Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-naturèd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numberèd He in three of the thunder-throne!


Saturday, December 24, 2011
St. Francis and Saint Benedight
Bless this house from wicked wight;
From the night-mare and the goblin,
That is hight good fellow Robin;
Keep it from all evil spirits,
Fairies, weazles, rats, and ferrets:
From curfew time
To the next prime.


Christmas Anguish

The dad of a close friend of mine died about a week ago. (Permit me for a moment to write as myself and not as a 12th century warrior.)

I've been developing a theory since my own father died on Dec. 18, 2007 (25th anniv of my reception into the Church, & don't think that didn't hurt) that Christmas - if it isn't actually about grief - at least has a lot of grief built into it. St. Joseph must have been anticipating how he would welcome the Child, & he must have been sick, sick, that when it came to it he couldn't protect his family from being jostled by the authorities, and could find no better spot for the birth than a cave or stable. He didn't have any concept of posing for Christmas cards, though of course we do when we think of him. 

The legitimate role of decorating homes and buying presents is to console the Holy Family for the deprivation that hung about the first Christmas. And sometimes, on particular Christmases, we get called not to mitigate that deprivation but to share it. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here's the tenth anniversary. 9/11 was the reason blogging itself took off when it did: people needed a new way to keep in touch and to get behind the anodyne news coverage.

It was also the reason this blog, named after a crusader, was founded. However, this blog has both expanded and contracted its interests over the years. One reason I started it -- excuse me, one reason I came down from the Heaven of Mars to start blogging terrestrially -- was that I feared the topic of radical Islam and the danger it poses would not be adequately covered.

I need not have worried. Other blogs have sprung up, devoted (unlike this one) to nothing else. Questions have been raised on occasion about their accuracy, and people with no basis of knowledge have held forth on these bloggers' motivations. This much is clear: ten years ago, one never heard the term "Islamophobia"; it may not even have existed. Today it is routinely hurled -- and accept as damning -- at anyone who points out (more than, say, once) that violent strains of thought exist within modern and perhaps classic Islam and that these have real-world consequences. Blow up planes and buildings, kill nearly 3000 people -- and become a protected class. Pretty smooth.

That said, I have refrained getting eyebrow-deep into the transatlantic anti-Islamic culture (though perchance I have some links that may take one there if one is not careful: a link is not "eyebrow-deep," imo). That culture's apparent (perhaps not real) ties to renascent European fascism are a little too close for my moral comfort.

In saying so, I do not mean to pile onto Geert Wilders, who I do not think is a fascist. But I note that -- well, perhaps you've heard of Nigel Farage, and his UK Independence Party? It's the fourth largest party in Britain today, after the Liberal Democrats (and the LDs are part of the governing coalition). I remain a Thatcherite Tory, but I admit to being a bit "Ukippy" (in Tory MEP Dan Hannan's wonderful expression). UKIP "reject[s] the 'blood and soil' nationalism of extremist parties," a clear dig at the unspeakable British Nationalist Party. UKIP's platform also calls for "requir[ing] UK schools to teach Britain's contribution to the world, including British inventions and Britain's role in fighting slavery and Nazism." Emphasis added. Apart from my greater preference for schools setting their own curricula, official UKIP's non-racist and anti-Nazi credentials are clearly in order.  

I mention all this because it gives context to a recent Tweet by Mr. Farage, to the effect that that not all the northern European rightwing parties are "friends of UKIP." He singles out one, the True Finns, that is. Others, we are to infer, are too dodgy for UKIP. And what's too dodgy for UKIP is too dodgy for me. (Farage doesn't mention them by name, but I infer the "Sweden Democrats" come under the ban.)

Today's European far right is divided not only by degrees of "extremity," but also by its stance on Islam. The most extreme among them see radical Islam not as the problem but as the solution, because they all agree that real enemy is the you-know-whews. That the Mufti of Jerusalem, an influential figure in the launching of modern today's Islamism, spent the War years in Berlin should not be, and no longer is, seen as a coincidence (though the debate continues as to whether he was made anti-semitic by the Nazis, or whether he sought refuge with the Nazis because they were anti-semitic.) Take-away for today: if you want to shake a hand on the European not-so-center right, have a care for what's at the other end. Make some sort of noise about the need to combat Islamic terrorism, and judge if their reaction is real or pro-forma. Or whether, ahem, they don't even agree.

But that's enough from me. He's what you really want to read: a column by Prof. Richard Landes, a medievalist (another theme of this blog!) at Boston University, specializing in millennialist and apocalyptic movements: "By reacting to 9/11 with self-recrimination, the Western elites have strengthened the hand of brutal Islamism."

