Friday, November 30


Benedict's Encyclical: Spe Salvi ("Saved by Hope")

Will be released at 11:30am on November 30.

You know you're a Catholic nerd when you've memorized what time 11:00 Rome Time is in your local time zone, because that's when all the cool Catholic news events break.

You know you're really a Catholic nerd when your body is relatively acclimated to waking up at 11:00 Rome time.

Thursday, November 29


Really Cool

Il Grande John Paul once called those with Down Syndrome icons of innocence in our world--a moving and, I think, accurate description--a spirituality of mental illness in our materialistic, production-frenzied world.

In that vein, several years ago, an angel in a Dutch painting depicting the Birth of Christ was identified as having been modelled upon a child with Down Syndrome:

[They] identified a 16th-century Flemish Nativity painting in which one angelic figure appears distinctly different from other individuals in the painting with an appearance of Down syndrome. . . . This may be one of the earliest European representations of Down syndrome.
See the painting and read more

Catholic Evangelism

It won't surprise any long-term readers that I'm very interested in evangelism and how Catholics have forgotten how to do it.

So I was happy to get an email from Marcel LeJeune, an assistant lay campus minister at the ever-impressive St. Mary's (Texas A&M) for The Catholic Evangelist.

I had been hoping that the website would have some practical information for evangelization, perhaps even be some sort of evangelization guild. It doesn't, and it isn't, but it is still a good resource for any Catholic priest, parish, or group that is looking to book a speaker to talk to them about Catholic evangelization.

Check it out!

Wednesday, November 28



My father and I drove through the rolling late-fall landscape of North Florida under a grey sky, the trees dark-red and translucent mandarin. We were listening to a CD of Jesuit missionary music from 17th century Peking, and he was enchanted with the oriental elegance of each track--a gracious bit of enculturation done right equal in beauty to the work of Vivaldi and Palestrina, but transposed into a distinctly Chinese key.

He's doing the driving, fortunately. He used to tell me stories about serving Low Mass as a (very young) boy, and brown-bagging egg salad sandwiches every first Friday so he could receive Communion and still make the three-hour fast that early in the morning. We bond over bicycling, over long walks in the cold, and we bond over liturgy, too.

"They dumb everything down these days; they're so afraid of leaving someone out if they put in a little beauty. What's wrong with sitting and listening to a beautiful motet and thinking about God?"

I nodded my agreement, enjoying the severe and familiar beauty of the landscape.

"What'll they want to go for next?" he continued. "By the same logic, they'd say art's too elitist too, since the whole congregation can't participate in it either. Too exclusive. Maybe we should take down the cross and hand around sheets of paper and crayons before mass."

I laughed. "Don't give them ideas!" The sad thing was, while he was kidding, the liturgy gurus might do just that. Modern times defy parody.

Anything beautiful, anything that inspires us, is always a threat to someone--because there's always the potential for danger in anything good. Wine, women, friendship, fatherhood, motherhood, kingship, art, fine food, the priesthood, nature. They can all go sour. But they can also help us get to heaven. They're worth the risk. The other choice is the comfortable beige world of the mediocre: parental units, microwave dinners, OSHA, Thomas Kinkade, life-coaches, the works. Hell-as-eternal boredom.

I think my father is a very wise man.

Don't Forget!

There's still time to plan your party for Repeal Day, celebrating the overturning of one of the more Un-Catholic laws ever passed in this country.
If you need suggestions on what to serve, I recommend this book as a resource for food, beverage, and more than a few great stories.


St. Josemaría Escrivá and the Iconography of Modern Saints

Matthew Alderman. San Josemaría Escrivá, Fundador del Opus Dei. Ink on Vellum. October 2007. Artist's Collection.

I was recently commissioned by a certain gracious lady in Vienna (the one with Strauss, not the one in Virginia) to do an image of St. Josemaría, my first international art commission, which was a great pleasure; I hope to present it on the Shrine one of these days. The drawing above is a little follow-up piece I did for myself on a similar theme after completing the drawing and wanting to try a slightly different angle.

