Thursday, July 31


Vacation Hiatus, and Continuing the Sci Fi Theme [UPDATED]

I apologize for the fact that posting has been thin this week. I would blame it on Archbishop Dalek having trashed my apartment, banging into the walls and shouting "Pro Multis!" over and over again in a loud tinny voice, but my place is hardly large enough for myself, much less a mid-sized alien shaped like a dustbin studded with gumdrops. I've been busy prepping an entry for the Latrobe sacred arts competition mentioned below, and getting ready to go off on vacation. I'll be gone from Manhattan until the fourteenth of August, hopefully sucking in some pleasant country air and seeing those strange green things other people call trees. Maybe there'll be a few posts from the road, but I can't promise anything. In any case, please drop by next week on my return--I'm sure there'll be plenty for me to share.

In the mean time, two things to keep yourself entertained. Feel free to meditate on this quote from my boss, about the strange effect caffeine has on me: "I like it when Matt drinks coffee. He tells funny jokes about... (pause) ...medieval Christianity."

And also, this photo of some Australian Anglicans in procession [UPDATE: actually, Lutherans--see below], with an unexpected interloper trailing behind. If anyone can make sense of it, please let me know. I don't think it's photoshopped. It makes me wonder exactly what's going on in Lambeth these days...

Actually, what puzzles me more is the ruffs.

[UPDATE: Turns out they're members of the Lutheran State Church of Iceland--hence the ruffs--and it looks like it was Vader's idea to tailgate them.]

Sacred Art Competition and Exhibition at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, this Fall

The competition, which will be jurored by Duncan Stroik, includes a pleasantly traditional--and fairly specific--set of requirements:

This juried competition and exhbition primarily seeks to foster the arts of the Western Christian tradition; however, other artistic traditions of Christian subject matter will be considered. [...]

Artworks must be iconographically recognizable and appropriate for liturgical use, public devotion, or private devotion.

Subjects sought (but not limited to) include: scenes from the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; other biblical scenes, stories and characters; depictions of saints and their lives; current and historical events in the life of the Church; depictions of the seven sacraments; and personifications of the corporal works of mercy, virtues and vices. [...] Subjects which will not be considered include: portrayals of non-canonized persons as saints [...].
More can be found here. The competition is open to all amateurs and professionals over 21 years of age. Unfortunately all admission forms must have an August 1 postmark, so anyone who's interested needs to hurry.

Monday, July 28


Your Daily Dose of HWTN

Excerpted from transcript of Holy Whapping Television Network (HWTN) program The Daily Show with Henry Cardinal Stuart, Friday, July 25, 2008.

" recent Vatican news, Pope Benedict XVI ended speculation about Cardinal Arinze's replacement, announcing the new head of the Congregation for Divine Worship was an invincible Dalek warrior from the planet Skaro. Benedict explained this move would mark the beginning of a new era of decisiveness. When asked his opinion on the future of ICEL, the extraterrestrial prelate responded, 'Exterminate! Exterminate!' Commentators cautioned at reading too much into this statement, considering that is about the only thing Daleks say, until, when questioned about the USCCB, the new prefect responded 'Ineffable! Infeffable!'

The new "no-nonsense" head of the Congregation for Divine Worship

"...a new musical, Footloose: 1814, opened on off-off-take-a-left-turn-and-go-down-the-dark-alley-off-Broadway Friday. This new all-singing all-dancing spectacular, set at the Congress of Vienna, tells the tale of Chancellor Metternich's attempt to bring back that edgy new dance, the waltz, after dour old Emperor Franz bans it on the grounds it's distracting the delegates too much...

"Last Tuesday, when confronted with allegations that a recent photo of himself strongly resembled the character Animal from The Muppet Show, Archbishop Rowan Williams responded with an answer so mind-bogglingly even-handed it caused instantaneous narcolepsy in HWTN's correspondent on the spot. When asked in an interview this week, Animal, however, responded 'WO-MAN! WO-MAN!' It is unclear if this refers to the Muppet drummer's stance on female ordination. The other members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem could not be reached for comment.

"Florian Stembacher, the self-proclaimed Pope Innocent XIV of the Really Super True Catholic Church, recently held a rival World Youth Day celebration at his trailer in Butte, Montana, which consisted of him mostly listening to old Tommy Dorsey records and asking attendees to speak louder. An assortment of young people ranging in age from 14 to 63 came along, mostly to fulfil community-service requirements...

