Monday, December 31


What Happens When a Bookstore Closes?

P.S. Nobody panic! This is Loome's Antiquarian Booksellers, not Loome's Theological Bookseller.


Not the Bat of Saint Sylvester

St. Sylvester receives from the Emperor Constantine the world's first cone-shaped party hat, on New Year's Eve, AD 317.

One of my most memorable New Year's Eve celebrations was a trip I took with my parents while in high school to Brussels that has made me fond of things Belgian (or Flemish/Walloon, since it appears to be splitsville for the kingdom these days) ever since. One thing that stuck in my mind--along with the frosty air, people's breath steaming in tomb-cold Gothic churches, and the enormous life-size Nativity Scene in the Grand-Place with its blonde, mannequinish Mary--was that the dinner-menus for that particularly festive evening were titled "Le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre," not "New Year's Eve." (The term means the "long festive dinner of St. Sylvester," not "the bat of St. Sylvester," as the opera Die Die Fledermaus is based on the French play, Le Réveillon, which means The Dinner Party.) There's something delightful to the realization that in Francophonia this most secular of holidays--the ecclesial year begins with Advent and the old civil calendar started on the feast of the Annunciation before things got boring--still has a bit of old Catholicism clinging to its sequined skirts.

I believe Hungarians also call it something similar--though this is based on the scrupulously-researched souce called "a flyer in a language I can't read stuck to the front window of the Hungarian cafe in my neighborhood that looked kind of festive and had the word 'Sylvester' somewhere in it." Brazil, which also has its own réveillons on New Year's Day proper, has its biggest marathon today, the appropriately-named Corrida Internacional de São Silvestre, though I can't really see any connection to the fourth-century pope save for the date.

Hispanics such as my grandmother celebrate New Years by attempting to eat twelve grapes at midnight, presumably in an effort to accidentally choke themselves. (If you are Cuban, of course, you can't go swimming for probably about six hours afterwards, but that's for a wholly different reason.) Rather than being a cute old custom, it turns out it was invented in 1909 by a bunch of Valencian grape-sellers (no pun intended) trying to sell off excess stock. (By the way, I wonder a little about the Wikipedia page on New Year's customs as it lists "Auld Lang Syne" as being by Guy Lombardo rather than Bobbie Burns, though I suppose I get their point.)

As to St. Sylvester himself, Evelyn Waugh in his decidedly weird historical novel Helena, tossed in a joke by one of the characters about Sylvester being so boring that if he ever got canonized, his feast day would have to be on the last day of the year, which is a little unfair as St. Sylvester was quite a big deal in the Middle Ages as being on the receiving end of the spurious Donation of Constantine (but, as they say, if it's not true, it should be) and is now ranked as the eighth-longest-reigning pope of all time, reigning 21 years, 11 months and 1 day (8,005 days).

Now if anyone can find a way to link this to Prince Orlovsky's gnomic utterances or, more pertinently, dropping disco balls in Times Square, you'll be my hero.

Sunday, December 30


Assorted Christmas Cheer

Supper Menu, Alderman Residence, December 24, 2007

Principal Course

Shepherds' Pie with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Double Gloucester
Asparagus with Butter



Flambéed Spotted Dog with Currants and Brandy-Butter


Weather: Delightfully cool and damp.

Dinner was followed up with a large fire in the great hall with a brick of Irish turf thrown in for flavor.

[Look, that's what we call it, the great hall, and it's fairly big as these things go in suburbican north Florida.]


"'Bless me,' cried Jack, with a loving look at its glistening, faintly translucent sides, 'a spotted dog!'"

—Patrick O'Brien, The Ionian Mission.

From Wikipedia:

Spotted dick is a steamed pudding, containing dried fruits, usually currants. The dessert originates in and continues to be popular in the United Kingdom, especially Scotland, where, presumably, it was originally created. Usually served either with custard or with butter and brown sugar. Spotted refers to the raisins (which resemble spots) and Dick may be a contraction or corruption of the word pudding (from the last syllable) or possibly a corruption of the word dough. It is also known as spotted dog, plum duff, steamed dicky, dicky pudding, figgy dowdy, as well as plum bolster, and Spotted Richard.

The last, only in formal settings.



Dinner Menu, Alderman Residence, December 25, 2007

Principal Course

Traditional Cuban-style Pork Haunch marinated with sour orange juice and Mojo Criollo

Traditional black beans and white rice

Traditional Yucca



Assorted Marzipan and (non-traditional) Mozartkugelen


Jesus Christ the Apple-Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple-tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple-tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

~Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs, New Hampshire, 1784.
Liz Lemon: Then, why are you wearing a tux?
Jack: It's after six o'clock, Lemon. What am I, a farmer?

~30 Rock, Season 1

A Query from Our Gentle Readers: Cane Ettiquette

One of our alert readers writes to us regarding proper cane ettiquette, wholly appropriate given we consider ourselves to be the guardians of all that is good and fun in civilized secular society (or what little remains of it), as well as within the Church.

I don't own a cane myself (though I do have a stout walking-stick covered in stockneglen I occasionally use when taking vigorous walks when down in Florida), as I don't really have the clothes for it. Not because there's anything wrong about all things retro but because it requires too much energy on my part. (On the one hand, my wardrobe of khakis and polo shirts means I can get dressed in the dark. On the other hand, I keep getting mistaken for an off-duty seminarian.)

