Saturday, December 27, 2014

Snow for Christmas

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Rome for festivities with the Rome Traddigentsia:

Christmas Eve dinner in a fancy-schmancy fish place, (because of course, Christmas Eve is a "fast day" naturally the only possible choice was lobster...)

eating, drinking, worshipping, Christmas carols and never-ending fun; High Mass all hung about with 17th century polyphony;

then back to the flat to help with the cooking and all day long

the cool kids trooping through the house;

food and food and more food: prime rib on the day

and ham on Boxing Day, followed by apparently bottomless wine and

prosecco vats, followed in their turn by a dizzying array of exotic after-dinner drinks;

home-made paper crowns, presents, toasted nuts, clementines...

It was perfect.

But a little tiring, and I'm glad to be home again in the cold clean air.

Got the fire going as my friend Maria ventured down the hill for Compline. It was raining hard when she got in soaked and cold. I handed her a hot water bottle and a cup of tea, and then broke out the lemon liqueur. We read a little Italian while the cat inched ever-closer to the fire, then when I went to get a second glass of hoochies, glanced out the window and ...


Tomorrow we're going to be walking down the hill for Mass and Office. But that's OK.

(All pics h/t to Fr. Athanasius)


Friday, December 19, 2014

My imaginary Youtube cooking show

Every morning I fall for it. The siren song of the internet. I rationalise it by likening it to reading the morning paper over my coffee or tea. But I don't recall the morning paper ever taking two or three hours.

So, turned off the internet, and did a whole new episode of my imaginary Youtube cooking show!

Today's recipe was yummy Spicy Thai Vegetable Stew (microwave edition) and curry chicken livers!

I gave my imaginary viewing audience a full run-down of the important nutrient content of the veg, and told them all about how buying frozen vegetables is almost as good for you as fresh, and lasts way longer, and can be a lot cheaper, and you end up throwing away way less.

I also told them that if you're looking for the health benefits of garlic, you really have to use fresh, not powdered.

Mmmmm... chicken livers!

Them's good eatin'.

I also had a glass of monk-beer. But, though I drank it on an empty stomach, the buzz only lasted five minutes, since I am not a lightweight.

(Come on, admit it. You know you do this when no one else is around.)


Thursday, December 18, 2014

“They say Aslan is on the move; perhaps he has already landed”

People are asking me, why now? Why this sudden descent into the absurdities of the 70s for the Church? Why are the ageing "progressives" suddenly so violently resurgent...

Well, maybe because:

"Outside the SSPX since July 7, 2007, in the 191 dioceses in North America, there are 485 parishes that offer the Traditional Latin Mass on a regular basis. 335 parish locations offer a weekly Traditional Latin Mass. 75 parish locations provide access daily.

"In France 159 traditional Mass centers now exist outside of Paris. There are another 10 inside Paris proper, with an additional 73 in the suburbs, for a grand total of 242 Traditional Masses in France. And, again, this does not include the SSPX—which has a massive presence in France.

"According to The Latin Mass Society’s recent release, there are in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland: 170 Traditional Latin Mass centers currently in operation."

Out of the billion-odd Catholics in the world, and the hundreds of thousands of parishes, these may not seem like very impressive numbers. But recall that ten years ago, the availability of the Traditional rites of the Church could be counted in Canada on one hand. They were in the single digits nearly everywhere.

These numbers are also, particularly in the case of Old Europe, the only Catholic numbers that are growing. And how! While all other Catholic statistical indicators are plummeting. All.

The old Modernists, hippies and communists know they don't have much more time. The "conservative" Novusordoist compromise has failed spectacularly, and the Faith and Praxis they tried so hard to stamp out turns out, like the Old Narnians under Miraz, not to be so dead and legendary as previously thought...

To switch books for a moment, the Witch's spell may not look like it's breaking, but Aslan is on the move. Things may become difficult and uncomfortable for us for a while, as the breaking point comes closer. Damage may be done in the last throes of her power, but the real spring is on its way and she knows she can do nothing to stop it.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wild remedies

Got a cold?

