Wednesday, October 31
Holy Whapping Television Network (HWTN) Has a New Sponsor
MARSHAL RADETZKY is sitting at an elegant table for one in the main restaurant of the Sacher Hotel. He is resplendent in full dress, spangled with braid. The star of the Order of Maria Theresa is pinned on his chest, a napkin tucked in at his collar. He is clearly ready to chow down, knife and fork at the ready.
A WAITER slides in, and whips off the silver dome of his tray.
WAITER: Here is your Sacher Torte, Herr General.
EMPEROR FRANZ JOSEPH appears from behind a large potted palm, in full imperial robes. He whacks RADETZKY across the forehead with his scepter.
EMPEROR: Dummkopf! You coulda had an Imperial Torte!
VOICEOVER: Imperial Torte: A Dessert Fit for An Emperor. Albeit One Ruling Over an Increasingly Ramshackle Multiethnic Realm With a Lot of Very Cranky Slavs. Accept No Imitations.*
*No doubt you've heard of the new breakfast cereal endorsed by the House of Hohenzollern, Kaiser Crunch?
(Found on Flikr here, where the hi-res version is available.)
Still looking for that perfect Halloween giveaway when the neighborhood kids drop by? Well, head on down to your local authentic Mexican restaurant (or, according to the photographer, Kroeger) with a roll of quarters and go to town!
This Whapster discovered Santos in, of all places, Salt Lake City, while leaving aforementioned authentic Mexican place. She quickly called her party back into the building, where they proceeded to weird out the staff by crowding their entry, pooling quarters, and making furious trades ("Oh, I already have San Francisco! Who wants to swap for Sagrado Corazon?") So, inspire similar nerdery among the local kids this year with a basket full of Santos!
Some Reformation-Era Ghoulishness for Hallowe'en
That being said, let me reassure my Lutheran readers--all four of you--we happen to like Bach and, whatever our doctrinal differences, Herr Doktor Luther alternates with Ignatius of Loyola as the principal movie reviewer on Holy Whapping Television Network.
I suggest, thus, in a spirit of ecumenism, Catholics and Lutherans dress up as something they both find equally frightening, like the polygamist Anabaptist Jan Beukelszoon, the one-time King of the Münster Commune:
Claiming to be the successor of David, he claimed royal honours and absolute power in the new "Zion." He justified his actions by the authority of visions from heaven, as others have done in similar circumstances. He legalized polygamy, and himself took sixteen wives, one of whom he beheaded himself in the marketplace. Community of goods was also established. After obstinate resistance the town was taken by the besiegers on June 24, 1535, and in January 1536 Bockelson and some of his more prominent followers, after being tortured, were executed in the marketplace. Their dead bodies were exhibited in cages, which hung from the steeple of St. Lambert's Church; the cages still hang there, though the bones were removed later.His followers were so weirdly heretical that, if I remember my high school history correctly, both Protestant and Roman forces ganged up on them to oust them from the city, an early example of practical ecumenical dialogue in action.
Today's Baptists, incidentally, have nothing to do with the Anabaptists, whose closest descendents are the Mennonites. They don't take multiple wives or totally flip out and kill people, but do seem to be very good at canning peaches and making furniture, if I understand correctly. Unless those were the Shakers. Or the Amish. Or something.
Girl at Party: I thought they were Franciscans. Are they the same thing?
Me: Er, no, not really...it's sort of the difference between pirates and ninjas.
Tuesday, October 30
Continuing the Elizabethan Theme
Blackadder: What on earth was I drinking last night? My head feels like there's a Frenchman living in it. Where am I?
Blackadder: Right Baldrick, let's try again shall we? This is called (slowly) adding. If I have two beans, and then I add two more beans, what do I have?
Baldrick: Some beans.
Blackadder: Yes... and no. Let's try again shall we? I have two beans, then I add two more beans. What does that make?
Baldrick: A very small casserole.
Blackadder: Baldrick, the ape creatures of the Indus have mastered this. Now try again. One, two, three, four. So how many are there?
Baldrick: ...and that one.
Blackadder: Three and that one. So if I add that one to the three what will I have?
Baldrick: Oh. Some beans.
Blackadder: Yes. (Pause) To you Baldrick, the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people, wasn't it?
Queen Elizabeth: Just hundreds of Catholics desperate to get their heads snicked off...
Lord Melchett: Gray, I suspect, your Majesty.
Queen Elizabeth: I think you'll find they were orange, Lord Melchett.
Lord Melchett: Gray is more usual, Ma'am.
Queen Elizabeth: Who's Queen?
Lord Melchett: As you say, Majesty. There were these magnificent orange elephants...
Blackadder: This place smells worse than a pair of armored trousers after the Hundred Years War. Baldrick. Have you been eating dung again?
Monday, October 29
St. Aloysius, Olivia, MN
Flying Jesuits, Hidden Wires
The noise pollution thing is easy to solve--I suggest we simply put together a committee of rapping CFRs, the Catholic Truth Society, and some folks from the Institute of Christ the King to keep things classy, and no doubt we'll have hot and cold running processions and street-preachers. The martial arts thing is trickier. If the Templars didn't do it, then nobody can, you'd think. Fencing and swordplay might count at a stretch, but I suggest a novel solution. Surely Francis Xavier must have come in contact with the wisdom of the Orient during his days in the Far East, and St. John Bosco was supposed to have used a primitive karate chop on one highway robber. From these thin skeins of evidence we can presuppose an ancient hidden Jesuitical (yes, I know Don Bosco is not a Jesuit, whatever) mystical art, passed down from scholastic to scholastic. Behold--
For further information, apply to Jesuit Conspiracy Central, basement of Sant' Ignazio, Rome; the secret word is "kung pow."
The Philip the Second Fan Club Goes to the Movies
I mean, if we really must deal with treating Philip II as Catholic supervillain, is it too much to expect him to have a decent maniacal laugh, or a gigantic map room like the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crucade, and to employ at least an entire legion of Wicked Jesuits rather than a single agent who looked like Tony Blair with a bad dye job? I mean, Philip II, while he is still one of my favorite Catholic monarchs, was a seriously weird dude. About all we see of his personal ticks is a funny mincing walk and a propensity for staring at candle-flames in a way that expects him to start poking at them a la G. Gordon Liddy. Not even one single Velazquez-esque court dwarf.
If we're going to get pegged as the bad guys, can we at least be allowed to look cool? I mean, we're the ones with the albino assassins and the Inquisition, right?
The anti-Catholicism of this film has been much-discussed in the Catholic press, and there's no doubt of that. What astounds the mind is how little the public needs in the way of visual clues to know we're supposed to be the villains. Here's a handy-dandy chart, based entirely on the evidence presented in the film:
GOOD GUYS (ENGLAND)
Wander around bare limestone interiors with lots of light.
Randomly spend time in prayer in front of sort-of-Catholic altars, but with no clergy in sight.
Say repeatedly they all about tolerance, reason and science.
Employ soothsayers to tell the future.
Pitch hissy-fits and imprison close friends when they marry without our permission.
...Despite the fact we were shoving them together and pretty much doing everything but renting out a sleazy motel room by the hour for them.
...Okay, one bout of protracted torture with an iron maiden.
...And a regicide, of Mary, Queen of Scots, but it was really Philip who started it.
...And an innocent man getting hanged.
...And we felt really bad, honest, about cutting off cousin Mary's head. Really.
But we like our ladies-in-waiting to know all the dance steps.
And we throw really great parties.
...But we're English! And tolerant!
And lots of pretty dresses! We like our royal dresses.