The project got me thinking about comparative lack of solid iconography associated with him and any number of other modern saints, such as St. Maximilian Kolbe, despite the wealth of possibilities inherent in their biographies. Why is St. Maximilian not shown with his two crowns rather than a few limp copies of The Knight of the Immaculate? Where is Gabriel Possenti and his smoking gun, and why is St. John Neumann not shown holding a charmingly medieval model of downtown Philadelphia?

Most representations of modern saints are really more portraits than true liturgical art, and while certainly it is appropriate to be faithful to a saint's true image when we have photographs, it is not enough to convey his presence symbolically. Some steps have been taken to endow him with attributes, and some of these--the rose, the simple cross used as a sort of logo by Opus Dei, guardian angels (what I used in my Vienna drawing as an attribute), or students and other members of the prelature clustered around him--are largely successful, but lack the compact elegance of a winged ox or a pierced heart that so characterizes the symbolism of the Western Church.

It seemed to me that the perfect symbol St. Josemaría would be the donkey, the symbol of his humility. Once, I'm told, when asked for a picture of himself by a disciple, he returned with a nice picture of a little burro. I can think of no better addition to the menagerie of the Church than St. Josemaría's donkey, alongside the lion of St. Jerome and the peacock of immortality.

Tuesday, November 27


From the Encyclopedia of Bad Ideas

Periodically, I post bits of my surreal efforts at humor, such as the ongoing Encyclopedia of Failed Ideas, and its younger sister, The Encyclopedia of Bad Ideas. This is the result of me asking the musical question (and not getting an answer), "Why piano bars, and not harpsichord bars?" Clearly I don't have enough things to do in my spare time. Nothing in this is real, save for Bach's lute-harpsichord, Henry Lim's Lego harpsichord, and a few of the Early Musicians mentioned:

From the Encyclopedia of Bad Ideas and Other Disastrous Mistakes, fourth ed. Lampwick: New Jersey, 1974.

Harpsichord Bar. Pioneered by Ralph Snodgrass, a public relations man and Bach enthusiast of the mid-1980s in an effort to cash in on the perennial popularity of the piano bar. Hiring a Hadyn impersonator and part-time rodeo clown named Gerald Becker to play the harpsichord at the first such establishment, The Plectrum on Wabash in Chicago, receipts dropped off abruptly after the first week. Market research realized that the acute lack of a femme fatale lying on top of the instrument crooning out torch songs was probably at fault.

For the right period effect, Snodgrass tried out a countertenor sitting on top of the harpsichord as there was really no room to do a proper Lauren Bacall sort of sprawl, but he wasn't quite the draw that Snodgrass expected, and mostly brought in slightly baffled musicology professors who exclusively drank milk. A soprano in a hoopskirt also proved to be a failure as she tended to engulf the whole affair like a teacosy, and midget contraltos were, at that period of history, scarce in the Midwest. A publicity event with early music star Monserrat Figueras also turned out to be a miserable failure after they experimentally suggested she sing lying at full length on the floor given their previous problems; furthermore, many of the smoky love songs that Snodgrass had put down for the night's program didn't fit the meter once translated into Old Occitan or Gallego-Portuguese.

A later publicity stunt, the infamous 1984 Theorbenflugel affair further doomed the idea. Rumor had it that Al Capone, an avid student of early eighteenth-century chamber music in addition to a violent criminal, had discovered Bach's original custom-built "lute-harpsichord" and put it in a vault located directly beneath The Plectrum. After a much-hyped and televised opening of the vault (in the presence of Geraldo and conductor Jordi Savall) on a University of Chicago public access station with a viewing audience of 6, it was discovered to contain only a few moldiering copies of Handel's tavern bills and a worthless bazooka intabulation of Watchet Auf transcribed by Spike Jones. This was lost for a time but eventually turned up on E-Bay about twenty years later.

