Friday, May 30


Speaking of the 6 Train

They were filming a remake of The Taking of Pelham 123 on the corner outside my parish church the other Sunday, which apparently is a movie about the hijacking of what would eventually become the New York subway Lex line, and will star a couple of unknown actors called something like Denzel Washington and John Travolta. (Never heard of them). Added to the vaguely surreal quality of all this was the fact a concession-stand for the cast and crew had been set up just within sniffing-distance of the open doors of the narthex and as I headed in to the church, starving for a brunch still far off, I got a heavy whiff of calamari. I guess it's good to be Travolta.

It was probably a good thing, though, that we had already opted for a simple indoor Corpus Christi procession rather than popping outside and threading our way through the trailers on 39th street, otherwise we might have inadvertently introduced a whole new surprise ending, in which a monstrance-wielding Fr. R-- bursts into the subway car and breaks up the hostage situation declaring, "I have come to proclaim freedom to captives!" Hey, I'd watch it. I'll have a word with the top brass at EWTN.

Seen on the 6 Train

A large bumper-sticker advising the gullible public that the famous healer Mr. Prophet Reverend Mitchell is operating out of Williamsburgh, Brooklyn. Wait, shouldn't that be Rev. Mr. Prophet, anyway? Darn uppity transitional deacons...

A Marian Hymn: O Decus Ecclesiae Virgo; And Some Problems of Translation

A recent concert I attended wound up to a grand finale composed of a positively hallucigenic setting of this marvelous Marian text by the Fleming Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517). The trick, though, is I suspect the translation given in the program had a bit of ICELese dynamic equivalency to it, and I'm curious to know what the real deal is. The translation below is slightly altered, for even I could tell, with my virtually nil Latin skills, there was something funny about it. Part of it may have to do with Latin punning that I am not fully registering--for instance, "being of the sea," tu marina, being a play on Maria being the Latin for "seas." The biggest mystery for me is maxima preses, which is rendered, either heretically or just hyper-poetically, in the accompanying English translation as "true goddess" [?!] when I assume, based on my essentially non-existent Latin and some tinkering with a nice online translator, it means something closer to "protector" or "guardian." I've also found an alternate version elsewhere, further confused by the fact the cantus firmus may well be singing something slightly different (Mary rules virgines and not naves, virgins, not ships, for instance).

This is pretty basic Latin, but I have the Latin skills of a sixth-century monoglot Barbarian who has learned all he has from hearing the mass, and nothing else. The fact many others in our culture, those in higher authority than I, have a similar lack of fluency with the language of Rome, speaks volume about our impoverished civilization.

O decus ecclesiae Virgo, O gloriosissima mundi salve,
Et cardine gloria magna chori dive,
Domus magni reverende et maxima preses,
Summe pates grata innumeranter manu.

Tu spes care Venus,
Tu marina, tu regula in te naves,
Que tu firma columna, Dei.
Te laudant omnes et plaudant undique turbe, spargitur,
In lato nomen in urbe tuum,
Sic habeas, quecumque precatus pura voluntate.
Sic vitae ditans det tibi det tibi secla Deus,
Ut pia purpurea tingit tua tempora amictus, ambiat
Et sacrum sicut diadema caput. Amen.

O Splendor of the Church, O Virgin, greatest glory of the world, Hail!
You, O mighty, central glory of the heavenly bodies,
Revered mansion, and true protector,
Made known in the highest degree through the innumerable acts of your gracious hand,
You, the Holy Venus, hope of mortal flesh,
Being of the sea, you yourself rule your ships,
Which you strengthen with the pillar of God.
All peoples prause you, and multitudes everywhere applaud you.
Your name is spread far abroad in the city.
Thus, we pray that you may receive every sort of prayer with good-will,
And thus we pray that at bountiful God may grant to your care the generations of man,
Since purple justice tints your brow,
And a garment like a crown encircles your sacred head. Amen.

Thoughts? Anyone out there know what this really says?

There Goes the Eschaton

Diamond-studded Hello Kitty. As if I didn't have enough reasons to hate that darn cat.

Thursday, May 29


Whatever Happened to Susan Pevensie?