Our reader writes:
I had no idea who else to address this to, but thought, given your aesthetic sensibilities, you or your blog-readers might be able to help me.

I've recently purchased a formal cane, to "wear" on very formal occasions, especially when I attend the opera. Now, I'm a perfectly healthy young-adult male, with no walking problems whatsoever. I just thought it would be "cool" to have my own cane for formal occasions.

Trouble is: I really do not know what the etiquette is for walking, gesturing, or sitting with a cane when the cane is not just for medical purposes. How tall should a "decorative" costume cane be? Is it proper to hold it off the ground when one is not walking with it, to gesture with it, etc?

Yes, I realise this fashion statement of mine is far from mainstream (at least here in America), but maybe you or your British readers might be able to give me a hint or two?
Anyone, anyone at all? Maybe we can start a trend.

Thursday, December 27


Merry Christmas!

... from the pope!

Did he really use Esperanto??

Sunday, December 23


Is Britain a Catholic Country?

On the one hand, for the first time since the Reformation, there are more weekly attendees of Catholic services than Anglican services.

But, on the other hand, as one of the commenters on the above news article points out,
"From a population of 50 million, a grand total of 1.5 million Catholics and Protestants go to church. Ten times as many watched Strictly Come Dancing last night."

On the third hand, it's still rather fun (would they say "cheeky"?) to propose the following definition of the English Reformation:
"A period of approximately five centuries during which attendance at a nationalized church surpassed that of Churches in union with the Roman see."

Thursday, December 20


Your Bible Says What?

This definitely falls in the category of things I couldn't have made up...

It's amazing how God used a monkish scribe some 13 centuries ago who broke the Scriptures into chapter numbers in order to designate a strip of asphalt as holy. Because really, that monk should get all the credit. But, well, whatever.

Wednesday, December 19


A Cross Stands at the End of Europe

A view of the Calvary set up on the extreme western tip of Ireland, quite literally the end of Europe, photographed by the author last July.


Some Art Deco Gothic for Your Aedification

Our Lady of Refuge, Brooklyn, from a visit last winter; note, below, the large disc-shaped metal Stations of the Cross and all-brick interior.


Infant of Prague Redux

If I hear one person make another crack about frilly Baroque prelates looking like the Infant of Prague, a) remember I like medieval vestments and Baroque art, not the other way round, and b) read this story, passed onto us by alert commenter Sacerdos in Aeternum, and remember the main actor in this anecdote was actually a Protestant minister:
My favorite story of non-Catholics' fascination with Catholic vesture involves a certain clerical atelier in a large Midwestern city. A man came in and he wanted to order a vestment -- he was a minister and he wanted to make a good impression on his congregation. They showed him all over the store. They showed him chasubles, and stoles, albs, surplices, rochets, and copes. They showed him cassocks and simars, Bernardin polyester, faile and silk brocade. He was never satisfied, and kept trying to describe for them what he was lookin for. Finally, a curiosity caught his eye -- a little figure in the corner by the window -- it was the Infant of Prague -- this minister wanted to commission the tailor to make him a human-sized "Praguewear", complete with frilly cuffs and exaggerated Elvis collar and all!
The mind reels. On the other hand, it would have probably made Zwingli cry, so maybe it's not such a bad idea after all.

And Do The Papal Paratroops Yell "Hieronymus!" When They Jump Out of Planes?

Alert reader and Jeopardy star Rob mentions that some days back, the Final Jeopardy Question (or Answer, whatever) on, of course, Jeopardy was the following:
19th Century Names

A: He got his name because Mexican victims of his attacks would cry out in terror to St. Jerome.

Q: Who is Geronimo?
Our alert reader adds:
Now, there is a discussion on the Jeopardy Forum as to whether or not you would pick St. Jerome if you were beset by a group of angry Apaches. I say there are a whole host of intercessors I would rather call upon.

I also said I knew just the right group of POD Catholics to survey for this question.
Thoughts? And more importantly, anyone out there know whether this is true? Geronimo's given (if not technically Christian) name was Goyaałé, which, despite looking faintly Polish, means "One Who Yawns" in Chiricahua, and thus looks suspiciously easily for Hispanicization to Geronimo.

Dappled Things Update

Several bits of important business have come to my attention from Dappled Things. First, the magazine is expanding its range to include all emerging writers, young and old, rather than simply concentrating on the under-35 set. Head Honcho Bernardo Aparacio writes:
In order to safeguard this mission, we have followed the policy of only receiving submissions from contributors between the ages of 18 and 35. However, throughout the past two years we have received comments from many readers and potential contributors who wish Dappled Things would accept work from persons of any age. This desire is understandable, as there are almost no other venues that specialize in creative work inspired by the Catholic tradition. Still, we have hesitated to remove our age limits because we do not want a situation in which more experienced writers and artists crowd out those who are still at the start of their careers.

After much deliberation, we have concluded that opening up the magazine to creative Catholics of all ages need not undermine our mission. We will remain committed to seeking out and publishing the work of emerging writers and artists, but we will now welcome submissions without regard to a person's age. By doing this, we hope Dappled Things will become a locus of the best creative talent available within the English-speaking Church. We want Dappled Things to be a magazine of which the Church can be proud (in a completely non-sinful way, that is) and through which Catholics can offer an alternative to the often confused culture that surrounds them.

