Tuesday, January 30


A Request from The Society of St. Barbara

J.B. Powers, the brains behind the Society of St. Barbara, is planning a sequel to the delightful Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago, this time dealing with the oft-endangered churches of New York City. He writes, asking for reader input on the city's finest and most photogenic churches:
As I have mentioned, we are contemplating a publication of photographic history of the churches and chapels of Archdiocese of New York City. I have toured extensively in Manhattan and a bit in the Bronx, and have had numerous conversations with interested participants, but I think it would be fantastic to get some group interaction from the readers here. Here is a partial list:

1. Old St. Pat's
2. St. Malachy's
3. The original Manhattanvile College of the Sacred Heart (City College/Harlem). Is it still there?

4. Eglise de Notre Dame - 405 W. 114th
5. St. Catherine of Siena - 411 E. 68th
6. St. Francis de Sales - 135 E. 96th
7. St Francis Xavier - 30 W. 16th St.
8. St.-Jean-Baptiste- 184 E. 76th
9. St. Peter's - Barclay Street (?)
10. St. Thomas More - 65 E. 89th
11. Fordham Chapel
12. Our Lady of Pompei - 25 Carmine St.
13. Our Lady of the Rosary - 7 State Street
14. St. Vincent de Paul - 123 West 23rd St
15. St. Patrick's Cathedral
16. St Vincent Ferrer
17. St. Ignatius Loyola
18. St. Andrew's

So have at it: what 75 churches and chapels should be photographed for Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic New York?
A good start for a list. My own inclination would be to add:

19. St. John Nepomunck - in the early 60's,
20. Blessed Sacrament - West Side
21. The so-called German Cathedral - the Lower East Side.
22. Immaculate Conception - Alphabet City
23. The Church of Our Saviour - Park Avenue
24. Most Precious Blood - Astoria
25. St. Monica's - E. 80th St
26. Our Lady of Mount Carmel - E. 115th Street
27. Our Lady of Esperanza - Audubon Terrace

There are also a plethora of amazing churches of a massiveness and monumentality one seldom encounters in large American cities outside of Chicago down in Brooklyn, but their names and locations are unknown to me, sadly. I'm also told the architect of my favorite non-Gothic church in the city, Our Saviour's, did a larger version of this eclectic Romanesque-Deco-Renaissance extravaganza somewhere in the Outer Boroughs as well. Anyone know where to find these other unknown treasures?

Monday, January 29


Holy Whapping Television Network (HWTN) Schedule, Week of January 28-February 3, 2007

8:00 PM. The Wonderful World of Scola Presents King Solomon's Mimes. The well-known cardinal introduces this showing of the classic adventure tale of love, death, lost gold, white greasepaint and really awful experimental liturgical dance. Starring Marcel Marceau as Alan Quatermain and vice versa.
10:30 PM. The Office. Sparks fly this week as Msgr. La Fontaine hatches a sure-to-backfire plot to stop Pope Pius's latest dangerous plan to authorize the printing of the Psalms in a separate section, rather than with all the other rubrics. America just can't get enough of this new sitcom, inspired by comedic shenanighans of the the 1911-1913 commission to reform the Roman Breviary.

8:00 PM. Desperate Hapsburgs. Empress Elisabeth suffers a nervous breakdown and refuses to leave the state apartments when her hairdresser is arrested for possession of illegal narcotics, and therefore can't spend the requisite three hours on her latest 'do.
9:00 PM. The O.C. (O. Carm.) Surfing Carmelite friars cope with the labyrinthine turns of the southern Californian ecclesiastical hierarchy. Insert obvious Mahoney joke here.
10:00 PM. Father Ted. Rerun.

8:00 PM. The Bob Bellarmine Show. Bob has a crisis on his hands when wacky next-door neighbor Howard Galilei (with his nutty astronomy theories) just won't leave him alone at mealtimes. With Suzanne Pleshette as Sister Emilia and Urban VIII as Peter Bonerz.
8:30 PM. The Trastamara Family. Tango-crazed Ferdinand (John Astin) and Isabella (Carolyn Jones) wonder what all the fuss is when daughter Juana la Loca's (Lisa Loring) schoolteacher complains that the girl won't let go of her husband Archduke Philip the Handsome. Except he's dead. Also starring Jackie Coogan as Uncle Ximenes and Philip the Bewitched as Cousin Itt, with Ted Cassidy as family retainer Llurch.
9:00 PM. Monk. Obsessive. Compulsive. Discalced. Detective. Today's episode: Fr. Monk Does the Lavabo and Prolongs Mass for Three Extra Hours. Starring Tony Shalhoub.
10:00 PM. Father Ted: The College Years. With Dustin Diamond as Fr. Noel Furlong. Rerun.

8:00 PM. Wednesday Night Movie: Die Gebrüder Blau. Georg and Joseph are on a mission from God, and they won't be caught, at least if their choir gig at Regensburg Cathedral is going to get enough cash to keep the orphanage open. "Ist 106 kilometers to Munich, ve haf a full tank of gas, half ein pack of cigarettes, ist dark and ve are wearing ze sunglasses." "Hit it." With Ingrid Stampa as Sister Mary Stigmata. (Subtitled. In Latin.)
10:00 PM. Claymore Girls. The new dramedy about Mary of Guise and her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots. A well-matched mother-and-daughter team (Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel) in 16th century Edinburgh drink massive amounts of coffee, trade witticisms (sadly incomprehensible in Broad Scots) and have occasional dull forays into soapy subplots involving Lord Darnley, as well as a few jokes at the expense of Al's Haggis World down the street.
10:30 PM. Father Ted: CSI. Rerun.

8:00 PM. National Geographic Presents Travels with Rex Mottram. Rex visits the Sacred Monkey cage at the Vatican.
9:00 PM. Special Live Broadcast: Karaoke Night at the Apostolic Palace. Guest judges: Cardinal Medina Estevez, Hans Küng, Sister Marie Keyrouz and the late Carlo Gesualdo.
10:30 PM. Father Ted: CSI: Miami. Rerun.

8:00 PM. Friday Night Movie Special: Flying Jebbies, Hidden Wires. Francis Xavier (Jackie Chan) kicks Protestant butt on his return from the Orient after secretly mastering and Catholicizing the mystical art of Shaolin kung-fu. With Owen Wilson as Stanislaus Kostka. (Sequel to Ignacio Libre, the true-life story of Ignatius of Loyola's heretofore unknown career in Mexican wrestling circles).
10:00. Father Ted: NCIS. Rerun.

8:00 PM. Law and Order: Ted Crilley. On Craggy Island, the people are irritated by two separate but equally important groups. The priests, who are too busy practicing for the EuroSong Contest to be effective, and the oddball assortment of homicidal oversexed milkmen, power-mad beach hut proprietors, and brainless popstars, who are simply too weird for words. In tonight's episode, a beleaguered village constable brings in Sam Waterston to sort out the mystery of the old grey whistle theft. Dougal gets unsettled by the constant black title cards with captions and the weird electronic theme music.
9:00 PM. Domers: The Soap Opera. Mary is distraught because her roommate Mary Louisa has snagged her ex-boyfriend for the upcoming dance at St. Mary's College, except he's already promised Mary Katherine that he'd go watch The Bells of St. Mary's; meanwhile, Mary Liz and Mary Mary study frantically for the matching test about Mary Tudor, Mary Queen of Scots and Mary of Guise, dumped on them at the last minute by evil history TA Mary Pat. We are also introduced to exchange student Marie, with her outlandish claim of just having had a vision of St. Josemaria out back of St. Mary's Lake.
10:00 PM. Bill! "Vot you zee ist vot you get!" Breaking controversial new ground Bill! is the only variety show on television to be hosted by a dead Hohenzollern. Tedious acts will be summarily executed by firing squad. Tonight's show features Eisheim the Illusionist; Crown Prince Rudolf and his magic bullet catch; Bismarck's feats of dexterity as he juggles three Indian clubs, a banana and the Russo-German Reinsurance Treaty of 1890; a Cardinal Merry del Valle look-alike contest; and musical guest Franz Ferdinand. The archduke, not the band. He does a mean comb-and-wax-paper.
11:00 PM. Late Night Compline with George William Rutler. Tonight's hour of homiletical wit features a special appearance by Fr. Uwe-Michael Lang, promoting his new book Mass: The Worst-Case Survival Manual. Musical guest: The Tallis Scholars.