So, bought a nice "Encyclopedia of medicinal herbs" the other day, and was reading it while developing my lovely new cold, and in there, it says that rose hips have about 50 times more vitamin C per 100g than oranges, + all manner of other important and useful stuff.

While I was sniffling, I remembered that I still have some in the freezer and decided that today is as good as any for an experiment. The internet tells me that an orange has about 45 mg of C, compared to an equal quantity of hips having about 500 mg.

Decoction of Rose Hips, Take:

2-3 pounds of rosehips,

put them in the blender with a little water, just long enough to break them up. Add a bit more water and simmer over a low heat for about ten minutes. Let it stand over night. Strain through cheese cloth. The last step is quite a doozy, since it's really goopy stuff, and quite difficult to squeeze. Hang the ball of rose-goo in the cheese cloth above a bowl and manfully squeeze the heck out of it, scraping off the gishy red stuff that comes oozing out with a rubber spatula. Save it all in a seal-able tub. Keep refrigerated, but if you've got a lot, freeze it. It won't keep as long as commercial fruit juices and will start to ferment (though rose hip wine might be a good next step.)

3 pounds gave me just about exactly one large yogurt tub's worth of thick bright red goo. It's so high in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) that the decoction is going to be very tart, much too tart to take by itself. So, when you take it to cure what ails you, pour some into a tea cup and add a warm (not hot) mixture of water and honey. Heating destroys vitamin C, so don't heat up the decoction and add honey, but do the honey a bit at a time directly into the tea cup. A decoction is better for you than making syrup, since syrup needs to boil a long time and has huge amounts of sugar.

Rose hips are, of course, of the rose family, which includes nearly all the berries and a lot of the fruit we like, so they are quite tasty. Probably the reason we don't eat them more is the seeds are a pain. They're covered in these very fine hairs which are a bit like fine cactus prickles and are not at all nice to eat, hence all the straining through cloth. But once you've got the goo out, it's wonderful. It's going to be the nicest tasting cold medicine you'll ever take.

The herbalist websites say that a little bit three times a day will help you get over your cold faster, and if you take a little with your breakfast every morning as a regular thing, you're going to more or less avoid colds forever.

If you go out for rose hips, they're best right after the first early frost. The freezing makes them into soft fruit, and you can pick them off the branch (carefully) and just suck out the nice red stuff, and the seeds stay inside in a little ball.

Amount Per 1 cup (127 g)
Calories 206
% Daily Value*
- Total Fat 0.4 g, 0%
- Sodium 5 mg 0%
- Potassium 545 mg, 15%
- Total Carbohydrate 49 g,16%
- Dietary fiber 31 g, 124%
- Sugar 3.3 g
- Protein 2 g, 4%
- Vitamin A, 110%
- Vitamin C, 901% (!!)
- Calcium 21%
- Iron, 7%
- Vitamin B-6, 5%
- Magnesium 22%



Took a few hours last night and opened the book boxes. Since one of the book cases is in the kitchen at the moment, holding up my dishes, I only have half the shelf space, so had to sort all the books into A and B lists. It was an interesting exercise. I just used the simple criterion: what books do I want to read immediately or soon, and of the ones I've already read, which ones would I think most useful to have around for reference and re-reads?

The result was heavy on the nature books. I hadn't noticed what a large collection I had gathered so far of wildflowers, local medicinal plants and herbs, bird books and countryside guides.

The second biggest non-fiction category was political philosophy. I'm determined to finally get around to my Christopher Dawson collection, and I look forward to revisiting Hannah Arendt.

"Since no one is capable of forming his own opinion without the benefit of a multitude of opinions held by others, the rule of public opinion endangers even the opinion of those few who may have the strength not to share it."
Hannah Arendt, "On Revolution."


Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's wrong to tell lies

It's really just the proportions...

Why do people think it's OK to casually lie to children, as though they don't count as persons who deserve to hear the truth? I've said many times that I "don't like children" but this is only a shorthand way of saying that I don't like them the way so many other people seem to, as though they are toys or pets. I am deeply suspicious of the sentimentalist attitude towards children one so often sees in women. They coo and gurgle over babies because they are babies, not because they have any kind of fellow-feeling about them as people.

