Wednesday, April 30
I Think Mine Would Be Gianlorenzo Bernini and Klemens von Metternich
Jack's Dad: It's pronounced "Don-a-fee," you lace-curtain half-an-Englishman!
Jack: When I think of all the things that I've been holding inside me that I wanted to say to you... [raises fists] Well now I'm gonna let "Saint Patrick" and "Saint Michael" DO MY TALKING FOR ME!
Jack's Dad: [raises fists] You'll have to get through "Tip O'Neill" and "Bobby Sands" first!
Eddie Donaghy: You call those fist names?! [raises fists] Say hello to "Bono" and "Sandra Day O'Connor!"
Jack: Those are the stupidest fist names I've ever heard.
~30 Rock, Episode 1.17, "The Fighting Irish"
These are Messed Up
Tuesday, April 29
New Dappled Things!
It is a pleasure to inform you that the Easter 2008 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 Matthew J. Milliner's "When the Eagles Don't Fit in Capistrano", an article that analyzes the recent history and present situation of art. Partly inspired by Jody Bottum's recently published essay, "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano", Milliner draws a clear portrait of art in general and liturgical art in particular from the "golden age" of the 1950s to the subsequent decline of art into nihilism. With so careful a consideration of the past in hand, Milliner does not neglect the future. I give you only a taste of his vision here:Our new scenario can prove true the folksinger's maxim that "all the roots grow deeper when it's dry." Without the listening ear of the art world, we are impelled to listen more deeply to our own Christian heritage. Alasdair MacIntyre ended his justly famous book After Virtue with a frankly monastic call, "We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another--doubtless very different--St. Benedict." And lo, our Benedict has come.The dangers of virtual reality and social networking sites are succinctly (and humorously) detailed in John Murphy's "Seek MySpace", an essay that begins with a comically self-deprecating account of the author's first introduction to the Facebook phenomenon--and how he was drawn towards it by overhearing that a pretty co-ed had "dated a bunch of guys" who Facebooked her:When a noun becomes a verb something is afoot. My curiosity was piqued. What did it mean to be "facebooked"? And how to quantify "a bunch"? She went on, "It's great, like, you get to see the guy's picture, his favorite music, movies, everything." I dared a glance over my shoulder. They were absorbed in a web page featuring a picture of a beaming young gent wearing the kind of tight-fitting shirt that shows bulging biceps to best advantage. I might have then glanced down at my own less impressive arms with a sigh, but I don't remember.We have a particularly fine sampling of fiction this issue, including Neil Brown's "The Sacred Way", a poignant tale of the deformed wounded of WWI. Soberly, unshrinkingly, and yet without the despair often characteristic of such stories, Brown explores the reality of war and of salvation:They made quite an interesting small community. Men with broken faces. One of them had a small block of wood that was fashioned as a chin. Another had a nose made of a small bit of iron. Gerard's nose had actually been made by a tinsmith whose expertise was tea sets. Guy was not alone with a leather patch on his face; there were a few of them. Some of them had several stitches that held together the last vestiges of their faces while others were missing parts of their bodies; Gerard counted himself fortunate that the shell had only taken his nose.The themes and setting of the Great War appear as well in the penultimate installment of Eleanor Donlon's "Magdalen Montague." In part IV, "The Disciple of Magdalen Montague", ten years have passed since the cessation of the correspondence between "J" and "R." "J" takes up his pen once more to articulate the struggles and frustrations of a new stage in his spiritual journey. The opening admissions of "J," astonishing and perplexing to "R", may not be so surprising to some of our readers:I am not "repressed and ashamed" and have not deliberately "concealed" my current abode. I think it is very likely that I am a "superstitious fool". I am, in any case, a willing "slave of the Scarlet Lady". Yes, I am at the College of St. Mary's at S-- and shall soon graduate from the ranks of "priestcraft" tutelage into full-fledged "Papist villainy". As for MM, you seem to think that all priests and nuns are massed together in a sort of underground network of infamy where I can "finally relieve" that "bizarre passion". I have not seen her, though she is present in my thoughts--not in the way you imagine...The impressive work of Gabriel Olearnik appears once again including the fascinating dramatic monologue "Languedoc". Other important features include the striking photography of Patrick Anderson, a chilling poetic exploration of the cleansing effects of the Enlightenment, a poignant testament to Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a beautiful image of Saint Lucy of Syracuse, an eloquent examination of grief, as well as many, many more excellent fiction pieces, essays, poems, and works of art. I hope you will enjoy the new issue!