Sunday, January 28


Reader Query: Help with a Name

A query:

Voting closed.

The authors extend their thanks.

Friday, January 26


"Yes, it really is St. Paul's wine cellar! Apparently, AD 57 was a very good year."

C is for Cool

Think comic novel gone annoying movie...

... then evangelized:

B is for Biretta!

Biretta tip: Galea salutis

... which blog also has a banner that all friends of the amice will enjoy.

Thursday, January 25


Martin Travers Alert

Repeat readers will remember my fascination with Anglo-Catholic Baroque church furnisher Martin Travers, the producer of some remarkable and rather strange reredos, altars and liturgical illustrations in the 1920s. While essentially an agnostic, he worked for some of the most gung-ho pro-Rome unionists of his age, though sometimes it seemed to come down more to liturgical form than practical reunion. One of his greatest monuments is a singular Latin American-style Churrigueresque retablo in the William Butterfield neo-Gothic church of St. Augustine, Queen's Gate, in London; photographs of this extravagant and wonderfully odd bit of liturgical furnishings have eluded me to this point--but no longer!

First, there is the webpage of the parish itself, and second, more intriguing, are some shots of a high-church Anglican liturgy conducted at the church about a year ago. While it is to be regretted that the high altar is no longer used, I'm quite glad to get an up-close look at it. Say what you will about Travers' work, but it's never dull.

Random Cardinal Sin Anecdote

From Wikipedia:
Jaime Lachica Sin was known as Cardinal Sin because of his status within the Catholic church. Sin was said to play a joke on his title, welcoming visitors to his archbishop's residence with the greeting "Welcome to the House of Sin."
Hard not to love.

The grand old Duke of York (No, not that one, the other one...)

Heraldic cardinalatial Stuart goodness at Andrew Cusack's blog. Incidentally, Henry Benedict Maria Clement Thomas Francis Xavier Stuart (alias Henry IX of England, Scotland, Ireland and France) was the titular of one of my favorite churches in Rome, Santa Maria in Campitelli, long a shrine to the re-conversion of England. There's a reason, you see, it partially inspired my interior design for Our Lady of the English Martyrs.

Things I Learned Watching Daytime Television

So I have spent a few days early in the month recovering from a most unpleasant bout of food poisoning, on a careful diet of Saltines, Jello and sports drinks, the age-old parent-approved remedies for tummy trouble. The only thing missing, however, and very essential to the remedy, was a repeat viewing of the Late Middle Ages episode of Art of the Western World, so important that I will forever associate the Isenheim altarpiece with Gatorade. As it was, I wasn't high enough up on the evolutionary scale at that point to handle such intellectual feasts, much less read, write or draw, so instead I spent most of my time at home drifting in and out mentally while TV marched relentlessly forward. After half-sleeping through two days of repeat sitcoms, forgettable documentaries and worse, I have now formulated the following conclusions:

1. The History Channel is actually one very long continually-running episode of Nazi Secrets of the Templar Gold of the Daughter of Mary Magdalene, or possibly Tales of the Gun, Part XXXIX.

2. If a genre is truly dead, it will be extensively featured on the lineup of the Disney Channel, which now consists wholly of sitcoms manufactured in Canadian sweatshops by starving child actors.

3. Jerry Stiller is everybody's father.

4. Alan Alda is all-wise and all-knowing, and should be President of Humanity. (Note mocking tone.)

5. Large families only come about when previously-married persons get together. The children are always carefully-coded by hair.

6. There are large mountain ranges in Wisconsin.

7. The appearance of Little Richard spontaneously causes people to want to buy car insurance.

8. New Yorkers live in gigantic apartments usually three or four times as big as the whole third floor of my building, especially if they are all unemployed actors or pursuing a career in professional waitressing.

9. Large fat men inevitably get married to disconcertingly beautiful women way out of their league.

10. Large numbers of aspiring chefs, VCR repairmen, and GED candidates watch daytime TV.

11. Sally Struthers is no longer shilling for those guys who can give you a degree in VCR maintenance. The girl who does it is now much prettier, though she may be married to a fat guy.

12. There is a product known as Pet Stairs.

13. Any program called "World's Weirdest UFO Stories" is something of a rhetorical tautology.

14. Pet Stairs is ideal for overweight pets.

15. Apparently, this must mean there are overweight pets in the United States.

16. The standard form of communication among family members is the snipe.

17. Divorced parents always remain geographically close, and spend inordinate amounts of time around their exes--mostly sniping.

18. And why do we have overweight pets? Could it be because we advertise pet food in a manner that suggests it is more succulent, than, say TGI Friday's? On the other hand, that may be damning with faint praise.

19. Small towns in Conneticut are full of really annoying quirky people, as opposed to 400,000 square-foot mansions inhabited by WASPs in Polo leisurewear.

20. Every episode of Everyone Loves Raymond is contractually obligated to turn into a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by the end of the show. This may have actually made me more ill.

Monday, January 22


A Counter-Proposal for Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles

I've been thinking for a long time now how I might have handled what could have been the commission of the century, Los Angeles' proverbially bad cathedral, ever since I visited Our Lady of the Angels last December. The so-called Yellow Armadillo has become a benchmark for all that is hideous in the ecclesiastical realm, and it certainly looks more like an upscale parking garage on the outside. The inside is problematic, though its much-vaunted bent lines and odd angles are not as irritating as one might suppose. While hardly ideal, the interior could be improved substantially with a few simple changes, such as a real reredos, taking the slope out of the floor, and a more prominent crucifix.

An alternate proposal in a free style for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. Perspective from Grand Avenue. August 2006.

I can understand, to some degree, the desire to opt for a less self-consciously historical style. Los Angeles is, despite its mission roots, essentially still a comparatively young city, and its collective unconscious is bound up less in old California than the gaudy, giddy, sunny days of the 1920s. Deco, rather than Spanish Baroque, is to me the real indigenous architecture of the place. Admitted, many fine neo-Churrigueresque designs can be found there--St. Vincent de Paul, for instance, may well be the finest church west of the Mississippi--but something about the site where the great lumpy mass of Our Lady of the Angels now sits calls out for something a bit more massive and muscular, in order to hold its own against the towers of the Financial District. Were it to be placed elsewhere, on Wiltshire Boulevard for instance, where one bishop had hoped to raise a replacement cathedral, I could easily see Baroque as the most suitable choice.

I began to consider the problem in more depth after one reader posed the challenge to me to undertake the design of this counterproposal in a nonhistorical style. My definition of historical and nonhistorical may be a bit different from everyone else's, but the result was a modernised Gothic with deco elements in it, with a strong dose of Giles Gilbert Scott's Liverpool Cathedral, the greatest church raised in modern times.

An alternate proposal in a free style for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. Perspective of East End from Freeway. August 2006.

The basic shape of the complex--a church with a massive central crossing tower with a high nave, raised up on a very high podium composed of a series of crypts and subbasements housing church offices--is a development of some experimental notions I've had about city cathedrals and city churches. The immense height of most civic buildings necessitates a lofty spire or dome at the crossing, and a sufficiently low precinct of parish buildings around the church to create the void necessary to give context to such a monument. Such tall towers can also be used, in the manner of the high-rise steeple at Riverside Church, New York, to house the diocesan curia, the cathedral rectory, and the cardinal's residence. Wrapping some portion of the volume of the church's nave with such auxiliary functions--as proposed by Lutyens in his design for the other Liverpool Cathedral--could also serve to give increased height and mass to the church proper so it might stand out against its gigantesque surroundings.