There's always something that splits apart the Christian Narnia reader from his less eschatologically-minded counterparts. Certainly the books never approach pure allegory, even if they tend towards a greater literalness than his colleague Tolkien's work. They can be enjoyed as a simple, fantastic romp rather than a grand, childlike expression of Christian imagination, but without that sensibility something is lost--in the same way something is lost when a great mass-setting or religious icon--or even a sunset--is divorced from the sacramental framework. Something beautiful becomes merely pretty: The Last Battle becomes thus merely extravagant and gratuitous (and even slightly disappointing, for all its eschatological pyrotechnics), rather than majestic, bittersweet and hopeful; Dawn Treader's fantastic geography turns into the surreal end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And Susan Pevensie becomes the inexplicable casualty, it seems, of small-minded puritan moralism or worse.

How could they do that to dear old Su? one asks, astonished. Queen Susan the Gentle, Susan the sure-sighted archeress? (Susan, the schoolgirl who quite deliberately nearly killed a Telmarine soldier within a very few pages of the opening of Prince Caspian?) Susan's (apparent) end, for many, is the one great let-down in the series, and despite being a few sparse, vague lines, it gets twisted and knotted into the oddest alternate versions in reader's imaginations. Susan is condemned to hell for liking boys, lipstick and nylons. Susan got shafted by a celibate British misogynist. Susan is excluded from heaven for growing up.

Indeed, the latter interpretation seems to have been one of the things that spurred Friendly Neighborhood Atheist Philip Pullman to write his ramshackle Dark Materials trilogy with its fleeting, stylized allusions to adolescent promiscuity, with the conclusion Lewis wanted his perfect Christian readers to stay kids in a Peter Pan time-warp and never have anything to do with the great god Sex.

The funny thing is, Lewis never said any of this. And, presumably, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver must have done something on Saturday nights.

All we're told is Susan has turned her back on Narnia in favor of nylons, lipstick, and invitations: sex, whether committed or frivolous, doesn't even merit a mention. Nothing about hell; nothing about damnation; nothing even about boys, much less growing up. (And there's nothing wrong with invitations or clothes, or the opposite sex so long as God is there to put it all in context.) The problem is really vanity and conceit. As Polly puts it, her "whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one's life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can." The absurdities of adolescence hardly count as maturity. Lewis wrote to a young reader, "The books don't tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there's plenty of time for her to mend and perhaps she will get to Aslan's country in the end... in her own way." (From Lewis’ Letters to Children, 22 January 1957, to Martin). She's simply not in the picture at the moment, and certainly capable of repentance out in the real world. Even so, one might complain, such flaws would hardly seem damning--just a bit of an understandable adolescent let-down--if it weren't for the fact she's also deliberately convinced herself her fifteen-odd years as Queen in Narnia were essentially little children's games, a dangerous and remarkably daring bit of destructive self-deception.

Someone brighter than me actually did the math and figured out that when Susan's three siblings got killed in that train crash and sent to Aslan's Country*, Su would have been at been 21, not sixteen or seventeen as some suppose, and time to be thinking about things a bit more serious than what comes across as adolescent frivolity. The problem is not that Susan's life is Gidget, but that it's what Sex and the City looks like from the sidelines, which is even sadder off the TV screen, in reality.

The fact Susan appears to have stumbled, perhaps momentarily, should come as no shock. Lewis's protagonists are often far more flawed than we may remember: Edmund tends to get pegged as the black sheep of the family, despite his full redemption and contrition, but Susan is a bit of a grouch in Caspian, and Peter not much better; even Lucy has a moment of vanity in Dawn Treader; and Lewis is simply recognizing humans do stupid, sinful things, even you and me--especially you and me.

And actions have consequences, as Aslan reminds us with an occasional growl from time to time.

Considering that the whole point of sending the Pevensie kids into Narnia was to help them know Christ in this world, as Aslan reminds them at the end of Prince Caspian, I sometimes wonder if the ultimate, mos important benefactor of the Narnian experience was, in fact, dear Queen Susan the Gentle herself, in some epilogue we will never know. Peter et al. died fairly early on into their own lives on this earth, with hardly enough time to grow into saints. Susan is the one who, unlike the martyr killed quick of Flannery O'Connor, is left behind to learn from her experiences, or to reject them. For repentance--even if it is repentance from the sillier, frillier sins, which can paralyze us as badly as murder and mayhem--can often have the strangest roots.

