Wednesday, January 30
The Three Holy Maidens, or, St. Barbara on the Western Front
(And, in the case of St. Barbara, practicioners of santería. Note to readers: it's one thing to have a statue of St. Barbara on a house, it's quite another to put a dollar bill, a glass of water, and an apple in front of it and call it Shango. Just letting you know.)
A certain skepticism about some of the wonkier historical details in their record is inevitable (and hardly blasphemous, in my mind), but, whatever their biographies, surely someone up there must be answering those prayers. In the end, their legends remind us of the very real presence of the miraculous, or even the merely wondrous in the world, and, especially in the case of St. Katherine, in some versions a queen-regnant with a brilliant mind and a considerable amount of "don't mess with me" attitude, the unique genius and even power of Catholic Woman. No pale churchmice they.
In the process of digging up images to use as prototypes, I came across a really splendid though rather odd image of Saint Barbara shown as the patron saint of artillery, done for a German imperial regiment during the First World War. (For the record, this does not imply that the Shrine endorses those gauche Hohenzollern upstarts; we all know the true ruler of Germany is Archduke Otto. But that's another story.) Because her dad got struck by lightning after lopping off her head, she tends to be associated with things that go boom inadvertently. She has given the name of santabárbara to the powder magazine of Spanish ships, which usually came equipped with a statue of her, a loving testament of devotion in a dangerous job. (Unfortunately, the cast of Mythbusters has not taken this sensible precaution, yet.)
Of course, it's a Bavarian regiment.
I don't think I will use this as a model for my own drawing of St. Barbara--I was hoping for something a bit more architectural, with her tower and chalice, and it wouldn't quite match the other drawings--but it's hard not to respect a saint wearing a trench helmet over her veil.
*While the Legenda Sanctorem does not record it, I have no doubt each one of them could have easily won the evening gown segment in the Miss Nicopolis AD 304 pageant.
Monday, January 28
'ere's no Nun like a Snow Nun!
Sunday, January 27
A Brief Exchange
Myself: "That was a good job. It seemed like you really had things down pat."
Said brother: "Thanks!"
Sister: "Better watch it with the compliments; he'll develop ... an altar ego."
Saturday, January 26
Sunset at South Street Seaport, 6 January 2008
Weirdness in the East Village
Personally, I wonder if a combination bar and tattoo parlor would yield a higher number of sales.
The Infamous Simon Templar, Landlord. Not the halo.
Dan and I couldn't figure out what the deal was with this emblem bolted to a building down near Wall Street; while having little Latin and less Greek, I believe it had an inscription running something like "To virtue through suffering," and there was an IHS as well. It appears the building might be some sort of religious house.
And now, the piece of resistance.
(If your name is P.D.Q., you'll get it.)
Friday, January 25
Adrian Monk: Very briefly.
Thursday, January 24
A Mighty Snow Fort Is Our God
(Source; More Pictures)
Most churches in Europe are built for the ages. But not the new house of God erected in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. In fact, it'll probably melt away before May.
Ancient cathedrals are often rather chilly. But a new church built in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania -- and consecrated on Sunday -- promises to be downright frigid. It was constructed entirely out of blocks of ice.
The church comes with carved ice crucifix, statue of Mary, ice pews, ice altar, and a serious cache of ice-centered snowballs to fight off hordes of attacking Vikings*.
This is awesome. If liturgically dubious.
* Not really.
The Russian Orthodox Church has rejected an invitation from the Vatican for the Patriarch of Moscow and primate of the Russian church to visit Rome, Interfax news agency reported Thursday. A trip by Alexi II to Rome in June would be premature, said the cleric responsible for the foreign relations of the Patriarchate, Igor Vyshanov.
The "delicate topic" of a meeting between the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, and Alexi II would require serious discussions between both sides.
The Russians consistently say that more discussion is necessary, but when and between whom does this discussion ever occur?
Wednesday, January 23
Proclamations of Mystery
"I put the word 'explanation' in quotation marks because it's not really an explanation at all but the statement of a mystery. In fact, all those complicated doctrinal definitions and impassioned disputes over words in the history of the Catholic Church are not what they seem to people: attempts to 'put God in a box.' What they are is proclamations--announcements of what God has revealed."
