Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Consolatrix Afflictorum

Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929)
Consolatrix Afflictorum
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Dagnan pursued the academic mastery of finely drawn figure compositions

He made his reputation with large figure paintings based on scenes from real life in rural France.

It would appear that Dagnan achieved his effect of lifelike immediacy with the help of photographs, a common practice in nineteenth-century painting but one that artists did not always admit.

He often turned to religious subjects, treating them as genre scenes

Madonna and Child was a theme which he painted on a number of occasions. He stressed the beauty of maternity.

The Coarbs of St Moluag

Niall Livingstone, younger of Bachuil, (now Clan Chief) carrying the Bachuil Mor, the pastorial staff of St Moluag, with the Rt. Hon. Dr George Reid, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament

"Titles" are no longer "in". However they are reminders of tradition: many are good traditions.

Some titles are ancient: older than the Nation State. The Coarbs of St Moluag is one of the oldest titles in Britain: possbly the oldest. It hearkens back to the Dark Ages: when a missionary saint started to evangelise the Picts in Scotland in the sixth century AD.

The Times belatedly reported the recent death of Alastair Livingstone of Bachuil. He was the holder of what is thought to be the oldest title in Britain: the Coarbs of St Moluag and the "Hereditable Keeper of the Great Staff of Saint Moluag.".

He was also Baron of the Bachuil and Chiefs of MacLea.

The Livingstones, originally known by the Gaelic name MacLea, are one of the oldest clans in Scotland.

Saint Moluag, (c.530 - 592),] (also known as Lua, Luan, Luanus, Lugaidh, Moloag, Molluog, Molua, Murlach), was an Irish missionary, and a contemporary of Saint Columba. He evangelized the Picts of Scotland in the sixth century.

Molaug evangelized largely Pictish areas.He founded an island monastery on the Isle of Lismore,and it is is claimed that Moluag was the founder of 100 monasteries in Dark Ages Scotland.

Moluag died in Rossmarkie, Scotland on June 25, 592.

The Coarb, or successor, of Saint Moluag, is the Livingstone chief of the Clan MacLea. The Livingstone family of Lismore had long been the hereditary keepers of the crozier of the saint.

The Court of the Lord Lyon is the heraldic authority for Scotland. On 29th December 1951, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms made a finding that

"the Coarbs... of St Moluag have come down through the centuries...`acknowledging no earthly authority or hierarchy`. In my view... the Bachuil lands had no feudal superiors in the Middle Ages... And the Baron of the Bachuil at first, like certain old French barons, was in the nature of a baron par le Grace de Dieu"

The origins of the allodial Barons of the Bachuil have been described by Niall Livingstone Younger of Bachuil, in The Baron of the Bachuil

Monday, April 28, 2008

St Catherine of Siena

Girolamo di Benvenuto 1470-1524
The Death of St Catherine of Siena c.1500-1510
Tempera on panel 32 H ; 25 L
Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon

Catherine arrived in Avignon on June 18, 1376, and was received by the Pope, Gregory XI. Gregory had been ready to go back to Rome with his court, but the opposition of the French cardinals had deterred him. Catherine urged him to return and end the seventy-four-year residence of the popes at Avignon. In her letters to Pope Gregory, she is blunt and forthright. But she calls him "Babbo". (An Italian child`s name for father: "Daddy")

On September 13, 1376, he set out from Avignon to travel by water to Rome, while Catherine and her friends left the city on the same day to return overland to Siena.

Aged only thirty three, she suffered a stroke in Rome on April 21, 1380

Eight days later she died surrounded by her "Famiglia", including Monna Alessa Dei Saracini. Her body is in the Minerva Church, in Rome but Siena has her head enshrined in St. Dominic's Church.

The above painting is part of an altarpiece whose other parts are in the Denver Art Museum (St Catherine exorcising one who is possessed); the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University (Saint Catherine of Siena Intercedes with Christ to Release the Dying Sister Palmerina from Her Pact with the Devil); and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (the Assumption of the Virgin and St Thomas appearing to St Catherine).

For the painting in Denver, see The Kress Collection here

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Preparations for the Procession

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902)
Preparations for the Procession
Oil on canvas
Private collection

Un Scandale [A Scandal]

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902)
Un Scandale [A Scandal]Watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper
30 x 21 1/4 inches (76.2 x 54 cm)
Private collection

The Church In Danger

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902)
The Church In Danger
Oil on panel
29 x 22 7/8 inches (73.7 x 58.4 cm)

The Missionary's Adventures

Jehan Georges Vibert [1840-1902]
The Missionary's Adventures
Oil on wood; 39 x 53 in. (99.1 x 134.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A monk is recounting his adventures of his work in the Missions. He has been injured in the course of his work.

A copy of The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Ribera hangs on the wall.

It was painted at the time the Third Republic was actively pushing for the separation of church and state. It seems to make the state's case.

Vibert describes the scene thus:

In the novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947), the Prologue scene is inspired by this painting.
"It was a painting, by the way, that made the first scene of that story [Death Comes for the Archbishop] for me. A French painter, Vibert, one who did a precise piece of work in the manner of his day, called 'The Missionary's Return'"
(Small, Harold. "Willa Cather Tells 'Secret' Novel's Title." San Francisco Chronicle 26 March 1931)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Monseigneur en visite: A Visit from his Grace

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902)
Monseigneur en visite
A Visit from his Grace

oil on canvas
22 1/2 x 29 1/4 in. (57.8 x 74.9 cm.)
Private collection

'My dear aunt: At last - yesterday I had his Grace (Monseigneur) around for my private five o'clock. What a triumph for me! No longer shall I be the little scatterbrain, the frivolous little girl the world likes to think I am, since I have been found fit to receive such an honorable person.

For as you know, here in the provinces such a visit carries so much more importance - so much more, that it was even discussed and approved on high beforehand. I tried to do myself justice, for the sake of my name and family and for you, my dear aunt, who have been my mentor [...] I do not dare say that I succeeded as you would have with your experience, but I think that this first impression was not bad at all.

Then I had the unheard of luck the have the comtesse de B, whom you know by name, drop in a third of the way into the visit who served as my foil, my moral foil of course [...] She would not stop gesticulating, getting up, changing places, offering tea, offering cakes.

One would have thought she was in her own home, you have my word of honour! And what chatter!

His Reverence speaking of his missions, and she would get out all her old schoolbooks on theology, history and geography. She's a true atlas, that lady, the only difference being that Atlas supported the world and that the world could not possibly support her [...]

And her ridiculous questions! Picture a lady asking a dignified clergyman if, during his moments of solitude, he ever missed having conversation!

She elicited this response which, naturally, she did not understand: 'Never, madam! And today I shall return to them with greater enthusiasm than ever!'

