Monthly Archives: October 2021

Part 1B of Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to the “Latin High Fashion Union”.

Even as the origin and purpose of clothing is clear, so is the natural exigency of Modesty, understood both in the broadest significance — which also includes due consideration for the sensibility of others toward objects that are repugnant to the view — and above all, as a protection for moral character, and an avoidance of disordered sensuality. The singular opinion which attributes a sense of modesty to the relativity of this or that education — which, indeed considers it almost as a conceptual deformation of an innocent reality, a false product of civility, and even a spur to bad character and a wellspring of hypocrisy — is not supported by any serious reason; on the contrary, it meets an explicit condemnation in the supervening repugnance toward those people who, at times, have dared to adopt it as a system of life, confirming in this manner the rectitude of common sense, manifested in universal customs. Modesty — paying attention to its strictly moral meaning whatever its origin — is founded on the innate and more or less conscious tendency of each person to defend one’s own physical wellbeing against the indiscriminate greediness of another — which with a prudent choice of circumstances, is akin to reserving it for the Creator’s wise purposes, uniformed by Him with the mail hauberk of chastity and modesty. This latter virtue, bashfulness, has the synonym “modesty,” from the Latin “modus,” measure or limit; which perhaps expresses better its function of governing and mastering the passions, particularly the sensual ones — and it is the natural bulwark and strong outer wall of chastity, since it moderates the acts proximately connected to the particular object of chastity. As his guard is raised, Modesty makes the human feel her warning, even before he acquires the use of reason, and even before he first learns the notion of chastity and its object; and [Modesty] accompanies him throughout his entire life, requiring that certain acts, decent in themselves, are protected by the discreet veil of shadow and the reserve of silence, as if to reconcile them with the respect due to the dignity of their grand purpose — because they are divinely willed.

Therefore, it is just that Modesty, as if it is the repository of such precious goods, should claim for itself a prevalent authority over any other tendency or caprice, and should preside over the determination of styles of dress.

And here is the third final purpose of clothing, from which fashion most directly draws its origin, and which answers that innate exigency felt most by Woman — to emphasize the beauty and dignity of the human person by the exact same methods that provide satisfaction to the other two [purposes]. To avoid restricting the amplitude of this third exigency to physical beauty alone; and even more to remove a desire for seduction from the phenomenon of fashion, as its first and only cause; the term “elegance” is preferable to that of “adornment.” An inclination to elegant decorum of person manifestly proceeds from Nature, and is therefore lawful.

Leaving aside a recourse to clothing in order to conceal physical imperfections, Youth asks clothing for that accentuation of their glow which sings the happy melody of life’s springtime, and in harmony with the dictates of Modesty, makes it easier to start the psychology necessary for the formation of a new family. Meanwhile, Maturity means to obtain an aura of dignity, seriousness, and serene happiness from appropriate clothing. In any case in which one so aims to accentuate the moral beauty of the human person, the form of dress will be such as to almost eclipse what is physical by an austere shadow of concealment, to turn the attention of the senses away and concentrate in its place on the reflection of the spirit.

Considered from this broader side, clothing has its own multiform language — and it is efficacious, sometimes spontaneous, and therefore faithfully interprets feelings and customs — and at other times, it is conventional and artificial, and as a consequence is scarcely sincere. In any manner, it is given to clothing to express joy and grief, authority and power, pride and simplicity, riches and poverty, the sacred and the profane. The concreteness of its expressive forms depends on the traditions and culture of this people or that; when they change more slowly, the institutions, characters and feelings that those shapes interpret are more stable.

Fashion pays attention expressly to give emphasis to physical beauty — it is an ancient art of uncertain origins, a complex mix of psychological and social factors, that is here; and which in the present has attained an indisputable importance in public life, both as an aesthetic expression of custom, and as a desire of the public and a convergence of relevant economic interests. From well-founded observation of the phenomenon, it seems that fashion is not just a bizarrerie of forms, but a meeting point of diverse psychological and moral factors such as the taste for beauty, the thirst for newness, the affirmation of personality, and the intolerance of boredom, no less than luxury, ambition, and vanity. However, fashion is elegance conditioned toward continuous mutation, in such a way that its own instability becomes its most evident identification mark. The reason for its perpetual change — slower in fundamental lines, most rapid in secondary variations, arriving seasonally — always gives insight to the anxiety of surpassing the past, aided by the frenetic disposition of the contemporary age, which has a tremendous power to burn through everything destined to satisfy the imagination and the senses, in a short time. It is understandable that new generations reaching out for their own future, having dreamed of different and better things than what belonged to their parents, feel a need to break loose from not only their forms of dress, but from the objects and furnishings which most clearly remind them of a kind of life that they want to surpass. But the extreme instability of present-day fashion is determined over all by the will of its designers and influencers, who have, on their side, methods unknown in the past: such as the enormous and varied textile industry, the inventive fertility of modistes, the ease of media information and launches through the press and movies and television and exhibitions and fashion shows. The rapidity of change is also favored by a sort of silent race (really not new) among the “elites” who are eager to assert their own personality with original styles of clothing, and the public, which immediately gloms onto them through copies that are more or less good. Nor should one neglect the other subtle and decadent motive – the care of the modistes — who rely on drawing away attention from others in order to ensure the success of their own creations, and who are aware of the effect caused by continually provoking a renewed surprise and caprice.

