Friday, April 30, 2010

Enchiridion militis Christiani

or, "Handbook of a Christian Knight"
By Desiderius Erasmus

The mortal world a field is of battle

Which is the cause that strife doth never fail
Against man, by warring of the flesh
With the devil, that always fighteth fresh
The spirit to oppress by false envy;
The which conflict is continually
During his life, and like to lose the field.
But he be armed with weapon and shield
Such as behoveth to a christian knight,
Where God each one, by his Christ chooseth right
Sole captain, and his standard to bear.
Who knoweth it not, then this will teach him here
In his brevyer, poynarde, or manual
The love shewing of high Emanuell.
In giving us such harness of war
Erasmus is the only furbisher
Scouring the harness, cankered and adust
Which negligence had so sore fret with rust
Then champion receive as thine by right
The manual of the true christian knight.

If I get a little money, I buy books. If there is any left over, I buy food and clothes."

Today's Dead White European Male:

Desiderius Erasmus.

"I detest dissension because it goes both against the teachings of Christ and against a secret inclination of nature. I doubt that either side in the dispute can be suppressed without grave loss."


a Dutch Renaissance humanist and a Catholic priest and theologian...was a classical scholar who wrote in a "pure" Latin style and enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists." He has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists."

I can see why he changed his name. Gerrit Gerritszoon. I imagine that the other Christian Humanist scholars would have made fun of him.

He accepted poverty as a necessary adjunct to his dedication to what he was doing, which I think is a great and admirable thing:

Despite a chronic shortage of money, he succeeded in learning Greek by an intensive, day-and-night study of three years, continuously begging his friends to send him books and money for teachers in his letters. Discovery in 1506 of Lorenzo Valla's New Testament Notes encouraged Erasmus to continue the study of the New Testament.

Erasmus preferred to live the life of an independent scholar and made a conscious effort to avoid any actions or formal ties that might inhibit his freedom of intellect and literary expression. Throughout his life, he was offered many positions of honor and profit throughout the academic world but declined them all, preferring the uncertain but sufficient rewards of independent literary activity.

He was an example of that thing that is so rare in our times, a Catholic thinker who criticised and critiqued, but would never have dreamed of "dissenting" in the modern sense from Catholic doctrine:

His revolt against certain forms of Christian monasticism and scholasticism was not based on doubts about the truth of doctrine, nor from hostility to the organization of the Church itself, nor from rejection of celibacy or monastical lifestyles. He saw himself as a preacher of righteousness by an appeal to reason, applied frankly and without fear of the magisterium. He always intended to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine, and therefore was convinced he could criticize frankly and virtually everyone. Erasmus held himself aloof from entangling obligations, yet he was the center of the literary movement of his time. He corresponded with more than five hundred men in the worlds of politics and of thought.

In his Catechism (entitled Explanation of the Apostles' Creed) (1533), Erasmus took stand against Luther's teaching by asserting the unwritten Sacred Tradition as just as valid a source of revelation as the Bible, by enumerating the Deuterocanonical books in the canon of the Bible and by acknowledging seven sacraments. He called "blasphemers" anyone who questioned the perpetual virginity of Mary and those who defended the need to occasionally restrict the laity from access to the Bible.

....and quite honestly, he was a very snappy dresser, if the many portraits are to be believed. I've just got to get me one of those black velvet, fur-lined scholar's robes and velvet thinking caps. Mmmboy!

(And don't get me started on those hand-tooled, leather bound books!)

Or you could just move to Alberta

Yes. It's clever, I suppose. But really, I just don't get why people insist on living in places like Hong Kong. Or Toronto, for that matter.

I realise in some cases (damn commies) lots of people aren't given a choice, and sometimes if you want certain things (like success in some kind of fancy-schmancy job like, ummm...something financial I guess) you have to go where those things are, like Toronto or New York, or Hong Kong. But in most cases in our industrialised western world, people have a lot of choices. They can decide what their priorities are. You can decide that you want to be a futures broker (or whatever they call it) and that limits your choices. If you decide that this kind of job is the only thing for you, that the climb up the wealth ladder is what life is all about, off you go and say Hi to the muggers and smog for me. Hope you enjoy your psychotherapy.

When I saw the pictures of those tenements in Hong Kong, something in my soul recoiled. It gives you a kind of strange nausea, and images of Terry Gilliamesque dystopias come to mind. People dehumanised, stacked up like crates of tins in a warehouse.

Maybe it's where I was raised, and when and by whom, but I've always thought it was very strange that people would buy an apartment. You don't buy apartments. You buy houses. You only live in an apartment if you can't afford a real place to live; a house.

I think I've remarked before that I suspect the people who are always banging on about reducing the surplus population, are people who live in cramped apartments in cities. Who jam themselves every day onto a bus, line up at Starbucks for a five dollar cup of coffee, who hang on a strap on the subway to get to their little offices.

I've found that I like people a lot better now that I don't have to get on a Toronto street car every day.

