury is Smiling

"And Rome itself has said that it will no longer feel obligated to channel all of its Anglican conversations through the official channels of the Anglican Communion."

- Bishop David Chislett, of the Traditional Anglican Communion

No One Can Under-Estimate How Huge That Statement Is.

For 13 years, the T.A.C. has been asking Rome for reunification. If you have ever wondered why Rome hasn't acted on their request, the answer is simple: the dream was that, through dialog with Canterbury itself, all of Anglicanism would be "united but not absorbed" with the Holy See.

All the theological conversation and ecumenical pressupositions in Rome since Vatican II have focused, not on individual conversion to Catholicism, but instead on the broader reconciliation of existing structures within other religions with the Holy See.

Certainly you have all heard of people attempting to convert since Vatican II, only to have a priest tell them, "Don't convert! The best thing you can do is be the best (Baptist, Prebyterian) you can." The concern was that, by accepting converts on an individual basis, this would undermine an atmosphere of trust and dialog which might lead to larger, structural "unity without absorption."

For this very reason, for 13 years T.A.C. has sought an unattainable goal: in accordance with the ecumenical goals articulated at Vatican II, it was entirely unthinkable that Rome would accept a large number of converts by negotiating outside of the official Anglican structure: that would be a slap in the face to the Anglican Church, and presummably throw cold water on the ecumenical process.* Again, this has been the pressuposition which made the T.A.C. cause hopeless.

Something has changed these presuppositions:
(1) Pope Benedict, one of two cardinals who still favored the active pursuit of individual conversions under JPG
(2) Above all, the pending approval of women bishops in the Church of England. You may have noticed breif mentions about a Catholic cardinal giving dire warnings about the consequences of female episcopal ordination.

That cleric was Kaspar the Friendly Cardinal, the biggest advocate of structure dialog over individual conversion--and a cardinal who absolutely never gives dire warnings, ever. Unless he feared the Dream would die.

Should the Vatican decide that official structures (Canterbury) need no longer be their primary conversation partner for Christian unity, and should the T.A.C. be willing, union is only a matter of time. The Dream now essentially dead, I say 2 years, tops.

*The concern is real: a primary stumbling block to union with the Orthodox is their bitterness over the Uniate churches. While the enter Catholic Communion loves the Eastern Catholics--remember everyone going wild over their presence at JPG's funeral, Benedict's inaugaration, their presence at Vatican II--and admires their dedication to the Holy See, the creation of further "uniates" outside of the structure of their parent churches was avoided so as not to create similar tensions with the West. This does not mean that the Eastern Catholic Churches were a mistake: in fact, their presence in the Catholic Communion has kept alive the essential awareness that the Body of Christ does not equal the Roman Catholic Church, but instead the Catholic Church as a whole--of which the Roman Rite is but a part. This has also emphasized that the governing authority of the Pope within the Roman Rite is specific to his role as Patriarch of the West, and not inherent in the Petrine Ministry.

Update: Pontifications points to this concern over whether the T.A.C. has the internal cohesion necesary to wait out Rome's "it will happen when it happens" timetable. Well, we'll see!

Sunday, February 12


You know you're a Catholic nerd if

"Drew, what are these magazines in your back seat?"

"Umm.. what.. magazines?"

"Drew! Here we thought you were a good Cath--"
"All this time, it was a façade--"
"I thought I knew yo--"

"No, I mean, well, err, I just read the editorials?"

Oh, the danger of keeping backissues of Commonweal in your car.


A blast from the past!

Only the most devoted of our readers will recall the infamous FIRE BIBLE.

It's back!

STM: It's better than an STD!*

This is awesome. I didn't know Dominicans ever wore birettas--but this? Apparently they bestow these hats along with the honorary degree "STM." Nothing says "Recant!" like piping and pom.

So saith the site:
The Master of Sacred Theology, known as STM from the Latin Sacrae Theologiae Magister, is the highest honor the Dominican Order can confer on brothers outstanding in teaching, research,and writing.

For a Dominican Friar this degree signifies not only that a brother has shown himself to be an adept teacher, but also that his life exemplifies that devotion to study and the pursuit of truth to which each Dominican is committed by reason of his profession.

*Sacrae Theologiae Doctor. Sheesh.

Saturday, February 11

What the heck?
A Question

Sacrosanctum Concilium, in paragraph 59, states that the sacraments both nourish and presume faith.

I've been looking for some--any--theological commentary on this passage, but haven't found any. My reactions to this passage:

(1) Does this mean that faith is required for validity? It would seem so.
(2) How is infant baptism reconciled with this? Obviously, it is. But: how, exactly?
(3) Does this lend itself towards Donatism? "Bp. X may have been a Communist imposter, and so therefore had no faith--and all his sacraments were invalid!"
(4) Similarly, does this lend itself towards Rigorism? "When I was confirmed, I didn't believe any of it; so, therefore I was not really confirmed."