J. G. Vibert, La Comédie en peinture, London and New York, 1902, vol. II, pp. 38-9

Vibert's narrative for the work is as follows:

Jehan Georges Vibert

Jehan Georges Vibert [born 1840 - died 1902]
The Marvellous Sauce, ca. 1890
Oil on canvas, 25 x 32"
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902)
The Church in Danger
Painting - oil on panel
25.4 cm (10 in.), x 46.4 cm (18.27 in.)
Private collection

Jehan Georges Vibert [born 1840 - died 1902]
The Wrath of the Bishop
Oil on canvas
14 x 11 inches (35.56 x 27.94 cm)
Collection of Fred and Sherry Ross, USA

Vibert, a French artist, debuted at the Salon of 1863 with La Sieste (The Siesta) and Repentir (Repentance).

The popularity of his works spread gained him fame in America and fetched high prices including commissions from John Jacob Astor IV and William Vanderbilt. A large collection of works by Vibert was amassed by the heiress May Louise Maytag on behalf of then Bishop of Miami, Coleman Carroll.

Vibert was one of France's most acclaimed Academic genre painters, renowned for his irony and wit. Vibert is best known for his satirical scenes from ecclesiastical life.

The Wrath of the Bishop depicts the fractures in French society caused by the divisions and disputes between French "liberalism" of the time and the French Church. The bishop, enraged by some article, is seated at his desk, and crushes under his foot, a copy of L'Intransigeant, a Liberal newspaper. The Bishop looks as if he is about to compose a suitable reply.

He painted cardinals so often that one tone of red he used was often called "Vibert red".

Vibert co-founded the Society of French Watercolorists in 1878 and served as its first president.

Vibert was also a fairly prolific playwright and staged many productions, in which he himself was also an actor. He was also a writer of note. His theory of painting was enunciated in La Science de la Peinture. In La Comédie en Peinture, he provided explanatory narratives for each of his works.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ferdinand Heilbuth

Ferdinand Heilbuth, 1826-1889
Pincian Hill, Rome (1860-70)
Watercolor over graphite underdrawing on paper
19.5 cm, x 32.2 cm
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Ferdinand Heilbuth (1826-1889)
Gardens of the Vatican
Oil on canvas, 1870
Private collection

Ferdinand Heilbuth, (1826-1889)
Deux études de la tête d'un ecclésiastique coiffé d'une calotte
Drawing on paper m 0,231 x m 0,187
Musée du Louvre département des Arts graphiques, Paris

Ferdinand Heilbuth, (1826-1889) was born in Hamburg, Germany on June 27, 1826, and died in Paris, November 19, 1889. He left his studies to become a Rabbi and travelled to Dusseldorf, Rome and Paris. He died a citizen of France.

Vincent Van Gogh wrote to a friend and fellow artist, Anthon Van Rappard. In the letter Van Gogh mentioned how much he admired the painting ability of Ferdinand Heilbuth. Van Gogh wanted to join both artists in Paris to paint together.

Heilbuth lived in Rome for various periods between 1865-1875 where he observed at close-hand life at the Vatican and the Pontifical court. During this time, he was often referred to as "the cardinal painter." Over thirty works of observations of the ecclesiastical life in Rome were the result.

His works were popular at the time.

In an article on the opening of the Grovesnor Gallery in New Bond Street, London in 1876, Oscar Wilde wrote in Dublin University Magazine, July 1877:
"The two largest contributors to this [East] gallery are Mr. Ferdinand Heilbuth and Mr. James Tissot. The first of these two artists sends some delightful pictures from Rome, two of which are particularly pleasing.

One is of an old Cardinal in the Imperial scarlet of the Caesars meeting a body of young Italian boys in purple soutanes, students evidently in some religious college, near the Church of St. John Lateran. One of the boys is being presented to the Cardinal, and looks very nervous under the operation; the rest gaze in wonder at the old man in his beautiful dress.

The other picture is a view in the gardens of the Villa Borghese; a Cardinal has sat down on a marble seat in the shade of the trees, and is suspending his meditation for a moment to smile at a pretty child to whom a French bonne is pointing out the gorgeously dressed old gentleman; a flunkey in attendance on the Cardinal looks superciliously on."

Emile Zola in Le Salon d`Honneur wrote:
"L’Antichambre, de M. Heilbuth, est une des pages les plus spirituelles de ce fin satirique. Quel joli volume on ferait en réunissant les tableaux du malicieux israélite qui venge à coups d'épingle les iniquités séculaires du Ghetto!

Aujourd'hui, il s'amuse à peindre l'embarras d'un pauvre abbé romain, famélique, ambitieux et piocheur, dans l'antichambre d'une éminence. Le cardinal est sans doute occupé, l'audience se fait attendre; l'abbé, assis sur un canapé dur, tient ses papiers sur ses genoux. Derrière lui, un gros laquais de la maison, s'appuie familièrement sur le dossier, et bavarde, bavarde avec la liberté d'un gaillard qui se sent chez lui. Le pauvre abbé ne sait quelle contenance, faire. D'une part, il doit tenir son rang, car il est de beaucoup le supérieur de cet homme. Mais d'un autre côté, il comprend qu'un dédain trop marqué peut lui faire un ennemi. Or, la bienveillance d'un laquais n'est pas à mépriser dans une ville comme Rome. Il écoule donc, il sourit; pour un rien il s'humaniserait au point de répondre. Mais si la porte s'ouvrait! si quelqu'un le surprenait en flagrant délit de popularité basse! Adieu les projets d'avenir! Le pauvre abbé ne serait jamais ni magistrat ni préfet! M. Heilbuth a exprimé avec beaucoup de tact les angoisses de cette âme en peine. La physionomie de l'abbé est une des plus curieuses qu'on ait jamais peintes. Quant au laquais gras, c'est un type. Il représente à lui tout seul cette minorité avachie et dégradée qui se gorge de farineux, courbe l'échine, rit grossièrement, et demande au bon Dieu, après boire, que le monde romain aille toujours comme il va."

The Glory of St. Ignatius Loyola

Andrea Pozzo (Italian, 1642-1709)
The Glory of St. Ignatius Loyola and the Missionary
Work of the Jesuit Order
(called The Apotheosis of
St. Ignatius
), 1688–94
17 x 35 metres (56 x 115 ft.)
Church of S Ignazio di Loyola, (the Gesu), Rome

The real walls of the church continue in painted illusion until vast open space is seen in the centre of the painting, with the saint situated in glory with the Blessed Trinity.

The three stages of the spiritual life as described by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Ávila, are dramatised in the painting.

On the foreground edges of the painting, giants, representing ignorance, are seen fighting a losing battle with angels, who throw the former into Hell. This represents the purgative stage of the spiritual life, in which faults and sins are avoided.

Angels bringing the fire of illumination to the faithful, and helping them climb upward, represent the illuminative way, in which the faithful grow closer to God by accepting light concerning their state of soul, and turn more and more to Him and their practice of virtue. Deep despair is illuminated by inspirational insights into the ways of God among men.

The last stage of the spiritual life is the unitive, in which the soul becomes one with God. It is represented in the painting by St. Ignatius united with the Blessed Trinity in the centre of the ceiling, where is situated the vanishing point of the perspective lines.

By the skilful use of linear perspective, light, and shade, he made the great barrel-vault of the nave of the church into an idealised aula from which is seen the reception of St. Ignatius into the opened heavens.

