Sunday, August 31, 2008

Greek Mass to celebrate Anniversary of Council of Nicaea

Pope Benedict XV at Greek Mass to celebrate Anniversary of the Council of Nicaea

Public Consistory: Benedict XV

Public Consistory of Pope Benedict XV in the Sala delle Beatificazioni

Gregory the Great

Portrait of Luke
6th century
Folio 129v of the St. Augustine Gospels
Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 286

The St. Augustine Gospels (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Lib. MS. 286) is an illuminated Gospel Book which probably dates from the 6th century. It is traditionally considered to be one of the volumes brought by St. Augustine of Canterbury to England in 587. The book was probably given to St. Augustine by the Pope St. Gregory the First.

"St Gregory the Great has often been called "the last of the Romans". Indeed, he had deep roots in the city of Rome, its people and its traditions. As Supreme Pontiff, he never lost sight of the Orbis Romanus. Not only did he take care of the part of the Roman Empire, Byzantium, that he knew well due to his long stay in Constantinople, but he extended his pastoral care to Spain, Gaul, Germany and Britain, all of which were then part of the Roman Empire.

Motivated by exemplary zeal to spread the Gospel, he encouraged an intense missionary activity which expressed a Roman spirit purified and inspired by the Gospel, no longer concerned with asserting political power but keen to bring the saving message of Christ to all peoples.

The great Pontiff's inner disposition is evident in the directions he carefully imparted to the Abbot Augustine, whom he sent to Britain: he explicitly asked him to respect the customs of those peoples, as long as they did not conflict with the Christian faith. Thus, Gregory the Great, in addition to fostering the missionary concern that was inherent in his ministry, made a crucial contribution to the harmonious integration of the various peoples of Western Christendom"

From the Message of Pope John Paul II to the President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences for the 14th Centenary of the Death of Pope St Gregory the Great (22 October 2003 )

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The (Unjustly) Forgotten Pope

Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa (21 November 1854 – 22 January 1922), the future Pope Benedict XV (3 September 1914 to 22 January 1922) as a child in 1862, aged 8 years with his family. He is standing on the extreme left.

Father Della Chiesa in 1902 with his family. He was not consecrated a Bishop until 22nd December 1907 when he was consecrated a Bishop by Pope Pius X in the Sistine Chapel

Photographs from Benedict XV: The Unknown Pope and the Pursuit of Peace by John F. Pollard (2005)

In physical appearance, Pope Benedict XV was a slight man. The smallest of the three cassocks which had been prepared for whoever the new Pope might be in 1914 was still a good deal too big for him. As a result, he became known as "Il Piccolito" or "The Little Man".

Benedict is said to have referred to himself as "an ugly gargoyle on the beauties of Rome"

On 4th September 1914, The New York Times commented on the election of Pope Benedict XV that nothing was known about the new Pope. It remarked that all that was known in the public mind about the new Pope was that as Archbishop of Bologna, he had issued a Pastoral Letter to his Diocese denouncing the tango, the craze for which had swept through Europe in 1913.

But what it forgot or did not know was that it was only a special kind of person who could work successfully with two utterly different personalities such as Cardinal Rompolla and Cardinal Merry del Val.

Avoiding Quarrels

Giacomo Paolo Giovanni Battista della Chiesa (later Pope Benedict XV) in 1908 while Archbishop of Bologna, visiting a mountain parish in his diocese

Godzdogz has a series of Postings for the Year of St Paul. One of them is on the dangers of factions and quarrels arising within the Church. For some, ideological struggle takes precedence over unity. They write:

"St Paul was something of a feisty character, and was not unaccustomed to becoming involved in argument. We know that he was quite a vicious persecutor of the early Christians. Some of this passion seems to have remained in his character throughout his ministry. When Paul eventually returned to Jerusalem, following his conversion to Christ, it was Barnabas who persuaded the disciples to admit Paul to their fellowship (Acts 9:26). As a result of this intercession, a wonderful friendship between Paul and Barnabas was formed. It is, therefore, sad to note that they eventually had a “falling out” of sorts.

There is also his argument with Peter about which he speaks in the Letter to the Galatians. 'I opposed him to his face', Paul says (Gal 2:11). It is a moment in a much longer argument in which Paul was engaged with 'Judaizing' elements in the early Church, people who believe that pagan converts to Christianity should also be subject to requirements of Jewish law such as circumcision. Peter seems to have been trying to hold quarrelling factions together whereas on this one Paul felt that this would compromise the way to salvation now revealed, faith in the cross of Christ.

So, Paul was clearly a fiery brand, and yet when he wrote to the Corinthians he was very clear about the danger of quarrelling. He tells them that if the path to the cross is dominated by trouble and strife, then its power will be diminished (1 Cor 1:17). Therefore, he calls for the exclusion from the Church for those who espouse different leaders that oppose each other and segment the Body of Christ.

But this was not just an early church problem for we experience similar problems today. There are factions, whether leaning right or left, that fragment the Body of Christ. Such factions wound Christ’s body with their theories and opinions about what Christianity should be. Often, they see personal views and entrenched stances as more important than what Christ taught and His Church developed.

But St Paul did not pull punches, so he challenged the factions to preserve the unity of Christianity. Challenging the kind of party politics that meant opting 'for Paul', 'for Apollos', 'for Cephas', before Christ, his argument is that there is one body that teaches the truth, and that is the Church of Jesus Christ. We are called together to bemembers of the Church, the People of God, the Body of Christ.

We are not called to design our own church. Quarrelling worried St Paul because it threatened the very aims of his preaching by putting political or personal convictions before the unity of the Body of Christ."

Division has always been a problem.

After the death of Pope Pius X, the conclave of 1914 had a number of factions. There was a faction called the "integristes". The eventual winner, Pope Benedict XV was not of this faction. He was not a Modernist either.

In his first Encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum (November 1, 1914) , he set out the principles underlying his Pontificate. His "programme" if you like.

Most of the Encyclical is about the First World War, as you might expect. Most attention in studying the Encyclical has been directed to that area. But in the Encyclical, he did address the question of division in the Church. He said:

"21. As We are now for the first time addressing you all, Venerable Brethren, it seems a fitting moment to mention certain important points to which We propose to give particular attention, so that by the prompt union of your efforts with Our own, the desired good results may be more quickly attained.

22. The success of every society of men, for whatever purpose it is formed, is bound up with the harmony of the members in the interests of the common cause. Hence We must devote Our earnest endeavours to appease dissension and strife, of whatever character, amongst Catholics, and to prevent new dissensions arising, so that there may be unity of ideas and of action amongst all.

The enemies of God and of the Church are perfectly well aware that any internal quarrel amongst Catholics is a real victory for them.

Hence it is their usual practice when they see Catholics strongly united, to endeavour by cleverly sowing the seeds of discord, to break up that union. And would that the result had not frequently justified their hopes, to the great detriment of the interests of religion!

Hence, therefore, whenever legitimate authority has once given a clear command, let no one transgress that command, because it does not happen to commend itself to him; but let each one subject his own opinion to the authority of him who is his superior, and obey him as a matter of conscience.

Again, let no private individual, whether in books or in the press, or in public speeches, take upon himself the position of an authoritative teacher in the Church. All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.

23. As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline - in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See - there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion.

But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity;let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline.

24. It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as "profane novelties of words," out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics.

Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: "This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved" (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim "Christian is my name and Catholic my surname," only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.

25. Besides, the Church demands from those who have devoted themselves to furthering her interests, something very different from the dwelling upon profitless questions; she demands that they should devote the whole of their energy to preserve the faith intact and unsullied by any breath of error, and follow most closely him whom Christ has appointed to be the guardian and interpreter of the truth.

There are to be found today, and in no small numbers, men, of whom the Apostle says that: "having itching ears, they will not endure sound doctrine: but according to their own desires they will heap up to themselves teachers, and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables" (II Tim. iv. 34).

Infatuated and carried away by a lofty idea of the human intellect, by which God's good gift has certainly made incredible progress in the study of nature, confident in their own judgment, and contemptuous of the authority of the Church, they have reached such a degree of rashness as not to hesitate to measure by the standard of their own mind even the hidden things of God and all that God has revealed to men. Hence arose the monstrous errors of "Modernism," which Our Predecessor rightly declared to be "the synthesis of all heresies," and solemnly condemned."

If one thinks about it, no one today really recalls the quarrels which the Church went through in 1914 and before, all of which Pope Benedict XV referred to. The participants are long dead and hopefully now and long united in Christ.

In any event while they were alive, they had much more in common than divided them.

What are they commemorating ?

I`m glad that Fr Ray Blake and Gerald Warnerhave highlighted the forthcoming commemoration of Marie Stopes by means of a special stamp.

The decision is quite extraordinary.

In addition to the other extraordinary points highlighted by the two bloggers, it is also noteworthy that it was Stopes who petitioned M.P.'s to use health clinics to "curtail the breeding of the C3 population".

She called for the "sterilisation of those totally unfit for parenthood (to) be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory." (Radiant Motherhood. 1920)

In The Control of Parenthood. 1920, she said:

"Utopia could be reached in my life time had I the power to issue inviolable edicts... (I would legislate compulsory sterilization of the insane, feebleminded) ... revolutionaries ... half castes."

It is difficult for us to appreciate to what extent "the science of eugenics" had taken hold of the "Great and the Good" in the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately even after the Second World War when the horrific and unspeakable race policies of the Third Reich were fully uncovered, members of Stopes` organisation still continued to flourish.

It is instructive to look at the lists of membership of the Eugenics Society

Amongst members were The Rt. Hon. Arthur James Balfour, Prime Minister 1902-05 as well as senior member of the War Cabinet in the First World War, Chancellor of Edinburgh University; Chancellor of Cambridge University; and Chairman., Medical Research Council 1924-2.

Another member was Professor Dr. Dugald Baird FRCOG, DPH, BSc, MD of whom Lord David Steel, the architect of the Abortion Act 1967 wrote in his autobiography:

"I was greatly influenced by going to lunch in Aberdeen with Professor Sir Dugald Baird, who persuaded me to accept amendments creating a single socio-medical clause rather than a series of individual categories. This I did ..."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Benedict and Eglantyne

Eglantyne Jebb

The end of the First World War in 1918 did not mean the end of misery and problems.

The aftermath of the massive dislocation caused by war left huge problems. The epidemic of Spanish Influenza killed more than had died through fighting in the War just ended.

In Central Europe famine stalked the land along with disease, lack of housing, and destitution.

Many died. Worst affected were the children. Many were orphans who could not look after themselves. Many states did not have the resources,infrastructure or political will to look after them.

The situation was also made worse by the fact that there were still forms of hostilitites. For example, after the war ended, the British government kept up a blockade that left children in cities like Berlin and Vienna starving. Tuberculosis and rickets were rife.

One of the notable charities which helped deal with the problem was a British charity called "Save the Children". It is still in existence. It is still doing good work. Its website is here.

The present patron is HM the Princess Royal

The charity was founded by Eglantyne Jebb and her sister Dorothy Buxton. The Save the Children Fund was set up at a public meeting in London's Royal Albert Hall in May 1919

Fight the Famine raised money very quickly. Single donations ranged from two shillings to £10,000. It gave the money to organisations working with children in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, the Balkans and Hungary and for Armenian refugees in Turkey.

During the 1921 famine in Russia, the organisation was able to mount an operation to feed 650,000 people - for a shilling (5 pence) per person per week.

It must be the only Charity which has ever been singled out for praise in a Papal Encyclical and which also called on Catholics worldwide to donate to it.

In Annum Iam Plenus (1st December 1920) Pope Benedict XV focused on the tragic situation in Central Europe. He had already appealed for funds for the peoples of Central Europe the year before in his Encyclical Paterno Iam Diu (24th November 1919)

He said:

"In this matter We cannot desist from offering a public tribute of praise to the society entitled the "Save the Children Fund," which has exerted all possible care and diligence in the collection of money, clothing, and food.

But, indeed, the general scarcity and the high cost of living, which the war has brought in its train, are of such a complex and varied character that the assistance We have rendered has perhaps neither succeeded in reaching those parts of Europe where necessity pressed hard, nor, where help was given, has it always been adequate to the actual need....

Accordingly it is Our wish that you forthwith announce throughout the whole of your several dioceses that a collection of alms is to be made on the twenty-eighth day of this month, the feast of the Holy Innocents, or if you prefer, on the Sunday immediately preceding, for the support of the children made needy by the way and that you particularly recommend this collection to the children in your diocese; further, that with all diligence in your power you see that the money thus collected is sent either to Us or to the "Save the Children Fund," which We have before mentioned."

Pope Benedict XV, granted Eglantyne Jebb an audience in 1920. At the close of their meeting, he said: 'Having set your hand to the plough, do not turn back! Do not turn back.'

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Year of St Paul: Pope Benedict`s Catechesis

Facial composite of Saint Paul created by experts of the Landeskriminalamt of North Rhine-Westphalia using historical sources, proposed by Düsseldorf historian Michael Hesemann (Source: Wikipedia)

Pope Benedict XVI hit the ground running after his return to Rome. He started his General Audience on 27th August 2008 with a catechesis on the life of St Paul. It was a continuation of the series of catecheses he began in July, for the occasion of the Pauline Jubilee Year, on the life and teachings of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

"Today’s catechesis presents the life of Saint Paul, the great missionary whom the Church honours in a special way this year.
Born a Jew in Tarsus, he received the Hebrew name “Saul” and was trained as a “tent maker” (cf. Acts 18:3).
Around the age of twelve he departed for Jerusalem to begin instruction in the strict Pharisaic tradition which instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic Law. On the basis of this training Paul viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism.
He thus fiercely “persecuted the Church of God” (1 Cor 19:6; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6) until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life.
He subsequently undertook three missionary journeys, preaching Christ in Anatolia, Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia, Achaia, and throughout the Mediterranean. After his arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor.
Though Luke makes no reference to Nero’s decision, he tells us that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome (cf. Acts 28:30), after which—according to tradition—he suffered a martyr’s death. Paul spared no energy and endured many trials in his “anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28). Indeed, he wrote: “I do everything for the sake of the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:23).
May we strive to emulate him by doing the same. "

Zenit provides a summary of the previous talks (or is it a fuller summary of yesterday`s talk ?)here and is reproduced below

""Because we will dedicate next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, an essential change in his life that followed from his meeting with Christ, today we will pause briefly on the whole of his life," the Holy Father explained.