If "The Golden Compass" and "The DaVinci Code" are works that characterize the "wisdom" of our age, we hope that Dappled Things will become a venue where those with a more profound vision -- the Tolkiens, Lewises, Waughs, and O'Connors of the future -- will be able to become known and share their work with the world. So whether you are a reader seeking material that will enrich your mind, soul, and imagination, or a writer who hopes to share some truth and beauty with the world, we hope you will join the Dappled Things community. To submit your work, please visit our website for instructions.
Also, we have a whole new edition of the magazine chock-full of such emerging authors for your enjoyment:
It is a pleasure to inform you that the Advent/Christmas 2007 edition of Dappled Things has just been published online. Herewith a sampling of the excellent pieces that you will find in the new edition:

Our feature for this issue is Fr. James V. Schall's "The Truth of His Humanity," an article in which he ponders the birth of Christ and the significance of the fact that he was not only true God, but true man. This article, imbued with Fr. Schall's usual insight, is recommended reading for these final days of Advent. Through it, Fr. Schall wrestles with several important questions surrounding the Nativity:
If we wonder about the apparent slowness in spreading this Good News of the Incarnation and Nativity, we are tempted to question of the Father's schema for our redemption. Surely, it could have been a more "efficient," a more rapid, process. It seems to lack power and proper planning. It seems haphazard and not particularly effective for its apparent purpose, which had to do with going forth and teaching "all nations" the meaning of what transpired in these places.
Those who have been following the exploits of "J," the arrogant if witty protagonist of Eleanor Donlon's "Magdalen Montague" series, will be glad to know that we have published part III: "The Return to Magdalen Montague." "The Return" reveals a dramatic transformation in J's character. Readers will have to visit the website to find out what it is, but for the moment I give you his father's reaction to the change:
First he goggled. Then he stared. Soon he glowered… and he glared! Immediately following this lively display of emotion, he commenced sputtering like a frustrated kettle, his face turned a regal shade, and he swore at me soundly, starting with, "Damnation!" and concluding with a series of expletives beyond even my ken.
There's these, an expose of "The Dirty Linen of Literary Studies," some more poignant (if disturbing) work from the splendid poet Gabriel Olearnik, an article about a parish in which Latin Rite and Eastern Catholic communities worship under the same roof, a beautiful oil painting inspired by the life of St. Josephine Bakhita (the saint recently mentioned in Pope Benedict's encyclical, Spe Salvi), as well as more excellent fiction pieces, essays, poems, and works of art. Enjoy!


I'm very disappointed to announce that, unlike last year, I have not been named Time's Man of the Year.

Rather than attempting a second time to be relevant to me by pandering to my ego, the magazine sadly choose Putin instead.

There's always next year!

Tuesday, December 18


Sorry, Philip Pullman...'re no Dan Brown.

(Was that too harsh?)

Another Young Order Builds Another Cool Monastery

I didn't even know there was such a thing as Norbertine nuns!

Overheard on the Subway

Slightly Shopworn Youngish Female Person: (Out of the blue.) What's your job? I mean, what do you do?
Big Bald Well-Groomed Middle-Aged Man: Um, I'm a lawyer.
Slightly Shopworn Female Young Person: (Goes on, as if this is normal, despite the fact they're sitting about six feet apart with the subway doors between them.) I was thinking about how to get a talk show. Well, not a talk show, you know. You know anything about this?
Big Bald Well-Groomed Middle-Aged Man: (Hugs his valise a bit closer) No.
Slightly Shopworn Youngish Female Person: Maybe like public access. You know.
Big Bald Well-Groomed Middle-Aged Man: I guess that's the way to do it. (Train stops, doors open, gets off train.)

And then I pray that she doesn't notice me, either.

Nepalese Airline Sacrifices Goat to Appease Sky God

Read more here.

You know, I can kind of respect that. Of course, it's pagan, and I'm not entirely sure I'd like to be invited to the celebratory barbecue afterwards (1 Corinthians 10:28, plus I'm not a big goat meat fan), but still, I imagine if I were from Nepal*, it'd be what I'd do in a similar situation. (It's the Hindu equivalent of POD.) It's It makes me wish, though, for headlines like "Failing Polish Airline Offers Novena to St. Joseph of Cupertino" or "Air Malta** Makes Our Lady of the Airways Honorary Pilot." I'm sure she'd like the hat.

*A place in dire enough straights since their Royal family turned into a soap opera, and a Univision soap opera at that, with some garnishings of the French Revolution laid on for seasoning.

**Official Motto: "Making Poland look lukewarm since 1530." Heck, they make the Vatican look lukewarm on good days.

Saturday, December 15


Mouse Hunt, Pars Secunda

For those of you who have been making inquiries, I have not had the apartment fumigated (with incense) nor exorcised by my parish priest, nor have I bought a cat. I don't really trust them, anyway. My grandmother had one, Min-Min, that made friends with the mouse it had been sent to kill, in approved Disney-movie fashion, so I tend to be suspicious. The glue-traps stand empty, and I've not heard any suspicious scurryings, so either they're ninja mice with the Zen power of invisibility, or they took one look at a bleary, pyjama-wearing, prayerbook-waving weirdo with an iron candlestick in one hand and have run off in sheer terror.

In any case, I don't have to look or see the disgusting little animalcules, so case, closed, for the moment, anyway.

Could It Be?