The language of the design might be described as astylar or free modern traditional, and includes aspects of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's own Liverpool design, Bertram Goodhue's Nebraska capitol, and of course Los Angeles' indigenous art deco. The structure could be built of the same mellow honey-colored stone as the new cathedral, with bronzed verdigrissed sculptures, or even something as bold as the greenish-grey stone seen in other parts of the city, highlighted with gilded details flashing in the sun. The upper part of the tower would be predominantly metal and glass rising from the solid stonework of the middle register of the crossing with its monumental Christus Rex on the liturgical west side, visible from the principal entrance, and Our Lady of the Angels on the liturgical east, visible from the highway. At night, it would shine from atop its hill over the whole of the city. Four winged beings representing the evangelists guard the four corners of the great tower.

From the highway, we can see the great window behind the high altar, and one of the two domed chapels off the liturgical north and south transepts, one housing the baptistery and the other the Eucharistic Chapel traditional to cathedrals. A smaller window below the eastern terrace marks the site of the large crypt chapel dedicated to St. Vibiana and accessible, in one option, from a confessio stairway in the chancel.

I developed two schemes for the sanctuary, both in a loosely-adapted Deco style. One optimistically imagines a wall-altar with a reredos, with a large stained-glass window of the Assumption behind it and an expansive chancel with ample room for concelebrants and clergy assisting in choir.

An alternate proposal in a free style for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. View of Sanctuary from nave, scheme no. 1, with reredos and wall altar. August 2006.

The second scheme, more developed, but slightly inconsistent with the exterior, imagines a large domed apse with a mosaic of Our Lady as Queen of Angels, an even larger chancel with elaborately canopied choirstalls, and a confessio with the tomb of St. Vibiana and a small auxiliary altar below the principal, free-standing high altar under the baldachin. Alternately, the stairs leading down to the tomb could connect with the proposed chaple dedicated to the saint in the crypt, allowing easier access to the tomb for pilgrims, with the saint's bones resting in a massive bronze shrine crowned by a smaller symbolic glass-sided coffin containing a recumbent effigy of the martyr.

An alternate proposal in a free style for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. View of Sanctuary from nave, scheme no. 2, with confessio and tomb of St. Vibiana. August 2006.

Elsewhere in the church, side-aisles would be lined with altars dedicated to the saints of the California missions and chapels dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels and the Seven Sorrows would flank the chancel and the principal altar. The upper church would contain a total of twenty-eight separate altars, a baptistery, two chapels dedicated under titles of the Virgin, a Reservation chapel accessible from the main body of the church and from the street, and a double-tiered chancel with separate spaces for clergy in choir and choristers.

An alternate proposal in a free style for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. Plan. August 2006.

This is, admittedly, a fanciful scheme, far more ambitious than many of the extravagant fantasies I have relayed to you before, but with the millions upon millions that were sunk into the existing cathedral, you could have whatever you desired--or rather, you could have had the best of everything, as the builders clearly did not desire beauty. His Eminence should instead have gotten his money's worth.

St. John the Unfinished

Another Cram-related trawl through the Time archives reveals the twists and turns of the continuing saga of the most peculiar cathedral in Christendom, St. John the Divine. Some highlights:

In New York: Mortar and the Cathedral. In which we hear about the historic decision to start up work again, using appropriately medieval methods, on the cathedral's towers and facade in 1981, despite the usual noises being made by the usual persons.

A Dome for the Divine. Detailing one of a series of surreal stopgap proposals, this 1966 article mentions a proposal to replace Cram's putative spire with "a dome made of concrete louvers alternating with panels of colored glass." The mind reels. I suppose it's not a bad idea in and of itself, but first, I'd take the precaution of bringing Gaudi back to life just in case.

Modern Divine. Another neurotically modern attempt to complete the cathedral, this one from 1955, included a proposal to build a spire "of open metalwork, echoing the George Washington Bridge towers up the river. It might be a ring of tall masts from which the crossing roof could be suspended." Totally wrong for the site, but once again intriguing in a Gaudi-esque sort of way. However, I have a feeling what I'm imagining and what the author was proposing are about as different as the Victor Horta House and an I.M. Pei monstrosity.

The Unfinished Cathedral. And one from 1945, which pinpoints the moment when the reredos got torn out, one of the most aesthetically disastrous choices that has been inflicted on the unfinished structure.

Grandest Vista. The opening of the nave--on December 7, 1941. Little did they know...

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

This old Time article, detailing the involvement of everybody's favorite Gothicist and amateur dramatist Ralph Adams Cram in a 1936 petition advocating Anglican reunion with Rome is fascinating as a slice of life, and also as evidence that the current crisis in Protestant American religious life has been a long time coming. Not that I am using this as an opportunity to indulge in petty triumphalism. But it is fascinating:
A devout little grey-haired Christian is Ralph Adams Cram, 72, famed medievalist architect who designed such soaring fanes as Princeton University Chapel and the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. A moody man with a talent for amateur acting, Architect Cram is a stanch Anglo-Catholic whose religious conversion occurred during his student days at Rome, at midnight mass in a Jesuit church...
Read more at Time.com There's even a cameo appearance by an earlier Episcopalian Griswold.

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

The Battle Hymn of the Tridentine Mass, courtesy the redoubtable Fr. Z. The one downside is that you can't sing it to the tune of John Brown's Body, and it appears to have been written to fit the meter, to, of all things, the national anthem of that remarkable contradiction, the East German Democratic People's Republic. That in itself doesn't bother me--anyone who's heard the Gimn Sovetskovo Soyuza--it's the one in The Hunt for Red October, remember?--knows commies can sing--but it's just not exactly a well-known tune. But if it's catchy, this could potentially replace Long Live the Pope as my favorite bit of Ultramontane Triumphalist Quasi-Kitsch.

St. Agnes at the Vatican

Where do palliums come from?


I have no idea what this means:

But is has to be interesting.

Alas, I don't speak what I presume is Romanian.


A Nigerian bishop has reportedly decided that Catholics who do not vote cannot recieve communion.

This is not excommunication, but rather similar to the way in which, as Joseph Ratzinger describes in his Milestones, Bavarians had to show a card verifying that they had fulfilled their Easter duty: not having the card meant no communion (and social isolation), but this was not excommunication.


The reputed number of pages in the forthcoming decree on reform of the new liturgy.

No details on when, however.

Wednesday, January 17


Not Making It Up

UPDATE: Thanks for the Aquinas Store blog for bringing this to St. Blog's attention. Go there and by some REAL Gregorian chant :)

Visitors from Radioland

Welcome to the Shrine! If you heard me on Gus Lloyd's Seize the Day talking about the saints in art this morning, I'm sure you're curious about our work here.

The five of us who share this bit of internet real estate all met at Notre Dame, and have since continued to share our love of Catholic art, architecture, liturgy, doctrine and the general wackiness that makes Catholic life interesting through the medium of the web. Recent highlights include an EXCLUSIVE presentation of George Weigel's recent address to the World Youth Organization, a great bunch of guys and gals *** Celebrating Epiphany with Style *** A Hypothetical Overhaul of Yale's Catholic Chapel *** Dutch New York *** and the World's Ugliest Baptismal Font.

Feel free to explore the archives--down at the lower right-hand of the sidebar--where you'll find my Rome journals, including tales of partying with Bohemian seminarians on St. Cyril's day *** A visit to a strange and wonderful chapel built by a shadowy 18th century alchemist *** The world's weirdest tour of the Roman Forum, with the Pope's Official Latinist (who is, incidentally, a dead ringer for the Maytag Man) *** and plenty more posts from my fellow bloggers Drew, Emily, Dan and emeritus member Becket.