Wishing you many blessings during this Easter season,
Giacomo Serpotta (1656-1732)
A seventeenth-century Sicilian sculptor and plasterer, called by Rudolf Wittkower, a "meteor in the Sicilian sky;" his stucco-work is characterized by the inventive playfulness of the era, combining a balletic lightness with a decorative elegance that is a pleasant contrast to the usual classical draperies we associate with the period; a wonderful vernacular sidelight on the Baroque. His most charming work are a series of ecclesiastical sculptures of allegorical figures of the virtues at the Oratory of San Domenico in Palermo, some of which are reproduced below, along with those at the Oratory of San Zita [sic], also in Palermo. Some may be surprised by the strutting modishness of some of the figures, particularly that of Fortitude, but such topical minor details are ultimately no more odd, if perhaps less familiar, than the medieval kirtles and jeweled crowns of so many Gothic depictions of Ursula, Katherine and the rest. The figure of Purity above is at the church of San Francesco di Paola in Trapani.
Monday, April 28
An Unusual Instance of Pre-Tridentine Inculturation
~Henry Kamen, Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763. Perennial, 2003.
Sunday, April 27
Benedict (thinking): Ah, keep smiling und perhaps zey vill cease zis display of the American disco inferno.
Saturday, April 26
Pope says Remissions Going Out Monday, Will Boost Salvific Economy
Critics said they were glad the remissions were about to go out, but suggested that multinational, corporately-backed structures of sin stood to benefit through the indulgences from an easing of conscience, making a trickle-down effect to the average layperson in the pew unlikely.
The salvation-economy stimulus package includes indulgences of 300 to 600 days, to be issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary to all faithful who made their Easter Duty by April 15. Those with lower numbers on their baptismal certificates will receive the indulgences first, reported analysts.
"The indulgences are going to help Catholics offset the increasing proximate occasions to sin we're seeing in hectic daily life, from children's tantrums at the grocery store to violations of the second commandment at the gas pump, and also to give the unfolding realization of the eschaton within our midst a boost to help us pull out of the recent uptick in secularism," explained Archbishop Qualcuno Italiano.
Archbishop Italiano has suggested the indulgences could trigger a piety spree. "When the remissions reach the Catholic people, we expect they will use it to boost Mass attendance, the offering-up of daily annoyances, and the production of spiritual bouquets," he said last month.
The salvific economy—burdened by the sluggish vocations, the abuse scandal, and now rising interest in second-rate atheistic literature—grew at 0.0093 percent from 2002 to 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Friday, April 25
Civilization Continues to Collapse Around Us
MAN: Ever read any Dave Barry?
YOUNG WOMAN: No, does he have a show?
Madonna and Child, 1907-1908, by Marianne Preindelsberger Stokes (1855-1927).
Chudov Monastery, Kremlin, an unusual instance of neo-Gothic Russian architecture. Later demolished by the Soviets in 1929.
Thursday, April 24
The Balloon Priest
(Okay, I will certainly pray for the good father's safety and/or his soul, and it is tragic, but, really, honestly, it does also seem like a rejected plotline from a Brazilian remake of Father Ted. Does no-one teach common sense in the seminaries these days?)
It's Coming: Tridentine Goodness in the Sunshine State
The mass will be at Sunday, June 8, 2008 at 2 PM at the co-cathedral. I do not know if it will be low or sung, though you can contact the organizer via the address given in the parish bulletin, available in .pdf form here.