Incidentally, while browsing around the home of the legendary impressively-tufted cardinalatial zuchetto, I came across a photo of, of a truly bizarre item, a white brocade biretta decorated with gold embroidery, an item of headgear never authorized to any rank of cleric within the Catholic Church. The captions are in German, so they remain a mystery to me, and while I don't want to resurrect that whole "what would Our Lord wear if He attended mass in choro" debate (it was a joke, people), I secretly suspect this may in fact be God's own personal hat.

Because a gold-embroidered brocade biretta would just be, you know, tacky, on anyone else.

In Case You Were Wondering

"[Maurice Roy] Ridley was also reputedly the only priest of the Church of England ever to celebrate mass while wearing a monocle."

More on the chap who inspired Lord Peter Wimsey's foolish good looks here. Sadly, no photos, though.

Now That The Golden Compass Has Gone, Via Box Office Disaster, From Wicked to Sad and Kind of Pathetic, a Caption Contest

The Magisterium has replaced Phil Pullman's coffee with Folger's Crystals. Let's see if he notices.

Wednesday, December 12


Pope "Not Condemning, Just Saying"

Let's play, "Strike Out the Mean-Spirited Buzz-Words from British Media Coverage of the Papacy"!

Pope Benedict XVI has launched a surprise [commentary] on climate change prophets of doom, [suggesting] that solutions to global warming [should] be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.

The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics [who are all going to eat you] suggested that [concerns] over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters [might be exaggerated].

The German-born Pontiff [who is going to bomb London] said that while some concerns [are] valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.

His remarks will be made in his annual message for World Peace Day on January 1, but they were released as delegates from all over the world convened on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali for UN climate change talks.

The 80-year-old Pope said the world needed to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind.

"Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow," he said in the message entitled "The Human Family, A Community of Peace".

"It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances.

His remarks reveal that while the Pope acknowledges that problems may be associated with unbridled development and climate change, he believes the case against global warming to be over-hyped. [blink] [blink] [No one who actually read the message, or even the quotes provided in the news story itself, would think this was an accurate one-sentence summary...]

[How can a country that large be so completely free of competent journalists, anyway?]

With thanks to this original article, which itself reads like a parody...

Tuesday, December 11


iFeliz dia de Lupita!

I once found fresh flowers in the snowbank on the morning of December 12.

In the Heavens, Mary commands the angels and the blessed. As a recompense for her profound humility, God has empowered her and commissioned her to fill with saints the empty thrones from which the apostate angels fell by pride. The will of the Most High, who exalts the humble, is that Heaven, earth, and Hell bend, with good will or bad will, to the commandments of the humble Mary, whom He has made sovereign of Heaven and earth, general of His armies, treasurer of his treasures, dispenser of His graces, worker of His greatest marvels, restorer of the human race, Mediatrix of men, the exterminator of the enemies of God, and the faithful companion of His grandeurs and triumphs!
- St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion, para. 28

Por supuesto, las Mananitas--

Monday, December 10


The world needs a few more of these:


The Giant Rat of Sumatra, a Tale for Which the World is Not Yet Ready

Currently at my apartment (also known as, a bit pompously, Monsalvat Castle, as a cheap apartment in Manhattan is as hard to find as the Holy Grail), we are facing a small mouse problem. Suffice to say, attempting to brain the poor sucker with a heavy iron candlestick is a no-go, because they're too darn quick. It may also be inhumane, but the whole Black Death thing has tended to innoculate me against too much pro-mouse sentiment. Plus, I hate Disney movies.

For those of you who doubtlessly picture me shrieking in terror, I have been very stoic throughout the whole process. Seeing foot-long rats in the subway has generally made me indifferent to a small furry blob about four inches long. That being said, I don't like the idea of subletting my apartment to Basil, unless he wants to start paying rent.

I have put down some glue traps, though I am not entirely sure what I will do if I catch any mice, given what is effectively mouse fly paper immobilizes your quarry without dispatching it. Clobbering it is disgusting and messy, except as a last resort, teaching it to squeak The Bells of St. Mary's is simply not going to happen, and throwing it out the window is likely to lead to pressed charges. After several email and phone conferences with my mother (my patient and extremely understanding post-collegiate crisis hotline/personal assistant/co-conspirator/editor/financial advisor/dispenser of smiles at just the right moment who I never thank nearly enough for all her help, support and advice) I've finally decided on an elaborate disposal procedure involving plastic bags, a down jacket, elbow-length rubber gloves, dumb luck, and a lot of running like heck.

So I was very amused this morning on the train to run across P.J. O'Rourke's own mouse-trapping advice in his hilarious if utterly useless Bachelor Home Companion:
I once lived in a house that had rats. I took a handful of diet pills and sat up all night with a bottle of whiskey and a pistol waiting for them to poke their heads out of the woodwork. By four A.M. I was seeing any number of rats, many of them Day-Glo orange and wearing ballet costumes. This technique is not very effective.

Traps are not very effective either. If you check on your rat traps in the middle of the night, you're liable to see the rats using them as Nautilus machines.

However, while researching this book I came across another method of getting rid of rats. It appears in a volume called Household Discoveries, Encyclopedia of Practical Recpies and Processes, by Sidney Morse, published in 1913. I have no idea if this works, but it does sound like fun:

Catch one or more rats in a wire cage. Take a pronged stick...wedge the folk just behind the animal's ears and pin him firmly to the floor. Roll a bit of newspaper into a tight cylinder, set fire to one end and with the lighted end singe the hair from his back... Fix a small paintbrush on a long stick...apply a coating of phosphoresent mixture, slightly warm, to the animal's back, and release him next to his hole. Just what impression is produced by what apepars to be the ghost of a departed rat reappearing in his own haunts would be hard to say, but those who have tried the experiment report that no rats remain in the vicinit to give an account of their sentiments.
Given the vaguely psychopathic nature of the procedure, as well as the host of unanswered metaphysical questions it answers, I'll decline, but if anyone out there is more desperate than I am--or has an inexplicable urge to mount an all-rodent production of Hamlet, feel free to try it out.