A group photo of the partipants in this year's Sedevacantist World Youth Day. All of them.

" other news, a mysterious priest calling himself only 'Father Qui' and wearing a cassock and converse sneakers has been sighted in the Rome area. It is thought his appearance has something to do with reports of a flying blue confessional box seen in the vicinity of St. Peter's. The new head of the CDW has not been available for comment on this matter..."

Friday, July 25



Start placing those orders now!

After years of tantalizing us with a $200 limited-edition DVD release through Time Warner, Get Smart is finally coming out on DVD, one season at a time. Season One is coming out August 5, and hopefully the other seasons will follow shortly. Make sure to go out and get yours so that they're encouraged to release the whole thing and don't give us the Bob Newhart Show treatment and stop short of releasing the whole series.

Thursday, July 24


Oldschool U2 - Deluxe Editions!

"You gotta problem with that?"

This past week, U2 released special deluxe editions of their first three albums - Boy, October, and War. These albums present a very different version of U2 from the one we've come to know - i.e., the Biggest Band in the World - and instead show some young Irishmen making good, punk-influenced music (Bono Ramone, anyone?). This is especially the case with some of the bonus tracks on Boy, which include some of their very early singles and and their first EP. Other bonus tracks include some interesting live material from concerts in 1980 and 1981. Personally, I find this music, from before The Joshua Tree made them huge, to be some of the freshest and most interesting stuff U2 has put out, including a lot of religious themes that are still present in their music but were especially prevalent on October, where the first song features the chorus: "Gloria in te Domine; Gloria, exultate".

I definitely recommend this to anyone whose exposure to U2 is mostly post-Joshua Tree or who might have heard "Sunday Bloody Sunday" but little else of their early work. Also, coming in September is another deluxe edition, of their concert at Red Rocks, Under A Blood Red Sky.


From the Series "Liturgical Questions You Hope You Never Have To Ask": How to Make the Sign of the Cross If You Don't Have a Right Arm

A friend and reader writes:
According to Canon J.B. O'Connell citing an instruction by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (forerunner to today's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) dated "January 28, 1920, for the celebration of Mass by a priest who has lost his right arm, and has obtained a dispensation from the Holy See to say Mass [the dispensation might not be required under the current code of Canon Law, comments my friend]: ... (3) The celebrant is to make the cross with his left hand on himself ... in the usual Latin manner, i.e., tracing the transverse line from left to right. (4) The celebrant is to keep his hand laid flat under his breast ... whenever he ought, were he not disabled, to hold his hands joined before his breast... However, if with an artificial right hand he can observe the rubric becomingly, he does so." (The Celebration of Mass, pg 381).
I'm grateful someone's figured this out, as it's less work for the rest of us, which is part of why the Catholic Church is so great, really. You never know when you just might need it.

Wednesday, July 23


Caption Contest

The Holy Father kept his cool, even as it dawned on him that he had somehow become trapped inside the TV set.

Matthew contra Saskatoon, Pars Secunda

Matthew Alderman. A variant counter-proposal, in a free Gothic style, for the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Dominion of Canada. Side elevation. July 2007.

Following up on my last design presentation, and taking into account the critiques of my readers, I ran up a somewhat more realistic counter-proposal for Saskatoon Cathedral, in terms of cost and the liturgical expectations of the diocese, though in such a way that both are reconciled in some way with a more traditional approach. Have a look: it's up over at the New Liturgical Movement. In the mean time, as I've said before, this is what they're actually building.

Matthew Alderman. A variant counter-proposal, in a free Gothic style, for the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Dominion of Canada. Section through quire, high altar, and Blessed Sacrament chapel. July 2007.

Pastor gets into motorcycle crash during service

And Fonzie wasn't even involved.

Monday, July 21



"The difference between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope is that when the Archbishop of Canterbury visits Australia, he hails a taxi at the airport." - An Anonymous Anglican

I didn't follow WYD2008 as closely as the one in Cologne, mostly because, aside from liturgical gossip in the blogosphere, there didn't seem to be much coverage--especially in the secular media, where I mostly saw disembodied reports of the pope apologizing for the scandals in Australia, though why the holy octogenarian made that transhemispherical trek was seldom clear.

Of course, it occurs to me today, the day after, to look at Australian newspapers.

Sure enough, The Australian has an entire section on WYD.