P.S. Re comments: Yes, comments are disabled at the moment. That is temporary, I hope. Haloscan has ceased to function as I remembered it from the old, four-posts-a-day, 12-comments-per-post heyday of this blog (who know? We may go there again), so I deleted the Haloscan code and am looking for a new commenting format. I'm also getting used to Blogger's new dashboard. So give me time: comments will return. In the meantime, I'll check paradisoxv at hotmail dot com from time to time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011



Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSVCE): result of 1950s collaboration between Catholic Bishops of England and the RSV Committee in the U.S. For a long time available only in Britain, but published in U.S. since late ‘80s.

Ignatius Bible: exactly the same as RSVCE; this title is used by one of the RSVCE’s American publishers, Ignatius Press; it is also published in the U.S. by Scepter Publishers.

Second Catholic Edition RSV: Similar to RSVCE but with “thou” and “thee” changed to “I” and “you” and similar minor changes. Continues to reject so-called “inclusive language,” as does the RSVCE. This version is used in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, a version heavily annotated by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966 edition): In print again by popular demand, despite publication and temporary popularity of the New Jerusalem Bible (see below). Has one problem though (see New CTS Catholic Study Bible, just below):

New CTS Catholic Study Bible: The CTS is the Catholic Truth Society, in London. This version had its origin in the fact that many people like the 1966 Jerusalem Bible except for its tendency to use the Name of God (“Y____h,” but spelled out) when other versions use “the Lord.” When Pope Benedict expressed the same view, the CTS obtained the necessary copyright and brought out this version, which is the 1966 Jerusalem Bible but with “the Lord” instead of “Y____h,” and using the Psalms from The Grail Psalter. Not in U.S. bookstores; may be ordered from


Douay-Rheims: Contemporary with the King James; the work of English refugees at seminaries in northern Europe. So faithful to the Clementine Vulgate Latin version that its English reproduces Latin sentence-structure, making it awkward to read, especially out loud. Still, good to have around, b/c occasionally it has a reading that cuts the Gordian knot of difficult passages in other versions.

Knox: When Oxford classics scholar Ronald Knox became a Catholic in 1917 (and a priest in 1919), the English bishops didn’t know quite what to do with him, so basically they told him to sit tight at Oxford and translate the Bible, between intervals of counseling students (and writing mystery novels in his spare time). His version often sounds like one Oxford don talking to another. He turns some of the Psalms into acrostics. Out of print, but a precious find if you can get one.


New American Bible: The “official” Bible of the Catholic Church in the United States. Tin-eared use of English, with notes that reflect the worst of modernist theology. Clearly sent as punishment. (Do not confuse with the New American Standard Bible, a version published by Protestant Fundamentalists but admirable for its accuracy and literalism. Of course the NASB is missing the Deuterocanonical books.)

New Jerusalem Bible: “I will make of you fishers of persons.” Better idea: make of it recycled paper for the New Roman Missal.

Monday, August 15, 2011
ASSUMPTION -- what a day to start blogging again!

Today's reflection is going to be about choices of liturgical readings for the Feast, old compared to new.

The Ordinary (newer) and Extraordinary (Tridentine) Forms of the Mass exhibit differences not only in text, calendar (in some cases), and (in most cases) language, but also in selection of Scripture readings. Not across the board; but when such changes occur, they reveal a change of ethos.

Most of you who went to Mass today, in polite defiance of the U.S. Bishops' assumption (pardon the expression) that we're wimps who can't be expected to attend Mass two days in a row and that the obligation that usually attends the Feast of the Assumption had to be lifted, probably attended Mass in the Ordinary Form, and therefore encountered, as your first reading, Apocalypse (Revelation) 11:19-12:1. This is indeed a very important passage for the Assumption, since it identifies Mary as the Ark of the Covenant and as the "great sign" that "appeared in heaven."

Does the Extraordinary Form lectionary ignore this reading? No -- the mulier amicta sole passage forms the Antiphon, the first prayer spoken by the priest (at Low Mass) or sung by the choir (at Sung Mass) after the Prayers Before the Altar. (The EF'S Antiphon corresponds roughly to the OF's "Entrance Antiphon," but the latter is usually skipped in favor of some goshawful hymn.)

So then, what does the EF lectionary offer as the first reading for this Feast? Selections from the Book of Judith: 13:17-20 and 15:9 (numberings acc. to the RSVCE and the New CTS Catholc Bible; Douay may differ: it likes to). And what is this about? You don't know? It's about Judith saving her people, the Jews, by decapitating Holofernes, leader of the Assyrians, and receiving for this heroism the praise of her people as "the glory of Jerusalem" and "the honor of our people."