My own solution, on night 1 of Ratwatch was a bit less physical. After grabbing a candlestick in self-defense, I also immediately went for my copy of the '64 Roman Ritual and read out the portions of the wonderful Deprecatory Blessing Against Mice and Other Pests, with the very explicit curses and exorcism removed, as I figure it's better to leave that sort of thing to the clergy. The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia strongly discourages calling the wrath of God down without proper authorization, which is a good way to get into deep metaphysical excrement (mortal sin territory) with the Almighty. I'm serious, kids.

That being said, the prayers were interrupted with very loud golf-course word (a curse of a different sort, which I very seldom lapse into, let me say) when the darn thing scurried across the room. I mean, I'm only human, and I was also in my pyjamas, which does nothing for your dignity.

It is interesting to note that, except for that one horrible moment in the dark where I mistook the "Got Monks?" baseball cap on top of my lampshade for an enormous rat, they have not shown up again, barring some suspicious scratchings last Tuesday.

How I spent my Friday Night

My view from the pew wasn't nearly as good, though, as these fine shots from the Society of S. Hugh of Cluny. It's hard to see, but be sure to note, among many other things, Fr. R-- is wearing a striking apparelled alb in the true medieval fashion.


Saturday, December 8


Tonight on HWTN

8 PM. Saturday First Vespers Movie of the Week: The Pio-Benedictine Code. Procrastinating seminarian Tom Hanks rushes against time to finish reading for his Canon Law final, only to discover a nefarious cover-up hidden secretly in the footnotes of his textbook. Will Silas be able to reach him before he blabs the frightening truth that the progress-hating Gregory XVI was actually secretly married to Elizabeth Cady Stanton?

10 PM. Late Night Operetta: Sigmund Romberg's The Burgher King. Twenty years after The Student Prince, Karl Franz, now ruler of Karlsburg, has become thoroughly settled and bourgeois and all appears well until his two sons, Franz and Karl, discover him wandering the streets in a frightening plastic mask and paper birthday crown, peddling disgusting American fast food.

12 Midnight. Infomercial. Ultimate Ginsu Knives with Irene Adler and the Count von Kramm.

A Note on Noah Sealth (Chief Seattle), with some Irrelevant Yakov Smirnov References

No doubt you've seen those shirts, beloved of the granola-happy, with some sort of environmentalist slogan along the lines of "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth" (compare: "In Soviet Russia, party finds you")* ascribed to Chief Seattle. This is, as everyone knows, total hogwash, as the speech quoted was written down years after it was given; not only that, but the day it was given, it only made it into English after two layers of translators, and most modern versions of the speech are based on a squishy rewrite destined for a movie that was to be produced, by, of all things, the media wing of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What you don't know is that Seattle was, in fact, a baptized Catholic who received the name of Noah on his conversion. Whether or not it stuck is an open question, but at the very least the flowery references to his tribal gods in the purported speech need to be taken with a grain of salt. Who knew?

*What a country!

Friday, December 7



Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which, miraculously, has not been transferred by our bishops.

Therefore, at least in the United States, it is our patronal feast and a Holy Day of Obligation. A vigil Mass for the Second Sunday of Advent doesn't count for both the Immaculate Conception obligation and the Sunday obligation. (Read More)

Don't blow it!

Stanley Hauerwas’ Sermon for Reformation Sunday

I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do no understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.

For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgement of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.

Unfortunately, the Catholics are right....

Therefore Catholics understand the church’s unity as grounded in reality more determinative than our good feelings for one another. The office of Rome matters. For at least that office is a judgement on the church for our disunity. Surely it is the clear indication of the sin of the Reformation that we Protestants have not been able to resist nationalistic identifications.

Preach it, brother Hauerwas!

The full sermon is at Reformed Catholicism

Thursday, December 6


*Blink* *Blink*

An article on Indulgences... from BBC...

...that didn't contain any blatant errors or snide remarks.

They got it more or less right, and were more or less charitable.


For those who haven't heard, the Pope has granted a special indulgence for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes.

Ecce decretum.

Translation of relevant sections from Rorate Caeli

A. - if, from the 8th of the month of December 2007 to the entire 8th day of the same month of the next year of 2008, devoutly visit, preferably in the proposed order: 1. - the parish baptistery used for the baptism of Bernadette; 2.- the house called "cachot" of the Soubirous family; 3.- the Grotto of Massabielle; 4.- the chapel of the hospice, where Bernadette made her First Communion, and, at every time, remain for a certain amount of time in pious meditation, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and the jubilar prayer or other Marian invocation.

B.-if, from February 2, 2008, on the Presentation of the Lord, up to the complete day of February 11, 2008, in the liturgical memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes and 150th anniversary of the Apparition, devoutly visit, in any temple, oratory, grotto, or decorous place, the blessed image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, solemnly exposed to public veneration, and take part before the same image in a pious exercise of Marian devotion, or at least remain for a certain amount of time in pious meditation, concluding with the Lord's Prayer, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and a Marian invocation.

