Saturday, July 31

LONDO: Now, landing thrusters...landing thrusters, hmm. Now if I were a landing thruster, which one of these [buttons] would I be?


IVANOVA: I know, I know. It's a Russian thing. When we're about to do something stupid, we like to catalog the full extent of our stupidity for future reference.


LONDO: What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?


LONDO: Vir, how many gods are there in our pantheon? I've lost count since the last emperor was elevated to godhood.
VIR: Forty-eight. No, no, forty-nine, fifty if you count Zuug but, you know, I never thought you should--
LONDO: All right, let's say fifty.
VIR: Fifty.
LONDO: Now out of that fifty, how many gods do you think I must have offended to have ended up with G'Kar's teeth buried so deeply in my throat that I can barely breathe?
VIR: All of them?
LONDO: Sounds right. And now I have to go back to the Council and explain to them that in the interest of peace the Centauri government will agree to give quadrant 37 to the Narns. I think I will stick my head in the station's fusion reactor. It would be quicker. And I suspect, after a while I might even come to enjoy it. But this...this, this, this is like being nibbled to death by...what are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet...go quack?
VIR: Cats.
LONDO: Cats. I'm being nibbled to death by cats.

--Babylon 5

Maria Lactans, 14th century French

Theology of the Body Alert!

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has just put out a new document on masculinity and femininity in the light of Pope John Paul II's groundbreaking teachings about men, women and marriage in God's plan. While students of the Theology of the Body will find it mostly a restatement of the Holy Father's statements, we at the Shrine are nonetheless graceful to have it in one convenient place.
Fellow Domer Brian of In Pectore alters the name of his blog a little and offers us an essay entitled Annúlond, a breathtaking theo-linguistic meditation on Tolkien, the Church, and much, much more.

Friday, July 30


Cardinal Bellarmine’s Monster:
On the Shock Value of Christian Art

The dark crannies of Christian iconography carry many dusty and strange effigies. Some, like St. Liberata, the bearded lady of hagiography were once lovingly venerated by their votaries but have forever been lost by simple neglect. Others, like the Sacred Heart of Mary, were suppressed for their dubious theological value. Many seem bizarre and even ferocious to modern eyes, like the rigid zoömorphic evangelists on the ceiling of the Romanesque baptistery at Lucca, St. John with the frightful head of a transmogrified Byzantine Thoth, St. Matthew as a terrifying angel.

And then there’s the Monstrum.

The Trinity has been depicted in manifold ways over the ages. The most ancient symbol of the Godhead was the equilateral triangle, which later nearly vanished between the fourth and eleventh centuries on the strength of St. Augustine’s testimony that similar signs were used among the Manichaean cults he once frequented. While the triangle returned again in the mystical seventeenth and rational eighteenth centuries, the so-called Monstrum did not.

While the three Persons of the Trinity depicted in human form was comparatively rare in the West, rarer still was the three-faced or three-headed Trinity. At the height of the Middle Ages, however, it enjoyed a vogue of sorts that began in the eleventh century, though it was subsequently condemned by Anthony of Florence. St. Robert Bellarmine called it a Monstrum, a monster, a thing to be gawked at. It was eventually suppressed by order of Urban VIII in the seventeenth century, though it did not finally vanish until nearly two hundred years later. A few examples of it can be found amid the Greeks.

Urban’s condemnation notwithstanding, I have an inexplicable fondness for the Monstrum. Part of it, I must confess, is my selfish love of the outré that urges me to ferret out the oddest relics and the strangest miracles. Another part, though, I believe, is legitimate, and it is precisely because, as Cardinal Bellarmine said, that this Trinity looks like a monster. It is sometimes good that art should terrify, or at the very least throw our smug suburban souls a little off-balance. If we can grow used to something so powerful as a Crucifix, how much easier is it to write off the equally mediocre plaster Good Shepherds and geometrically gnomelike Oregon Catholic Press apostles. Terribilis locus este?

Admitted, there would be something un-Christian in a wrathful and perverse desire to bedeck our churches with Catholic equivalent of the gory, knife-wielding deities of Goa or the blood-soaked mysteries of Mithras, but the sentimental sweetness of so much nineteenth-century popular piety has an equal lack of balance. Sentiment lapsed into niceness and niceness into blandness and blandness into Rothko and Vosko and the Cosmic Christ. Perhaps had a little of that old shocking spark remained, popular Catholic art might have had something to trim the boat with, something to hang off until it was swept into the river of bad lithography and even worse abstractionism.

The Monstrum has a touch of the Sabelian about it, I’ll admit: it obscures the individual Personhood of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Just like the triangle before it, it seemed heretical and in those days of theological confusion, it may well have been. But symbols change and can change: a Buddhist sigil can become a sign of bloodshed and megalomania, or an instrument of criminal torture can change into a jewel-bedecked insignia carried before kings and emperors. The swastika and the cross. The Monstrum throws us off, and if one is already unbalanced, being thrown off may just knock you straight, and not just from mere shock.

I speak from my own perspective: I always had a touch of modalism or perhaps even Arianism in my mind as a child. It was always unintentional: I understood Christ’s divinity but it was too easily to think of the Trinity as being God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, too easily to forget that the Son of God was God the Son, one with the Father, the very Image of the Father. Sometimes the Holy Spirit could get lost in the shuffle, less substantial and lingering than the old-fashioned Holy Ghost or that mysterious and gem-set word, the Paraclete. Nobody even got around to telling me about the Homoosion, much less the mystical procession of the Holy Ghost that makes such a grand and awe-inspiring mystery out of that puzzling phrase that can seem either simpering, troubling or marvelous, “God is Love.”

We need, I think, multiple images to understand the Trinity, as if extrapolating the cut of some sacred and precious garment on our backs by the use of a forest of mirrors. The truth lies somewhere between the Monstrum and the Throne of Grace. Pater non est Filius. Filius non est Spiritus Sanctus. Spiritus Sanctus non est Pater. Pater est Deus. Filius est Deus. Spiritus Sanctus est Deus. It’s the Catholic way, this game of balance, of webbed doctrines counteracting each other with glorious glee, Divine omnipotence and free will, grace and works.

All the great heresies, religious and secular, have all knocked out one truth of that complex interplay and blown it up to mammoth proportions. Calvin was right: God’s power is absolute. But he was not right enough: God’s absolute power was to give us wills. Arius was right: Christ was a Man. But he was not right enough: that Man was also God. Balance. All exaggerations are right, if they exaggerate the right thing. And if they exaggerate in a polyphonic unity, neither homogeneous nor discordant, but harmonious.

Perhaps Bellarmine was right: it is a monster. But the word monster, Monstrum comes from the Latin monstrare, to show. People gawk at monsters, but they also gaze at monstrances, those gilded wombs that bear up the sacred Host to be worshipped, and the Trinity is mystery at the heart of our faith is a true wonder to be gazed upon in speechless and wonderful amazement.

Coronation of Mary by the so-called Master of the St. Lucy Legend

Litany to Mary, Queen of Christian Knighthood

A litany--not tested by much actual use--for private devotion composed by the author, and published here for your edification.

V. Kyrieléyson.
R. Kyrieléyson.
V. Kyrieléyson.
V. Basile Eleison.
R. Basile Eleison.

V. O Lord, our Liege, in Thy celestial citadel, have mercy upon us,
R. O Christ, our King, ransom us.
V. O Lord Sabaoth, in Thy heavenly palace, hear us,
R. O Christ, our Sire, graciously hear us.
V. Basileus Basileon himon Basileus,
R. Basileuon Basileusin eleison himas.