--from Marilyn Prever, "Shouldn't Religion be Simple?: A Housewife Dabbles in the Theology of the Trinity." Second Spring, vol. 9.
Tuesday, January 22
New Drawing: Our Lady of Lourdes
Matthew Alderman. Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception. 4" x 6". Ink on Vellum, January 2008. Private Collection, New York City.*
*Okay, maybe it sounds a little pretentious. But I was recently commissioned to do a drawing that will hang in a church narthex, so arguably that could be considered public.
Monday, January 21
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - "I Have a Dream"
Holidays have meaning, and they were created to sustain and promote the memory of that to which they are dedicated.
Particularly today, which is dedicated to the equal dignity of all human beings, take a moment to meditate on the central essence of the holiday. Its central conviction, that, flowing from the common Father we all share, all humanity is equal before Him, is a uniquely Christian conviction, and a beautiful demonstration of the actions that flow so necessarily from the Christian conviction.
Watch the video.
Sunday, January 20
An Original Angle
Smug Young Female Grad Student: You know that Tom Hanks movie, you know, the one with that no-talent French girl...Several points:
Incrementally Less Smug Young Male Grad Student: Uhn, yeah, I know what you mean...
Smug Young Female Grad Student: Something to do with Da Vinci. The Da Vinci Code.
Incrementally Less Smug Young Male Grad Student: Oh, yeah, of course.
Smug Young Female Grad Student: It was so hyped, and it was so ridiculous. I refused to see it. I refused to even read the book. I mean, I've had enough Catholic garbage to last a lifetime.
1. Da Vinci literally means, "from Vinci."
2. Clearly, Dan Brown has gone the way of Zontar the Thing From Venus and Puma Man, if we're having trouble remembering the name of the book and movie.
3. Only in Manhattan would anyone object that The Da Vinci Code had too much Catholic content.
4. Speaking as a proud purveyor of Catholic garbage, unless she grew up in the St. Cornelius Jansen Home For Wayward Hussies and Trollops, getting whacked hourly by those scary nuns with rulers, I severely doubt that the usual pre-pubescent brush with "If you were a monotreme, what sort of monotreme would you be"-style catechesis we all suffered through*, would have left her with a lifetime's worth of religious issues to sort through.
5. Memo to lazy cultural Catholics out there: claiming you were traumatized by the sisters is no longer washing as an excuse, unless you have a problem with left-wingers in polyester.
6. In that vein, could Alex P. Keaton be the unintended consequences of the warm-fuzzy curriculm at St. Astrodome's Parochial School?
7. And, is the Catholic Garbage Disposal the same thing as a sacrarium?
*Either that, or they showed you the movie about that grandmother and her egg-bread recipe. I'm still scratching my head over that.
Friday, January 18
Fort Wayne Mystery Photo Saga Continues
I was checking our referrals the other afternoon on Haloscan (yes, your Reverence, I will say Cardinal Merry del Val's Litany of Humility as a pennance, but in my defense it was more boredom than pride) and it came out that someone over at the Ship of Fools Forum had posted a link to our Fort Wayne Cathedral mystery photo--except it had popped up on something called the A Dress a Day Blog, how, I'm not entirely sure. The discussion on Ship of Fools* seems to have revolved around the questionable sex** of the participants and descended into snarkiness, but the A Dress a Day blog post that it links to generated a whopping 112 responses which I have yet to sift through.
For those of you arriving late, or from Rio Linda, (Edward Herrmann voice on) Previously On The Shrine, the Whapsters were sent a photo from the Fort Wayne Cathedral archives of a young girl holding some sort of reliquary box, surrounded by small children of indeterminate sex wearing page costumes, and nobody has a clue what the heck it represents. (/Herrmann off.)
*Please ignore the stupid logo in the top corner of the Ship of Fools web forum page. I have no idea who thought that was funny.
** Even though it may offend the prudish, I refuse to use the silly word "gender" to refer to people, since it's supposed to be a changeable construct or something, and that makes me nervous as the usual way to change that particular construct involves very sharp knives and Origen. Words have gender. People have sex. (Don't laugh.) Now, go and cover your piano legs if you have a problem.