C.- The aged, the infirm, and all those who, for legitimate reason, cannot leave their house, may also achieve, in their own house or there where the impediment retains them, the plenary indulgence, if, in the days of February 2-11, 2008, with the rejection of every sin and the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three conditions, spiritually accomplish, with desire of heart a visit, (to the aforemention places), recite the aforementioned prayers and offer the infirmities and discomforts of their lives faithfully to God through Mary.

If I am at Notre Dame between Feb. 2-11, I know what I would do. And I would use the Athanasian Creed.

French Readers?

I'm wondering if anyone can help me here:

La chapelle du Bon Pasteur, dans la rue Daire à Amiens, était la propriété du Conseil régional, qui a décidé d’en changer l’affectation pour pouvoir la transformer en crèche.

From this story of how a group of effectively-schismatic Christians were kicked out of a state-owned church building.

So, a year ago, the regional government turned the church a "creche." What does this mean? A Christmas nativity scene? But then, why is it necessary for them to use it all year long? Or can "creche" mean something like a day-care? Can that be true? I know the French government owns all the historic churches in France, but I assumed that they had agreed to let the Catholics use those churches. Can they really assign church buildings to secular uses like that?

He's Right, You Know

"No small part of why I have kept banging away on Catholic excuse-makers for torture is the simple fact that to endorse torture is to do nothing less than give up on Jesus."

- Mark Shea, on how American Compassion lead a Muslim Woman to the Church

Does the Horn Play "Ave Maria"?

New Popemobile

Pope Benedict XVI now has a new set of wheels for his weekly public address on St. Peter's Square - a shiny Vaticanmystic white open-top G-Class.


Mercedes-Benz regularly provides the Vatican with vehicles converted for the use of the Pope since Pius XI first received a Nurburg 460 Pullman limousine as his official car in 1930.

I think it would be really cool if only clerics ordained to the minor order of "porter" were allowed to drive the pope's car. How awesome would that be?

IMHO, Mercedes-Benz should role out a "V-Class" line of autos to the public, which come in Vatican colors and have the Pope's crest imprinted in the leather seats. Standard. The upgraded version comes with Diocesan Position Service, which lists the locations of the nearest Masses, and the roof of the car is lined in watered silk

Somehow, I'm reminded of our plans for the Vatican's airport, complete with deacons chanting "Ite, Missa Est" at the ends of the moving walkways.

An Ambrosian Anecdote

From Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, p. 312, citing the Tablet, 4 Sept. 1954:

"It is surprising how ignorant the general public is concerning the Ambrosian rite, and we learn that on the visit of Mussolini to the Cardinal [presumably Dom Ildefonso Schuster] two days before his murder (25 April 1945), the fallen dictator inquired whether the Ambrosian rite implied any doctrinal conflict with the Roman rite, and was surprised when he was told it did not. This was a strange question, as the Cardinal remarked, for one who controlled the destinies of Catholic Italy."

St. Nicholas's Day: Naughty or Nice

A particular shout-out to all our readers in the pious and God-protected city of New York (look, I can dream) on this feast of the favorite saint of Niuew Amsterdam, the tough, miracle-working Middle Eastern bishop who inexplicably is now depicted in America as a tubby old white guy with a wife and who dispenses gifts to good children rather than slaps to heresiarchs. (See above, St. Nicholas strikes the arch-heretic Arius, shown screaming like a little girly-man, at the Council of Nicaea.)


St. Nicholas is also patron of Greece, Russia, the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Lorraine, the Diocese of Liège; many cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium; Campen in the Netherlands; Corfu in Greece; Freiburg in Switzerland; and Moscow in Russia; mariners, merchants, bakers, travellers, children, archers, Greek students, the abovementioned Nieuw Amsterdam (proclaimed as such by the New-York Historical Society in 1809), and Beit Jala in the West Bank.

The legendary Dutch gift-giver Sinter Klaas is believed to live in Spain, rather than the North Pole, due to an erroneous connection between his iconographic three sacks of gold and oranges, which, as everyone knows, come from Spain.

Other auctoritees state St. Nicholas lives with a bunch of short freaks in the "Santa Claus and His Old Lady Commune," where they consume brownies with very peculiar side affects.*

*Don't ask, really, don't ask.


The origin of all those wonderful paintngs of St. Nicholas that show him flying like Superman to the rescue. From Caxton's Englishing of the Golden Legend:
It is read in a chronicle that, the blessed Nicholas was at the Council of Nice [sic]; and on a day,as a ship with mariners were in perishing on the sea, they prayed and required devoutly Nicholas, servant of God, saying: If those things that we have heard of thee said be true, prove them now. And anon a man appeared in his likeness, and said: Lo! see ye me not? ye called me, and then he began to help them in their exploit of the sea, and anon the tempest ceased. And when they were come to his church, they knew him without any man to show him to them, and yet they had never seen him. And then they thanked God and him of their deliverance. And he bade them to attribute it to the mercy of God, and to their belief, and nothing to his merits.
Padre Pio once did something similar but it involved him flying through the air to have a little word with the pilot of a plane trying to bomb San Giovanni Rotondo.


Stained-glass by Martin Travers:

Another charming illustration by this artist shows the saint sailing in a wonderfully frilly galleon with a gigantic "N" monogram on the stern.


More St. Nicholas stained glass here, courtesy of the St. Nicholas Center.