To be honest, I had formerly assumed that sacraments were valid as long as the recipient did not willfully object--regardless of their faith. Hmm.


A question for the Philosophers

Which is more disturbing: the thought of a beautiful, harmless altar violently ripped from its beautiful, harmless reredos, or a rector that sleeps in his biretta?

I can't really say.

Friday, February 10

More Boston Scandal

A while back, the Archdiocese of Boston announced its intention to close Trinity German, the only German parish in the northeast and the only Tridentine community in its area.

Apparently, there was a concerted effort to undermine the parish, on behalf of the archdiocese, by siphoning off its collection money, making the parish look financially unsustainable.

Now that this effort has been discovered, a clear violation of canon law, hopefully the Archbishop will decide to keep the parish open--though it also seems that his diocesean curia is opposed.

Inside the Bubble

I try to stay informed of world events, but every so often something comes along that reminds me of how isolated one can become on a college campus, without a TV.

In this case, I didn't realize that the Olympics were going on until I read it on Zenit.
You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high
What Kind of Coffee Are You?
Low-maintainance, definitely. But I don't know under what circumstances I could be accused of being cheap; certainly not with books or alcohol.

Thursday, February 9

One Purpose of this Blog

One purpose of this blog--indeed, of our lives--is to be Catholic. And, specifically, to be Catholic without being bitter.

Our generation recieved little effective catechesis; so, if you're our age, you're very possible the only practicing Catholic among your siblings, even your family, even your school.
Our generation is smaller because of contraception and abortion.
Our Church is attacked by other Catholics, by other Christians, by Secularists, by faithful of other religions.
Our Church is slow to respond to our intellectual and spiritual needs, often because our leaders were exhausted by.. whatever it was.. that happened 30 years ago.
And yet, by belonging to our Church, we run counter to every instinct of the Culture of Death.

There are real challenges in being Catholic today!
But, nonetheless, by the fact that we gather--online, at Mass, at devotions, at parties, in new religious communities, in families--we are rebuilding our Church, or rather Christ is working within us.

Why is it worth it?
It is worth it because Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is the Way, the Truth, and the Light; and, His Catholic Church, as His Body, is similarly the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

This experience of Our Redeemer gives us that happiness for which humanity--we!--were created.

And it is precisely the fact that the Church makes us happy, and makes us joyful, that validates any attempt to restore Her to the fullest beauty which we--enabled by the Spirit--can.

All of these has immediate and real consequences for the way this blog is run--specifically, for example, the comment boxes. Comments which, by demeaning other human beings (also made in the imago Dei!) betray bitterness, cowardliness, etc., have no place here. In the past, comments which demean God's humanity, or members of God's humanity, created in the image of God, in rude or subhuman ways (with words like "scum," for example) are entirely
(1) erroneous, because they are made in the image of God and--as Augustine tells us--potentially members of the City of God
(2) unbefitting, since they suggest a bitterness which, if it is found in the Catholic Church, completely invalidates our project of restoring the Church because it brings happiness to man.
Therefore, on the principle that error has no rights, those comments which insult the human dignity of others--especially out of bitterness--and only those comments will be summarily and repeatedly deleted.
Something Catholic

"I was on a plane last week, flying from Chicago to California, when we ran into some very severe turbulence. As it got worse, the passengers became more and more alarmed, and finally even the stewardesses began to look concerned.

"Finally, one of them came over to me and said, "Father, this is really frightening. Do you suppose you could... I don't know... 'Do something Catholic?'

"So I took up a collection."

Wednesday, February 8


Undoctored Version
Wazzup, my eminent Lord Homies??

american papist via dymphnaswelt

Frankly, That Allahu Ain't So Akbar

Fr. Andrea Santoro, ora pro nobis

Where Would Necco Wafers Be the Adult Thing To Eat?

Orthodoxy as Insanity in the ECUSA.
The Onion

I Am But A Vessel Through Which God Drones On Indefinitely

My seeming indifference to your flagging interest is, in truth, my Father's. For my Father rarely considerth His listeners. And the tired rhetorical devices I use and tame shaggy-dog stories I tell are my Lord's, as well.

It is He who said, "Michael, read at length from the Holy Bible's more prosaic stretches, and follow it with a lecture that shall continue until you are tired and then begin again, one that you shall deliver in a voice with no tonal modulation." And I have answered his call. Verily, I am doing the Lord's droning.

Evil here at home

Nine Baptist Churches were burned in Alabama.

Arabia isn't the only place where Christian churches get torched.