V. God the Father, Universal King and Emperor of Heaven,
R. Have mercy on us.
V. God the Son, the victor, who conquereth, reigneth and ruleth,
V. God the Holy Ghost, the Lord of Life,
V. Most Holy Trinity, one God,

V. Holy Mary, Mother of God,
R. Pray for us.
V. Holy Mary, Mother of Christian Knighthood,
V. Holy Mary, by Thy Immaculate Conception,
V. Holy Mary, by Thy Triumph over Sin,
V. Holy Mary, at Golgotha pierced by the sword of sorrow,
V. Holy Mary, Co-Redemptrix and Victrix of Cavalry,
V. Holy Mary, Who striketh at the ancient dragon,
V. Holy Mary, Empress Who crusheth the Serpent’s Head,
V. Holy Mary, Empress of the Universe,
V. Holy Mary, Empress enthroned in the Heavens,
V. Holy Mary, Our Lady and Queen,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of Catholic Chivalry,
V. Holy Mary, Queen amid the whole company of Heaven,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the six-winged Seraphim,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the blazing Cherubim,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the eyed Ophanim,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the fiery Powers,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the glorious Dominions,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the golden Virtues,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the omnipotent Principalities,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the victorious Archangels,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of Angels,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the Hosts of Heaven,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of Paradise,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the World,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary,
V. Holy Mary, Queen of Victories,
V. Holy Mary, Exterminatrix of All Heresies,
V. Holy Mary, Help of Christians,
V. Holy Mary, Daughter of the Father,
V. Holy Mary, Mother of the Father's Heir,
V. Holy Mary, Consort of the Holy Ghost,
V. Holy Mary, Spouse of Eternal Flame,
V. Holy Mary, Pure Image of the Comforter,
V. Holy Mary, Victrix of Lepanto,
V. Holy Mary, Mother of Guadalupe,
V. Holy Mary, Conqueror of New Mexico,
V. Holy Mary, Protector of the Crusade,
V. Holy Mary, Protector of the Weak,
V. Holy Mary, Daughter of the House of David,
V. Holy Mary, Wiser than Solomon,
V. Holy Mary, Crown of the Jews,
V. Holy Mary, Ornament of the Twelve Tribes,
V. Holy Mary, springing from the Root of Jesse,
V. Holy Mary, Chalice and Font of the Blood Royal,
V. Holy Mary, Spring of precious milk,
V. Holy Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace,
V. Holy Mary, Immaculate Shepherdess,
V. Holy Mary, Chateleine of the Heavenly City,
V. Holy Mary, Exemplar of Godly Fealty,
V. Holy Mary, Vassal of the Most High,
V. Holy Mary, Grand Almoner of the New Jerusalem,
V. Holy Mary, the meek who overturned the strong,
V. Holy Mary, the humble exalted,
V. Holy Mary, Heavenly Mansion of the Incarnate Word,
V. Holy Mary, fortress of the Paraclete,
V. Holy Mary, Temple of Jerusalem,
V. Holy Mary, the Tower of Ivory,
V. Holy Mary, armored by Grace,
V. Holy Mary, whose womb is the citadel of all the Faithful,
V. Holy Mary, who gathers Her vassals under her cloak,
V. Holy Mary, who delivers the faithful from the grasp of the Devil,
V. Holy Mary, Terrible as an Army with Banners,
V. Holy Mary, Great Captain among the Ophanim,
V. Holy Mary, Throne amid Thrones,
V. Holy Mary, Governor of the Bodiless Authorities,
V. Holy Mary, amid the many mansions of Heaven,
V. Holy Mary, venerated by the flower of the heavenly court,
V. Holy Mary, championed by the Archangel Michael,
V. Holy Mary, among thy numberless legions of angels,
V. Holy Mary, that Thou might give us Thy favor,
R. Pray for us.

V. Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most Holy.
R. Now and forever. Amen.

V. O Lamb of God, crowned by many crowns,
R. Spare us, O Lord.
V. O Lamb of God, Who looks upon His subjects with seven eyes,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. O Lamb of God, Who for His subjects once was slain,
R. Have mercy on us.

O God of Hosts, our Lord and Ruler, enthroned amid the all-seeing seraphim and robed with glory, we hail thee and cry unto thee “power and salvation” in the name of Thy only-begotten son, Jesus Christ, King of the Jews, Who hath conquered for us, His faithful vassals, the dominion of sin, and bestowed upon us unworthy sinners the birthright of His eternal Kingdom, grant, we beseech Thee unto us, Thy servants, that we might be loyal to Thee, our liege and master for all ages, and at our death, sit with You and the Queen of Heaven to sup at the Celestial Banquet. Through Christ the King, Who liveth and reigneth in the Heavenly City with Thee and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Wednesday, July 28

JP II Keeps on Trucking

The Pope has another book coming out.  This guy never stops!  It's still in the editing process so it won't be out for a while, but it deals with philosophical and existential topics just for us philosophy majors. 
Servite priest martyred in Chile by devil-worshippers. Marxists release abducted Colombian Bishop. I kept thinking that the Chilean priest could pray for the Colombian bishop's safety. Looks like I was right.
ROZ: ...And he started speaking in Cheese language. You know, instead of saying "Hello, how are ya?" he'd say "Hello, havarti." And then someone would say, "Oh, gouda!" Wait...wait, I can't remember what was next...
FRASIER: If it were me, probably the sound of a gunshot.


ROZ: [looking at Seattle in the midst of a blackout] It's like Wisconsin out there. So dark and empty.
FRASIER: That's on the license plate, isn't it?


FRASIER: You know the expression "Living well is the best revenge"?
NILES: Wonderful expression. I just don't know how true it is. You don't see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. "Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaked vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well."

--Frasier, season 2

Tuesday, July 27

I don't Yahoo anymore
Planned Parenthood and Yahoo are now selling t-shirts that say "I had an abortion" as if it's something to be proud of and tell the whole world.  Now that Planned Parenthood is getting flak for it, they're passing the buck on to the t-shirt's "artist" and pulling the old "She did it, don't blame us" routine.  Nevermind the fact that PP is selling the shirt, it's really not their fault at all.  You know something has got to be immoral if even Planned Parenthood is backing away.  How this can be considered art is beyond me. 
But the fact that it's being sold with the full cooperation of Yahoo means that I am no longer using their website for anything, even though it means losing my fantasy baseball team.  Anyone up for a boycott??

Lessons in Ecumenism from the Onion Dome

Not Ecumenical: “If ancient Greek was good enough for Moses and Abraham, it’s good enough for us,” said His Grace Bishop SPARTOS through an interpreter.

As I once read from a 17th century polygot Bible, LATIN is God's language.  The Bible featured the Latin text in a center column with the Hebrew and Greek running down two side columns -- in its own words, "Like Christ between the two thieves" on Golgotha.

Ecumenical: “Bah! What is understanding compared to grooving on the melodious sound?” demanded His Grace.

Yes indeed.

Greek Orthodox Priest sent to Bed without Dinner for Translating the Liturgy into Modern Greek


International Catholic Nerdry in Action: This year's Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage, from Andrew Cusack's website.

The Taxonomy of the Catholic Nerd:
Thoughts for Day Three of the Anniversary Octave of The Shrine of the Holy Whapping

I sometimes find myself wondering, as I watch the conventional stereotypes of another TV show flit fleetingly past my eyes, if someone made an unvarnished, true-to-life sitcom of the daily life of the Catholic Nerd, if anyone would actually believe it. Some of us are too good--or simply too strange--to be true in the prosaic world of fiction. It's a parallel universe, a hidden dimension, in comparison with the quotidian grind of the modern American teen or young adult, and sometimes it seems as if we carry a vast and mirthful secret around inside as we slip unnoticed through reality. We seem like members of some vast unintentional fraternity, like sleepwalking Freemasons who never intended to start a conspiracy but got it rolling anyhow against all odds.

The subculture has become the principal unit of modern American life, ever since Tom Wolfe chronicled surfers and hotrod madmen in the days of The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. In the past, from Leave it to Beaver to Saved by the Bell, the sociodynamics of the American high school were reduced to the simple categories of Nerds and Populars, and the Nerds, with the occasional token Screech Powers, were largely invisible save for the occasional laugh-tracked stab at the school Chess Club.

However, today, the love and death that accompanies high school is studied with the horrified fascination of a parent beholding orange mold growing on a teenage slacker's dishes that he's forgotten to take back down to the kitchen. The dozen flavors of high school cliques have been dissected in such Jane Austen detail that their continued existence today almost verges on self-parody. Everybody knows the peroxided Drama Queen, the surfer dude, the skater boy with his capacious shorts and enormous wallet-chain, the chain-smoking art students, the pallid Goths and their earth-mother wicca friends, and even the nerds (of the non-Catholic genus) have gotten a second hearing and become semi-cool after all: argyle as an alternative lifestyle rather than a leprous defecit of cuteness.

But what about the Catholic Nerd? The image conjured up is nebulous, some frizzy-haired horror in a dental headpiece and a convent schoolgirl skirt. In TV Land or Hollywood, serious Christians (usually of Nondenomenational Church of God in Christ or vice versa) pop up from time to time, either horrible big-haired bigots or radically unfashionable souls who nonetheless have the redeeming social value of being the spitting image of Mandy Moore (Hollywood Axiom: If weird people are pretty, they're also automatically good). There's not much laughter to be found with either variety.

So, when faced with explaining Catholic Nerddom to your heathen friends, what do you do? There is always a sort of strange wonder among my old high school pals when I tell them that, for example, the senior girl on whom I had a life-threatening crush in Freshman year is now in a convent, as if I had just told them Eleanor of Aquitaine had stood me up at a dorm dance. Forget that: how the heck do you explain ninety percent of your jokes?