I mean, who's Queen?
BAD GUYS (SPAIN)
Mooch around semi-dark church interiors for no good reason while random formations of monks wander around chanting, doing nothing in particular.
Speaking in a weird foreign language.
Have adoring throngs of subjects who seem to like us a lot.
Mincing around in what might be a lugubrious limp or that our tights are just a shade too small.
Praying in another weird foreign lanugage.
Lots of incense and chanting.
Rosaries. Lots of rosaries.
Having really cool galleons with saints' icons painted on the gunport lids.
Um, something about the Inqusition being in the holds of our ships, but they never did get around to actually showing it in the film.
Big scary flags of the Crucifixion flying at our mastheads.
Oh yeah, trying to conquer England, but we never made any secret of it, did we?
And the scary monks. We mentioned the scary monks, right?
The highest body-count in the film is English--and they're still the good guys.
I bet what happened was they blew the entire research budget on martinis and figured the next best thing was to rely on the following sources:
1. Bob Newhart's "Sir Walter Raleigh" monologue.
2. Episodes of Blackadder II with the humor surgically removed.
3. The Monty Python sketch Erizabeth L. Episode Thlee: The Almada.
THINGS I LEARNED WATCHING ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE.
If you walk out the door of Westminster Cathedral (Cathedral! Not Abbey!), you magically appear in the main courtyard of the Escorial in Spain.
Either that, or opulent, gilded 19th century neo-Byzantine architecture looks alot like the Plain Style of severe 16th century Spain.
ENGLAND STANDS ALONE AGAINST THE PERFIDIOUS CATHOLIC SPANIARDS. Dun-dun-duuunnn!!! (Forget the Dutch and Germans!)
All Elizabeth's palaces were built to resemble medieval ecclesiastical architecture.
You can take a luxuriant candle-scented bath in the middle of a Chapter House.
Austrian Archdukes are kind of nerds.
Sir Francis Drake is a sensitive, nineties-type of guy.
Not only did Protestants steal all the monasteries, but they also deprived Catholics of 80% of England's daylight.
The most inconspicuous place to lead a Generic Intimidating Prayer Service for Persecuted Catholics in Latin is in a crypt surrounded by dyers running around plunging cloths into big enormous vats of Ominous-Looking madder.
The entire College of Cardinals lives in Philip II's palace.
The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots was secretly a Spanish plot.
Also, they cut off her head in a very large Romanesque chapel, after imprisoning her in the Castle of Aaaargh.
When you are an Evil Catholic King, random high-ranking churchmen follow you around holding really big crucifixes.
Cate Blanchett is going to look like Julie Andrews does now in about twenty years.
The best way to make a fire-ship is to take your very expensive vessel, leave all the cannons and gunpowder and valuable equipment for which you no doubt paid through the nose from government contractors, smear it with tar, and set it alight.
Before they were in those insurance commercials, the Cave Men worked in the Imperial Spanish foreign service.
Solemn High Requiem Mass in New York City, November 2
The Mass is in lieu of the regularly scheduled monthly Tridentine Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart that usually occurs on First Fridays at St. Vincent's. As the parish has been repeatedly threatened with closure in the past year (it was supposed to be downgraded to a "chapel," whatever that means, but it is still functioning), such opportunities to pray within its walls may become impossible very soon now. It is a really remarkable mid-19th century church with an interior in an American version of the French neo-Grec style, complete with rich wall-paintings equal parts Pompeian and Romanesque, and thus both beautiful and quite a curiosity in its own right.
More Selected Photos from Matt's Ireland Trip, July 2007
Friday, October 26
It must have something to do with Jerry Lewis
Selected Photos from Matt's Ireland Trip, July 2007
If Only I Had Brought my Mongoose Costume
Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) and his grubby dogsbody Baldrick (Tony Robinson) have made a bet with the airhead friends of their master, the Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie), that they can smuggle a French aristo out of revolutionary Paris and beat the show-off Scarlet Pimpernel at his own game. Blackadder being Blackadder, he has an easier solution to the problem than death-defying feats of strength. It involves money and lies.
[Edmund and Baldrick approach Frou Frou. Edmund scrapes leftovers off of Frou Frou's table onto a plate, then offers the plate to Baldrick.]
Edmund: Now you can some lunch, Baldrick.
Baldrick: Thank you. [leaves the coffee shop]
Edmund: [addresses Frou Frou] Le Comte de Frou Frou, I believe...
Frou Frou: [looks up, with outrageous French accent] Ahhnh?
Edmund: [sitting at the table] Do you speak English?
Frou Frou: A litle...
Edmund: Yes, when you say "a little," what exactly do you mean? I mean, can we talk? or are we going to spend the rest of the afternoon asking each other the way to the beach in very loud voices?
Frou Frou: Ah, no. I can, er, order coffee, deal with waiters, make sexy chit-chat with girls -- that type of thing.
Edmund: Oh, good.
Frou Frou: Just don't ask me to take a physiology class or direct a light opera.
Edmund: No, no, I won't. [propositioning] Now, listen, Frou Frou ... Would you like to earn some money?
Frou Frou: No, I wouldn't. I would like other people to earn it and then give it to me, just like in France in the good old days.
Edmund: Yes, but this is a chance to return to the good old days.
Frou Frou: Oh, how I would love that! I hate this life! The food is filthy! This huge sausage is very suspicious. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a horse's wi--
Edmund: Yes, yes, yes, all right... Now, listen; the plan is this: I have a bet on with someone that I can get a Frenchman out of Paris. I want you to be that Frenchman. All you have to do is come to the embassy with me, say that I rescued you, and then walk away with fifty guineas and all the vol-au-vents you can stuff in your pockets. What do you say?
Frou Frou: It will be a pleasure! If there's one thing we aristocrats enjoy, it's a fabulous partieeee! Oh, the musique! Oh, the laughter! Oh -- if only I'd brought my mongoose costume!
Thursday, October 25
Christ the Light Cathedral, Oakland, California. Scheduled for completion in 2008.
Why don't bishops realize that building churches which cause other Christians to mock us is unecumenical?
An attempt to look on the bright side:
- Tabernacle is centrally located
- Semblance to football trophy may actually attract men into church
- Upon completion, will become passe, not to be repeated by avant garde designers
- Large "plus sign" may increase area math scores
Based on a true story...
"What are you doing?"
"Saying the Angelus..."
"Well... you know what they say...
Pray me somethin' nice and long
Make it Antiphonal and Incarnational
It's only half past two but I don't care
It's 6 o'clock somewhere!"
Wednesday, October 24
New from the Catholic Information Service
I'd like to direct your attention to the new line of booklets recently put out by the Knights of Columbus through the Catholic Information Service. In recent months, the CIS has published booklets dealing with various crucial theological questions and Catholic moral life - Christ, the Human Person, the Holy Ghost, on the Church's teaching on marriage, on the Sacraments and the Ten Commandments. It looks like a great project, and I am informed they are planning to add a wealth of interesting new titles in the few months: Suicide: Catholic Teaching and Pastoral Practice, What Catholics need to know about Islam, Catholicism and Stewardship of the Environment, Becoming a Real Man of God, Spirituality of the Cross and more.
Incidentally, if anyone runs across a booklet put out by the Knights of Columbus entitled Prayertime: A Collection of Catholic Prayers, you may be interested to know several of its illustrations are my own work, including a very handsome Crucifixion.