This is the Extraordinary Form's first reading for the Feast of Mary's Assumption into Heaven, for which the Gospel reading, in both forms of the Mass, is Mary's visit to her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, in Luke 1. This is of course a gentle, somewhat conventionally "feminine" scene: older relative is preggers, younger relative goes to be nurturing, etc. But Judith? Judith, whether this shocks us or not, whether it fits our perfectly irrelevant little template for how God ought to act or not, is a precursor, or "type," typos in the Bib-crit sense, of Mary. So is Jael, the woman who saved the Hebrews from the hostile band led by Sisera, during the Judgeship of Deborah, by pounding a tent peg through his head with a mallet (Judges 4).

Does it surprise you that these are typoi of Mary? It shouldn't, if you've read carefully and taken seriously Genesis 3:15. The enmity between "the serpent" and "the woman" is serious. From her first appearance in history as Eve to her most exalted one as the foreseen but still free-choosing yes-sayer of the Annunciation, the serpent is scared crapless of what "the woman" signifies for his ultimate fate, and with good reason.

Oh but, post 1960s, some of us in Church middle management don't want to bother parishioners with all that do we? First, Judith is a deuterocanonical book -- Protestants don't have it in their Bibles -- and aren't we annoying them enough by celebrating the Assumption anyway? (No -- where'd you get a stupid idea like that? The good ones respect us even where they disagree; the kind who get annoyed about it can't get possibly get annoyed enough.) Second, making people learn that much Bible-y stuff -- it's so complicated. Today's parishioners are more educated, and so -- oops, wrong talking points, never mind. Third and most important, it's violent. We don't want to make today's parishioner's read violent stuff. Don't you know about Vietnam? Today's Church is about peace....

Well yes, the Church always desires peace, prays for it, and works towards it. But Christ's peace comes via Christ's suffering. And if you can affirm that, see if you can go the next step: the most apparently "peaceful" thing to do in a given situation may not be thing that most conduces to peace. This is not "situation ethics" or "consequentialism," which I repudiate just as the Church does. But -- Judith was not imprisoned as a war criminal for beheading Holofernes: she was praised as "the glory of Jerusalem and the honor of our people."

Clearly, Sisera and Holofernes were enemy combatants lawfully killed in a just war. Just as clearly, Jael and Judith were typoi of the "woman" of Genesis 3:15 whose enmity with the "serpent" is perpetual and radical. And clearly, Christians who forget this are on the way to being wimps. Which seems to be just what some people want.

Today's OF-only parishioners read about Mary as the Apocalypse's Ark of the Covenant (in the old days parishioners with hand-missals read about this too, in the Antiphon; and don't tell me today's parishioners listen to the vernacular readings with more attention than those of yesteryear followed with hand-missals; attention to readings is abysmal at all times, but there's no reason to think it was worse then than now); but they read nothing about Mary as the serpent's-head-crushing heiress of Judith. Because we've decided they shouldn't. Because middle management decided the ideal Catholic is either an ex-nun smiling as she balls her fist at the first sign of neo-orthodoxy, or a pony-tailed hermaphrodite who chairs his local chapter of the United Nations Association and gives rides to the polls for SEIU on Election Day.

Except -- where old knights still read old books, and worship the way the knights did, seeing what "the old knights saw from their tombs...."

Holy Mary, Our Hope, Seat of Wisdom, Assumed Into Heaven, Pray For Us.

Epilogue: The following prayer, Tota Pulchra, is part of Vespers for the Immaculate Conception. It has been set by several Catholic composers, including Bruckner, Durufle, and Gorecki. Note how praise of Mary is interwoven with lines from Judith 15:9!

Tota pulchra es, Maria,

et macula originalis non est in te.

Tu gloria Jerusalem,

tu laetitia Israel,

tu honorificentia populi nostri.

tu advocata peccatorum.

O Maria, Virgo prudentissima,

mater clementissima,

Ora pro nobis.

Intercede pro nobis

Ad Dominum Jesum Christum.

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Feast of the Restoration of Icons

Aka Feast of Orthodoxy. First and foremost, a feast that, though not part of the Latin Rite calendar (either Ordinary or Extraordinary Form), we ought to be more aware of -- because of the importance of what it represents, the suppression of the heresy known as iconoclasm. If you don't understand why this is a heresy, and why its suppression is worth celebrating, then you don't understand the Incarnation, simple as that. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are as one on this, afaik.

(Btw, why do people keep saying that "Catholic" means "universal"? It doesn't: it means "kata holon," i.e. "according to the entirety," "in union with The Whole Thing," rejecting by-ways, rabbit-trails, and heresies. What does mean universal is "Roman"! As Msgr. Knox observed, a spiritual pilgrimage isn't an Odyssey, it's an Aeneid: your home base flames out, so you pick up what's best of your household "gods," in search of a pre-ordained destination, which is Rome. The lives of St. Peter and St. Paul are eerily close to this model. "Household gods" = Jewish roots. Trojan War = Pharisaical persecution followed by Roman-Jewish war. How does the book of Acts end, anyway? They finally return to Jerusalem? No.... They finally arrive at Byzantion/ Constantinople? No.... Luke turns to narrating the adventures of St. Andrew? No....)