There've always been those strong, earnest do-gooder types who are the backbone of church youth groups, especially among our Protestant brethren. They go off on missions to Honduras, build homes in Belize, sing in the contemporary choir. They smile constantly, earnestly, and even laugh, but could you imagine one of them making jokes about Calvin sumo-wrestling? The modern archetypes of youth strains to make this odd little world we discovered understandable to outsiders. Who would expect to find an arcane love of Latin and incense outside of the domain of the (all-too-real) Goth and the (far-too-fictional) exorcist of so many movies? And yet, go to a Tridentine mass at an out-of-the-way chapel and an out-of-the-way time and half the pews will be filled with articulate, normal bright young things who are just as likely to like Bruce Springsteen as Hildegarde of Bingen. Or Star Trek and even the cultic inanities of Father Ted.

What distinguishes the Catholic Nerd from all these other cousins and aunts is the unity of his sense of humor and his faith. Humor and levity become the lubricants that keep his progressive traditionalism a potent fighting machine for God. And the reason this sense of humor works is because Catholic Nerddom draws on a vast culture that stretches back two thousand years. Catholicism is not so much an individual religion as it is a whole universe.

You see this most clearly in the Catholic nations of Europe, where the line between culture and faith is nebulous indeed: shrines spill out onto streetcorners and men revere the Madonna as they might their own mother. Admitted, many don't darken the pews of their parish church more than once or twice in the span of their lifetimes, but it is that interwoven union of the sacred and the secular which has not only given us the works of Caravaggio, Bernini and Balthazar Neumann, but also the tenacious, culture-soaked faith of the German Catholics of the Midwest and the Italians of New York and Boston.

And because this is a universe, it has room for almost anything. The Catholic Nerd breaks down those barriers gleefully: Spider-Man can become an argument for clerical celibacy, while something so gilded and stiff as the life of a saint can be the focus of delight or even flat-out laughter. The Catholic Nerd, a modern-day jongleur, feels free to lovingly tease the saints, because, unlike the stonily historic figure of Luther justified by faith, he knows the saints are alive, as alive as you or me. I won't claim we're more in touch with the holy than anyone else--I know myself, I know my friends--but I think the chief virtue of the Catholic Nerd is he is more at ease around sanctity. The Church becomes, rather than a place one goes once a week, a place to know as intimately as one's sitting-room.

Perhaps the Catholic Nerd is more than a member of a mere subculture. The multifurciate nature of his fellow jongleurs de Dieu suggests that what we have discovered is not a mere clique, but a full-blown culture, the culture that gave birth to Abbot Suger and Dante and even T.S. Eliot, that mournful Anglican Catholic Nerd. The Catholic Nerd universe is as broad as the real one.

Perhaps the truth is, the reason we appear so infrequently as a recognizable stereotype is that we are catholic in our Catholicity. Catholic Nerds come in all shapes and sizes: over-credulous mediaevals like myself. Or intellectual Tridentine aristocrats in coats and ties. Quadrilingual girls in overalls who can do needlepoint and clean a deer carcass in the same afternoon. Cassocked seminarians who watch Family Guy and want to bring back the maniple. Young women who might have a vocation to either the C.I.A. or the Dominican Order. Celtic harpists and hippie guitarists who dress like a collision of Santiago de Compostela and Woodstock. There are even ecumenical Catholic Nerds: tonsured Russian Orthodox lectors who crack jokes and Anglican divines with a predilection for weird relics and solid theology. Like us, they are all united by a love of God expressed in a thousand ways and a thousand mediums that stretches back for two millenia, the visible manifestation of the ineffable Communion of Saints.

Can we hope to see our Nerdly brethren show up in the casts of archetypal characters that so often populate the small-screen recreations of college life? Probably not. The Catholic Nerd as a phenomenon will, like the Church he belongs to, always be somewhat of a mystery to the outside world. But, then, sometimes the finest things in life are best when kept a little bit secret.

Monday, July 26

Toyota scientists have patented an emotive automobile capable of imitating such human responses as crying, laughing, and filing frivolous lawsuits. Not to be confused, of course, with the notorious Super Karate Monkey Death Car from Newsradio.

This random absurdity brought to you by the Shrine of the Holy Whapping and our motto: "If we didn't find it first, Fr. Bryce would probably go and post it eventually."

Postcard from Cicely, Alaska

Our Town:
On the Pleasures of Northern Exposure
And you know the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,

--Iris DeMent, “Our Town”
(sung in the final episode of Northern Exposure)
I first ran across the TV series Northern Exposure while flipping channels three or four years after they’d stopped making new episodes. It was an entirely prosaic little snippet of an episode, the tomboy bush pilot Maggie O’Connell getting her hair cut à la Peggy Fleming. It was probably the most ordinary scene in the whole six-year-run of the show, considering how far it delved into the byways of the collective unconscious, serving up everything from a poignant Yom Kippur episode based on A Christmas Carol to absurd and charming riffs on Jungian psychology, Italian lessons, small-town democracy and Vincent Price.
Up the street beside that red neon light,
That's where I met my baby on one hot summer night.
He was the tender and I ordered a beer,
It's been forty years and I'm still sitting here.

But you know the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
By that point, Northern Exposure gone into that curious realm of televisual Neverneverland, syndication on A&E. Back then, the daytime Arts and Entertainment Network was a curious dumping-ground for the justifiably obscure, faintly illiterate spy dramas involving bad synthesized eighties music and stock footage of either Hawaii or New York. Northern Exposure, NX for short, was something different. First I fell in love with feisty bush pilot Maggie O’Connell, and in short order I fell in love with the whole cast and the quirky little Alaskan town they called home.

Maggie (Janine Turner) wasn’t the main character of the series; she was the love-hate interest of the show’s main character, Joel Fleischmann (Rob Morrow), a transplanted New York Jew working off his med school scholarship debts to the state of Alaska by laboring in Cicely (pop. 800, give or take a few moose). The show’s course is driven by that contradiction, about Fleischman’s struggles to cope with the eccentric, cantankerous locals, and vice versa.
It's here I had my babies and I had my first kiss.
I've walked down Main Street in the cold morning mist.
Over there is where I bought my first car.
It turned over once but then it never went far.

And I can see the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
It was a tragicomic pilgrimage where the young doctor struggles to make sense of this brave new world where the town’s single restauranteur is an agnostic sexagenarian Quebecois who not only has the hormone cycles of a rutting caribou, but doesn’t even know what a bagel is. Not to mention that the local radio station is run by a megalomaniac millionaire astronaut, with the assistance of a free-spirited ex-con-turned-theosophist, Chris (John Corbett). (Not everyone was weird: some were just ditzy, and inspiredly so. When Chris started going on about Jung and the collective unconscious, a teenage waitress asked him if they had ever gone on tour or had just cut records.) This was a world where the unknown was to be embraced: a place where humanity’s limitations inculcated wonder rather than fear. It was an Alaskan dreamworld of enfleshed archetypes--real people with universal problems and universal loves.

It’s a deceptively simple set of premises, and this theme of collision, life-giving conflict, resonates throughout the whole six seasons of the show just as clear-cut reality and fantasy collided on a casually regular basis. However, the way the actors, characters and writers manifested that incredibly simple ida gave the show a life of its own. Fleischmann may have been the star, but he was also our passport to the show, our stranger in a strange land. This whiny urban comfort-loving intellectual made the magical-realist world of Cicely—never in-your-face fantasy, but subtle, is-it-or-isn’t-it make-believe that included mute flying men who don’t fly, shape-shifting bears who date girl pilots and an updated retelling of the legend of St. Euphrosyne—all the more believable.

Fleischmann was no Everyman—he was neurotic, opinionated, pushy, self-centered, though in his own odd way, a mensch. It was a brilliant stroke to make him the viewer’s point-man on his journey into the Alaskan wilderness, this cozily dark forest of the subconscious. He threw the town’s quirkiness into high relief, and threw a little whiny grit into the natural beauty. Otherwise, the strange fantasies that lurked beyond the town's borders--dysfunctional personal demons living in trailer parks, an Indian ghost with a fondness for French fries, jeweled lost cities, trickster deer and the frozen corpse of Napoleon's aide-de-camp--might have grown either too grotesquely fantastic or entirely too cute for their own good. His lack of grounding kept the show grounded. Northern Exposure, despite the occasional slips in the space-time continuum, misplaced dreams and haywire northern lights, is also a show about people and places, and all the petty disputes rivalries and sweet friendships that can go on in a little town.
I buried my Mama and I buried my Pa.
They sleep up the street beside that pretty brick wall.
I bring them flowers about every day,
but I just gotta cry when I think what they'd say.

If they could see how the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,
Nobody was ever quite in the right or quite in the wrong. Maurice might be paranoid and vulgarly nouveau-riche, but he was good-hearted and disciplined. Mostly. Chris might be a nurturing, loving, genius, but he was a layabout skirt-chasing eccentric. Maggie might be strong and beautiful, but she was also flighty and oftentimes crushingly defensive. The viewer was placed in the delightful position of fellow-villager, never quite able to identify with one particular neighbor, never quite agreeing with any one of them but able to survey all the possible avenues of a rivalry or an argument among his neighbors and see a little bit of himself in each and every one of them. You could gossip about these people, love them for their flaws, and maybe think that you had a better way to iron out their problems, even if you didn’t. You were one of the cast.