Thursday, January 17
Hating on Don Ottavio
One of the local PBS stations ran that German production of Don Giovanni, with Thomas Allen as the Don. Enthusing about it to a friend the next day, I launched myself into an impromptu "Il mio tesoro" (the opera's best-known aria) [?!! - ed.]*. "I hate that aria," sniffed my friend. "In fact, I hate Don Ottavio. He's sappy."Finally, someone's said it. Does anyone else hate Don Ottavio like I do? The man's a cardboard cutout. Give me Leoporello and his sybaritic master anytime. At least they get their comeuppance in the end, while Don Ottavio is such a gelding he sits there without as much as a dismayed splutter while his beloved decides to unilaterally postpone their wedding by a whole year. On the other hand, maybe that's the point.
*What's Deh, vieni alla finestra, chopped liver?
Putin: Government will Repay Churches
I don't know if the Catholic Church is considered a "traditional denomination" in Russia, but it's an interesting report either way.
An A-Typical Headline?
Headlines say that all the time, although I have met remarkably few (if any) dissidents upon whom a church has "cracked-down," despite the amazing preponderance of this rhetorical formula.
So how could that trope possibly be a-typical?
Episcopal church cracks down on dissidents!
Did you ever think you'd see that??
Wednesday, January 16
Somehow this flew beneath my amazing Trid-dar (my ability to tell if someone is saying Incensum istud a te benedictum within a mile's distance), but there's a very fine article in Notre Dame Magazine about the return of the Tridentine Mass to campus. I may have not been there to witness it, but it's just another aspect of the long, gradual move towards a greater engagement with traditional liturgy and customs that my friends (and when I had time, I) helped in small ways to foster during our time on campus. Its continued health cheers me tremendously.
Incidentally, I was told, in passing, by a friend visiting from the school that the Mass is now a missa cantata rather than a simple Low Mass, though I'd be curious if anyone could confirm this. I'm also told it continues to be well-attended.
My only remark is the first paragraph of the article plays up the "diversity" angle a little too much (describing campus masses of both forms as drawing on "a sampler box of musical styles and aesthetic surroundings"). Don't panic, my dear readers, you shouldn't take that to mean Notre Dame is a liturgical cafeteria! We do have standards. While there's many different ways the mass is celebrated on campus at Notre Dame (some of which I prefer more than others, and some of which may be closer to the ideal than others), on the whole, the masses sponsored by the Basilica and Campus Ministry have long had a consistently good level of reverence and technical skill in music and execution; as Fr. Ayo says in the article, "If we’re going to do it at Notre Dame, we’re going to do it right." And it seems that's exactly what they're doing.
An Interesting Instance of Inculturation
Our Lady of Lavang Parish, Houston. The quality of materials and detailing has, unfortunately, suffered due to budget constraints and the hiring of an architect (presumably) unfamiliar with traditional design, but on the whole, the composition is quite intriguing as it clearly keeps the proper volumetric qualities of a traditional church design while incorporating both western and eastern elements. The $64,000 question is, however, what does the interior look like?
Tuesday, January 15
"Gee, I have all this money and no way to promote liturgical renewal! Woe is me!"
The Shrine has been made aware of a liturgical request from a Midwestern diocese looking for the following items. Due to financial constraints, they can't responsibly purchase these items on their own anytime soon, yet will be needing them in the near future.
(1) A 2002 Roman Missal, in Latin (perhaps this or the much nicer this, though a used one in presentable condition would also be very welcomed.)
(2) Six (though, they would prefer seven!) nice, rather ornate altar candlesticks, with, if possible, matching crucifix. (Candlesticks can run $100 to $800 a piece when new, but can also be bought individually; again, a presentable used set would also be very welcome.)
We are assured that all items will be put to good use, including possible future use even in pontifical liturgies.
It would be the most concrete way you can help advance Benedict's liturgical renewal that I can think of! (...of which I can think?)
Our contact information is in the side-bar; email any of us, and we'll put you in touch with the liturgy office itself.
Stepan Shukhvostov (1821-1908). The Church of St. Alexis in the Chudov Monastery of the Moscow Kremlin (1866).