As far as I know, up until this point in the diocese the Tridentine liturgy was available only in Pennsacola, about 200 miles east, or, if via the liturgical black market*, from a couple of sketchy fly-by-night schismatic (or just about) groups, one of which operated out of a strip mall for a while, so this is indeed a welcome development.
As with many of such events, I imagine this will be a bit of a trial run to gauge interest in the historic form of the Mass, so pack the place to the rafters. Even if it's not quite to your taste, it's the mass that thousands of saints were nurtured in, and is, as Dr. Will Miller might put it, a part of our Catholic heritage. (Sorry, extraneous Nick-at-Nite reference.) And for those of you who will be going to this for the first time, just try and keep your minds open, especially if it is a low or simple sung mass, essentially the equivalent of a daily Novus Ordo mass or an ordinary sunday liturgy. Let it form your prayer, however foreign it might seem, and see what happens next. The old mass rewards those who receive it with patience. The first time is always a bit of a shock (it was for me), but by the third time I assure you, you'll be hooked. I hope they will consider bringing it back at least one more time when the school year starts up again, as the co-cathedral has a marvelously vibrant student community. Certainly, I can say the Extraordinary Form has attracted a consistent following among the students at Notre Dame since its reintroduction last fall.
Also, all priests look like Jesus from the back.
*Think Via del Seminario in Rome, after dusk, and a young acolyte hears, "Psst! Hey kid, wanna buy a maniple?"
Is this a papal canopy I spy?
More photos, via the Kloskas, here, and via Lucy, here. And from Fr. Z. , here's an ideal to shoot for next year:
(A friend suggests, "They should rent out Swiss guards for parties and Corpus Christi processions.")
Traditionally, incidentally, great civil authorities would hold up the corners of the canopy when available. Altar boys will do, too, but do they have blackbelts in karate and awesome stripey outfits?
Wednesday, April 23
The Tangled Ritual Webs We Weave
Celtic Orthodox Church
Western Orthodox Church of America
Evangelical Orthodox Church
But, interestingly, it's a two way street.
There is the (in)famous conversion of the Patriarch of Constantinople Cyril Lucaris to Calvinism, unleasing 75 years of Eastern turmoil.*
Much more recent, however, is the "Ukrainian Lutheran Church."
Check out the Divine Liturgy of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church:
Pastor: Let us stand with dignity! Let us stand with fear! Let us meditate on the great Mystery of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Congregation: May our worship be filled with repentance, love, and peace.
Pastor: Let us lift up our hearts.
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord.
Pastor: Let us give thanks to the Lord.
Congregation: Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of heavenly hosts! Heaven and earth are full of your glory! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Salvation in the highest!
Pastor: With these blessed powers, O Master who loves mankind, we also cry aloud and say: You are indeed holy; you are most holy, you and your only-begotten Son and your Holy Spirit! You are indeed holy; you are most holy and your glory is magnificent! You so loved your world that you gave your only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Amen.
Pastor: When he had come and had fulfilled all the dispensation for our salvation, on the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread and blessed it, and broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you [for the remission of sins]; Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same manner, after supper, he took the cup, and hallowed it and gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Pastor: Remembering this salutary testament, and all those things which have been accomplished for us -- the sacrifice on the cross, the tomb, the resurrection and ascension -- we ask you, Lord, and pray you and supplicate you: Send down your Holy Spirit on all who will partake of your gifts, for the strengthening of their faith in your truth. O Lord, who did send down your most Holy Spirit on your apostles, do not take him from us, O good one, but by your Spirit renew us, who pray to you, and grant that with one mouth and one heart we may praise and glorify in song your most holy and majestic name, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
It appears to me that there's no epiclesis over the gifts themselves, which is very strange given their apparent efforts to invent an "eastern Lutheranism." Can you really speak of eastern liturgy, while insisting on western sacramental theology and neglecting an epiclesis?