You felt at home, free to wonder and criticize and be startled and incredulous by the extraordinary tales that they told that all eventually pointed back to the essential beauty of normal life, for all the elaborate flourishes of legend and unreality. Like the title of the song that ended the final episode of the series and left our beloved characters a little older, a little wiser, but moving onward with that mystical normalcy on as they always had, Cicely was truly our town.
But I can see the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on, I gotta kiss you goodbye,
But I'll hold to my lover,
'Cause my heart's 'bout to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to my town, to my town.
I can see the sun has gone down on my town, on my town,
Goodnight Cicely, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Sunday, July 25

The Word From Rome July 23, 2004

"[The Sant'Egidio Community's] U.S. presence is limited. A group of young adults meets weekly at St. Joseph's in Greenwich Village, New York, and works with the elderly. Similar groups meet in Boston, Washington, Chicago, and at the University of Notre Dame. A prayer group called the 'Friends of St. Giles' meets once a month at the Artists' Chapel on Broadway."

They do? Any other Domers heard of this?
Lorelai: [to her daughter] Mary, like Virgin Mary. It means they think you're a goody-goody.
Rory: What would they have called me if they thought I was bad?
Lorelai: They might have added a "Magdalene" to it.
Rory: Biblical insults. This really is an advanced school.


Michel: [ignoring somebody] To me you are like the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoon.

--Gilmore Girls, season 1
Matamoros Rides Again!

Gregory XIII's tomb in the Vatican

What a Long Strange Year It's Been

Anniversaries are strange animals, and have a curious way of mutating in date and form as they are passed down through the centuries. Some historians claim, in opposition to the received opinion about the scary old Dark Ages, that the apocalyptic year 1000 was no big hairy deal to the early mediaevals, whose calendars were so imprecise that in great stretches of the northern forests nobody was sure what year it was at all. It's a charming and perhaps preposterous idea, but it does shed some light on the relative mutability of the measurement (and to some degree, conquest) of time up until the present day. The last five hundred years since the reform of the Julian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII, in order to bring earth time back to celestial realities, have seen such bizarre anomalies as years in which some parts of the world had no October 4-14, and other places which gained them: Sweden holds the record for weirdest date ever in that regard, February 30, 1729. In our own era, we've had confusions about the Year 2000 bug, celebrated the millenium a year early, and, for that matter, we're still not entirely sure if Christ was born in A.D. 1. Time, like life, can be a messy thing.

The reason, though, for this long rambling Steven Hawking-esque monologue is to excuse the fact that I forgot about a week ago, on July 17, that the Shrine turned exactly one year old. Given the current peregrinations of the ecclesial calendar ("Ascension Sunday," need I say more?), I offer the excuse that our birthday was moved by order of the episcopal conference. It's been a long, strange and enlightening year here at the Shrine. We've brought the world the long-lost legend of St. Flutius and the Holy Whapping, dazzled the blog community (well, maybe) with songs like Secret Archives Man and The Sacristan, revived the Ember days and become, unwittingly, the clearing-house for information on the Venetian Gesuats (not the Jesuits), as well as describing my own adventures rambling through the sunny streets and dusty side-chapels of Italy in search of the holy, the bizarre, and sometimes a little of both, meeting cardinals and clerks, professors and peasants along the way. I even may get a book out of the experience yet, if my readers will be patient.

The Shrine itself has been the genesis of several far-flung friendships that I believe will endure long after this little corner of the Internet has been reduced to pixilated dust. There'll be more speechifying and celebratory remarks--heck, let's just declare an octave and party all week long. But, for now, I'd like to pull an Academy Award weepy speech (and I'll keep it short). I'd like to thank all those folks out there who got the Shrine up and running and whose continued readership keeps this weird little experiment in theology going.

You guys (and girls) the reason we write: your erudite comments are the fuel that keeps our imagination going. I've never had a more well-read or esoterically intelligent audience. In particular, I'd like to thank Mark Shea and co. at HMS Blog for trusting us enough to post a link to a website that only then had a few sparse booger jokes and an appreciation of Juliana of Norwich. (Let me remind you, Mark, that I'm the Holy Roman Emperor around here, descended from Charlemagne, and not you. Plus, you owe me Emily Stimpson's hand in marriage as the prize from that essay contest.) Also, I owe a great debt of thanks to my faithful readers, including Don Jim, one of the coolest priests I've never met; Jane and Lizzy, who inspired us to start writing; Fr. Bryce, who thinks we're brilliant; the Irish Elk; Taylor Marshall the P.O.D. Anglican; Zadok; comments-box denizen Philemon (wherever he is now); the erudite Sandra Miesel, relic expert extraordinaire; monarchist Theodore Harvey; Erik Keilholtz, who miraculously still takes me seriously as an architect; our first groupie Meredith the kissable Catholic; and our friend in tweed Andrew Cusack, who has much cooler Catholic Nerd toys than we do at the Dome.

Thursday, July 22

KRAMER: Well, the rickshaw's gone. We strapped it to a homeless guy and he, vrzooot, he bolted.
JERRY: Well, you know, eighty-five percent of all homeless rickshaw businesses fail within the first three months.
KRAMER: (To Newman) See, we should've gotten some collateral from him. Like his bag of cans, or...his other bag of cans.
NEWMAN: We gotta find that rickshaw. You check the sewers and dumpsters. I'll hit the soup kitchens, bakeries, and smorgasbords.

(Newman and Kramer both go to leave.)

JERRY: To the Idiotmobile!

For when you're down with the moops, feel like a bubble boy or have got the jimmy legs, go to the Seinfeld Blog for further humor and edification. Tell them Kramerica Industries sent you.

Wednesday, July 21

Another Hitherto Unknown Fact about Convent Life

"One more thing: Why is it that nuns are assassins?"

"Because they're so damned good at it," I said.

--James D. MacDonald, The Apocalypse Door
Everyone's favorite English priest from New Jersey, Fr. George William Rutler, explains, in a rare appearance on's The Corner, his inadvertent theft of a large chunk of the Book of Kells as well as the Donation of Constantine.
A Hitherto Unknown Fact About Convent Life

"But the death-by-misadventure our contact had suffered didn't look like the sort of thing ordered up by someone who contracted his hits out to the Poor Clares. The Clares tend towards the simple life: knives, garrotes, and gunfire."

--James D. Macdonald, The Apocalypse Door


Since typing "stolen" about an hour ago, stollen has been on my mind.  I thought I'd share!

"He [wanted] to squeeze all the acid out of her at one grip and toss her to the divinities who collected exhausted lemons."

--Frederick Rolfe, Hadrian the Seventh

Tuesday, July 20

Friend in tweed Andrew Cusack unveils the latest on Duncan Stroik's new Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Cross, Wisconsin. Wall-to-wall PODness incarnate.
Father Tharp of Catholic Ragemonkey unveils his new Parochial Schoolhouse Rock classic, Do a Genuflection! The rest of St. Blog's stands agog. (I've always wanted a gog of my own, by the way...I think they're like oversized guinea pigs.)

A Tale of Old Cuba (and Alcohol)

Over the dinner table, tonight, talk turned to cocktails, especially the mint-flavored mojito and the famous daiquiri, the ur-drink of pre-Castro Cuba. My grandmother was not only familiar with them (she's familiar with everything, having met everyone from Churchill to Calvin Coolige), but also had a story to go with that familiarity.

My late grandfather was José Morell Romero, a farmer's boy from Camagüey who went to Habana to study law at the University and instead walked into a student revolution. After several exiles, fortune's wheel finally brought him up into the high life of the capital as the Minister of Labor and finally Justice of the Court of Constitutional Guarantees. He was the husband of Rosy de Varona, a high-spirited, humorous blue-blood who could trace her lineage back to the Marqués de San Felipe, the oldest and highest-ranking of Cuba's old (and now long-vanished) peninsulare nobility. She had met him while he was a student and part-time fugitive, and for six months had only known him by one of many aliases. I like to think that I can still trace a ghost of the beauty of so many photographs in the finely-wrinkled lineaments of the face of the grandmother I now know.

They were out on their yacht in Habana Bay, chugging towards Mariel with a handful of guests, and Rosy insisted on taking the steering wheel. My grandmother knows absolutely nothing of matters nautical, ni un poco, though that, naturally, didn't deter her. In short order, they struck a rock and limped home to the dock, taking their rattled guests back home on the bus.