The beautiful ceiling celebrates two centuries of adventuresome Jesuit explorers and missionaries. A major theme is the missionary spirit of the Society of Jesus. Light comes from God the Father to the Son who transmits it to St. Ignatius as it breaks into four rays leading to the four continents.

According to the then current Jesuit ideas, the space within a church was a single area in which the faithful congregated. In Sant'Ignazio space is stretched before exploding into light and glory. The impression is one of exuberance and freedom. In reality, it was worked out to a very careful design and plan using scientific criteria.

Designed to be viewed from a point in the centre of the nave, which is marked by a white stone, Pozzo's ceiling produces the illusion of a palace opening on the sky.

Pozzo's work on the ceiling of the nave in S. Ignazio is regarded as the one of the high points of monumental Baroque painting.

It is not a work for prayerful contemplation. It is glorification similar to the Apotheoses of the period of civil powers: such as Sir Peter Paul Rubens` Apotheosis of James I for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall and Francesco Villamena's Apotheosis of Alessandro Farnese.

For a 9.9 billion pixel digital image of the fresco where one can zero in on any painted detail contained within the entire 6440 square feet of fresco, see the HAL9000 website here and follow the links.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Padre Pio's body goes on public display

According to The Times, the body of Padre Pio went on public display in San Giovanni Rotondo, in Puglia to mark 40 years since his death and the 90th anniversary of the first appearance of stigmata on his hands and feet.

Thousands of devotees gathered to pray as the body of the mystic monk was unveiled by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, after an open-air Mass.

“Today, we venerate his body, opening a particularly intense period of pilgrimage,” Cardinal Saraiva Martins said.

“This body is here, but Padre Pio is not only a corpse. Looking at his remains we remember all the good that he has made,” he told worshippers in San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio used to live and was buried.

Cardinal Saraiva Martins had a private viewing of the body in the church crypt with other officials who prayed around a casket enclosed in crystal containing the corpse. A British-made silicone mask bearing the features of Padre Pio covered the saint’s face.

The exhumation of Padre Pio’s body - the first time the tomb had been opened since his death in 1968 - was approved by the Vatican despite opposition from some of the saint's most fervent followers. Padre Pio's relatives even threatened to take the local archbishop to court if the corpse was exhumed, and a group of devotees threatened legal action.

Since the unearthing last month, the body has been prepared for veneration in Santa Maria delle Grazie church. Officials at the church said there was no sign of the stigmata, the marks of the wounds of Christ which made Padre Pio famous, and that the body was in good condition.

Padre Pio was canonised by the late Pope John Paul II in 2002. His image is displayed in, homes, shops, garages, vehicles and piazzas throughout Italy.

However for decades after the appearance of stigmata on his hands and feet in 1918, many in the Vatican were uneasy about his popularity and scorned him, doubting the authenticity of his wounds and mystical virtues. He was banned from saying Mass in public for a number of years.

An Italian historian, Sergio Luzzatto, recently caused controversy with a book on Padre Pio in which he claimed documents in the Vatican archives suggested Padre Pio may have faked his stigmata with acid, and also had "intimate and incorrect relations with women". Vatican officials say both allegations were fully taken into account in the beatification and canonisation process. Followers of Padre Pio believe he exuded "the odour of sanctity", had the gift of bilocation (being in two places at once), healed the sick and could prophesy the future.

Organizers say they expect 15,000 people to pay their respects to Padre Pio on the first day of the viewing, his tomb is visited by seven million pilgrims annually. The date of reburial has not yet been confirmed but the body is likely to be on display for several months.

Pictures can be seen on the BBC website

The Triumph of the Eucharist

"The Triumph of the Church over Ignorance and Blindness," from The Triumph of the Eucharist, circa 1626-1633
Design by Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577–1640
Woven in the workshop of Jan Raes II, Brussels,
Wool and silk, 490 by 752 centimetres,
Patrimonio Nacional, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid

"The Triumph of the Church over Ignorance and Blindness," (detail) from The Triumph of the Eucharist, circa 1626-1633
Design by Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577–1640
Woven in the workshop of Jan Raes II, Brussels,
Wool and silk, 490 by 752 centimetres,
Patrimonio Nacional, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid

"The Triumph of the Eucharist over Idolatry," from The Triumph of the Eucharist, circa 1626-1633
Design by Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577–1640
Woven in the workshop of Jan Raes II, Brussels,
Wool and silk, 490 by 752 centimeters,
Patrimonio Nacional, Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid

Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577–1640
The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant (about 1626)
70.5 x 87.6 cm (27 3/4 x 34 1/2 in.)
Oil on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Oil sketch which is the design for one tapestry in a cycle known as The Triumph of the Eucharist. The Old Testament sacrifice of a lamb was presented as a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ, commemorated in the sacrament of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1577 - 1640
The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, c. 1626 from The Triumph of the Eucharist, circa 1626-1633
oil on panel, 65.5 x 82.4 cm (25 13/16 x 32 7/16 in.)
The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1577 - 1640
The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, c. 1626 (detail)from The Triumph of the Eucharist, circa 1626-1633
oil on panel, 65.5 x 82.4 cm (25 13/16 x 32 7/16 in.)
The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Flemish, 1577 - 1640
The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, c. 1626 (detail) from The Triumph of the Eucharist, circa 1626-1633
oil on panel, 65.5 x 82.4 cm (25 13/16 x 32 7/16 in.)
The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Tapestries are an often overlooked facet of Rubens’s oeuvre.

“The Triumph of the Eucharist,” a tapestry cycle of twenty parts , was commissioned by the Archduchess Isabella (the Hapsburg regent or governor of the Spanish Netherlands) in 1626 for the Poor Clares' convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid.

The tapestries were woven in Brussels and are still in the Spanish convent.

Its subject was of central significance during the Counter Reformation, given that Protestants challenged the Catholic belief that Christ’s body and blood are actually present in the Eucharist.

It was Rubens' most ambitious tapestry scheme. It blended biblical and allegorical figures with contemporary portraits.

A number of weavings centre around the Ark of the Covenant. Five show scenes of prefigurations from the Old Testament and six show allegorical triumps related to the Eucharist. As such they illustrate the mystery of Transubstantiation - the actual presence of God in the Eucharist.

The tapestries were to cover the interior walls of the convent's chapel on feast days.

Rubens began the work in 1625 with oil sketches meant to project the appearance of the installed tapestries and allow for their translation by weavers.

In the designs illusionist elements were employed, blurring the distinction between the viewer's own sphere of reality and fiction: the pictures are presented on canvases painted in trompe l'oeil, suspended by cherubs in an equally fictitious painted architectural frame. Each of the eleven 'tapestries within tapestries' shows a picture allegorising, explaining and glorifying the Eucharist.

The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek (above) is a modello, or oil sketch, for one of the tapestries. The event illustrated, from Genesis 14:1-20, is the meeting of Abraham, returning victorious from war, and Melchizedek, high priest and king of Jerusalem. Crowned with a laurel wreath, Melchizedek offers the armour-clad Abraham bread and wine, prefiguring Christ's Eucharist.

