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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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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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Happy St. Francis’ Day!

EWTN’s Mass today is particularly beautiful. Of course, St. Francis is the patron of all the main orders working in Irondale, so that’s not surprising. Apparently they will also have a Eucharistic procession through the network’s work areas today. What a beautiful thing to do, and what a blessing!

Also the ultimate “Look busy! The Boss is coming!” (Heh!)

The homily says that the reason St. Francis could bear Jesus’ wounds in the stigmata was because he also had Jesus’ love for the world. Suffering is carried by love. Love strengthens us, because lovers overcome obstacles with joy.

I don’t think I can testify to that, because my love is small. But it is true that seeing a friend, or delighting in some fun person, can take away tiredness and pain for a while.

I’ve been listening on Audible to a very interesting book that came out in 2019. It’s a translation and commentary on the Gospel of Mark, called The Memoirs of St. Peter. (Because that’s what tradition and the Fathers say about Mark’s Gospel — that he wrote it based on what St. Peter had told him, possibly even including dictation from him.)

The translator/commentator is Michael Pakaluk. I don’t know much about him, but he keeps bringing up new things that make a lot of sense, or things that were there all along. He also brings a Catholic perspective which is very helpful, as he points out stuff implicit in the Greek that supports Catholic teachings and practices. The translation is also quietly droll, because he translates the Greek filler words as American English filler words. “Well, then such and such…” (The Audible narrator/actor seems to enjoy this too.)

Apparently Pakaluk is an ethics professor at Catholic University of America, but not the cruddy kind. (And not the kind who is trying to kill all your disabled friends.) He and his professor wife have eight kids, which argues a lot of management and time skills! He’s an Aristotle guy, and he wrote a book on accounting ethics. So that’s pretty cool, and I want to meet him someday.

One “new” thing he pointed out was that St. Matthew wasn’t just a tax collector, but a tax collector for the same area where Peter, Andrew, James, and John all lived. Fishermen had to pay tax often, from their market profits. This guy was a constant irritant in their work life, a symbol of Roman oppression and corruption… but when Jesus called him, the guys had to take him in.

Now, bear in mind that St. Matthew was authorized and encouraged by Rome to make his livelihood by charging additional tax, and keeping what was beyond the Roman tax amounts in his quota. They didn’t pay him a salary, because he was expected to pay himself as much as he could get away with. (Not enough to cause a revolt.) But he was also expected to send a little extra to the Roman governor, because taking a little extra was also how the governors were paid.

He was also the guy who caught and talked about Judas stealing, because he was used to thinking about money. (Not that Jesus was ever ignorant about what Judas was up to.)

Also, Mark’s Gospel tends to mention more that Jesus had His own house. A bachelor house, away from his home village. It’s something that gets mentioned a bit, but not really talked about in devotional stuff. So it cracked me up to realize that it’s also the house that got its roof temporarily taken apart, to lower the guy on the pallet into reach of Jesus! (This is what happens when You’re a Guy in the construction trades, I guess….)

Pakaluk points out that the text doesn’t say that the paralyzed man’s faith saved him — rather, Jesus says it was the faith of his friends! He’s not admonishing the guy; rather, he’s establishing one of the basic Catholic, Christian principles. We can have faith for our friends, or for babies getting baptized. We can bring the troubles of our friends, or family, or random strangers, before Jesus, and He will be glad to hear us as well as heal and forgive them. (Even if we have to resort to taking the roof apart.) We are all in this together.

Pakaluk also points out a lot of important Jewish concepts and references, as well as a lot of the points when Jesus is revealing or insisting upon His Divinity, or showing His Humanity. So it’s great at making you think and feel more about what is going on.

I think I need to get a paper copy of this book, too. I think it would make a good gift, also.

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St. Michael the Marine

Okay, maybe Heaven’s gates _are_ guarded by United States Marines. Or at least one who temporarily served….

How St. Michael saved a Marine in the Korean War

Heh, this is classic angel/benign trickster stuff. Those archangels have a wacky sense of humor! But the story has a twist….

Slightly different, much less abridged version of the original letter from a dramatization for radio broadcast. (The article’s version seems to be modernized.)

Another recording from a radio presentation, from WXYZ radio, 1964. Read by Fr. Walter Muldy, recorded back in 1955.

Obviously, there’s no approval because the persons involved never came forward publicly; so there’s no proof, although Fr. Muldy claimed to have investigated it privately.

I’ve been a Catholic all my life, and have never heard this prayer. Kinda beautiful one.

Michael, Michael of the morning,

Fresh chord of Heaven of adorning,

Keep me safe today,

And in time of temptation,

Drive the devil away.



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Google Attempts Repentance?