However, my grandfather, always the genteel host, impulsively stopped the bus at the corner and stepped out, spying La Floridita, the famous Habana bar that gave birth to the daiquiri. The real thing, not the ghastly frozen monstrosity, like a wino slurpee, that is such a favorite of college students trying to get drunk. In fact, he and Rosy knew the bartender who'd invented it, or so my grandmother remembers. (The chronological fact that the daiquiri was invented in 1890 means that La Floridita must have had an army of geriatric bartenders in the 1940s, but se non è vero, è ben trovato.) So, still got up in their yacht clothes, they brazenly waded, wholly under-dressed, into the sea of black tie and white shirt fronts to crown the disastrous adventure with a drink, thus saving both guests and hosts from the horror of a ruined evening.

My grandfather the judge, I have to admit, knew how to party in between starting revolutions and guaranteeing the Constitution. If, in the unlikely event La Floridita still stands, I shall have to drink a daiquiri to his memory on the soil of a free and alcoholic Cuba.

The Mass of St. Gregory, Marienkirche, Lübeck

A Postcommunion Prayer for Personal Use

I wrote this last year after reading about the Theology of the Body and promptly forgot about it; I never really used it, so I can't say it's been properly broken in, but it might be of interest to some of my readers. The responsorium at the beginning is taken from the Divine Mercy chaplet.

V. Eternal God, I offer unto Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Thy Most Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ:
R. In atonement for my sins and those of the whole world.

O CHRIST, MY FAITHFUL BRIDEGROOM, as I issue forth into the world from the doors of this church, Thy temple, may I henceforth and forever be without spot or impurity, transformed by Thy nourishing Body, that was given up for the many, conceived within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary: daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, Spouse and created image of the uncreated Paraclete. May Thy blood, the nourishment and drink of the saved, flow into the innermost and secret place of my soul and body, Thy Image: that thus strengthened, I might conceive myself anew within in Thy most blessed form. May the water from Thy side perpetually cleanse me in the nuptial bath: as like unto the Spirit Who appeared over the Jordan, sent by Thy Father, and Who is the soul of Thy spouse our most blessed Mother the Church who lept from Thy side, as Eve from Adam, on the Mount of Calvary. May my soul become conformed to the image of Thy human Soul, so that I might be perfected by Thy healing Grace in death, to dwell with Thee in Body and Soul with all the saints with Thy Divinity in the mystery of the Eternal Procession of the Most Blessed Trinity. Who Livest and Reignest with the same Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God united in Eternal Love forever and ever. Amen.

Gregorian Chant Notes Whose Names Sound:

Painful: Repurcussive neume.
Scandalous: Climacus resupinus.
Like a liver disease: liquescent torculus.
Like a lymph gland: Pinnosa.
Like an Estonian insurance company: Quilisma.
Like a knee bone: Torculus (also called a pes flexus).
Like a species of salt-water sponge: Porrectus flexus.
Like a brand of South American soft-drink: Liquescent neumes.
Like a Swede caught in a rainstorm: Scandicus liquescens.
Like a place St. Paul visited, or possibly a lung disease: Episema.
Why didn't I hear about this 'til now?

Nashville-AP 7-14-04:
Dominican nuns in Nashville say angels were watching over them last night during a storm.

The roof caved in at Saint Cecilia's "mother house" during the high winds.

No one was hurt despite the crashing beams.

One nun possibly saved her life by getting under a bed.

The nuns told WSMV-TV that they now are praying for more resources to make repairs.

The roof was new--part of a renovation at the centuries-old convent.
Link via Julie of The Theoscope, who will be entering the Nashville OPs in less than a month!
I want to be a parishioner here.

Detail of St. Agnes, St. Bartholomew, and St. Cecilia, by the Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar, c. 1470-1510. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Portrait of the Artist as a Frog

John Derbyshire of National Review Online's blog The Corner, comments on an interesting piece of trivia touching on religious art, political cartoons and fellow Whapster Dan's favorite hangout in the Big Apple, the Latin Mass indult parish of St. Agnes, whose classically-inspired church went up only a few years ago as another example of the growing wave of new traditional architecture:

In re Sean Delonas [New York Post political cartoonist], I got this rather surprising e-mail from a reader: "Derb--I sat across from Sean Delonas's office for four years at the NY Post and I can confirm he is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. Very few people know that he painted the altar mural at the rebuilt Church of St. Agnes on W. 43rd Street in Manhattan. I recall going to Mass there in the late 1990's and he would be up there, like Charlton Heston in The Agony and Ecstasy, painting during the service. I went up to him after Mass once while he wasn't looking and asked, 'When will you make an end?' Without missing a beat, he turned and said, 'When I'm finished.'

"Actually, a number of the 'saints' on the wall are actually NY Post editors and reporters. Would love to point them out to you sometime."
Here's more, from a February 16, 1998, column from the New York's Intelligencer:

The public may rank journalists down there with lawyers and politicians these days, but the editors at the New York Post are saints as far as Sean Delonas is concerned. “Page Six” cartoonist Delonas, who recently finished painting a triptych for Saint Agnes Church on East 43rd Street, followed the tradition of his Renaissance predecessors, finding models for his saints among friends and acquaintances. Saint Ignatius, for example, bears an uncanny likeness to Post editor Ken Chandler. “There is some resemblance,” says Chandler. “But unlike me, the guy in the picture has no gray hair, and he’s about 30 pounds thinner.” Some even see Post music critic (and Delonas officemate) Dan Aquilante in the face of Saint Augustine, and Saint Christopher is a dead ringer for the paper’s managing editor, Joe Robinowitz. Standing before his masterpiece, Delonas refused to disclose all his sources of inspiration, although he did point out his wife, Judi (Saint Felicity), and his son, Ryan (the cherub pulling on Saint Nick’s gown). “Actually, I also put myself in,” Delonas added, pointing to the frog below Saint Christopher.
It could be worse: one of the Victorian age's great eccentrics, the 'spoiled priest' Frederick "Fr." Rolfe (otherwise known as Baron Corvo), painted a tryptych of the interment of St. Hugh in which every face, hundreds of them, were his own. Michelangelo himself (speaking of The Agony and the Ecstasy) legendarily painted his own face on the flayed skin of St. Bartholomew, and many a girlfriend, mistress, or (rarely) wife has been transformed into Mary Magdalene or the Madonna. Even nutty Adolf Wölfli portrayed himself as the (self-canonized) St. Adolf in his notebooks.

Delonas's far better mural, and the church itself, are surprisingly wonderful, a bold contrast of bright Van Eyck colors and Renaissance realism. The church itself is a hybrid of Florentine restraint in its cool whites and greys, but remains Roman and Counter-Reformation in form. I saw it myself on a spring break trip to Gotham a year ago, on the famous (infamous?) "sixty churches in seven days" tour that also included eating pizza in a deconsecrated Pentecostal meeting house and meeting George Rutler.

On a stranger note, that week I was approached randomly by a girl at Columbia, asked if I was an architecture student, and then asked which school in the country was the best, since her sister was looking for a degree. I told her Notre Dame, of course. Contrary to popular rumor, I did not attempt to secure a date with her.
Newsday, Newsday...

Wait, I remember. Weren't those the people who've been berating the Church as corrupt for the past 5 years, and raking the local bishop across coals every time he sneezes under false accusations that he's self-serving?


Monday, July 19

Helmsman! Full Stop, Reverse!
The Culture of Death
"I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?'' The obstetrician wasn't an expert in selective reduction, but she knew that with a shot of potassium chloride you could eliminate one or more. "
When One is Enough
Disturbing.. very much so..

Sunday, July 18


Gn 18:1-10a

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre... Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby.

"Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant... Now that you have come this close to your servant,
let me bring you a little food..."

Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah,
"Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls."
He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer,
and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it...

They asked Abraham, "Where is your wife Sarah?"
He replied, "There in the tent."
One of them said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son."

Hearing the first lesson proclaimed today, I was struck by the Marian imagry. Perhaps only I was struck with it, because I may have made it up -- but, there are worse things than seeing Our Lady everywhere : )

We have the Lord (in three Persons) appearing before our Patriarch Abraham; indeed, Abraham speaks to the three in the singluar, "Sir," or in the Latin, "Lord." Of the three, only one speaks any word -- the Word? And of the three, it is the Word (destined to be Son made flesh) Who promises to return in the same breath that he promises a child.

He makes the promise to Sarah, mother of Israel, busy making bread. Sarah, like Israel, is often firm in her faith yet not perfect in it, sometimes wobbling or laughing when complete trust is needed. Like Israel, she can also be seen as a foreshadowing of Mary, who herself is the recapitulation of Israel, yet of Israel as it was meant to be: the flawlessly faithful People of God. And while the Word would visit Abraham and Sarah, promising Israel even as Sarah prepared bread for Them, so the Word would also visit Mary, Mother of the Church, as an eternal Son to Whom she would give birth, a Eucharistic Savior who would continue to visit His people in the form of the very bread Sarah prepared. So while these thoughts are rather rough and quickly stated, the impression this passage gave me was a glimpse of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, the saving Word who passed before Abraham, who passed through the desert with Moses, and who passes through this world continuing in His glorious Incarnation, through His life on Earth and Presence in the Holy Mass...