The Pontiff began by discussing scholarly theories regarding the year of Paul's birth, generally estimated to be around the year 8 A.D.

"In fact, the celebration of the Pauline Year we are observing follows this chronology. [The year] 2008 was chosen thinking of his birth more or less in the year 8," he said. "In any case, [Paul] was born in Tarsus in Cilicia. […] A Jew of the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although having a name of Latin origin, derived by assonance from the Hebrew original Saul/Saulos, and he held Roman citizenship.

"Paul seems to be situated, therefore, on the border of the various cultures --Roman, Greek, Hebrew -- and perhaps also because of this, was disposed to fruitful universalopenness, to a mediation between cultures, to a true universality."

Paul also learned manual work, Benedict XVI noted, recalling that the Acts of the Apostle say he was a tent maker, "to be understood probably as a laborer of coarse goat's wool or linen fibers to make mats or tents." And when Paul was 12 or 13 years old, he "left Tarsus and went to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, according to the most rigid norms of Pharisaism, acquiring a great zeal for the Mosaic Torah."

3 Journeys

Nevertheless, the Pope noted, "Paul passed into history more as a Christian, what is more, as an apostle, than as a Pharisee. His apostolic activity is subdivided traditionally on the basis of three missionary journeys, to which is added a fourth -- his journey to Rome as a prisoner. All are narrated by Luke in the Acts."

The Holy Father then recounted the extent of Paul's travels and the importance of his preaching for the early Church. He particularly noted how the apostle was key for the birth of Christianity in what would later become Europe.

"[In Troas] another important event took place: In a dream [Paul] saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, namely in Europe, who said, 'Come and help us,'" the Pontiff recounted. "It was the future Europe that requested the help and light of the

The Pope said he would return in later catecheses to the theme of Paul's martyrdom. "For now," he said, "in this brief account of Paul's journeys, suffice it to take into account how he dedicated himself to the proclamation of the Gospel without sparing his energy and facing a series of grave trials, of which he has left us an account in the Second Letter to the Corinthians."

"We see a determination that is explained only by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, enamored of Christ, a soul sustained by a profound conviction: That it is necessary to take the light of Christ to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all," Benedict XVI continued "This I think is what stays with us from this brief account of St. Paul's journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus intuit the grandeur, the beauty, and even more, the deep need that all of us have of the Gospel.

"Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light and hear his word, and touched his heart profoundly, make us also see his light, so that our hearts will also be touched by his word and so that we too will be able to give today's world, which thirsts for it, the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ."

Rome and A Tale of Two Artists

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres 1780 - 1867
Pope Pius VII in the Sistine Chapel, 1814
Oil on canvas
Overall: 74.5 x 92.7 cm (29 5/16 x 36 1/2 in.) framed: 98 x 117 x 8.3 cm (38 9/16 x 46 1/16 x 3 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

While this painting was being painted by Ingres, the pope was being held prisoner in France after having been removed from Rome by French forces following Napoleon's annexation of the Papal States.

When the painting was exhibited in Paris, the Pope was released and back in Rome.

Unlike his teacher, David, Ingres did not involve himself in politics

A self -portrait of Ingres is on the left. He holds a halberd.

In 1806 Ingres was sent by the French Academy to Rome. He used the four years of his stay to study the work of the Renaissance masters, Raphael above all, but he was also influenced by medieval and Byzantine art.

Six months after he arrived in Rome Ingres wrote to his father-in-law, M. Forrestier. He was enchanted by the Sistine Chapel and the works in it. But it was the music and the liturgy which seem to have made the deepest impression. He wrote:
"I will tell you however in regard to pleasures that I have spent Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel and the Easter holidays in St. Peter, which is like the temple of Solomon.

The Sistine Chapel is dedicated solely to the Holy Week and to the conclave.  
It is enriched by the sublime masterpiece of Michelangelo, The Last Judgment, and he also painted the ceiling, and the rest is covered with beautiful paintings by Perugino and other great masters of the Renaissance.  
Nothing is more impressive than all these ceremonies, than the Pope, this good and venerable man presiding, and all the cardinals. I cannot tell you enough how it is beautiful, rich and simple all at once, but what I had never heard in my life was music like the Miserere, which is sung on three consecutive days, or, rather, that is exhaled in celestial and divine songs that penetrate the soul and moisten the eyes.  
These are verses sung in a harmony of voices, for bear in mind that the Pope never has other instruments to his music. It's his earmark and he does not lose thereby, I assure you.  
Before the Miserere the Lamentations are also sung; it is in fact an earthbound song that is the epitome of melancholy and lament. This piece is, to my taste, at least as good and is perhaps by nature more effective than the other; I'm crazy about it and will send it to you annotated by my first.  
Mr. Gasse wrote it. You will see that it is nothing much, but just imagine a heavenly voice, all alone and that hurts like the harmonica, as it flows and passes imperceptibly from one tone to another.  
Finally, at nightfall, the plainsong service ended, the Pope descends from his seat, he prostrates himself, a great silence prepares and announces the heavenly beginning of these voices that begin the Miserere.  
Everything in this moment is in accordance with this music: no lights, daylight fades and just allows a glimpse of that terrible scene of The Last Judgment, whose prodigious effect imprints a sort of terror in the soul.  
Finally, finally I do not know what else to say; I am deeply moved while telling you, if telling is possible, because you have to see and hear it to believe it.  
Easter Sunday, it is an entirely different thing. All that the imagination can dream up of pomp and ceremony will still be far from reality, it's all one can do not to be dazzled.  
For several days I only saw the Pope, the cardinals, the wealth of gold, silver, jewels and decorations and all that in a Saint Peter, that is itself one of the seven wonders by its vastness and its riches. In fact, I will be able to tell you about the Vatican, itself alone, as long as I live."

Ingres is widely regarded as the greatest portrait painter of the nineteenth century and one of the most brilliant draftsmen of all time. Ingres' art asserts the supremacy of academic tradition, linear contour, and design

A contemporary art critic, Lenormant, who had a mission to encourage religious art, was rather critical of this painting. He found fault with the air of emotional and spiritual detachment of the painting. He said: "M. Ingres painted the pontifical Mass in the Sistine Chapel- nothing more, nothing less." The critic then went on to consider why Ingres did not develop into a religious painter like Ingres`s great hero, Raphael. Perhaps Ingres was more concerned with art than anything else: Art for the sake of Art.

Perhaps the restraint and detachment was because of his times. He lived through the passionate times of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, and the reestablishment of the French monarchy. He knew the dangers of partisanship. Perhaps in those times, Art became his refuge.

However there is another explanation. It was painted during a low point of his career. Ingres was forced to depend for his livelihood on the execution, in pencil, of small portrait drawings of the many tourists, in particular the English, passing through postwar Rome.

His friend, the painter François-Marius Granet (French, 1775–1849) was more successful doing touristic scenes of Rome than he was doing highbrow history paintings, so he tried to beat Granet at his own game. However, although this painting was relatively successful, Granet trumphed him with his painting,The Choir of the Capuchin Church in Rome (see below).
François-Marius Granet (French, 1775–1849)
The Choir of the Capuchin Church on the Piazza Barberini, Rome
Oil on canvas
77 1/2 x 58 1/4 in. (196.9 x 148 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York

Pope Pius VII loved it. The King of Spain ordered a copy.