Everything continued to go downhill after that. An attempt to fit a legless tenor inside the harpsichord resulted in OSHA briefly closing down the place for a short period in 1987 and a long series of nasty lawsuits. Finally, soprano-less, and after the El had ruined his fingering during a performance of yet another request for a rendition of "Watkin's Ale" from the drunk Buxtehude specialist at the end of the bar, Gerald Becker threw off his powdered wig in anger and stormed out of the bar. The Plectrum went for Chapter 11 the next week. Ralph Snodgrass later attempted to form a sackbutt trio in the hopes of producing a cover album of Lawrence Welk tunes, but died penniless in 1991. Becker briefly joined up with the famous Henry Lim in his pioneering attempt to build a harpsichord out of Legos but broke over creative differences. He is presently the resident artist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is attempting to reconstruct Bach's organ at Leipzig using Capsella toys.

Monday, November 26


Field Marshal Mary

Incidentally, I recently read that the Virgin Mary holds the rank of field marshal in the Army of the Republic of Paraguay, and is often decked out with the appropriate sash of office in her various shrines in Asunción (full name: Nuestra Señora Santa María de la Asunción).* Given that less-than-august institution's persistent fondness for smuggling in recent decades (el contrabando es el precio de la paz, or something along those lines), I do not know whether to be amused or frightened, and I imagine so does Our Lady.

*I'm not sure precisely where these are, but I'm told she's shown wearing her medals at the oddly secular Panteón Nacional de los Héroes, a handsome if somewhat scaled down version of the Tomb of Napoleon that houses the cenotaphs of, among others, the Mad Dr. Francia, an excommunicated Rousseauian despot and Bela Lugosi lookalike whose body was fed to an alligator after his death, and the Mad Marshal López, whose main achievements included nearly destroying his own country and getting himself canonized by his court chaplain while still alive. (Emperor Faustin of Haiti allegedly did the same thing, incidentally. Declaring himself a saint, not destroying his country--though he may have done that too, I don't know.)

Add This to "The Papacy Finally Looks Like It Does in the Movies" Dossier

I think the Consistory has achieved an entirely new level of papalosity, and Pope Benedict's mitre, cope and throne will put me in a cheery mood for the rest of this drizzly week.

Sunday, November 25


At the Consistory

Franciscan Father Umberto Betti is created Cardinal at Saturday's consistory.

The photo is deeply moving..

: )

Monday, November 19



Somehow, this sounds... familiar.

Orthodox-Catholic Dialog: Russians React

About as positively as I expected.

Essentially, the Russians are bawking* at the idea that of primacy at the universal level of the Church, since they would then be immediately under a Patriarch of Constantinople that they could not as easily ignore and then have that patriarch in union with a Roman protos.

The Russians left Ravenna when the Estonian Orthodox Church was invited to the conference, since they consider the Estonian Orthodox Church to be a rebellious lot who properly belong to the Patriarch of Moscow. The Patriarch of Constantinople recognized them as independent of Moscow, creating... ill feelings.

* Standardized spelling, particularly in English, is a modern, Englightenment innovation imposed upon our language by revolutionary ideologies as a means of creating an American identity. I bawk at the concept.

Sunday, November 18


News From Baghdad

Fox News brings us this encouraging story about Muslims in Baghdad who are trying to bring their Christian neighbors back home. It's a remarkable reminder that interreligious dialogue ought to be, first of all, interpersonal.
Lt. Col. Stephen Michael told me that when Al Qaeda came to Dora, it began harassing Christians first, charging them "rent." It was the local Muslims, according to Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. ...

Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s, Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors and that the Christians never will come back.

And so they came to St John’s in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, "Come back to Iraq. Come home." They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home.


How can you not love Lou?

Saturday, November 17



In one of our previous posts, we posited the existence of a pastry shop run by heretical North Africans with a falafel fixation, the Donutist, and one of our alert readers suggested we start a discount bakery with a very rigorous Dominican theme, the Sav-On-A-Roll-A.