Another characteristic of today’s fashion is that, while remaining principally an aesthetic matter, it also has assumed the properties of an economic element of major proportions. The few old tailors of haute couture, who dictated the laws of elegance without a challenge in the world of European culture, from this or that metropolis, have been replaced by numerous organizations with powerful financial means, who, to shape the taste of whole populations while satisfying clothing needs, stimulate their desires, in order to build ever larger markets. The causes of this transformation are found, on the one hand, in the so-called “democratization” of fashion, by which an ever greater number of individuals are subjected to the spell of elegance; on the other hand, it is found in technical progress, which allows the mass production by fashion designers of so-called “confections” that would otherwise be costly, but are now made easily purchasable at stores. In this way there arose the world of fashion, which includes artists and artisans, industrialists and retail workers, editors and critics, and an entire class of lowly laborers as well, who all make their livings from fashion.

Yep, this is really long. There’s about three more paragraphs before we get through Part One! Also, I think my head will explode if he says “psychological” again….

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Mary Among the Evangelists

I have just been reading a book called The Definitive Guide for Solving Biblical Questions about Mary: Mary Among the Evangelists. It is available on Amazon, and you can read it for free on Amazon Unlimited.

It is a very big interesting book that leans hard on the Greek used in the Gospels, coupled with parallel texts and usages in the Septuagint, and the comments of various Fathers of the Church. But it also deals with the literary structures set up in the Gospels. If you look at all this material, you can see where additional information is being set up about about Jesus and His mom, and His situation with disciples and family members.

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Pope Pius XII’s Speech to the “Unione Latina Alta Moda” (Nov. 8, 1957): Part 1A

Okay, this is from the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Volume 49 (1957), pp. 1011-1020.

It’s quite long, and it’s in Italian. It was never translated officially into Latin or any other languages, as far as I can tell. And I don’t know anything about the “Latin High Fashion Union.” Allocutions are not high on the magisterial totem pole, but it is something from a pope. So let’s take a look at it, especially since random quotes from it tend to appear in modesty discussions.

There seems to be an English translation that comes up on Google Translate, but it is obviously non-literal from the get-go. (If you follow the link and see for yourself, you will see what I mean.) So this is going to be my unofficial translation, but leaning on whoever did the dynamic translation.


Read out to those who were present for the International Convention held in Rome by the Latin High Fashion Union:

With a full heart, I am giving you my paternal welcome, beloved sons and daughters — the promoters and associates of the Latin High Fashion Union who have desired to come into Our presence, to deliver a testimony of your filial devotion; and at the same time, to implore heavenly favors for your Union, placing it from its birth under the auspices of Him to Whose glory every human activity must be directed — even those which are apparently profane [ie, secular], according to the precept of the Apostle of the Gentiles: “Whether you eat, whether you drink, or whether you do any other thing, do it all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:16) With Christian views and intentions, you propose to tackle a problem as delicate as it is complex, in which at all times, unavoidable moral reflections have been the object of attention and anxiety in those people who have a duty in family, in society, and in the Church, and who must act to preserve souls from the snares of corruption, and the whole community from a decadence of morals — the problem, that is, of fashion, especially female fashion.

It is just that Our gratitude, and that of the Church, should respond in the same way to your generous intentions; and with Our fervent wish that your Union, born and inspired by a healthy religious and civil conscience, may attain, through the enlightened self-discipline of fashion designers themselves, the twofold purpose declared in your statutes: to bring good morals to this important sector of public life, and of contributing to elevate fashion, indeed, to an instrument and expression of civility.

Eager to encourage such a laudable enterprise, We willingly agree to your desire that I lay open to you some thoughts — in particular, on the correct approach to the problem, and also indicating some practical suggestions about its moral aspects, designed to assure that the Union has a well-accepted authority in a field so often contested.

I. Some General Aspects of Fashion

Following the counsel of ancient wisdom that points to the final purpose of things, so that the supreme criterion of every theoretical evaluation is the security of moral norms, it will be useful to recall what purposes Man has given for resorting to clothing. Without a doubt, he obeys the three well-known exigencies of Hygiene, Modesty, and Elegance. These are the three needs so deeply rooted in [human] nature that they cannot be disregarded or opposed without provoking repulsion and prejudice. They keep their character of a “need” today, even as yesterday; as they are found in almost every human lineage, so they are recognized in every form in the vast gamut in which clothing’s necessity has been made historically and ethnologically concrete. It is important to notice the tight and coordinated interdependence among the three exigencies, despite them flowing from different wellsprings: one from the physical side, the other from the spiritual, and the third from the psycho-artistic complex.