* The Orthodox hold that Lucarius' "conversion" is a misrepresentation--books claim to refute the "myth of the Calvinist patriarch," and even the Ecumenical Patriarch's website explains: Confusion resulted from the publication of the "«Lucarian Confession», in which the Patriarch appeared to accept the Calvinist doctrines and betray the Orthodox faith... The Patriarch himself verbally denied [having written the confession] on several occasions... To the end, however, Cyril did not disavow the «Confession» in writing. Successive Synods of the Orthodox Church have condemned the «Confession» as heretical and alien to the Orthodox faith of the Fathers."
Monday, April 21
There's a Metaphor in There Somewhere
Saturday, April 19
This is Why I Love Living in a German Neighborhood
Friday, April 18
On a Lighter note, in re the Bay of Pigs
DREW: But we gotta find Matt and R-- [another fellow half-Cuban], we promised we'd give them a ride!
DAN: I don't know where they went. What do you want me to do, sing the old Cuban national anthem?
ME: (coming up next to him, singing) Al combate corred bayameses, que la patria os contempla orgullosa...
DREW: You sort of just walked into that, didn't you?
ME: ...No temáis una muerte gloriosa, por morir por la patria...
Seriously, La Baymesa, it's like the Gilligan's Island themesong of Cubans in terms of first, knowing the lyrics almost preternaturally, and also in terms of potential for getting stuck in one's head. (Though, I know only the first verse of it, and like all good Americans only the first verse of the the Star Spangled Banner). You could be raised in Saskatchewan by Ukrainians and you'd still know the lyrics and cheerily martial tune, which appears to be a loose paraphrase of Non più andrai from Figaro, which brings to mind another conversation, in the car, with my mom and grandparents.
CD PLAYER: Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso, notte e giorno d'intorno girando...
MY GRANDFATHER: That sounds like La Bayamesa.
MOM: It's by Mozart.
CD PLAYER: Delle belle turbando il riposo, Narcisetto, Adoncino d'amor...
MY GRANDMOTHER: Maybe Mozart stole it from the Cubans.
MOM: Mami, I think Mozart was around before they wrote the national anthem.
On the other hand, Walter Reed gets all the glory for figuring out yellow fever when Carlos J. Finlay deserves some of the credit, so a little paranoia is perfectly understandable.
One final snippet. My mother, father and I, after taking in a solemn Tridentine mass and an architectural lecture, are capping off the final night of their visit by dining at a very "in" Cuban-Asian fusion restaurant in New York City (think crab rangoon meets croquettes, and lots of rice of many different kinds) and we notice on the dessert menu a two-person banana split called, rather charmingly, the Bay of Pigs. We decide to eat it in honor of my late uncle, who was in the invasion and spent 20 months in a Cuban prison as a consequence. (Castro called the exiles gusanos or worms, which also means "caterpillar," and so as a consequence, one exile peridocial listing the names of the fallen and imprisoned, after their return, shows a sweet little cartoon caterpillar saluting, while wearing a steel army helmet and holding a rifle. It's the cutest bit of Cold War family memorabilia I know.)
MOM: (To waitress) My brother did a tour of Bay of Pigs, so we're having it in his honor.
WAITRESS: Well, the Bay of Pigs is quite large...so all three of you can eat it.
MOM: I wasn't sure if she was referring to the dessert or the battle.
ME: I wonder if she even knows it's a place.
Incidentally, the sundae was shaped like a landing-craft, which was very apt. If you're going to make money off the woes of Cuban history, better that than Che tee-shirts anyway. I suggest a "Repeal of the Platt Amendment" dessert wine.
Now, I really must have some fried plantains, the craving is getting hard to take.