The "Oh isn't she cute" response that appears to be nearly universal among women is something I feel extremely wary of. I don't think it is children they like, because they so rarely treat children as though they are real people you could get to know. I think what they like is their own feelings, something I've described as the "cutness thrill". It's the same thrill one gets from looking at kitten vidoes on the internet, and when you get it from babies or small children, you are really indulging in a kind of emotional drug rush.

Humans, and particularly women, are simply neurologically wired to have that emotional rush when they see something with the right, infant-like proportions, a fact that Walt Disney understood and magnified into an entire multi-zillion dollar industry. It is exploited again and again by the various industries selling us their worthless trinkets, a brazen manipulation of bio-chemistry that we ought to be ashamed of indulging. In Japan it appears to have been elevated into an entire culture, which I find almost nauseating.

Personally, I don't get the cuteness thrill from human infants. Not enough fur. To me, a baby or a child is just another human. In some cases, I have an attachment of some kind to a child, he or she is in my family or part of my tribe in some way, and therefore becomes a person whom I would kill or die for. But I'm never going to make those stupid girly noises over him, and I'm never going to treat any infant I know in the way I treat my cat.

I think the pope lied to that little boy about animals going to heaven because he was not interacting with him as one would with a fellow human being. He was doing what many adults do and thinking of him as a toy or a pet one had to soothe emotionally, and to whom he owed no duty of truthfulness. I don't think it is at all uncommon, and I think it is something that our culture strongly encourages. We see children now as a kind of luxury commodity, appealing to a privileged (or maybe peculiar) few. They are, in effect, accessories.

I was raised by and around people who reacted to children this way, and was treated as a toy or a doll, something to dress up and play with when the mood struck, by nearly everyone. I was taught to talk and behave as a miniature adult, parroting phrases about art and history and politics with plenty of three-syllable words, as though I were a performing animal because it astonished and thrilled my mother's friends. "Oh! isn't that so CUTE! she can quote Suetonius!"

God help me if I ever treat a fellow human being that way. God forgive my mother for never, ever learning to think of me as a fellow human being and treating me like a dress-up doll, and then discarding me when I suddenly came to life and started demanding to be treated like a fellow human being.

And God forgive the pope for treating that little boy like he didn't deserve the truth.

Update: It seems now that someone has done a little digging that Pope Francis may not have said this to the kid as it was reported in the Italian press. But the point remains that people say this kind of thing to kids mainly because they don't think of children as genuinely persons deserving of the truth.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Firewood guy came!

Huh. So that's what 6700 kilos of wood looks like. Good to know.

And another one for my "people aren't so bad" files. The guy came and drove his dumptruck up my drive and just dumped it in a humungous pile, took my money and drove off. It was about four feet high in the middle, and spread out to about 15 feet in diameter. I just sighed and picked up two bits and started stacking.

After only a few minutes of this, one of the young chaps who lives in the other flat in the house came down and just about wordlessly started stacking too. After about 1/2 and hour, we stopped for a breather and I introduced myself to Radek, who has come here with his family from Poland.

They've got at least two dogs and a baby as well as assorted relations. I've been calling them the Gashlycrumb Noisies. But they're not so bad, really.

Also, props to my Guardian Angel. Norcia is in the middle of the Sibelline Mountain National Park, one of the most popular outdoors places in Europe. One of my big goals in coming to live up here was to get in touch with the local trekking, rafting, hiking, climbing, camping and outdoorsy people and start doing outdoorsy stuff again.

I had a good tip and contacted Francesco the Expert Guide, who said things are slow in the off season so he'd be delighted to go for slow and easy walks for a while to get me started. But he cautioned that it rains nearly every day (well, actually every day, in fact) and is cold, so to get the right rain-proof sort of gear.