From the website of the Coptic Orthodox Church Network:
He was cast into prison during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian, but even there continued to instruct the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 325, and, in his zeal, struck Arius with his hand. For this act, he was removed from the Council and from his episcopal duties [don't try this at home, kids], until some of the chief hierarchs had a vision of our Lord Christ and His most holy Mother showing their sympathy with Nicholas.
I read somewhere it actually brought forth a "profusion of blood." As the our friends the Churchladies say, being good does not necessarily entail being nice.


Demre, the modern town built near Myra, once had a statue of St. Nicholas donated by the Russian federal government in its main square. In 2005, it was replaced by mayor Suleiman Topcu with a plastic figure of a strange white-bearded man in a fur-trimmed red suit known locally as Noel Baba. The Russian statue now stands somewhat forlornly, as a concession to Moscow, in the ruins of the nearby church of St. Nicholas.


Even to this day, St. Nicholas's tomb (hijacked from Turkey by Italian merchants working in the grand tradition of furta sacra) leaks an oily substance called manna, which is actually not that unusual in terms of saintly phenomena, being also ascribed to St. Walburga, Bl. Gundekar of Eichstädt, the martyr St. Glyceria, St. Sigolena, and St. William of York, among a long laundry-list of others.

Tuesday, December 4


Continuing the Churchlady Meme

Here's a logo I recently devised for the Facebook spinoff group of the Pious Sodality of Churchladies. It's essentially the Notre Dame branch, a slightly different--if overlapping--organization from the Pious Sodality in its weblog incarnation, but still a fun bunch of gals. I post it here for their aedification and your amusement, or vice-versa.

What the (Liturgical) Heck?

It pains me to admit this, but for the time being it appears the Whapsters are stumped. A dear friend of the Shrine emailed us this picture earlier this week, and wanted to know if we could identify who these strangely-dressed folk are, or what they might be doing.

The location is the cathedral in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and based on the priest in the photo, identified as one Msgr. Conroy, and the state of the altar behind the group that it must be somewhere between 1921 and 1933. Our best guess is they're some sort of local sodality--but such extravagant costumes indicate there must be something more to it than that. We've got a braintrust of several eminent churchladies, a bunch of liturgy nerds, a seminarian and one wisecracking Dominican novice working on this as we speak.

Some (often contradictory) thoughts based on our recent conversations:

- The little kids are boys, despite their fancy-pants getup (cf. Buster Brown and most instances of period childrens' fashion).

- The costumes resemble vaguely a group of choirboys in Seville Cathedral called the "Seises" or "Sixes" (both include plumed hats and pseudo-Renaissance getup.)

- The group is from a parish play or theatrical production (sed contra: why are they lined up in front of the altar?).

- The boys are carrying canes, not swords.
- The box is a reliquary (the woman is wearing gloves to handle a sacred object.)

- The box is a stage prop (the ornamentation is too generic/crude in quality and the box too casually held. Sed contra: she may simply not know how to hold the box properly).

- The box has the arms of Florence on it.

-The box has generic fake heraldry on it.

- The woman is not dressed as a saint, because her clothing is too fashionable.

- The woman is not a May Queen because she has no crown and white gown.

- But the children might be some sort of escort or court.

- The woman is wearing some sort of uniform, because, while fairly modish, her clothing is nonetheless distinctly unusual, and being made almost wholly of velvet, impractical and heavy.

- The black color of the woman's garb may be related to the whole custom of pious women (especially like those who are in the various papal or chivalric orders) wearing black to church.

- There is a rosary hanging out of the box (or not, it's hard to tell.)

- The fact that a woman is standing on the altar steps, in the sanctuary, in the 1920s, indicates something very exceptional and unusual has occurred for her to be there.

- The photo is of the aftermath of a parish pageant.

Less seriously, we also threw out:

- The photo shows the annual Lolipop Guild Mass.

- The woman is wearing the summer choir-dress of the Pious Sodality of Churchladies. (Okay, it's all velvet but surely the winter version must have ermine somewhere!)

Anyway, I'm stymied. And while I prudentially question the value of dressing up little boys that way (or at the very least give them a proper sword if you do!). If, say, they were dressed as Papal Chamberlains, 18th century aristocrats or mini-Julius II, that'd be different. But I generally think shiny Mary Janes are better left to churchladies, Alice Liddell and Christopher Columbus. But I will gladly admit the mystery lady in the center, velvet, beret, gloves, train and all, is quite snazzy.

Sunday, December 2


The Pious Sodality of Church Ladies

Although it's already been mentioned on this blog before, the Pious Sodality of Church Ladies desires another mention.

The blog description itself is braggable:

A place for the Pious Sodality of Church Ladies to exchange such pieces of feminine genius as are useful to their craft.

Tip of an impressively tufted cardinalatial zuchetto to Lux Aeternitatis

Saturday, December 1


What Would Groucho Do?

Since, once again, we've been stuck with being the bad guys, I suggest that henceforth every time we mention the word "Magisterium," we follow it up with some suitably creepy arm-waves and the words "Boogie boogie boogie!"

The Golden Compass: Nobody Expects the Genevan Inquisition

I was planning to do a longer post on this latest bit of cinematic anti-Catholicism, but it looks like it's going to be a very full day for me*, so just a few brief notes to get the comboxes going.