*There is some dispute about this calculation, as Lewis's chronology ends with a year that could be either 1943 or 1949 due to the Professor's odd handwriting, but most sources list "1949" as the year of the Pevensie siblings deaths. If 1943 is in fact the correct year (and there is a certain prima facie case for it), it makes Susan considerably younger than previously supposed, but nonetheless leaves her as the one most likely to, in time, benefit from her Narnian experience in this world, in contrast to the still yet more Stanislaus Kostka-like lifespans of her three siblings. And certainly her self-delusion becomes even more flagrant in that short lifespan, if perhaps her frivolity is, if still problematic, a bit more forgivable.

Red Shoes: Not Just for the Pope Anymore

Stylish churchlady Lucy has just taken liturgical theme-dressing to an all-time high; more here. We at the Shrine heartily approve.

So Presumably, He Must Walk on Water But Not Think It's a Really Big Deal, Then

Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Wednesday, May 28


Central Park, Spring 2008


Definitive Proof that the Catholic Nerd Quotient at Notre Dame is Only Increasing*

Two semesters of anxiety, heartbreak, discernment, Opus Dei, more heartbreak, love triangles (or quadrangles, or possibly pentagons, if you include the Dominican order), wrongful arrest by the campus police for sleeping in a sacristy--I know back in my day** had we been in the same situation, we would just have tried hard to forget it, possibly using alcohol (or in my case, theraputic bookstore sprees). But this new generation, what do they do? They write a parody musical. And I don't just mean a few songs. I mean 45 minutes of musical drama, and they haven't even finished it yet. Catholic America, this is your future.

Scary, eh?

* This is a good thing. Well, probably.

**Okay, it was barely two years ago. But if a 33-year-old Sherlock Holmes can call Irene Adler "this young person," all bets are off.

UPDATE: Shrine friend The Sober Sophomore (er, Graduate) promises a preview of said musical in the near future!

Archbishop of Toledo Condemns Zombie Parade--But Not Because of the Zombies


Which no doubt comes as a great relief to our dear friend Dr. Melifluus.

It seems the problem wasn't so much the undead as the fact it a) was scheduled as a send-up of Corpus Christi, and 2) also included actors parodying the Virgin Mary and Christ. So, okay, guys, um, Morboria theater people, why not clean your Dance of Death roadshow up a little bit and bring it back, oh, on November 2nd?

Holy Whapping: Your Source for Zombie-Related Catholic News.*

*Apparently, there is some.


Yes, But They Wore Considerably More Silk Brocade

I was sent this quite remarkably horrible modern painting of the Last Supper by a friend, equally horrified, who noted specifically it wasn't a parody. Who knew the Apostles looked like the cast of WKRP in Cincinnati after a bad night and Our Lord like an East German television weatherman? The fact there's a randomly-placed heart in a dish on the right side of the table doesn't help matters much.

Certainly while the medievals often showed their saints in contemporary dress (and sometimes quite charmingly modish dress for the period when the iconographic personality of the subject demanded it), the apostles never got that treatment; and anyway, let's not forget we're far worse dressers than the medievals. What is it Charles Ryder said about the vulgar ice swan in Brideshead Revisited? "It would have been of a rather different shape."

Tuesday, May 27


Well, I Guess I Can't Make Fun of Pentecostal Snake-Handlers Anymore

From one of our alert readers:
Snakes cover a wooden statue of St. Domenico at the beginning of the St. Domenico procession in Cocullo, central Italy, May 1, 2008. Every year on the first Thursday of May, snakes are placed onto the statue of St. Domenico and then the statue is carried in a procession through the town. St. Domenico is believed to be the patron saint for people who have been bitten by snakes.
COMPULSORY NOTE TO FRIGHTENED PROTESTANT READERS: Before you say anything else, you guys do the same stuff, too. Well, some of you. Okay, like maybe three out in the Ozarks. So it can't possibly be pagan. (Like three-piece suits). Plus, the snake-catchers in the area remove the reptiles' teeth beforehand, which sort of reduces the stunt value, though probably gives Providence a well-deserved break. Unlike Pentecostal snake-handling, there's less audience participation, and they also hand out pancakes to the festivity-goers, which really makes sure it's a good Catholic event. Maybe that's the pagan part.