Addressing Some Misunderstandings
1) My argument did not have to do with liturgical principles as such. Rather, it was an argument concerning the pastoral implementation of these principles. Thus, I would like to assure that any critiques I offered did not have to do with the way the liturgy is celebrated anywhere, but about other pastoral issues that I think are important to the reception of the "Reform of the Reform" and thus will help its content, upon which I agree, to find a better and broader hearing. When I used the term "ideology" in the previous post, it was referring to extraneous issues that could unfairly taint the experience of traditional liturgy for many people, especially those not as familiar with liturgical principles as the readers and authors of this and other blogs. Good liturgy does not occur in a vacuum, and thus it cannot be the sole criterion for whether a parish is seen as especially exemplary.
2) My main hope in starting this conversation was to look towards broadening the impact of the "Reform of the Reform" beyond those already convinced of its goodness. The people to whom this would apply are twofold:
a) the average Catholic in the pew who doesn't have strong views about the liturgy to begin with. These people are probably not content with the liturgy in their parish, but are not sure why. They probably have some longing for tradition, but not with any particular direction. However, they are also suspicious of change, especially since their last experience of liturgical change was particularly traumatizing and radical. This means that whether they accept many of the points on the agenda of the "Reform of the Reform" is going to depend very significantly on extra-liturgical matters, such as whether they feel welcomed, whether they feel engaged, and whether they feel they have to accept some other kind of agenda in order to enjoy the traditional liturgy. These are all concerns that have been experienced either by myself or by other people I know, and thus I'm not writing about this in the abstract.
b) Those of good will with existing views on the liturgy who are or appear to be to the "left" of the Pope and other advocates of the "Reform of the Reform." Now, I am not arguing that such people are correct, since I do not believe so, but I do believe they need to be treated with respect and not simply dismissed as being on the losing end of history and of truth. In order to avoid a cycle of retribution, there needs to be a sustained engagement with such people, especially since such people are capable of having a change of heart and mind (usually in that order). I have seen this happen in incredible ways, and it is a testament both to the goodness of Our Lord and to the effectiveness of a consensus-building approach.
3) I would like to comment a bit further by way of establishing my own credentials as someone who has been a part of this movement and thus has a right to critique what I see as potential pitfalls and to offer constructive advice. I do so by pointing out to you the pictures posted below of the first Extraordinary Form Mass at Notre Dame. This Mass came about partially as the result of gradual student efforts at the Saturday morning 9:00 a.m. Mass, which when I began as sacristan had an average attendance of between 2 and 5. Gradually, we began an increase in solemnity, using some of the better vernacular Church music available from GIA, and eventually moving in the direction of chant. It was Saturday morning, so granted not a ton of people were paying attention, but we did feel a certain obligation, as the only Mass at that time on campus, to be as accomodating as possible to the congregation, especially when we moved towards celebrating it entirely in Latin on some Saturdays. Thus, we were careful to be as friendly as possible towards attendees, and to actually take surveys to make sure that this was something that they were OK with. No, the Church is not a democracy, but we were not bishops either and thus did not have any real authority to begin with, and in any case, we made the attendees feel like they were a part of the experience rather than simply our guinea pigs. Two major things resulted out of this approach: first, the annual Eucharistic Procession, which has become one of the most glorious events of its type in the country. This was also an event where taking a welcoming approach has paid dividends, as the picnic following it has helped to solidify its place as a liturgical event that brings its attendees together in faith and in community. The second major thing that has resulted out of this approach is the weekly Extraordinary Form Mass on campus, for which it laid the groundwork. By convincing Campus Ministry and others that these expressions of the liturgical tradition were done in a spirit of openness, we were able to make progress that would have scarcely been thought possible, and would indeed have been impossible if we had taken a more hardline approach at almost any point.
In this vein, I would like to offer a quote from Thomas Merton (in his book Seasons of Celebration) about Corpus Christi in New York, one of my favorite parishes:
"There was nothing new or revolutionary about it; only that everything was well done, not out of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness, but out of love for God and His truth. It would certainly be ingratitude of me if I did not remember the atmosphere of joy, light, and least relative openness and spontaneity that filled Corpus Christi at Solemn High Mass."
Now, once again, I am not accusing anyone of of aestheticism or rubrical obsessiveness but rather pointing out that without the other extra-liturgical elements, good liturgy could appear as such to the outsider, as indeed Merton was initially.
4) To repeat, I am on board with the basic principles of the "Reform of the Reform," I am simply arguing that if my concerns are taken into account, it actually has a better chance of succeeding and not embroiling us in an endless cycle of retributive "liturgy wars."
But I am also questioning whether the standards and examples being proposed to us are the only way of carrying out a "Reform of the Reform" according to the principles set out to us by Pope Benedict XVI, and whether one could not come up with an entirely alternate set of "flagships" in some of the same cities, without fundamentally comprising these principles, though perhaps implementing them according to a different set of priorities. To say that the "flagships" that have been set in front of us are clearly ahead of other places presumes that there is a particular methodology for accomplishing the goal of good and beautiful liturgy, and that places that take a different methodology (while still being reverent, having beautiful and appropriate music, etc.) are somehow comparatively deficient. I think there is room, and indeed need, for a plurality of methodologies in this area, and thus a greater plurality of "flagships."
Tuesday, October 23
"Reform of the Reform" and Neo-Traditionalism
In its initial stages, the "Reform of the Reform" was a novel and intriguing idea - a reconsideration of the liturgical reforms of the 1960's and 70's, especially in their applications on the ground and the myths that were perpetuated of a rupture between past and future. Indeed, in this respect, it is still important and necessary. In recent years, however, and especially in the wake of the motu proprio, many proponents of the "Reform of the Reform" have become overly "restorationist" in their thinking and the kind of things they promote. This can be seen especially in a recent list of "flagship parishes," which chooses what I find to be a very narrowly constituted selection of parishes that exhibit more the thinking of what the "Reform of the Reform" agenda wants at the moment than what such a reform actually calls for. Indeed, it comes off largely as a selection of conservative havens than as anything else, and ignores the fact that there may be elements of their constituencies (and clergy) that, by catering to those "in" on the prevalent way of thinking (which is not always necessarily the only conclusion of being an orthodox believer), end up alienating many others who, all things being equal, might like to worship there. Furthermore, the praise of such places, which often comes off as ludicrously gushing, ignores and downgrades the significance of other places in the same cities by making it appear like they are the "only show in town." Once again, this comes off as promoting ideological havens instead of pointing to the richness and legitimate diversity of beautiful liturgy in the Church.
Essentially, the problem with much "reform of the reform" discussion out there right now is it displays a contentment with being a phenomenon of the ecclesial right, rather than moving towards or seeking to really influence the center. Thus, the tendency to exalt places that, beautiful liturgy aside, can by no means accused of residing in or near the center. There is also a tendency to settle for nothing less than the perceived idea of "perfection," and thus incessantly criticizing every little aspect of something that one finds insufficient, whether it is the fact that a parish does not have a celebration entirely in Latin, or that the Missa de Angelis is somehow "not real chant."
The danger, then, of the "Reform of the Reform," is to institute a kind of neo-traditionalism - less problematic, perhaps, than its predecessor, but nevertheless lacking in vision for the whole Church and relying for its identity on what ends up as a mixture of traditionalism and elitism. Such a strategy might result in short-term gains of those enthusiastic for something different, but it does not have a future as a sustained way of living within the Church. Ultimately, no movement of the Church that comes off as ideological can ever completely dominate the center, because the faithful naturally resist ideologies.