'"Theological Woodstock"

Heh. That's a good one.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You know what's neat?

photo from the Art Renewal Centre

I'm studying drawing in the same building where Antonio Canova worked.



Life in Rome has it's cool moments.

Next time

you read about or hear someone accusing Pope Benedict of "poaching" converts from among disaffected Anglicans,

you can tell them,

"It's not poaching if you've got a license."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pope Benedict and the New Dark Age

I've been listening to these every morning. They tell it pretty plainly. Good for reference to explain things to our secularist friends.

The trouble Benedict is facing is that the new barbarians just don't want to face up to the fact of being the bad guys in the show.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bit of Nungazing for your enjoyment

Haven't done this in a while.

Monastero SS. Trinita

Benedictines in the Piedmont

Working in the garden.

And at lacemaking.

I really don't get why people are scared of nuns.

Lots more where these came from.


you can go visit an ancient Benedictine monastery that is being resurrected by American nuns in Isernia.

Rome Art Lover Website

I'd forgotten all about this website, Rome Art Lover, that I discovered and used a lot before I moved here, and then lost again.

Everything you ever wanted to know.

More from the galleries

I took pictures of Barberini Bees all day. They were everywhere.

This is a tapestry that used to hang in the Barberini palace.

In these big Rome palazzos, the rule of thumb to remember is "always look up" the ceilings are often fantastic.

They had a few gorgeous pieces of Belle Epoch women's clothing.

In the Galleria Spada, there was a sign saying you weren't allowed to take pictures.

So I felt a bit like a spy in a movie when I slipped my camera into my jacket pocket, turned it on and carried it under my arm, covered with the guide booklet.

A 15th century triptych. Sorry about the fuzzy.

The portrait of the long-haired man in black next to the door is a Titian.

Of course, the thing everyone goes to the Spada to see is this weird math-thing. So I dutifully went in and had a look. It is a lot easier to see the illusion when you're in the courtyard, although it is almost perfect through the glass. But what really struck me about the courtyard was not the clever-clever math thing, but the fact that the orange trees were all in bloom and the fragrance was like walking into heaven.

Renaissance and Baroque Italians were big into these trompe-l'oeil things.

Look closely at the window on the right.

Like Han Solo, I am capable of imagining quite a bit of wealth, but faced with the absolutely amazing riches of these Italian Baroque and Renaissance princes, the mind staggers a little. And the fact that there are even now a few of these people running around...well...

The courtyard of the Barberini palace, a very small portion of which is used by the City as a gallery.

One of the things I wasn't allowed to take pictures of in the Barberini.

The thing about Rome is that you really have to like art. It's everywhere.

And much of it not wearing a stitch.

Gallery Day

Being terribly terribly lazy is often quite inconvenient. For example, this month the Commune di Roma set aside one week in which all the galleries of the City would be free of charge. And it being Italy, a "week" meant ten days.

And did I go every single day?

Silly question.

But I did manage to overcome my inertia and go on the very last day. Three galleries in one day. Something of a record for me.

I started with the Museo Nationale di Roma, one of a group of national museums run by the city. This one is easy to get to, since it is on the main bus route and close to things that everyone knows about, like the Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori and the Chiesa Nuova.

With Roman galleries, very often the buildings themselves are worth the ticket price.

18th century sedan chair. The only way to see Rome.

In the old days, the peasants really knew how to treat the Pope.

A cardinal.

I saw this painting once before, in a separate exhibit, and was caught by both the beauty of its composition and its very moving depiction of manly Christian charity. It is a picture of a group of confraternity members rescuing patients from Tiber flood waters at the hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia, the hospital founded by King Ine of Wessex in the 7th century, which is still standing near St. Peter's today. In the old days, the Tiber regularly flooded the city, and you will often see medieval buildings in which the parts where people live are raised up ten feet or so on columns for the times when that part of the city is under water.

A busy painting that manages not to overwhelm. I must learn this trick of composition.

Yes, Rome has always been a pit.

This is one of the uniforms of the pages of the Roman Senate. Everything was better then (except dentistry).

They were having a very interesting exhibit of pen and ink magazine illustrations and watercolours of life in Rome in the 1930s and during the German occupation.

I looked at this one and thought, "Nope, Roman families haven't changed much."

These pictures of smiling Nazis buying souvenirs and taking pictures of each other in front of Rome's monuments I found rather eerie. I didn't take any pics of the ones of them rounding up Jews, not because they were too upsetting, but because they have been seen too much in movies lately to have the same impact. For some reason, I found the ones of the smiling cheerful Nazis to be much more frightening.

The gallery backs onto the Piazza Navona, this was out one of the windows in a room with a photo taken before the piazza was restored. It just feels strange knowing that it has been here so long before I was born, and will be here for so long after I'm gone.

More to come.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I'm deeply touched and greatly cheered by the books kind friends have sent. Two in the better end of the "self-help" genre, and Elements of Drawing by Ruskin.

How would one possibly survive this awful world without friends?

