St. Gregory of Narek – Newest Doctor of the Church!

Pope Francis today declared St. Gregory of Narek (aka Grigor Narekatsi) the newest Doctor of the Church. He was an Armenian Catholic monk, mystic, and poet (circa AD 951-1003).

Here’s the story at Vatican Radio. Lots of info.

Gregory was one of the legitimate sons of Khosrov Antsevatsi, a married priest whose wife died young. He did not remarry, became a bishop, and authored the earliest-known Armenian commentary on the Divine Liturgy.

Gregory was taught by his father and by his mother’s brother, Abbot Anania Vartabed of the Narek Monastery. (Vatican Radio had a little translation problem there. Anania is a guy’s name.) Gregory ended up entering the monastery himself, becoming a celibate priest, and authoring a commentary on the Song of Songs at a fairly young age. (Younger than Bede.) He wrote many songs and other pieces still used in the Armenian form of liturgy, Catholic and Orthodox alike. His most famous work is the Book of Lamentations or Book of Prayers, a book of 95 prayer poems.

Here’s a beautiful Marian prayer by him.

His Armenian nickname is “the watchful angel in human form,” and he is known for many miracles.

His traditional Armenian feastday is October 13. His Catholic feastday is February 27.

Now, if you read about the history of the Armenian Catholic Church, you will notice that they weren’t actually in communion with Rome during St. Gregory’s lifetime. (Apparently not for lack of trying, and partly because of logistical difficulties.) However, when a church comes into communion with Rome, Rome honors everyone they honor as a saint. Once things are healed, they’re healed.

And a good thing too. Armenians suffered to stay Christian. Check out some of the other saints on this list.

Armenian Catholics live all around the world, but there are a lot of them in the US and Canada. Here’s a page about their eparchy, and here is their cathedral, St. Gregory the Illuminator, Los Angeles. It’s gorgeous and wonderfully different.

Here’s the Armenian Catholic Church’s official webpage.

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Missing Police Dog Found

We had some unexpected good news yesterday. A police dog that had been missing for 61 days during this bitter cold was found alive, well, but hungry.

Karson, a Belgian Malinois “K9 cop” working for the city of Wilmington, Ohio, was put in a kennel over the holidays for his first time ever, while his handler traveled. Like a lot of dogs, Karson wasn’t too happy about this. Unlike a lot of dogs, he’d been given a lot of agility and strength training, so he promptly escaped from the kennel.

He might have headed home and found everyone gone, or he might just have been roaming around all this time. Either way, people have been looking for him all over the place, but there have been very few sightings. With the bitter cold we’ve had, a lot of people feared the worst. (Another K9 which was lost about the same time, a Great Dane named Goliath, was found dead a few hundred yards from its home at the end of January.)

But apparently Karson had the sense to den down somewhere during the worst of it, because he was found over in Clinton County on Sunday, in a field next to I-71, after an unusual number of sightings of him over the weekend, and in that area. He apparently never went too far from Wilmington and Xenia during the whole time.

Karson apparently wasn’t totally over his wanderlust, or maybe all these people looking for him made him skittish. When the Wilmington police went over to get him, they had to actually round him up. But when they finally managed to get close enough that he could recognize his handler, the dog ran over to the police’s truck and jumped in.

So he’s a little thirsty, his pads are the worse for wear, and he burned off 14 pounds. (Not much to eat in a winter Ohio countryside, except stuff like mice and trash.) But he’s okay. His handler posted today on Facebook that Karson’s pretty happy to be home and able to sleep soft. There are some good pictures and first-hand accounts of how they got him back.

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Read the Recently Rediscovered Holmes Story!

UPDATE: This guy explains what the joke is, and that makes it more likely that it was an anonymous political joke/pastiche. (Although a commenter points out that Doyle didn’t actually become a candidate until three years later, he was obviously known to be dabbling his toes into it.) Two similar “interview” pastiches were also published in The Book o’ the Brig (Sir Walter Scott and Mungo Park) and they came immediately before the “Sherlock Holmes” one; so it seems that the guy promoting the story’s discovery was concealing them to make a bigger splash with the third.

It’s still a pretty cute pastiche, but the way it’s been presented was pure clickbait and switch.

So yeah, you can ignore all this stuff below!