The only workable strategy is to move towards and constitute the center. This inevitably involves compromise and not getting one's way, but it opens up whole new paths for renewal and for leavening the mainstream rather than condemning it and starting one's own operations. The real "flagship" for such a strategy is Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, with its beautiful liturgy televised on two different satellite TV stations. It is a well-celebrated Mass in a beautiful church that each weekend opens up thousands of people to beautiful liturgy they have perhaps not experienced in their own parish, but realize is attainable at least in certain respects. This is the "Reform of the Reform" in an organic way - beautiful liturgy speaking to people and reaching out to them. There may not be an ideologically uniform congregation, and there are no homilies canonizing the parishioners ("I would preach to you about XXXX sin, but I'm sure no one does this at XXXXX parish"), and the absence of these things precisely creates an environment and experience that transcend the worn-out right/left divide in the Church and carve out a liturgical center from which all can draw.
This is not to say that there is no place for more academic discussion about liturgy, and for a focus on places that do it well. But unless this is carried out in a way that is sensitive to the pastoral needs of the Church, rather than overly worried about carving out ideological havens, it has no chance. Perhaps in this light it is worth remembering Romano Guardini, the greatest theological mind of the Liturgical Movement - a man whose brilliance transcended ideology precisely by embracing the beauty of truth and of the liturgy. Until his would-be successors are more careful to avoid tying themselves up with ideology, I worry deeply about their possibilities for success.
Let me emphasize that my critiques of the "Reform of the Reform" are not meant to be an overarching critique of the entire project. As I started out by saying, such a thing is certainly necessary, and I share many of the same priorities. I do think, however, that it is necessary to think long and hard about the dangers I have emphasized in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and turning the future into a cycle of retribution instead of a time of liturgical peace and beauty.
Update: I'd also like to comment that in all of this, I'm not trying to critique the motu proprio, which was a brilliant and necessary move, precisely as a way of separating the traditional liturgy from any ideology and thus attempting to defuse that part of the "liturgy wars." The removal of ideology is precisely the path towards influencing the center, and why a place like Notre Dame has been able to whole-heartedly embrace this.
In re the last post, here is the current Swiss Guard regimental color. Note the tiara over Benedict XVI's arms.
Tiara, Tiara, who's got the Tiara?
The heraldic readers of the blog will remember the controversy that surrounded Benedict's apparent decision to not use the tiara as one of the external ornaments of his personal arms, as well as the tiara's subsequent re-appearance in the Vatican flowerbed design version of Benedict's arms, as well as on the Swiss Guard flag and a few other spots, though the tribanded mitre has shown up on papal tapestries afterwards.
An additional wrinkle to the situation has been added by this notice posted up on San Gregorio dei Muratori, hardly official but interesting nonetheless. It shows a sort of tiara resembling nothing so much as the camelaucum worn by early popes, not unlike another suggestion of a group of heraldists to replace the curious (and confusing) tribanded mitre when the design was first circulated.
I believe their proposal included the three bands as well, as opposed to the single ornamented circlet here. I was a bit skeptical of this suggestion at first but the representation here is not without its charm, though it is different from both It serves to indicate he is more than a bishop, though given it differs from the received practice and the (somewhat curious) form Benedict currently favors it may confuse things further. I imagine this is wholly unofficial, but has anyone seen this variant form elsewhere in the Eternal City?
You Want it, You Got It
Some of our Alert Readers were wondering about the size of the congregation at the Extraordinary Form mass at Notre Dame last Sunday; our two photographers Sean and The Sober Sophomore were so tasteful and in-tune with the piety of the congregation they thought it would be crass to turn around and photograph them; however, lucky for us, someone discretely snapped a shot from the back of the church which gives you a good sense of the great turnout for the event--especially for a university campus at 8 AM. While we don't know who snapped the shot, it was provided to us by the ever-awesome fellows at Campus Ministry, who has been tremendously welcoming throughout the whole process of getting the Tridentine Mass back at Our Lady's University. So there's our proof.
Postscript. Does calling the Extraordinary Form the XF sound too much like it's an extreme-sports competition? And if so, is this really a bad thing?
Monday, October 22
Welcome, Catholic Heroes!
Colbert is also author of the inspirationally funny I Am America (And So Can You). The chapter on religion is not to be missed. Or any of it, really.
Video on the TAC
The most moving part, to me, was their primate explaining the communal mind-set shift they are going through, in his words, "no longer asking what we think, but what the Church says." The willingness for sacrifice extends especially to its bishops, one of whom--as someone who left the Roman Catholic Church--has said he will resign the office of bishop if this would be a stumbling block to unity.
Certainly no group can remain outside of the Church long which has such a Catholic understanding of hierarchy and unity. Those that do remain outside, well, they simply don't have that Catholic mindset!
Dawn Eden - One Day Only - Worcester, Massachusetts!
It is my fervent wish that the administration of the College of the Holy Cross will unequivocally disassociate itself from the upcoming conference sponsored by the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy so that the college can continue to be recognized as a Catholic institution committed to promoting the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.In any case, a counter-conference is going on tomorrow at St. Paul's Cathedral, where none other than St. Blog's very own Dawn Eden will be making an appearance. Ve sure, if you're in the area, to come on down and give her some much-needed moral support.
Also, I recall, from a treasured childhood memory, that Worcester has a wonderful museum of medieval armor, where they even let you try helmets and chainmail, so I recommend it to any Joan of Arc wannabes in the area as well. She liked chastity, too, you know, and she was pretty darn empowered for the fifteenth century.
Saturday, October 20
The Dominican Ceremonial Pictured in Photographs
Friday, October 19
A Marvelous Medieval Prayer
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, and bearing on your head a crown of thorns: I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your cross may free me from the avenging Angel.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, wounded upon the cross, drinking vinegar and gall: I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your wounds may be my remedy.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, placed in the tomb, laid in myrrh and spices: I beseech you, Lord Jesus Christ, that your death may be my life.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, descending into hell, liberating the captives: I beseech you, never let me enter there.
I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven and sitting on the right hand of the Father: have mercy on me, I beseech you.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, preserve the righteous, make righteous the sinners, have mercy on all the faithful: and be gracious to me, a sinner.
O Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you for the sake of that most bitter suffering which you bore for my sake upon the cross, and above all when your most noble soul left your most holy body: have mercy on my soul at its departing. Amen.
V. We adore you O Christ and we bless you,
R. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto you.
O most kindly Lord Jesus Christ: turn upon me, a miserable sinner, those eyes of mercy with which you beheld Peter in court, and Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and the thief on the gibbet of the cross: and grant that with the blessed Peter I may worthily lament my sins, with Mary Magdalene may perfectly serve you, and with the thief may behold you eternally in heaven. Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.
My favorite Pantokrator (perhaps after some of Sir Ninian Comper's Apollonian experiments) is the gentle, melancholy Christ of Cefalù, a rugged, sun-bleached town clinging to a hollow in the Sicilian coast. So I couldn't help being amused and pleasantly surprised by its making a guest-appearance in Take the Cannoli, a collection of essays by Godfather-obsessed contrarian Sarah Vowell:
At least no one was inside the church. The only gaze upon me thereOkay, Christ as Don Corleone...maybe not my first reaction; Our Lord seemed more achingly sad at the wickedness of the world, and yet bigger and grander than it--and earlier on my own visit there, I'd seen visible proof of such sin when I stumbled into a deconsecrated chapel on the mountainside and discovered a chalk magic circle on the floor--but still, I'll give Sarah points for possibly the most hilariously original riff of Christian iconography I've read.
came from the looming, sad-eyed Messiah. The Jesus in the mosaic is huge, three times larger than any other figure inside the church. And there's something menacing in the way he [sic] holds the tablet with the word of God on it. But his face is compassionate. Witht that contradictory mix of stern judgment and heart, he may as wel have been wearing a tuxedo and stroking a cat and saying something like, "What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?"