Thursday, April 17
Bahía de Cochinos
On this day, April 17, 1961, four 2,400-ton chartered transports (named the Houston, Río Escondido, Caribe, and Atlántico) transported the 1,511 men of the Cuban exile Brigade 2506 to the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba, where they came up against the soldiers of Castro's revolutionary army. Reports of what followed describe a full-scale tank engagement, with air attacks on the exiles leaving one transport damanged and other sunk. Despite a few preliminary air attacks in the days preceding the landing, promised U.S. air support was almost wholly denied, leaving the tiny Brigade 2506 virtually crippled, with 1,189 taken prisoner and 115 killed. A number were executed, while the remainder languished in prison camps under a thirty-year sentence for treason. Almost two years later, they were returned to the United States after a torturous series of negotiations.
To this day, the communist government of Cuba refers to the exile warriors in their official propaganda solely as "mercenaries."
Highlights of the HWTN Coverage for the Pope's Visit
In a Jesuitically cunning move, typical of papistic strategy, the Holy Father distracted President Bush with his shiny pectoral cross as a diversionary tactic while swarms of redcoated Jacobite mercenaries swarmed over the White House.
"And that, Holy Father, is where the Basilica sustained damage by Mothra during last month's attack."
"But I do understand you got many beautiful silk chausuables out of the incident, ja?"
"Using silk for chausubles, how whimsical..."
"Quick! Agent Smith! You must keep the little girl away from the Pontiff! She knows too much about the Matrix!"
"There has got to be a better way to get to the ambo, people."
Sister Assumpta, Sniper First Class of the Special Executive Action Section of the Poor Clares, watches, eagle-eyed, for potential liturgical abuses.
"Hmmm. Und now I am in a giant vhite void. Maybe zere is something to this Matrix thing after all. But vhere are ze awesome racks of machine guns and croziers and such? Someone tell Georg that I am stuck in ein komputer game."
"Haha, yes. Now I smile but zhis is the book Monsignor Marini und I are going to throw at you for zhat merengue-style offertory number."
The Papists are coming! The Papists are coming!
Wednesday, April 16
A Preview of This Fall's New Lineup on Holy Whapping Television Network (HWTN)
The Two Babylon 5s: This week, Charles Taze Russell (actually a Vorlon agent) explains to Jeffrey Sinclair that Valen and Nimrod are the same person. Londo begins to wonder if Pope Alexander VI was really a Centauri alien. Pink Drazi and Purple Drazi argue over liturgical colors.
Infomercial for Crazy Achmed's Ottoman Empire: This week, grand closeout sale, as Crazy Achmed just got bought out by competitor Ataturk's Hassocks, famed for their exclusive Bauhaus Constantinople line. With St. Marco d'Aviano.
The Big Bang Theory: Nerdy priest-scientist Fr. Lemaitre and liturgy geek Adrian Fortescue, after getting thrown together in the clerical grad student dorm at Louvain, try to cope with the real world after discovering nobody else shares their niggling enthusiasm for high-energy physics and liturgical minutiae.
Persepolis: The Animated Series: [We better cancel this as, while we initially thought it was a cartoon about Iranian nuns, it turns out they all dress that way. Run My Uncle Napoleon instead, though let's not forget the subtitles this time.]
HTWN Movie-of-the-Week: Curse of the Rose Panther: Monsignor Clousseau must discover who stole his pink chasuble without driving his Citroen into a swimming pool, or cause Bishop Dreyfuss to question the benevolence of God or be inadvertently killed by his Chinese sacristan Cato.
The Imam of Dibley: The fellahin of Dibley in the emirate of Al-Angrezi (formerly Great Britain) have a dreadful shock when they discover their new village mufti wears a burqa!
We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us About
"Yeah, what's that called? Hey, Matt will know. Hey, Matt!"
"What's the hat that the pope wears called?"
"The Catholic yarmulke."
Does Umberto Eco know about this?