The coverage is extensive and really rather positive. As at Cologne, the general public is amazed at how well-behaved such large crowds were. The event, which the Australian government helped to finance and which obviously disrupted the normal flow of routine, neither of which are ever popular, nonetheless was considered "worth it" by 55% of some 15,000 people who participated in their online poll. (No small feat for a remarkably secularized society.) The event's most public feature, a selection of the Stations of the Cross through the streets of Sydney, was greeted in this editorial, which notes that, as "the cross, and the man upon it... rose slowly from the ground," Christ's face "stained with dust, sweat, tears and blood," many in the crowd "fell to their knees and wept." 10,000 people watched the stations of the cross in person, and an estimated audience of 500 million watched on TV. 400,000 pilgrims attended the Pope's final mass at Randwick Racecourse, a larger crowd than any that gathered for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

The ultimately tragic nature of the scandals, sadly, is that the victims can never be made whole, either by apology or payment, but the Church must nonetheless carry on offering both, hoping that the only thing which can ultimately have a healing effect--grace--is communicated along the way. So, it's no surprise that victims' groups are seldom satisfied by an apology--what are they supposed to say? "Oh, well, I guess it's alright, then." But even the inevitably wary acknowledgment by victims of the pope's apology, which could easily be framed by the press as a failure, was reported positively: "Sexual abuse apology welcomed."

My favorite column from the secular press has some thoughts from the participants themselves, saying what we all--and John Paul II in particular--know: that it can be lonely to be Catholic in today's world, especially for high schoolers who very acutely notice what it's like to be different. That's why bringing the Catholic World together for youth has so consistently been transformative:

Ana Maria Amador, 21, from Seville, said: “This is amazing. It will be a really important event for Spain.”

Sydney twins Lana and Alexis Hyland... “It was a full-on week,” Lana said. “But it has strengthened my faith. Meeting so many people from around the world who share your beliefs is pretty amazing and makes you realise you are not alone.”

April Grzeskiewicz, 15, from Michigan, agreed. “I'm the only practising Catholic out of all my school friends back home, which makes me feel kind of weird. But this week was great. And I'm going to tell all my friends about it when I get home.”

Such sentiments would have pleased the Pope. During his sermon, he told the congregation: “The church also needs this renewal. She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity so that she can always be young in the spirit.”

Can I confess some schadenfreude at the thought of Zapatero's government shelling it out, or making headlines for not shelling it out, for WYD2011?

Thursday, July 17


"Mostly, I just prosecuted my religion teachers for heresy."

If I had not already once met the hilarious, seriously devout, and surprisingly prudent soul behind The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song, I do believe I would think he was the product of my fevered imagination, or a partly-digested meat-pie. First, there is the wonderful insanity of the abovementioned book (with its suggestion you celebrate St. Dymphna's day by having over the tin-foil biretta crowd), and now, surprising snippets of la vie Zmirak that have begun to emerge in his column over at

I had a pretty colorful (and, it must be added, very happy) childhood--a Cuban revolutionary grandfather; a lawyer mom who once cross-examined a ventriloquist dummy on the stand, and who also taught me everything I know about art; a father (also a lawyer) whose hobbies have included at various times, archery, pizza-making and teaching himself Homeric Greek; and then there's my stint as a quiz-bowl All-American. But Zmirak's episodic memoirs make my life and times look positively beige, and more power to him for it:
When the alumnus interviewing me for my long-shot, first-choice college asked me what I’d done throughout high school, I truthfully answered: “Not much. Mostly, I just prosecuted my religion teachers for heresy.”

He chuckled. “No, seriously.” Then he saw the look on my face—and whipped out his note pad.

I recounted how I’d compiled a dossier on two of our religion teachers, who’d repaid my parents’ tuition by denying… pretty much everything which any martyr has ever died to affirm—from the virginity of Mary to the authority of the pope, from the bodily Resurrection to the Eucharist. I explained how I’d moved from confronting them in class, to notifying the principal, then the bishop, then at last the Papal Nuncio—the pope’s ambassador to the U.S.

“What did your school do?”

“They threatened to expel me. But I had my attorney draft a letter warning them we’d sue. They backed down after that.”

“Where’d you get an attorney?”

