Wednesday, February 28



Sorry Ted, this time we disagree.

Thanks to Idle Speculations for pointing out the existence of the Friends of Ted Festival, held last week, which annually celebrates the legacy of the Shrine's favorite Brit-com at the actual location of Craggy Island! We're proud to announce that the Holy Whapping Cruise, should it ever occur, will be sure to incorporate participation in such festivities.

Tuesday, February 27


Holy Name Gets New Floor

Credit to Emily for finding the photos

In a move that hasn't gotten much publicity in the blogosphere, Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago has installed an impressive new terazzo floor. As many who have visited may be aware, our poor Cathedral was the subject of an unfortunate renovation in 1968 that stripped it of much of its beauty and connection to tradition. The floor was especially unsightly, its beige carpet exemplifying in many ways the "beige Catholicism" that characterized much initial implementation of Vatican II, about which Chicago priests Andrew Greeley and Robert Barron have rightly complained. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a picture of it right now, but the floor is a nice mixture of salmon and gray terazzo, including well-executed patterns down the aisle. Also, the Cathedral pews have been restained in a considerably darker finish. Still a long way to go for Holy Name, but good to see some progress being made. For the musicians out there, I'd also note that the floor considerably improves the accoustic, and that Holy Name's music program now features choral Kyrie, Gloria, and Agnus Dei on a consistent basis. Now if only someone can dig up the old stained glass windows.....

Monday, February 26


What We've Learned and Why It Matters

My Friday post about "Tradition and Traditionalism" accomplished exactly what I was hoping to do, in that it threw what I think is a significant issue onto the table, and opened it up for discussion. What especially pleased me about the results is the sense that I am not alone in my concerns with respect to these matters, and thus that there is both a desire for broader use of the Tridentine Mass and a discontent among even the most sympathetic with respect to the liturgical and theological atmosphere in which its celebration currently takes place. This confirms, to some degree, my hunch that there is a much greater "market" for the Tridentine Rite than is currently taken advantage of, even in places where the Indult is generously applied. This is very important because of the impact it has on the possibility of a wider Indult. In other words, what if there was a universal indult and no one came? Or if people came a few times and didn't stay?

In some sense, this question leads to the answer to the question that has been posed a few times in the comments on my post and Drew's: why does this matter? Why are we picking on traditionalists like this? After all, do they really pose a threat?

The point of this discussion is that attitudes and approaches in the traditionalist movement are often a hindrance to both the furtherance of the Tridentine Mass and indeed to the cause of traditional liturgy as a whole. By viewing with suspicion attempts to integrate the Tridentine Mass into the life of the present-day Church, such attitudes propagate the illusion that the indult is simply for those with a nostalgia for the entire life of the Church in a different age, rather than an indult to use a traditional form of the liturgy within the present-day life of the Church. As such, then, they are thrust into the dangerous position of a self-characterized "remnant" approach, rather than being leaven for the whole Church. This approach leads unsympathetic observers to write them off as right-wingers with nothing to contribute. It leads sympathetic observers and occasional participants such as myself to think that this approach amounts to shooting oneself in the foot as far as evangelization goes.

Thus, to raise these issues is not unduly picking on traditionalists but rather taking up a necessary corrective within the community of those who favor traditional, beautiful liturgy. Granted, the position I am taking that "traditional" must be without "ism" may seem like a harsh one, but it is an important one, because the future of the Church lies in an integrated vision, not in the extremist dichotomies we have been stuck with for more than 40 years. In the same way, we ought to also be "progressive" without "ism", because the Church must always be moving forwards in certain ways while drawing upon the riches of her tradition. To take this approach is to liberate ourselves from ideological categories both within and without the Church, and I think it is precisely the vision that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have wisely presented to us.

I also think Emily has raised the important point in her comment of the question of the territorial parish and of the dangers of separatist tendencies among those of a certain taste, theological opinion, etc. This is especially true at this crucial point in the Church where many good seeds are beginning to sprout even in what may have seemed like barren places. The question, then, might provocatively become not just how bad things have to be to justify leaving, but whether inertia and custom might prevent some from returning from their "haven" back to their old parish to which they might now or in the near future be able to contribute much in the way of good.

Having placed these ideas on the table, I hope to go into greater detail in the next days and weeks with respect to some of the particular issues I have raised, and those that our commentors have raised. I think this dialogue is extremely important, and I thank those who have already participated and invite more readers to voice their opinions on these matters.

