Category Archives: Church

Our Lady of Walsingham Hymn!

EWTN televised Mass today from the Catholic cathedral at Walsingham, England’s great Marian pilgrimage site. There in 1061, a local noblewoman widow, Richeldis de Saverches, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary instructing her to build the Holy House, a replica of Mary’s childhood home with her parents.

(Yes, right before the Norman Invasion. It’s pretty common for Marian apparitions to occur during or right before wars and other bad stuff, perhaps as a sort of spiritual vitamin.)

This homely site was destroyed by the greed of Henry VIII. But the English still make pilgrimage there, and today is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Anglican shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is on approximately the site of the old shrine. The Catholic one is at the site of the old “Slipper Chapel” on the outskirts of town, where pilgrims would remove their traveling shoes, so as to approach Mary’s shrine barefoot.

The opening hymn was very striking. It’s sung to the good old hymn tune ELLACOMBE.

Hail Mary, ever blessed,
Of Walsingham the Queen!
Through vision of Richeldis,
Thy favors there were seen.
When England was thy dowry,
There pilgrims bowed the knee.
At morn and noon and even,
They knelt to honor thee.

Hail Mary, ever blessed.
Thy children still delight
To tell abroad thy praises,
Thy miracles, thy might.
Still pilgrim feet are treading
Along the holy way.
Hostess of England’s Nazareth,
Receive us home today!

Hail Mary, ever blessed.
The wells of water pure
Which mark thy holy places
Are signs that God doth cure
For sick of soul and body.
E’er since Richeldis’ day,
They spring in benediction
Beside the Pilgrims’ Way.

Hail Mary, ever blessed.
Thy name is great indeed;
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was in thy womb conceived.
Thy name be ever prai-sed,
Increasing in this place,
And loud the angel’s greeting:
“Hail Mary, full of grace!”



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TV to Adapt Japanese Light Novels about Vatican Investigators

Yes, my children, it’s that time again. It’s time to enjoy or shudder at the Japanese pop culture idea of Catholicism!

Anime company J.C. Staff is making a Gothic/horror/mystery anime called Vatican Miracle Investigators (Bachikan Kiseki Chousakan).

Behold. There is a trailer.

Fr. Joseph Kou Hiraga is a brilliant scientist. Fr. Roberto Nicholas is an expert in archives, paleography, and codes. Together, they investigate miracles!

(Yeah, that’s not how priests usually look. Albeit priests sent to the Vatican to study for the Vatican diplomatic service often are attractively presentable.)

To be fair, they are giving these guys some interesting features. Fr. Hiraga has a twelve year old brother with terminal bone cancer. (Ow.) Fr. Nicholas the archives researcher is an Italian bon vivant, as opposed to the more serious Fr. Hiraga.

The light novels by Rin Fujiki have been running since 2007, so there should be plenty of backstory to work with.

So yeah, it’s gonna be a doozy. Coming this July to a computer screen near you!

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A Guide to the Laws of England Affecting Roman Catholics

A Guide to the Laws of England Affecting Roman Catholics, by Thomas Chisholme Anstey.

This 1842 compendium of the English laws affecting Roman Catholics, past and present, is extremely enlightening. It doesn’t include the laws that were also against other sorts of religious dissenters, but only the specifically anti-Catholic ones. It also includes the text of a loyalty oath that was required of Catholics wishing to be covered by the various “Relief Acts” and Catholic emancipation laws. Yup, you didn’t even get your basic civil rights without doing some groveling.

One thing that shows up is that a lot of laws which Irish people tend to think about as being against “the Irish” are really against all Catholics. For example, the infamous rule that a Catholic could not own a horse worth more than five pounds.

I’m pretty sure that we all know about all the death penalties and imprisonments for horrible things like “being a priest” or “saying Mass,” and about all the crushing fines and terrible imprisonments visited upon recusant Catholic laypeople, both men and women. But here are some laws you might not have heard about:

Catholics could not possess any arms or even gunpowder, but they had to pay people to maintain arms at their own expense, for royal use. Nice, huh?

Recusant Catholics could not go to court, and could not go within ten miles of London unless they were natives there. At one point they could not even go five miles from home without losing everything they owned and then being kicked out of England.