No question, the Feast of Orthodoxy is good name for the feast commemorating the restoration of icons. But there might be others; e.g., Feast of Getting Your Chestnuts Pulled From the Fire by Rome Yet Again.

From the 1911 (pre-higher-criticism, pre-ritual-Catholic-self-denigration, and therefore reliable) Catholic Encyclopedia:

Iconoclasm (Eikonoklasmos, "Image-breaking") is the name of the heresy that in the eighth and ninth centuries disturbed the peace of the Eastern Church, caused the last of the many breaches with Rome that prepared the way for the schism of Photius, and was echoed on a smaller scale in the Frankish kingdom in the West. The story in the East is divided into two separate persecutions of the Catholics, at the end of each of which stands the figure of an image-worshipping Empress (Irene and Theodora).

Yes, twice during the 8th and 9th centuries, Byzantine Emperors -- abetted by compliant, state-appointed patriarchs -- decided that the tradition of veneration (not "worship": Catholics and Orthodox have always been as one on that point too, I think) of religious images, already ancient in both eastern and western Christendom, was a heresy (just like the next-door Muslims said it was -- what a coincidence), and set about deposing and torturing priests, monks and laymen who kept the ancient faith on this point.

Both times, the Bishop of Rome asked wtf was going on and demanded that the aforesaid emperors cease persecuting Orthodox Catholic believers (no distinction needed to be made in those days) and suggested that they work harder on running their empire, of which they were making quite enough of a nonsense, and make themselves scarcer in what concerns the Church exclusively. (Of course, as the 10th century would show, the Roman hierarchy needed no help in making a near-nonsense of the Church. That's why the Papal Reform of the 11th and 12th centuries was so important. Pope Gregory VII: that's the man!)

Returning to our story, and quoting again from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The pope at that time was Gregory II (713-31). [We ran through Gregories betw. the 8th and 11th cents., didn't we?] Even before he had received the appeal of Germanus [a Patriarch of Constantinople and early hero of iconodule polemics] a letter came from the emperor [Leo the Isaurian, iconoclast] commanding him to accept the [iconoclast] edict, destroy images at Rome, and summon a general council to forbid their use. Gregory answered, in 727, by a long defense of the pictures. He explains the difference between them and idols, with some surprise that Leo does not already understand it. He describes the lawful use of, and reverence paid to, pictures by Christians. He blames the emperor's interference in ecclesiastical matters and his persecution of image-worshipers. A council is not wanted; all Leo has to do is to stop disturbing the peace of the Church.

The Second Council of Nicaea, 787, ruled authoritatively against iconoclasm. But in the East, it broke out again, thanks to that reliable symposium of learned theologians, the Byzantine army, and its levers of control (as in west-Roman Imperial times) over who the emperor would be. Patriarch Nicephorus ("Victory Bearer"?) courageously defended icons -- also arguing that he didn't need to defend them, b/c the issue had been settled by Nicaea II (I do like lawyerly argumentation!) -- and for his trouble got deposed, exiled, and replaced w/o fuss by an imperial appointee.

(Over in the West, not even an Emperor Henry IV, a Frederick II, or a Philip the Fair could have done that to a Pope, tho' they would have liked to. Emperor Henry would sometimes take it into his head that he had deposed "Hildebrand" -- Gregory VII -- but as I recall he didn't even claim to have appointed his successor, much less do so successfully.)

Meanwhile, back in the 9th century, the Orthodox/Catholic faithful of Constantinople appealed to Pope Paschal I, who denounced the new iconoclast emperor. Beyond that, he was not as effective in solving the crisis as Gregory II before him had been. Nonetheless, the second iconoclast outbreak produced the last and strongest affirmations of Roman primacy to emerge from Byzantine sources. The Catholic Encyclopedia, as might be expected, stresses this, but also acknowledges that, second time around, the solution came from with the East, albeit slowly, and with the help of palace coups, many sufferings by Orthodox/Catholics in Byzantium, and finally, the accession of a Orthodox/Catholic regent, Theodora:

In the same year (842) a synod at Constantinople approved of [iconoclast Patriarch] John VII's deposition, renewed the decree of the Second Council of Nicaea and excommunicated Iconoclasts. This is the last act in the story of this heresy. On the first Sunday of Lent (19 February, 842) the icons were brought back to the churches in solemn procession. That day (the first Sunday of Lent) was made into a perpetual memory of the triumph of orthodoxy at the end of the long Iconoclast persecution. It is the "Feast of Orthodoxy" of the Byzantine Church still kept very solemnly by both Uniates [sic: the term is accurate enough but out of favor, as it tends to sideline both the Catholicism and the small-o-orthodoxy of those so described] and Orthodox.