For this tapestry design, Rubens used the ingenious device of presenting the narrative as though it appears on a tapestry itself. Three flying cherubs carry the heavy, fringed fabric before an imposing architectural setting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blessed John Henry Newman ?

The Times reports that the Vatican will soon announce the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman after accepting that he was responsible for a miracle in which an American clergyman was “cured” of a crippling spinal disorder.

Newman will be given the title “Blessed” after a ceremony later this year, leaving him one step away from full sainthood.

If the church attributes a further miracle to him, Newman could be canonised as early as 2009.

The last time a Briton was canonised was in 1970 when 40 martyrs from the Reformation were made saints.

St George

Peter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640)
Saint George and the Dragon c. 1606
Oil on canvas
427 × 312 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Peter Paul Rubens (June 28, 1577 – May 30, 1640)
St. George Slaying the Dragon
Pen with brown ink and brown wash
H. en m 0,337 ; L. en m 0,267
Musée du Louvre département des Arts graphiques, Paris

It was painted in Genova, Italy.

Saint George is also the patron of this city.

The princess' presence on the left is included to represent the Church

The Saint's horse rears up, its hoofs high in the air as George strikes with his sword. Its white mane is coarse as is its tail but it is long and flying out to the side as if it were the hair of a woman, matching but diminishing that of the princess he is rescuing and running in parallel with the rising and plunging white plume of St George's helmet.

It is a wonder of colour in which a flowing red cloak points towards and points up the shining black of St. George's armour.

Rubens adds action, and emotion, a scene painted in the instant of a moment.

The forceful presentation of the horse and its rider together with the subordination of all parts of the image to a central theme represent the best in Rubens` work.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope visits Ground Zero to pray for 9/11 victims

Pope Benedict XVI prayed at New York's Ground Zero on Sunday, asking God to bring healing and strength to grieving families, and direction for people "consumed with hatred."

"We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died here -- the heroic first-responders, our fire fighters, police officers, emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel, along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy simply because their work or service brought them here on September 11, 2001," the pontiff said.

He greeted dignitaries, including New York Gov. David Paterson, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

He was joined by 24 people he had invited to join him, including family members of people killed in the terrorist attacks and rescue workers who survived the attacks.

"We ask you, in your compassion, to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day, suffer from injuries and illness," he said. "Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope."

The pope also prayed for "those who suffered death, injury and loss on the same day at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering."

He asked God to "bring your peace to our violent world -- peace in the hearts of all men and women and peace among the nations of the Earth. Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred."

He ended the prayer saying, "God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance as we confront such terrible events.

"Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that the lives lost here may not have been lost in vain. Comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pope speaks to the United Nations

Pope Benedict XVI called on the United Nations yesterday to intervene more urgently in countries that abuse human rights or fail to properly protect their people from the effects of natural or man-made disasters.

The Times writes:

"In his first speech to the international body, the Pope offered a strong endorsement of action by powerful countries to alleviate suffering. While insisting that diplomatic efforts to preempt conflict should be the focus of such efforts, he also suggested that military force, within the rules of the UN, could be justified.

“Every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If states are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations charter and in other international instruments.”

The Pope insisted that national sovereignty could not be used as a defence by repressive states to prevent international action.

The Pope avoided referring to any specific international crises but his remarks were a carefully balanced contribution to the arguments that have divided the international community about the nature of international cooperation against pariah states.

He made no mention of the war in Iraq, which he has criticised in the past. But his remarks were viewed by some as a call for more urgent diplomatic action by the UN over crises in countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe. This interpretation was given weight in a subsequent meeting with South Africa’s Foreign Minister and UN ambassador, when the Pope raised the issue of Zimbabwe’s election stand-off.

In his speech, the Pope was implicitly critical of the UN Security Council, which gives veto power to five permanent members, the US, China, Russia, Britain and France, a power that is often used to block intervention.

The Pope also suggested that action to promote human rights was a vital tool in the fight against terrorism, which was fuelled by violations of individual liberties.

“The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security. Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace,” he said.

The speech, delivered partly in French and partly in English, was made in the second half of his inaugural visit to the US – a trip to the American financial and media capital.

The Pope was greeted at John F. Kennedy airport in New York by David Paterson – who became Governor of New York recently after the resignation last month of Eliot Spitzer – and Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of the city. Church leaders from the Archdiocese of New York and several thousand cheering spectators also greeted the pontiff.

After his address to the UN the Pope visited Manhattan’s East Side for a Passover week visit to a synagogue, the first such visit by a pontiff outside Europe."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Beauty ? It`s in the Neurones...

Joseph Mallord William Turner
born 23 April 1775 - died 19 December 1851
Rome from Mount Aventine 1836
Oil on canvas
36 x 49 inches (91.6 x 124.6 cm)

John Ruskin
born 1819 - died 1900
The Garden of San Miniato near Florence 1845
Watercolor on paper
Private collection

Why does one find a painting or other work of art "exciting" or enthralling ?

Not long ago A. S. Byatt published a TLS Commentary (“Observe the Neurones”, September 22, 2006) in which she purported to explain why, since she discovered John Donne’s poetry as a schoolgirl in the 1950s, she had found him “so very exciting”.

The primary concern of her piece was to explain the poems and their effect on her by appealing to contemporary neurophysiology.

A generation of academic literary critics has now arisen who invoke “neuroscience” to assist them in their work of explication, interpretation and appreciation.

Norman Bryson, once a leading exponent of Theory and a social constructivist, has described his Damascene conversion, as a result of which he now places the firing of neurons rather than signifiers at the heart of literary criticism.

Evolutionary explanations of why people create and enjoy literature, “neurocognitive frameworks” for aesthetics, and neural-network explanations for the perception of beauty are all linked through the notion that our experiences of art are the experiences of a brain developed to support survival.

Neuroscience groupies reduce the reading and writing of literature and the appreciation and making of art to brain events that are common to every action in ordinary human life, and, in some cases, in ordinary non-human animal life.

It is therefore refreshing to read a critique of the new theory of neuroscience on aesthetics. In the Times Literary Supplement, Raymond Tallis, the Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester and the author of The Enduring Significance of Parmenides: Unthinkable thought, 2007 produces a devastating critique in The neuroscience delusion:Neuroaesthetics is wrong about our experience of literature – and it is wrong about humanity

"Under normal circumstances, experiences are had by a person, not by a stand-alone brain. The brain of an experiencing person is not isolated, like the famous “brain in a vat” of Hilary Putnam’s thought experiment: it is in a body. Corresponding to this is the fact that when, for example, I see something I like, or someone I love, my brain, or some small part of it, is not the only part of me to light up. My heart may beat faster, or more thickly; a smile may appear on my face; and my step may be a little jauntier. The effects do not stop there. My body is located in a currently experienced environment; and, since I am human, that environment is situated in a world that is extended in all spatial, temporal, cultural directions. This world, too, may be transformed by my encounter with the loved one’s face, and I may think differently about it. For the extraordinary thing about human beings – and what captures what is human – is that they transcend their bodies; that human experience is not solitary sentience but has a public face; it belongs to a community of minds.