And Now, For Some Shameless Self-Promotion
A book review I wrote of the excellent Sir Ninian Comper: An Introduction to His Life and Work by the Jesuit architectural scholar Fr. Anthony Symondson appears in the January/February 2008 edition of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity under the snappy title "Knight and Dei," which was suggested by none other than St. Blog's own headline maven, Dawn Eden. You'll find it on p. 42-43. Fr. Symondson's work also fills a vast gap in our understanding of sacred architecture, as Sir Ninian Comper, the brilliant British liturgical planner, church furnisher and architect, is even more forgotten than Cram in some quarters, and was not as extensively published during his own lifetime. We are treated to a wonderful selection of vintage architectural photographs, as well as Comper's own theories of liturgy and Christian art, developed independently of the continental Liturgical Movement and drawing on the vitality of Christian antiquity without lapsing into mere archaeologism. This edition of Touchstone also features a wealth of articles on family life, including an exposition of St. Chrysostom's marital theology, that are definitely worth your time.
A drawing I did of St. Irene of Chalcedon appears on p. 24 of Volume 9 of Second Spring: An International Journal of Faith and Culture, as a (very small) part of their wonderful Genius of Women issue, featuring all manner of marvelous articles about a truly Christian approach to the feminine genius, including titles such as "The Genius of Women through the Ages," "Made of Glass"--a disquisition on the depiction of feminine virtue in Don Quixote, "Integrating Mothering," and my favorite, "Shouldn't Religion Be Simple?" that shows us that to get to the simple bits you have to figure out all those complex part first.
Monday, January 14
Matthew Alderman. S. Victoria of Córdoba, Virgin and Martyr. Ink on Vellum, January 2008. Private Collection, New York. 4" x 6".
A Working Definition of "New York City"
Sunday, January 13
Private Mass with the Pope
Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Saturday, January 12
Do I Laugh, Cry or Implore God's Mercy?
"And this is the Annunciation, when she got knocked up."*
*I can't decide if this is worse than the catechism class I heard about when one of the kids asked "why Jesus had to get whacked."
Friday, January 11
Don't Worry, It Hasn't Been Syndicated on HWTN
"It is considered the father of Iranian TV comedy."Just savor it.
A Jesuit Army in Red Velvet Doublets
The Guaraní army had matured beyond recognition since [the defeat of the Brazilian slave-catchers at] Mboreré. Although it had been hired by Buenos Aires to fight English and Danish corsairs, as a military force it had grown a little plump. As a pageant, it was superbly fluffy. At its head rode the officers in red velvet doublets, trimmed with lace and ostrich feathers. Then came the alcaides [sic?], in short breeches of yellow satin, and the sergeants in scarlet suits and silver waistcoats. The soldiers followed, soaked in color and armed with spears, bolas, and long English guns that needed rests to fire them. They carried the standard of their patron saint before them, to protect them from evil and shot.
[If anyone at Osprey Publishing is listening, I think Indian Soldiers of the Jesuit Republic would make a marvelous addition to your Men at Arms series.]
...In reality, there were few delights for the Guaraní commander, Ñeenguirú's grandson. "King Nicholas" well knew that wars were not won by fine tailoring, and had a premonition of disaster. He wrote his fairwells to the Society: "We are before God as we await are complete destruction...we will resist to the end."
It was not long in coming. Father Ennis stood among the flames and whirling metal, bellowing at his Indians in [execrable] Latin and Irish, but the colonial artillery was overwhelming. In the last set-piece, many of the Guaranís simply crossed their arms and waited for deliverance. In one hour, 1,500 Indians were exterminated. Their surivors took to guerilla warfare, bivouacking in the trees and cutting throats. By 1756, Ennis and King Nicholas were in chains, and the "Jesuit War" was over."
~John Gimlette. At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig: Travels through Paraguay, p. 288.
Incidentally, in my home town of Tallahassee, once the site of the Franciscan Mission San Luis de Talimali, a native confraternity would often supplement the Spanish garison, marching with their muskets under the banner of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is also instructive to note the establishment of the friary there came at the repeated requests of the Apalachee tribesmen, rather than over their protests.
Arthur Dent: Like a good-looking woman writing you a parking ticket.
~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Tertiary Phase
~ Evelyn Waugh
From a poem by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the Phoenix of Mexico:
The more grace prompts me
to move up to the heavenly sphere,
the more the weight of my wretchedness
casts me into the depths.
Virtue and custom
struggle in the heart
and the heart is in agony
while they do combat.
And however strong virtue be,
I fear it may be vanquished
since custom is very great
and virtue very green.