Ingres couldn't stand it. ''Fashion and infatuation have loaded him with goods and honours since he did a painting of the 'Capuchins,' '' he fumed about Granet. ''He is a compound of selfishness and ambition such that, with his 'Capuchins,' he has pushed me aside in Rome.''

The Met describes Granet`s painting in this way:
"François-Marius Granet, a notably pious man, conceived this subject in reaction to anticlericalism during Napoleon's occupation of Rome.

The French authorities banished the Capuchin order from the church of the Immaculate Conception, near the Piazza Barberini, even billeting troops there for a time.

Nevertheless, this painting of the church's interior was purchased by the emperor's sister Caroline Murat, queen of Naples, for her brother Louis Bonaparte, who had seen it exhibited in the painter's studio, where it created a sensation at the end of 1814.

Pius VII, the same pope who had been forced to preside over Napoleon's coronation a decade earlier, asked to meet the artist as a result of the exhibition. Granet went on to paint perhaps a dozen or more versions of this subject, most on commission. It is without doubt his most famous composition"

Whilst staying in Rome, Granat got possession of a cell in the convent of Capuchins mentioned above. The convent was inhabited almost exclusively by artists. It is the Church of the convent which gave him the inspiration for the painting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Abortion Debate in the USA

It is very heartening to note that Bishops and Archbishops in the United States are not afraid to contradict and reprimand important political figures on matters of faith and morals, even in delicate times and situations as in the lead up to a General Election.

What Does The Prayer Really Say? has for the past few days been keeping a running commentary on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s comments on a TV programme regarding the rights and wrongs of abortion. She has made clear that she is Catholic. However she has also made clear that she is "pro-Choice" and sought to defend her views by wrongly citing Catholic theology and in particular Saint Augustine.

Abp. Chaput of Denver, Abp. Wuerl of Washington DC and Cardinal Egan of New York have all issued very strong criticisms of the House Speaker`s comments even although there is a Democratic Convention taking place.

It seems that in the United States, politicians have sought out the Catholic vote by declaring their "Catholicity" yet also wish to keep "the women`s vote" by declaring their credentials as "pro Choice".

Until now, no politician has sought to justify such a stance by reference to what they deem Catholic principles or theology. It gladdens one to see the Hierarchy slap down publicly a politician who has sought to cross an important line.

Lay politicians,in this age are not, no matter how eminent,experts on Catholic theology. And Pelosi is no William Ewart Gladstone. If she wants to win votes, she should not use false religious arguments which have no foundation. Catholic theological debates should not be held in the public secular space.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pope Pius VII

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
Pius VII (1805)
Oil on wood 86.5cm x 71.5cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Pius VII`s papacy was dominated by relations with Napoleon Bonaparte.

His predecessor, Pius VI had died in France while being confined by Napoleon.

The conclave which elected Pius VII had to meet in Venice and not in Rome.

The Pope did agree the Concordat of 1801 which reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church as the majority church of France and restored some of its civil status. However the Concordat was tilted largely in favor of the state and the balance of church-state relations was firmly in Bonaparte's favour.

Against the wish of most of the Curia, Pius VII travelled to Paris for Napoleon's coronation in 1804.

For 6 years until May 1814, Pius VII was kept in confinement by Napoleon. It was only the final fall of Napoleon which led to freedom for the Pope. Napoleon had attempted to get Pius to abdicate and to negotiate a new Concordat, but he refused. His confinement was mainly in Savona near Genova on the Ligurian coast.

The above portrait was painted on the orders of Napoleon in 1804-5.

Pius had arrived in Paris in the winter of 1804 and would stay in Paris until April 1805 for the coronation of Napoleon. He was given an apartment in the Château des Tuileries. David had been appointed by Napoleon as the "First Painter in the Empire". He was commanded to paint an official portrait of the Pope.

The Pope sat for the painting in his apartment in the Tuileries in December 1804

Originally David signed the portrait " LUD. DAVID. Napoleonis Francorum Imperatoris primarius pictor ". However after the fall of Napoleon, the latter words were painted over.

In the portrait, the Pope is holding a paper in his hand. On it are written the words " Pio VII Bonarum Artium... Patroni"
As a work of art, one cannot fault the painting. Everything is perfect.

David, perhaps surprisingly, was enchanted by the Pope or so he let on. He said:

"Il est pauvre comme saint Pierre, les dorures sont fausses, mais cela n’est plus que respectueux. Enfin, il est évangélique à la lettre. Le brave homme m’a donné sa bénédiction. Eh ! mon Dieu oui. Cela ne m’était pas arrivé depuis que j’ai quitté Rome. "

Of the work itself, David wrote:

"C’est une étude particulière que j’ai faite pour être un ouvrage original ; ce qui m’a porté à le faire, c’est pour la prospérité - avoir une juste idée des traits et du caractère de ce chef de l’Eglise qui a vécu des moments difficiles et extraordinaires."

Quite a conquest for the Pope - a reputed regicide, former major supporter of Robespierre, prominent freemason and fervent anti-papist.

When Pius VII learned that David was to paint his portrait, he said that he should be concerned about being alone with a man "who had killed his King and would make short work of a poor papiermache pope." (In 1800, Pope Pius VII was crowned with a papiermache crown: the real one was in the possession of Napoleon who had taken it when he had captured Pope Pius VI)

However the two men appear to have got on well going by the exceptionally warm response of David to the Pope.It shows in the portrait: the pope is shown as modest, serious, alert and in David`s words "beautiful"

For David, the painting of the Pope was a high point of his career. He said:

"I confess that I have for a long time envied the great painters who have come before me for their opportunities which I never thought I would ever encounter. However I have now painted an Emperor and at last a Pope."

After the fall of Napoleon in 1815, David had to leave France. He considered going to Rome. The Pope supported his application. However David was barred by the French authorities from going there and ended his days in Brussels.

Pius VII was also painted/sculpted by Camuccini, Wilkie, Pinelli, Minardi, Bertel Thorwaldsen, Ingres, Lawrence and Canova. His features were so frequently represented including in popular prints that, with the exception of Napoleon, he was probably the most widely recognised man of his time.

His quiet heroism, his strong commitment to his mission, his adherence to passive resistance, and his public near-martyrdom before regaining his liberty and his capital made him transcend national and religious differences to become one of the most widely admired men of his age. He was a symbol in his time for the victory of Peace over War.

The standing of the Pope is perhaps best shown in the painting by Lawrence (below).

In his lifetime, Lawrence achieved social and artistic success. He was the English painter who was Joshua Reynolds' heir and his successor in the role of official court painter, and was one of the most famous English portrait painters of the 19th century. He was commissioned by the Prince Regent of the United Kingdom (later George IV) on an official royal mission to paint the first post-Reformation portrait of a Pope and a full length portrait, as well. It is still in the collection of HM the Queen in the Waterloo Gallery in Windsor. It is normally regarded as Lawrence`s best painting.

Lawrence was given nine sittings by the Pope. To the side of the Pope are shown pices of classical sculpture which had been returned to the Vatican after the defeat of Napoleon in terms of the Congress of Vienna. Canova had supervised the display of the pieces. That is why the paper held by the Pope has the words "Per Anto. Canova" (for Antonio Canova)

Sir Thomas Lawrence (April 13, 1769 – January 7, 1830),
Pius VII (1819)
Oil on canvas 269.4 x 178.3cm
The Royal Collection, Windsor

Monday, August 25, 2008

St Augustine and St Monica

This week the Church celebrates the feast days of St Augustine and his mother, St Monica

On 14th November 2004, the Church celebrated the 1650th anniversary of the birth of St Augustine of Hippo on 14th November 354.