I take the opportunity offered by Bl. Pius IX's listing in yesterday's Martyrology to post a most POD image of this Holy Father's mortal remains at San Lorenzo fuori le Mure. Pius IX briefly served as an assistant to the papal apostolic delegate in Chile in his early days, and also was bishop of the Italian see of Imola like his predecessor, Pius VII, a dry martyr of Napoleon. In his youth, he attempted to join the Pope's Noble Guard, though it seems he did not have the constitution for it.

Pius also has the peculiar honor of being the butt of a complicated practical joke perpetrated by Don Bosco and God, the punchline of which came long his death. I was told this tale by a Curial official with a truly encyclopedic knowledge and a charmingly offbeat sense of humor while strolling with my classmates along one of the side-aisles in St. Peter's some years ago. I believe him, and if it's not true, it should be.

Don Bosco once came to Pius IX one day and told him, laughing, of a truly crazy dream he'd had. He'd dreamed he was standing above the Pope in St. Peter's. The two great men had a chuckle or two, and the business was quickly forgotten. How could you be above the Pope? A few years went by, and Pius made history by becoming the longest-reigning pope to date. Much to his embarassment, a rather garish mosaic portrait of the Pope was put up on the pier above the ancient statue of St. Peter venerated at the Vatican, with a plaque commemorating his longevity.

Flash forward almost fifty years. Don Bosco was canonized in 1934 by another Pius, the eleventh of that name, and the time came to put up a statue to him in the basilica, to stand along the other great religious founders, Ignatius of Loyola, Philip Neri and Elijah of the Carmelites.

And darned if the only empty niche left was right over the little monument to Pius IX that had embarassed his friend so very much. He was standing right over the Pope in St. Peter's, just like his wild dream had foretold.

God is gracious, and so He laughs with us, popes, paupers and priests alike.

(Photo via What does the Prayer Say?)

Tuesday, February 7


"I have a great idea! Let's make a CD of John Paul II's prayers!"

"Yeah, there's no way you could go wrong with that!
Daniel Mitsui discovers Reason # 2,657 to love opera: it's papal. In fact, Clement IX wrote the libretto for one, La Comica del Cielo, recently performed (presumably for the first time in centuries) over at Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago. Sounds delightful. Daniel discusses the opera, describes the splendid church and even manages to slip in a St. Liberata joke en route. Once again, if you are not reading The Lion and the Cardinal, you have no excuse.
Iran has announced a competition to draw cartoons about the Holocaust.

"It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," said Farid Mortazavi, the graphics editor for Hamshahri newspaper - which is published by Teheran's conservative municipality.

He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression.

"The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he said.

Iran's fiercely anti-Israeli regime is supportive of so-called Holocaust revisionist historians, who maintain the systematic slaughter by the Nazis of mainland Europe's Jews as well as other groups during World War II has been either invented or exaggerated.

Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prompted international anger when he dismissed the systematic slaughter by the Nazis of mainland Europe's Jews as a "myth" used to justify the creation of Israel.

Franciscus Parater

A happy Frank Parater Day to Chiara, who is celebrating this prospective saint and fellow Virginian over at her blog today with her usual aplomb. Drop by and read his story!

Monday, February 6


Into Great Silence

The trailer for Die Grosse Stille ("Into Great Silence") is now available online. Be sure to click through the pictures on the home page of the website. Just knowing that such a place exists in the world makes me so happy to be Catholic.

Still Not Over

Iranian policemen put out a fire after protesters threw molotov coctails at the Austrian embassy in Tehran February 6, 2006. World leaders called for calm on Monday after weekend attacks in which Danish diplomatic missions were set ablaze and Lebanon and Syria promised inquiries into how protests about cartoons of the Prophet turned violent. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Sunday, February 5

How did a bunch of Syrians and Palestinians get hundreds of Danish flags, anyway?

Danish Protest

Muslim Protest*

*On the assumption that Lebanese Christians didn't get involved.

Muslim protesters warn Europe...
Religion of Peace (tm) bombs another embassy

The more I see what mohammed inspires people to do, the less he impresses me.

Moderate mainstream Muslims across the world, however, banded together to protest this extremis--wait.
No, they didn't.

I did find one Muslim blogger with a post on the cartoons that was critiquing the widespread violence. Not terribly common, as you can see from the comments; but, in the interest of fairness (and as a sign of encouragement) it should be noted.

The Onion: Crazed Palestinian Gunman Angered By Stereotypes

Saturday, February 4


Islam: not so good at PR

BBC reports that the Danish embassy has been burned in Syria because of the mohammed cartoons.

The Gaurdian reports the following popular slogans being used at rallies throughout the Mideast:

"Britain, you will pay, 7/7 on its way"*
"Strike, strike Osama"
"Kill the one who insults the Prophet"
"The only way this will be resolved, is if those who are responsible are turned over so they can be punished by Islamic law, so that they can be executed"


The Vatican's message seems emminently reasonable in the midst of this global chaos:
"Freedom is a great virtue but it must be shared and it must not be unilateral. Freedom of satire that offends the feelings of others becomes an abuse, and here we are talking about nothing less than the feelings of entire peoples who have seen their supreme symbols affected."