By way of background, I actually read the first book in Pullman's trilogy some years back, because it had been presented to me as an alternate-history book, a genre I was heavily into at the time and still rather enjoy. As a realistic take on an alternate universe I was disappointed by the magic and goofy history (come now, Pope John Calvin? Givest thou me a break) and set it aside with a sigh and went on with life. It seemed to me garden-variety anti-Catholicism and I didn't give it a second thought. That being said, as a work of fantasy, if not strictly realistic, it seemed reasonably well-written. I later discovered the second two volumes were steeped in a bizarre and sadly embittered anti-Theism.

Like most of these evangelical atheists who have the God bug, Pullman needs pity and prayer.

Executive summary of the trilogy for those of you in Rio Linda: Alternate universe, world dominated by weird Calvinist-Catholic hybrid religion; evil monks, assassin priests, (Father Gomez--jarring chord); scientist Lord Asriel waging war on God through a series of parallel worlds, except it's not God, it's a geriatric angel and somehow Metatron (the Jewish guy, not the Transformer) is pulling the strings; (boilerplate Gnostic mythological filler, blah, blah, blah); lapsed nun agnostic physicist; and then somehow some pre-teen kissing changes everything, God (or Whatever) dies, yay, Republic of Heaven; and everyone goes off to be good little atheists and work their hearts out for the common good. (Or, more realistically, they head off to Las Vegas.) I only read the first book and the summaries I've been given are as turgid as the 3rd and 4th Books of Esdras and equally weird, which I think has to do less with the abridgers than the Gnostic source material.

This is the problem--The Da Vinci Code was a laughable cartoon of a book, while Pullman's writing is at the least reasonably literary in quality and his anti-Catholicism (anti-Theism, really) is motivated less by silly plot considerations than by a deep animus against the Church. Plus, the movie looks seductively, irritatingly, horribly good, unlike the clunky schlockfest with Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou from last summer.

The books are not fit for kids, and I'm not entirely sure a good Catholic adult would find them anything but infuriating. The movie--well, the line a lot of people have been taking is, oh, the studio said they were toning it down, Nicole Kidman's a good Catholic, she wouldn't be in anything like that, &c., &c., and that the danger is the kids will see the movie and then want the books.

I think the movie itself isn't so immaculate, either. Miss Kidman is a fine actress and, for my money, one of the great beauties of the modern age (in my list, a bit behind Audrey Hepburn but at least one slot ahead of the ninth Duchess of Marlborough); I don't question her personal faith, not being in a position to get inside her head and start pulling levers, and am sure her involvement in the project was well-intentioned.

Still, it seems that at least by my own personal standards, the movie has not been toned-down nearly enough. Even the trailers are throwing around words like "Magisterium" and "heresy," and there's a few glimpses of guys running around in quasi-cassocks cut from Nazi-ish field grey cloth, and even what might have been a Swiss guard. Might the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem be a bit testy if they were talking about the Umma, the Khalifa and the like?

I read elsewhere that the Magisterium (note it's still called the Magisterium, not the Politburo, or the U.S. Senate, or the shadowy Derg of the People's Republic of Ethiopia) is, in the movie, not a parody of the Catholic Church, but represents "all dogmatic associations," and God and religion are presented under euphemisms. (My guess is this is why Mrs. Coulter snaps off some odd line in one trailer about "She has disobeyed the Authority!"--jarring chord--in reference, I suppose, to God.) It's not "anti-Catholic," just "anti-dogma." Ah yes. Translation: "We're not anti-Catholic, we don't like Protestants, Jews, Muslims or Hindus, either!"

I will never understand Hollywood.

*If you really must know, yes, yes, those morons at the General Oblation Board have screwed things up yet again and the Consistorial Court of Discipline insists I pop over to Geneva to knock some heads together.

Fr. James Coyle, Martyr of Alabama

From Wikipedia:
Coyle attended Mungret College in Limerick and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained a priest in Rome on May 30, 1896, aged 23.

He sailed later that year, with fellow priest, Father Michael Henry, to the port of Mobile, Alabama and served under Bishop Edward Allen. He became an instructor, and later rector, of the McGill Institute for Boys. In 1904 Bishop Allen appointed Coyle to succeed Patrick O'Reilly as pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Birmingham, where he was well-received and loved by the congregation.

Assassination and aftermath

Father Coyle was shot in the head on the porch of St. Paul's Rectory on August 11, 1921 by Methodist minister and Klansman E. R. Stephenson. The murder occurred only hours after Coyle officiated at a secret wedding between Stephenson's daughter, Ruth, and Pedro Gussman, a Puerto Rican who had met Ruth by doing work for Stephenson at his house and had been a customer of Stephenson's barber shop. Before the wedding, Ruth converted to Catholicism.

Stephenson was subsequently charged with Father Coyle's murder in an Alabama court. The Ku Klux Klan paid for the defense, a team of five lawyers (four of whom were Klan members). The case was assigned to the courtroom of Judge William E. Fort, a Klansman. Hugo Black, a future Justice of the Supreme Court (who would become a civil rights champion), defended Stephenson.


[B]y 1941, two decades later, a Catholic writer in Birmingham would write "...the death of Father Coyle was the climax of the anti-Catholic feeling in Alabama. After the trial there followed such revulsion of feeling among the right-minded who before had been bogged down in blindness and indifference that slowly and almost unnoticeably the Ku Klux Klan and their ilk began to lose favor among the people." (McGough - 1941)
Query: why is this man not been beatified?

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