I just don't know.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Go ahead

sing along.

No one's looking.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Go to the movies

This looks fun:

From: Lisa Wheeler
Date: April 21, 2010 10:55:06 AM EDT
To: Lisa Wheeler
Subject: Fulton J Sheen: Special Screenings in Rome!

Dear Friends:

I apologize for this group email but I have an important announcement and I need your help.

I will be facilitating the screening of a wonderful new film on the life and works of Archbishop Fulton J Sheen in Rome Italy next week. While I will be conducting some private screenings of the film for the Vatican and those involved with his Cause for Canonization, we have also arranged for the film to be screened publically at two Universities.

We are extending an invitation to these exclusive public screenings in Rome for anyone who would be interested in seeing this wonderful new documentary. It’s very well done and I believe an opportunity to reintroduce this extraordinary communicator to a new generation. He is an example of fidelity sorely needed in our times and a powerful intercessor at this critical moment in our Catholic culture.

Please pass this invitation on to any student, seminarian, priest, professor, friend , co-worker or family member who may be living or visiting Rome next week.

The name of the film is “Servant of All” and the locations of the screenings are as follows:

1. When: Mon: April 26, 2010 3:00 PM
Where: Aula Magna John Paul II
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
Piazza Sant’Apollinare, 49

2. When: Tues: April 27 2010 4:30 pm
Where: Aula Magna Giovanni Paolo II
Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas
Largo Angelicum 1, Rome

To register, please visit: (

Click on Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Servant of All.

There will be US Screenings of the film as well over the course of the year. More info on that to follow.

Please feel free to email me with any questions.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Best Hate Mail I've Ever Had

Got this today from a young lady who is researching brain death criteria and organ transplants for a high school project.

--- On Thu, 4/22/10, [Name Redacted] wrote:

From: _______ _____
Subject: Inaccuracy
To: me
Received: Thursday, April 22, 2010, 10:18 PM

I do not know if this website is serious about what it does, I do not know if it is a joke or rumours or what it is.

My concern is a story that a "hilary white" had wrote about a very stupid woman who claimed her son was taken and his organ were taken without her permission and he was still alive and they just did that to him.

I did research on this and I found no lawsuit, no complaints, and the only article about this event was Hilary White's.

Organ donation is a concern for our country and the United States, and if a 16 year old girl like me knows to grow up and stop spreading rumours about this serious topic, then your dimwitted roman reporter should know as well.

The stuff she wrote in her article was wrong. Firstly, the definition of brain dead. If your stupid writer wants to know the definition, this is the website to go to:

Ask stupid to read it.

In the article, she will also find the real process to this sad yet life-saving process.

Now, whether you reply back to this is not my concern. I am doing "organ donation" for my research project in highschool and I find this article appauling and completely disrespectful. The point is, I know you read this, so I'm content. If you would like to reply back for an appology or if you would like to send me some HARD CORE FACTS about this "event" then by all means.

To sum it up. Stop spreading stupid lies.

-A concerned 16 year old who is intelligent to know reality from stupid.

Dimwitted replies,

Dear Miss _____,

Perhaps you could send me the link to the LifeSite story to which you are referring below, and we could discuss the matter. I would love to help you develop a balanced understanding of this issue.

Stupid Rome Reporter

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Flat

Well, I went mad last week and put a deposit on a flat for a 16 month lease. Moving in June 1st or so.

Biggest place I've ever rented in my whole adult life, but at this time of year, there really are very few choices and I wasn't looking for another temporary crash pad to tide me over. I want a home, somewhere I can actually start to live in.

And share.

Yes, I'm looking for a roommate.

It's 3 bedrooms, with a nice eat-in kitchen and a very large sitting room. Unfortunately, only one usable terrazzo and only one bathroom. But as you can see, it's very sunny and extremely spacious and in good shape. They just repainted this week.

The main thing is the space. I'm thinking of holding winter soccer or badminton games. And possibly installing a bowling alley down the hall.

There will certainly be parties.

See what you think:

Italians almost never rent appartments completely unfurnished, but the sort of stuff they like is not shall I say...

to my taste.

I've asked that they take most of the stuff out, leaving practical things like the beds, wardrobes (not a single closet in the whole place) and desks and tables.

And that TV has got to go. Good grief! Look at that monster! It looks like you couldn't find the top of it without sherpas and oxygen bottles.

The agency lady was shocked I didn't want to watch television. "For religion?" She asked.

No, I've just seen Italian tv, is all.

What was obviously once the terrace off the sitting room has been turned into a rather nice bay window. That bench is staying, and I'm going to make cushions for it.

Looking down the hall from the bagno to the front door.

1st bedroom w. terrazzo.

Looking down the hall from the front door.

Nice cucina, with a little terrazzino to store things like the vacuum and the hot water tank. Maybe some flowers later.

Dining table. Extends to twice that length.

Living room rather large. There'll certainly be dancing at these parties.

The kids' room.

Bedroom 3, which I think is supposed to be the master bedroom.