Saturday, February 24


Church Fathers against Unauthorized Celebrations of the Liturgy*

St. Ignatius, born in AD 35 and marytyred between AD 98-115, wrote a series of letters before his execution. At the time, priests following bishops from other cities were trying to counter-evangelize Christians in Asia Minor. Ignatius wrote to these Christians very explicitly: you must only attend liturgies authorized by your local bishop.

To the Ephesians

(para. 4) You should act in accord with the bishop's mind, as you surely do... Yes, one and all, you should form yourselves into a choir, so that, in perfect harmony and taking your pitch from God, you may sing in unison and whith one voice to the Father through Jesus Christ... you need to abide in irreproachable unity if you really want to be God's members forever.

(para. 20) I will [teach you] if the Lord shows me that you are all, every one of you, meeting together under the influence of the grace that we owe to the Name, in the one faith and in union with Christ... At these meetings, you should heed the bishop and the presbytery attentively, and break one loagh, which is the medivine of immortality and the antidote which wards off death but yeilds continuous life in union with Jesus Christ.

To the Magnesians

(para. 6) Do not let there be anything to divide you, but be in accord with your bishops and your leaders.

(para.6-7) You must no do anything without the bishop and presbyters. Do not, moreover, try to convince yourselves that anything done on your own is commendable. Only what you do in union is right.

(para. 2) You ought to respect [your bishop] as fully as you respect the authority of God the Father... For the honor, then, of Him Who loved us, we ought to obey without any dissembling... It is the same thing as calling a man a bishop and then doing everything in disregard of him: such people seem to me to be acting against their conscience, since they do not come to the valid and authorized services.

If you accept the leadership of the Catholic Church and accept the local bishop, do not attend public services** which he does not authorize. This is the recieved Tradition of the Church Fathers, to which we must all answer.

*The title has been updated since this post was originally made: it first read "Against Unauthorized Liturgies," but the current title reflects more clearly what I meant to get across.
**Private masses, which did not arise until centuries later, are a different matter according to canon law.

Friday, February 23


Tradition and Traditionalism

Or, why the Tridentine Mass doesn't catch fire among the youth

Picture yourself, for a second, as a young Catholic, with decent catechesis, who hears that there's an indult Mass in a nearby town and thinks, well, why not? After all, the whole idea of the Tridentine Mass sounds fascinating. The ritual, the ancient language, the vague notion you heard growing up that this was gone forever. There is, on this level, a great appeal. Who wouldn't like the notion of participating in something so ancient and fascinating?

Yet, when you show up at the local indult parish, you discover something very different from what you expected.
- Participation is discouraged, except perhaps on a few chants
- It is very hard to keep track of anything for those who haven't already gotten it down
- The whole experience has a vaguely dusty feel
- Many pamphlets and literature around the Church, with the exception of maybe some natural family planning materials, feel frozen in time somewhere around the 1920's.

What I am arguing, then, is that the Tridentine Mass, as currently celebrated in indult parishes, at least those I have seen, is celebrated in such a way as to necessarily become an "acquired taste." Furthermore, an approach is often taken to make it seem as if the indult is carte blanche to act as if nothing in the Church has changed since the early 1940's, and to make such completely orthodox movements as the nouvelle theologie or even Vatican II itself as a council, seem suspect. This is not a good approach, and it works very much against integrating traditional liturgy into the present day life of the Church. This approach is not one that, in my experience, easily appeals to young people looking for beauty and transcendence, unless they're already convinced to keep coming for other reasons, or have someone to explain everything to them in detail and keep them coming back.

So what I'm asking is this. Is there any reason we can't revisit the notion of the dialogue Mass? That kind of thing was being done in the 1940's and 50's, yet seems to have disappeared completely? Is it really healthy not to be able to develop in this way? I say this because the traditional Mass carried out as a museum piece from the 1920's does not have a future in the Church. Rather, I think a dynamically celebrated form of this Mass has greater potential as an evangelical tool, reaching out to those who are interested but might be turned off by the present celebration of the traditional rite.

In other words, why can't we have "tradition" without "ism" in these quarters, and be willing to have the Tridentine Mass and Vatican II and new developments in theology? This, to me, would be much more of a leaven for the Church than my experience of the Tridentine Mass and its celebration to this date. It would also, perhaps, be a way of picking up where the Church left off in liturgical development, rather than letting those who didn't like good innovations like the dialogue Mass from trying to move the Tridentine Rite to a previous purity. (I think, for example, of the indult parish whose website was adamant that under no circumstances must the laity join in the singing of the Lord's Prayer). To seek this bygone purity is to make the same mistakes as the innovators who have abused the Missa Normativa, and set up a dichotomy of traditionalism and progressivism that has no justification and no use for the future of the Church. The time for extremism is over, and those on both sides of these dichotomies who cannot find an integrated vision may find themselves relegated to the dustbin of Church history.