This is a process that has developed over many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of years since hominids parted company from the monkeys. The neuromythologist, trying to find citizens and their worlds in neurones, stuffs all that has been created by the collective of brains back into a stand-alone brain; indeed into a small part of such a brain. True, we require a brain to participate in the community of minds; but that participation is not to be reduced to activity in bits of brains.

While we have yet to make observations in or about the stand-alone brain that explain even simple experiences (and, in fact, outside of the laboratory no human experience is simple, as every experience is connected with, and belongs to, a constructed and collective world of experiences), it is true that brain science looks more plausible as an account of the damaged brain, or the activity and inactivity associated with brain damage, than as an account of ordinary successful functioning. As a doctor specializing in the care of people with epilepsy over the years, I found it easier to account in neuronal terms for an epileptic fit than for the patient’s decision to come to see me and to trust or not trust my advice, or for my own decision to read the latest article on epilepsy. So why should I begin to believe in a neural account of the reading of a poem?

It is important not to suggest that it is only in rather special states of creativity – say, reading or writing poems – that we are distanced from animals. This is a mistake. We are different from animals in every waking moment of our lives. The bellowing on the lavatory that I referred to earlier demonstrates a huge gulf between us and our nearest animal kin. But if we deny this difference (invoking chimps etc) even in the case of creativity – and the appreciation of works of art – then no distance remains. That is why one would expect critics to be on the side of the poets, with their sense of this complexity, rather than siding with the terribles simplificateurs of scientism. A. S. Byatt’s neural approach to literary criticism is not only unhelpful but actually undermines the calling of a humanist intellectual, for whom literary art is an extreme expression of our distinctively human freedom, of our liberation from our organic, indeed material, state.

At any rate, attempting to find an explanation of a sophisticated twentieth-century reader’s response to a sophisticated seventeenth-century poet in brain activity that is shared between humans and animals, and has been around for many millions of years, rather than in communities of minds that are unique to humans, seems perverse.

Neuroaesthetics is wrong about the present state of neuroscience: we are not yet able to explain human consciousness, even less articulate self-consciousness as expressed in the reading and writing of poetry. It is wrong about our experience of literature. And it is wrong about humanity. "

Pope Benedict - no Dr Strangelove

The Pope`s visit to the United States would appear to have already been deemed a success.

The reaction to the Pope and his acts across The Herring Pond appears to have allowed people to have developed a renewed appreciation for Pope Benedict and his message.

Two articles in The Times- one a lead article on the Pope`s visit- appear to recognise this.

The first is a lead article in today`s Times which hopefully will allow the past image of the Panzer Cardinal to be finally laid to rest.

In Pope Benedict - no Dr Strangelove, the lead writer concentrates on Benedict`s message of "divine love" which "is surprisingly eloquent and confounds the early stereotypes".

"Anybody who has ever had to stand at a podium after a gifted speaker knows how it might have been for Pope Benedict XVI this week as he has made the first papal visit to the United States since John Paul II.

His predecessor was the ultimate media-savvy leader. When he came to the ultimate media-fixated nation, it was a match made in Heaven. Millions of the faithful and the merely curious flocked to parks and stadiums. People at times had to be physically restrained from throwing themselves at him. Even on his last trip here in 1999, visibly deteriorating, his mere presence was enough to move the least sentimental of grizzled Midwesterners.

The man who became Benedict was never going to match that. It would be rather like asking an ageing professor of English to take over from Laurence Olivier as Hamlet. He knows all the lines but he’s not even going to try to pull off the delivery.

Of course, when he was elected three years ago, the new Pope’s personal history created its own, somewhat lowered set of expectations. His membership of the Hitler Youth (actually mandatory for all young Germans, but why spoil a good story?); his reputation as the fierce intendant of Catholic orthodoxy; the fact that he spoke English in a vaguely “Ve haf veys of making you pray!” kind of accent. It was all too delicious for the headline writers. He was instantly dubbed Panzer Cardinal and The Enforcer.

Before the incense had drifted away from his installation Mass, the world had determined that this 265th pontiff was a rather disappointing, even frightening, sort of substitute for the last one, a kind of cross between Torquemada and Dr Strangelove.

Three years have passed since the fuzzy grey smoke from the Sistine Chapel announced his elevation and it is clearer than ever on this, his most visible excursion into the limelight since then, that this is as far from the reality as it is possible to be.

The visuals of a papal trip are much the same. There are vast Masses in baseball stadiums, Popemobile-led motorcades along city streets. And though he may not be a natural, this Pope has a sure grasp of the power of the image. He speaks to the United Nations today. He extended Passover greetings to the Jewish people yesterday and met leaders of other religions. On Sunday, his last day in the US, he pays a symbolic visit to the sacred American territory of Ground Zero.

But what is most striking, as hundreds of thousands observe this Pope in person for the first time, is not the visual symbolism, the crowds or the made-for-TV events, but the imposing beauty and power of his words.

It’s already a cliché in Rome that the crowds came to see John Paul but they come to hear Benedict.

Among those familiar with his career, his reputation was always that of a fierce intellectual — the theologian and author of dozens of dense tracts on Christianity. But what was missing was an understanding of Benedict’s remarkable capacity to use words to speak to the emotional part of the human brain.

Of course, the Pope will already have known that the US, unlike the Europe he hopes still to convert, is a religious place. True, as in Europe, there are a growing number of so-called cafeteria Christians, those who like to choose from a menu of moral and doctrinal options, who believe religion should be essentially a kind of divine validation of their own lifestyle rather than a call to sacrifice and commitment. But America is still fundamentally receptive to the religious principle, the idea of a single truth rather than a moral chaos of equally valid beliefs.

It would be a shame, however, if his words to Americans were not heard by people — Christians and non-Christians everywhere.

He has already startled many with the intensity of his denunciations of the actions of priests who sexually abused minors — the scandal that has turned many away from the Church in America and elsewhere — as well as those in the church hierarchy who enabled them. The Church has seemed reluctant in the past to make a complete penance for this sin but Benedict’s words this week will have done much to heal the wounds and restore trust.

Less newsworthy but perhaps more powerful for most listeners has been Benedict’s eloquence on the spiritual challenges of the modern world. At the White House, with President Bush at his side, he reminded Americans about the responsibilities as well as the great opportunities of political and economic freedom. “Freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good.”

But the Pope’s most compelling words are a constant reminder of how absurd his stereotype has been. He speaks repeatedly of the simple beauty of human love.

Shortly before he became Pope, Benedict told a congregation: “Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.”

This idea of faith as a love story — God’s love for his people, and our love for Christ, the human face of God — is what Benedict seems to want us to understand as the defining theme of his papacy.

His first encyclical was not on birth control or gay marriage, but on what many considered the somewhat surprising subject of the simple divinity of human love, including the sanctity of erotic love. This emphasis on the centrality of love to the human condition is so at odds with the caricature of the doctrinal vigilante, endlessly lecturing on the perils of sexual intemperance, that it requires us to think hard about the very nature of religion’s role in modern life. It is a useful counterweight to the popular secular view that religion is the root of all human discord.