It occurs to me that they could serve for breakfast something called the Infelix Eggo Waffle.

(Actually, seriously, folks, whatever my very mixed feelings about old Girolamo, Infelix Ego is a very beautiful and moving meditation on Psalm 51, especially given the circumstances of its composition. But come on now, how could you expect me to resist the pun?)

Friday, November 16


If Our Hip Young Churchlady Friends Don't Have These Yet, I'll be Very Surprised

Church Bell Cell-Phone Ringtones, from the diocese of Linz, Austria.

NB: The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies finally have an official website, by the way. This bears watching, if only because of the very likely possibility they might be trying to take over the world.* (If these particular churchladies are like the ones I know, and they certainly appear to be, they're less Enid Strict and more Grace Kelly, albeit with a rosary in one hand and a corkscrew in the other--for wine or, occasionally, self-defense.)

*Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Life Imitates Whapping

Reading the nonfiction events-type insert in the local version of The Onion (I skip over the articles that are in...less...bad taste), they mentioned the writers strike in Hollywood* might lead to yet more inane reality programs, such as one already purportedly green-lighted entitled Clash of the Choirs. Now, I ask you, does this not sound suspiciously like Holy Whapping's own award-winning program American Chorister? NBC--Bishop Bruskewitz, an interdict, and the HWTN legal team are headed your way.

*I expect Life on the Rock will be in reruns any day now.

Catholic-Orthodox Declaration: Kind of a Big Deal

In 1963, Timothy Ware wrote,
Between Orthodoxy and Rome there are many difficulties. The usual psychological barriers exist... there are a multitude of inherited prejudices which cannot be quickly overcome... such things as the Crusades, the 'Union' of Brest-Litovsk, the schism at Antioch in the eighteenth century, or the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Poland by a Roman Catholic government between the two world wars. Roman Catholics do not usually realize how deep a sense of misgiving and apprehension many devout Orthodox--educated as well as simple--still feel when they think of the Church of Rome...

Since the two sides have so much in common, is there perhaps some hope of a reconciliation? At first sight one is tempted to dispair, particularly when one considers the question of the Papal claims. Orthodox find themselves unable to accept the definitions of the [First] Vatican Council of 1870 concerning the supreme ordinary jurisdiction and the infallibility of the pope..."

And, reacting against these, especially in light of the weakness of Constantinople due to its subjection under Turkish rule--and the shrinkage of its flock to about 2,000 isolated souls who are despairing of whence will come the next patriarch of Constantinople, given that no one currently meets the qualifications imposed by the Turkish government--Orthodoxy has tended to reduce any claims at all to juridical power at the universal level of the Church, often labelling even the Patriarch of Constantinople as one who has simply a "primacy of honor."

A document signed by all the Orthodox Churches, except the Russian Church, for whom theology is not entirely separate from a certain sense of deep national pride, and by representatives of the Catholic Church this October at Ravenna was released yesterday. It has not gotten a lot of press, but it is sort of a big deal:

A Zenit article quotes Walter Cardinal Kaspar:
"The important development," he explained, "is that for the first time the Orthodox Churches have said yes, this universal level of the Church exists and also at the universal level there is conciliarity, synodality and authority; this means that there is also a primate; according to the practice of the ancient Church, the first bishop is the Bishop of Rome."

This was headline news on Greek television, but has gone completely unnoticed in the Anglophone world, even in St. Blog's.

The document, a ten-page reflection available here, reads almost like a summary of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's own book on ecclesiology, itself inspired by Augustinian ecclesiology,Called to Communion (Buy it; Read it; Occasionally, hug it). It is a very edifying reflection on the nature of the Church.