“My mother met him at one of her poker games. You know, at the church.” I told him how at that time in Queens, the diocese made up its deficits by holding all-night, high-stakes poker games at Catholic grammar schools. The Irish cops wouldn’t crack down on them, so the games metastasized, and soon filled up every parish in driving distance. And my mother attended so many, that to this day when I hear phrases like “St. Sebastian” “St. Rita,” “Most Precious Blood” and “Corpus Christi,” my first thought is: “Oh crap, another poker game. We’ll be eating Spam again this week.”

All this took place in the late days of the long-lived, much-loved, semi-retarded Bishop Francis Mugavero—who died in 1991 with a spotless record: He’d never turned down an annulment.

I described how the cafeterias at schools from Astoria to Glendale filled up three nights per week—including Fridays in Lent. On one of these sacred evenings, when the priest who sold the chips started handing out bologna sandwiches, my mother rebuked him: “It’s bad enough you’re having this game two days before Palm Sunday,” she rasped. “And bad enough that I’m here. But now you’re serving us meat?” So the pastor stood up and gave every poker player in the room a “special dispensation” to eat his sandwiches. I described these lunchrooms filled with addicted housewives, compliant cops, and shady gents of Mediterranean background with pointy loafers. The middle-aged attorney was fascinated.

“Were they… Mafiosos?”

I shrugged. “Or wanna-bes. All I know is that whenever they used profanity, my mother would reprimand them: ‘Hey! Watch yer mouth! You’re in the presence of a lady.’

“They’d stare at her, swallow…then apologize. They realized what they were dealing with.”

He must have decided that I offered Yale something… distinctive.
Indeed. In the end, Zmirak concludes, all this exotic potential psychic trauma all has worked out for the best:
Instead of a highly efficient Teutonic machine, my psyche works much more like one of Rube Goldberg’s old inventions, creaking along in the manner of the Habsburg monarchy, with Turks and Croats side by side, with Sigmund Freud and Karl Lueger smoking cigars at the same café. And that’s how I like things, thank you very much.
Keep on creaking, John. If only there were more out there like you. Come the counter-revolution, we will grant unto thee a wealthy sinecure with an amusing official hat, like Grand Imperial Farrier-General. All I ask in exchange is someday you write a proper autobiography, hopefully with copious illustrations.

Wednesday, July 16


Caption Contest!

Unfortunately, the nefarious Dr. Caligari did not check to see if the shrinking potion he had surreptitiously slipped into Pope Pius's wineglass was labeled properly.



Matthew contra Saskatoon Cathedral

An early rendering of the approved design.

It's be quiet on the Shrine this week, because I've been talking up a storm over on The New Liturgical Movement contra the unfortunate new proposal for Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a $28 million (Canadian) project that resembles nothing so much as a 1960s Pan-Am terminal, despite a sincere and much-appreciated desire among the designers and planners for noble beauty and local materials. I appreciate the open e-mail ear one of the building committee members has offered to my contrarian sentiments, even if we may agree to disagree.

The somewhat outmoded design, nonetheless, remains a disappointment to me on many levels. We are in an age, surprisingly, of cathedral-building--Los Angeles, Oakland, Houston, Steubenville, and now Saskatoon, and yet, we see not a white garment of churches, but an ecru chasu-alb.

Matthew Alderman. Perspective Study of a Hypothetical Proposal for Saskatoon Cathedral. July 2008. Click to enlarge.

Money is, of course, one of the big issues, but as I have said many times in the past, traditional design is not expensive vis-a-vis modern design. Quality design is expensive, whatever sort you're looking at. And cathedrals deserve the best, or close to it. If this should not be possible, it might be better to wait for better times.

A "high-style" modern building is just as expensive as a "high-style" classical one, and often more. Look at Los Angeles Cathedral, a bloated excrescence with hardly a scrap of ornament on it, and yet the bill came to nearly $200 million. If one is going to spend any money, one should spend it on something good. Better throw in some extra cash and do it right. If you show people beautiful drawings, and aim high, you often get donations. It takes time, but it can happen. Better a cathedral that takes time and care to raise, or no cathedral at all, than a bad one.

Matthew Alderman. Hypothetical counter-proposal for Saskatoon Cathedral. A plan of the principal floor. June 2008. Click to enlarge.

Think of how much money that was raised for the yellow armadillo in L.A. and Oakland's nuclear sugarloaf--if people are willing that much to donate for such hideous structures, think of how they'd flock to something beautiful. And even if a design must be simplified, better a clever classicist to do it; simplicity is more than turning geometric diagrams into construction documents.