And lastly, for those ink drawings I mentioned, here's my portfolio, and some hypothetical architectural designs here, here and here.


Some Hypothetical Additions to St. Thomas More Chapel, Yale Catholic Student Center

I'm in the workforce now, racking up hours towards completing the requirements for an architectural license, and it's a different world from the theoretical projects of academia. It helps to revisit the realm of the hypothetical, though, to keep those design skills carefully honed. As a consequence, sometimes someone will send me a compositional problem to take a crack at, often in the form of a counter-proposal of my own to some ecclesiastical project in the offing.

A view of the chapel. It's the one with the small New England spire in the middle distance.

The Yale Catholic Student Center is currently undergoing a major overhaul in the form of a new addition by contemporary architect Cesar Pelli, and a redesign of the chapel by another firm, whose name escapes me at the present juncture. I am glad to see Yale did not merely give the job to the lowest bidder and instead had the foresight to hire a nationally-known architect--Pelli--even if his stylistic approach differs from my own. This decision to take on well-known men in the field is sadly rare in most universities, and the result elsewhere is often institutionalized mediocrity no matter whether the work is modernist, classical or Gothic. Unfortunately the chapel overhaul itself is rather less ambitious, despite having a fairly good canvas to work with.

The chapel, as it stands, is not without its finer points. Its bare but handsome white-walled chapel will be getting a new altar, a new immersion font, a nicely decorated ceiling, and other adjustments. It's not much to begin with--essentially a big, stark, quasi-Colonial box, but it has good bones, a surprising little Italian Baroque side-chapel (!), and a handful of turn-of-the century moldings and brackets scattered here and there. However, the place lacks a true visual focus, save an exceedingly ugly squashed cross above the altar, and all the plans I've been able to dig up don't show any intention to remedy the strange blank at the center of the composition.

An elevation of the hypothetical sanctuary fittings proposed by the author (altar rail omitted from rendering).

Originally, the old ad orientem altar was crowned with a rather strange cloth tester and dossal crammed into the curve of the apse. It is now long gone. The effect was not unpleasant but not particularly exciting, either, and had a strangely ad-hoc air. While the project is hypothetical, it struck me as necessary to come to grips to the liturgical situation of the chapel--an oriented wall-altar would have been unrealistic given the environment. Instead, I used the liturgical restrictions placed on the design to serve as a means to explore ways to dignify the freestanding altar so common in our parishes today. Baldachini or ciboria remain the historic ideal for such altars, but many existing sanctuaries are not spacious enough to accomodate such large structures.

A Model Chancel Designed on Liturgical Lines, Intended for Mainstream Parishes

I decided to take another approach. Freestanding altars were not unknown before 1965, and were nominally considered the liturgical ideal even in Tridentine times. However, such altars differ from our own in two ways. They were typically raised on a series of steps (typically an odd number such as one, three, or five) culminating in a broad footpace that surrounded the altar. This broad upper step is particularly important at present as it permits a freestanding altar to be used from either direction. The second difference lies in the use of a canopy of some sort, a requirement sometimes ignored, but not unknown. This usually took the form of a baldachino, but I realized that the hanging tester associated with medieval wall-altars could easily be adapted for a freestanding arrangement. It was also important to avoid creating a conflict between the tabernacle and the altar itself--common in many contemporary pseudo-traditional designs--so I sought to integrate the two as closely as possible in terms of style and space, keeping them at the same height in the sanctuary.

Plan of the author's conception of a reordered sanctuary and baptistery.

Reconsidering the Placement of the Presider's Chair

Another significant defect in most modern chancels, in addition to low, uncanopied island altars, is the arrangement of clergy and server seating. The celebrant's chair is often tilted at an angle to the wall so the priest sits nearly face-on with the congregation. The result is that the personality of the priest unintentionally dominates the mass and creates an atmosphere conducive to chatty, unliturgical asides. This problem is remedied quite simply by turning the chair with its back flat to the wall, which is what I have opted to propose here. A more elaborate adaptation might be to revive the handsome medieval triple sedilia inset into the wall, but such an arrangement was not practical in this instance. A simple bench in the Tridentine manner might be used, but divided seats seem more in keeping with current rubrics, and also are closer to the handsome medieval precedent.

Pulpits and Ambos

The adapted sanctuary features a lofty pulpit and a smaller reading-desk to one side. It is generally thought that current rubrics presuppose all three readings and the homily should be given from the same place; the architect Schloeder suggests this is an open question and proposes that sanctuaries might include a small lectern for non-liturgical announcements and two ambos--one for the Gospel and one for the other readings. The existing chapel once featured a high pulpit and a lower desk, similar in placement to what I have included in my proposal. The high pulpit is balanced by a large relief plaque in polychrome of the Virgin as Sedes Sapientiae with her Child.

A view of the existing pulpit, with a temporary font in the foreground.

True ambos are quite large, larger than most pulpits and should have room for at least two taperers with candles, a server with incense, and the priest or deacon. Such large constructions would overwhealm the small sanctuary, so it seemed sensible to adapt the existing setup. The uses these two items could be put two liturgically remains an open question: the pulpit could be used as an ambo for the Gospel, as it has room for the priest and at least one acolyte with a censer, while the two taperers for high mass could stand below on either side; the smaller reading-desk could either be used as an ambo for the other liturgical lessons, or as a cantor's lectern. Or, the pulpit could be used solely for preaching--the original medieval and Tridentine custom--and all other readings could be read from the smaller ambo, which has sufficient room for taperers to stand on either side.

Aesthetically, this seems the most desirable, and may be supportable from a rubrical point-of-view. The General Instruction permits the homily to be delivered from not only the ambo--in this case, a floating term for whatever bit of furniture is associated with the Gospel and other readings--but from the priest's chair or "another suitable place," in this case, an adaptation of the chapel's historic and very suitable high pulpit.

The Style of the Sanctuary

The language of the design is an adaptation of the hybrid Continental Baroque popularized by the English church furnisher Martin Travers during the nineteen-twenties. This choice is not as arbitrary as it might seem. A few of the church's remaining original furnishings have a vaguely Spanish air, and the bare white walls suggest the sort of contrast that a highly polychroned Spanish altar might provide. More significantly, the very beautiful Riggs Chapel that occupies the liturgical south transept is a surprising small-scale exercise in authentic Italian Baroque (though it appears faintly Mexican at first glance) strongly reminiscent of Travers re-interpretations of it.

A view of the Baroque Riggs transept chapel.

Above the tabernacle, standing at the center of a colorful gilded retablo is a crucifix in high relief with SS. Thomas More and John Fisher below, and the coats of arms of More and Yale on either hand. The tester--centered over the freestanding altar--is inspired by Travers' designs. The sanctuary lamp hangs directly from its center, a position derived in part from the placement of medieval hanging pyxes. The freestanding altar is ornamented with four tall candlesticks and a crucifix, creating a sort of miniature rood-screen and an internal "east" for the priest to focus his mind upon during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Baptistery

One of the more objectionable elements in the official proposal was a strange immersion font in the rear of the church that could be covered over with inscribed metal plates when not at use. A smaller portable font was included for other forms of baptism. The craze for immersion baptisms in parish environments should be dismissed largely due to practical reasons and a lack of demand; however, given the high level of adult catechesis typical on college campuses, an immersion font seems more appropriate in this context. However, the proposed location is completely unsuitable for two reasons. First, it does not allow for the more intimate, enclosed setting presupposed by the Ritual, and secondly, there is something mildly absurd about the sign value of a font that disappears when not in use and in fact can be walked over as it stands in the middle of the center aisle.