Books I Will Never Have the Time to Write But Wish I Did
The Art Deco Parking Garages of New York
A New General History of Relics
A Field Guide to the Nuns of North America*
Spellman's Folly: Paul Reilly and the Building of Our Saviour's, Park Avenue
American Baroque: The Emigrant Impulse and American Catholic Architecture, 1800-1950
Midwestern Gothic: Rediscovering the Old World in America**
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Altar Serving, With a Special Section on Burns and the Use and Misuse of Fire in the Liturgy***
*Though I think Emily has first dibs on this, to be fair.
**This isn't a joke. Go to Wisconsin's Holy Hill sometime and don't tell me it isn't the fifteenth-century Rhineland. Seriously.
*** Co-authored with Bishop Elliot, and vetted by Pyromaniacs Anonymous of Southern North Dakota.
Traditional Anglican Communion - Now Officially Seeking Reunion With Rome
The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.Their request sounds both sincere and very serious, and should be treated with respect. (Indeed, I am told Primate John Hepworth is so committed that in the past he has volunteered to step down from his position should that prove necessary!) While the hierarchical and sacramental issues involved in such a reunion will prove complex for all and knotty for many, we should nonetheless pray for success in their request for union with Rome, whatever structural form it may take. If it goes off, it will bring nearly half-a-million former Anglicans back to their ancestral home in the Catholic Church, and if that happens, everybody wins.
Thursday, October 18
St. George, Headstone
There is a secret history of twentieth century art that is only now starting to be told. Sir Ninian Comper, the giant of twentieth-century British Gothic, did not die until 1960, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was not completed until 1970 and many other church furnishers and designers had done work up to those times in a traditional spirit, if sometimes abstracted and attenuated.
I was particularly struck, on stumbling onto the webpage of the (Anglican) parish of St. George's, Headstone, England, of this continuity--which has included work done by Martin Travers (a very talented if still somewhat controversial figure) before his death in 1949 and further additions in his style done in the '50s, as well as a handsome font cover added as late as 2003, in perfect continuity with the other work.
Much of it is simplified in feel, but the overall effect is quite handsome and serves as an interesting instance of something close to a traditional artistic survival rather than revival. Given the cost-cutting measures necessary in much modern church furnishing, the results of such abstractions (sometimes successful, sometimes not) offer an fertile field of practical study.
Catherine - The Musical!
Lucy and the zuchetto-wearing Seminarian Pat were cast as the two delightfully evil villains in question, and to keep things interesting while during rehearsal (Cardinal Flandrin's Emperor Palpitane impressions didn't cut it) they cooked up a whole raft of parody songs for their own imaginary parallel production, the epic inside joke, Catherine: the Musical!, including "All I Want is a Pope in Rome," the "Zoot Suit Riot" hommage "Cardinal Flandrin," and the grand finale (complete with swing-dancing) entitled "Springtime for Catherine and Avignon," which would have made Mel Brooks proud. Or something. Go over to her place and read the lyrics yourself! (I can't afford the Guinness royalties to reprint them).
Lucy, like The Shrine's Emily and the Sober Sophomore, is, incidentally, a member of the venerable guild of Churchladies--though I will caution you to remember that today's churchlady is far younger, far better-dressed and even more dangerous than the scary old women with painted-on eyebrows of 1950. In a just world, they would probably helm a Catholic version of What Not To Wear (desperately needed at present), though it would also probably include sections on altar linens, beer appreciation, and unarmed self-defense.
How my life at Notre Dame with these folks and Dan and Drew didn't degenerate into a sitcom, I don't know. I can't make this stuff up, guys.
Postscript. Lucy mentions having watched Becket, a fine movie with my favorite (well, only) Excommunication Scene in it (and a few historical liberties about Anglo-Saxons and Normans). She does call them on the outrageous Italian accents the Pope sports in one scene, which reminds me that Dan, Drew and I used to refer to that character as "The Pontiff from the Pizza Parlor." "Hey, I'm-a talkin' to you-a!"
Wednesday, October 17
St. Audrey's Day: Break Out the Costume Jewelry
Today is the feast of St. Audrey (Æthelthryth or Æðelþryð, if you're more familiar with the Anglo-Saxon), who apparently died in AD 679 of a throat tumor, offering it up as reparation for her youthful taste in jewelry. From today's Irish Times, discussing the etymology of the word Tawdry:
Somehow, posterity missed the moral of the story. Instead, traders at the annual fair of St Audrey - on the Isle of Ely - saw a sales opportunity. The event became synonymous with the sale of cheap jewellery and lace, especially as neckwear. The saint's title became telescoped and the rest was etymological history. [...]Ladies, wear your most garish and tasteless necklace today to celebrate!
The best-known Audrey of modern times, ironically, had one of the most decorated necks in cinema history. As Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Audrey Hepburn cut an iconic image with her little black dress, long black gloves, and multiple-string pearl necklace. The look might have been showy, but it certainly wasn't cheap. When a version of her dress (there were three made for the film) was auctioned by Christies in London last year, it raised £467,000 sterling. Mind you, all the proceeds went to charity, so St. Audrey could hardly have complained.
Or maybe you can be more tastefully creative. We recall one time a female friend (name excised to protect the innocent) dressed up as "St. Audrey of Hepburn" for our All Saints Day Party, which wasn't quite what we were expecting when we sent out the invites. But since a) we deeply respect a woman who owns opera gloves and knows how to use them and b) other folks showed up as the Blues Brothers, Brett Favre, and a guy wearing a traffic cone on his head who mixed the drinks, we are not one to complain.
Speaking of ugly neckwear, this reminds me of one of the most bizarre moments in the run-up to the French Revolution. This was the "Affair of the Diamond Necklace" cooked up by con-woman Jeanne de la Motte to swindle the Cardinal de Rohan out of a good bit of cash. This worldly, groveling and rather naive sad-sack used to celebrate his private mass in a chamber painted with overfed mandarins (and a monkey extinguishing a candle with its own flatulence--as if you thought Vosko was bad enough) and occasionally called on that lovable Masonic moral void, the Count Cagliostro, for advice. Cagliostro, incidentally, was a chubby lightweight Sicilian version of Claude-Louis de St. Germain, who ended up as Criswell to the Cardinal's Ed Wood. But without the grave robbers from outer space bit. ("And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future," &c.)
My head hurts whenever I try to sort out the actual details of the scheme, but it involves forged letters purportedly from Marie-Antoinette (signed incorrectly as "Marie-Antoinette de France," sort of like if someone had gotten a letter from Tony Blair signed in crayon as "the Duke of Earl"), lèse majesté, a horribly ugly necklace called a "chandelier" in the slang of the day, and a Marie-Antoinette impersonator, Rohan getting thrown into the Bastille (which was actually kind of comfy as these things go) and somehow the poor queen getting blamed for the worst of it, despite the fact she didn't even want the necklace. Was it really worth cutting the poor woman's head off?
*Audrey Hepburn's beauty is proof for the existence of God, but that says nothing about heroic virtue. You can use a lot of morally neutral or even unsaintly things to prove the existence of a merciful God, like the fact that the Subway Announcers' Union headquarters (MMMMMMNNNNZOOOOOOOINNNNGGGG *crackle* bwhhwhbha hhwhhbmm OutofService on thehdshbahbahhabdabahda 6Train to Bowling Green *crackle*crackle*crackle) has not been struck by lightning.