Emphasis added. Nicaea II, 787, was of course critical in putting down the dreadful heresy that was iconoclasm, a heresy that misunderstands and ultimately destroys the fundamental change in the spirit/matter, God/man relationship wrought by the Incarnation. But the Feast of Orthodoxy/Feast of Rome Saving Our Ass does not literally commemorate Nicaea II: it commemorates the physical restoration of the icons in Constantinople on the first Sunday of Lent, 842. But ultimately, does it matter? Both are eminently worth commemorating.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. I don't care what you did in your parish last Sunday, Epiphany is January 6, and not only in the Extraordinary Form: the Holy Father celebrated it today.

The wise and wealthy of the Nations, as well as the poor sheep-herders of Israel, visit the Child and recognize king (gold), God (frankincense), and sacrifice unto death (myrrh). HAPPY EPIPHANY!

Saturday, December 25, 2010
Now burn, new born to the world,
Double-natured name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled,
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder throne!

-- Gerald Manley Hopkins SJ

Friday, December 24, 2010
Christmas anguish

Hello - it's Christmas Eve, and I'm back.

More Catholic bloggers than just myself (I know from Twitter) have picked up on the idea of "the terror of Christmas" (variously phrased).

Of course, Christmas is (along with Easter) the most festive part of the Christian calendar, and in the northern hemisphere its festive spirit has drawn from secular, even pagan, markings of the need to bring joy and light into the darkest time of year. Festivity: family reunions, mostly happy; kids, same; lights; presents; Snoopy winning the decoration contest even while Linus reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas. All true.

So why then do so many of us, especially as we grow older, experience unique anxiety, even grief, at Christmas? If we have lost family, the answer is obvious. But if we haven't -- God be blessed -- we worry about whether we're "putting on" a good enough Christmas for them; or, if we're guests, about whether we're pulling our weight, treading on toes, etc. If we have good memories of Christmases Past, it concerns us that Christmas Present (in the Dickensian, not the commercial, sense) may fall far short of them -- and you know, maybe it will.

So is there something wrong with us?

Let's start with St. Joseph -- about whom, incidentally, a Catholic politician in England, formerly leader of that nation's Conservative Party (but never given by it a chance to fight a general election) recently wrote a moving article in the Daily Mail. For Joseph, the "first Christmas" was a huge Fail. Pushed around by distant bureaucrats who left him powerless to protect his young family against the cruel obligation to transport his near-term-pregnant wife from Nazareth to Bethlehem to do Roman paperwork, he couldn't even find lodging there, in those pre-Super8, pre-online-reservations day. He found -- a stable, a filthy corner where animals were stored.

He couldn't have known how later eras would beautify the Manger Scene in religious art. For him, this must have felt like abject failure, if he was capable of such a pride-based sentiment. No wonder that a few days later, when the Magi arrive, we find the Holy Family no longer in that manger but (according to Matthew) in a "house." By then the census crowds would have abated, more rooms would have opened up, and Joseph certainly wasn't going to keep his family in that stable posing for Christmas cards.

But the testimonies to Christmas anguish go on. There's the medieval lyric "Als I Lay on Yoolis Night," about the Virgin and Child in conversation, she re-telling to Him the story of the Annunciation. The framing device for this narrative -- already a story-within-a-story -- is a meta-meta-narrative about a dreamer who dreams the scene of the Virgin-Child conversation, while "alone in my longing." Who is he, and, more to the point, why is he alone, and on Yule night, of all times? We never find out. (Click here for the definitive recording.)

Dickens wrote the most famous post-Biblical Christmas story of all time, and it's full of ghosts. If it's no longer exactly scary, that's with familiarity. There are other Christmas ghost stories too, and not all by Dickens. Even Washington Irving's delightful if twee chapters about spending Christmas at the ancestral seat of a time-defying squire in Yorkshire makes frequent references to spirits and fairies.

And (as one of Twitter friends pointed out), Charlie Brown, who at any time of year is never far from awareness of his anxieties, at Christmas time discovers he has "pantophobia" -- fear of everything!

Now, Charlie Brown's pantophobia disappears as a plot element almost as soon as it appears, so the focus can shift to the search for the tree, Linus's Luke 2 recitation (in memoriam, Christopher Shea, voice of Linus, 1958-2010), then back to the tree for the rebirth symbolism it can bear. But I can tell you this: after my father died on December 18 (a week before Christmas) in 2007, I came to know what pantophobia might be. I would choose one end of the couch to sit on -- and become afraid of the other. And so on and on. One gets better, but -- and this, not personal sharing, is my point -- Christmas tends naturally to bring it out, along with the joy that it also brings out.