I found a good pair of new hiking boots for a pretty reasonable 110 E and figured I was off to the trekking races. But having been away from the country life for a really, really long time, I have no rain jacket. So, close on my victory over the boots, I started looking in all the local shops. When I saw what they were asking for Gore-Tex hiking jackets, my eyes sort of did that cartoon splodey thing: Four hundred Euros?!! There were a few I could afford but were so ugly I was worried they would scare off all the wildlife. I had gone all over and checked every shop, and the story was the same everywhere.

I've really been looking forward to it, but it was looking like I would have to either cancel this Saturday's first trip, or just get soaked. I thought, no harm in asking, so sent up a little prayer to Samuel about it. Trekking or no, this is the sort of climate where life without a raincoat is more or less just a misery.

I went out for a walk today before the afternoon rain stared, and was thinking about it, fearing I'd have to postpone until I could get to the shops in Spoleto. I missed the shop hours today, getting down to town about the time everyone was closing up, so I just kept going, through town and out the opposite gate in the city walls. Just on the other side of the wall, though, in the big parking lot, I saw that the Thursday morning outdoor market was just packing up. There was a nice older couple selling second-hand clothes and there it was, the nicest rain coat you ever saw. Lots of big pockets with velcro and really roomy for lots of sweaters and scarves to go underneath. Perfetto.

"How much?"

"Five Euros."

Thanks Samuel, you're a pal.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Welcome to Nuchurch

...and have a nice day.

After many years, on the rare (and always penitential) occasions when I am stuck going to the NO, while I'm watching the priest make faces at us, I'm always like, "Dude, why are you talking to me?"

It appears that reaction is not mine alone...

As far as the priest having his back to me goes… At first i found it a bit frustrating. I couldn’t see what he was doing for goodness sake! And then it began to dawn on me that I had become very accustomed to going to Mass to be ‘entertained’. Then it struck me that I automatically judge a priest on his ability to entertain me. How awful! I honestly believed the Mass to be a dialogue between the priest and the congregation. Where does this put God?!
As the priest elevated the consecrated host (with his back to me) I realised that the Mass is addressing God. In fact it would be more accurate to say that the liturgy is our response to God’s call. The Tridentine Mass made it suddenly clear to me where the Holy Trinity is during Mass. I do think it is extremely important for the congregation to see what is happening on the altar and to hear the Eucharistic prayers as is done in the Norvus Ordo style Mass, but with that simple turn I learned more about the Mass in 1 second than I have in 35 years. I wish the priest would come around the front of the altar with his back to us when he elevates the host in the Norvus Ordo Mass. Just that brief moment says so much.

I was once privileged to introduce a good friend to the Traditional Mass. We went to Trinita on a regular Sunday, in August, if I'm not mistaken, so there was no choir. Just Low Mass, with very few people in the pews. My friend didn't say anything about it and I didn't ask, just letting her mull it over.

The following weekend, we went to a little chapel near my flat for the local NO. It wasn't particularly egregiously novusordo-y. No guitars or hand holding or clapping. But potted plants all over, not one second of silence that was not covered by loud caterwauling of modern "hymns" and the priest doing the usual novusordoist stand-up routine; the kind of thing seen in nearly all parishes in the world.

Afterwards, we went for tea near the beach, and quite spontaneously my friend said, "It's SO DIFFerent! I had no idea! It's a completely different thing! It's as if the priest is trying to entertain us! I'd never noticed before, but it's like God isn't even there and we're all just talking to each other about Him!"

Pret'much, yeah.

And don't ever think there is no agenda at work with the new liturgy and all its noxious little add-ons. I'll never forget the lesson I learned attending Mass for the last time at Holy Rosary cathedral in Vancouver.

It was at Holy Rosary, centrally located in the downtown core, that I had first returned to the Faith in my 20s. At that time, through some odd quirk, the practice of receiving Communion kneeling and on the tongue at the marble altar rail had survived the main brunt of the blast of the Asteroid. Having only gone to Mass at the cathedral, I had never seen the strange (and frankly nearly blasphemous) practice that is nearly universal of everyone lining up and sticking out their grubby unconsecrated paws, like they're getting a bagel at Tim Hortons.