Google linked today on its homepage to a virtual hike down the Camino de Santiago. So… um… maybe they’re trying not to be evil? A little?

The problem is that, among the many informative presentations about the Camino that they are providing, they are overwhelmingly secular. I haven’t gone through them all, just glanced at them, but…. dude. “What is Catholicism?” or “Why do Christians go on pilgrimages?” would be pretty basic questions that should show up first.

However, it seems like it would be a nice faith practice, if you take it over and wrench it back where it should have been in the first place. If you can walk to Rivendell virtually, you can follow a Camino route prayerfully. (Although this is more of a tourism encouragement than an actual virtual thing, and so you will have to look up distances yourself.)

Anyway, it’s a nice time of year for walking. So go walk and pray for yourself, the world, and Google’s employees, and have fun and better health too.

That said, on the very first presentation I dipped into, the translation of what the lady said was drastically curtailed in some places and wrong in others. I hope this was just a proofreading problem. (And Finisterre doesn’t mean “the end of the world.” It means “Land’s End.” Just like other places called “Land’s End.” Duh.)

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Unknown Woman in Persian Dress, by Gheeraerts

There’s a portrait of an unknown woman, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, that is sometimes touted as a “pregnancy portrait of Elizabeth I.”

Well, it certainly does look like a pregnancy portrait of somebody, because the hand on the small of the back is a classic pregnancy pose. But I seriously doubt that it’s supposed to be Elizabeth, no matter how much people would like it to be. It doesn’t really look like her, and there’s more than one redhead in the Elizabethan world. And yes, painters often did versions of popular or prestigious poses with other sitters, and very seldom redid the same poses with the same sitter. So saying that it looks a lot like a known 1563 portrait of Elizabeth by the same guy — not exactly a great argument. (And I don’t think it’s Mary Queen of Scots, either.)

The implication of the sad sonnet seems to be that the woman died in childbirth or while still pregnant, at some point before the portrait was totally finished; and that the man who commissioned the portrait regretted having treated her unfairly in some way.

Read the sonnet and the mottos on this art page. They’re very enlightening.

“Mea sic mihi prosunt” was a known motto of the time. Mary Queen of Scots used it when she did a hugely complicated embroidered hanging for her bed of state, which basically seems to have been a bunch of embroidered squares all sewn together, much like quilts made of separate quilt square artworks today. Her use of “Mea sic mihi prosunt,” according to Drummond’s letter to Ben Jonson describing it, was associated with a picture of “A Vine tree watred with Wine, which instead to make it spring and grow, maketh it fade”. So the grapevine is saying, “My own [wine] benefits me in this way.” It’s a sarcastic motto about ungrateful children.

So the implication in the portrait, with “Mea sic mihi” placed on the “love tree,” is that “My own love hurt me,” or “my own fruit killed me.” Less negatively, it’s possible that the woman just got really sick, and that the man was being over-dramatic… but I’m not betting on it. My thought is that the woman died at some point when the portrait was being finished, or even afterward; and the sonnet and mottos were added.

The Persian outfit was apparently made for one of those masques or costumed occasions that the Tudors loved. The loose dress would have been much more comfortable for a pregnant woman, and it even came with flat shoes instead of heels.

The “stagge” is a common heraldic emblem and badge, which could identify the man (since he says it is his stag). But a stag (any adult male deer) is also a synonym for “hart,” a male red deer over five years old. The stag is crowned with “hart’s ease,” another name for pansies.

“Hart’s ease” or “heart’s ease” represented love for another, often true love and reciprocated love. The sonnet about the hart’s crown, and the “dolor est medicinae dolori” (pain is a remedy for pain) next to the hart, seem to indicate that the man only fell in love with the woman when she was nearly dead.

Of course, this is all guessing.

There’s another theory, very well expressed by Joanne Teresa Diaz in her 2008 dissertation on Elizabethan complaint poetry, that the woman had commissioned her own portrait and written her own sonnet, and that she was being sarcastic just like Mary Queen of Scots. But… then why would she blame herself in the sonnet for being cruel? Not to state the obvious, but you don’t get pregnant by being cruel to your man.

(Well, I guess maybe if you slept with another man to get pregnant, or while pregnant. But in that case, why the pregnancy pic?)

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Supercool Revival of the Carecloth!

New Liturgical Movement has an interesting article about a recent nuptial Mass that revived a Christian custom that goes back to the 300’s — the velatio nuptialis, the imposition of the veil.

In pagan Rome, the bride was veiled in a flame-orange or flame-red cloth called “flammeum,” flame. (Interestingly, a lot of other cultures also used red, yellow, or orange veils, including China.) To put on the bridal veil was “nubere,” to cloud, and that’s why the marriage rites were “nuptialis.”