That being said, this is not so much Catholic weirdness as Italian weirdness, and by no means is this sort of thing mandatory or even encouraged outside of Cocullo, even if, on some level, it's still kind of awesome. (You are not going to see this ritual at the local St. Astrodome's.) Still, I prefer my kitschy wooden processional statuary covered in dollar bills the way God intended.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: San Domenico is not the same as our St. Dominic of Dominican fame; he's a local abbot who died in the early eleventh century and did the usual mix of penitence and preaching one comes to expect from Italian monastic saints. I gather he must have done something snake-related to be the celestial equivalent of poison control, or at the very least, had a pet mongoose, but the web isn't terribly helpful in that regard.

(Anyone want to commission a drawing of the good saint? On the other hand, perhaps better not to induce yet more nightmares in my patrons.)

Caption Contest

A film still from the upcoming remake of the sci-fi classic Little Flower versus the Radar Men from Mars.

(Or possibly, the new side-shrine in the church of St. Dalek and All Androids).

(Source: some guy on Flickr whose name I forget, sadly).

Thursday, May 22


Corpus Christi Goodness From Catholic Spain

Seville, 2007:

Málaga, 2007:

Aljucer, 2007:

Toledo, 2007:

And more videos of Spanish Corpus Christi celebrations than you could ever desire available here.

The Lego Church Project

Not to be confused with the Lego Baroque Church.

The Shrine: Providing Quality (?) Time-Wasting Since July 2003.

Girls dressed in white and in the traditional clothes of the Sorbs walk at the top of the Corpus Christi procession in Ralbitz, eastern, Germany, Thursday, May 22, 2008. Chorpus Christi is observed as a religious holiday by the catholic Sorbs, a Slavic minority located near the German-polish border.



$20 Million Later, St. Brigid's (NYC) Saved

Structural damage to St. Brigid's

St. Brigid Church has been saved from demolition by a $20 million anonymous gift.

An Irish Famine-era church, it had been sealed off due to structural problems (as seen in the above picture) in 2001. For financial reasons and due to the proximity of Holy Redeemer, the massive former German parish, the parish was closed in 2004, and the building was set to be sold and demolished afterwards.

The NYT clarifies that the gift "includes $10 million to restore the building... $2 million to establish an endowment for the parish... and $8 million to support the St. Brigid’s School."

This is certainly good news for the neighborhood and for historians (and for our sentimentally nationalistic Irish friends!). The building itself is not excessively attractive, and as you can see from pictures at the link below. The humble facade once had steeples, but these were removed for structural reasons in 1962. The only fetching feature still in place the last time the church was open to the public seems to have been the pipe organ. Whether or not the organ, or anything else, is still in place is uncertain, since the archdiocese had already begun to disassemble the building, and the Archdiocese of New York did some pretty serious pre-demolition work to other parishes slatted for controversial closures, such as Our Lady of Vilnius.

More Photos, from "Save St. Brigid"

A history of the building and its contents

Wednesday, May 21


This is Why I Like Lucy Pevensie

"I say, Su, I know who they are."


"The boy with the wild face is Bacchus and the old one on the donkey is Silenus. Don't you remember Mr. Tumnus tellig us about them long ago?"

"Yes, of course, But I say, Lu--"


"I wouldn't have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan."

"I should think not," said Lucy.

~Prince Caspian, p. 169.

From a Characteristic Catholic Nerd IM Conversation

Me: Which one was she? did she have a holy well?
Medievalist Friend: Of course!
Medievalist Friend: English saints who were beheaded always have wells.