Anyway, if you want to know more, head over to The New Liturgical Movement and see what's going on. You will find a brief run-down on the problems of approved design here, and my own hypothetical counter-proposal here and here, which also include some more realistic variations derived from my admittedly somewhat fanciful proposal.

Matthew Alderman. Hypothetical counter-proposal for Saskatoon Cathedral. Perspective of Romanesque alternate scheme. June 2008.

Monday, July 14


Nuns + Vegemite = Instant Comedy

And for my readers in Tallahassee, two Vegemite-related, World Youth Day-themed Sister Giovanna sightings, courtesy Dawn.

(For those of you who don't know her, Sr. G. and I were in kindergarten together. For those who do, she definitely requires no introduction. All I can say is it's starting to get to be like Where's Waldo.)

On the Death of Marie-Antoinette

"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. 0h, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

"But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness."

--Edmund Burke, 1793


I hope zhat Weis pulls zee team togezzer zis year. Georg! Ease up, you are not assisting Holy Mass. Maybe you might get us some zhat... vhat vas it? Oh, zee "taco dip."

Saturday, July 12


Caption Contest

It was then that Fr. de Rossi realized that the traditional post-ordination game of musical chairs was about to go horribly wrong.

(Photo from Hallowed Ground, which also features another photo of HSH Princess Grace guaranteed, even more than the the one we posted, to reduce all Catholic males within a 50 mile radius into a happy little puddle of gibbering goo.)

Thursday, July 10


From Matt's Sketchbook

Study for a hypothetical design for a thurible in the style of Catalan Modernismo. 2006. Graphite on paper. Artist's Collection.


Three sure proofs that God loves us in one convenient photo: the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the existence of Grace Kelly.

Photo from the lovely and talented gals over at the Pious Sodality, who also have excellent taste in haberdashery. Now, I will reassure you of my masculinity by making loud grunting noises.

Tuesday, July 8



Bishop Burnham, a name delightfully similar, if completely unrelated, to Bishop Brennan


The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, is to lead his fellow Anglo-Catholics from the Church of England into the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Herald will reveal this week.

Bishop Burnham... has made a statement asking Pope Benedict XVI and the English Catholic bishops for "magnanimous gestures" that will allow traditionalists to become Catholics en masse.

He is confident that this will happen, following talks in Rome with Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Kasper, the Vatican’s head of ecumenism. He was accompanied on his visit by the Rt Rev Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough, the other Canterbury "flying bishop", who is expected to follow his example.

Bishop Burnham hopes that Rome will offer special arrangements whereby former Anglicans can stay worshipping in parishes under the guidance of a Catholic bishop. Most of these parishes already use the Roman liturgy, but there may be provision for Anglican prayers if churches request it.

Anglican priests who are already married will not be barred from ordination as priests, though Bishop Burnham would not be able to continue in episcopal orders, as he is married and there is an absolute bar on married bishops in the Roman and Orthodox Churches.

Read it all

It would be really, really awesome if the Anglicans are received as a sui iuris Church, so that we would have an actual non-Roman Western Rite (as opposed to the vestigial Mozarabic Rite or the localized Milanese rite), though that seems unlikely from the details provided here.

(Tip of a biretta-worn-with-tippet-surplice-and-hood to Damian Thompson via Fr. Z)

Update: Some commentators aren't so sure

New Line Art from Matthew Alderman

Cassian of Imola, Patron Saint of Parish Clerks and of Mexico City. Commissioned for a holy card. 4.5" x 6.5", ink on vellum. July 2008. Artist's Collection. (Click on image for larger version).

Lord Jesus Christ, give to us the patience of St. Cassian of Imola, who endured a hundred small wounds because of his love for You. Help us to endure the daily trials of life, and attentive to our duties, keep our hearts focused on loving You and serving Your people with the joy of those who acclaim You as our Savior. We ask this in Your Holy Name. Amen. (Prayer for private use only.)

No, Not Those Dominicans

"...Santo Domingo's curiously-named Museum of Dominican Man..."

~Tony Horwitz, visiting Hispaniola in A Journey Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, 2008.

Anglicans wrote this?

After the Church of England voted to ordain women to the Episcopate yesterday (itself a surprising instance of Anglicans deciding something definitively), representatives of some 1,300 clergy, including Anglo-Catholics, released their own surprisingly straightforward intent to do something that may be surprising concrete:

The consistent behaviour of the General Synod compels Forward in Faith and the Catholic Group in General Synod to recognise that, without intervention by the House of Bishops, there is little prospect of gaining a synodical majority which would provide a structural solution that would meet the needs of those who, out of obedience to scripture and tradition, are unable in conscience to receive the ordination of women to the episcopate. We will in the coming days continue to explore all possible avenues which might secure our corporate ecclesial future and look to our bishops to facilitate this.