Under Elizabeth I, any Catholic leaving England to go to school was to be deprived of the ability to hold real estate, and all contracts made with him were voided. Sending a person out of England to school meant a 100 pound fine. Going overseas was forbidden to any woman or minor under 21, except by special government permission from the queen and her ministers. Later, even sending money overseas to a seminary or Catholic charity made you a person unable to hold offices or real estate; you lost everything you owned except your heir’s right to inherit your lands after your death.

In general, under various laws, Catholics could own real estate but could not do anything with it. Their Protestant kindred were given the legal right to “enjoy” their houses and land and to keep any profits that arose. This lasted until Catholic emancipation in 1829, under George IV.

Under William III, any Catholic keeping school or found teaching kids was to be sentenced to perpetual imprisonment.

Under Queen Anne, it was decided that if a Protestant child of a Catholic or Jewish family ever complained of “want of fitting maintenance,” they were to be given money, lest the kids reconcile with their parents and their religion. The age of the children did not matter as long as the parents were still alive, and most of the applicants seem to have been adults. At least one was a middle-aged adult.

Anglican canon law also called for the punishment of all recusants and dissenters. There were Anglican churchwardens, constables, high constables, questmen, and questmen’s assistants, all of whom could arrest you for being Catholic, basically. They would be paid 40 shillings for everybody they listed as not attending the Anglican parish church at least once a month.

All marriages had to be celebrated in Anglican parish churches by Anglican priests. Even if you were Jewish or Catholic, or a Protestant of another group. The idea of being able to register your marriage by going to a strictly secular registrar, and then celebrate it in your own religious group, was new to England in 1829. In general, the building had to be registered, or a registrar had to be present, or there had to be a special license. But this was progress.

There’s also an interesting discussion of how the Anglican seal of confession was considerably weakened by Anglican canon law in comparison to Catholic canon law. Anglican clergy were allowed to reveal confessions of anything that went against the realm or anything that was dangerous to the clergyman’s life; but any talking about secret confession contents was considered an irregularity and nothing more. (Which doesn’t mean that individual Anglican priests didn’t act differently; but you can see how corrupted the canon law was made by its government status.)

There’s also a lot of discussion of how charitable bequests to Catholic causes were frequently voided by the decisions of judges, even after 1829 made those bequests totally legal in the UK. A lot of times, this was explicitly done to benefit Protestant heirs, or the money taken over by the government.


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A Cave Church in France

Saint-Émilion, a famous Bordeaux wine town in the south of France, is named for a hermit saint who moved there from Brittany. He’s called St. Aemilianus or St. Emilian of Saujon, St. Emilian of Combes, and so on, for all the various places he could be said to have lived. He died in 767, and his feast is January 7. (Which is about the time when extremely new wine could be drunk.) But his day is also celebrated on November 16, probably because it’s not as cold and comes at harvest time. He’s a patron saint of wine merchants and businessmen. (The local patron of vintners and vineyard owners is St. Valery/Valerius, one of his disciples. He is depicted with the tools and outfit of a vineyard worker, including a water gourd.)

Anyway, this town was built around what was once a cave deep in the forest of Combes. It was a convenient place for a hermit to camp out. As usual with saintly hermits, people were drawn to the vicinity of his cave to consult him for holy advice, or even just to rubberneck. Men who wanted to be monks didn’t go home again, which is how a lot of hermitages suddenly become monasteries. And where there’s a monastery, there’s often a town that comes into being.

So there’s not much remote forest left at Saint-Émilion… although the vineyards are a perfectly good replacement… but the cave is still there. It doesn’t look like a cave from the outside, because the whole rock outcropping and underground cave system was gradually carved into a church, over the course of centuries. (Mostly in the 11th century.)

The place is called the Église Monolithe – “the single-stone church.” There are a few others in the world, particularly in Ethiopia.

Here’s a video of St. Emilian’s underground, monolithic church. It gives a much better idea of what the church is like than any of the photo pages I’ve seen. The big metal pillar things are modern reinforcements for the bell tower. The church doesn’t seem to be in use at this time, although there is still a place near the entrance to venerate St. Emilian. (His relics were lost, though.) The place where the guys are sitting and talking in the video used to be the altar area, and the video shows you a few of the stone carvings done to fancy up the church, which is otherwise pretty plain. (But beautiful and impressive.) There’s also tons of really nice aerial drone footage.