The exigency of Hygiene deals mostly with the climate with its variations, and with other external agents as causes of hardship or infirmity. From the aforementioned interdependence, it follows that a hygienic reason — or better, a hygienic pretext — is not meant to justify a deplorable license, particularly in public — and outside of exceptional cases of proven necessity — and even then, all the same, any well-raised soul will not be able to escape the distress of a spontaneous anxiety, externally expressed by a natural blush. In a similar way, some manner of dress that is harmful to health, of which many examples can be cited in the history of fashion, cannot be legitimized by an aesthetic pretext. Even so, the common norms of Modesty must yield to the requirements of medical care — which, although it seems to break the norms, respects them by acting with due moral caution.

More later.

Here’s an old unofficial translation that was dug up by eCatholic2000! Ha, I’m not the only one digging! But I will probably keep going, all the same.

I’ve changed my translation of “decoro” to “Elegance.” It’s permissible in Italian, and it seems more fashion-conscious than “decorum” or “dignity” or “decoration.”

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Padre Pio vs. the USAF

Okay, this is a HUGE story, and I’ve never heard it before. It probably explains some of the Padre Pio devotion in my local area, because we’ve got a lot of Air Force people around here.

Apparently the USAF doesn’t just report unidentified flying objects.

In WWII, they encountered a totally identifiable flying monk.

So yeah, I guess it’s unfortunate for Monte Cassino, which was full of Nazis using it as a fort; but there really wasn’t any cache of weapons at San Giovanni Rotondo, so it’s just as well that it wasn’t bombed.

Indeed, it’s a very positive “mighty work” for people in the military, because the bomber crews were not allowed to do something inadvertently unjust, but not prevented from doing their real job or punished for trying.

General Nathan F. Twining, who went on a mission in 1943 and legendarily did see Padre Pio bilocated up in the clouds and causing early bomb release, met with Padre Pio later.

(This article says Twining also converted to Catholicism, but I can’t find anything to confirm that.)

General Bernardo Rosini of the Italian Air Force (which had switched to the Allies’ side by that point) testified to the incidents being reported at the time by air crews based in Bari; it is in the “positio” for St. Padre Pio’s canonization.

In 1947, Twining sent a famous memo commenting on the large number of Air Force personnel having seen “flying discs.” He said that it should be further investigated, because it was “something real, and not visionary or fictitious.”

Twining went on to serve as Air Force Chief of Staff, and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was known for reducing interservice rivalry, for encouraging research and development, and for modernizing the Air Force. He died in 1982.

There’s a lot of talk about his son (Nathan F. Twining, Jr.) having privately told various people that his dad told him the truth about Roswell, etc. But this is all friend-of-a-friend stuff, and Twining passed away in 2016 and can no longer be asked, himself. This Twining sold land he owned on the Belen Mesa to various “intentional community” people, who mostly seem to have been hippies, farmers, and hippie farmers; he is kindly remembered there as having loved the desert.

More USAF stories about Padre Pio, on page 7 of this church bulletin. Apparently Padre Pio was very much into their business, in a good way!

More military and American stories about Padre Pio. (Includes one of the early US helpers of Sr. Maria Montessori, Adelia Mary Pyles, who was also a great helper of Padre Pio and of US soldiers in WWII.) The military stories start about halfway down the page. I particularly like the pictures of the 463rd Bomb Group Choir.

Interestingly, there’s a bit where Padre Pio instructs a guy to follow the now-deprecated practice of giving a name to his guardian angel. (In a non-cringy way, not in the cringy way that caused the practice to be discouraged.) So it sounds like it was an Italian devotion, back in the day.

Anyhow… Padre Pio was drafted in WWI, and had to leave the monastery and serve in the military for three years. So that’s probably why he was so sympathetic to soldiers and airmen. He was sick the whole time, with lung problems from long before he was drafted, so he didn’t end up having much experience of military service. San Giovanni Rotondo was up in the mountains and helped his lungs a lot, which was why he was assigned there for the rest of his life.

More about Mary Pyles – an heiress disinherited for becoming Catholic, whose brothers and sisters each contributed money to her so that she would still get an equal share with them. She helped build all sorts of needed facilities in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, including a hospital.

UPDATE: Allegedly there are Army Air Force reports about this, but nobody seems to quote one or show pictures of them, online. Also there are supposed to be many testimonies, but the only named person is this Italian Air Force general who testified in the canonization positio.