When the celebrated ability of the Church of England to muddle its way through disagreements falters, the Anglican Communion really is on the verge of... something.

(Tip of a biretta-worn-with-tippet-surplice-and-hood to Titus 1:9

Monday, July 7


Hamas vs. Hummus

This is the single most depressing thing I've read in months:

Then, the interviewer declared: “Your conflict is not so bad. Jennifer-Angelina is worse

Family Albums of the Saints

Some friends of mine and I were chatting this weekend and the subject of the Holy Kinship came up, those wonderful family-portrait altarpieces showing the immensely complex shape of the extended Holy Family--Mary Salome, Mary Cleophas, James and John, and all the rest. At the National Gallery in Washington, there's a large medieval wood-carving depicting this, with all the women in the foreground, babies playing round their feet, and a oddly despondent set of husbands in the back row, clearly putting the lie to the whole "male-dominated Church" business; as well as a delightful set showing the Salomes and the Cleophases split into two separate family group portraits.

These last two are quite wonderfully charming, showing a kindergarten-aged St. John studiously writing his gospel, as well as, in the other panel, a Buster Brown-wearing baby James Lesser fighting off the family dog with a medieval whirligig. It's hard not to love the Middle Ages after seeing such simultaneously deeply reverent, loving, charming, and even slightly silly images, and makes us wish we were able to balance realism and symbolism, imagination and tradition in our own religious art.

Which reminds me. The story goes that the confusing number of Maries in the New Testament--Mary Salome, Mary Cleophas, and Our Lady--in part stems from a very small-t tradition which has the ever-practical St. Anne marrying three times, which would explain her subsequent flair as a celestial matchmaker (i.e., St. Anne, St. Anne, find me a man; perhaps because nothing rhymes with 'girl,' guys are just on their own here):
Anna solet dici tres concepisse Marias,
Quas genuere viri Joachim, Cleophas, Salomeque.
Has duxere viri Joseph, Alpheus, Zebedeus.
Prima parit Christum, Jacobum secunda minorem,
Et Joseph justum peperit cum Simone Judam,
Tertia majorem Jacobum volucremque Johannem.

Anna is usually said to have conceived three Marys,
Whom her husbands Joachim, Cleophas, and Salome begot.
These [Marys] the men Joseph, Alpheus, and Zebedee took in marriage.
The first bore Christ; the second bore James the Less,
Joseph the Just, with Simon and Jude;
The third, James the Greater and the winged John.

~Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend (who else?), ch. 131.
Considering Our Lady was born when St. Anne was effectively barren, one must assume she was the child of her old age, so it is perhaps less startling. I used to find this old legend a bit harder to swallow, since three sisters all named Mary seems just a bit too good to be true.

Then it occurred to me. A whole family of daughters all named Mary? There's a very simple explanation. Of course, when you think about it, the answer's obvious--St. Anne must have just been a good Irish Catholic!

(More, serious, info on the paintings here and here, the sculpture here, and on the concept of the Holy Kinship here.)

Motu Mania One Year After 07/07/07

Happy Summorum Pontificium One Year Anniversary! Just in case you missed it last go-round, here were our suggestions from last year on how to properly celebrate the continued implementation of what some are now calling the Ratzinger Plan for the rejuvenation of Holy Mother Church:
Of course, I imagine most of our dear readers will be celebrating the Motu Proprio with adult beverages, or fireworks, embassy balls, a Te Deum, courtly masques, Handel violin concertos and other such wonderfully refined entertainments, but let's not forget the kiddies, since they'll be the ones we'll have to be learning how to say Et cum spiritu tuo for those 5 AM low masses. (Girls, you're off the hook in this instance, but if you're lucky, maybe you'll grow up and get to be Catherine Pickstock or St. Joan of Arc or Emily of the Holy Whapping or the like.) In any case, here are some age-appropriate festivities for the little ones--or even your favorite gang of rowdy college students:

1. Pin the maniple on the subdeacon. Determine Gothic or Baroque vestments with liturgical arm-wrestling contest beforehand. Consult Dom Roulin on how to properly fasten this very pesky garment to everyone's favorite minor cleric. (If there are no relevant guidelines for liturgical arm-wrestling in the Pontificale, no doubt we can dig up some esoteric Irish monastic ritual to fill in the gap, like Ordeal by Club Sandwich or Trial by Magic Eight-Ball).*
2. Spin the aspergillum. Whoever "wins" has to exchange the Roman Pax with the person next to him--not so fun if played with elderly bingo ladies or seminarians, but totally awesome if you're sitting next to that cute girl from your sister's Legion of Mary group. Though in that case, best to play without alcohol, to be on the safe side.
3. Rubric or Dare. (Clergy only). Either you cite the correct passage in Fortescue or you have to wear shoebuckles and a biretta to your next Novus Ordo at the Granola Hills World Peace Retirement Home.
4. Hunt the Buskin. Just in case one of your guests is a fully-vested bishop.
5. Ambrosian Liturgical Thurible-Lassoing Competition. Here's one for the Milanese three-sixty degree censer cowboy enthusiast in the audience. (Come now, you know there's at least one in every party.) A great way to rein in wayward lectors!
6. Toilet-Paper Cardinal. Extra points for the best train on his choir-cassock.
7. Musical Cathedras. If you have two (or more!) fully-vested bishops present at your party. More fun than a barrel of apostolic protonotaries de numero. This is reputedly the favorite party game of Cardinal Medina Estévez.
8. Incense boat-boy hazing rituals. Use up all that creativity you shouldn't be expending on mass! Remember that fire is our friend.
9. Low Mass Charades. Guess the saint, feastday, or papal name! For an additional challenge, conduct the game entirely sotto voce while facing the nearest mantelpiece.
10. Motu Mania Drinking Game. Comb news accounts of the famous document. Take one sip of the Veuve for the words "back to the people," "active participation," "nostalgia," or "ultraconservative." Take two sips for any reference to the Good Friday liturgy, "over-50 crowd," "body blow," "spirit of Vatican II," "un-pastoral," "tragedy," "in a dead language," "only in Latin," or "imminent schism." Four sips for "ultratraditionalist," or for mentioning that American congregations, who can sing "Pan de Vida" and Swahili hymns can't handle Latin. Down the whole bottle if the article concludes with the observation that civilization is about to end as a consequence.

*I made those up. The first club sandwich, after all, was invented at St. Gall based on directions in Vitruvius's eleventh book. It was shortly eaten by a laybrother named Wipo who was on his tea break and just wanted to try a bite but discovered he had no self control, and the recipe was lost until the Enlightenment. Meanwhile, it appears that while the Magic Eight Ball was invented in Song Dynasty China, it did not become commonplace in Europe until it appeared in 14th century Spain among an obscure Qabalistic sect of rabbis who venerated billiards as a representation of the triumph of Adam Kadmon over primordial chaos. Situation cloudy, try back later.

Sunday, July 6


We're good for your health!

Some odd research results from a recent study:

Along with co-author John Bartkowski from the University of Texas at San Antonio and other researchers from the University of West Georgia and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Blanchard found that people live longer in areas with a large number of Catholic and Mainline Protestant churches. He offers two key reasons for these findings.

"First, these types of churches have what's known as a 'worldly perspective.' Instead of solely focusing on the afterlife, they place a significant emphasis on the current needs of their communities," he said. These religions commonly organize outreach efforts for the needy and homeless, invest in the health infrastructures of their town and participate in other forms of public charity.

"Secondly, these congregations tend to create bridging ties in communities that lead to greater social cohesion among citizens," said Blanchard. This enhanced sense of connection between people provides collective encouragement for healthy behavior.

In contrast to Catholics and Mainline Protestant congregations, Conservative Protestant churches have a mixed effect on community health. The "otherworldly" character of Conservative Protestantism leads congregations in this tradition to focus on the afterlife. Conservative Protestantism is also a more individualistic faith, one in which the believer's personal relationship with God is paramount. These types of churches are thought to downplay the importance of using collective action, including human institutions, to improve the world. Communities dominated by Conservative Protestant churches tend to have higher mortality rates.

I think the degree to which they controlled for economic conditions would be pretty important for the validity of this study.

H/T: The Lead

Thursday, July 3


Fourth of July Vacation

...will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

~John Adams on how we ought to celebrate the 2nd of July, 1776. Why he was so darn all-fired up about St. Swithun's day, I'll never know.