It’s worth it to turn on the auto-translate closed captions, but some of the stuff the expert says is pretty ignorant. A many-headed dragon in church isn’t a “force of nature;” it’s a Revelation or other Biblical reference.

That’s not a “figure with a stick” who “gains wings,” but either St. Michael defeating the dragon (very suitable for a high rocky outcropping), or more likely, a scene from the Book of Tobit, with Tobias fighting the river monster to get its liver to heal his father’s blindness, while St. Raphael stands by with his traveling stick. In the latter case, the meaning would be that you have to defeat evil to help heal others, and that your guardian angel will help you and give you advice. (Very suitable for both the monastery’s monks and for the lay parishioners.)

The church is believed to have been built as a sort of thanksgiving by knights returning from the Crusades, so the Book of Tobit theme of a dangerous journey would fit well. It lies on one of the French pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela.

As with a lot of medieval churches, the carvings up by the altar probably used to be painted, to differentiate them from the rest of the wall and to be able to add fine details.

A page about why the bell tower needs support (groundwater plus limestone), and how the support pillars were funded and improved. Also a couple nice photos I haven’t seen elsewhere, including one of the Revelation creature with a scorpion’s tail and woman-length hair. But it’s shooting an arrow, for some reason. The video above only shows the oldest part of the church, whereas there are actually three naves and a crypt!

This article talks about Holy Trinity Chapel, built directly on top of the original hermitage to keep it protected, with some gorgeous 13th century frescoes. It also talks about the hermitage itself, which contains indented stones which were traditionally used as a bed and a chair by the saint, as well as a holy spring. (Obviously dampness was part of the mortification.) She warns that you have to reserve a place in one of the underground tours if you want to see the church at all.

It also talks about how Saint-Emilion is allegedly the place where macarons/macaroons were first invented by the Ursuline sisters. You can buy macarons made according to the 1620 recipe.

This article in French talks a lot more about the history and frescoes in the other big medieval church in town, the collegial church of the Augustinian canons, including the fact that its big 14th-15th century enlargement and bell tower were mostly funded by a papal nephew, Cardinal Gaillard de la Mothe.  The remains of his cardinal palace are also in town. (The church also features a medieval pet door for a cat who notoriously hated being in church during offices and Mass.)

In the long-running anime Detective Conan (aka Case Closed), the supporting character “Jodie Saintemillion” is actually named Saint-Emilion, in a reference to the wines made there.

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The Guardian Strikes Again

Here’s an interesting article about a book on visiting illuminated manuscripts. Hopefully the content doesn’t reflect the book.

Moses is described as “horned” throughout the Middle Ages, and of course Michelangelo’s famous statue shows Moses with horns. This was not because people thought Jews had horns.

(Obviously an idea that couldn’t survive any city where Jews lived. Jews got their hats knocked off a lot; it was a common harassment thing. However, it is true that people in the waybacks always seem to tell kids that various minority ethnic or religious groups who don’t live around them have tails and horns, like the Russian eretik (“heretic”) monsters. You sometimes hear people on the Internet who say that their grandparents were taught that about Catholics.)

The reason Moses was called “horned” was because the Vulgate said the same thing. This was how St. Jerome, who studied Hebrew with Jews, translated Exodus 34:35:

“Qui videbant faciem egredientis Moysi esse cornutam, sed operiebat ille rursus faciem suam, siquando loquebatur ad eos.”

“Upon Moses coming out, they saw his face was horned, but he covered his face back up whenever he spoke to them.”

The usual English translation these days is that “the skin of Moses’ face shone.” So what people think is, “How dumb St. Jerome was! What a terrible translation error!”

But the Hebrew word used in this passage for “shine” is “karan,” which literally means “horn.”

As this gentleman Taylor Marshall explains, the Hebrew idea was that a ray of light was shaped like a horn. Horns were also symbols of power, as we see again and again in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. So after seeing God, Moses suddenly had some kind of frightening light of power coming out from his head. Horns.

Mr. Marshall also points out that Hebrew altars had horns, and altars were veiled. He suggests that the wording means that Moses was now a living altar of God.

UPDATE: Hello, Instapundit visitors! You might want to buy my brother’s steampunky science fiction novel, The Sculpted Ship, which today is on sale for #2.99. My commenter below, Peter J. Floriani, has several entertaining novels out, as well as some enlightening non-fiction. Finally, I have translated several medieval and early modern books which you can buy.