Three years ago, as John Paul II was laid to rest under St Peter’s, his extraordinary and epoch-changing ministry at an end, a reporter turned to one of his colleagues and said, with evident feeling: “There goes one heck of a story.”

But the story, as it happens, lives on, Benedict has opened a new chapter and if people would only listen they might find it has a surprising ending."

In Penitent Pope meets victims of sexual abuse by priests the writer concentrates on one of the most important themes of the visit: atonement for the priestly abuse of minors over the past 30 years and the Church’s slow response to it.

"Pope Benedict XVI met victims of sexual abuse by American clergy yesterday in the most dramatic signal yet of his efforts to atone for the scandal that has inflicted heavy damage on the Catholic Church in the United States.

The meeting took place in the chapel of the Vatican mission in Washington and came as he continued to place the issue of priestly abuse of minors over the past 30 years and the Church’s slow response to it at the forefront of his first visit to the US.

A Vatican spokesman said that the pontiff spent time with a group of victims. “They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterward listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope,” he said.

“His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse.”

Chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there was a lot of emotion in the room and some victims cried. Each one then spoke personally with the Pope.

Accompanying the Pope in the meeting was Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston. The Boston Archdiocese was the scene of some of the worst cases of abuse. Cardinal Bernard Law, Cardinal O’Malley’s predecessor, was forced to resign in 2002 after strong criticism that he had allowed priests who had been known sexual abusers to remain in pastoral duties in the diocese.

Earlier the Pope used the occasion of a vast outdoor Mass in Washington’s new baseball stadium to express once again his shame at the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the US. Celebrating Mass with 215 bishops for a congregation of more than 46,000 at Nationals Park, in view of the Capitol building, the Pope delivered a homily that dwelt at length on the sexual abuse scandal.

“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” the Pope said. “Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church.”

It was the third time in as many days on his first visit to the US that the Pope had condemned the actions of priests who abused youngsters over a period of decades, and it was the first time that he has expressed regret to a congregation of lay Catholics.

The scandal, which became public in 2002, has damaged the reputation of the Church and cost it more than $1 billion (£500 million) in legal settlements with victims of abuse.

Much of the leadership of the Church either ignored or failed to deal adequately with allegations of abuse over a period of years. A number of priests who were accused of abuse were removed from one parish or school only to be placed in another where they repeated their crimes. Several are now serving prison sentences.

The Pope asked the congregation to help victims of abuse and to support the many innocent priests whose reputations and trust had been damaged by the scandal.

“Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do,” he said.

The repeated emphasis on the abuse scandal has surprised some Catholic observers, who expected the Pope to acknowledge the problems but not necessarily to demonstrate such penitence on behalf of the whole Church.

Benedict XVI’s contrition has been matched by a strong insistence from the Vatican that the lingering problem of sexual abuse should be eradicated. When he flew to the US on Tuesday, the Pope said that the Church would never tolerate paedophiles in the priesthood.

The theme of the visit is “Christ Our Hope” and the homily by the Pope yesterday also emphasised that message. He praised America as “a people of hope” but noted that there had been times in its history when not all of its inhabitants — especially Native Americans and slaves — had shared in the possibilities of hope.

“By your prayers, by the witness of your faith, by the fruitfulness of your charity, may you point the way towards that vast horizon of hope which God is even now opening up to his Church, and indeed to all humanity: the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Saviour,” he concluded.

The Mass, which converted the stadium into a vast, open-air cathedral, was the focal point of the third day of the visit.

The Pope arrives in New York today, where he is to deliver an address to the United Nations. The speech is expected to call for a reform of the organisation and mission of the UN to place it at the centre of global diplomacy. On Sunday he will visit Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centre destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and he will meet some of the families of victims. He will also celebrate an open-air Mass at Yankee Stadium."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope`s visit to the United States

The coverage provided by Whispers in the Loggia for the Pope`s visit to the United States is excellent.

Included are all the texts and links which you need or would want, including:

Address to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops -- Pope's Speech

Address to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops -- Questions & Answers

Address at White House Arrival Ceremony

Joint US-Holy See Communique

The Homily at Nationals Park, Washington on 17th April 2008

A Scot cannot be Pope

Libby Purves in The Times explains why a Scot cannot be a Pope.

Apparently Scotland is the only country in the world where it is still illegal for a citizen to become Pope.

The Act (The Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560) was passed by the Old Scots Parliament after The Reformation and has never been repealed.

The Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560, APS 1560 c.2 provides:

Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560, APS 1560 c.2

Concerning the jurisdictioun and autoritie of the bischope of Rome callit the Paip

In the Parliament haldin at edinburgh the tent day of Julij the yeir of God JmVc&lx yeiris and thairefter continewit to the first day of august nixt thaireftir following with continewatioune of dayis vpoun the tuenty foir day of the said monethe of august

The thre estaitis then being present vnderstanding that the Jurisdictioune and autoritie of the bischope of Rome callit the paip vsit within this realme in tymes bipast hes bene verray hurtful and preiudiciall to our soueranis autoritie and commone weill of this realme

Thairfoir hes statute and ordanit that the bischope of Rome haif na Jurisdictioun nor autoritie within this realme in tymes cuming

And that nane of our saidis soueranis subiectis of this realme sute or desire in ony tyme heireftir title or rycht be the said bischope of Rome or his sait to ony thing within this realme vnder the panis of barratrye

That is to say proscriptioune banischement and neuir to bruke honour office nor dignitie within this realme

And the controvenaris heirof tobe callit befoir the Justice or his deputis or befoir the lordis of sessioun and pvnist thairfoir conforme to the Lawis of this realme

And the furnissaris of thame with fynance of money and purchessaris of thair title of rycht or manteanaris or defendaris of thame sall incur the same panis

And that na bischop nor vther prelat of this realme vse ony Jurisdictioun in tymes to cum be the said bischop of Romeis autoritie vnder the pane foirsaid

However the Act does go further than simply forbidding a Scotsman becoming Pope. No one would object to the declaration that the Pope is to have no jurisdiction in Scotland. Perhaps it is time to look at the Act and consider its amendment ?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

White House crowd sings Happy Birthday to Pope

White House crowd sings Happy Birthday to Pope .

The Times reports:

One of the largest crowds ever to gather on the lawns of the White House sang an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday to Pope Benedict XVI as the pontiff, who turned 81 today, began the first full day of a visit to the United States.

More than 9,000 guests packed the sun-drenched South Lawn as Benedict became only the second pope ever to visit the White House and the first in nearly 30 years. He received a 21-gun salute and heard Kathleen Battle, the American soprano, produce a haunting rendition of The Lord's Prayer

But, in election year, politics was never far beneath the surface and cheers rose from the crowd as President Bush, in his speech of welcome, noted the Church's prohibition of abortion.

“In a world where some evoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that God is love. And embracing this love is the surest way to save man from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism,” Mr Bush said.

After the welcoming ceremony, the President and the Pope were to hold a private 45-minute meeting in the Oval Office, with officials on both sides saying that neither leader was happy with US handling of immigration from Latin America, home to many of the world's Catholics.