Saturday, July 17

"What Brand are You?"

"We were just literally trying to think of the most stupid company names."

The BBC reported on a site which generates spoof fakenames for corporations. Although it was intended as a joke, some companies have apparently turned around and copyrighted the resutls! Read it here.

My brand name was Newsagentia, "because this denotes: driven ability." Huh.

Find your own CorpoName, What Brand Are You?

Friday, July 16


The Neurosis of Heresy

I recently heard a man psycho-analyzing the extreme anti-Bush sentiment of many Americans today, all in an impressively academic German accent (psychology should always be done in a German accent).  Zee Professor vas speculating as to vhy quite many indiwiduals harbor such strong hatred for President Bush, especially before the Iraqi prison scandals, when for der most part, he had done far less to antagonize der left than most of his predecessors.

Certainly, I would agree, the hatred for Bush has reached a puzzling extreme.  Now, I am a culture-of-life issue voter, quite proudly (what other issue constitutes nearly so important a moral stand?) and beyond that issue, politics does not significantly interest me.  I do keep up to speed, but I have yet to succeed in finding any party with which I can really agree. 

Der good German psycho-analyzer suggested that this hatred of Bush is the result of profound, primortial fear on behalf of individuals who place their locus of control outside themselves and (he said) with the government (alledgedly, this is a description of Democrats).  In general feeling helpless, the addition of fear over survival and security in the post-911 world compells these individuals to (1) deny the fear, and (2) blame the parent-figure viewed as the source of power and control over their life (the government).  Thus, a rage similar to that of a very troubled child against his parents develops towards the symbollic figure of President Bush, who really has not transgressed proportionate to this rage. This occurs simultaneous with a denial that the percieved threat is really anything to fear at all (instead, the government is assigned all the blame by the subconsious). That may be; it's interesting, but whatever.  

To me, the relevance lies with its application to the Church, and with it an opportunity to explore the neurosis of heresy -- specifically the tragic heresy of Sede-Vacanteism.

Any fan of famous Catholic psychologist Rudolf Allers knows how attached that doctor was to neurosis; his most availible work views all psychological disorders, however small, as fragments of nuerosis. As he came from the Psychoanalyst school, this is not surprising.  Nonetheless, his insights are often informative.  

I heard a story once, perhaps in the blogosphere, of a Polish woman, sweet and devout, who went completely ape when a stranger mentioned Pope John Paul II, blaming him personally for myriad evils in the post-Conciliar Church and world.  In her and many-a-geocities webpage, you, Blogophilus, can encounter a primal anger at post-Conciliar hierarchy which is often jarring.  Coming from often pious and traditional folk, this angst is not merely contradictory, it is really quite sad.  What can be said of it?

Defining neurosis, Dr. Allers posits:

1) "There is no case case of characterological anomaly, no case of neurosis, in which open or varously disguised fear does not lurk... it is to a largely the cause of it."

2) "If [one] is afraid, it is because he feels he is not equal to coping with the world."

3) This fear "cannot be clearly experienced in its pure form, for to acknowledge such a fear would be to admit the possibility of personal worthlessness; but such an admission is intolerable... Thus this primal fear finds expression in many forms, partly by being linked to other objects that happen to be occasions for fear and partly by taking shelter under various disguises.

4) "There is a close connection betwen fear and the will to power.  Only the man who feels it absolutely necessary to conquer and at the same time sees likelihood of defeat will experience fear.

5) Hopeless of success (because the locus of control is placed outside one's self) and yet simultaneously desparate for success (#4), "the neurotic person's trouble is that he is incapable of submission to the sovereignty of what is outside himself," effectively uttering a continual "non-serviam."  "Accordingly, rebellion accompanies fear."  The rebellious child, therefore, rebels in anger superficially against the parental figure, yet "actually this rebellion is directed against the unchangeable facts of existence and the rule of law in the universe, man's limitation, the supremacy of other men..." 

6) "If this revolt were experienced in consciousness it would annihilate a man.  The person puts up a defence against it... The primary effort is directed towards the presencation of the sense of personal value, real or pretended."

It is perhaps unsuprising, or at least understandable, that individuals faced with the onslaught of trials which the Church has undergone may be inclined towards near-dispair for the Church's own survival coupled with the conviction of the necesity of the Church's survival.  Doubting the possibility of this success, profound fear develops, leading to surprising anger at the "instigators" of, for example, the Second Vatican Council, or the Pope Himself, whoever is seen to hold the locus of power as a parental figure.  This anger and fear inspire rebellion, rejection of authority (sede vacanteism), while necesitating that the individual himself be viewed as significantly important (a remnant of the REAL faithful, perhaps?).

Indeed, to believe one is safer taking the state of the Church out of the hands of the Pontiff and into one's own discretion, when the individual knows himself to be fallen and knows the Scripture to announce that Hell itself cannot triumph over the Church, seems manifestly neurotic to me. 

What can be done?

Dr. Allers advises, "The nervous individual needs encouragement and not punishment."

In a changing world, predicted by Fatima as a true test of the Church, often there can seem to be little more encouragement than the current Pope's continual admonision (concurrently the very cure for such heretical neurosis): BE NOT AFRAID, Christ has won.

(Citations: Practical Psychology in Character Development).

You know you're a Catholic Nerd when...

...your boss's call to Relevant Radio moves your job deadline up. (Gotta get the website redone!)

Thursday, July 15

Unsurprising: We're the #4 Google hit for "saturn foreskin of jesus".

Surprising: We're #4 of 429.
Druid "Merlin" arrested for shopping while wearing sword, and a word from Lanternwaste

Stupidest thing I've heard in a while. Doesn't anyone know that it's gentlemen, not wizards, who get to carry swords in public? And Merlin wasn't a Druid. And Brian, I know you're bored, don't you go and start getting ideas... Incidentally, speaking of swords and fantasy (of a more Christian and non-lawsuit-causing kind), In Pectore reports that the New Zealand-based production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is slated for a 2005 release. Hmmmm.
More From Matt's Dictionary of Failed Ideas:

L'Homme Armé (lit., "The Armed Man"): A journal dedicated to sharp-shooting and early music, the official publication of the shortlived NRA (Neumes and Rifles Association). This was founded in 1988 by the amalgamation of the Little Gooseneck, Wisconsin, Gregorian Schola and the left-leaning Robert La Follette Duck and Target Club. Originally intended to encompass only plainchant and archery, the Assocation soon expanded to include firearms and seventeenth-century Italian chamber operas as areas of interest. A production of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in 1993 brought critical acclaim from several postmodernist literary reviews in New York, though some thought the inclusion of AK-47s in the orchestra pit a trifle gauche. Brown Bess tower muskets, it was claimed, would have been far more appropriate.

This marked the beginning of a schism which finally culminated in a disastrous 1995 performance of Torrejon y Velasco's La Púrpura de la Rosa, the first opera to be written in Latin America. The aria "En Poco Nos Ha Enganado" was interrupted by arquebus fire, and visiting expert Paul McCreesh's priceless conductor's harpsichord sustained a direct hit by a four-pounder falconet. A roving band of unemployed Sandinistas arrived in the middle of Act III to finish off the carnage.

Three days later, the organization disbanded, several leaders joining the monks at Solesmes, and another faction founding the Peoria branch of the Tupamaros. A splinter group of the Peorians leaft them in 1996 over a dispute concerning the use of the organistrum in twelfth-century Spain, has since established itself in Indianapolis as the Lower Indiana Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Party and String Quartet. Some of its members later defected to the John Birch Society's sackbut and cornett ensemble in 1998. Still another group founded the Georg Wilhelm Telemann School of Firearms Maintenance in Van Tassel, Wyoming. A fourth faction led by former corresponding secretary Dwight Armonk founded the Society for Creative Anarchism, which dedicates itself to anti-globalization mob violence and incredibly stupid-looking imitation armor. At the moment, most of them work at the Starbucks at the corner of 14th and Washington in Seattle.

Wednesday, July 14

A graphic is worth a thousand articles...
Okay, so Ratzinger and the USCCB actually agree about this?

This is getting confusing...

Read the article that contended otherwise here.

Monday, July 12


Duccio's Slaughter of the Innocents, from the Maesta, 1308-11.