First off, if this is authentic, then the Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has some ‘splaining to do. Pretty bad recordkeeping, guys.

Second, here you can read the long-lost story from the charity fundraiser, The Book o’ the Brig.

Third — since it was published anonymously, is it really Doyle? That’s a reasonable question. I think it sounds right, and Doyle did publish some other bits and pieces for charity that had a similar tone. OTOH, it would have been unusual not to publish it under Doyle’s name, not to mention putting it in the place of honor at the beginning of the book.

OTOH, if it’s a pastiche, it seems unusual to have published it anonymously; usually these things went under joke names). Possibly it might have been by a local politician or journalist, one supposes, but why the anonymity?

Fourth — the burning question. Is it Canon?

If it is indeed authentic, the framing device would seem to indicate that Watson’s Agent, Doyle, got a certain level of cooperation from both Holmes and Watson, and got Watson to contribute something for the bridgebuilding fun. Certainly the feel of the story indicates that Watson wrote it up. But apparently Watson was using his pawky sense of humor at full force, as he rips on both his own (obviously unsuccessful) essay into politics, and Holmes’ stalkerish chains of observation and deduction.

So I would say that it might chronicle actual Canon events, but in a humorous and unrealistic way.

Fourth — if this is authentic, obviously Sherlockians doing research into Watson have fallen down on the job! How could such a chapter in his history have been totally forgotten!

Fifth — And really, I’m pretty surprised that this book was missed for so long. People collect early pastiches as well as the more modern ones. I’ve never seen it on lists of early pastiches, though. Sherlockian studies and collectors are shockingly completist, to the point where you start to think they’re as all-seeing as the Oculus Dei on the dollar bill. But no! Bibliophiles are still fallible, and hidden treasures are still out there to be found.

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Well, This Is All Very Bad.

If you’ve been reading Spencer’s Jihad Watch blog all these years, you’re probably aware of a lot of the insane and nasty sides of Sharia.

But the article in The Atlantic about “What ISIS Wants” has pointed out some new wrinkles.

1. The leader of ISIS is a member of Mohammed’s Quraysh tribe, and thus is potentially eligible for being a legit caliph.

2. A legit candidate having fulfilled all the other conditions and declared himself caliph, all Muslims are supposed to declare their allegiance to him. If they support anybody else, they can be considered apostate and killed. (Of course, Shia Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims are pretty used to that.)

3. There’s a lot more Sharia law for individual Muslims and the state to follow, when under an caliphate.

4. Under a caliph all Muslims are supposed to live off the state, and all People of the Book and slaves are supposed to do the paying and the working. So other than fighting, ISIS supporters don’t plan on doing anything with their lives; and they must keep conquering and oppressing, or the whole structure collapses under its own weight.

5. If the caliph neglects anything in Sharia law and doesn’t respond to criticism from his followers, they can declare him apostate and kill him. Another member of the Quraysh tribe can then take over as emir, and later, caliph.

6. ISIS members love to declare other Muslims apostate. They will do this even if it’s stuff that traditionally has been considered okay. This is why the Al-Qaeda guys thought the ISIS guys were too nuts for them, and kicked them out.

7. So obviously, other people would love to declare ISIS apostate, and thus the ISIS members are pretty much trapped by their own rhetoric and past actions to keep doing nastier and nastier things.

8. The way out is that they expect an anti-Messiah to show up and kill them, and then the prophet Jesus to come back with a spear* and spear the Dajjal anti-Messiah, and then the Mahdi to come back at the end of the world. So if they can hang on until the end of the world, everything will be hunky-dory.

9. They have an obsession with a town in Syria called Dabiq, which is basically the legendary Muslim equivalent of Megiddo/Armageddon.

10. They expect to fight “the forces of Rome,” which some identify with Muslim Turkey! (It was the home of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and as non-Arabs, Turks are not popular with some). Others identify it with the US (of course!) or “any infidel army.” I don’t know whether Chechens buy the Russian propaganda that Moscow is the Third Rome, but I bet somebody finds it convenient. (UPDATE: But the guys in Libya define Rome as the city of Rome. Apparently Italians are reacting with mockery and no fear of these bozos. Romans are hard to impress.)