Tridentine-o-palooza, Pars II

Not just Stamford, but St. Louis as well--and in the Cathedral. Maybe this will start a trend for American hierarchs to grant permission for Tridentine Masses in their cathedrals. I can imagine the potential for ecclesial peer-pressure: maybe they can threaten to give Cardinal Mahony a wedgie in the locker room if he doesn't follow along.

Tridentine Pontifical Goodness in Stamford, CT - One Sunday Only!

From a reader:
Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Diego will be celebrating a solemn high Pontifical Mass (1962 missal) on Sunday, February 25 at 11:30 AM at St. Mary's Church in Stamford, Connecticut (left). We hope to fill this beautiful Gothic revival church for this liturgy, just as we did for Cardinal Stickler's mass at St. Patrick's in New York City in 1996.
In the comments-box, one reader notes the Cardinal Stickler mass was an absolute POD blowout, too:
So many thanks to those who went to Cardinal Stickler's Pontifical High Mass at St Patrick's in 1996. It was amazing--I arrived an hour early (as another Mass was letting out) and there was literally a rush for the pews once the ushers let us in. I believe there were people hearing Mass on the front stairs of the cathedral, and there must have been 20 or more priests distributing Holy Communion.
Anyway, I can't make it to the Stamford Mass, but that doesn't mean you can't come! If any of our readers make it, I'd love photos of the mass, and of the church, too. That thing looks amazing.

NYC Communion and Liberation Way of the Cross - April 6

I've encountered--with greater and greater frequency--numerous members of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation (CL to its friends) since I got to New York, and while I have managed to forget to attend nearly every meeting I've been invited to, I have ended up at number of cultural events and lectures they have sponsored. They strike me as good folks, faithful, and very welcoming to non-members or occasional participants.

Anyway, while I can't make it to their Way of the Cross this coming Good Friday--I hope to hear Fr. Rutler's famous Seven Last Words Sermons at Our Saviour's--I thought I might pass this along for anyone with their daily planners out right now:
As you may already be aware, on Good Friday, April 6th, the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, with the support of the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn will lead its 12th annual Way of the Cross procession over the Brooklyn Bridge.

This email is to invite you and all your friends to this beautiful and
powerful gesture which gives witness to Christ's love to the entire city of New York in a very public way. It would give us great joy if you can join us.

Last year, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, gave us a special Apostolic Blessing for this event. In it, he stated: "[...] this powerful act of witness will encourage Christians to strengthen their commitment to bring the splendor of Christ's liberating truth to the public forum, shining as a beacon of justice, peace, and hope for all."

Yours in Christ,

Kenneth Genuard
Responsible of NY Community
Communion and Liberation
The accompanying flyer notes the procession will begin at 10:00 a.m., April 6, 2007, at St. James Cathedral-Basilica,250 Cathedral Place (corner of Jay and Tillary Streets, Borough Hall stop for A, C and F trains), Downtown Brooklyn. It will stop at Ground Zero, arriving eventually at its final destination, St. Peter’s Church, 16 Barclay Street, Lower Manhattan. The event will end at 1:30 p.m.

For more information, telephone 212 337 3580, email or visit

Thursday, February 22


Let us attend!

Again with thanks to Fr. Z:

Benoit XVI annonce lui-meme la parution prochaine de l’Exhortation Apostolique sur l’Eucharistie

Le Saint-Père Benoit XVI a rencontré ses pretres ce jeudi, dans la Salle des Bénédictions, au premier étage de la Basilique Saint-Pierre, de 11 heures à 13 heures.

Au cours de la rencontre en ce 1er jeudi de Careme, le Pape a lui-meme annoncé la parution désormais imminente de l’Exhortaion Apostolique, suite au Synode sur l’Eucharistie. Cette Exhortation sera surtout une "Méditation en plusieurs points" disait Benoit XVI

En arrivant et en quittant l’Aula delle Benedizioni, le Pape a salué plus de 100 pretres, sur les 800 présents



Feast of the Chair of Peter

Fr. Z. informs us the tiara ("that crown which brings joy to the hearts of all true Christians," as Fr. Jim has observed) has been returned, after regrettable absence, to its proper feast-day place on the head of St. Peter.