It makes more sense, now that the tabernacle in my proposal is relocated to the sanctuary, to use the transept opposite the Riggs Chapel as a baptistery; there may be a number of questions of wheelchair access, but it seems possible that the ramp that leads into that particular space could be located further down the corridor, and the font and ornamental grilles to be spaced to allow a clear route. I don't have all the specifics of the building at hand, so such a reordering may not meet code requirements. We may simply consider this a slightly more hypothetical portion of this extremely hypothetical project.

Standing font with lid as proposed by the author.

The immersion font is a simple quadrifoil-shaped pool, with a smaller, more conventional font placed at one end. The smaller font is ornamented with symbolic shells and Doric guttae, architectural elements associated with trigylphs and thus, by extension, sacrifice. Here, they are made to resemble water dripping off the shell. The upper portion of the font is ornamented with symbols of the five wounds of Christ, representing Christ's sacrifice in blood, and at the very top, the fire of the Holy Spirit.

The Ambry

A similar mix of Passion and Pneumatological imagery occurs at the baptistery altar, intended as a shrine for the ambry containing the holy oils. The dew and flames of the Holy Spirit are enclosed by escucheons in either corner of the retablo arch, with the dove of the Holy Spirit crowning the chest that serves as an ambry.

Ambry shrine and altar as proposed by the author.


While this project is intended to explore, at a theoretical level, many of the liturgical issues of a Catholic college chapel--such as the placement and design of immersion fonts--it is to be hoped that the design of the altar, placed on a broad footpace, dignified by a canopy and integrated into a tabernacle shrine with reredos, will serve as a liturgically-correct and flexible model for newly-built mainstream parishes where either the use of a full baldachin or a reredos and wall altar combination are, for pastoral reasons, untenable. Such an altar may be used in either direction, and for both the old and new rites. It is to be hoped a greater awareness of the liturgical concerns that have shaped this proposal will become itself mainstream in the years to come.

How Many Romans?!

Tuesday, January 16


SHRINE EXCLUSIVE! George Weigel Speaks!

A Pre-Dinner Address to the World Youth Alliance, November 28, 2006 - FIRST TIME IN PRINT!

Drew of the Shrine and I recently received permission to exclusively post the text of a recent address by by noted papal biographer and Catholic author George Weigel given on November 28th, 2006 at the World Youth Alliance Headquarters in New York. The WYA, which Weigel describes in great detail in his speech, is a global coalition of young people committed to promoting the dignity of the person and building solidarity among youth from developed and developing nations and is dedicated to showing young people how to affirm life at all levels of society. On their website, they list as their inspiration the work of John Paul II, Jacques Maritain and psychologist Viktor Frankl, and have spoken out in defense of the family as a "school of deeper humanity," against human cloning and abortion as "symptoms of a flawed understanding of the human person," as well as promoting issues of world health and international law. We are pleased to be able to reproduce the text of this speech by George Weigel, which we hope will serve as a fine introduction to their work. Ladies and Gentlemen of the web, Mr. Weigel:

Let me preface my remarks on what happens here, and elsewhere through the World Youth Allience, with what we might call “a tale of two cities.” Great title for a novel, that; someone should use it…

The first of these is Krakow, in Poland, the city of John Paul II, where for the past 15 years Michael Novak, Richard John Neuhaus, Father Maciej Zieba, and I have run a three week crash-course in Catholic social doctrine, primarily for students from the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe, but each year flavored by 10 students from North America.

We were in the 10th year of the program, by which point one thinks that one has seen everything, but on our first night, in the Saint Hyacinth chapel of the Dominican Basilica in Krakow, there was something…new.

The Basilica dates to the Middle Ages. The chapel is where the relics of Saint Hyacinth, the first Polish Dominican, a man clothed with the Dominican habit by Saint Dominic himself, are entombed. (Well, most of them, anyway; I believe his head is in a different reliquary down in the sacristy.) It’s a very tight space, but we have the opening Mass there because we want our students, from the beginning, to be immersed in the religious history they’ll be living for the next 3 weeks.

So, everybody is cramped, and after receiving Holy Communion, I was looking down - I don’t know whether I was sitting or kneeling - but all I could see coming by me were shoes… and at the tail end of the line comes a pair of the most outrageous red patent leather shoes I’ve ever seen in my life… and I discreetly look up and there is this slight young lady with, if memory serves, a black mantilla.

I thought “This is interesting.”

So I said to my assistant on the way to the opening dinner, I said, “What’s with the red shoes and who let her in here?”

(audience laughs).

She said, “that’s our Canadian”. And I said “Oh. Maple leaf.”

The next day, after the opening lectures, we had our first seminars in which we break down into discussion groups to read John Paul II’s seminal social encyclical Centesimus Annus, which is the foundation of this whole enterprise. And I had Miss Red Patent Leather Shoes – although she wasn’t wearing them this time. And to tell you the truth, I was blown away by Anna Halpine. She had such a maturity, a knowledge, a political seriousness, a deep understanding of the philosophical and the deep theological roots of the problems of human dignity that express themselves in the assault on life in so many ways around the world, that I was sold within a day. And over the next three weeks, I tried to learn more from Anna about what she was doing.

And she told me a remarkable story – which has the added benefit of being true--it’s not just a good story, it’s a true story. She had come to New York to pursue graduate studies of music. And the cave of the winds over there on 1st Avenue (otherwise know as the UN) was doing its usual nonsense having to do with “reproductive rights.” The usual suspects had flown in the usual bought-and-paid-for kids from around the world to say “we, the young people of the world, want abortion on demand, we want same-sex marriage…”, and so forth.

And this music student said, “They’re not speaking for me.” So she and some friends organized themselves and started leafletting the UN saying, “These kids do not speak for the youth in the world, you need to talk to somebody else”. And out of that cut-and-paste initiative came the World Youth Alliance. This kind of an event could not have been imagined at that time.

But I think from there to here one can see the finger of Providence on this enterprise, which has been driven by great energy and great imagination but also I think – frankly - by prayer. This has been a work of the spirit in the fullest sense of the term.

If Krakow is the first of our two cities, the second city is Toronto, where, this past summer, the XVI World Aids Conference was going on. It got the usual cursory attention in the press: Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and so forth. Yet in fact what was in fact going on was a kind of Saturnalia. The leading official representing the U.S. government at this conference is one of my oldest friends, a man who has seen a lot in his time. Yet he told me, a few weeks ago over lunch, that “I was physically ill at the conference.” Why? Because it was not, largely, about helping people with AIDS; it was about affirming the most bizarre expressions of human sexual willfulness, and doing so in public. My friend said, “I was just physically ill at this display of decadence.” The World AIDS Conference was not about compassion; it was not about caring; it was not about cure; it was about the assertion of the self. And in the midst of that horror show, there were Dr. Tim Flanigan and these World Youth Alliance kids standing for something else: standing for the true dignity of the human person made in the image and likeness of God.

That is another image that tells us something about the work of the World Youth Alliance and how important it is to support the possibility of raising a different kind of flag in very difficult circumstances.

Anna will give you tonight, when you leave, a list, a summary of what the World Youth Alliance and its various regional affiliates have been doing over the last year. Let me just highlight a few things, grouped in my own way around three headings:

The first thing that has being going on is what I would call reaching out and training young activists. Do take a copy of that WYA training manual with you tonight. This is like going to college again. This is a brilliantly compact crash-course in how to think about the human person, issues of human sexuality, the public sphere, etcetera, all between two covers.

The kids who are going through this training -- either online, or in WYA sessions around the world -- are coming out of this a batter education in being able to deal with their own country’s situation and the global situation than they would get in many of the colleges and universities.