11. If the caliphate loses all its territory, it no longer can claim to be legit, there’s no caliph, and all pledges of allegiance to the ex-caliph are dissolved.

12. As with other religious movements, a fair number of imams are ex-Catholic. Isn’t it great to have young Catholics left out on their own, with a lack of solid religious education and spiritual direction? Yay!

13. There are some pious, educated Muslims (Salafi, even) who argue against the legitimacy of ISIS on the grounds of arrogance, no clear evidence of God’s will, and causing social unrest. (UPDATE: These people believe that the head of ISIS did not properly fulfill the conditions before arrogantly declaring himself caliph, and thus that he’s just some boob whom God will soon smite.)

14. Liberal reporters have a weird attraction to creepy people. At least this guy fights it.

* Probably because one verse of Revelation (Rev. 2:12) in the Vulgate calls for Jesus to have a two-edged rhomphaeum (Thracian polearm with a long skinny blade) instead of a gladium (the Roman shortsword of the Legions). The Greek version of Revelation talks about a romphaia or rhomphaia, which is the same thing. Carried by the Thracians as early as 400 BC. Much later, it was used by the Emperor’s guards in Byzantium. Sometimes people talk about this as being a falchion or a spear, but it was a polearm.


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Our Lady of La Dreche

Here’s the amazing story of a miraculous statue in La Dreche, France, and how it survived the Albigensians, countless wars, the Huguenots, and the French Revolution.

The statue (less than three feet tall) was associated with a twelfth century apparition to some local shepherds. They saw the statue of Mary sitting in a bush, with some kind of monk or religious kneeling before it. They would see him when far away, but he disappeared whenever they came close. The statue remained in the bush. After discussing it and calling in the neighbors (who also saw the religious when far away and saw him vanish when they approached), they called in the local priest to see the miracle.

The priest brought the statue back to the village church in a procession. Everybody was happy.

The next day, it was back in the bush.

Puzzled, the priest and villagers went and got the statue again.

The next day, it was back in the bush.

At this point, the priest and villagers decided that they were supposed to build a church on the site, and the landowner donated the valley of La Dreche.

The statue has been there ever since (except for some time hidden under a bed and under a fig tree during the French Revolution), and many pilgrims have gone there in hope of miraculous healing. Our Lady of La Dreche is also known as “Health of the Sick.” The big feast of the parish is Sept. 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but other Marian feasts are also good times to visit.

The current church was built in the 19th century. At about the same time, the statue was restored with some new wood at parts that had fallen off or been damaged. The statue had been a “black virgin” for centuries, but the restorers also decided that they should repaint the statue. So we don’t know how it originally looked.

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The Brick Cathedral of Albi, France

The largest and best fortified brick cathedral in the world, it was built after the Albigensian Crusades on the site of Albi’s ancient cathedral.

It’s now one of the few medieval cathedrals that is still fully decorated in the original polychrome, along with other additions throughout the years.

The medievals liked warm colors that caught the light or interesting carvings, but not bare starkness.

There are also a lot of polychrome wooden statues, also original.

Judith says, “Don’t make me come down there.” (Definitely click again to embiggen.)

I’ve linked to the French Wikipedia article because it is longer and has more pictures. The English version is really short.

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Image Search: Found!

Deacon Kandra posted a picture of a mysterious bust he’d seen at a parish.

Look! Here it is! “The Veiled Bride” by Raffaele Monti, 1861. It’s ceramic and many copies were sold.

The parish  may well have bought it (or had it donated by a parishioner) to use as a bust of St. Cecilia, since her uncorrupt body was exhumed and she was found to have a cover over her face (a burial cover, not a veil – Roman veils were for married women and brides, not maidens). Here’s the very famous statue at her tomb in St. Cecilia in Trastevere, which depicts the body exactly as it was found. (Here’s another version in Albi, France, at the Cathedral of St. Caecilia, which is painted to show color and has rearranged her head to show her face. I don’t know about the authenticity of this one, but the colors are plausible to Roman fashion.)

A floral wreath is also one of St. Cecilia’s attributes. (And a bust would be a nice tidy size for putting out in an organ loft or music room.)

But using it as a bust of Our Lady is okay, too. Our Lady was a bride and would have worn a veil at her wedding to St. Joseph.

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