Fr. Z has other pictures worth investigating about today's feast--including the candles on the cathedra. Check it out!

A picture from previous years:


Tuesday, February 20


Baptists Discover Lent

"It allows us, in a mystical sense, to worship with believers around the world," Clingenpeel said. "We want to be a part of the Christian community that celebrates that tradition."

Today, of course, commemorates the day Jesus ate stupendous quantities of chocolate and pancakes before going into the desert for forty days. Happy Mardi Gras!
Chronicle of Philanthropy
January 25, 2007
Page 16

Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
135 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10021

Reproductive health and rights
- To help Catholic political candidates defend abortion-rights positions, to monitor the political activities of Catholic and other religious groups, and to work to preserve access to reproductive-health care in Catholic hospitals: $65,000 to Catholics for a Free Choice.

Monday, February 19


The Order of Mopses

The other day I chanced to find myself on the 86th Street Barnes and Noble (or rather, at one of them; like Starbucks, they replicate by spontaneous generation when nobody's looking) and was looking over that wellspring of Hermetic nuttiness that is the store's sales table. An Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Hidden Knowledge, complete with a lurid-looking double-headed phoenix on the cover, beckoned. Reading other people's lunatic theories has always been a minor hobby of mine. The particular volume took a fairly cynical, mythbusting attitude to the subject-matter, which only added to the amusement value.

While extremely disappointed with the entry on Catholicism, I was able, however, to read of such hitherto-unknown wonders as those charming people the Lemurians; an underground city of multicolored plastic blocks in Antarctica, built by Martians (the encyclopedia was disappointingly skeptical on this one--I can't imagine why, can you?); and several pseudo-fraternal societies founded by Catholics after the Pope put the kibosh on Freemasonry in 1738. This last bit particularly intrigued me. Rogue Catholic ex-Masons? Sounds wonderfully paranoid. Not that I approve of secret societies, of course, I stand with the Church on that issue. But still.

Imagine my disappoinment when the first one mentioned (the Order of Gomogorgons, if I remember the spelling correctly), was essentially a bunch of bored Jacobites who liked spouting pseudo-Oriental gibberish, and the second, was the German Order of Mopses. Now who was Mopses? A sinister Egyptian deity? A fanatical eighth-century warrior? A Gnostic archon? No, actually, the order was was named after the pug dog (mops), and required its members to allegedly wear a dog-collar, bark and carry on in a similarly canine vein. Wikipedia confirms they existed, too, though the article appears to have been slightly vandalized recently.

But...pug dogs? No skulls and crossbones? No Jesuit blood oaths? No secret handshakes? No plots to extirpate heresy? What sort of Catholic cabal is this? Absolutely pathetic, boys. Count Cagliostro would not approve.

Now, only if I could get into the Knights of Malta... We all know they're the ones who control the world. And you get a cape, too.

Fun with the History Channel

Ah, Presidents' Day, when we can sleep in and spend the afternoon contemplating the greatness of Millard Filmore and Franklin Pierce, in addition to those slackers George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I plan on doing a walking tour of Revolutionary New York if I can convince my lazy self to get down to City Hall by one in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, I have to admit I'm greatly amused by the latest rubbish on that home of all that is historically absurd and campy, the History Channel, famous for portraying the early Middle Ages as a cesspool of superstition, religious bigotry and theocratic rule by the sword. They're now advertising their Dark Ages miniseries (no comment) as "500 years of Godless behavior."

Uh. Huh.

Okay, either the early Medieval era was crummy because of the Catholic Church and all those horrible things like literacy, civilization, art and science that she protected, or it was crummy because nobody listened to her. Make up your freakin' minds!

I will now behave in some very Godly behavior by contemplating the beneficence of creation through the hot-dogs I am having for lunch.

Saturday, February 17



Coronation of Pius XII

(Hosted, ironically, by an anti-Catholic site... All I can say is that if I saw this and wasn't Catholic, I'd convert.)

Friday, February 16


Apparently, the newest version of MS WORD lacks the endearingly annoying Clippy.

Why are you here?!?!?


For us!!

Before noon CST today!

Thursday, February 15


Atonement Online

Everyone's favorite Pastoral Provision priest, Fr. Phillips of flagship parish Our Lady of the Atonement, now has a blog. This is, I suppose, old news, but the blog's got good stuff, so it's always worth a repeat visit. Plenty of stuff both of interest to converts from Anglicanism and cradle Catholics alike!