So possibly this is an urban legend? But I don’t really have the resources to research it. Maybe I can push this off onto Jimmy Akin? Or maybe I can get somebody at the Air Force Museum to tell me where to find mission records?

This link cites Positio III / 1, p. 689-690. It says there was a German ammo dump in San Giovanni Rotondo. Oops, my bad for trusting the wrong sources!

This is a Facebook page for Amendola Air Base, an Italian Air Force base that was built in 1931 in San Giovanni Rotondo, and was later taken over by the Luftwaffe after Italy joined the Allies in 1943; and eventually was captured by the US. It still serves as an Italian base today, and they have a lot of UAVs there. So this would have been a legit target for US bombing in 1943, as per the story.

An Army Air Force truck driver’s story – Pfc. Ray Bunten.

Padre Pio as a prophetic political/war analyst, and more about him during WWII. (Although after Germany switched sides on Moscow, it wasn’t ridiculous that Padre Pio would think Italy might change sides.) It does include a verified story of a Protestant who converted because of Padre Pio — more than 40 years later! Well, that’s real life for you. We also learn that Padre Pio liked American beer, and that he said a special Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve for the GIs.

MORE UPDATE: The book Padre Pio and America includes a lot of stuff about American soldiers and pilots visiting Padre Pio. Chapter 25, “The Flying Monk,” deals with various aerial stories about Padre Pio, and with the question of documentation of such stories. So ha! Somebody else already did the work!

Apparently there are multiple stories (Padre Pio “catching” Italian pilots who had to bail out is a big one), and multiple sources who seem pretty reliable, but a big lack of documented names of pilots and crew. (To be fair, going on record with weird stuff has traditionally been a career-ender and got you grounded.)

However, the author of Padre Pio in America did find a named aircrew guy, Gaetano Pavone, who served as both a flight engineer and a gunner, who did put himself on record as having seen the face of a monk, in color, in a break in the clouds. He later recognized the face he had seen as Padre Pio. But he says he kept his mouth shut and didn’t tell anyone else for years, or even call attention to it by the other people on the plane, so he obviously wasn’t the story spreader!

I find this stuff pretty fun, honestly, because people tend to think that miracles don’t happen in modern times. But people like Padre Pio or Brother Solanus Casey are having miracles every day and twice at breakfast, during modern times. (And btw, here’s Bl. Solanus Casey visiting a man with COVID-19.)

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Scooby Doo Was Very Different in Pre-Production

Velma was named Linda, and she was Shaggy’s sister.

Shaggy was nicknamed “W.W.”

Fred was two different guys, Geoff and Mike. (Network executive Fred Silverman begged to have the new combination character named after himself.)

Daphne’s name was Kelly.

And Scooby’s name was “Too Much.”

Iwao Takamoto deliberately designed Scoob to have funny conformation for a Great Dane, just so he wouldn’t look like Marmaduke.

And they were all in a band called The Mysteries Five, which was why they kept driving around the country in a van.

The show was originally designed to be a fairly serious mystery/horror show for kids, but parents were becoming concerned about violence on Saturday morning with all the action cartoons. So Hanna-Barbera reworked the show to be a comedy, and got rid of the band concept (but kept some Archies-style music in the show).

Fred Silverman didn’t work for Hanna-Barbera, but he worked fairly closely with them and their huge slate of kids’ animation shows. He loved the old live-action comedy show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and encouraged Hanna-Barbera to copy that show’s mix of personalities. So if you’ve ever wondered why Shaggy acted a lot like Bob Denver’s Gilligan and his Dobie Gillis character, Maynard Krebs, that’s why

So yes, that makes Fred into Dobie Gillis. And Fred Silverman wanted to have his self-insert _be_ Dobie Gillis.

So yes, the original concept for Velma was that she was a version of Zelda Gilroy, a nerdy girl who was in love with Dobie Gillis, much to his obliviousness. (And in fact, one of the show concepts was that Dobie actually was in love with his childhood friend Zelda, but just wasn’t smart enough to realize it yet; and in the show universe, they eventually were happily married.)

Fortunately for Velma, she didn’t end up hopelessly in love with Fred.

And Daphne actually isn’t like any of the girls who were Dobie Gillis objects of desire, although her name apparently was supposed to remind people of the first season rich, mean blonde girl he liked, who was named Thalia. (And Daphne’s family is rich, but Fred’s family isn’t badly off, either.)

That said, when you look at it, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is also reminiscent of Thalia, Zander is reminiscent of Dobie, and Willow was clearly Zelda, much more than Daphne or Velma ever were. And Dobie Gillis featured a mentor teacher who snarked at the kids but also helped them out, so I guess we know where a certain librarian/Watcher came from. They were never the Scoobies so much as the Dobies.

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The Patron Saint of People Punning on Your Name

Today is the day of St. Tabitha, aka St. Dorcas. She appears in the Acts of the Apostles, being raised from the dead by St. Peter.