The pontiff was expected to mute past public criticisms of the war in Iraq, but the White House said that the two men were likely to evoke the plight of Christians there with the conflict in its sixth year.

A Washington Who’s Who flocked to the White House to greet the Pope, including Dick Cheney, the Vice-President and Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State.

François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan (April 17, 1928 to September 16, 2002)

François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan(April 17, 1928 to September 16, 2002) received his Cardinal hat from the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II in Rome on 21st February 2001.

Cardinals have been imprisoned. Some have been imprisoned in terrible conditions by Communist authorities.

One of the cardinals who was imprisoned by the Vietnamese Communist authorities after the fall of Saigon was François-Xavier Cardinal Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

He was detained by the Communist Government of Vietnam in a reeducation camp for 13 years, 9 of them in solitary confinement

Released in 1988, he was allowed to travel overseas in 1991. While abroad, he was barred from returning to Vietnam.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome.

The late pope greatly admired him. Besides promoting him as the first Vietnamese prelate to hold a high Vatican office, the pope had him preach the Lenten retreat to the Roman Curia in the year 2000. On Feb. 21, 2001, Pope John Paul made him a cardinal.

The Cardinal described his experiences:

"To his non-Catholic fellow prisoners, who were curious to know how he could maintain his hope, he answered: "I have left everything to follow Jesus, because I love Jesus' defects."

The then archbishop said: "During his agony on the cross, when the thief asked him to remember him when he arrived in his Kingdom -- had it been me I would have replied: 'I will not forget you, but you must expiate your crimes in purgatory.' However, Jesus replied: 'Today you shall be with me in paradise.' He had forgotten that man's sins. The same happened with Mary Magdalene, and with the prodigal son. Jesus does not have a memory, he forgives the whole world."

"Jesus does not know mathematics," the Vietnamese prelate added. "This is demonstrated in the parable of the good shepherd. He had 100 sheep, one is lost and without hesitating he went to look for it, leaving the other 99 in the sheepfold. For Jesus, one is as valuable as 99, or even more so."

Another topic he emphasised during the 2000 spiritual exercises was the need to love one's enemies.

"One day, one of the prison guards asked me: 'Do you love us?'" Archbishop Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan recalled.

"I answered: 'Yes, I love you.'

"'We have kept you shut in for so many years and you love us? I don't believe it ...'

"I then reminded him: 'I have spent many years with you. You have seen it and know it is true.' ... The guard asked me: 'When you are freed, will you send your faithful to burn our homes and kill our relatives?' 'No, although you might want to kill me, I love you.'

"'Why?' he insisted.

"'Because Jesus has taught me to love everyone, even my enemies. If I don't do this, I am not worthy to bear the name Christian. Jesus said: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'

"'This is very beautiful, but hard to understand,' the guard replied.""

On September 16, 2007, the fifth anniversary of the cardinal's death, the Roman Catholic Church began the beatification process for Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. Pope Benedict XVI expressed "profound joy" at news of the official opening of the beatification cause

In his second Encyclical, Pope Benedict uoted with approval the works of the late Cardinal:

32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me[25]. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone. The late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, a prisoner for thirteen years, nine of them spent in solitary confinement, has left us a precious little book: Prayers of Hope. During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness to hope—to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
34. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, in his book of spiritual exercises, tells us that during his life there were long periods when he was unable to pray and that he would hold fast to the texts of the Church's prayer: the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the prayers of the liturgy[27]. Praying must always involve this intermingling of public and personal prayer. This is how we can speak to God and how God speaks to us. In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.

Spe Salvi - Encyclical Letter on Christian Hope

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Deluge and After: a Romantic View

Francis Danby (1793-1861),
The Deluge, exhibited 1840,
Oil on canvas, 284.5 x 452.1 cm,
Tate Gallery, London

Andreas Achenbach (German, 1815–1910)
Sunset after a Storm on the Coast of Sicily, 1853
Oil on canvas; 32 3/4 x 42 1/4 in. (83.2 x 107.3 cm)
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Pope`s Visit to the United States

The Pope`s visit to the United States is at least making some news in the United Kingdom.

The Times` coverage has been occasional but seems to recognise that it will be a visit of some significance.

The stress has been on the Pope`s visit to Ground Zero and the significance of a call (possible) by the Pope to terrorists.

The latest can be seen in The Times` article entitled Pope to pray for redemption of Islamic terrorists during US tour

Of some fun to some columnists is the simultaneous visit by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the United States. Most agree that he will be overshadowed by the Pope. In Clash of the Titans: Gordon Brown's visit to US clashes with Pope's trip, The Times writes (tongue in cheek):

"Next week a titan on the world stage will fly across the Atlantic to spend Wednesday talking war and peace with President Bush and making his mark on the American people.

Unfortunately for Gordon Brown, an awkward coincidence of timing means that his final visit to President Bush coincides with Pope Benedict XVI’s first to the United States, only the second time a pontiff has ever gone to the White House. Washington residents are already preparing for motorcade gridlock.

With a programme that includes a public Mass in the 40,000-seat National Park baseball stadium, the first nonsporting event in the new park, there seems little doubt which new arrival will be gripping the imagination more.

By contrast, Mr Brown’s agenda for his four-day, three-city trip – the economy and international financial stability, meetings with Wall Street bankers and discussions about the future of Africa – will never compete for the popular affection of the American people, despite recent attempts.

On Wednesday night the Prime Minister unleashed his fixed grin on an unsuspecting TV audience when he appeared on American Idol to pledge £200 million of mosquito nets for Africa, prompting one American newspaper to suggest he was a “parody of himself”.

Grover Norquist, the head of an American think-tank with close connections to the White House, said: “Most Americans are not aware of Mr Brown, and most Republicans in Washington are not aware of any change in the special relationship other than Tony Blair, a pal, has left. There is more buzz about the arrival of the Pope next week.”

Government figures are already nervous about seeing Mr Brown out of the country and appearing with President Bush so close to England’s local elections. Others in the party are more philosophical. “He can’t stop being Prime Minister just because there are local elections on,” one said.

Mr Brown will also use a big speech on Friday at the Kennedy library in Boston to urge the United States to reengage with the world in the way it did after the Second World War.

He will say the world is at a point in history when it needs American “values and leadership”. Downing Street says that there are no plans for the Presbyterian Mr Brown to meet the Pope.

The most eagerly anticipated part of the trip, however, will be the meetings that Downing Street says have been arranged with the three presidential candidates. After subtly distancing himself from President Bush, Mr Brown will be seeking to reaffirm Britain’s ties to the United States by seeing the Democrat contenders, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Republican John McCain, whom he met last month. Downing Street says the meetings will take place behind closed doors and diplomatic conventions mean the Prime Minister will say little about their contents.

When the trip was arranged, no one in Downing Street expected the Democratic nomination still to be open. Mr Brown will have to negotiate his way through the tensions of the Clinton-Obama race without signalling favouritism, despite a longstanding relationship with Mrs Clinton.