Kneeling and receiving on the tongue was simply normal to me, and I remember my shock and near-nausea when I finally saw what people did nearly everywhere else. And at the cathedral there were also no lay "extraordinary ministers". So, this weird little pocket of survival was probably one of the factors in finally pushing me to reject the whole Novusordoist paradigm, in the end (though that took another decade of reading and observation).

Well, in 2006 I'd returned to Vancouver to visit my mother after many years absence, and went to Holy Rosary for Mass and thought how nice it was going to be to go receive at the good old altar rail. But it was not to be. The wreckers had not failed to notice the anomaly, and had taken steps.

Instead of the old practice of everyone going to kneel at the rail, we had new "options" explained to us. We could get in the Timmy's line or we could, if we chose, go to the altar rail and kneel down. Only, of course, the Timmy's line was being manned by the priest and deacon, and if you were stubborn enough to go kneel, you had to receive from one of the lady-Eucharist distributors, all dolled up like priests in polyester bathrobe-albs.

Take yer pick.

Bastards never miss a trick, do they?


Monday, December 01, 2014

Why not sin?

How if they have called him, unbelieving, and he has come?

I was just doing a thing on a new EU "ethics" document and seeing some more coverage of the Ferguson thing in which a mob attacked a group of school children who had come to a Mall to sing Christmas carols,

and it made me think...

There's a lot of stuff that the western world's remaining shreds of ambient Judeo-Christianity will reliably tell you not to do. Don't randomly kill people as you're walking down the street. Don't cheat little old ladies out of their pensions. Don't trip blind people.

But things are coming to such a pass that even stuff like this, that we more or less depend on everyone knowing to maintain a civilisation that is worthy of the name, kind of has to be spelled out. Yes, including the not-muderously-attacking-random-strangers thing. (Remember last year the news reports of the "knock-out game"?)

For a long time, the Fashionably Stupid People, frequently younger people, have liked to say, "Well, there's more than one kind of morality," and "You can't impose your moral values on me," and "Morality is a malleable concept," and other related irrational and self-refuting rubbish. And we know this was, let's face it, mostly puerile attempts to justify having (their preferred variety of) sex outside of natural marriage, or approving of abortion or divorce as a "right" or whatnot.

Well, we are seeing now, aren't we, all over the place, but especially in Middle Eastern countries that there really is such a thing as a "different morality" from the one we have all taken for granted all our lives. For various reasons, Islamic "morality" doesn't include a concept of a universal moral law. They don't believe that all persons, by virtue of being human, have the same rights. And they don't believe that it is always, inherently, wrong to steal from or attack or lie or kill or rape or enslave other people. There is no such thing in Islamic "morality" as "inherent" right or wrong. This has to do with the monster they worship being above its own laws. The demon "Allah" can change its mind about right and wrong, (thus giving the lie to the insane notion that it is the same as the God of Abraham) therefore there is no universal objective moral law in Islam. In Islam, we have finally seen what moral relativism really turns into: the triumph of the will over all. Might makes right.

We've had a pretty hard time accepting that this is really what we're seeing, because the Judeo-Christian ethic has been so ubiquitous that we have simply assumed that this is how all humans work. The notion that other people, large groups of people, really could have radically different ideas about right and wrong from those we have based our culture on seemed so outlandish that we have wasted precious years, more than a decade now, arguing about how it's not really Islam that says these things, even though the people doing the acts tell us every day, all day that it does.

But I've realised where this denial has come from. If the perpetual adolescents were to admit that it is Islam itself that sanctions and even mandates these acts, they would have to admit that there is such a thing as an immutable, universal moral law from which these acts are a systematic deviation, and that is behind our judgement that the acts in question are wrong, are evil and must be stopped. It would, in short, yank the entire argument out from under their precious Sexual Revolution, and force them to admit its close relationship with the same moral relativism - the same triumph of will - that is currently murdering, raping and enslaving its way across the Islamic world, right now.