“Now in Joppa [today’s Jaffa] there was a disciple named Tabitha, which translated means Dorcas. She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. Now during those days she fell sick and died, so after washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs.

“Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose up and went with them.

“When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many came to believe in the Lord.”

Acts 9:36-42

The interesting and funny part, which I never noticed before, was that St. Peter’s story about Jesus raising a little girl from the dead is in the Gospel of Mark. And he remembered that Jesus brought her back to life by saying in Aramaic, “Talitha, koum.”

So here he is, talking to a woman with the Aramaic name of Tabitha. And what did he probably say in Aramaic, possibly while having a flashback?

“Tabitha, koum.”

Heh heh heh. Cracks me up. I never saw it before this hour, and that makes me sad!

(The Greek isn’t the same, though. Mark says, “Lego egeire,” (I say to you, get up), and Acts says, “anastesthi,” (arise).)

Tabitha (probably pronounced ta-bi-THA) meant “female gazelle.” The Hebrew is “tsbiya.” And “dorcas” also means “gazelle.”

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Wellll, Isn’t This Interesting!

There’s an often-recommended Chinese steampunk web novel called Lord of the Mysteries, by a person whose pen name is Cuttlefish That Loves Diving.

Well, this person has written another web novel, Embers Ad Infinitum, which is set in a post-apocalyptic China where people are trapped inside a giant high rise, living in cramped apartments and never able to go outside.

And attending an illegal house church of sorts. A pagan church that supports the right to have babies.

Yup, very interesting. It’s a “Crystal Dragon Jesus,” but with a lot higher stakes than in the West.

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Tiggy Touchwood

The term “Touch wood,” which became “Knock on wood” in America, is derived from a Scottish and English game of Tag called “Tiggy Touchwood.” In Scotland, “It” in a game of Tag is “the Tigger” or “Ticky.” In the UK, “It” is “Tiggy” or “Tig.”

The Tigger starts the game by saying:


Tiggy, tiggy, touch wood,

My black hen,

She lays eggs for gentlemen.

Sometimes nine and sometimes ten,

Tiggy, tiggy, touch wood,

My black hen.


Everybody scatters, and they try to go somewhere with wood, so that they can touch it and be safe. Different areas have different definitions of “wood,” but trees and sticks usually do not count. (There’s also a variant called “Touch Iron,” and presumably other substances could also be used as safe bases for Tag.)

Of course, part of the fun is not staying at a safe base, and in many variants it must be announced that someone is arriving at or leaving a safe base. There are also variants where there is a time limit on being able to touch wood and be safe.

I thought it was interesting to learn about Tiggy Touchwood, especially since it never occurred to me that Tigger was always playing Tag.

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Exorcists Giving Advice on Hobbies

We live in a time when a lot of people try to break all the Commandments, but keep all the social rules and shibboleths. And we live in a time when these people simultaneously say that rapists and murderers are just poor wittle misunderstood oppressed babies, but also that children should be thrown out of society forever for a single politically incorrect word.

So yeah, not too surprising that there’s not enough exorcists in the world to cover all the reports of demonic activity, and that a lot of Catholic and Orthodox and other bishops are scrambling to get more exorcists trained and in the field.

Exorcism didn’t use to be very frequently needed or requested in living memory, other than the exorcistic prayers included in Sacraments like Baptism. But after the Catholic minor orders were done away with, and most dioceses stopped commissioning exorcists, amazingly the need came back.

The downside of all this is that almost every trained exorcist today has been trained through the diocesan exorcists of Italy. Which is great, because they kept them; but it’s also unfortunate, because it passes on everything through a single institutional lens, and that means it’s an Italian cultural lens. The available knowledge pool is relatively small, also, although it would seem that new exorcists today are able to pool their institutional knowledge more openly.

So it’s not clear where people should draw the line, between taking advice and not taking advice, if they ask exorcists about what “opens up” people to demons.

Exorcism is counter-cultural, and the current cultures around the world include a lot of corruption and bad judgment. Exorcists are forced by their duty to live even more conservatively and ascetically than a normal holy priest, because “this kind will only go out by prayer and fasting.” They also tend to see a lot of worst-case scenarios, rather than seeing people whose lives are sunshine and roses.

Also, Italian culture tends to look with great suspicion, and to support suspicious behavior, on certain things that in the US have a lot more innocence and harmlessness attached to them.

So yeah, I fully believe that there are people who do bad occult things on Halloween, just like I believe that some true crime buffs are actually glorifying serial killers. Those things are true.

But that doesn’t mean that Halloween hasn’t been harmless fun for decades and centuries, for almost everyone. Wearing a vampire costume and playing monster by making cape gestures and yelling, “Blah, vlah, vlah!” is anything but a glorification of demons. It is a safe way to face vague fears of the dark or of monsters, and to learn to navigate in a night-confused situation of strange houses and unknown people. It is candy and play, and quality time with one’s parents.