But even this has risks. Downing Street could face disenchantment if there are last-minute complications because of the pressures of the campaign on the two Democrat contenders. Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton are expected to go head-to-head in a critical TV debate the night before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Should either pull out of a meeting with the British PM, Mr Brown will once again be reminded that he does not have the pulling power in the United States of either his predecessor or, it seems, the Pope."

For those outside the United States, two articles in Time Magazine The American Pope and The Pope's Sex Abuse Challenge set out why the Pope`s visit is so important.

One matter which must be addressed is the clerical sex-abuse scandals which rocked the laity and have rocked the faith of many in the United States:

"Pope Benedict XVI's trip this week to the United States will include high-profile visits to the White House, United Nations and Ground Zero. But no matter what political issues or media angles may be buzzing before take-off, the Vatican tends to stress the pastoral aspect of any papal journey. The six-day itinerary is above all stacked with church services, baseball stadium masses and Catholic institutional encounters to allow the pontiff to tend to his flock, and to the priests and bishops who do the ministering when he's back in Rome.

The American visit, however, poses an unprecedented pastoral challenge for the 80-year-old pontiff. Benedict's is the first papal trip to the United States since the priest sex abuse crisis erupted in 2001. It is a controversy that has left much of the American laity bitterly disillusioned with their Church's leadership. For many of the 67 million American Catholics, how the Pope confronts the lingering fallout from the pedophilia scandal may largely determine the success of this visit.

Benedict's arrival in the U.S. is being seen as a make-or-break moment for Rome to regain the trust of its American flock, the third largest national contingent within a worldwide Catholic Church of 1.1 billion faithful. In recent days, the Vatican has confirmed that on at least one occasion Benedict will specifically address the issue. The Vatican's No. 2 official, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, told FOX News that the Pope will confront the "open wound" of sex abuse during the April 19 morning mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral for New York-area clergy. It is unclear whether his words will amount to a Mea Culpa similar to those pronounced by John Paul II back in 2000 for the sins of the Church over past centuries, including persecution of Jews and heretics. Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who heads the Vatican office for the clergy, sent a letter to bishops around the world in January, urging special prayer sessions for the victims of sexual abuse by priests."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Henri Rousseau (The Customs Officer)

ROUSSEAU Henri, LE DOUANIER ROUSSEAU (called) (Laval, 1844 ; Paris, 1910 )
In a Tropical Forest. Struggle between Tiger and Buffalo [Circa 1908-1909 ]
Oil on canvas. 46x55 cm
The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

ROUSSEAU Henri, LE DOUANIER ROUSSEAU (called) (Laval, 1844 ; Paris, 1910 )
Le Repas du lion [The Lion`s Meal]

OIl on canvas 113,7 x 160 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

ROUSSEAU Henri, LE DOUANIER ROUSSEAU (called) (Laval, 1844 ; Paris, 1910 )
La carriole du père Junier 1908
Oil on Canvas
H. 97 ; l. 129
Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
Group portrait of Claude Junier, Mme Junier, Junier Léa, young girl, dog, a seated Henri Rousseau, and horse)

ROUSSEAU Henri, LE DOUANIER ROUSSEAU (called) (Laval, 1844 ; Paris, 1910 )
Oil on Canvas
114 H ; 195 L
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
According to Rousseau in 1894, the painting was inspired by a cartoon of the Tsar published in l'Egalité on 6th October 1889 and by the painting The Night exhibited at The Salon in 1891.

Henri Julien Félix Rousseau (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naive or Primitive manner. He is also known as Le Douanier (the customs officer) after his employment.

At age 49 he retired from his job to work on his art.

He never left France or saw a jungle. His jungle landscapes derive from his visits and studies at the Paris Botanical Gardens.

He was an outsider,and he was not familiar with the rules of the artistic establishment. Although he worked in traditional genres, producing landscapes, portraits, allegories, and exotic scenes, they were transformed in his hands, made odd in ways that provoked both derision and admiration. Flattened shapes and perspectives, the freedom of colour and style, the subordination of realistic description to imagination and invention are the hallmarks of his work.

Rousseau's work exerted influence on several generations of vanguard artists, starting with Picasso and including Léger, Beckmann and the Surrealists

Friday, April 11, 2008

Austin in The Second World War

Austin, Robert Sargent RA 1895 -1973
Woolwich Arsenal in 1943
View of men at work inside the munitions shed at the Woolwich Arsenal, South London

Austin, Robert Sargent RA 1895 -1973
Our heritage; Winston Churchill 1943
Published by London Transport, 1943
Printed by The Baynard Press,
Dimensions: Width: 502mm, Height: 623mm

During the Second World War, Robert Sargent Austin (1895 - 1973) was an Official War Artist. (1940-44).

His works during this time reflect his patriotic concerns in the war effort.

He also designed posters and press advertisments for the Underground Group and London Transport 1928-1943

Woman Praying

Robert Sargent Austin (1895 - 1973)
Woman Praying 1927-1928
7 7/8 x 6 1/4 in (image) 11 3/8 x 8 1/4 in (sheet)
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

The Fisherman

Robert Sargent Austin (1895 - 1973)
The Fisherman 1927-8
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

Austin, born in 1895, tried to ignore the stress and turmoil ( First World War 1914-1918 & Second World War 1939 -1945 ) by holding fast to traditional, medieval modes of expression and subject matter.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Robert Sargent Austin

AUSTIN, Robert Sargent 1895-1973
Sisters of Assisi 1924
From A catalogue of etchings & engravings by Robert Austin, R.E., 1913-1929. London,Twenty-one Gallery, 1930
Etching and engraving, printed in black on Whatman wove paper
13.2 x 10.6
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

AUSTIN, Robert Sargent 1895-1973
Comare Giulia 1924
From A catalogue of etchings & engravings by Robert Austin, R.E., 1913-1929. London,Twenty-one Gallery, 1930
Etching and engraving, printed in black on antique laid paper
10.8 x 10.4
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

AUSTIN, Robert Sargent 1895-1973
Italian Stonebreakers. 1925
Charcoal. 18x27 inches.
Private Collection

AUSTIN, Robert Sargent 1895-1973
The Puppet Master: Self-portrait 1926
Engraving, 172 x 161 mm.,
Published by the Twenty-One Gallery in an edition of 50
Engraving: printed in black on ivory wove paper with margins and Signed and dated in pencil

AUSTIN, Robert Sargent 1895-1973
The Angelus 1922
From A catalogue of etchings & engravings by Robert Austin, R.E., 1913-1929. London,Twenty-one Gallery, 1930
Etching: printed in black on antique laid paper; touched with pencil or chalk
15.7 x 22.5
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow

Robert Austin was born in Leicester. He studied at Leicester School of Art and at the Royal College of Art, London, where he was awarded a scholarship to the British School of Rome in 1922.

His work is described as having a 'meticulous chilly classicism' and his sympathy directed more towards the animal subjects in his work; his human subjects tended to be somewhat dour and forbidding.

As regards The Puppetmaster (above), the artist pointed out (1 June 1966) that the figure and profile (but not the beard or moustache) were drawn from his reflection in a looking glass.