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Blessed Alexander of Lugo, Dominican Martyr

Giacomo Baldrati was born in Lugo, Italy, on September 26, 1595. His parents (Cesare Baldrati and Lucia de Bianchi) supported his boyhood piety, and he joined the local Dominicans on January 15, 1612, taking the name “Alessandro”, or Alexander.

The Order sent him to study in Faenza and Naples. The friar was then ordained a priest and sent to the University of Bologna as a teacher, where people said he devoted half his time to God and half to his neighbor, leaving no time for himself. He collapsed into sickness from overwork and was sent to Venice to recover.

The interesting bit is that he may have ended up with some kind of mental illness too, which is very unusual in a saint. Some saints are very eccentric, but they tend to be saner than most. Alessandro had been known to be a particularly cheerful person all his life, but now he became depressed and prone to wild anger. He also began to fear his fellow friars (some of whom apparently teased him at this point) as persecutors. His biographer from the 1700’s from Chios, Leone Allacci, says that he went to Venice without permission from his superiors, and that he definitely was on the run when he took ship from Venice to Constantinople, and from there to Pera. He reported in at the Dominican friary at Pera. They decided to send him to Smyrna, because the archbishop of Edessa and co-adjutor of Smyrna was a particularly wise and holy Dominican, Venerable Giacinto Subiani di Arezzo. Friar Alexander was filled with fear again, but the monks of Constantinople assured him that Smyrna was “not a place where they beat up foreigners.”

Things must have gone well in Smyrna, because Archbishop Giacinto decided to send him to the small monastery of St. Sebastian on the Greek island of Chios — which was then part of the Ottoman Empire, and ruled by Muslims. With no other duties, Friar Alexander decided to spend all day preaching in the little Christian towns. Archbishop Giacinto later testified that he harvested “abundant fruit of souls” among his fellow Christians.

Then his Italian brothers sent a letter inviting him to come back. Friar Alessandro had a relapse into his fears, and was sure the letters were a trap. At times he seemed to go catatonic. At other times, he ran around town, crying out his sadness and fear. Strangely, he kept saying that people were going to burn him at the stake.

Politics and human drama ensued. Since a couple of prominent churchmen (including Archbishop Giacinto) arrived at Chios at about the same time to change ships, some local Muslims spread rumors that the Christians were planning to take back the island. Taking advantage of the hostile atmosphere, a guy named Aga Cuzaim, a Chios Muslim who had once been Christian and who disliked Friar Alexander (nobody knows why) decided to report him to the local Ottoman authorities as an apostate Muslim.

And of course we all know that the sharia law penalty for forsaking Islam is death.

Under the Ottoman Empire, sharia law ruled in most matters. Alexander was hauled into court by the Muslim governor. Here’s the strange thing. Now that he was really being persecuted and was really in danger of his life, Friar Alexander became himself again, fearless and articulate as a Dominican preacher should be. He protested again and again that he was Christian, had never been anything but Christian, and never intended to be anything but Christian. (One source seems to think that he may have apostatized during his screaming fits, some of which happened near Cuzaim’s house; but Allatios doesn’t seem to believe it.)

The Dominicans and the visiting churchmen were threatened for having concealed an apostate Muslim. They fired back that Friar Alexander was a Christian and never had been anything else. Eventually they were let go, and sent messages to Alexander to stand firm. Archbishop Giacinto ordered all his churches to keep a 24-hour prayer vigil for their fragile brother.

When Alexander was brought to court again, the judge told him that he would be executed for apostasy unless he embraced Islam again. He told them once again that he was a Christian who had never been anything else. He also told them for good measure, “Your Prophet is a prophet of lies; your law comes from the Father of Lies.” He was almost lynched then and there. But he was not afraid; he was calm and happy to die for Jesus’ Name, and professorial in his defense of Christian doctrine.

After all his fears, and possibly because they were known, he was indeed condemned to be burned at the stake for his “blasphemy.” He wasn’t even shaken, now that it was real. So they threw in some torture over the next few days. Prisoners and guards agreed that Friar Alexander fasted the whole time, prayed prostrate in his cell as was one of the Dominican customs, never complained, and was constantly penitent over his sins but in control of himself. When they came to execute him, he was serene and calm. He was led through the streets as a frightening example; but the streets were lined with Christians eager to honor their martyr, Catholics and Orthodox alike.