Rites and Wrongs of Passage

I was sent a remarkable article about the power and importance of ritual that was originally published in Touchstone, a fascinating and very moving meditation brought about by the juxtaposition of a semi-casual broad-church Episcopalian funeral service with the solemn Marine Corps graveside obsequies that followed immediately afterwards:
5. The church rites sought to focus on the individual worshipers and the deceased; the marines focused on the rite. The individual marines set aside their individuality in order to serve the common purpose of honoring the dead. This sacrifice of self for the common purpose itself lends power to ritual, since we all (the “old man” in us) resist self-sacrifice. If the marines were bored, or thinking about their girlfriends, or wondering what was for supper, that fact was well hidden by their participation in the ritual. The ritual protected them—and us—from their human defects.

6. The marines’ rite pointed to transcendent values: honor, service of country over self, sacrifice. While the texts of the church service pointed to redemption and the resurrection of the body, the streamlined texts and the haste with which they were (and too often are) performed suggested that we should be thinking about worldly things, the things we’ll shortly be about, and not about eternal things, like commending the soul of a Christian man to God.
Even more important than music, vestments, incense and beautiful architecture, is the creation of a ritual ethos--priests must learn how to behave in the liturgy in a way that is truly ceremonial and self-effacing, one which sublimates the character to that of the icon. Maybe not like a soldier on parade, but perhaps like the way Gregorian chant mediates the gap between the personal and the universal. Thoughts, anyone?

The Chill Warmth of Winter. Photo by Matthew Alderman. February 22, 2006.

Wednesday, February 14


From Of the Atmosphere of a Church, 1947

"Really there is no antagonism. The trouble is simply that art, which in its great days was scientific, has today ceased to be so, and one of the requirements for its recovery is that it should become scientific again and thereby be in harmony with the best spirit of the age. The man who sets to work to design an aeroplane or a motorcar has no self-conscious strivings to express himself or his age, like the pathetic architects and artists of today. His one business is to make it go and, if possible, to go one better, and he would not be so mad as to think he could do this without knowing the tradition of all that went before. Moreover, if he fails, there is no question of his failure; he cannot hide it by fine words and theories. Let us apply this to architecture and have an end to humbug. After all, deep in the human heart is the sense of beauty and when a man sees it he will respond unless his eye is hypnotized by words...

"And do we want originality? I quote Dr. Inge: 'What we call originality is generally the power to see old things in a new light - it is the reading of some open secret...' And the correspondent whom I have quoted before sums up: 'What passes for originality today is at its best no more difficult to accomplish and is less original than what a man does who not only has studied the past, but bears the past within him when he is at work on some quite modern need.' "

~Sir J. Ninian Comper

Some years ago back in Rome, I celebrated St. Cyril's Day with the seminarians of the Bohemian College, at San Clemente, which is where the man himself is buried, down in the crypt. It proved to be one of the most memorable of my nights in Rome, what with an eastern eparch in a disco ball mitre and a massive Italo-Slav pig-out in the atrium afterwards, complete with finger sandwiches. So it seems a shame to let America lose out on the fun--or for that matter, crowd out the misunderstood and forgotten martyr (or martyrs) Valentine. Why not combine the two? Red's the color of Valentine's day; red, white and blue are the old Pan-Slav colors. I'm imagining buttons saying, "Kiss Me, I'm Serbian," or "Everybody's Slovak on St. Cyril's Day!" Or send a dozen red roses to your favorite Russian maiden. Or white roses to a Czech girl. Or blue violets to your Ukrainian crush.

Hey, it's better than getting doused with water on Dyngus Day.

(Realizes he knows no Slav women in New York, and thus is still dateless on Valentine's day, even after reinventing the holiday.)

Oh, never mind. I'll just sit here and hum Back in the USSR to myself.

...They leave the west behind....And Moscow girls make me sing and shout...


Cyril and Methodius Day, for the romantically-uninclined,


Valentine's, for the less-single today.

The BBC has a slideshow depicting the celebrations throughout the world, from mass-weddings in Thailand to burning Valentines, as un-Islamic, in Pakistan (they have a point). The Beeb even mentions that Valentine is a Christian saint!