Medievalist Friend: yeah, the interesting thing is that in some versions of Winefride's legends she puts her head back on and lives out the rest of her life
Me: Wha?
Me: Really?
Me: When does she die?
Medievalist Friend: Her relics got moved to Shrewsbury Abbey in the 12th century.
Me: How long does she live?
Me: She's like The Terminator or something.
Medievalist Friend: Lemme see here.
Medievalist Friend: It doesn't say how she died the second time.
Medievalist Friend: Oh man, that was weird to type.

Okay, This Wins Hands Down as POD-est Habit Ever

The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church. Anyone ever heard of them?

Monday, May 19


No!!! Noooo! Noooooooo...!

Read it all

Thursday, May 15


Wisconsin Guadalupe Shrine Nears Completion

While perhaps our gentle readers are growing tired of our bending their collective ears about the wonderful work now reaching its completion at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I trust that this present update will shake them from any ennui.

It is increasingly apparent to me that this new shrine church, commissioned by the now-Archbishop Burke and designed by Duncan Stroik, will be one of the most momentous and prominent new structures of the new traditional and classical movement in ecclesiastical architecture, both in terms of its prominence, the quality of the design, and also the lavishness of the materials and craftmanship that has attended the project.

Recent video coverage (above) of the in-progress shrine also highlighted the marvelous scope of the project, indicating the historic nature of this ambitiously-conceived new shrine. I have received also received number of new images, even more up-to-date than the video, which you see above and below, of the nearly-complete interior and exterior, which is slated for consecration in a few short months, on Thursday, July 31, 2008, as part of the culmination of a week of sacred festivities, including book signings, opportunities for confession, conferences, processions, masses, Vespers, Benediction and a Te Deum. The dedication Mass will be broadcast live on EWTN.

We have discussed some of the design aspects of the project before, but a few further comments. The high quality of the sacristies, narthex and other support spaces is particularly of note (directly above). The organ case was designed by the architect and adapted by the organ company, a particularly significant detail given the somewhat boxy nature of traditional-style organ-cases produced in-house by various firms. The use of silver in the design is also worthy of comment, it being chosen by the decorator in collaboration with the architect as a reflection of Mary's femininity in contrast with the more forceful masculine qualities of gold. The rich varieties and colors of the marble used for the tabernacle, quite unusual for an American church (second from the top), are also worth pausing over.

I hope to post in the near future a brief feature on the elaborate painting scheme conceived for the Shrine by Catholic liturgical artist and sculptor Anthony Visco, as many of the new original artworks have just now been installed and look quite splendid in situ. A notable feature that only adds to the unique importance of the structure in the rebirth of traditional art, the paintings deserve an entire post to themselves to do them justice.

Mr. Stroik's portfolio, and his further work at his equally-ambitious Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at Thomas Aquinas College in California, also nearing completion, can be found at, and Mr. Visco's website is

Tuesday, May 13


Dominican Saints Party at the Apartment: In Which I Show Evidence of a Talent for Arranging Gimmicky Catholic-Themed Festivities

Proof via my friend Fallen Sparrow that yours truly has a social life, if perhaps a slightly nerdy, silly one. In my defense, the hot dogs à la Peter of Verona went over very well. You know, with Credo written in ketchup at the center of the plate. Think about it.

Other highlights included Lepanto Hummus, Ghislieri Appetizers, the Catherine of Siena diet plate (above), ten or so friends, and also a special guest appearance by Andrew Cusack as himself. Oh yes, and my friends hatching a plan to crown me the next Emperor of Cuba. (Have I mentioned how my presence has an odd effect on running jokes?)

Monday, May 12


Bishop Elliot Launches New Tridentine Mass Booklet from Ignatius Press

Via our talented friend at S. Bede's Studio:
Responding to the Pope’s initiative in Summorum Pontificum, the Ignatius Press has now released an Order of Mass for the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, prepared by Michael Sternbeck of the Saint Bede Studio. The Mass-book may be purchased online here. This is a completely new edition, not a reprint of previous books, published under the Imprimatur of the Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, the Most Rev’d Denis Hart.

The new Mass-book will be made available to World Youth Day Pilgrims for use at Juventutem Liturgies in the Extraordinary Form in Melbourne and Sydney.

Well-known liturgist and auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev’d Peter J. Elliott, recently launched the Order of Mass book at a ceremony in Melbourne.