Kerry Heresy Update

Breaking news on the Kerry heresy denunciation (libellus litis) available daily here, at De Fide, dedicated to "deal[ing] with the burgeoning scandal of Catholic politicians supporting the 'Right to Choose' murder and leading ever so more faithful into perdition." Definitely check it out: Mr. Balestrieri needs all the help, physical, spiritual and moral, he can get, as fellow canonist Pete Vere reports over at Envoy Encore. Mr. Balestrieri has done something brave, bold and very dangerous: he may even have put his job on the line. He's a canonist in L.A., which, may I remind you, is, ahem, Mahoneyland: the archdiocese has advertised a new opening for a canon lawyer in recent days, which I'd like to think (against the odds) is a coincidence, but it's nonetheless disconcerting. Mr. Vere reports that "When I last spoke to Marc [...] he had not eaten in several days, having poured his meager life savings as one of the Church’s lay employees into this canonical action." Wow. Keep this daring soul in your prayers, and if you feel called to do more, now you know where to go!

Sunday, July 11

Circus of Despair
Oil on canvas by Unknown


"This joyous, frightful circus romp is emblematic of, and yet somehow transcends, Unknown's entire body of work. "

For more masterpieces of mediocrity, visit MOBA :The Museum of Bad Art.

"Come visit the "real" MOBA in the basement of the Dedham Community Theater, conveniently located just outside the men's room. The nearby flushing helps maintain a uniform humidity. This, MOBA's first and only permanent gallery, proudly opened on October 30, A.D. 1995. It is the world's only museum dedicated to bad art. A small museum in the basement of an old building, MOBA is appropriately lit by one large, humming fluorescent light fixture."

What is WRONG with these people?

And what will it take for Europe to respect all human life?

France admits anti-Semitism on the rise after graves desecrated
Well it's News to Me

"Wisconsin [has] more ghosts per
mile than any state in the nation."
-- Folklorist Robert Gard

Shadowlands Haunted Places Index - Wisconsin

Not that I blame them. I wouldn't want to leave Wisconsin, either.

Well, it did start as the European *Economic* Community

EU tracks cows, not citizens.:

"In the EU at the end of 2001, there were 80,587,601 cows and 20,271,497 of those are dairy cattle, the most recent year for which full figures are published.

Around 450 million people currently live in the EU."

Weird, anyway.

Saturday, July 10


Fr. Kircher, SJ, interpreted (with imaginative inaccuracy) the hieroglyphs on the so-called Pamphilian obelisk (now in Piazza Navona), shown here in this period engraving.

Submarine Concerto for Jesuit Water Organ, and Mice on Toast

Big Pine Key hosts Underwater Music Festival. Honest. And this quote explains everything: "We use a lot of New Age music. It just seems to sound good underwater." Next time I listen to Enya, I'll just make sure my ears are full of bilge. *** Read all about Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher's automatic water-organs here. Kircher, incidentally, decyphered (incorrectly) the hieroglyphs on the obelisks in Piazza Navona, with the Fountain of the Four Rivers, and in Piazza della Minerva, the one with the baby elephant beneath it.*** More on Fr. Kircher and his magical Musaeum at the Roman College, which featured a "catoptric theater," a mechanical clock which played Ave Maris Stella, a speaking statue, and a primitive funhouse mirror. *** Last, and least, we have the truly surreal Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, a post-modern kunstkammer which mixes the fictive and the real with startling results, housing information on bizarre psychological theories, horns grown by human freaks, mice on toast, a microminiature sculpture of the Pope and an exhibit on LA trailer parks entitled Garden of Eden on Wheels. Currently housing an exhibit on the very real Padre Kircher (which includes mention of his unorthodox if eye-catching description of God as "the Central Magnet of the Universe"), it also features displays cataloguing the scientific career of Geoffrey Sonnabend, who seems to not have any existence outside of an elaborate academic joke. Weird.

Friday, July 9


Cubists Launch Unnavigable Web Site

Thursday, July 8

Score One for ND

Fellow Domer Mike Roesch (see sidebar for his blog) is currently on the e-cover of the e-zine Onerock, for an article on marriage (which seems somewhat inspired by the Theology of the Body class we took...?).

Open Season on Liturgical Abuse

Over two months ago, the Vatican released its compendium of litrugical abuses, Redemptionis Sacramentum. It was everything it could have been: a list of errors, why these actions are erroneous, and the penalties (including actions which constitute the matter for mortal sin!) for abuses.

If we still endure liturgical abuses at our parishes, it is now our own fault.

These abuses flourished in confusion over norms, in ignorance as to what is right, wrong, or "about to be approved by Rome." Rome has now made all of this quite clear.

That is why St. Blog's should now declare open season on liturgical abuses. The Church has now had 2 months to digest this document. Now it's time for us to call our pastors to adhere to it.

This is the age of lay activism. A layman is calling the Church to accountability on the scandal of pro-abortion politicians. Lay movements are renewing the Church, and lay Religious Ed instructors are introducing the Theology of the Body or the work of Scott Hahn. The laity must also seize the opportunity to call their leaders to authenitc liturgical renewal.

In short, we all have computers. Probably, we all have printers. And we all have this document. If there are abuses that continue and it is because we have yet to print off this document and approach our priests with it, we are fully to blame for what we choose to endure.

Catholic Families

This is more of an invitation to open forum than a post.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how to keep families Catholic. In a time when so often the Faith is not passed from one generation to the next -- often not because the children wouldn't have accepted the Faith, or because the parents wouldn't have passed it on, but simply because the exchange never happened in our busy, secular world -- I have to wonder, what would be the corner stones of a "Catholic" family life? How to parents evangelize or form children in the Faith through home life?

I see there being two parts to this process, the ordinary and the extradinary componants of lifestyle. Example: an ordinary componant of lifestyle would be going to Mass every Sunday; it's regular. An extradinary componant of lifestyle would be Christmas -- it's a special event.

This post then will consider the ordinary componants. What can a family do on a regular basis to make their household a Christocentric, Catholic home?

It seems to me that the solution is a small number of important things. If it is too many things, one's plan would become burdensome and too rigid to meet the reality of family life. If the customs are not significant, however, they will not make a difference.

So what few, important things would best define a Catholic family lifestyle?

A few suggestions of mine, but I ask you, Blogophilus, to contribute your own thoughts/experiences.

- Dinner as a family at least 5-6 nights a week (the family is the "domestic Church," and the Church is a communio personarum -- a communion and community of persons. Dinner seems an ideal way to build up this community.

- Daily Mass as a family. Is that realistic, and in what ways?

- Rosary as a family. How and how often? Make attendance compulsory for children after a certain age or not?

- The Angelus. Is this adding too much? Or (as I'm inclined to think) does the beauty of this forgotten devotion (side note: Start saying it today, people!) make the added commitment on the family as a whole worth it?

- Weekends family life. At least until the children are busy with their own friends, make every other Saturday a day for day trips (see the local museums, parks, etc.). That's something my family always did, and we all liked it. The other Saturdays would be set aside for everyone cleaning the house.

- Sundays. After Mass, do some enriching activity that excersizes uniquely human leisure. Visiting relatives, having everyone engage in some form of artistic expression -- practicing music, (finger)painting, whatever.

Anyone else?
Celibacy & the Contraceptive Mentality

Catholic Culture : Document Library : The Prayer of Lady Macbeth: How the Contraceptive Mentality has Neutered Religious Life: "Has the contraceptive mentality affected religious life?' The short answer is Yes, emphatically."

Credit: "S"
Maybe being across the river from La Crosse has had an effect on this guy.

Note: Earth to columnist, but I doubt abortion-rights supporters would be going to any parish where they would "approach the Communion rail."

Credit goes to my sister, who actually has time to read the paper.
I ran across this quote the other day, I'm not sure where I got it, but it bears repeating, at any rate.

"I couldn’t make any judgement on the Summa, except to say this: I read it every night before I go to bed. If my mother were to come in during the process and say, ‘Turn off that light. It’s late,’ I with lifted finger and broad bland beatific expression, would reply, ‘On the contrary, I answer that the light, being eternal and limitless, cannot be turned off. Shut your eyes,’ or some such thing. In any case I feel I can personally guarantee that St. Thomas loved God because for the life of me I cannot help loving St. Thomas."
--Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, July 7

Monty Python, the Lost Ecclesiastical Years

One of our loyal readers and comments-box denizens, Fr. Mike, unearthed this as-yet-unpublished example of British humor. Here it is, with a few small revisions to account for the coffee stains obscuring certain key words:

Bishop Arthur: Old woman!

Dennis: Man!

Arthur: Man. Sorry. What Abbot lives in that Abbey over there?

Dennis: I'm thirty-seven.

Arthur: I--what?

Dennis: I'm thirty-seven. I'm not old.

Arthur: Well, I can't just call you 'Man'.

Dennis: Well, you could say 'Dennis'.

Arthur: Well, I didn't know you were called 'Dennis'.

Dennis: Well, you didn't bother to find out, did you?

Arthur: I did say 'sorry' about the 'old woman', but from the behind you looked--

Dennis: What I object to this, that you automatically treat me like an inferior!

Arthur: Well, I am Bishop!