Tuesday, February 13


From Sir John Ninian Comper, Of the Atmosphere of a Church, 1947

These words were written by the great English ecclesiastical architect regarding the so-called "Children's Corner," an Anglican fad of the last century which kitted out a small section of a church with a miniature altar and pews. We can apply his comments, I think, to the equally unfortunate tendency to put fish-tank-like "cry rooms" in our parish churches, often at the expense of a confessional or narthex, or trucking kids out to listen to bowdlerized versions of the day's lections:
But why should we put children in a corner in their Father's house? I do not think they do so anywhere else. In France and Italy, the children still come in to pray where they will and lay their offerings of flowers where they will. I remember an Epiphany at Siena (in 1888) where, even during the Cathedral High Mass, children were playing below the altar steps, like the cherubs before the throne of the Madonna and Child in pictures of the Renaissance, and much later, I recall standing in a crowd of worshippers at High Mass in Budapest, and seeing a child's balloon with a face painted on it floating above our heads.

These were instances of freedom within the limits of what destroys the atmosphere of worship.
I recall a Protestant friend who, in response to a crying baby at one of our Masses, remarked on the "family atmosphere" in Catholic liturgy. She explained, "We send our children to Sunday school when they're younger, and when they get to age 7, they don't know what to do with themselves when we let them sit through a full service."

Expect further quotations from Comper's magisterial essay in the future. There's much food for thought within.

Monday, February 12


Seven Dolours. Photograph by Matthew Alderman, November 23, 2005.

Food of the Gods

Mini-pretzels dipped in Nutella, that's darn near close to perfection.

Maybe They Should Have Called It Wallacism

Today is apparently Darwin Day, and while I've never found natural selection or evolution properly understood to be any sort of problem for me theologically, the way popular society assumes it (along with, for instance like the atom, Galileo, central heating, Columbus, Marxism, Watson and Crick, or whatever) automatically disproves religion, falls into the category of "silly things which are mildly irritating." The Church Fathers were intepreting Genesis allegorically a thousand years before Darwin. We've done this whole debate before. And anyway, poor old Fr. Mendel did all the genetic grunt work.

Anyway, there's some evidence Darwin wasn't the first fellow to think of it, so in my continued contrarian crusade (whatever it is, I'm against it), I declare this Alfred Russel Wallace Day on the Shrine.

...Okay, he did get a little nutty towards the end when he got involved in phreno-Mesmerism and Spiritualism, but we'll overlook that. It was the nineteeth century, and people were screwy then: what can you say about an age that thinks cocaine is good for you and also produced Wagner?

Caption Contest

After a field trip to Boulder, Colorado, the Peace Movement breaks out forty years too late in the Swiss Guard.

(thinking) You know, I've gotten some pretty awful Valentine's Day gifts in my time, but a five-foot-tall Madonna made out of white chocolate, that's just wrong...

Brazilian Bishop: Oh no! You spilled coffee on the Pope's chausuble!
Marini: Oh, just tell him I designed it. He'll roll his eyes, but he tends to expect things like this from me.

Benedict, moments before testing the new Vatican Labs flame-retardant papal simar. The project proved a success, but scientists remain unable to get the candle wax smell out.

Ecrasez le Pekingese?

It was bad enough when someone named their child Abelard, but this, overheard on Lexington en route to St. Vincent Ferrer's...

"...And Voltaire, he puts his little paws up on the sofa, and he's sooooo cute..."

Peregrinator on EWTN!

While we couldn't snag him for our own broadcasting efforts, everyone's favorite convert from Anglicanism, Peregrinator, will be appearing on EWTN's The Journey Home tonight, Monday, at 8 PM:

Here's a preview: my pilgrimage begins with a Major League Baseball player's autograph acquired via Tom Monaghan of Domino's Pizza and includes my becoming Calvinist and then an Episcopal priest.

Definitely worth watching! And that is a really scary picture of Marcus Grodi, I don't know why, but it is.

Wikipedia Oxymorons

Just ran across one particularly amusing one: a category webpage entitled "Presbyterian Cathedrals in the United States." (Think about it. Who sits in a cathedra?)

The deal is, East Liberty Presbyterian in Pittsburgh is sometimes colloquially called the Cathedral of Hope, despite belonging to a faith that makes an article out of not having bishops. Still, as repeat readers know, I have a great fondness for East Liberty, a Ralph Adams Cram masterwork which has an unusually distinctive tower, a modern Gothic extravaganza with more than a hint of the Thai pagoda to it. Though the real story, as I have explained before, is that it's actually a Gothic reworking of Cram's favorite skyscraper, the spiky Empire State Building. Funky. What a shame he never took a stab at doing a Gothic Chrysler Building. Not sure how you'd do that, but it'd sure be wild.

Sunday, February 11


Grail Secrets of Nazi Treasure Hunters!!!

(Dramatic chord)

Hey, if the History Channel can pull rating stunts, so can we.