Tuesday, October 16
Some Early Matt Work
Looking at it now, I realize how much I've grown in the last six years, particularly in terms of handling drapery and the human body--though I was very proud of the image when I did it, and not without some justification given the trickiness of the request.
It was a fun project. I was asked an image based on Bernini's Ecstasy of S. Teresa, but with the angel omitted, and all in the woodblock-inspired style I was experimenting with back even then.
The problem was how to make Teresa's swoon suitably dynamic without the counterbalance of the angel, and I found the solution by making S. Teresa's heart the center of the composition, threading out of her chest on a single artery, a detailed baptized and borrowed, oddly enough, from one of the more disturbing self-portraits of the equally disturbed Frida Kahlo, though here put to better use (and with an actual meaning as opposed to just, well, whatever she was up to--and thank goodness S. Teresa didn't have that monobrow...). This was probably the first and only time I ever borrowed anything from Kahlo, I'll have to admit, so savor the weirdness of the moment. Even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes, to quote an old Florida saying.*
*Really. The Aldermans lived six generations in Florida before I came on the scene, so they had a long time to pick up the usual folksy wisdom. If you're having trouble making sense of this one, try reading the aphorisms that embroider the late Lawton Chiles's speeches. Those are so incomprehensible, they have to be authentic.
Monday, October 15
The Latest from Holy Whapping Television Network (HWTN)
You see, living in close proximity to all those Middle Eastern baked goods for generations apparently had some sort of weird effect on them that made them whizzes around grease and sugar, if not much else. (You should see their illuminated manuscripts. My kid could paint that. If I had one, I mean.)
A New Chain of Luxury Baked Goods Boutiques
"Where Our Pastries Are As Good as the Men Who Make Them. Unless They're Repulsive, Horrible, Icky Sinners, in Which Case, You're On Your Own."
New items we're test-marketing include Marcionite Breakfast Bagels ("now without lox!"), Arius-endorsed dieting products ("similar in substance to chocolate, but not the same") and, just to show we're not totally selling out to the heretics, a range of hand-crafted ice-coffee drinks produced by a venerable order of friars deep in the Appenines, the Frappucine Fathers. And for the kiddies, a "Holy Meal," this week with different action figures of the Whapsters ("Dan--now with special red sweater-vest!" "Choirgirl Emily!" "Original Emily!" "Senior-Year Emily!") For more info on this exciting new addition to the Holy Whapping Family, see our infomercial with special guest Pope Miltiades and Felix of Aptunga, just to prove our new employees have really gone over to Rome, heart and soul. Since we still have those thumbscrews down in the basement...
The Frauenkirche, Dresden
Sunday, October 14
Drew: It's Newmania!
Me: So, I think when Cardinal Newman gets canonized, we should put a halo made of neon and lightbulbs around the head of that bust, very Sicilian.
Drew: (skeptically) Yeeeah, I think he'd appreciate that.
"Sacred architecture should have just a little bit of oppressiveness to make it interesting. Preferably totally fallacious oppressiveness."
Me: ...reports of a rumble between representatives of the Oxford and Brompton Oratories...
On a shop front with the subtitle, "For All Your Accordion Needs."
Drew: I will henceforth buy all my accordions from this man. Hold me to this, I'm a man of my word.
(I plan to.)
In re a holographic image of Jesus that turns into Mary if you tip it the right way...but never really works very well.
Drew:...the church of Gesù e Maria, in Rome.
Dan:I have the titular image of that church, you know.
Me: What is it? What do you mean?
Dan: The Sacred and Immaculate Heart of Jesusmaria.
Me: Hey! We could make a holographic card of Cardinal Newman that when you turn it sideways it's Father Faber!
Dan: Uuuh, I think that'd require a pretty big turn.
In re canonization candidate Claire de Castelbajac, a French twentysomething who lived a life of study and suffering before dying in 1975...
Me: So, I want to do a picture of the Servant of God Claire de Castelbajac, but there's only two photos of her online and they're not very useful. I mean, what should I show her wearing?
Dan: Yeah, it's not like she was a priest or a nun. And it was the '70s.
Drew: I'm thinking bellbottoms.
Dan: This is Paris, 1975, not Woodstock!
Drew: And lovebeads, and facepaint...
Dan: Eh, she did talk about her "worldly phase."
Me: Maybe more like Mary Tyler Moore. Yeah, she'd have dressed like Mary Tyler Moore. Maybe when they canonize her they can use the themesong as the Introit for her mass. In Latin. "Who can turn the world on with her smile..."
Drew: It is a pretty profound theological statement.
Actually, we really like Servant of God Claire here at the Shrine, and she deserves a wider audience, and appropriately tacky holy cards to spread her causus. We like to think she would have enjoyed hanging out with us, despite being a saint and all.
On a disappointing Franco-Bavarian restaurant's decor:
"It's not Bavarian."
"It's the French invasion."
"Maybe if they were invaded by French Hobbits..."
"I'm very disappointed."
Lovingly ripped-off from P.J. O'Rourke:
Drew: I didn't know you could get poultry cooked rare or medium.
Me: Yeah, then it's more like bird-flavored jello.
Me: And I think I saw Claire de Castelbajac on the train today.
Dan: She's dead. I strongly doubt that.
Drew: He could have been having a vision.
Dan: I strongly doubt that.
Me: Well, she was young, had a French accent and she was all in black. Okay?
Dan: I still seriously strongly doubt that.
Me: In fact, I think I sort of annoyed her.
On the use of magenta as a school color:
Dan: It was a different time and place...
"Hello, we've lost our waiter. Do you know where he is?"
"It's like the world's worst Rubik's cube."
Dan: There's an exhibit in the zoo called the "World of Darkness"? Should we really do this, guys?
The conversation then sidetracked onto Karl Barth. Incidentally, the World of Darkness looked very seventies, actually.
"...really disappointed, there were no vampires or werewolves..."
This Just In
Saturday, October 13
Dan: So, they found the previous pastor had walled up a safe behind the sacristy, filled with the treasures of the church--
Drew: He walled up a bunch of poor people?? For thirty years?
Notre Dame Tridentine Mass Starts Tomorrow
Also, if any Shrine readers can email me any information on the recent lectures and presentations on the Motu Proprio--or, come tomorrow, provide photos or reactions to the actual mass--drop me a line at email@example.com.
Tridentine Mass Cheat Sheet
Trick: sit in the back and watch what everyone else does, unless you're in Italy, in which case, no matter what sort of mass you go to, every man may not be his own pontiff, but he's pretty much his own ceremoniarius and he (or she) does whatever he wants. At one mass I went to in Rome, one devout if, er, "simple," person spent the entire time talking to a heat lamp and reading a magazine during the homily. And let's not get started on the rainbow-flag-wearing Pace Radio Maria man and his girlfriend. (These were both at ordinary form masses, but pious lunatics are everywhere in the Eternal City.)
Anyway, if you want to know more, I suggest you have a look at the wonderful Fr. Finigan's little crib sheet of what to do and why. And on the other side, experienced TLMers, be nice, smile and show the newbie sitting next to you how to find the right place in the missal. Who knows? You might just meet a new friend or even your future spouse that way.
Thursday, October 11
New Dappled Things Out!
With all the pied beauty of fall leaves upon the still-green grass, comes the "Mary, Queen of Angels 2007" edition of Dappled Things, now available online. The new issue is brimming over with wonderful essays, stories, poems, and works of art by talented young writers and artists working within the Catholic tradition.