To commemorate the event a modern bronze statue of the saint was commissioned. It was blessed at a special ceremony in the Vatican by Pope John Paul II.

Then it was taken to Lido di Ostia where it was placed on a plinth of marble where it still stands.

It was inaugurated in the presence of the then Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (see above), who at the time was Titular of the Diocese which has its seat in Sant`Aurea in Ostia Antica.

Ostia Antica was the place of death of the saint`s mother, Saint Monica and whose bones rested for a long time in the Basilica of Sant`Aurea. Saint Augustine is also the patron saint of Ostia so the statue is quite appropriate.

Father Henri Lacordaire

Louis Janmot (1814-1892)
Portrait of Father Henri Lacordaire. (1847)
Oil on canvas 99 x 80cm
Bibliothèque du Saulchoir, Paris

Father Lacordaire (1802-1861), was ordained priest in 1827 and became a Dominican in 1840

He founded the first new Dominican convent in France since the Revolution. It was in Nancy in 1843.

The wearing of a religious habit had been forbidden in France since 1792. For him, the wearing of the habit was a means of asserting the right of religious freedom. He was not prosecuted.

In a letter of 2nd October 1846, he wrote to a friend, Sophie Swetchine about the wearing of a religious habit. For him to wear a habit was a means of preaching and a means of making the Church and its servants visible in the world.

"Ce dernier pas achèverait de conquérir en France le port public de l’habit religieux, et cette liberté consacrée par un usage solennel est trop importante pour négliger de se l’assurer."

Lacordaire posed for this picture in 1845 at Chalais near Grenoble, where he had just founded another Dominican novitiate. One can see the Alps in the background. There were 16 novices.

In the same letter mentioned above, he said that the requests to become novices had grown and grown. It would appear that at first the Bishop of Autun (Mgr Bénigne-Urbain Trousset d’Héricourt) was at first very hostile to the establishment. However, once he saw the number of priests go into Chalais and the effect on the lives of those who entered the novitiate, he expressed his support publicly.

"J’ai laissé seize religieux à Chalais. Les demandes pour entrer dans notre ordre se multiplient de plus en plus. Mgr l’évêque d’Autun, qui s’était montré fort hostile, après avoir vu plusieurs de ses prêtres entrer à Chalais et avoir su d’eux la vie qu’on y menait, s’est exprimé publiquement en notre faveur. Bien des signes annoncent l’augmentation des notre autorité morale. Bénissons-en Dieu et confions-nous à lui."

London 1851

Jean-Baptiste-Louis Gros (1793-1870)
London 1851: Bridge and boats on the River Thames (1851)
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Baron Louis Gros (1793-1870) was by profession a painter and a diplomat. He took this picture for the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace of 1851.

Early cameras such as the Daguerréotype led to a consideration of how to depict reality in visual images.

Some weblinks

Two French sites caught my eye.

40000 clochers The purpose of this site, created by a private individual with the help of volunteers, is to post photographs of all French religious buildings. There are already 7800. Only some interiors are included. (Author: Alain Guinberteau).

Paris 1900. L’architecture Art Nouveau à Paris (in French) Quite simply remarkable. One of the best blogs currently devoted to art history.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Problem of Job

Georges de La Tour (Vic-sur-Seille, March 13, 1593 – Lunéville, January 30, 1652)
Job raillé par sa femme (Job Mocked by his Wife) (c.1650)
Oil on canvas 145 × 97 cm
Musée départemental d'art ancien et contemporain , Epinal

De La Tour painted mostly religious scenes lit by candlelight, and after centuries of posthumous obscurity became one of the most highly regarded of French 17th century artists in the 20th century

Historians have catalogued this painting under the title "Visit to the Prisoner", but now it is fairly certain that the theme is Job being mocked by his wife

La Tour always depicts the source of light within his works. The light forming the centre of the composition comes from the candle, and everything turns around this centre of gravity.

It is a scene of contrasts: light/dark; large wife/smallish husband; assertiveness/meekness.

Some have thought that this is his last work before he and his family died of parapleurisy in an epidemic which affected the aea where they lived. Others have classified it as early work of one of his nocturnal scenes.

In the novel The Only Problem by Muriel Spark, the hero, Harvey Gotham, becomes obsessed in the Museum at Epinal with a "serious, simple and tender" painting: this painting.

The hero is absorbed by the Book of Job. The character Harvey has a different take on the picture from that suggestedby the Biblical text.

"The scene here seemed to Harvey so altogether different from that suggested by the text of Job, and yet so deliberately and intelligently contemplated that it was impossible not to wonder what the artist actually meant."

Harvey comes to the conclusion that for de la Tour, "Job and his wife are deeply in love."

And looking closely at the features of Job`s wife in the painting, the tenderness of expression of the wife is not one of mocking but of deep affection and love.

Spark apparently learned from a guidebook of the painting in Epinal. She went to see it. Although the book was one third written, she wrote the painting into the book. (see John Glavin: Muriel Spark`s Unknowing Fiction, 1988 Women`s Studies Volume 15, pages 221-241)

For Spark, the Book of Job was a haunting and recurring theme throughout her work.

Reformation in the Alps

Master Lombard (unknown)
Saint Christopher, Saint Martin, Saint John, Saint James, the Virgin, Saint Anthony and Holy Bishop (c. 1481)
Façade: Church of Saint Martin, Bondo, Canton des Grisons, Switzerland

Master Lombard (unknown)
The damaged image of the Virgin (c. 1481)
Façade: Church of Saint Martin, Bondo, Canton des Grisons, Switzerland

The Protestant Reformation had an effect of the visible appearance of churches where it took effect.

The Swiss canton of Grisons embraced the new dispensation in the first half of the sixteenth century.

The principle which applied was that the religion of the Prince became the religion of the State. If the Prince became Protestant, so did the State and its people.

The rejection of the cult of saints together with the rejection of the sacred images meant that many murals frescoes and the like disappeared.

The "Reform" took one of two methods: the actual destruction of the image; and/or the painting over of the image.

If the latter, many of the medieval images were in fact preserved beneath a coat of white paint. At the end of the nineteenth century, these images became to be "re-discovered".

The above images are from the ancient Church of San Martino de Bondo in the Val Bregaglia in the Canton des Grisons. The village became Protestant in 1522. The images were simply painted over.

The medieval images now uncovered were probably painted by a local or travelling master sometime around 1481. The painter whose name has not been handed down was probably from Lombardy.

Some of the faces of the images have been damaged through some process of obliteration. The image of the Virgin Mary has in particular suffered from this kind of treatment.

In the first image above, the Virgin is surrounded by a number of saints. On the left is Saint John, Saint James and (the ever popular) Saint Christopher.

To the right of the Virgin are Saint Anthony and a bishop Saint.