The document essentially traces the place of authority within the Christian community, beginning at the diocese, then discussing the role of patriarchs and metropolitans exercising authority at the regional level, and then extrapolates to the idea of similar relationship of primacy in the relationship among the five patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem). The document says,

Both sides agree that a canonical taxis [order] was recognized by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that "presides in love" according to the phrase of St. Ignatius of Antioch, occupied the first place in the taxis [order], and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos [first] among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the Bishop of Rome as protos [first], a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millenium.

Thus, Cardinal Kaspar also warns against exaggerating the importance of this document--the document concludes with the question, "How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican Councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millenium?" However, for the first time there is a foundation upon which to move the discussion--the recognition that Orthodoxy could have a primacy of more than simply "honor," which nonetheless does not imply the ontological inferiority of other bishops qua bishops (which is the position taken by Vatican II, when it renounced the theory that bishops receive their faculties from the Pope).

Essentially, it looks like the document is sketching a picture of a Church in which the faithful under each Patriarchate are in union with the faithful of other Patriarchates (and in this sense Rome would be a Patriarchate) because the Patriarchs themselves are united one with the other under the presidency of Rome.

The document itself raises the question of the Pope's universal primacy of jurisdiction, which is the central question. I would have two questions, reading the document as a Catholic:
(1) The document seems to skirt the question of whether the Pope is significant simply because that's how it was in the first millennium, or because Jesus Christ gave St. Peter a unique leadership role which the Pope has uniquely inherited--and which would be an article of faith, not simply a fact of history.
(2) The document says that at the regional and the universal level, "the first [protos] cannot do anything without the consent of all." Vatican I & II say that the Pope should act in communion with all, and in practice important things like the definition of the Assumption were done that way... but "cannot" seems strong. But, the Orthodox have no problem with the patriarch of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, who certainly didn't worry about "the consent of all" when he defended the Trinity. So the precise meaning of the line might benefit from some elaboration.

I must also admit the slightest touch of schadenfreude at the thought that any ex-Protestants who took their anti-Catholicism with them when they converted to Orthodoxy may yet end up in communion with Rome.

Human nature has its inherent tendencies towards Donatism, and Timothy Wares observed, again in 1963,
Workers for Christian unity who do not often encounter the rigorist school... [who believe that] "Heretics and Schismatics have from the one indivisible Church, and, by so doing, they have ceased to be members of the Church... should not forget that such opinions are held by many Orthodox of great learning and holiness.

That is also increasely the case even within the Catholic Church, as some feel freer and freer to judge their own hierarchy's theological competence or even good will. In some sense, then, even if the leaders of each side are able to reach agreement--and though difficulties remain, it is more possible now than ever before--individuals on both sides of a particular disposition will certainly, to turn a phrase, protest.

Thursday, November 15


How Would Jesus Vest?

One of the more enjoyably frivolous debates we have had on the Shrine dared to ask the question theologians quail at, "What would Our Lord wear if He attended a solemn High Mass in choro?" The conclusion was vague but we decided ermine would have to be involved. I'm reminded of this because I read recently that one popular joke that was making the rounds in the days of Pius XII was that Our Lord had been spotted appearing to the sovereign pontiff. The question is then asked, "what was Christ wearing?" White tie and black tails, of course! What else do you wear to meet the pope?!

Shrine Mole: Vatican Tested New Rosary Mysteries on People!

ROME (HWTN News)--One of the Shrine's moles at the Vatican recently leaked to me a truly extraordinary document from the Congregation for Divine Worship, which indicates that in the lead-up to the unveiling of the Luminous Mysteries towards the end of Pope John Paul II's reign, the CDW's Consumer Rights section beta-tested a number of alternatives to the Pope's proposal. This in itself should be no surprise; the mysteries of the Rosary, along with the stations of the Cross, have historically been rather fluid in content and in number, while the CDW's careful supervision of new Vatican products is well-known after the massive recall of the '04 cherry-flavored "Hieroymus Bosch Blend" incense after the main stock had been secretly adulterated with hallucinogens as a protest by an anarcho-syndicalist guerilla theater group.*