So that’s something you really want to take a look at, and to understand that this is going on all the time, both through the internet and in person. These interns that you see, from all over the world tonight, are a microcosm of the enterprise; and how great it is that young people can come together, and discover each other, and learn together, now literally together, thanks to Villa Seabright here. This is a good sign for the future.

The second WYA “deliverable” takes us where this all started and that is lobbying. Which means going into the UN, going into the EU, going to Strasbourg, going to the UN agencies in Africa and Asia and elsewhere, and raising a different flag than the flag that has been raised in those agencies by bought-and-paid-for young people promoting what the late John Paul II called the “culture of death”.

This is not just a question of witnessing. The Alliance has helped those legislators who want to do the right thing to draft laws, to draft UN resolutions and EU resolutions. The Alliance works effectively with people who may want to do the right thing, but who frankly don’t know how to make the argument.

On your way out tonight, look at the credo on the wall by the front door. That was very carefully written, so that, as the papal social magisterium says “all men and women of good will” can read this and say, “Yeah, maybe this is something I need to be engaged with”.

So this is a genuine ecumenical and interreligious organization with a capacity to speak to the secular world that’s recognized by delegations to the UN, by the member states of the EU, and in national legislatures – a capacity to help those with legislative responsibility put a noble vision of the dignity of the human person into laws and resolutions.

And then, finally, there’s what we might call the World Youth Alliance’s participation in the war of ideas, which is so important around the world.
WYA sponsored a fine conference at the U.N. in March to mark the first anniversary of the death of John Paul II, with presentations on his contributions to thinking about the dignity of man, human rights and the pursuit of peace.

Senator Tatad was here, Habib Malik was here, Rabbi David Novak was there, I was there. And it was impressive to find ideas that you wouldn’t expect to see promoted in that environment being put very much into play.

The Alliance sent representatives to the International Solidarity Forum on Good Governance and Corruption… a very important topic. Because, as we all know -or should know- perhaps the most serious problem in the Third World, the greatest impediment to Third World development is corruption.

If these kids can build a critical mass of young people determined to live in a different way, determined not to live a lie in their public lives, that would be an enormous thing.

On the principle, be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful, as it appears that no one is going to start eating let me bring this to an end, and then we can talk about whatever you want to talk about at the appropriate point after dinner.

In my view, there are two great threats to the human future on the horizon right now. The first is obvious, and that is the threat posed by jihadist Islam. But even as we address that threat, we can never lose sight of the threat posed by the assault on the dignity of the human person that’s embodied in the abortion license, that’s embodied in the redefinition of marriage, that’s embodied in the idea that we are just bundles of desires rather than men and women with intelligence and free will capable of knowing the good and grasping it and doing it.

This organization has been on the front line of that second great struggle. I commend its work to you, and I commend its people to you, as I commend all of us to the blessings and the mercy of God as we ask, if I may, His blessing upon this food: Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Buon appetito, smacznego, et cetera, et cetera.

And, for your reference and edification, we append:

The World Youth Alliance Charter

The World Youth Alliance is composed of young men and women from every part of the world. In cooperation with other organs of the international community, primarily the United Nations and the European Union, the World Youth Alliance is committed to building free and just societies through a culture of life. That culture affirms the inalienable dignity of the person, defends the intrinsic right to life, nurtures the family, and fosters a social climate favorable to integral development, solidarity, and mutual respect.

We recognize that the intrinsic dignity of the person is the foundation of every human right. We believe this dignity is independent of any individual condition and that no human community can grant or rescind that dignity.

We are convinced that the intrinsic dignity possessed by every human being from conception to natural death is the foundation of everyone's right to life. We believe that this inalienable right to life is the basis of a free and just society and we believe that society through law and culture has an obligation to protect the dignity of the person and thus protect the right to life.

We affirm that the fundamental unit of human society is the family, where men and women learn to live in genuine freedom and solidarity, and where individuals are equipped to fulfill their social obligations. We believe that the political community at the local, national and international level is obliged to protect and nurture the family.

We believe that the authentic development of society can occur only in a culture that fosters integral human development - characterized by physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional growth, in a climate of respect for the human person and the family.

We invite all those who share these convictions to join us in affirming them and give them effect in public life at all levels.

Sunday, January 14


As If It Didn't Look Intimidating Enough Already

The Athanasian Creed in Esperanto:

Kiu ajn volas esti savata: antaŭ ĉio estas necese, ke li tenu la katolikan Kredon.
Kiun Kredon se ĉiu ne estas gardinta tuta kaj pura: nedube tiu por eterne pereos.
Jen estas la katolika Kredo: ke ni adoru unu Dion en Triunuo, kaj Triunuon en Unuo:
nek intermiksante la personojn: nek apartigante la esencon.
Ĉar estas unu persono de la Patro, alia de la Filo: kaj alia de la Sankta Spirito. Sed la Dieco de la Patro, de la Filo, kaj de la Sankta Spirito estas unu: la gloro egala, la majesteco kuneterna.
Kia estas la Patro, tia estas la Filo: kaj tia estas la Sankta Spirito.
La Patro nekreita, la Filo nekreita: kaj la Sankta Spirito nekreita.
La Patro senlima, la Filo senlima: kaj la Sankta Spirito senlima.
La Patro eterna, la Filo eterna: kaj la Sankta Spirito eterna.
Tamen ne estas tri eternaj : sed unu eterna.
Ankaŭ ne estas tri senlimaj, nek tri nekreitaj: sed unu nekreita, kaj unu senlima.
Tiel sammaniere la Patro estas ĉiopova, la Filo ĉiopova: kaj la Sankta Spirito ĉiopova.
Tamen ne estas tri ĉiopovaj: sed unu ĉiopova.
Tiamaniere la Patro estas Dio, la Filo estas Dio: kaj la Sankta Spirito estas Dio.
Tamen ne estas tri Dioj : sed unu Dio.
Tiel same la Patro estas la Sinjoro, la Filo estas la Sinjoro: kaj la Sankta Spirito estas la Sinjoro.
Tamen ne estas tri Sinjoroj: sed unu Sinjoro.
Ĉar sammaniere kiel ni estas devigataj per la Kristana vero: konfesi ĉiun personon aparte esti Dio kaj la Sinjoro; tiel ni estas malpermesataj per la katolika Religio: diri ke ekzistas tri Dioj, aŭ tri Sinjoroj.
La Patro estas farita de neniu: nek kreita, nek generita.
La Filo devenas el la Patro sola: nek farita, nek kreita, sed generita.
La Sankta Spirito estas el la Patro kaj la Filo: nek farita, nek kreita, nek generita, sed eliranta.
Estas do unu Patro, ne tri Patroj; unu Filo, ne tri Filoj: unu Sankta Spirito, ne tri Sanktaj Spiritoj.
Plie, en ĉi tiu Triunuo neniu estas antaŭ aŭ post alia: neniu estas pli granda aŭ malpli granda ol alia; sed la tutaj tri personoj estas kuneternaj : kaj kunegalaj.
En ĉio do, kiel estis antaŭe dirite: la Unuo en Triunuo kaj la Triunuo en Unuo devas esti adorata. Tial kiu volas esti savata: tiu devas tiamaniere pensi pri la Triunuo.
Plie, necese estas al eterna sa vstato: ke tiu ankaŭ ĝuste kredu la enkarnigon de nia Sinjoro Jesuo Kristo, ĉar la ĝusta kredo estas, ke ni kredas kaj konfesas: ke nia Sinjoro Jesuo Kristo, la Filo de Dio, estas Dio kaj Homo;
Dio el la esenco de la Patro, generita antaŭ la mondaĝoj: kaj Homo el la esenco de sia Patrino, naskita en la mondaĝo; perfekta Dio, kaj perfekta Homo: el racia animo kaj homa karno konsistanta; al la Patro egala, rilate sian Diecon: kaj al la Patro malsupera rilate sian homecon, kiu kvankam li estas Dio kaj Homo: tamen li ne estas du, sed unu Kristo; unu—ne per la ŝanĝigo de la Dieco en la karnon: sed per la alpreno de la homeco en Dion; unu tute—ne per ia interrmikso de esenco: sed per la unuigo de la persono, ĉar kiel la racia animo kaj karno estas unu homo: tiel la Dio kaj la Homo estas unu Kristo: kiu suferis pro nia savo: malsupreniris en la inferon, revivi~is la trian tagon el la mortintoj, supreniris en ĉielon, sidas dekstre de la Patro, Dio ĉiopova: kaj de tie venos por juĝi la vivulojn kaj la mortintojn.
Ĉe ties alveno ĉiuj estos relevataj kune kun siaj korpoj: kaj donos respondon pri siaj propraj agoj: la bonfarintoj foriros en vivon eternan: kaj la malbonfarintoj en fajron eternan.
Jen estas la katolika kredo: kiun se iu ne estos fidele kredinta, tiu ne povos esti savata.
Gloro al la Patro, kaj al la Filo: kaj al la Spirito Sankta; kiel estis en la komenco, nun estas: kaj estos ĉiam, eterne. Amen.