A carol sings about "the hopes and fears of all the years" being met tonight in Bethlehem. The reference is primarily the hopes and fears of the Jews of ancient times (and not only ancient, imo), but everyone's hopes and fears are met there, because the whole world was waiting, knowingly or not, for the overturning of all earthly expectations epitomized by the Power That Made The World being born as one of us in the humblest circumstances human insouciance could have imposed.

The hopes and fears were, first of all, those that Judah and Israel enjoyed and endured during the Messianic preparation. Then they are those that the Holy Father talked about on his BBC4 talk earlier today. And finally they are our hopes that something of our best (usually long past) Christmases can be recaptured, our fears (probably well-founded) that they cannot be, and our hopes (a manifestation of Hope as cardinal virtue) that those best Christmases -- so much "better," in every material sense, than His own "first" Christmas! -- were stand-ins, down payments, signs, premonitions, epiphanies, supernatural-to-natural break-in, of the Divine family gathering and banquet to which we are all invited, where there will be no family "baggage," missed flights, overeating, underdrinking, departures, or heartbreaks, "for the former things are past away."

For now -- for want of this -- we are in temporary anguish, which with grace and a little effort we can temper with love. Merry Christmas!

I'll end with my traditional Christmas Eve poem, an oldie from some Olde Englishe guy called Cartwright, which I found used as an epigraph to the Christmas Eve chapter in the Washington Irving "Christmas at Bracebridge Hall" narratives that I referred to earlier. (Note, btw, "Cartwright"'s Catholic recidivism. When did he write? 1680s or so? Age of crypto-Catholic Charles II? Openly Catholic James II? That's the era of most of the "old" poetry Irving quotes in these "essays.")

Saint Francis and Saint Benedight
Bless this house from wicket wight;
From the night-mare and the goblin,
That is hight good fellow Robin;
Keep it from all evil spirits,
Fairies, weazles, rats, and ferrets:

From curfew-time
To the next prime.

Saturday, September 18, 2010
Pope in UK - 1: weird protestors

Lots of good stuff, but before I get to it, let's take a look at that "protest," the one that was the only news of the Holy Father's visit, according to some news sources. The Daily Telegraph (not similarly guilty at all) offers this, along with several more edifying clips.

Here's what I want to know. You can clearly hear in this clip a guy with an Arabic accent leading the (quite anemic) chants of "Gay rights are human rights," "Condoms save lives," and "Faith schools indoctrinate." Now, I may be way behind on my stereotypology, and even if not, social reality sometimes thows us curve balls. That said, I still have to wonder: don't most Arabic-accented Londoners have other things to chant -- things like, "In Talibanistan we burn poofters," "Every Muslim man gets ten sons per wife," and "Government-funded madrassas now or we start a car-b-que?"

Did Peter Tatchell have to save his voice for the media mikes? Did the chant organizers have to get their bullhorn-artistes from casting agencies, which these days have a surplus of Musliform personel in their rent-a-mob line?

A puzzlement.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

Mihi autem absit gloriari nisi in cruce Domini nostri Iesu Christi, per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est et ego mundo. - Gal. 6:14 (Introit of today's Mass, both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms)

From the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia (the reliable one, not the one from 1970):

The Feast of the Cross like so many other liturgical feasts, had its origin at Jerusalem, and is connected with the commemoration of the Finding of the Cross and the building, by Constantine, of churches upon the sites of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary. In 335 the dedication of these churches was celebrated with great solemnity by the bishops who had assisted at the Council of Tyre, and a great number of other bishops. This dedication took place on the 13th and 14th of September. This feast of the dedication, which was known by the name of the Encnia, was most solemn; it was on an equal footing with those of the Epiphany and Easter. The description of it should be read in the "Peregrinatio", which is of great value upon this subject of liturgical origins. This solemnity attracted to Jerusalem a great number of monks, from Mesopotamia, from Syria, from Egypt, from the Thebaïd, and from other provinces, besides laity of both sexes. Not fewer than forty or fifty bishops would journey from their dioceses to be present at Jerusalem for the event. The feast was considered as of obligation, "and he thinks himself guilty of a grave sin who during this period does not attend the great solemnity". It lasted eight days. In Jerusalem, then, this feast bore an entirely local character. It passed, like so many other feasts, to Constantinople and thence to Rome. There was also an endeavour to give it a local feeling, and the church of "The Holy Cross in Jerusalem" as intended, as its name indicates, to recall the memory of the church at Jerusalem bearing the same dedication.

