Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Catholic

Tecla: key saint

Saturday, 23 September, 2017 0 Comments

Santa Tecla is regarded as the patron saint of Tarragona in Catalonia and her September feast day is the town’s major holiday. The event is accompanied by non-stop drumming, firecrackers and spectacular fireworks after dark.

Tecla celebrations

Note: In many Spanish-speaking countries, Santa Tecla is also considered the patron saint of computers and the internet, from the homophony with the Spanish and Catalan word tecla (“key”).

Tradition: Tecla (Thecla) was a saint of the early Christian Church and a follower of Paul the Apostle. She was miraculously saved from burning at the stake by the onset of a storm and then travelled with Paul to Antioch of Pisidia where an aristocrat attempted to rape her. Tecla fought him off and was put on trial for the crime of assaulting a nobleman. She was sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts but was again saved by a miracle, when the female beasts protected her against the male aggressors. She rejoined Paul in Myra and became a healer. Such was her popularity that the physicians in the city lost their livelihoods, so they hired a gang of young men to attempt to spoil her virginity at the age of 90. As they were about to take her, she called out to God and the ground opened up and then closed behind her. She was thus able to go to Rome and die in peace beside Saint Paul’s tomb.


The Christian conundrum

Tuesday, 28 February, 2017 0 Comments

Early Christianity expanded rapidly through Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy. Because it had no linguistic, cultural, ethnic or territorial centre, it spread to towns, cities and communities that differed widely from one another. The rulers of Rome had seen nothing like it and were confounded by this new and challenging ideology. The British classicist Mary Beard discusses how the Romans viewed the conundrum of Christianity in her excellent SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Snippet:

“First, it had no ancestral home. In their ordered religious geography, Romans expected deities to be from somewhere: Isis from Egypt, Mithras from Persia, the Jewish god from Judaea. The Christian god was rootless, claimed to be universal and sought more adherents. All kinds of mystical moments of enlightenment might attract new worshippers to (say) the religion of Isis. But Christianity was defined entirely by a process of spiritual conversion that was utterly new. What is more, some Christians were preaching values that threatened to overturn some of the most fundamental Greco-Roman assumptions about the nature of the world and of the people within it: that poverty, for example, was good; or that the body was to be tamed or rejected rather than cared for. SPQR All these factors help to explain the worries, confusion and hostility of Pliny and others like him. At the same time, the success of Christianity was rooted in the Roman Empire, in its territorial extent, in the mobility that it promoted, in its towns and its cultural mix. From Pliny’s Bithynia to Perpetua’s Carthage, Christianity spread from its small-scale origins in Judaea largely because of the channels of communication across the Mediterranean world that the Roman Empire had opened up and because of the movement through those channels of people, goods, books and ideas. The irony is that the only religion that the Romans ever attempted to eradicate was the one whose success their empire made possible and which grew up entirely within the Roman world.”

Is past prologue? Could a faith-based or technology-driven belief system challenge the fundamentals of our world? Note: The phrase “What’s past is prologue” comes from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Act 2, Scene I. In contemporary usage, the phrase stands for the idea that history sets the context for the present. The quotation is engraved on the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.


The silence of the Jesuits in Edu Japan

Friday, 25 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.” Silence, Shusaku Endo

In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill Jesuits arriving to spread the word of God. The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) convinced Martin Scorsese to turn the book into his latest film, which will have its premiere next week in front of a very critical audience at the Vatican.

“It’s called the pit. You’ve probably heard about it. They bind you in such a way that you can move neither hands nor feet; and then they hang you upside down in a pit,” so writes Endo describing a popular torture venue above which Christians were hung upside down and bound. They were then cut slightly behind both ears, just enough so that blood trickled out, leading to a lengthy, painful death.

Andrew Garfield, who plays Father Sebastião Rodrigues in Silence, told Fandango he spent a year preparing for the role: “I got to spend a lot of time with Marty and with Jesuit priests; one in particular being Father James Martin, who’s become a real mentor to me and a spiritual director for me, basically. Teaching me about all things Jesuit in a visceral way, not just an intellectual way. In a ‘lived’ way. I just fell in love with the whole process of what it is to be a Jesuit priest.”


Amoris Laetitia backgrounder

Friday, 8 April, 2016 0 Comments

Pope Francis to make key marriage pronouncement” is how the BBC puts it in the run up to today’s publication of Amoris Laetitia, the Apostolic Exhortation about Catholic teaching on the family. The text, rumoured to be 250-pages long and divided into 300 points, will be presented by Cardinals Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, at a press conference in Rome. Scheduled to begin at 11:30 Central European Time, the event will be broadcast live via the Vatican’s Television Centre.

Where did the BBC gets its headline? The document has been surrounded by secrecy, with no leaks to the media before its presentation. This makes Amoris Laetitia unusual, seeing that Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, was published by the Italian magazine l’Espresso three days ahead of the official presentation.

What can we expect? The focus will be on the “many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care.” In other words, partners living together before marriage, communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexual unions vs. heterosexual marriage, to name just three areas of contested cohabitation that are facts of 21st century life. The Guardian has already pre-empted liberal disappointment: “Pope Francis to dismay reformists with ‘modern families’ document.” Francis wouldn’t be Francis, however, if he didn’t have a surprise or two up the sleeve of the papal cassock.


Epiphany poem and painting

Wednesday, 6 January, 2016 0 Comments

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.