After he had been led out and bound to the stake with chains, the governor tempted him one last time. “Lift one finger to show that you believe in the God of Mohammed, the one true God, and your life will be spared.”

Alexander lifted three fingers. “The One God is the Holy Trinity!” Then he blessed the crowd with those fingers, “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!”

They lighted the fire — but the flames refused to touch him. They added wood, and the wood rolled away from him.

The Muslim crowd shot him, hacked him to pieces, then blew up his body with gunpowder. It was February 10, 1645.

Relics were saved from the mess and were sent around the world by the Dominicans, including to his hometown of Lugo.

February 10 is his memorial. His symbol is a martyr’s palm and a chain.

Blessed Alexander of Lugo, pray for us!

Here’s his biography:

Vita e morte del p.f. Alessandro Baldrati da Lugo, fatto morire nella citta di Scio da’ Turchi per la fede cattolica li 10. di febraro 1645. by Leone Allacci, Rome: Francisco Moneta, 1657. And here it is on Google Books.

The author is also known as Leo Allatius or Leo Allatios (1586-1669), and he was indeed a Greek born on Chios. He was also one of the Vatican Library’s head librarians, from 1661-1669, and was responsible for a lot of its Greek and Syriac acquisitions. On the side, he was a trained physician. He fought hard to heal the schism between Catholics and Orthodox, and wrote several important works about it. He translated St. Methodius of Olympus’ Banquet of the Ten Virgins into Latin, and refuted the urban legend of Pope Joan by consulting Greek records. He is a major source for opera history, since he listed all the operas put on in a city in his book Drammaturgia. He also wrote about Greek folklore in his De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus. Most of his 150 volumes of manuscripts have never been published… but he published and edited hundreds of books during his lifetime. So yeah, Leo was an interesting guy.

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Royal Catholic Bridesmaids Wearing Hats

To avoid making people scroll down for the hat portion of my post on the imprisoned Queen of England, morganatic marriages, and the PITA in-laws you got if you married into the Austro-Hungarian imperial family, I’m going to repost the hat portion here.

Here’s a picture of the marriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Countess Sophie Chotek, a Hungarian noblewoman of high birth. Because of their unequal (though high) rank, their marriage was severely opposed by Emperor Franz Josef. After most of the crowned heads of Europe and the Pope interceded for the couple, the Emperor finally acceded, but only under the condition that it be a morganatic marriage where Sophie would never become empress and the children could not succeed to any titles.

The Emperor refused to attend or let most of the relations attend, so the Nuptial Mass was celebrated in the tiny Reichstadt Castle chapel. But the celebrants were the parish priest with two friars as deacon and subdeacon. So they got a Nuptial Mass said for them (a sign that there was no scandal in God’s eyes), the Mass itself was in full splendor, and everything showed that the Church regarded it as a true marriage of equals with nothing morganatic about it.

The picture comes from an illustrated journal of the day, The Sphere. (Note that the Catholic archduchesses all wore hats to Mass.)


“The Archduke Franz Ferdinand duly wedded the Countess Sophie Chotek, the choice of his heart, at the Imperial castle of Reichstadt in Bohemia last Sunday week. The service was conducted by the parish priest, assisted by two Capuchin friars The little wedding procession, consisting of thirty-one persons, proceeded from the Archduchess Maria Theresa’s drawing room through the billiard room, where the Emperor Franz Josef and the Czar Alexander II met in conference in 1876, to the little chapel, to which no one else was admitted. First in the procession walked the bridegroom with his stepmother the Archduchess Maria Theresa, and his two half-sisters, the Archduchesses Maria Immaculata and Elizabeth, and his two sisters; and after then the bride, accompanied by her uncle, Prince Löwenstein, and Count Charles Chotek, head of the family. The Countess wore a white silk dress trimmed with myrtle blossoms, and on her forehead a diamond coronet, a wedding gift from the Archduke. Behind her came her brother, her sisters, and their husbands, and two or three court dignitaries. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s brothers were not present. From Reichstadt the bride and bridegroom proceeded to Konopischt Castle in Bohemia, a favourite estate of the Archduke’s, where they are passing their honeymoon. Our picture is by the one artist present (a Viennese).”

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