Incidentally, just in case you ever have any Anglican con-lang fanatics over for tea, here's the whole 1662 BCP in Esperanto. Which makes me wonder whatever became of the High Elvish Mass our friend Brian planned to translate....


Fr. Finigan, already awesome, has confirmed his awesomeness with this post.

Thursday, January 11


The Very Greatest Building that Was Never Built

The fabled and long-forgotten model of British architect Edwin Lutyens' equally storied and equally neglected unbuilt design for Liverpool Cathedral is scheduled to go on display in an exhibit entitled The Cathedral that Never Was at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool later this month, with the show running into April.

The creation of the mammoth model, equal parts St. Peter's, St. Paul's, Hagia Sophia and perhaps Gibraltar, was almost as ambitious a project as the design of the cathedral itself, and the restoration project has proved nearly as complex. There's extensive coverage of the new exhibit in the Apollo arts and antiques magazine--though (free) registration is required to read it. It is, however, entirely worth the hassle.

Incidentally, if any of my U.K. readers are in the neighborhood, and could ascertain if any exhibition catalogues of the show are projected, I'd be much obliged for any and all information that could be relayed to me on the subject.

Wednesday, January 10


New Church in Arlington


Are Catholics so easily confused?

I had posted an exasperated reflection on the attitude of some in the Church that the laity is far too easily confused. Someone commented that it seemed rude, and my most consistent point on this blog is that Christianity by its nature makes us more loving--though we all drop the ball. So I am going to come up with a way to make the point in a less exasperated way.

Monday, January 8


End of Christmas Season

To mark the end of the Christmas season, a poem, on the end of Christmas in England

A Song Bewailing the Time of Christmas,
So Much Decayed in England
(Anonymous, c.1624)

Christmas is my name, for have I gone, have I gone, have I gone,
Have I gone without regard;
Whereas great men by flocks they be flown to Londonward
Where in pomp and pleasure do waste
That which Christmas had wont to feast,
Houses where music was wonted to ring,
Nothing but bats and owls now do sing.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Christmas bread and beef is turned into stones, into stones, into stones,
Into stones and silken rags.
And Lady Money, it doth sleep, it doth sleep, it doth sleep,
It doth sleep in misers' bags.
Where many gallants once abound,
Nought but a dog and shepherd is found,
Places where Christmas revels did keep
Are now become habitations for sheep.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

Go to the Protestant, he'll protest, he'll protest, he'll protest,
He will protest and boldly boast;
And to the Puritan, he is so hot, he is so hot, he is so hot,
He is so hot he will burn the roast.
The Catholic good deeds will not scorn,
Nor will he see poor Christmas forlorn,
Since holiness no good deeds will do,
Protestants had best turn Papists too.
Welladay, welladay, welladay, where should I stay?

(Alpine hat tip: Hieronymus

Lamentabili Sane

The Popes Pius inform us of the most regrettable financial situation of Sophia Press. I did my part, recently having purchased Fr. Kane's book "Transforming your life through the Eucharist" from them, which is much better than the catalog write-up would suggest.

Responsorial Psalms - Threat or Menace?

I don't mind a decently done Responsorial Psalm but they do seem to be the focus for a lot of really uneven music and add to the general problem of the Big Giant Voice and the whole issue of how prominent cantors ought to be in liturgy. They seem to generate almost as many problems as they solve. That being said, it should come as no surprise that they were actually never intended to be sung!

Over at the NLM, someone has once again bothered to read the Vatican fine print:
The long and short of it is that the actual sung text is supposed to be from the Graduale, but what is here is too technically difficult to be sung by the people. It is for the schola, and the culture of today's parishes resists such a solution. In any case, we don't have the rehearsal time to work up yet another proper chant in addition to the Introit, Communio, and polyphony.

What's more, it turns out that the "Responsorial Psalm" is an innovation designed for a particular purpose. According to [the] Paul VI Apostolic Constitution as published in the front of the 1970 Missal, the Responsorial Psalm is to be used "in Masses that are not sung." (The details of this interesting turn are covered in the Winter 2006 issue of Sacred Music.)

In other words—and we are still trying to process this revelation—the so-called Responsorial Psalm isn't designed to be sung at all, which is one reason it never really seems to work in a way that adds to the liturgy.
They were intended as a replacement for the Graduale at non-sung Masses, when, it seems, everywhere else, the Graduale was to remain supreme.Okay, music directors. You've got it directly from Paul VI. What are you waiting for?


Don Jim has a nice round up about Oscar Wilde, of whom I've only really read his poems about Mary, which poems are beautiful and to be commended.

See you in April?

World ends in March.

Sunday, January 7


Epiphany, with style

YOU know Epiphany is January 6th. I know Epiphany is January 6th. Unfortunately, not only can our bishops not count to 40, they can't even count to 12. And so we celebrated Epiphany today.

But, the parish I attended celebrated in style. Not an indult parish, not a cathedral parish, not a particularly big parish, just a parish. But.. yes.

Arrival: Hmm. The child/adult ratio appears to be, without exageration, 5/1.

Procession: We Three Kings (anything else would be wrong). But, wait. What's that? The thurible is adorned with bells? That's a (nice) Western first, appropriate for the celebration of Eastern, incense-bearing Magi. Incensing the altar of sacrifice and the high altar... nice.

Opeing: Father switches from English to Latin mid-sentence. Keeps you on your toes, but means there's plenty of Latin to be heard.

Asperges: Father is wearing a golden cope for the Sprinkling Rite. Nice. I suspect this is against the 1970 rubrics, but if this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Gospel: Chanted by a dalmatic'd temporary deacon. From the center aisle. Little Anglican, very cool.

Sermon: Wow, we really are priviledged to live in the Messianic age, when we know Christ is divine. And Father actually used the 20-foot-high pulpit.

Proclamation of the Date of Easter: Chanted again. This guy knows his tones, cold.

Eucharistic Prayer: Latin, and they closed the gate to the sanctuary. This is good. But the Deuce? Why use Latin and say the Deuce?

Elevation: I almost can't see Our Lord for all the incense smoke.

Communion: This is new--an option between rail or standing. And most people choose rail...

Closing: Marian Antiphon, St. Michael Prayer

Devotion: In honor of the Epiphany, a statue of Baby Jesus was presented to the parishioners by the deacon for veneration. Everyone did, with the usual American wiping off with a cloth after each kiss.

Happy Epiphany indeed :)

Question: Is it possible for a font to be so ugly that it invalidates the sacrament?

Saturday, January 6


The Death Mellon!