Beneath can be seen the figures of Saint Martin and probably the commissioner of the painting, the bishop Coire Ortlieb de Brandis (1458-1491)

One good thing at least has come of the "destruction": we now can see how colourful were medieval churches both inside and out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Il Beato Cardinale Ferrari

Gianfranco Brusegan (b.1936)
Il Beato Cardinale Ferrari. (1985)
Oil on canvas 2,50 x 1,50m
The Parish of Blessed Cardinal Ferrari, Mazzafame, Legnano, near Milan

See also the artist`s website here where he displays a great deal of his religious art output

Pope John Paul I

Tuesday marks the Thirtieth anniversary of the election to the Papacy of Pope John Paul I (26th August 1978)

Nearly a generation or more were not around to recall the sense of excitement when the new Pope spoke to the world on the occasion of his first Angelus. Nor the sense of almost universal sadness when the news came through of his sudden death after only 33 days.

His first Angelus greeting is on the Vatican website here.

His last General Audience talk on Wednesday, 27 September 1978 is here

Blessed Andrea Carlo Ferrari (1850-1921)

Blessed Andrea Carlo Ferrari (1850-1921)

Cardinal Ferrari on deathbed

Cardinal Ferrari on deathbed

The 1903 Papal Conclave which elected Saint Pope Pius X as Pontiff was an interesting event for a number of reasons.

Amongst its participants were a number of saints to be.

Pius X was of course, one. Another was the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari (1850-1921). He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 10th May 1987. The homily by Pope John Paul II on the cardinal is here (but in Italian only).

Pope John Paul II described him as having a strong faith and a man of enlightened zeal, inspired by the ideal of Christ as the Good Shepherd. He went on to say that the basis of his sanctity rested on his interior life, founded on deep theological conviction, filled with a devout and filial devotion to the Virgin Mary, and concentrated on the image of Christ in the Eucharist and on the Cross. He was filled with a constant goodwill towards all men, a profound concern for the welfare of the poor and a heroic patience while suffering great pain.

He died an excruciating death of throat cancer which suffocated him. In his suffering, amongst his last words were those written in his diary:

“Sia fatta la volontà di Dio sempre e in tutto!”. (Let God`s will always be done in everything) "

Before the 1903 Conclave, his name had been spoken of seriously as possible successor to Pope Leo XIII.

He took as his middle name "Carlo" or Charles after St Charles Borromeo, (one of his predecessors in Milan) who inspired him greatly

He was born in Lalatta, a hamlet of Pratopiano which can be found in the area of Palanzano (near Parma), belonging to a humble family of farmers.

During his episcopate of Milan (1894-1921) he carried out four visitations of the whole of the vast diocese in the manner of St Charles Borromeo. He caused 102 churches to be built and initiated the work of embellishment and enrichment of the cathedral.

He founded the “Associazione femminile di azione cattolica” and together with Giuseppe Toniolo he started up the “Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore”.

His influence on the Church was profound. But he was a controversial figure in certain circles in his time.

In 1908, he came to London to attend the the Nineteenth Eucharistic Congress, held at Westminster from the 9th to 1 3th September 1908. On Friday 11th September 1908, he delivered an address (in Latin) on St Ambrose and St Charles Borromeo on the Eucharist. A translation into English is in the Report of the nineteenth Eucharistic Congress : held at Westminster from 9th to 13th September, 1908 (1909)
During the anti-modernist time of Pope Pius X, he was unjustly and unfairly accused of Modernism by certain quarters and in particular by "La Riscossa" of Vicenza and "La Liguria" of Genova. He was no Modernist. But the feeling that he was "soft" on Modernism led to a period of bad relations with Pope Pius X.

In a pastoral letter in 1908 Cardinal Ferrari denounced certain "Anti-Modernists" who he said were just as bad as the "Modernists".

"These anti-Modernist zealots discover Modernism all over the place, and even manage to throw suspicion on those who are very far removed from it."

( TRAMONTIN S., “A century of the History of the Church, from Leo XIII to the Vatican Council II”, Studium, Rome, 1980, volume I, page 72)

This of course did not exactly further endear him with the Pope and thereafter until the end of the reign of Pope Pius X, he kept silent.

One Italian historian writes:

"Tra lui e il papa san Pio X era venuta a formarsi una cortina fumogena di malintesi, di dubbi, di sospetti, che altri, all'insaputa dei due santi, in nome di una miope intransigenza e con disinvoltura poco scrupolosa, avevano reso più densa e più cupa. Così avvenne che il santo cardinale ebbe molto da soffrire non solo per la Chiesa, ma dalla Chiesa e precisamente dal papa san Pio X. Al papa pareva non solo che l'arcivescovo di Milano fosse troppo tiepido nella lotta contro il modernismo e troppo remissivo verso i modernisti, ma che talvolta rasentasse la slealtà. Il peggio si è che i sentimenti del papa trapelavano e di bocca in bocca giungevano a Milano, e taluni del clero e del laicato, per dimostrarsi amanti del papa, ritiravano il cuore e la stima dal loro arcivescovo".

Towards the end of his life, it is reported that Pope Pius X said that he had been wrong about Cardinal Ferrari

During the pontificate of Pope Benedict XV, Cardinal Ferrari was restored to papal favour.

Amongst his diocesan priests was a newly ordained curate who taught Church history at a local seminary, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII. He knew the Cardinal well and saw him about once a month. He had a great admiration for Cardinal Ferrari.

On 19th February 1961, he delivered a speech on the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Company of St Paul and the passing of the Cardinal.

Unfortunately the speech is only in Italian and is here
The speech is a panegyric to the late Cardinal.

Pope John recalled that he could see envisage the dying Cardinal on his bed as if it were yesterday.

He described him as an "adamantino esempio di Pastore forte e buono".

He went on:

Nella piccola camera, al cospetto di un uomo, di un sacerdote, d'un pontefice,d'un maestro della più alta spiritualità, che stringendo a sé il Crocifisso,parlava ormai soltanto con gli occhi e con la penna, nasceva l'Università Cattolica, e l'apostolato dei laici prendeva nuovo impulso. "

The words and example of the Cardinal had always inspired Pope John throughout his life.
"Quando si voglia infatti, e pur senza prevenire giudizi che sono ancora il segreto di Dio, chiedere alla liturgia della Chiesa un pensiero, che riassuma tutto il Cardinale Ferrari, nella sua persona e nella sua edificante attività pastorale, subito ci soccorrono le belle parole pronunciate in onore dei pontefici santi: Ecce sacerdos magnus, qui in diebus suis placuit Deo et inventus est iustus, et in tempore iracundiae factus est reconciliatio."

Amongst those who came into contact with the Cardinal was a priest called Father Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti (later Pope Piux IX). Papa Ratti left seminary teaching to work full time at the Ambrosian Library (the Biblioteca Ambrosiana) in Milan, from 1888 to 1911. During this time, he edited and published an edition of the Ambrosian Missal (the rite of Mass used in Milan), and researched and wrote much on the life and works of St. Charles Borromeo. He became chief of the Library in 1907, and undertook an impressively thorough programme of restoration and re-classification of the Ambrosian's collection

Later he succeeded Cardinal Ferrari as Archbishop of Milan when Ferrari died.

Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri (July 25, 1893—August 1, 1986) received the tonsure from Cardinal Ferrari on June 14, 1912. Confalonieri was eventually ordained to the priesthood on March 18, 1916 by Cardinal Ferrari. He was named private secretary to Achille Cardinal Ratti in 1921. At a very much later date, after a distinguished career, Cardinal Confalonieri became Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Study of Saints

Angelino Medoro [1567-1631]
Saint Rose of Lima (Santa Rosa de Lima) (20 April 1586 – 24 August 1617): Posthumous portrait (1617)
Oil on canvas
Basílica Santuario de Santa Rosa, Lima

Pope Benedict XVI says it is important and advantageous to cultivate devotion to the saints, and recommends vacation as a good time to study their lives.