The Journey Of The Magi by T S Eliot

It has been said that Eliot’s imagery in The Journey Of The Magi is similar to that used by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior speak and act in a mystical world where their frankincense, gold and myrrh are both real and mysterious. Sometime around 1475, Hieronymus Bosch attempted to capture this in The Adoration of the Magi, which is displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Magi


Marx and Mass and Moguls and Myanmar

Tuesday, 18 August, 2015 0 Comments

When he was a hard-left Labour activist and a militant atheist, the young(er) Tim Stanley saw life as a class struggle and believed that salvation could only come through revolution. That was then. And now? In the Catholic Herald, the historian and journalist explains his epiphany in “Why I became a Catholic“. Snippet:

“I’ve abandoned Marxism (a whole other complicated story) in part because I’ve realised that you can’t save this world by trying to tell others what to do. Politics is impotent compared to a kind word or a helping hand. Not that I’ve become a saint over the past 10 years — on the contrary, I’m more conscious of my failings. When you become a Catholic you find lots of new ways of feeling guilty.”

Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics is the title of Tim Stanley’s latest book. In it, he argues that the film industry has “helped to forge a culture that is obsessed with celebrity and spectacle.” George Clooney and Matt Damon may be big at the box office but this does not make them experts on domestic or international affairs.

Stanley’s analysis of the West Wing phenomenon is funny and frightening. The series is “a Bible for liberal reformers the world over”, he says, pointing out its writers “are all former Capitol Hill staff, many of Obama’s staff are huge fans, and the character of Matt Santos was actually based on Obama when he was still an unknown Illinois politician.” Most terrifying of all, however, is the fact that when Myanmar (Burma) was transitioning from military rule, “its new government learned how to run a democracy by watching West Wing DVDs.” General elections are scheduled for Burma on 8 November, but the Wall Street Journal has spotted clouds on the horizon: “Myanmar Military Strengthens Grip Over Ruling Party as Election Nears” it reported recently. Looks like the West Wing did not unduly impress the colonels.


Francesco in fiction and in fact

Tuesday, 5 May, 2015 0 Comments

The Vicar of Christ A novel called The Vicar of Christ spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list In 1979. It was written by Walter F. Murphy, a Princeton legal scholar, and its protagonist was an unusual man named Declan Walsh — an American war hero, a United States Supreme Court justice, and then, following an affair and the untimely death of his wife, a monk — who is elected Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church by a deadlocked papal conclave in Rome.

The new broom sweeps famously clean and the new pope loses no time in dusting down the the Vatican. He launches a global campaign against hunger, paid for by the sale of Church treasures. He intervenes in global conflicts, flying to Tel Aviv at one point during an Arab terror campaign. He proclaims a plan to reverse Church teachings on celibacy and contraception, and banishes conservative cardinals to monastic exile when they plot against him. He toys with the Arian heresy, which casts doubt on the divinity of Jesus, and he embraces a Quaker-like religious pacifism, arguing that the just-war theory is out of date in an age of nuclear weapons. It is this last move that gets him assassinated.

In Walter F. Murphy’s novel, Declan Walsh takes the name Francesco, which is the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio took on 13 March 2013, when he was elected pope. The non-fiction Francesco is quite the reformer, too.


Coccinellidae day

Sunday, 1 February, 2015 0 Comments

The Latin word coccineus means “scarlet” and the Coccinellidae are a family of small beetles, sometimes scarlet in colour with black spots on their wings. The insect became known as “Our Lady’s bird” because Mary (Our Lady) was often depicted in early Christian paintings wearing a scarlet cloak, and the spots of the seven-spot ladybird were said to symbolize her seven joys and seven sorrows. Incidentally, the German name Marienkäfer translates as Mary beetle.

Lady bird

Note: Today, 1 February, is the feast day of St. Brigid (“Mary of the Gaels”), the prolific patron saint of babies, blacksmiths, boatmen, cattle farmers, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers, dairymaids, fugitives, Leinster, mariners, midwives, nuns, poets, the poor, poultry farmers, printing presses, sailors, scholars and travellers.


Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Friday, 12 December, 2014 0 Comments

The most visited Catholic pilgrimage weekend destination in the world? The Vatican, right? Wrong. It’s the the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Over the Friday and Saturday of December 11 to 12, 2009, more than six million pilgrims visited the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of her apparition. Our Lady of Guadalupe

With Mexico reeling from crisis to horror, huge numbers are expected today in the hope of finding solace and hope.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, in the form of a retablo (panel painting) by Pedro Antonio Fresquís, is among the items included in “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea,” a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. The show brings together more than 60 works of Renaissance and American art. Blurb:

Paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Orsola Maddalena Caccia (an Ursuline nun who ran a bustling painting studio in her convent in northern Italy), and Elisabetta Sirani highlight the varied ways in which women artists conceptualized the subject of Mary. These artists’ works are featured alongside treasured Marian paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Pontormo, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and others.

Much of Mexico is dynamic and the country wants to succeed in the global economy. But its people urgently need a real commitment from their government to security reforms and anti-corruption measures. Latest revelation: Finance minister Luis Videgaray bought a holiday home from a company that had won several generous public works contracts. And it would help if the elites faced up to risks of ignoring the poverty and anarchy in regions such as the Tierra Caliente. Until they do, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe remains the only source of comfort for masses of Mexicans.


The plight of the Assyrians and the Yezidi

Monday, 1 December, 2014 0 Comments

“We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many.”

So spoke Pope Francis I and Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul yesterday.

Born in Syria and living in Los Angeles, Sargon Saadi made The Last Plight to combat the world’s indifference to the suffering of the Assyrian and Yezidi people living under the barbaric rule of ISIS. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.


Dude’s feast day

Wednesday, 22 October, 2014 0 Comments

He’s got that hipster look. The hair, the beard, the shades, the watch. The paddle thing is hip, too. But the photo was not shot by The Sartorialist or any other fashion blogger. It dates from 1955 and it’s of this man, once an avid outdoors person, whose feast day is being celebrated for the first time today.

Dude saint