The intellect is clouded
in dark confusion.
Who can light the way
if reason itself is blind?
I am my executioner.
And myself's own prison.
Who saw that sin and suffering
are one and the same?
I am reluctant to do that thing
I most desire to do;
and for this reluctance
suffer the penalty.
I love God and sense myself in God,
but my very will makes
what is comfort, a cross,
what is haven, a storm.
Suffer, then, since God comands,
but let it be such,
that my sins bring suffering
not my suffering sin.
Thursday, January 10
Newsflash - Pope Still Looking Very Papal
Ecce sacerdos magnus, qui in diebus suis placuit Deo.
Ideo jurejurando fecit illum Dominus crescere in plebem suam.
Benedictionem omnium gentium dedit illi
et testamentum suum confirmavit super caput ejus.
Dominican Church Turned Into Bookshop - I Suppose It Could Be Worse
However, Merkx + Girod Architects (with their trendy little plus-sign instead of a proper ampersand--aren't we just twenty pounds of hipness in a nineteen-pound bag?) recently won an award for turning a Dominican church in Maastrict into a bookshop. I suppose, though, if we have to choose our poison, books are a fairly Dominican one. The irony is, the coffee-shop they've stuck in the apse, with its baldachin-like Close Encounters of the Third Kind corona lucis looks considerably more ecclesiastical than the usual Vosko-inspired coffee-tables we find in real, consecrated churches in our own country.
Also, and while most of the comments on the page linked here are typical adulation and conventional ingrown anticlericalism from the agnostic lumpenböhmisch*, the first posting is the perfect response.
*It's like the lumpenproletariat, but with headscarves, overpriced lofts and dangly earrings.
Irish Ecclesiastical Architecture, Part III
(Parts I & II, and views of Gallarus Oratory.)
St. John's Church, Tralee. An elegant essay in Irish neo-Gothic.
St. Mary's, Dingle. The curious roof was added about thirty to forty years ago.
Another view of the convent and St. Mary's, Dingle.
A church encountered on the road from Dingle back to Tralee.
Gothic Down Under
An interesting bit of unclassifiable early-twentieth-century Gothic (with perhaps more than a hint of Arts and Crafts), this photo shows the dining hall of Newman College, the Catholic residential college associated with the secular University of Melbourne, Australia. The building was designed by the talented but much-abused Walter Burley Griffin (Frank Lloyd Wright appears to have had some sort of weird vendetta against him), the Chicago-trained originator of Canberra's rich Garden-City style plan.
Monday, January 7
Stone carving from the Autun Cathedral in Burgundy.
(Why the three kings sleep with their crowns, or seem to be sharing a bed, I do not know.)
Sunday, January 6
Don't Blame Me!
Blame Mark Shea!
Friday, January 4
Benedict XVI: Affirmative Orthodoxy
By “affirmative orthodoxy,” I mean a tenacious defense of the core elements of classic Catholic doctrine, but presented in a relentlessly positive key. Benedict appears convinced that the gap between the faith and contemporary secular culture, which Paul VI called “the drama of our time,” has its roots in Europe dating from the Reformation, the Wars of Religion, and the Enlightenment, with a resulting tendency to see Christianity as a largely negative system of prohibitions and controls. In effect, Benedict's project is to reintroduce Christianity from the ground up, in terms of what it’s for rather than what it’s against.
But, read the whole thing.
This project by His Holiness is not new in 2007, but, from what I remember, began the very day of his Installation Mass, and was hit home very hard in his message to Dutch youth, that Christianity is not a list of prohibitions, but a Person, the loving God-Made-Man, Jesus Christ, and for this reason, it is a Joy to be a Christian.
Wednesday, January 2
Tridentine Wedding - Saturday January 5, 2008 [Date Updated]
*I have tried to use as many possible terms in this post for what is rapidly becoming the Mass with Too Many Names. It adds spice to life.
"Ancient Christmas ceremonies revived for this year's papal liturgy included the seldom-seen medieval game of Pontifical Peekaboo, formerly abolished by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1547 because Lutherans kept making fun of it."
That being said, we at the Shrine think in the better photos of the Urbi at Orbi blessing from this year, Pope Benedict was looking very papal indeed, and thank him for this little Christmas gift of splendor.