Similarly, a lot of people like to read mysteries or true crime, because it feeds a longing for justice, and for understanding the human heart. Forensics information of the geekiest kind can end up being helpful in daily life, to save life and protect the vulnerable or foolish. I’m not a horror fan, but some of them have similar feelings; and horror movies are sometimes a gateway to religious devotion, much as hellfire and damnation sermons really help some people amend their lives and learn to love God. God is Lord, and He created the night as well as the day.

That said — if someone out there is actually having an occult problem or dealing with demonic infestation or oppression, it would be prudent to go for overkill on the psychological and spiritual protection front. If fluffy bunny decor is considered a more helpful armor than painting the walls black and running a lava lamp, go with the fluffy bunnies.

And if, God forbid, you should ever need a qualified exorcist’s expertise, you obviously need to follow his advice more than that of a layperson like me.

While I’m mentioning it….

The main Catholic traditional objection would be that Halloween was intended to be a fast day and prayer vigil; and that therefore one should stick to Trick or Treat on the night before, or maybe make the kids only have a couple pieces of candy on Halloween night. (But young kids aren’t bound by the law of fasting anyway; and fasting is totally voluntary on holy day vigil days, at this point in time in the Roman Rite. So that ship has sailed, unless the bishops decide to go back.)

Costumes, in good taste, have always been permitted in Catholicism, and even demon costumes have never been prohibited. Mocking demons is a thing, because demons have no sense of humor about themselves.

The traditional fear was that masks and disguises would lead to robbery, kidnapping, rape, and illicit sex, not that Carnival or St. Martin’s or Souling costumes would glorify evil or lead to possession.


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Patricia Kennealy, RIP

Well, this stinks. I didn’t realize that Patricia Kennealy died back on July 21, 2021, of complications of heart disease. She was 75.

For those who don’t know the whole saga — she was a music journalist who had the bad luck to meet and have a relationship for Jim Morrison of the Doors. He had a handfasting ceremony with her, signed papers before witnesses, called her his wife, got her pregnant, and then ordered her to abort their child. It turned out later that she looked almost exactly like another long-time girlfriend of his (whom he was still with). And then Morrison managed to die of an overdose, or murder, or whatever happened.

Kennealy took this all hard, as one would. Until the end of her life, she called herself Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.

However, she also wrote a really good duology of fantasy/sf crossover books, as well as a bunch of prequels and sequels of various quality, which are corporately called The Keltiad.

The Copper Crown, first published through Bluejay Books in 1984, is a work of great verve and fun. Basically, it starts out as “What if a Star Trek-style future exploration ship found a bunch of Celts already out in space, having colonized other planets thousands of years ago?” It has tons of fan service for members of the SCA and other medieval groups. It’s also extreeeeemely neopagan, and gets even more neopagan from there — but initially, the book balances things well. I ran across it in a library, loved it, and was horrified to find that there was no second book.

But then another publisher took over the series, and I was delighted to buy my own paperback copy and push the book on others. The second book, The Throne of Scone, was still good, and I was delighted to have the cliffhanger resolved.

I also enjoyed the prequel, The Silver Branch, but the balance slipped toward pure fantasy and neopagan ideas. Everybody knows that the Irish idea about the sun dancing on Easter is an early Christian one, connected to Psalm 18/19, the most popular Early Christian psalm. And everyone knows that the most noticeable Fatima miracle was the dancing sun seen all over Europe. Kennealy turned this into a magical act witnessed all around a planet. Bleh.

The other books of the Keltiad were of varying quality. The Arthur trilogy was okay, but with a lot of unexplained elements that turned out to be autobiographical. The one with a fictional version of Jim Morrison (Blackmantle) was… um… not good, although it had its moments. (As in, it would have been nice if the man had been what she wanted him to be. I read it from the library.) And the one about St. Patrick being evil and St. Brendan getting together with Etain the fairy queen (The Deer’s Cry) was really, really not good, besides straying very far from history or legend or logic. (I got rather angry early on, and just skimmed it; so maybe it got better and I missed it.)

She planned to write a prequel about her Numinorians, the Four Treasures, and Atlantis (to be called The Beltane Queen), and a final sequel to Aeron’s story (to be called The Cloak of Gold). But apparently she never finished them.

OTOH, even when Keltiad books were most in need of editing by a critical friend, they had a lot of energy, poetry, interesting happenings, and mythopoeia. Kenneally’s narrative voice is pleasant, and most of her characters are fun to spend time with — even some of her villains.

Kennealy also wrote a memoir, Strange Days. It’s good revelatory writing about herself and her own feelings about what happened, although one tends to feel very sorry that Morrison basically messed up her life, and that she still was okay with that.