Experts remark that the Luminous Mysteries won out with good reason. But it's still fascinating to see what might have been and why it got rejected. One set, the Parabolic Mysteries, was thought to sound too mathematical, though it dealt with Christ's various parables, some of which themselves proved to be problematic. The Mystery of the Parable of the 99 Sheep and the 1 Lost unfortunately put most test-subjects to sleep given Fr. Cantalamessa's suggestion they pray by counting each one, while the Mystery of the Divine Childhood, based on various apocryphal accounts of Christ's early years featuring Jesus smiting playground bullies and the like, made, in the words of one, "Our Lord seem a bit too much like Damien from The Omen." Researchers soon afterwards discovered the proposed Mystery of the Blue Carbuncle came not from sacred history but the Sherlock Holmes canon, and the whole section on the Father Brown Mysteries seems to have been a long and involved joke on the part of the compiler of the report.

Some mysteries also seemed, like the 99 Sheep, a bit too dull. Take for instance, the proposed Tedious Mysteries: 1: the Child Jesus stars in His School's Hannukah Pageant; 2: The Child Jesus is asked by Mary to take out the Garbage and Doesn't Complain, 3: Joseph hits his thumb with a hammer but does not say his golf words despite a furious desire to do so, 4: Our teenaged Lord suffers silently as Our Lady and St. Joseph show His friends all those embarassing baby pictures and 5: the Child Jesus is teased by playground bullies for being dressed like the Infant of Prague. The problem here is when you are dealing with a family in which the baby is God, the mom is sinless and the dad may well have never committed a sin of his own accord, there isn't too much drama to work with, barring the introduction of a Jewish Eddie Haskell character, and no such archetype appears in the Protoevangelium of James.

Now, if you must excuse me, it's Thursday and we all know that means it's time for a recitation of the Fourth Glutinous Mystery: Our Lord Feeds the 5,000 with Kosher Cinnabons.

*Supposedly Cardinal Arinze knew something was wrong when he attended a solemn high mass where the Gospel, solemnly intoned, began, "In illo tempore, dicite Iesus, Viiiiiiiiiirrrrr..." (Literally: At that time Jesus said: Duuuuuuuuude.")

Merci beaucourp to the one, the only Dawn Eden for the idea behind the post, and for calling me up during a very dull morning to cheer me up with it.

Random Thought

"Drew, would you be surprised if Benedict restored the minor orders?"

"No.. I wouldn't be surprised."

Wednesday, November 14


A Beautiful Vision of Christian Life

... from the AD 100-150.

I think it speaks very effectively to Christians in the modern world, sketching an ideal which encapsulates some of the Church's deepest aspirations:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Friday, November 9


A Martyr's Love-Letter

Zenit translated a letter from Bartolomé Blanco Márquez, one of the beatified martyrs killed during the Spanish civil war. It was written to his girlfriend. He was a leader of Catholic Action.

Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936

My dearest Maruja:

Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.

I am assisted by many priests who -- what a sweet comfort -- pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.

My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God's court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Bec ause in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion, country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.

My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.

Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.

My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.

Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God's help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting.

Thursday, November 8


A Catholic Festival in Peking, 1772

From a letter from the Rev. Father Cibot, SJ., concerning the festivities held on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Peking, 1772:

"At present, I know three Princes and several Mandarins in the Congregation [of Musicians], as well as many poor Neophytes who devote time they can ill afford to singing the praises of God.

"At about two o'clock in the afternoon on the Thursday of the Octave of the Blessed Sacrament, having said their prayer in the Chapel, the Missionaries come and sit in the tent [I am a loss to explain what is meant by this, whether it is a mistranslated French ecclesiastical idiom or an actual tent] when they listen to the rehearsal of the motets, canticles and various instrumental pieces... There are young singers ten or twelve years old, who show just as much devotion as the most fervent of the Novices. It is they who throw flowers before the Blessed Sacrament.