The Pope said this yesterday at the general audience, during which he reflected on several saints whose feastdays are celebrated in these weeks. He mentioned Sts. John Eudes, Bernard of Clairvaux, Pius X, Rose of Lima, and the celebration of the Queenship of Mary.

"Dear brothers and sisters," he said, "day after day the Church offers us the possibility to walk in the company of the saints."

The Pontiff recalled how Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that the saints are the most important Gospel commentary and represent for us "a real path of access to Jesus."

And he noted how Jean Guitton described saints as "'the colors of the spectrum in relation with the light,' because with their own hues and accents each one of them reflects the light of God's holiness."

St Wolfgang

Michael Pacher (1430-1498)
St Wolfgang Altarpiece 1479-1481
Polychrome wood, 1479-1481
The Pilgrimage Church of Sankt Wolfgang in Upper Austria

Michael Pacher (1430-1498)
St Wolfgang Altarpiece:Coronation of the Virgin
Wood, gilt and polychromed
The Pilgrimage Church of Sankt Wolfgang in Upper Austria

Michael Pacher (1430-1498)
St Wolfgang Altarpiece:Coronation of the Virgin
Wood, gilt and polychromed
The Pilgrimage Church of Sankt Wolfgang in Upper Austria

Michael Pacher (1430-1498)
St Wolfgang Altarpiece: Circumcision
1479 - 1481
68 x 55 1/4 inches (173 x 140.5 cm)
The Pilgrimage Church of Sankt Wolfgang in Upper Austria

I once spent a very pleasant holday in the Salzkammergut region of Upper Austria, near the town of St. Wolfgang. Picturesque and beautiful beyond belief.

It is situated on a lake called the Wolfgangsee at the foot of the Schafberg mountain.

It is named after Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg who erected the first church there about AD 976.

In the church of St Wolfgang is the famous late Gothic altarpiece by Michael Pacher.

It was not until many years later that I was horrified to learn that a subcamp of Dachau concentration camp was located at the town during the Second World War.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beauty and the Saints

Michael Pacher
(b. ca. 1435, Bruneck, d. 1498, Salzburg)
Augustinus und der Teufel ("Saint Augustine and the Devil") panel of Pacher's Kirchenväteraltar ("Fathers of the Church" altarpiece, c. 1483),
Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

"I did once say that to me, art and the saints are the greatest apologetic for our faith."

He explained: "The arguments contributed by reason are unquestionably important and indispensable, but then there is always dissent somewhere.

"On the other hand, if we look at the saints, this great luminous trail on which God passed through history, we see that there truly is a force of good that resists the millennia. […] Likewise, if we contemplate the beauties created by faith, they are simply, I would say, the living proof of faith."


The Pope pointed to the example of the cathedral where he was meeting with the priests. "It is a living proclamation," he said. "It speaks to us itself, and on the basis of the cathedral's beauty, we succeed in visibly proclaiming God, Christ and all his mysteries: Here they have acquired a form and look at us."

The Holy Father said great works of art "are all a luminous sign of God and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God."

"I think the great music born in the Church makes the truth of our faith audible and perceivable," he continued. "In listening to all these works […] we suddenly understand: It is true! Wherever such things are born, the Truth is there.

Without an intuition that discovers the true creative center of the world, such beauty cannot be born."

Benedict XVI affirmed that reason must be open to the beautiful.

"When, in our epoch, we discuss the reasonableness of faith, we discuss precisely the fact that reason does not end where experimental discoveries end -- it does not finish in positivism," the Pope explained.

"The theory of evolution sees the truth but sees only half the truth: It does not see that behind it is the Spirit of the Creation. We are fighting to expand reason, and hence for a reason which, precisely, is also open to the beautiful and does not have to set it aside as something quite different and unreasonable."

"Christian art is a rational art," the Holy Father went on.

"[I]t is the artistic expression of a greatly expanded reason, in which heart and reason encounter each other. This is the point.

I believe that in a certain way this is proof of the truth of Christianity: Heart and reason encounter one another, beauty and truth converge, and the more that we ourselves succeed in living in the beauty of truth, the more that faith will be able to return to being creative in our time too, and to express itself in a convincing form of art."

Most of the modern Popes since the Renaissance have expressed the importance of the arts to faith. St Pope Pius X and Chant, Pope Benedict XV and literature (Dante) springs to mind.

As regards the visual arts, much is owed to Pope Pius XI as the following extract from The Times of 18th August 1925 demonstrates:

Pacher was born in the year of 1435 in Bruneck near Brixen (Bressanone) on the southern slopes of the Tyrolian Alps in the territory of the Alto Adige of modern Italy. Most of his career was spent at Bruneck

He worked mainly for local churches, carrying out the carving as well as the painting of his altarpieces, and much of his work is still in situ. His most celebrated work is the St Wolfgang altarpiece (1471-81) in the church of St Wolfgang on the Abersee.

While on holiday, on August 6, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI took a question and answer session with priest and seminarians at Bressanone (Brixen).

He said that Apologetics has two great pillars: Beauty and the saints.

Zenit provides his full talk on this theme.

He went on to say:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pius IX and Epilepsy

Pope Pius IX (1865)
Fratelli D'ALESSANDRI , Rome

Joseph Sirven, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and his colleagues recently published a study that indicates that the Pope Pius IX did indeed have epilepsy.

The goal of the study, according to the abstract, was “to assess how epilepsy influenced Pope Pius IX’s life and his papacy.”

Dr. Sirven was asked what lessons he learned from this study.

“The main lesson learned for me is that neurological diseases such as epilepsy have a stigma that can often be used by both enemies and allies of individuals to further their interests. Enemies of those with epilepsy can simply state that the work of those people with epilepsy is tainted or clouded by their seizures, whereas supporters simply point out that epilepsy is an obstacle to overcome.”

Dr. Sirven concluded that the Pope was an example of someone with seizures who was able to achieve greatness despite the stigma attached to epilepsy in the 19th century and who can therefore be an inspiration to people even today.

The full article, is at Mayo Clinic Proceedings here

Seven distinct questions are addressed:
(1) Did Pius IX have epilepsy?
(2) If so, what type of epilepsy did Pius IX have?
(3) What could have caused Pius IX’s epilepsy?
(4) How did epilepsy affect Pius IX’s choice of career?
(5) Could epilepsy have influenced any Catholic doctrine created during Pius IX’s papacy?
(6) Did Pius IX undergo any treatment for epilepsy?
(7) What lessons does Pius IX’s case offer modern-day patients with epilepsy?

"Two important findings in Pius IX’s history are likely responsible for his epilepsy.

First, he had a traumatic near-drowning event as a young child, which several sources cite as having contributed to his epilepsy. A near-drowning event could lead to a global CNS hypoxia.

Second, he likely had a CNS lesion from some developmental process, as evidenced by an asymmetry in photos of Pius IX’s face that was apparent to all 3 epileptologists. Asymmetry affecting the lower half of the face suggests an upper motor neuron lesion of the 7th cranial nerve, which would be consistent with a focal lesion often seen among patients with partial epilepsy. Pius IX was the youngest of 9 siblings, none of whom were reported to have had epilepsy, making it less likely that there was a generalized inherited condition.