Friday, April 11
Since time immemorial, there is a processus canonicus in order to make it clear whether somebody is a saint or not. These trials usually take decades at least - sometimes centuries. In the case of catacomb saints, these procedures were dispensed with. People used to think that everybody buried ad catacumbas must have been a martyr during one of the persecutions in ancient Rome. At some point during the processus canonicus, the grave of the candidate for sainthood was (and still is) opened and his remains are examined. In times past, the bones were put into a new display case of glass, crystal or similar. This case either remained in the same church or was carried in a procession to another. It usually was put upon one of the altars. The gilding was often done in nunneries. Mostly, each and every bone was sewn around with (or into a tube of) gold thread, but as I understand, there are other techniques, too (possibly involving a silversmith).He also notes, interestingly:
These Katakombenheilige (saints of the catacombs) make for an interesting chapter in the history of the Counter-reformation in the Baroque aera. In the 16th century, Austria was Protestantized. In the 17th century, Rome was back, Trent was put into effect, the Turks were railroaded off Vienna, out of Hungary and just managed to hold on to today's Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria and parts of Roumania. So, many old churches were renovated or built anew. On many a baroque side-altar, such catacomb saints were placed for veneration. The catacombs were, literally, mined for bones; if no name could be found, the remains were formally named by the Pope. The new-found saint was then given (never sold - it is a sacrilege to sell relics) to a diocese in need of relics. The name "Donatus" (the given one) was rather popular, Donatus of Muenstereifel (Germany) being just one example among others.(Actually, this is a nice idea, as it might be a good way to assign saints to all those folks without saints to their name, like Madison, Kelly, Skipper, Cameron, ad infinitum. St. Taylor of Cittavechia, anyone?)
The most famous instance of all this was St. Philomena, with her extravagantly excessive martyrdom and wonder-working street-cred, who got booted off the calendar in 1961, for slightly different and perhaps more prudent reasons than those behind the buzz-kill reform of 1969 that lost us Katherine, Barbara and the like, until Katherine was recently restored, and the others retained in the Extraordinary Form as a result of the Motu Proprio. Archaeologists indicated the discovered relics may have not belonged to the same person whose name was found (in out-of-order, fragmented plates) on the tomb, and it's unclear whether or not either of them was a martyr. Of course, such recognitions of martyrdom and sanctity aren't infallible in the same way a canonization is, so I'm inclined to trust the archaeologists in this instance.
In any case, it appears her cult continues in spite of all this, whether or not it's supposed to, and while I have my own very large doubts about the relics, it is very apparent from the miracles and visions associated with her that someone in in Heaven is answering the phone, even if it might be a wrong number. (There is, I suppose, the possibility that some elderly, obscure Stylite monk or a seventeenth-century bishop might have gotten assigned to handling her prayerful correspondence up there and we'd never know it.) Anyway, heck, she's an adorably precocious wonder-working teenager with an excessive number of sanctoral attributes, what's not to like? Clearly we've discovered the annoying-but-cute little sister of the heavenly sanctoral family, and she seems to be in a generous mood in spite of everything.
Disturbing Relics Week Continues: Fun With Recumbent Effigies
St. Peregrine, with relics embedded under glass. A handsome statue, located (I believe) at a friary in Maryland, though the overall effect is a little too close to comfort to the board-game Operation.
A somewhat-anemic image of St. Tarcisius from the Catacombs of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Newark, New Jersey. Catacombs in New Jersey, believe it.
A wax effigy of St. Januarius (the one with the blood, you know), from the same place.
An image of St. Agnes, who also turns out, in addition to having had a very small head, to be a Jersey girl as well.
Two images of an effigy of St. Silvan, an early martyr venerated in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
An effigy of St. Thomas (yes, that St. Thomas), from the chapel at the site of his martyrdom in south India. Naptime for the Apostle.
Thursday, April 10
Not an Onion Article!
Brave Sister Donatella Ciucciumei, 51, saw the elderly man douse himself in petrol in a street in San Severino Marche, in Italy.
She ran towards the 71-year-old as he raised a lit match to his body.
And as he was engulfed in flames, she jumped on top of him, spreading her habit to douse the flames.