"At four o'clock, the first high mass is held, with music and symphonie. A motet accompanies the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; the symphonie that is inside the tent fills the intervals in the masses; the one that is inside the Chapel also plays a particular role in each mass. The Musicians, dressed in surplices, form two lines kneeling below the [altar]. When the Masses are over, prayers are solemnly sung; at that moment the tent is as full as the Chapel. After the prayers comes the Sermon, followed by the third High Mass. I forgot to mention that a second one was sung about six o'clock. It does not begin immediately, but there is first a pause to enable everyone to prepare to listen to it and to allow the musicians to have a cup of tea [!]. [...] This final mass lasts an hour and a half and ends with the blessing of the Sacrament, which is prededed by an amende-honorable [presumably expiatory prayers of some sort] and much shedding of tears. The Blessed Sacrament is then carried in procession. The order followed in the Procession is as follows:

"After the Cross come four young singers in long robes of purple silk, wearing ceremonial caps. They are followed by the musicians in secular dress,s then the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the musicians dressed in surplices and four choir-boys wearing albs with silken belts of different colors, ribbons and golden fringes.

"The two choruses sing continuously and without any confusion, and their repeats act as a signal for the flower boys and thurifers.

"When the Cross enters the church, the drums and other instruments begin to play and they go on playing until the Most Blessed Sacrament is on the altar. This third group of musicians stands before the rood screen [!] which separates the nave from the chancel."

Inculturation Done Right

What Matt is Listening To:

Messe des Jesuites de Pekin - Mass of the Jesuits in Beijing. Joseph-Marie-Amiot, XVIII-21 Musique des Lumieres.

"The Chinese, even in worship, need something with a strong appeal to the senses. Magnificent ornamentation, singing, processions, the sound of bells and musical instruments, church ceremonies, are all to their liking and draw them to divine worship." ~ R.P. Louis Le Comte, Noveaux memoires sur l'etat present de la Chine, Paris, 1696-1700.

[And to my liking, as well.]

From the liner notes: "Between 1741 and 1750, apart from a choir of 18 choirboys, the following instruments are mentioned at the court of emperor Qianlong: 10 violins, 2 violoncellos, 1 double-bass, 8 wind instruments, 4 ivory flutes, 7 lutes, 1 'set of bamboo pipes,' 1 bagpipe (?), 1 harpsichord. [...]

"...a Manchu scholar, who was one of the Prefects of the Congregation of Musicians of the Northern church (Beltang) of Peking, the church of the French Jesuits, founded in 1693 and demolished in 1872. The Congrgeation of Musicians, numbering about thirty young members, including several Manchu princes, would accompany important celebrations, the most spectacular of which was the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus...

" 'After the motets, the censing and the prayers, there comes a short silence, ending with a symphony and a piece dedicated to the whole of humanity, as the priest turns for the blessing. It is impossible to resist the emotions of such a ceremony, given in the most idolatrous city in the world, and with the sword of persecution constrantly raised above our heads; even the hardest of hearts would gtive way during this last part, particularly if close enough to hear the sighs and sobs that are muffled by the music.' "

Reason 1,546,749 to learn Latin...

From a talk I recently attended:

"Once you've started reading Augustine in Latin, reading him in English is like listening to Mozart played on the kazoo."

Wednesday, November 7


Ciborium by Sir Ninian Comper, London Colney, England.

Some Comper classicism for your aedification. The convent for which this was constructed is now the property of the Archdiocese of Westminster. Note the heroic Resurrected Christ on top. Consider this the glorified body flip side to the Sedlec ossuary. Hodie mihi, cras tibi apparently cuts both ways.*

*Digression alert. Incidentally, growing up I was a bit fuzzy about the fact we get our bodies back, new and improved, at the General Resurrection, and we get to walk through walls and the like. (On the other hand, the damned get them back too, and I imagine it probably hurts like...well, fill in the blank.) Once it was explained to me, it came as a pretty big relief, actually. Until then I'd assumed the whole "we look for the resurrection of the dead" thing was in reference, in addition to the undeniable fact of Our Lord's resurrection, to a vague Mulder-and-Scully sort of search for miraculous weirdness.