Suggestions of the traumatic events are demonstrated in the following passage: “As a youth in Italy, Pius IX annually went to visit his mother at the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto. When he was small he fell into a stream after which he was frequently tortured with fatigue and fever. The doctors were never able to pinpoint the cause.”

Developmental anomalies are evident based on the following quotation:

"The vestiges of epilepsy were clearly visible. Pius IX’s body was slightly less developed on the left. This could be seen even in the face, which was asymmetric with lips awry and a head that inclined to the right. The subject was considered highly impressionable, capricious, impulsive, and unpredictable. These characteristics were all attributed to epilepsy" "

Feast of the Queenship of Mary

Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the border of the Wild Folk Book of Hours
Last quarter of the 14th century
Binder: Ludovicus Bloc, Bruges, Flanders
Department of Special Collections, Syracuse University Library

November 1954 Pope Pius XII is borne past two rows of Cardinals at Vatican City after a special ceremony for the the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Almost a century later (1950), Pius XII in turn proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary which holds that since the Virgin was free of original sin, her body must be incorruptible and was physically taken into Heaven. Mary is thus "superior" to all other creatures, save God.

Her "queenship" follows as a consequence.

Time Magazine reported on the Institution of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary so:

In Rome, with massive solemnity, the canons of Santa Maria Maggiore took down from the altar the painting of Mary and Child known as Salus Populi Romani (Safety of the Roman people). Holding high the holy, red-brown painting, done on wood and attributed by Catholics to St. Luke, they marched through the streets of Rome, followed by a vast procession. On the steps of St. Peter's, the canons of the cathedral received the Salus Populi and placed the image on a dais in Michael-angelo's basilica. There, this week, in the presence of some 40 cardinals, more than 200 bishops, Pope Pius XII would fix jewel-studded crowns to the painting, first above the Infant's head, then above the Virgin's, to symbolize the fact that the Roman Catholic Church regards the Virgin as the reigning "Queen of Heaven [and] of all creation."

In a 4,000-word encyclical. Ad Coeli Reginam (to the Queen of Heaven), the Pope established May 31 as the feast of Blessed Mary. Wrote the Pope: "The Son of God reflects on His . . . Mother the glory, the majesty, the power of Regality which springs from being associated with [Him] . . . Hence the Church ... acclaims her . . . Queen of Heaven."

By this action at the end of the Marian Year, Pius XII strengthened the ancient Marian movement, which is spreading with new vigor among Catholics. The theological foundations of Mary-veneration were laid in the first century A.D. In the Catacombs, Rome's persecuted Christians painted pictures of the Virgin, emphasizing her sanctity. Thereafter, a long line of saints—among them Irenaeus, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine—laid stress on her sinlessness. In a poem, St. Ephrem (300-379) had Mary addressing God: "Let Heaven uphold me in its embrace, because I am more honored than it. Heaven is only your throne, it isn't your mother. How much more a mother of a king is to be honored than a king's throne."

During the later Middle Ages, Franciscans established a famed theological epigram: Potuit, decuit, ergo fecit—God could do it; it was fitting that He should do it; therefore He actually did it, i.e., keep Mary free of sin. These traditions were embodied in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854), which holds that God "exempted" Mary from the hereditary stain of original sin by making her immaculate at the moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anne, her mother. Mary was thus preserved free of all sin in anticipation of her role as the Mother of God.

Look to the Positive not the Negative

Father Thomas G. Morrow in The Danger of Criticizing Bishops and Priests in The Homeletic and Pastoral Review discusses the dangers of criticism

"I remember well the quip of my pre-ordination retreat director: “Isn’t it interesting that in this age when we have so few vocations to the priesthood, we have so many vocations to the episcopacy.” And, we might add, to the papacy!

When people publicly criticize a bishop, or any man, for that matter, the one criticized will often dig in his heels for his position even he may not care that much about it.

He does that to show that he won’t be manipulated by those who try to strong-arm him, even if the criticism is well-intended or well-placed.

On the other hand, people such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Bernard of Clairvaux had tremendous influence over bishops by their letters. It is not hard to see why: their letters were humble and respectful, and full of love. “But they were saints,” one might argue.

They became saints, but if you examine their lives you will find that many did not recognize their sanctity when they were alive.

Furthermore, it was their sanctity that inspired them to urge reform with love, and so it will be with our sanctity, if we strive for it.

The priests and bishops are probably no worse than they were in the time of St. Catherine of Siena, or St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, they are much better, in general, despite the shameful scandals of a few, in recent years.

We have a choice to make: to give in to our sadness and become a “priest-basher” or “bishop-basher,” always ready to lament with great energy the faults of our clergy; or, while acknowledging the errors of the clergy, we can become morale-builders in the Church, always emphasizing the positive, always ready to build up, not tear down.

And, if we look closely, we’ll see a lot of positives in the Church today, and in every age.

St. Paul said it well: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:11-13).

This is the way to true holiness, and the joy which always accompanies it. And, this Christian joy, unlike sullenness, is infectious."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Faith in the Frame

Matthias Grünewald (b. 1470/80, Würzburg, d. 1528, Halle)
The Crucifixion (and detail)
c. 1515
Oil on wood, 269 x 307 cm
Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France

A new TV programme called Faith In The Frame is coming up in the United Kingdom on religious art (in its broadest sense).

Consisting of ten episodes, each episode will concentrate on one painting.

Each episode features three panellists alongside Melvyn Bragg during the 10 week series and includes:

Antony Sutch - Franciscan monk and broadcaster;
Richard Harries - former Anglican bishop of Oxford;
Jackie Wullschlager - art critic for the Financial Times;
Rowan Williams - Archbishop of Canterbury;
Joanna Woodall - expert on Northern Renaissance art at The Courtauld Institute;
Martin Kemp - Professor of Art History at Oxford University; and
Eamon Duffy - Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University; amongst others
The ten works of art are:-

The Garden of Earthly Delights – Hieronymous Bosch: .

The Resurrection, Cookham – Stanley Spencer:

The White Crucifixion – Marc Chagall:

The Crucifixion in The Isenheim Altarpiece – Matthias Grunewald:

The Arezzo Frescoes, Legend of the True Cross – Piero Della Francesca:

The Massacre of the Innocents – Pieter Bruegel:

The Mystic Nativity – Sandro Botticelli:

Lux Eterna - Anna Marie Pacheco:

The Upper Room – Chris Ofili:

The Wenhaston Doom Paintings – Anon:

The Public Catalogue Foundation

David Jones (1895-1974)
Madonna and Child in a Landscape
Ditchling Museum, Ditchling, East Sussex

The Public Catalogue Foundation is a registered charity based in Covent Garden, London.

It was set up to photograph and record all oil, acrylic and tempera paintings in publicly owned collections in the UK.

This includes works in museums (both on display and in store) as well as paintings in council buildings, universities, hospitals, police stations and fire stations.

It is estimated that there are some 200,000 such paintings in the UK.

However, at any one time some 80% of these are hidden from public view, being either in storerooms or public buildings in official use.

The aim of the Foundation is to improve public access to these paintings by producing a series of affordable colour catalogues on a county-by-county basis. These will later go online allowing the public free access to the works they own.

The painting by David Jones is one of the paintings so far catalogued.