But in Christian life, a white cloth cloak (pallium) or cloth, was held (by two servers) over both the bride and groom at once, during the bishop or priest’s blessing of their marriage, to represent the Holy Spirit coming down upon the couple, as in the form of the shekhinah cloud of glory coming down on the Temple. Since the bodies of Christians are temples indwelt by God, this is very fitting. St. Ambrose talks about it, as if it were already a common custom from time immemorial.

Marriage in the early Church was not yet formally defined as a Sacrament, and didn’t take place inside most churches, but rather on their front porches where everyone could see. But yet we see this ceremonial, which is almost liturgical and features a sort of marital vestment/not vestment, almost an altarcloth/communion cloth. And it does seem to happen inside church, taking place at the same time as the special nuptial blessing by the bishop or priest (which was an inside-church thing).

Now, when the Church moved everything inside and clearly defined marriage as a Sacrament, this continued until very recently, and the old Sarum Mass had a ton about this. And since Matrimony is performed by the bride and groom, not by the priest (who is there as a witness and helper), the equal opportunity “vestment” is very fitting.

When I looked into Sarum use of this custom, years and years ago, all that I was told was that it was an imitation of the wedding canopy in Judaism. But that’s not right, either, because the Jewish wedding canopy is more about creating a sort of mini-Temple or mini-Holy of Holies, with the canopy seen as its roof. (Which is why there is or was traditional pickiness about the size of the area under the canopy. It’s also supposed to be a cube-shaped area, like the Holy of Holies.) It would be interesting to know if there was originally a common ancestor, in Second Temple tradition, to both the Western Catholic velatio nuptialis and the Jewish bridal canopy.

The Latin word “velum” means literally, “covering.” It can be talking about a cloak, a sail, a sun awning over a street or stadium seats, door curtains, window curtains, or a length of cloth, as well as a veil. But “velatio” is a Christian word, talking about the imposition of veils on vowed virgins (and later, nuns) or its use in the Sacrament of Matrimony over both bride and groom.

The English name for the couples’ veil is “carecloth,” and in medieval times it was often made of noble materials like silk or silk-velvet. It wasn’t necessarily white, either, perhaps because clouds can be different colors. It was only for first marriages — ie, both bride and groom were to have been previously unmarried.

St. Isidore of Seville talked about the cloth being white with a red pattern or a red string, which represented the bloodlines of the two families. (Possibly this comes from the wedding ring association with the heart vein.)

In many places (possibly without tall servers or extra attendants), the carecloth was draped over the shoulders of the couples, and was associated with them being equally yoked. This is probably where the term “carecloth” comes from, because bride and groom were supposed to share all their troubles and cares. (Giving the bride and groom a crucifix is similar, as a warning that there will be suffering and work for both, in imitation of Christ.)

Sometimes the veil was held high over their heads on one side, but pulled down at a diagonal slant behind the couple, to veil them from the congregation.

It occurs to me that the “velatio nuptialis” is yet another example of how the early and medieval Church really disliked marriages to occur without lots of witnesses. If you’ve got two servers or two attendants or two sponsors holding the veil high over the couple, that’s two more witnesses.

Also, it explains a lot of art motifs.

I like this mutual veiling idea. I like it very much. It’s Catholic, it’s equal in dignity, and it fills in a sort of gap in formality, without being expensive. If a parish church had its own carecloth, it could offer this to all couples. It’s not in the rubrics, but it’s also not forbidden.

The couple in the article seem to have made their carecloth from white linen, with some colored embroidery motifs. They also seem to have kept the cloth (which is understandable because it involved heirloom cloth), but obviously this is the sort of thing that one could donate to a church instead.

One more note — In the Middle Ages, if the couple were marrying after repenting of premarital fornication, and if a child or children had resulted, it was the legal custom in many places to legitimize the children by also putting them under the carecloth. (Laid down, carried, or kneeling there.) Obviously this was meant to remove all questions by doing everything in public and in a memorable way, but it also has a lot of dignity and beauty.

Obviously it’s better for people not to have sinned. But there is such a thing as repentance and forgiveness, and it’s a beautiful way for parents to formalize their new family, dedicating all the household to God, and making a public parental statement that is humble and dignified.

Now, the Sarum Rite was the rite in force when the Philippines were discovered, and the Filipino people never gave up the “couple’s wedding veil” or velo. Two sponsors drape the veil over the groom’s shoulders and the bride’s head. The medieval “red string” has become a white figure-eight cord that helps hold the velo in place, and represents the infinite nature love.

In Mexico, they don’t usually have the carecloth, but they do have a cord — a giant set of two linked rosaries looped around the couple’s heads.

This may be related to the old old custom of binding the bride and groom’s hands with a wedding cord, or with the priest’s stole, which is associated with betrothal and marriage.