"Preach like Paul"

Catholics need solid preaching about Jesus, the cross and the Church, and not "feeling good" spiritual advice that demands no sacrifice, said Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee.
Preaching well means challenging people's complacency and, like Christ, occasionally "shaking things up," Archbishop Dolan said in Rome Jan.14. That cannot happen if preachers soft-pedal the cross, he said.

"Maybe the greatest threat to the Church is not heresy, nor dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms," he said.

National Catholic Register, February 4, 2007 issue, page 3

Saturday, February 10


Lumen de Lumine?

I found myself watching Nova some months back, and they had a documentary on the atom full of the hazy historical reconstructions PBS is so fond of--Einstein sitting in his patent office, dreaming; Émilie du Châtelet looking quaintly lovely and brilliant while reading Leibniz and getting fitted out for an eighteenth-century wig, savants scribbling on chalkboards full of the higher mysteries of science.

And a thought occurred to me as the narrator expounded on Einstein's theories--which may or may not be up-to-date with all the quarks and string theory which abounds at present and is more opaque to me than the disembodied begats, aeons and melons of Gnostic cosmology--but he pointed out that for Einstein, time was not a constant. It slowed or speeded up depending on light, and it was that light that ultimately was the single constant across the universe. Probably a ferociously simplified view of the real esoterica behind the theories, yes, but it occurred to me that if time is indeed as flexible as it apparently seems under the stresses of higher physics, then we must conclude time isn't merely a human measurement used to map out an apparently uninterested and timeless universe. Time is a thing, an element of our world--it drips, slows, speeds up, flows at different speeds, a real quality of the universe independent of our observation rather than seeming a convenience laid on top of a timeless cosmos. In other words, time is a thing rather than a manmade measurement, I suppose, and therefore by taking away that thing, we can imagine a place where there is no time, or eternity.

It is dangerous to theologize too much from science, especially late at night or when one has just gotten up in the morning, and especially since science changes her mind every five seconds, but it is interesting to see this bit of it confirm the Faith. And, in terms of a universe that contains traces of the Trinity, what better than a world where the constant is light, truly an earthly reflection of Christ's glory? Science's continual evolution has always confirmed some aspect of God's inner life in some small way--Aristotle's cosmos to God's orderliness and loving perfection, Newton's clockwork universe, while perhaps a Deist paradise, speaks to the clarity and perfection of the Creator, and now, our own darker and confusing world, to the tohu bohu of Genesis and the mysteries of the Divine Will. Every age has tunnelled deeper and deeper into the wonders of the Universe and found more and more complexity. I can't help wondering if God set that up like a big box of puzzles to keep us busy and for us to forever be stunned and amazed at the depth of His creative power and might.

Just a thought. If I'm wrong, it's not the end of Time or the world.

He was always a Gem

This photo released by LifeGem in October 2005 shows a diamond made from the ashes of cremated remains. Sue Rogers from Devon will never be without her dead dogs and cat after having a diamond ring made from their ashes.(AFP/Lifegem/File)


Part of me says, "Ahhhh!!!! Bury human remains!

Part of me says, "Hmm... Cool possibilities for bone chapels...

Some day in the future...

Hello, St. Mary's Parish... Yes, this is Fr. O'Brien... Make funeral arrangements? Well you know it's good to plan ahead!... A what? I really don't think that's legal in the Unite--... Yes, I realize they do it in Italy, bu--... You'd like to be the chandelier??... Well, ok, I suppose it would take the whole family but--... No, I'm sorry, this is definitely out of the question."

Friday, February 9


Westminster Cathedral

While visually stunning, Westminster Cathedral does still startle when you run across its stripey Eastern grandeur in the midst of drizzly London. Some people, when it was first built, didn't care for it at all. Indeed, the very strange Baron Corvo called it a "pea-soup and streaky-bacon-colored caricature of an electric light station." Maybe that's a bit harsh, but you have to admit polychrome Byzantine would have not been my first choice for London's Catholic cathedral. I'm rather glad they took that unconventional route. Even with its mosaics nearly permanently unfinished, its gilded walls easily outshine the grey Gothic clutter of Westminster Abbey.

The politics that went into its design continue to fascinate. Apparently, the still-denigrated Catholic minority worried that a gigantic Gothic cathedral in the neighborhood of the royal abbey might look just an eensy bit triumphalist. Sketches for a French Gothic cathedral dedicated to St. Patrick were on the drawing board for a time, and so was a strange proposal by an eccentric MP fond of wearing multiple waistcoats at once (or was it overcoats?) to fund a replica of the Vienna Votivkirche instead. He had a fixation with Votivkirches.