From Flickr.


Explaining Ossuaries to the Liberal Clergy

Nothing says "We are church" like an interior design scheme made from human bones. What's not to like?

(Okay, okay, so maybe it's a little weird...very weird...and maybe it's not quite in tune with modern taste. Or public health laws. But I got into the Halloween spirit a little late this year. Happy month of the Holy Souls!)

Tuesday, November 6


Curses, Spam Filter!

Unfortunately, the spam filtered delayed my reception of this time-sensitive item:

John Brown, SJ, author of this fine (and aesthetically-pleasing) blog on Jesuitanica, wrote to encourage us to be inspired by the spirituality, devotion, and dedication of the greatest Jesuit luminaries.

He sent his message before Monday, which was apparently the Feast of All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus. Unfortunately, I didn't get the message until today.

Check out some great Jesuits!!

Explains John Brown, "I don't think there exists a better tool for promoting the growth and improvement of my order than genuine Ignatian Spirituality and the lives of Jesuit saints."

Check out all three links! Better late than never!

Saturday, November 3


Pray for Your Dead

NLM has both this version and the classic Solesmes version, which despite my general appreciation for the Solesmes style, seems less impressive for this great Sequence.

Short Episcopalian Update

The Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh has voted, for the first time, to remove its affiliation with the Episcopal Church (USA) from its constitution and place it in its canons. The move needs to be ratified at a second diocese convention, presumably next year.

The significance of this move is that the constitution can only be changed after two diocesan conventions vote on an amendment, whereas a canon can be changed in a single vote. This arrangement allows the diocese to respond to legal suits, until the second vote, that it is abandoning the Episcopal Church, since the stated intent is simply to move its affiliation from constitution to canons; however, presumably, at the next convention, the diocese could confirm the second vote to change its constitution and immediately change its canons, thus leaving the Episcopal Church--if it votes to do so. It is the second diocese to pass such a constitutional amendment; a third may do so in the near future. This allows for some protection in numbers, since three dioceses would be harder for the Episcopal Church to sue than one, and it also allows for some collegiality in whatever structure emerges after their departure.

The Episcopal diocese of Pittsburgh has 20,000 members. 8,000 of these attend Sunday services regularly, slightly higher then the number of people the Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh (with 765,000 members) baptizes or receives each year.

Mother Angelica Strikes Again

Five sisters of Mother Angelica's congregation (of EWTN fame) left the Alabama monastery in 2005 to start a new foundation near Phoenix, Arizona.

They have broken ground on their new monastery, pictured above, which is designed to accommodate about 28 sisters, according to the blueprints.

More information and images here.

Friday, November 2


All Souls' Day: Scarier and Better than Halloween

Vita brevis breviter in brevi finietur,
Mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur,
Omnia mors perimit et nulli miseretur.
Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus.

Ni conversus fueris et sicut puer factus
Et vitam mutaveris in meliores actus,
Intrare non poteris regnum Dei beatus.
Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus.

Have a suitably lugubrious All Souls' Day! Wear black! Pray for the faithful departed! Put a skull on your desk! Freak out non-Catholics!

And remember, offer it up!

Thursday, November 1


Priest Shortage? What Priest Shortage?

In Honduras, the national seminary had an enrollment of 170 in 2007, an all-time high for a country where the total number of priests is slightly more than 400. Twenty years ago, there were fewer than 40 candidates. Bolivia saw the most remarkable increase; in 1972, the entire country had 49 seminarians, while in 2001 the number was 714, representing growth of 1,357 percent. Overall, seminarians in Latin America have increased 440 percent in the last two decades, according to Cleary.

From John Allen's recent piece on the state of the Church in South America.

Isn't that against the Treaty of Algeron?

The Brits have a Cloaking Device..

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