The nun was unhurt and the man is recovering after sustaining second degree burns to most of his body.
Wednesday, April 9
The Pope has a Message for You
On a related note, Boring people who can only see the world through one boring lens share their boring thoughts
Why is it so hard for people to realize that the pope's primary concern is to proclaim Christ, to talk about Christ, and perform the ultimate Petrine task of strengthening the faith of his brethren (Luke 22:31)?
Disturbing Relics Week: St. Thomas Aquinas on the Veneration of Relics
Objection 1. It would seem that the relics of the saints are not to be venerated at all. For we should avoid doing what may be the occasion of error. But to venerate the relics of the dead seems to savor of the error of the Gentiles, who gave honor to dead men. Therefore the relics of the saints are not to be honored.
Objection 2. Further, it seems absurd to venerate what is insensible. But the relics of the saints are insensible. Therefore it is absurd to venerate them.
Objection 3. Further, a dead body is not of the same species as a living body: consequently it does not seem to be identical with it. Therefore, after a saint's death, it seems that his body should not be venerated.
On the contrary, It is written (De Eccles. Dogm. xl): "We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be venerated in all sincerity": and further on: "If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius."
I answer that, As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i, 13): "If a father's coat or ring, or anything else of that kind, is so much more cherished by his children, as love for one's parents is greater, in no way are the bodies themselves to be despised, which are much more intimately and closely united to us than any garment; for they belong to man's very nature." It is clear from this that he who has a certain affection for anyone, venerates whatever of his is left after his death, not only his body and the parts thereof, but even external things, such as his clothes, and such like. Now it is manifest that we should show honor to the saints of God, as being members of Christ, the children and friends of God, and our intercessors. Wherefore in memory of them we ought to honor any relics of theirs in a fitting manner: principally their bodies, which were temples, and organs of the Holy Ghost dwelling and operating in them, and are destined to be likened to the body of Christ by the glory of the Resurrection. Hence God Himself fittingly honors such relics by working miracles at their presence.
Reply to Objection 1. This was the argument of Vigilantius, whose words are quoted by Jerome in the book he wrote against him (ch. ii) as follows: "We see something like a pagan rite introduced under pretext of religion; they worship with kisses I know not what tiny heap of dust in a mean vase surrounded with precious linen." To him Jerome replies (Ep. ad Ripar. cix): "We do not adore, I will not say the relics of the martyrs, but either the sun or the moon or even the angels"--that is to say, with the worship of "latria." "But we honor the martyrs' relics, so that thereby we give honor to Him Whose martyrs [The original meaning of the word 'martyr,' i.e. the Greek martys is 'a witness'] they are: we honor the servants, that the honor shown to them may reflect on their Master." Consequently, by honoring the martyrs' relics we do not fall into the error of the Gentiles, who gave the worship of "latria" to dead men.
Reply to Objection 2. We honor that insensible body, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the soul, which was once united thereto, and now enjoys God; and for God's sake, whose ministers the saints were.
Reply to Objection 3. The dead body of a saint is not identical with that which the saint had during life, on account of the difference of form, viz. the soul: but it is the same by identity of matter, which is destined to be reunited to its form.
Tuesday, April 8
Disturbing Relics Week: Saintly Skulls and Canonized Crania
Saint Agnes's baseball-sized skull at Sant' Agnese in Agone, displayed in a little chapel off the left-hand transept. (Via Flickr.).
Otranto Cathedral, with reliquaries behind the high altar containing the 800 skulls from the severed heads of a band of Puglian Catholics martyred by Ottoman soldiery in the year of Our Lord 1480. They are commemorated in the Martyrology on August 14.
The Holy Head of St. Catherine of Siena, probably the only dismembered sanctoral body part to have its own webpage, complete with java.
St. John the Baptist's head (er, one of them...unless it's one of Erik von Daniken's mediaeval spacemen) in Amiens, France. (Source.)