Other factions advocated a duplicate of Cefalù Cathedral, a scaled-down version of St. Peter's, or any number of other solutions. Byzantine--de rigeur in certain corners of the early twentieth century--seemed a compromise, even if rather un-English at first glance. (Westminster Cathedral is a treasure-trove of forgotten yet charmingly odd proposals: there was one scheme to set up a group of Benedictines who would commute in by train to sing the Office daily, or the equally forgotten project to revive the Sarum Rite for the Cathedral's official worship.)

Certain aspects of the design I'm not so keen on, though. It is the epitome of the stately pile, but there's not much on top to pile up to. A single high dome on the order of St. Louis Cathedral would have helped a great deal. Still, the inside remains an impressive basilican reworking of the typical Byzantine centralized plan, with all the Liturgical Movement tweaks one would expect to find in a properly-run cathedral--Lady Chapel and Sacrament Chapel, a broad chancel with clergy stalls, and plenty of mosaics, marble and a nice big ambo. I have yet to see a full liturgy with choir there (their congregation, though, sings better than most parish groups in the U.S.), but if this new blog, Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee, they're doing a good job these days.

This new blog is the work of the Cathedral's administrator, Monsignor Mark Langham, and is filled with all sorts of artistic and liturgical goodies: mosaics of St. Agatha on her feast-day, the cathedral's super-secret relic vault, the cathedral chaplains and their extraordinary brown-fur cappas, and amazing unrealized mosaic designs by turn-of-the-century artist W.C. Symons.

Definitely a blog worth watching. Thanks, Monsignor!

Thursday, February 8


Chocolate Hearts not POD enough for you?

How about a chocolate Sacred Heart?

<disclaimer>Note to the gentlemen: The above post is intended to point out a bizarre oddity of the internet, and is not intended to be an actual Valentine's gift suggestion for your POD sweetheart. Holy Whapping is not responsible for any emotional duress and/or expenses incurred as the result of such action. Consider yourself warned. </disclaimer>

Tuesday, February 6


Catholic Blog Awards 2007

Online nomination forms can be found here. You know the drill. But just in case you don't: who else, pray tell, brought you during the course of last year:

The Bob Bellarmine Show and Georg and Joseph Ratzinger on a Mission from God in Die Gebruder Blau?

• An alternative to the Taj Mahoney?

Zeppole for St. Joseph's Day?

Gift Recommendations for the Baby Catholic Nerd who has everything?

The Red Rubric Deacon?

How to save your Parish's musical repertoire in two easy steps, or so?

Dinner with dead Jesuits at the Culinary Institute of America?

Cardinal Dulles and Roman Catholic Anglican Use Wrennaissance Baroque Goodness?

• And a genuine, you betcha 100% exclusive appearance by George Weigel?

Nowhere else but The Shrine.

World Nutella Day!

Nutella History!
Nutella Recipes!
Nutella Merchandise!
Win a case of Nutella!
And, in case you're still not convinced...mmm.... Nutella Pictures!

... and remember: Friends don't let friends remain in ignorance of Nutella.

UPDATE: For those of you who read Italian, there are 1000 Nutella recipes on their Italian website.

Monday, February 5


Move Over, Exterminatrix of Heresies...

Possibly the singularly most awesome (in the late '80s/early '90s sense of the term) title of Our Blessed Mother ever--and from Poland, naturally--the wolf-defeating Virgin of the Blessed Thunder Candle.

(Pre-Tridentine impeccably medieval don't-worry-I-won't-do-anything-Baroque Norman-style mitre tip to Dan Mitsui.)

A Yakov Smirnov/Fr. Vasily Moment

In nineteenth-century Russia, you face altar.
In twentieth-century America, altar faces YOU!

Caption Contest!

"Okay, who put in the immersion font without asking?!"
I don't know which one of you added the World Nutella Day graphic to the sidebar, but you are now officially my favorite person in the whole wide world. Except my parents, of course, but they like Nutella, too.

...and are free samples somehow involved in this?

Saturday, February 3


Eucharistic Miracle at Lourdes?

Photos from 1999 of a Mass in Lourdes, initially hushed-up by French bishops but now under investigation by a Curia official, in which the Blessed Sacrament appears to be levitating.

More here...

Then again, no one blames Our Lord for wanting to distance Himself from such an ugly paten!

Thursday, February 1


Caption Contest!

A rare appearance of the Pontiff's Tom Poston impression.

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