I shall be away from the Hanseatic Republic of New York for a few days in order to better celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (and the birth of our most serene Republic a few days late) by consuming mass quantities and watching professionals blow things up on a large scale. (I will probably have to leave my John Adams for King tee-shirt behind to avoid a hazing*). In any case, expect things to be quiet here at the Shrine

*I'm kidding. It really says "Philip II for President." I imagine, for the sake of balance, we'd have either Queen Christina of Sweden or Alexander Hamilton for the veep position.

Those Wacky Boers

In 1898 during his solo circumnavigation of the world Joshua Slocum encountered such a group in Durban. Three Boers [...] presented Slocum with a pamphlet in which they set out to prove that the world was flat. President Kruger of the Transvaal Republic advanced the same view: "You don't mean round the world, it is impossible! You mean in the world. Impossible!" [Source].
In other news, the patron saint of Slovenia is known sometimes as Vergilius the Geometer.

Wednesday, July 2



So, perhaps May Day is past, and so is the official astronomical start of summer, and St. Jean Baptiste day, but it's heating up and some appropriate seasonal folk music is in order, a version of the Day Song from the Padstow Obby Oss May Day festival, a quaint if inexplicable custom of great antiquity, and one which fortunately looks likely to endure. (Also, it has the unusual honor of having a cover done of it by British folk-rock group Steeleye Span, which, I think, tenaciously still exists out there somewhere, with pretty much none of its original members.)

And like all folk tunes with age-old words, nobody has any clue what it means:

Unite and unite and let us all unite,
For summer is a-coming today,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.

The young men of Padstow, they might if they would,
For summer is a-coming today,
They might have built a ship and gilded her with gold
In the merry morning of May.

The young maids of Padstow, they might if they would,
For summer is a-coming today,
They might have made a garland with the white rose and the red,
In the merry morning of May.

Rise up Mrs. Johnson,
All in your gown of green,
You are as fine a lady as waits upon the queen,
In the merry morning of May.

O! where is King George [sometimes St. George],
O, where is he, O?
He's out in his long-boat,
All on the salt sea O.
Up flies the kite and down falls the lark O,
Aunt Ursula Birdhood she had an old ewe,
And she died in her own park, O.

With the merry ring, adieu the merry spring,
For summer is a-coming today,
How happy are the little birds that merrily doth sing
In the merry morning of May.

Where are the young men that here now should advance,
For summer is a-coming today,
Some they are in England and some they are in France,
In the merry morning of May.

"...And More Touching..."

"They are considerable men," he said.

"I know. But have you listened to their conversation? They don't seem to have understood anything they have seen here."

"They have seen the mine. They have understood that to some purpose," Charles Gould interjected, in defence of the visitors; and then his wife mentioned the name of the most considerable of the three. He was considerable in finance and in industry. His name was familiar to many millions of people. He was so considerable that he would never have travelled so far away from the centre of his activity if the doctors had not insisted, with veiled menaces, on his taking a long holiday.

"Mr. Holroyd's sense of religion," Mrs. Gould pursued, "was shocked and disgusted at the tawdriness of the dressed-up saints in the cathedral—the worship, he called it, of wood and tinsel. But it seemed to me that he looked upon his own God as a sort of influential partner, who gets his share of profits in the endowment of churches. That's a sort of idolatry. He told me he endowed churches every year, Charley."

"No end of them," said Mr. Gould, marvelling inwardly at the mobility of her physiognomy. "All over the country. He's famous for that sort of munificence." "Oh, he didn't boast," Mrs. Gould declared, scrupulously. "I believe he's really a good man, but so stupid! A poor Chulo* who offers a little silver arm or leg to thank his god [sic] for a cure is as rational and more touching."

"He's at the head of immense silver and iron interests," Charles Gould observed.

"Ah, yes! The religion of silver and iron. He's a very civil man, though he looked awfully solemn when he first saw the Madonna on the staircase, who's only wood and paint; but he said nothing to me."

~Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, 1904

*Presumably a misspelling of cholo, a word sometimes used in several contexts (sometimes derogatorily, sometimes with pride, sometimes indifferently) to refer to Hispanics of predominantly Indian blood. Any more detailed explanation would make my head hurt. Its first recorded appearance is in a 1609 history by the half-Inca, half-Spanish aristocrat Garcilaso de la Vega, who understandably didn't seem to like it very much.

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