Another interesting article about the religious meaning and ancient Christian nature of Western marriage customs, including “a sixpence in her shoe.” This has pictures of carecloth use.

In this article, there is also evidence of Christian brides being veiled at their betrothal ceremony, and receiving a formal blessing from their bishop or priest. This was taken seriously enough that, if a Christian girl had been betrothed and the betrothal fell through due to death, the girl still could not receive the “conjugalis velatio” and the nuptial blessing at her wedding to another, at least according to early Western canon law.

The article also has the quote from St. Ambrose, with wording indicating that the veiling was _of the marriage_, not of the bride and/or the groom, but of the joint new thing. He calls it “velamen sacerdotalis,” priestly veiling, or literally, sacrifice-giver veiling.

Medieval names for the carecloth included “velamen caeleste” (heavenly veil – possibly associated with sky blue as a carecloth color), “pallium album” (white cloak, silver cloak), “velum”, “linteus” (linen cloth), “pannum” (cloth, garment), and “mappa” (cloth napkin). Carecloth’s etymology may be from carre (Fr. cloth square) or carde (ME fabric used for curtains).

This article views the “yoke over the shoulders” form as tons and tons older than the “veil held over heads” model. They all sound good, though.

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Probably This Isn’t Fair

The late Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., seems to be one of the reasons that the Jesuits declined so fast, so far. Bad stuff happened when he was running the Society of Jesus, so logically it’s his fault. And he let them keep electing him for almost twenty years, so it’s definitely his fault. And when you see Jesuit websites talking about “the renewal of the Society” (when it’s almost gone) and “the second founding” (when he drove it into the ground)… well, it just makes you want to lose your cookies.


And part of the reason he seems to have gotten power in the Society was that he was in Japan when the bombs were dropped. He was from a neutral country, he was associated with the Jesuits of Nagasaki who miraculously survived, and he seems to me to have milked it for the rest of his life.

And yes, maybe this isn’t fair. But he’s the kind of guy who didn’t just learn Zen meditation so that he could understand and do Buddhist outreach. He’s the kind of guy who kept doing it to the point of disregarding his own Jesuit traditions of meditative prayer.

And then he’s the kind of guy who not only decided to meditate upside-down in a headstand, but also who publicizes his headstand meditation.

If he were a goofy guy who didn’t seek power, you’d understand it as just a thing he did, just exploration and quirkiness. But he’s the kind of guy who got power, held onto power for 18 years, and wrote cruddy books about his new idea for the Jesuits being better than that of his founder. The whole thing just screams, “I want to be quirky as a power play.”


Arrupe supposedly coined the term that Jesuits were “men for others.” Actually, it’s a phrase from Bonhoeffer about Jesus… but let’s not be intellectually honest and correct a misquote. A misquote on every freaking Jesuit university webpage I can find is not a technicality. It’s on purpose.

Jesuits are supposed to be men for Jesus, soldiers under His command. Now, that would entail doing things for others, also… but military service is icky, so we can’t use that as an analogy. Even if it’s been working for the Benedictines for 1600 years or so.

Apologies to any good Jesuits out there who liked the guy, but… bleh.


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Pope Francis at Sastin National Shrine, Slovakia

Finally, finally, I’m watching a dignified Mass during a Pope visit. Boy, this is unusual for papal visits. Usually the music is terrible, the vestments are terrible, and so on.

This time, it’s a competent orchestra and a really good Slovakian choir. Wearing nice, sharp suits and dresses, like normal people at a formal occasion.

The occasion is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, something that Slovakia knows something about.

“Shashtin” would be the English spelling, I guess.

Amusingly, it turns out that Bishop Marini is still needed as papal MC, even though he was supposedly banished off to a tiny diocese with a fairly bad lack of vocations.

Gorgeous psalm setting sung gorgeously by the cantor.


This is a partial “canon” setting. Basically, there’s a verse in male chant, a verse in female chant with organ, and then a harmony/counterpoint verse with all voices. (For those who don’t know, there are some difficulties with doing chants in some ranges with both male and female voices because it’s less… impressive. This is a good way of getting past that.)

HAHAHAH! Orchestral Celtic Alleluia setting that is ridiculously better than usual! French horns! Kettledrums! Good trumpets!

And then the choir just does a darned good job. Antiphon setting that basically says “We ignore the Celtic Alleluia, in favor of setting the propers text,” and then brings it back around to the chorus, very gracefully, with extra harmonies. Hahahahahaha!

Look, I know this sort of thing may seem nitpicky. But if you love doing something to honor God, and you do it every week, you should be doing it well. You should be using best practices, not worst practices or stupid practices. You should be able to show your heart for Him.

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