I never managed to read any of her Rennie Stride mysteries. I guess I should have sent away for them, but I don’t really like reading about dysfunctional Sixties stuff.

Sadly, I never got a chance to meet her. We were the same kind of geeks for Celtic legends, and I would have liked to hear her give some kind of talk.

She was baptized and raised Catholic. And though she rejected Catholicism consciously, I hope that she has found mercy and peace in the Lord. For one thing, her version of imaginary Celtic religion included a lot of repentance, reparation, forgiveness, and amendment of life — which is not something found in the old stories of pagandom. Not at all. The pagan world was a world without many second chances.

She was not crazy or stupid; but someone with an aptitude for happiness and faith was twisted by some very nasty events (and a narcissist, which is the sort of person who lives off people who are full of feeling and are unwary enough to be twisted). She deserved better, and I will pray for her soul’s repose.

A pretty good obituary from Variety. Good job, Variety!

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Today I Learned… Lucius Edition

Roman family names often reference obscure old Latin or Etruscan words.

The Roman gens by the name of Lucius, was originally called Luscius (LOO-ski-oos). And so the name comes from “luscus,” meaning “one-eyed” (with the added meanings “one eye squeezed shut” and “half-blind”).

Of course, the newer spelling and pronunciation allowed for a lot of flattering puns on Luciuses being born in the light, or showing up at first light, and so on.

Saint Lucia was either a member of the Lucian gens, or from the family of one of its freedmen. And since her mom was allegedly rich, and since her mom had a Greek (Syracusan) name but she bore the usual female gens name, she probably was a highborn Roman girl.

“Luscus” is related to “lux” and words about light, but also related to Greek words about glimmers and gloom. So the implication is more about “partially dark” than “partially open and full of light.”

There is a Latin word “lucius,” but it’s the name of a fish. (Which is why the Lucy family sometimes bore fish on their heraldry.)

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St. Charles Borromeo

Hey, it turns out that the life story of St. Charles Borromeo is HIGHLY TOPICAL. I had no idea how topical. He faced a lot of the same challenges that people today face – laxity, crazy ideas, stupid hostility in high places – but managed to get through it all with his head held high and his love for God intact.

OTOH, he was a very very very obedient guy. Very.

Which must have been really disconcerting, when this big tall built guy, with this skinny face from fasting and all these highly connected relatives, insisted that he would totally do what you want. But also that this is what you should want to order him, for the following reasons.

He also gave First Communion to St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

Also, when he was sent by the pope to do visitations of tiny little towns up in the mountains, he’d be staying in these tiny little inns where bandits also used to stay. And he would hear their Confessions, and then they would go find another line of work. One time, an entire troop of bandits all did this, and he sent them to an official who could give them work, with an explanatory letter.

He put a lost and found box in every church in Milan, for the purpose of having a place for penitent thieves to return stolen goods. He also started a School of Christian Doctrine, which met on feast days, and which taught every layperson in Milan the basics of literacy, math, and the new Catechism. He also bought his seminary a printing press, which allowed him to provide gift books to all his priests, as well as selling other useful works at low prices. In return, he insisted that every parish priest must take time to study, as part of his spiritual development, and must prepare sermons based on his study.

He was a great defender of the Ambrosian Rite, which he insisted on having celebrated instead of the Roman Rite. Even though he loved the Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite belonged to Milan as her heritage from the Early Christians.

He wasn’t much for fancy things, but he insisted that churches should be beautiful and not overly plain. Plain buildings for him represented “human powers,” while beautiful churches were built “in conformity with Divine Providence.” Similarly, he wanted sacred music and singing to be beautiful and “intelligible.”

St. Charles had to deal with a year-long epidemic of the plague in Milan, with people dying left and right. He consulted the best medical books of the day, planned for people attending church “with a space around them,” and got the Pope to issue a plenary indulgence for anyone who caught the plague but also for anyone caring for plague victims.

But he worried most about those trapped in their houses under lockdown, and the “plague of the soul.”

“It is especially necessary to care for that multitude of people locked in their own houses, who by their long absence from the church may accustom themselves to negligence in their religious duties, which then will no longer hold an attraction for them. That would be a misfortune worse than the plague.”

When the plague was most violent, he ordered priests to set up portable altars on street corners, and say Mass for all the residences around, while the citizens attended Mass at their windows. Those priests in Italy who did this were obviously drawing on this history… and you wonder why more people didn’t know about it.

After giving Communion on the tongue to a sick person in the hospital, he would hold his fingers over a candle flame to destroy contagion. He took care to stay away from others, including his house servants, and he ordered that everyone caring for the sick would change clothes in a room separate from all others, and that their laundry would be done separately. Nothing was too small to avoid his planning and notice, but all of his regulations were sensible and easy to carry out.