Thursday, January 4


Even Old New York Was Once New Amsterdam

We often forget that old New York was once, in the words of the song, New Amsterdam. Which is a great shame as the Dutch and Swedish heritage of New York, Jersey and Delaware adds a slight tinge of the exotic to the overpowering English Puritan chilliness of early American history. This has been remedied by the excellent little volume The Island at the Center of the World, which, among other things makes the point that according to standards of the time, the amount of goods paid by the Dutch colonists to the local tribe, was, if maybe a little cheap, not the ludicrous $24 worth of trinkets it has become in modern folklore. Plus, the Indians themselves tended to stick around, considering it less a sale than a sort of rent. Indeed, in later years, similar disagreements between Native Americans and Dutch colonists culminated in court battles rather than mutual massacres. The roots of American litigiousness are thus revealed.

(Another remedy towards diffusing the overpowering odor of Puritanism and its reaction during the era might be a careful study of the Spanish colonies, of course, but that would no doubt require students to be exposed to Popery, Baroque architecture, Mexican organ music, flan and other such dangerous ideas.)

Dutch civic pluralism was hardly a pure affair to begin with, born out of violence with Catholic Spain, and lapsed quickly into proto-dot-com vulgarity shortly after the heyday of Vermeer. It has since turned into something far more unpleasant. Still, at the very least, the hardy, oddball colonists of New Netherland could be relied upon to be interesting and also, like the Spanish, had a comparatively better track record in their dealings with the Indians.

This is rapidly turning into a digression, and I don't have any colorful anecdotes of Peter Minuit, one-legged Stuyvestant or the patroons on hand to divert you, so instead, naturally, I turn to buildings built three hundred years later. I now consult my copy of Stern's New York 1900, smelling strongly of mildew, propped up at my elbow like a missal. New York had a bout of Netherlandophilia about a hundred and fifteen years ago, manifested in a profusion of stepped gables, red brick, and bristling grey stone obelisks reared against the sky. Such Mitteleuropaische details are precious rare in this part of the world--outside nearly anywhere in America save among the Teutons and Poles of the Midwest--and are much to be welcomed. The upper West End became the center of such stylistic interpretations, and the upper reaches of Amsterdam Avenue was seen as a new city within the city and a new New Amsterdam. Local Knickerbocker families welcomed this rediscovery of an "indigenous" European heritage that might counterbalance the fancy-schmancy Beaux arts Parisian extravaganzas of the Fricks, Morgans and their ilk.

A Dutch Revival carriage house in the upper thirties.

Gabled row houses soon rose up, mixing Dutch and contemporary neo-Romanesque motives. The architect Robert W. Gibson contributed the splendid Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church in the West End, a fantasy of Dutch tile, stripey red-and-white brick and stone arches in an over-the-top but extremely accurate mingling of period sources. Unsurprisingly, these were largely secular ones--the Haarlem Meat Market, for instance--cleverly jiggled to appear more ecclesiastical than their Calvinist forebears might have liked. It is, however, quite charming in any case, and passing by it one could easily imagine oneself anywhere from Ostend into the Baltics--Stettin, Tallinn, Danzig, Kaunaus, or maybe even to rework it into a market hall in Catholic Germany.

Of course, it didn't last.

It is a shame they did not take the theme further, and, like the Dutch colors of the civic flag, dress the city councilors in the black robes and high hats of the States General. America's rich past offers much material to construct a more interesting folk-culture from--one is reminded of Chesterton's fantasy of a Pennsylvanian national costume equal parts Indian and Quaker--and yet we are so abominably afraid of looking silly. It's a fantasy, of course, and I'm not being wholly serious here (read deep geopolitical theories into this at your own risk), but why are we Americans so bad at making things look good?

Pity Columbus wasn't working for the Italians.

Wednesday, January 3


More than Dreams

Perhaps sick of waiting for another Francis Xavier, Our Lord is said to be doing a lot of missionary work Himself in Muslim countries.

I did meet someone who had a similar experience, in which Christ asked why the person was persecuting His Mother (Mary), and she became Catholic from an Evangelical background. So, I'm inclined to believe it.

This is of course the Church's greatest hope--that when we drop the ball, or are frankly unable, Christ steps in and sets things aright.

Monday, January 1


St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Center

St. Agnes--or Aggie, as I sometimes call her--likes to follow me around. I once lived a few blocks away from the site of her martyrdom in Rome, also the site of one of my favorite churches ever, the Borromini-Rainaldi tag team effort called Sant' Agnese in Agone. I once went to a dreadfully dull architecture student conference in Minneapolis to have a shot at going to mass at the roccoco extravaganza that is St. Agnes in St. Paul, and repeat readers will be familiar with my adventures at St. Agnes on 43rd Street in Manhattan, as well as my passionate desire to replace it with something a bit more Viennese.

Today, while waiting on a Long Island Railroad platform, after spending New Year's with friends, I found another one to add to my collection, St. Agnes Cathedral in the village of Rockville Center. I've been inside before, some years back, but I'd forgotten all about the place. The interior suffered an indifferent renovation in the '80s, more nonsensical than ugly, but the outside still remains a potent symbol of the local church, a great grey jagged mass, looming over the little town clustered all around it. I'd remembered it as positively gigantic, and when I saw it today it seemed smaller than in my mind's eye. Still, it says much about the building's architectural sleight-of-hand that my main memories of it were of its vast size.

This is partially due to its surroundings, low and flat, pleasantly unassuming 19th century storefronts and a mock-colonial village hall, and partially due to its striking silhouette. As I stood there watching the drizzle, I considered whether maybe two towers might have been better than the one massive campanile and the baby brother turret on the other side. However, the asymmetrical upward sweep adds to the illusion, makes it stand tall and slender against the grey sky. It's a good trick, though one wonders if perhaps red brick and grey stone might have worked better against the northern sky than the grey-yellow brick used.

The building was finished in 1935--I don't know who did it--and represents a fairly good-quality local rendition of the neo-Gothic orthodoxy established two decades earlier by Cram and Goodhue. Unlike turn-of-the-century neo-Gothic work, its ornamentation is somewhat simplified and conventionalized, if not stripped outright, and the whole composition generally more conservative in apperance. One rather interesting innovation are the octagonal upper stages of the bell-tower and its pointed leaded-copper cupola. It is also a good example of how to simplify ornament intelligently without simply dumbing it down or completely removing it.

The interior, as I remember it, is less interesting than the exterior, but is not without its finer points. The nave is open, without side-aisles, and strkingly whitewashed. The ceiling is a stark coffered affair in dark wood, and can be considered handsome if one mentally removes the Rubik's Cube color scheme inflicted upon it in 1982. The interior has always been fairly simple, and with the exception of the incompetent reconfiguring of the reredos and the loss of the side-altars, it largely survived the renovation intact. The hanging rood, while too modernist in design for its context, fills a compositional gap in the interior, and prominently shows forth Christ to the congregation.

All-in-all, a fine local masterwork. Even setting aside its interior, the massing of the exterior and its relationship to the town below make it unique. Seldom in America does a cathedral so dominate the skyline of its parent city, though one hopes that, come more civilized times, such a sight may once again become commonplace.

Altar Crosses

"In this way we obey the ancient call to prayer: "Conversi ad Dominum," Turn towards the Lord! [...] Moving the altar cross to the side to give an uninterrupted view of the priest is something I regard as one of the truly absurd phenomena of recent decades. Is the cross disruptive during Mass? Is the priest more important than the Lord? This mistake should be corrected as soon as possible; it can be done without further rebuilding. The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history."

~Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, "Time and Space in the Liturgy."

Amusing Quote

"The colonel was powerful-looking in a short, compressed way, like an attack hamster."

~P.J. O'Rourke, Holidays in Hell, "The Post-Marcos Philippines -- Life in the Archipelago After One Year of Justice, Democracy and Things Like That."

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