Dennis: Oh, Bishop, eh, very nice. And how d'ya get that, eh? By exploiting the laity! By hanging on to outdated papist and apostolic dogma which perpetuates the religious and spiritual differences in our society. If there's ever going to be any progress with the--
Old Woman: Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh! How d'ya do?

Arthur: How do you do, good lady? I am Arthur, Bishop of this Diocese. Who's Abbey is that?

Woman: Bishop of the who?

Arthur: This Diocese.

Woman: Oh, you got a disease?

Arthur: No, no, no! Di-oh-cese

Woman: What's a Diocese?

Arthur: Well, we all are part of a diocese. It is this regional Church. We are all Catholics, and I am your Bishop.

Woman: I didn't know we had a Bishop. I thought we were an autonomous faith community.

Dennis: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship: a self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--

Woman: Oh, there you go bringing class into it again.

Dennis: That's what it's all about. If only people would hear of--

Arthur: Please! Please, good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that abbey?

Woman: No one lives there.

Arthur: Then who is your abbot?

Woman: Oh, we dropped the habits years ago!

Arthur: Not habit, abbot, ABBOT!

Woman: We don't have an abbot.

Arthur: What?

Dennis: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week...

Arthur: Yes.

Dennis: ...but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting...

Arthur: Yes, I see.

Dennis: a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs...

Arthur: Be quiet!

Dennis: ...but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major--

Arthur: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!

Woman: Order, eh? Who does he think he is? Heh.

Arthur: I am your Bishop!

Woman: Well, I didn't vote for you.

Arthur: You don't vote for Bishops.

Woman: Well, how did you become Bishop, then?

Arthur: The Vicar of Christ, the Successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome...

[Angels singing.]

...clad in the purest shimmering white watered-silk sash, was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to fulfill the apostolic succession in this diocese.

[Singing stops.]

That is why I am your Bishop!

Dennis: Listen. Albino pigeons swooping out of the air and hovering over an old man in an Italian Baroque Museum is no basis for an ecclesial hierarchy. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical pneumatic ceremony.

Arthur: Be quiet!

Dennis: Well, you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some guy in Italy heard voices come from a tongue of fire?

Arthur: Shut up!

Dennis: I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because my uncle Vito in Rome gave me a hot pink hat, a hot pink sash, one of those robes from The Matrix but with red piping and a big gold ring, they'd put me away!

Arthur: Shut up, will you? Shut up!

Dennis: Ah, now we see the abuse inherent in the Church!

Arthur: Shut up!

Dennis: Oh! Come and see the abuse inherent in the Church! Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!

Arthur: Ruddy layman!

Dennis: Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about. Did you see him oppressing me? You saw it, didn't you?

The non-Euclidean newshounds over at Fortean Times --your one-stop source for UFO sightings, organic skyfalls and other bizarre fringe-science items--note that today is the feast of "St. Cronaprava, the apocryphal patron saint of dwarves," without elaborating on who, what, when, where, why or what the heck. Dwarves already have a patron saint anyway, St. John the Short. Usually, FT tends to get things like saint's days more-or-less straight, barring their occasional editorializing, so this really, really puzzles me, since I can't find any references to her (him?) elsewhere on the 'Net. Can anyone shed light on this subject?

Tuesday, July 6

Memo to the Old Oligarch: Huh?

Enrico Caruso as Pagliaccio, the original evil clown

In Re Clown Masses

I was never so much frightened of clowns rather than simply embarassed by their presence, as if they were beneath me, but I nonetheless concur with expert creep-out artist Lon Chaney, Sr.: "A clown is funny in the circus ring, but what would be the normal reaction to opening a door at midnight and finding the same clown standing there in the moonlight?" Forget relics of St. John the Baptist, Strongbad would definitely be having the Jibblies at this.

Maria Goretti

Dear Little Saint Maria Goretti! Teach me that God must be my first love and that all other love is based on Him and Him alone. Obtain for me the grace to cease toying with the occasions of sin and to remember that my body and the bodies of all in grace are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined someday for a glorious resurrection.

Through your beautiful example, teach me the value and dignity of Christian modesty. Grant that I may never be the occasion of dragging others into Hell, by suggestive words or evil deeds of any kind. Through the merits of your Martyrdom, obtain for me the grace to turn aside from sin, no matter what the cost, so that one day I may enjoy Heaven with you and all the other saints. Amen.

--Prayer to St. Maria, to be said before a Date

Today is the feast of that sweet little flower of Christian girlhood, St. Maria Goretti of Corinaldo, martyred at the age of eleven in 1902 by Alessandro Serinelli, a twenty-year-old neighbor who had attempted unsuccessfully to rape her. She was attacked on July 5, and died July 6, having forgiven her assailant, who himself later repented of his crime. She is patroness invoked against impoverishment, against poverty, of children, of Children of Mary, of girls, of loss of parents,of martyrs, of rape victims and young people in general. For those of us navigating the troubled waters of personal relationships in this day and age, she is a fine patron to call upon.

In one of the most strange and wonderful twists in the history of the Catholic Church, her family and her murderer, now contrite, were present at her canonization in 1950 by Pius XII. Hers is a tale out of the Golden Legend--an innocent, impossibly young child laying out her blood like a little snow-white lamb. And yet, it happened a little more than a hundred years ago, in an age too busy for heroism. It's hard not to love a girl like this, and as a Christian man I should hope some day for a beautiful little daughter just as singleminded in her faith. Though I would probably want to keep an eye on any young neighbors named Alessandro...
They Do Exist...

Just One Friar has final evidence of that boogey-man of Catholic Liturgy, the infamous yet ellusive clown Mass.

Monday, July 5

From the "Blink blink blink blink" department

Presidential hopeful Kerry announced today that --when push comes to shove-- he has absolutely no interest in standing by his convictions, save the separation of Church and morality...

"A Catholic who supports abortion rights and has taken heat recently from some in the church hierarchy for his stance, Kerry told the paper, 'I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception.' "

Or, in otherwords.... You know, I don't like (hunger, poverty, nukes, terrorism, mass death, pollution, combovers, Nazism, when the neighbors offer satanic sacrifice of my cat), PERSONALLY. But, hey, you know, it's a free country and people are free to vote for me if they want to be assured of all the moral backbone of a paraplegic jellyfish. I WILL stand by my convictions until someone tells me not to! Sure, I believe it's a human being, but, well, sometimes they're just not convenient or economical, and we just have to understand that, don't we?

Read more....

Kerry went on to offer a stunning interpretation of Thomism:

"I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist."

Yes, indeed. That the exchange of biological function in a genetically unique body that walks around the womb at --how many weeks young was it?-- is a human being is, appearently, an article of FAITH. It's something that NO ONE could POSSIBLY come up with WITHOUT EXTRAODINARY DIVINE REVELATION. No way one could possibly have thought of it elsewise. It's a defined article of faith, not common sense or science. Good thing God let us in on that secret, or we could have ended up killing some of th--

Wait, no. Sorry. Actually it doesn't matter that God let us in on it. Once, by the sovreign action of God's grace we suddenly come to believe that the embryo is human with no scientific proof, it really doesn't matter, because God forbid we act on what is (appearently) God's revelation as if we regarded as Truth.

Veritas? Quid est veritas? Aack, let's just wash our hands of the whole matter.

Sunday, July 4


A Collect for Independence Day

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations yet unborn: Grant, we beseech Thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

--from the Book of Divine Worship

Saturday, July 3

A Joke for Fr. Amorth

Q. What does an exorcist who wears bell-bottoms and love beads say?

A. Vade retro!

Friday, July 2

"Wait, wait, wait..."

"... I don't believe it!" you say. "What can be better than a blog entirely about the Pope???"

Well, dear Blogophilus, it is not easy to imagine, but there is one thing...

A blog entirely about the Pope... by fellow Notre Damers!

Check them out!


Ladies and Gentlemen...


It was the best of times... was the worst of times. Liberal Christianity is dead, or at least those places where it continues are dying. Unfortunately for us, that's a significant part of the South American Church.

Liberation theology continues to make itself felt in Latin America, but as an elitest mentality which is stunting the growth of the Church and allowing Protestant sects to make stunning inroads into the continent, where "In thirty years, in some provinces, up to 40 percent of the faithful have left."

The dominant traits of this new Christianity are Pentecostal and Evangelical: a deep personal faith, a demanding and puritanical morality, doctrinal orthodoxy, community ties, a strong spirit of mission, prophecy, healings, and visions.

If we can fall this far in 40 years without God's help, how far can we rise with it... If we can fall this far in 40 years without God's help, how far can we rise with it... If we can fall this far in 40 years without God's help, how far can we rise with it...

Thanks, kind of, to Laudem Gloriae for the link.

Do Saints Roll Over In Their Graves? (article in Italian)

I'm sure Saint Pio is thrilled about this one.

Thanks (I think) to Fr. Tucker for the link.

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