Herewith a sampling of the marvelous pieces you will find in our "Mary, Queen of Angels 2007" edition:
- Following the September implementation date of Pope Benedict's much talked-about motu proprio, comes Philip Carl Smith's "The Monastery, the Motu Proprio, and the Heart of the Church," a personal meditation on the importance of liturgy for the Church's life:Dom Antoine Forgeot, the abbot of Notre Dame de Fontgombault, greeted me upon my arrival at the monastery by pouring water on my hands before the evening meal, welcoming me as if I were Christ. Fontgombault, founded in the eleventh century, has had an immense influence on the religious life of France and the United States since its reestablishment in 1948 by the Benedictines of Solesmes, and it is now an important center of Gregorian chant. For several days this past summer I received the hospitality of the monks, attending the singing of the Divine Office and participating in the solemn conventual Mass chanted each day according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII—a form of the Mass also known as the usus antiquior or the Tridentine Mass.- The main character in Eve Tushnet's "Distortions" struggles with questions as applicable to a distopian world as to our own:And that's how my thing is all over. Crumpled up, crippled. Like a glob with deep wrinkles, almost folds or fissures, covered with lanugo, and a thing like a face on one end. You can definitely see the noseholes and the mouth, and you can tell where the eyes should be, but either they aren't there or they're gummed shut. I'm not really interested in that part; what I'm supposed to be investigating are the flippers and the wings. I don't like these ones, the very large malformations. They're part of the reason I want to move into a more administrative or research-design position, rather than directly carrying out the work.- Author Eleanor Bourg Donlon treats us to a second installment of her developing Magdalen Montague saga in "The Flight from Magdalen Montague":I found the girl on the street, as one does. Down by the Danube. I glanced into the ugly green depths of the river and thought of filth. And then I looked up and saw her. A miserable object, but well suited to my purpose. Blonde, with straggling hair, and small, dull eyes. Rather like that girl in Vienna. Do you remember her? She wept when we left, but I think it was because she had wanted more money.- Poet Gabriel Olearnik ponders the end of times in "An English Apocalypse":Death, War, Famine- Pope John Paul II's theology of the body has much to say about
and the other member of the band
(you know the one, his name escapes me)
Will run amok in Camden market
And overturn three stalls of leather goods
And upset some arrangements
Of ersatz Gucci handbags.
relations between the sexes, but what is its connection to social
justice? Catherine Rose explores this question in "Social Justice and the Theology of the Body":Secular governing bodies have their particular roles in the temporal sphere. But they cannot substitute the work of the Church, who addresses the needs of the whole person, including the ultimate transcendent need. It is an impoverishment for Catholic charitable organizations to discount or deny their spiritual ministry.- Our featured article for this issue explores the nature of art and
beauty through the work of 20th century Catholic painter Carl Schmitt
in a profound essay written by his son, historian Carl Schmitt, Jr.:Artistic beauty is only possible because of the Incarnation. In this world, we cannot see God's supreme beauty: We can only find our way to it through the light of faith. Through the Incarnation, we may now experience God in this world through our own discovery of the beauty in people and things.Visit our website (www.dappledthings.org) to enjoy these works and many more. Spread the Word!
Tuesday, October 9
Oratorians and Lightbulbs
How many Oratorians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Priest, deacon and cleric (dressed as subdeacon) with assistant priest in cope and acolytes and thurifer, with choir and other minsters, assemble at the foot of a step ladder, the priest sotto voce says:
Pr. Fratres, renoveremus.
Mins. Sancte Pater, cur renoveremus?
Having reverenced the step ladder all depart,with lighted candles, singing Lux Aeterna accompanied by musicians on original instruments.
This moved someone else to ask, farther down,
Since the latter is free standing, how many times does the priest go around the ladder during the incensation? 2, to signify the union of the father and the son or 3 to reverence the Holy Trinity? Also, does the number of rungs of the ladder be divided by 3? I once saw this rite where the ladder with SEVEN rungs!!!(No, really!!!)This is so much better than automobile blessing by full immersion.
I was truly upset. I wrote a haughty and witheringly dismissive letter to the hardware company!
A splendid late Baroque confessional from the Karlskirche, Vienna. Photo by my friend Matthew Enquist.
Monday, October 8
Salvador Dalí, Marquis of Pubol, was a seriously disturbed individual, but his remarkable 1958-1959 Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus has always been a favorite of mine. (Though we all know the New World was discovered by St. Brendan, or possibly the Welsh or that Chinese guy with the really high voice.)
Incidentally, Christopher Columbus is ranked as a servant of God, as his cause for sainthood was opened about a hundred years ago, I think, though I get the impression it's not likely to go much further, for better or worse. (I'm not making this up.) I believe the debate stalled over whether the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, a secular Franciscan, was motivated by the desire to convert the Indies to the True Faith, or to discover Ray Charles records.
Queen: Well, what's in America, Chris? What are you going to find there?
Columbus: Ray Charles.
Queen: Ray Charles is in America?
Columbus: D--mn right, woman. Where do you think all those records come from?
Queen: (excited) Chris gonna find Ray Charles, Chris gonna find Ray Charles ...
Thus Flip Wilson.
That being said, it looks like the canonization cause of his patron, Isabel the Catholic, is still alive and kicking (it was opened only in 1974!), complete with its own magazine and website.
Queen Isabel has always been one of my favorite uppity medieval women (along with her daughter Katherine of Aragon and the Countess Matilda of Tuscany--why isn't she canonized, hey?), and ranks up there with Joan of Arc in terms of Catholic warrior women. So send a few prayers her way and see what happens. It might make a future saint. It can't hurt, but then, I sometimes ask for the intercession of Athanasius Kircher, so what do I know?
That being said, in regard to the Isabel Society's rhetorical question/catchphrase of whether the Catholic Queen was the "greatest woman since the Mother of God"--they mean in terms of historical impact, not holiness, FYI--I suggest she and St. Catherine of Siena have an armwrestling contest. And no fair using that big sword, Izzie!
Matthew Alderman. St. Lucy of Syracuse. Ink on Vellum, September 2007. Click for larger image.
A small experiment in color I did to amuse myself late last month, this drawing shows St. Lucy with, rather than the usual eyeballs in a dish, her older traditional attribute of light (lux), sometimes shown as flame but here represented by a lantern with a small image of Christ incorporated into its metalwork. Her eventual martyrdom by a cut throat is indicated by the dagger, a less common attribute but not completely unknown, while the boiling oil she was subjected to at one point in her various trials is represented by the elaborate serpentine patterns of her martyr-red gown.
I have done a sizable number of new drawings (including my first international commission) since I last shared my work on the Shrine; I hope to present more of my recent projects in the next few days and weeks.
Also, the exhibit Piranesi as Designer has an official website that can be reached here, with many wonderful illustrations.
Sunday, October 7
Continuing the Piranesian theme (see my review of the new Cooper-Hewitt exhibition Piranesi as Designer below), a vase by the architect-engraver's decorative oeuvre exemplifying his rich and innovative use of antique precedent.
If you read this blog, It won't be
The Pope is writing an encyclical about hope. The Roman daily paper `the IL Messaggero' stated yesterday in an exclusive report.
To date, all had counted on the fact that the next teaching letter of the Pope will be a social encyclical .
But IL Messaggero knows now that the encyclical which is already nearly finished will be on hope.
It will appear before the social encyclical, of which Pope Benedikt XVI. while on his holidays in Lorenzago di Cadore had previously spoken to journalists
I would not be surprised if the two rumored encyclicals are actually one and the same. Before Deus Caritas Est, we were told to expect a commentary on 1 John: it included some 1 John, but was more expansive than a simple commentary on 1 John. Perhaps, then, an encyclical on hope would also explore the social aspects of hope? It would not at all be difficult, as the social thought of il grande John Paul emphasized that labor which is divorced from the reverence and worship of God is cruel reduces man to an oppressive hopelessness.