British Muslim leader, in turn, says that the protests themselves are irresponsible use of free speech. A similarly reasonable position, though he appears to be one in billion.

*This is especially curious, since Britain didn't publish any of the cartoons..


Great Balls of Fire

So, I got my throat blessed as I always do on St. Blaise's day. Two years ago I managed to get blessed three times in three different ways (once according to the Armenian rite, no less), but that's another story. Anyway, Father is about ready to lead into the blessing and he makes this odd deadpan comment about how we no longer use lit candles to bless throats, in these days of fluorocarbons and hydrocarbons. And we laugh. I assumed he was just being droll, but there's a comment on Jimmy Akin's blog suggesting they actually used to do this in pre-Conciliar days (scroll to bottom). With lit candles. Really. Huh. Fortescue doesn't cover this sort of stuff, and my copy of the '65 Rituale says nothing about lighting the candles.

How this ever escaped my usual eagle eye for Tridentine liturgical esoterica is beyond me. Anyone know anything about this? Is my leg being pulled? As wonderfully POD as it sounds, I can't help wondering they managed it without setting hair, clothes or mantillas on fire...

Friday, February 3


"If it's a symbol, to hell with it." - Flannery O'Connor

Recalling the 1993 Gallup poll that only 30% of Catholics believed in the Real Presence, one must wonder: how did the most educated Catholic generation miss such a fundamental element of Catholic faith--when their uneducated forebearers knew Eucharistic doctrine undeniably?

"The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living" offers the following explanation:

From now on, to get a movie ticket, Americans should have to kneel before a consecrated celibate wearing ceremonial robes and take the ticket between their teeth--never daring to touch it with their hands. Within a generation or so, they'd all develop certain ideas about movie tickets and their significance.

Now take the Eucharist and reverse the process, reading it like a movie ticket.... Enough said.


Um, wow?

Malta, in its quest to make Poland look lukewarm, has decided that Our Lord will grace the obverse of their Euro coins.

As we speak, Brussels is imploding, and the French Foriegn Legion is preparing to invade.

I was wondering if anyone knew if Eamon Duffy has a website or an email address. If a website, please post the URL below; if an email address, please send it to my hotmail account (listed on the side bar).


Thursday, February 2



Via The Observer:

ROME - When Pope Benedict XVI began to descend the white marble steps of the Vatican auditorium after his public papal address Wednesday morning, he needed no introduction to the man directly in front of him.

The Holy Father took University President Father John Jenkins' right hand with his own, placed his left hand on top of Jenkins' hand and said, "You're from Notre Dame," Jenkins recalled Wednesday afternoon.

When Jenkins responded yes, the pope said simply, "A great Catholic university."

"I asked him, 'Keep us in your prayers,'" Jenkins said.

Happy Candlemas!

Rumor has it that SSPX might be reconciled with Rome by Easter, 2006.*

Myself, I'm inclined to be cautious in my predictions of reunion, though I welcome it (as I welcome all unity with the Holy See). But my caution is challenged by the Pope's desire to lift the excommunications and SSPX's own detailed plan for regularization. Today SSPX, tomorrow TAC! In a few years, perhaps whatever remains of the Swedish church.

In light of comments on my last post, it must be pointed out: regularized does not equal "hold hands and sing kumbaya."

First of all, have you ever tried to translate kumbaya into Latin?

But more importantly, these talks are to reconcile SSPX to Roman authority. SSPX will still be angry at what it deems liturgical abuses, at ineffective catechesis, etc. etc. SSPX will not changing itself to regularize with Rome, but regularizing with Rome to change the wider Church. Since this is precisesly the goal of every Catholic movement in the Church--from Opus Dei to Foccolare--I say, "Come on in--and bear fruit according to the measure of the Lord's will."

*Recall, we predicted this 9 months ago. I'm going to make another prediction: Anyone who thinks Bishop Williamson will be reconciled is too busy smoking crack to have been reading what he's been saying for the last 12 months--especially in contrast to Bp. Fellay! I'll be happy to eat humble pie on this one, but I won't be, because he won't.
"Muslims of the world be reasonable" - Jihad Momani.

In case you haven't been following it, a huge international incident is brewing over images of Mohammed/Mohammad/Muhammad/Mohammet which were published in some European newspapers.

A Jordanian newspaper also published them, saying people should know what they were protesting about.

These are the pictures. I mean, really: as far as blasphamy in the free press goes, these are nothing.

All religions deserve a measure of respect. But Muslims need to remember that what is sacred to them is sacred only to them.

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