The ceremony was preceded by a Solemn Mass celebrated in the bishop’s presence in the church of S. Aloysius, Caulfield (Archdiocese of Melbourne). The Old Mass community of Saint Aloysius graciously made available their facilities for the launch ceremony. The bishop was welcomed on the occasion by Father Glen Tattersall, chaplain to the Old Mass community in Melbourne. Following the bishop’s speech, Michael Sternbeck made a brief reply explaining his philosophies and aspirations in preparing the Mass-book. (More.)
I have seen a few previews of the Mass book and it is handsomely designed and well-laid-out, with some wonderful vintage illustrations that nonetheless have a distinctly fresh, modern feel. I sincerely hope this high-quality worship aid will replace the mess of photocopies, cheaply-bound pamphlets (and sometimes nothing at all) that usually turn up in the pews at Tridentine Masses as an avenue toward true full and active participation, interior and exterior, in this beautiful and ancient liturgy.

Basil Fawlty Like You've Never Seen Him Before, Again

Carl Orff: Not just for Conan the Barbarian ripoffs anymore.

Caption Contest!

Patriarch: "Look, seriously, my Gandalf impression is so much better than yours. C'mon, haven't you noticed the hat?"

Friday, May 9


Hello to OLG-Silvis

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Silvis, Ill., is new to the list of non-virtual parishes which link to the Shrine.

Hey Silvis!

Thursday, May 8


EU: Here, have some depressing news

According to a new report issued by the EU, there are 6 million more pensioners (65+) than children (<14).

As recently as 1980, there were 36 million more children than pensioners--although, that statistic fails to account for the fact that many would-be pensioners had been killed in their 20's by World War II.

However, the report also notes that one marriage breaks down and one child is aborted in the EU every 30 seconds.

Read more.

Speaking of Beautiful Churches

In the previous post, I mentioned HDB/Cram & Ferguson.

Check out one of their most recent projects, St. John Neumann Catholic Church. It's a Romanesque church, seating 900, which includes a day chapel and adoration chapel. It will be finished in July, 2008.

This is the only reason I might ever want to move to Farragut, Tenn. But it is a very good reason.

A shot of the interior design. Note the choir loft and dome!

An interior shot of construction, as of March, 2008.

The apse, with stone detail, red roofing tiles, and dome.

An exterior shot of the nave.

The center entrance portal, with carved Christ, as a veneer of stone is placed on the west facade. Such a veneer is a sin against the "architectural honesty" of the 50's and 60's, but I think we've all decided that an architectural white lie is better than telling the cold hard steely truth.

An exterior shot of the church.

New Gothalic Church!

"O Lord, I Have Loved The Beauty of Thy House" (Psalms 25:8)

Bishop William Higi, of the Diocese of Lafayette (Indiana), has proposed that a new parish--church, parish life center, youth building, grade school, high school, rectory and convent (!)--be built, entirely in a Gothic style.

The construction of the whole campus will take place over the next two decades across 109 acres.

The building project is for a recently-founded parish, dedicated to St. John Vianney.

The founding priest, Father Dudzinski, said, “It will take one to three years to raise the money and build the parish life center; the church goal is five to seven years."

Readers of the Shrine can anticipate Matthew's concern--"It's very good that they want to design a Gothic church," he might say, "but I hope they choose an experienced and trained classical architect!"

The local architects are K.R. Montgomery and Associates, Inc. I've never heard of them, but one of them explained to The Catholic Moment that, "Catholic identity and presence will be strong as you enter the campus... Plans include walkways with Stations of the Cross that will terminate into a grotto. We want to create an opportunity to have moments of reflection, spiritual thought and prayer." They also anticipate cloistered walkways. Promising.

But it gets better, because the church building itself is being designed by the ever-impressive HDB/Cram and Ferguson, the heirs of that greatest of Gothic revival architects (and who, incidentally, link to the Shrine). The church is supposed to include a circle of devotional chapels and an adoration chapel, as are visible in the above sketches, and a balcony.