It would also fit a general pattern in Benedict/Ratzinger's writing--an in-depth theoretical discourse followed by a subsequent practical application. In Deus Caritas Est, he followed the theoretical reflection with its application for Christian charities. Here, a reflection on hope could be followed with some form of social application. But: who knows?
A number of people have pointed out that if there is an encyclical on hope, then we have a pattern: First Love, then Hope, then... Faith?
The Genius of Piranesi
Growing up in suburban Florida, my first introduction to the exotic work of the eighteenth-century Venetian engraver Giambattista Piranesi came in the domestic confines of my home--through my parents' capacious private library. In addition to architectural standards such as Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director and Palladio, it included a massive two-volume edition of the master's complete engravings, filled with page after page of minute reproductions of delicate depictions of Roccoco clocks, brooding, Escher-esque views of imaginary prisons, ichnographic plans of Rome's Campus Martius resembling circuit diagrams, Babylonian capricci, chimneypieces held up on the heads of Egyptian pharaohs, and his enigmatic best-selling engravings of the Colosseum and a hundred other ruins. Piranesi only built one building in his life, but the decorative fantasies he unleashed in his portfolios helped inspire a whole wave of neoclassical and romantic imitators after his death in 1778. (Sadly, his love of dense ornament that enlivens much of his classical work seems to have been ignored by many of his subsequent imitators with their fondness for pristine surfaces.)
As a consequence, I was delighted to hear that New York's Cooper-Hewitt Museum--an obscure branch of the Smithsonian which, unfortunately, does not share the free admissions philosophy of its Washingtonian sisters--was mounting an exhibition to collect Piranesi's various forays into design. I'm told this is one of the few shows to examine Piranesi's sizable influence as a designer and architect, rather than as Rome's greatest civic booster since Augustus or a scholarly enigma. His reputation as the producer of the Vedute, or views of Rome, sold to vacationing English milords, as well as his weird engravings of Kafkaesque fantasy dungeons (the equivalent to opium-fiend Thomas De Quincey of sixties tie-dye and Grateful Dead album covers) have obscured the beautiful and innovative nature of his decorative and architectural plates, which suggest a mind both more fertile and more stable than his most famous project.
Piranesi's fame as a designer rests on three sources. First, there were his decorative and interior design engravings, which inspired and were inspired by an assortment of chimney-pieces, interior designs, sideboards and couches he undertook for fashionable Roman cardinals and other European cognoscenti, often featuring exotic combinations of Roman, Greek and Egyptian work that resemble styles that only came into fashion a full quarter-century after his death, and often in a manner lacking his own distinctive ornamental flair.
Piazza of Santa Maria del Priorato, Rome, Piranesi's single built work. Neo-classicism without archaeological sterility.
Secondly, his single completed architectural work, the elegant Church of Santa Maria del Priorato, the single hardest interior to get into in Rome. This oratory belonging to the Knights of Malta is an extraordinarily clever tour-de-force, a collage of antique fragments stitched together with a mixture of Baroque artistry and archaeological creative license that drew on the past and respected its canons without degenerating into rule-bound cut-and-paste classicism.
The interior of Piranesi's church of Santa Maria del Priorato.
Third and last, and sadly never built, was his monumental series of watercolors for a new high altar in the Lateran commissioned by Pope Clement XIII, by far one of the greatest bits of paper architecture to (never) be created. The exhibit includes extensive examples of all of these--the richly-worked, snake-handled silver urns that were inspired by his work; marble chimney-pieces and long Roman couches of dark wood and gilded rosettes; enormous watercolor renderings of baldachinos and sarcophagus altars, putti, clouds and globes, able to be squinted at up close behind glass.
Largely the exception in his inventive, even cheerful oeuvre rather than the rule, Piranesi's bizarre and highly personal Prisons of the Imagination series is now, ironically, one of his principal claims to fame.
The Cooper-Hewitt Piranesi as Designer tends to cast such works in a modernist and even post-modern light, probably as part of the little game art historians like to play whenever they want to enjoy beauty without the guilt of appearing hidebound. Piranesi, though, exemplifies rather the extraordinary heights that can be reached within the boundaries of tradition when understood as a living entity rather than as mere archaeology--despite his own archaeological background. The exhibit concludes with a hallway full of videotaped interviews with the various elderly enfant terribles of modern design--Eisenman, Venturi, the usual suspects--all talking about how their work was inspired by Piranesi, and accompanied by drawings that suggest they had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they said it. (Only Robert Stern, the most traditional architect there, is honest enough to admit his work partakes of the Piranesian tradition in a fairly generic way, as they are both classicists.)
Piranesi's ceiling design for Santa Maria del Priorato.
Such an appraisal of Piranesi--a feel-good pat-on-the-back that allows us to enjoy beauty without thinking too hard about the tradition (and in the case of the Lateran projects, the religiosity and hierarchy) that gives it logic and authority--is typical of today. Piranesi was not a fashionable, broody anarchist of the Eisenman variety, nor a flippant producer of pseudo-classical jokes in the postmodern mode, but an artist, a lover of beauty, a businessman, a knight of the papal order of the Golden Spur. Whenever a new book on a classicist comes out, it's usually at pains to call him "radical," or "progressive"--which is appropriate; one can be a progressive classicist just as one may easily be a conservative one, and the Janus-faced tradition has need of both. Strangely--for an inspirer of the Empire look of the next century, his work really has more of the exuberant, heavily-ornamented character of the early, innovative Baroque, despite its rectilinear antiquity.
Piranesi's fanciful reconstruction of the tomb-lined Via Appia in Rome.
Precisely because the classical universe contains such rules and customs is what allows its borders to be expanded; Piranesi's quasi-mannerist transgressions of custom only make sense if you--and he--accept the past as a serious force to be reckoned with, and the manifestation of a living entity that can be enter.d in to, even if it may have to be dug up and dusted off from time to time. The flippancy of the postmoderns that classicists such as Thomas Gordon Smith found shallow and silly in our own time makes such a serious engagement impossible.
Piranesi's preliminary sketches for the high altar of Santa Maria del Priorato, Rome.
Yet, while Piranesi's flights of fancy remind us of the necessity of artistic rules, he also reminds us of their flexibility. He is not a mere magpie creator of collages, as many people would suppose, but a master who melded a coherent artistic form out of his interpretations of the past. (Indeed, he freely and even humorously notes in the preface to his Campus Martius engravings that his reconstruction departs from the record of ruins simply because it looked better to him. And as a man whose sensibilities had been shaped by an extensive study of beauty, it is his prerogative to do so, so long as he's honest about it.)
Architectural precedent shows the canons of art are capable of organic development--not such much that they may be broken and forgotten, but they may be expanded upon, experimented with, rediscovered and reworked, without losing their initial potency. The artificial copy-book classicism which the public is most familiar with (e.g., don't put a trigylph above a Corinthian capitol, or I'll break your arm) is a fairly recent invention, and has its place as a starting-ground like the ABCs might be for reading Dickens or Cervantes. But, as the wonderful roller-coaster-ride of Piranesi shows us, it is certainly not its end.
NB: The images of Santa Maria del Priorato, Piranesi's crowning achievement, are from this article, "Piranesi's Shape of Time," which I have not read and cannot vouch for, but is supplemented with some wonderful illustrations of the great man's work.