The feast of the Exaltation of the Cross sprang into existence at Rome at the end of the seventh century. Allusion is made to it during the pontificate of Sergius I (687-701) but, as Dom Bäumer observes, the very terms of the text (Lib. Pontif., I, 374, 378) show that the feast already existed. It is, then, inexact, as has often been pointed out, to attribute the introduction of it to this pope. The Gallican churches, which, at the period here referred to, do not yet know of this feast of the 14th September, have another on the 3rd of May of the same signification. It seems to have been introduced there in the seventh century, for ancient Gallican documents, such as the Lectionary of Luxeuil, do not mention it; Gregory of Tours also seems to ignore it. According to Mgr. Duchesne, the date seems to have been borrowed from the legend of the Finding of the Holy Cross (Lib. Pontif., I, p. cviii). Later, when the Gallican and Roman Liturgies were combined, a distinct character was given to each feast, so as to avoid sacrificing either. The 3rd of May was called the feast of the Invention of the Cross, and it commemorated in a special manner Saint Helena's discovery of the sacred wood of the Cross; the 14th of September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, commemorated above all the circumstances in which Heraclius recovered from the Persians the True Cross, which they had carried off. Nevertheless, it appears from the history of the two feasts, which we have just examined, that that of the 13th and 14th of September is the older, and that the commemoration of the Finding of the Cross was at first combined with it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010
Made by one of my students

Friday, June 18, 2010
Developments on this blog


The fact that I haven't posted in a while does not mean this blog is going out of service. When you have a blog that started in 2002 -- back when people still said "A blog? What's that?" -- you don't pull the plug on it lightly. And I really have no reason to pull the plug on it at all.

So why the light posting? Basically, it's that I've been doing a lot of writing under other names in other fora. The 'net has expanded so as to create such opportunities.

Though I started this blog to be about pretty much everything I'm interested in, I will probably refocus it on its core competencies, which I see as being Catholicism (including Catholic history and current Church matters), and Medieval Studies.

I am also considering bringing on co-bloggers: both fictional (like me) and real. I've been in conversation with a fictional character inspired by Alberich in Act II of Wagner's SIEGFRIED, called Anders Alsdummeriesen. He's not the most soothing individual, but I think you'll be amused by his candor and wry humor. As for the realies -- it's hard to get them to work with you when you're fictional, but there are some possibilities.

Another unresolved issue: physical layout. At the beginning, it was my greatest pride that on arriving at this blog, readers would notice that it bore a physical resemblance to Eve Tushnet's. I'm still proud of that, and for that reason, I may not change it at all. Otoh, Blogger is making template-fussing easier these days, so who knows.

Many of you may have fallen out of the habit of checking this blog "manually," but I take it the technology of the blogosphere has developed since I founded it -- RSS feeds, Google Reader, etc. -- so I may hope that the mere fact that I've posted something will alert some of you to the fact that I've posted something.

If so, then do comment. Knowing you're out there will make a difference in how much time I, Anders, and andere Leute will put into it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
David Cameron is Prime Minister.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010
The miserable case of the Legionaries, and (link tucked inside) that of Cardinal Groer: Ratzinger/Benedict is the only reason the sexual and financial corruption ever got tackled, in the face of curial protectors (and poor Ven. John Paul II's refusal to believe ill of priests, probably based on his experiences of state-sponsored slanders of the clergy in Nazi- and Communist-occupied Poland): Damian Thompson purveys a Nat'l Catholic Reporter story, with suitable comments and reservations.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010
Fr. Cantalessa's homily

Been away for a while again, but I thought I'd step down again to reflect on this particular aspect of the Satanically-originated trials our beloved Holy Father is currently going through, which are part of the Church's Long Lent, and which will purify and strengthen the Church and also (in ways I may get a chance to explain) strengthen ties with living and fruitful albeit schismatic branches such as the Eastern Orthodox (e.g. did you see this? or this?), while helping to cut off deadwood such as the Anglicans.

Anyway, about the Cantalamessa homily. (The name means "sing the Mass," not that that's helpful.)

The Vatican can distance itself from his Good Friday homily if it wants to, but it seems to me the reasons it should aren't the reasons why it is. Perhaps it should b/c of some passages in it that seem to cast doubt on the sacrificial nature of Christ's death. Cantalamessa has more than once shown himself slightly dodgy as a theologian, and might be a better fit in the CDF's in-box than in the Pope's pulpit.

That said, however, you might want to read the entire homily text here, with the "offending" parts about Jews near the end, in boldface. These passages are obviously, uncontroversially, a gesture of outreach and solidarity towards Jews, and an attempt to convey to them good wishes for Passover. Also included were remarks, including a quote from a letter Cantalemessa said he had received from a Jewish friend, likening the phenomenon of mass slander directed against the Pope to similar slanders directed against the Jews.

No good deed goes unpunished. First came reactions from, e.g., Germany's Central Council of Jews. The only charitable interpretation of this group's reaction is that they had not read the homily and felt a duty to be at the head of the newswheel with comments, and hostile ones at that. If they stand by their comments after reading it, they must be either haters tout court, or examples of invincible ignorance.