Read the Original Article

Anselme de Cays: The Tomb of the World's Most Paranoid Knight of Malta

A friend who visited the Catholic nerd mecca (cough) of Malta* mentions one great church in the island's capital (the cathedral, I believe), the floor of which is literally paved wall-to-wall with the tombs of the grand masters of the old Maltese Knights. One of them, over in one transcept near the tourist entrance, and thus in a high-traffic zone, is that of Anselme de Cays, who apparently must have had a gigantic chip on his shoulder. Despite the obvious fact he was sticking his tomb into the floor of a well-travelled church, he marked his slab with the cockily ominous inscription that read, I'm told, "If you tread on me, I will tread on you" (though as you see above, it also concludes with a polite Ora pro me, which seems a bit like asking someone to go pick up the laundry after slamming a door in their face.)

The ever-practical (and apparently both hyper-literal and it would seem somewhat superstitious or at the very least cautious) Maltese have gotten round the problem by putting a sheet of plate-glass a few inches above the surface of the grave, just there and nowhere else in the church. As far as I know, nobody has gotten tread on, so something must be working.

*Well, they do speak a sort of version of Arabic there.

Wednesday, May 7


Basil Fawlty Like You've Never Seen Him Before


Catherine of Siena: The Musical

Living proof that the Shrine is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Catholic Nerd weirdness. (And I mean that in the best possible way, Lucy.)

Thursday, May 1


Ah, Ascension Day!

The most glorious day of the year in our city of canals! Time to get the great gilded state barge, the Bucentaur, out into the harbor and watch as Mayor Bloomberg in his ermine robes and cloth-of-gold corno ceremonially weds the Most Serene City of New York to the East River. The blue-white-orange flaps on high, while the Cardinal looks on and gaily-decorated rafts of floating cornetists and cantors from the ducal chapel play a meddley of the Gabrielis and John Philip Sousa...

Wait. Oh, snap, that's not New York, that's Venice. And Napoleon trashed the Bucentaur in 1797 and turned it into a floating battery.

And Bloomberg only wears ermine between St. Andrew's Day and Easter. Never mind.

Still, it was a pretty cool ceremony, and I believe some abridged and reworked form of it is printed in, of all things, one American version of the 1964 Roman Ritual, though, somewhat disappointingly, with a bishop taking the place of the Doge. Here's an outline of the original rite:
The "Marriage of the Adriatic", or more correctly "Marriage of the Sea" (in Italian, Sposalizio del Mare), was a ceremony symbolizing the maritime dominion of Venice. The ceremony, established about 1000 to commemorate the Doge Pietro II Orseolo's conquest of Dalmatia, was originally one of supplication and placation, Ascension Day being chosen as that on which the doge set out on his expedition. The form it took was a solemn procession of boats, headed by the doge's nave (ship), from 1311 the Bucentaur, out to sea by the Lido port. A prayer was offered that "for us and all who sail thereon the sea may be calm and quiet", whereupon the doge and the others were solemnly aspersed with holy water, the rest of which was thrown into the sea while the priests chanted "Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor" ("Sprinkle me with hyssop, and I will be clean" – Psalm 51:7). To this ancient ceremony a quasi-sacramental character was given by Pope Alexander III in 1177, in return for the services rendered by Venice in the struggle against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. The pope drew a ring from his finger and, giving it to the doge, bade him cast such a one into the sea each year on Ascension Day, and so wed the sea. Henceforth the ceremonial, instead of placatory and expiatory, became nuptial. Every year the doge dropped a consecrated ring into the sea, and with the Latin words "Desponsamus te, mare" ("We wed thee, sea") declared Venice and the sea to be indissolubly one.
Fun, and it probably drives all the feminists and Freudians wild. Incidentally, starting on 15 March of this year, thanks to some wealthy Italians, and President Sarkozy, a team of woodworkers and jewelers have begun to rebuild the Bucentaur, at least in the French president's case, as a "Whoops! Sorry we destroyed your priceless historical treasure!" gesture to the ex-La Serenissima. There weren't any Hallmark cards appropriate for the occasion. I couldn't be more happy, but I do hope they use the thing rather than turning it into a floating Disneyland. I believe the Wedding of the Sea ritual does continue in Venice, though, in another abridged form, presumably different from that of the Rituale, these days. Anyone know?

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