The fifth provincial council of Milan laid down regulations for the future, including how to set up a field hospital in small towns that didn’t have facilities, and what to do about spit in church.

Still, there’s a big difference between a real plague and a minor disease. In the smaller Venice of his time, 40,000 people died in Venice. Borromeo’s regulations held it down to 17,000 in Milan, of which only three were people in the seminary, and none in the cardinal’s household.

Travel was arduous in Northern Italy, and he also went through Switzerland a lot. He almost always rode horses or mules. He had mules roll on top of him several times, but he always remained calm and was usually unhurt.

He died at a fairly young age, exhausted from his labors and travels, but still very particular about his actions. He had his bedroom at his house set up for a recollected death, with a couple of good paintings of Christ. (One was a Correggio depicting “The Prayer in the Garden,” what we call “the Agony in the Garden.”)

  • “Contagion” and “miasma” was basically the medieval world figuring that something was in the air or on the body and breath of sick people. But they didn’t know exactly what, or how to keep it from making other people sick, or whether it arose from natural weather or landscape features. There was a shrewd idea that vigorous cleaning could destroy it, often including fire, or lime, or strong wine, or other chemicals. Borromeo was keenly aware that wearing the clothes of plague victims was associated with catching the disease, and he also knew about the association with rats and ordered every rat in Milan to be killed.


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Biblical Authority Words II

I’ve talked before about the headcovering passage for women, and how they should have “exousia” upon their heads.

Everybody forgets that Paul has a long section in 1 Corinthians 9 about all the people who have “exousia” over various parts of life, and how Paul himself has to be careful not to abuse his “exousia” over Christians and over teaching the Gospel.

So if people are reading about “exousia” in 1 Corinthians 11, they shouldn’t have amnesia about 1 Corinthians 9, either.

I think what’s going on here is that Paul is calling for women to wear a sign of their authority given by God (and their husbands), like a court official’s hat or diadem. It’s “because of the angels” because Christian women will have authority to judge angels. Eve was naked when she was tricked by Satan, but other women meeting up with good angels were fully clothed and dignified. (And probably there’s something to do with the bad “sons of God” meeting up with the bad “daughters of Adam,” too.)

But it’s also “because of this” from the previous few verses, when Paul explains that woman was created to be “help” (the word also used for military allies or for God being our help) to man. (The sentence structure is “because of this, blah blah blah, because of the angels,” which suggests again that both reasons have equal weight.)

Possibly the “help” is also why women are supposed to appear “fully armed.”

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What’s a Good Word for…

….Christian laywomen wearing headcoverings, in church or elsewhere?

Look, “veiling” is not historically correct (it was the term for nuns joining up!), and today it suggests Islamic women wearing hijabs or burkhas. So even though the term has a big head start, it’s not ideal. (And okay, it’s one of my pet peeves.)

The Vulgate does use “velato” and “velatur” in the broad sense of heads being covered. So I understand why people do it, but I’m still peeved.

In Greek, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul talks about women being “akatakaluptou te kephale,” un-covered-upon the head. “Katakalumma” is a word for a head covering. So I guess you could coin something in English like “catacalyptic,” to mean wearing a hat or head covering. But it’s not pretty.

“Kalumma” is one of the Greek words for a veil, but Paul and the Septuagint use it for Moses’ face veil and for the Temple veil. (Hebrew “masve”.) So not ideal, no.

Same thing with “katapetasma,” which is the Temple veil or curtain. (That’s “paroket” in Hebrew.)

“Radid” is Hebrew for a thin, wide woman’s cloak, so also not what we’re talking about. “Mitpahat” is similar, but without the thinness — Boaz has Ruth turn her cloak into a temporary grain bag, so it’s a good size.

Jerome uses “theristrum” for Tamar’s hooker disguise veil in Genesis 38:14. It’s from the Greek “theristrion,” and what it really is talking about is a light summer garment that covers you just enough to not be naked. So Jerome figured that her hooker outfit was basically wearing a gauzy dress.

Hebrew “saip” seems to be about covering your face rather than your head.

Hebrew “masseka” can mean a mourning veil or a bed coverlet. So we’re talking a big huge cloth that covers your whole body.

In the Byzantine hair-tying prayer noted a few posts ago, the Greek term for a Christian woman who was fully dressed for public view, including a head covering, was literally “fully armed [in the Faith]” — “kathoplismenai.” It also uses a different term for having hair covered: “katakekalummenai.”

Interestingly, there are similar but metaphorical terms: “ana-ke-kalummenos” and “apo-ke-kalummenos,” both meaning “openly, ie, in an uncovered way.” Then, “apokalumma” can mean “a revelation,” because it’s literally “an uncovering, an unveiling.” Hence our word “apocalypse.”

The thing is, though, that when Paul talked about church, he said that women should have “exousia” on their heads. So “exousic” would seem more to the point.

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