Tuesday, December 22

Incidentally, I've got a new CD review up over at The New Liturgical Movement: check thee it out!

I Hate It When This Happens

A friend sends this along:

From Oscar Wilde's letters, Rome, April 1900:

"Yesterday a painful thing happened. You know the terrible, the awe-inspiring effect that Royalty has on me: well, I was outside the Caffè Nazionale taking iced coffee with gelato—a most delightful drink—when the King drove past. I at once stood up, and made him a low bow, with hat doffed—to the admiration of some Italian officers at the next table. It was only when the King had passed that I remembered I was Papista and Nerissimo [ultra-Black, i.e., in favor of the Pope]! I was greatly upset: however I hope the Vatican won't hear about it."

--Quoted in Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon, p. 302.
What is also equally surprising is this may well be the first instance of a Frappuchino being mentioned in modern literature.

Sunday, December 13


Happy St. Lucy's Day

(Source; hat-tip to friend Emily N.)

Friday, December 4


Saint Barbara and Things that Go Boom in the Night

(Title gratuitously stolen from here.)

Sam over in the NLM combox brought to mind an old but favorite post of mine on the subject of today's explosive saint of the day, St. Barbara, which not only touches on her life, legends and lore, but includes possibly the most unusual image I have ever seen of her: lithe and velvet-draped, but wearing a steel trench helmet (with attached veil, naturally). Here's a sample:
While these fanciful accretions (even Blessed Jacobus de Voragine sounds a bit skeptical when he gets to the bit about St. Margaret and the exploding dragon) proved to be a bit of a liability when they got unceremoniously booted off the General Calendar in 1969 after more than a millennia of prayers answered and miracles worked, St. Katherine's cultus was restored in the most recent edition of the Roman Missal, and SS. Margaret and Barbara are back in play now that the Motu Proprio has reinstituted the traditional calendar, which is something that will gladden the hearts of votaries and saint-watchers everywhere.

(And, in the case of St. Barbara, practicioners of santería. Note to readers: it's one thing to have a statue of St. Barbara on a house, it's quite another to put a dollar bill, a glass of water, and an apple in front of it and call it Shango. Just letting you know.)

A certain skepticism about some of the wonkier historical details in their record is inevitable (and hardly blasphemous, in my mind, if a little tiresome), but, whatever their biographies, surely someone up there must be answering those prayers. In the end, their legends remind us of the very real presence of the miraculous, or even the merely wondrous in the world, and, especially in the case of St. Katherine, in some versions a queen-regnant with a brilliant mind and a considerable amount of "don't mess with me" attitude, the unique genius and even power of Catholic Woman. No pale churchmice they. (More here.)
St. Barbara is patroness of architects, though given she interrupted the workmen and insisted they completely change their plans, perhaps she should be patron saint of clients.

Thursday, December 3


In Anticipation of St. Barbara's Day Tomorrow

Matthew Alderman. S. Barbara the Great, Virgin and Martyr. (The Three Holy Maidens, III.) Private commission. 5" x8", Ink on Vellum. February 2008. Private Collection, Greenwich, Connecticut.

See if you can spot all the lightning-bolts worked into her robes in honor of this patroness invoked against sudden death and things that generally go boom.

Weirdness Magnet

I was worried, very much so, that on leaving New York, I would be moving away from the usual weirdness-attracting vortex that has defined much of my life from high school to the present day. (Okay, even before that. There was a brief period in the late 1990 or early 2000s when a tape of a high school quiz bowl competition I had been instrumental in winning was syndicated, quite inexplicably, on local public-access television. And then there was the incident involving the early Fauvists and the scary bald kid.) I'm not saying I'm weird, by any means, just that weirdness tends to follow me around. Much to my delight, it has not abated. Some instances from the past six months:

- Helping a contemplative monk buy booze (for the best of reasons).

- Singing in a choir that, with no rehearsal, is about to do the entire Latin Requiem from scratch.

- Being asked to help (while desperately trying not to be asked to do so) bridesmaids pick out their hairdos (and then hiding in an overheated car to avoid the inevitable crying).

- Attending a Latin mass in a 14th century chapel in the middle of the Midwest. (Really).

- Getting lost in Milwaukee at 12 in the morning, and orienting oneself after stumbling across an Easter egg-shaped Greek Orthodox Church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

- Exploring church crypts in Chicago.

- Also randomly coming across the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, though not at midnight.

- Using an antique shower that had about 6 different shower-heads.

- Offroading in an all-terrain vehicle with a monastic novice.

- Singing a Palestrina motet.

- Offering home repair tips to a knight of Malta.

- Being offered the opportunity to spend a night sleeping in Loome's Theological Books (I decided against it).

- Doubling the number of speaking engagements I have in my curriculum vitae.

- Dining with a French canon (and spending the first fifteen minutes of it discussing football).

- Being asked to design a tattoo. Twice. By two different people.

- Venerating a relic of the True Cross.

-Eating tacos prepared by Cistercian nuns.

-Having lunch with an old gentleman who once went to the movies with the exiled King Constantine of Greece.

-Being introduced to people as "Mr. Alderman." (It's nice, at long last, to be an adult.)

The strange thing is that weirdness is pretty much now standard operating procedure for me these days.

Wednesday, December 2


Back in the Day was Presumably Between the Days of Yore and The Old School Era

Girl sitting next to me on plane: (thick Carolina accent) I'm not being nosy, but I noticed the title of the book you're reading, and I wanted to ask, are the Habsburgs the same as the Hapsburgs? You know, the ones with the empire in Europe back in the day?

Tuesday, December 1


Pure Rapture

A quote dug up by friend SJH from Solzhenitsyn's In the First Circle, p. 169:

"It was two days before the Nativity of the Mother of God, and they were reciting the litany of the day. It was an inexhaustibly eloquent outpouring of praise for the Virgin, and Yakonov felt for the first time the overwhelming poetic power of such prayers. The canon had been written not by a soulless dogmatist but by some great poet immured in a monastery, and he had been moved not by a furious excess of male hunger for a female body but by the pure rapture that a woman can awake in us."

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