The excuse of commenting w/o reading must also serve for certain conservative Catholic blogs, which interpreted Cantalamessa as having compared current attacks on the Pope to the Holocaust. That would indeed have been outrageous, but in fact, he did no such thing. In his own words, and in the words of the Jewish friend whose letter he read from, he made the point (I'm elaborating only a little) that problems that are local, and possibly resolvable among individuals, or (in the case of crimes such as sex with under-age persons) between individuals and civil law enforcement, can grow into worldwide group libels with alarming speed.

Perhaps what went through the minds of the Council of Jews, over in Germany, was that the Church's abuse scandal is based on real events, whereas anti-Semitism is based on complete fiction from the ground up, so analogies between the etiologies of hatred in the two cases, no matter how otherwise precise, are pernicious.

Let us grant that assumption for the sake of argument -- the assumption, that is, that no Jew, any where, at any time, ever did anything that might have given a Christian neighbor even the slightest grounds for complaint. Even on that assumption, the similarities between the etiologies of hatred cannot be ignored. Groups are put through the group-libel ringer for reasons having little or nothing to do with what they have, in the common man's parlance, "done."

As far as sexual abuse of minors, we know for sure that the Catholic Church is pikers compared to, oh, the American public school system. Except, the American public school system happens not to stand for the pro-life cause, traditional marriage, and chastity -- somewhat the opposite, so far as I know. The Church -- and Ratzinger/Benedict -- does. So guess who gets The Treatment.

Church, Jews -- both get persecuted, when they do, not for their faults, but for their virtues. (Jews are ineluctable witnesses to the reality of the Old Testament, alone among the ancient religious books that have come down to us. It has long been my view that this is a major basis for anti-Semitism in its modern form, tho' I acknowledge the issue is far more complex.)

This brings me to my final point about what Fr. Cantalemessa may have been saying. If he wasn't saying it, then someone should.

Myths of sexual insatiability -- such as the vast majority of parish priests and male religious who are abstemious and faithful have to put up with every day -- are the stock in trade of mass hatreds. They played a huge role in lynchings in the South (and in the "electronic lynching" that was attempted in 1991), and Julius Streicher of "Der Stuermer" constantly stirred up (mostly through scabrous cartoons) fears about dangers to "pure" German maidenhood from the Jewish men he labelled and libelled as unnaturally libidinous. There's no large-scale hate campaign w/o the "protect our women/children from these priapic monsters" factor.

I don't know if Cantalamessa meant all that; he pretty clearly did not mean that hate campaigns against the Pope and against the Jews are in all respects identical; he very clearly did not mean that what the Church is undergoing now is like the Holocaust. He said, very clearly, the people who have been targets of artificially inflated mass hatred have that as a common bond, and on the basis of that bond, he offered the Jews friendly greeting. Which some of them, affecting to be spokesmen, have flung in his face.

Very likely Cantalamessa should be (without undue haste) removed from the papal-theologian billet -- but because of his unCatholic views on the Atonement, not because of his rejected overtures of friendship to Jews.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010
The excellent blog Hermeutic of Continuity reports and dismisses some interesting liturgical rumors here.

But, H of C continues, there is better-founded good news: that a forthcoming clarification of Summorum Pontificum will hold that priest may schedule an EF miss with or without a request from the faithful, and that such Mass is allowed to take the place of normally scheduled OF parish Sunday Mass.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010
John Allen's informed speculation: new cardinals in 2010?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
My Church Unity Octave

Hi. Now, I'm not gone. Here I am, bringing you news of -- an expected influx of American "traditional Anglicans" making use of the Holy Father's new canonical provisional for Anglicans looking for a nice post to pope.
"The expectation is that our general synod will accept the Holy Father's offer," said Christian Campbell, senior warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Orlando, Fla., and a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Church in America's Diocese of the Eastern United States. "It is not so much a question of whether or not we desire to avail ourselves of the offer - inasmuch as it is a direct and generous response to our appeal to the Holy See. The question now is how the apostolic constitution is to be implemented. We have practical concerns, and we are presently working with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to resolve any outstanding questions."

Campbell said that the first Traditional Anglican Communion provinces will be entering the Catholic Church within the next six months.
The rest.

Friday, December 25, 2009
Now burn, new-born to the world,
Double-natured name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!

--Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, "The Wreck of the Deutschland"

Saint Francis and Saint Benedight
Bless this house from wicked wight;
From the night-mare and the goblin,
That is hight good-fellow Robin;
Keep it from all evil spirits,
Fairies, weazles, rats, and ferrets'

From curfew-time
To the next prime.

- "Cartwright" (quoted in the Christmas Eve chapter from Washington Irving's Sketchbook)