They would no longer be the good guys struggling for "rights". They would just be a bunch of kids addicted to a pornographic anti-culture and trying to use the force of law to make everyone else addicted to it too.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New glasses!

OK, the Enoteca Granaro del Monte has just officially become my favourite place to work in town (where they are currently playing a soft lounge-jazz version of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, which makes me extraordinarily happy). They give you coffee, wine, beer and/or lunch, and you get all the hotel wifi you can consume.

And they bring you lentils from this rather magical place!

Four years ago, while I was walking home in a gale from the grocery store, a gust of wind grabbed the stick of my umbrella and smacked it into my glasses right on the bridge of my nose. The result was one of the arms breaking off. After that, contrary to my lifelong habit, I just gave up wearing glasses and walked around mostly blind, reasoning that the world looks better in soft focus. You see less of The Bad that way.

I continued to aggressively not wear my glasses except for my drawing classes, when I would perch them precariously on my nose, and then complain about them. I argued that I had bought them nearly ten years before and that I had become so ancient in the interim that I needed a new prescription anyway, so there was no point in getting them fixed. This drove Andrea nuts, and I Heard About it regularly.

Well, she will be happy to hear now that I had not been in Norcia more than a week before I had ordered a wonderful, and very sturdy, pair of new glasses.

There's just so much more worth looking at here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Travel tips

Sitting in the Enoteca Granaro del Monte and using the Bianconi hotel wifi, which is top-notch, like everything else they do.

But a word to the wise: when you ask for a glass of wine here, make sure you've had a little of what Eastern Canadians call "soakage" beforehand. A slice of pizza or something. Because apparently the Italian word "bichieri" means in Norcia the same thing as "vat" in English. And make sure you've got a full half hour at least to get through it before you have to run...reel... stagger off to Vespers.

Oh, and try not to get olive oil on the trackpad. Like I just did.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Keeping the fire alive

I'm chuffed. Norcia is a tiny little town, but it's close enough to Rome and has an important enough patron, that it attracts all manner of interesting people and events. Yesterday, the monks officially inaugurated their beautiful new refectory, and Cardinal Pell had come to say Mass and give a little address. I am slightly acquainted with his eminence through work, and was pleased to be able to greet him and thank him for his courageous work at the Synod.

He noticed that I was still wearing my British Legion poppy, though it is the last week of November. I replied that I usually wear it throughout November, to remind myself to pray for my military relatives. "Both my grandfathers and my great grandfather served in both great wars, so I try to keep remembering to pray for them through the month of the Holy Souls."

The cardinal seemed very pleased with this, and said, "Good to know there's someone keeping the fire alive." He promised to pray for my grandfathers and great grandfather, Norman Hucknell White, Herbert Edward Burkett and William Doloughan.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.


Friday, November 21, 2014

No idea what any of it means...

Strange religious guilt dreams.

I dreamt that I had been told by a priest to bring Holy Communion to a sick person. He had given me two Hosts, and just shoved me out the door. I had no pyx and nothing to carry It in, so I went back into the sacristy by another door. The priest was busy with some other work and didn’t see me rummaging around in drawers and cupboards with one hand, the Hosts held between two fingers in the other, looking for something to use as a pyx.

Then two other parishioners came in and I became frightened that they would catch me carrying the Eucharist around, so I took a paper envelope out of my bag and popped them in, wrapped in an American dollar bill, and then hid the envelope, in the bottom of a drawer. The other parishioners came over and made some polite chitchat, and I was distracted wondering how I was going to smuggle the Hosts back into the tabernacle, since I couldn’t just open it and reach in.

I fretted over the possible options, thinking at this point that I should just wait until the sacristy was empty again and sneak back in and consume the Hosts, but then I remembered that you were only allowed to receive once a day, and I didn’t think I could get back the next day. I figured I should also conduct some kind of Holy Hour before consuming them, and I couldn’t figure out how I could do that without anyone seeing.

I woke up quite anxious about it and it took me a few moments to let go and realise that I hadn’t actually hidden Hosts in a paper envelope, and didn’t have to solve this terrible problem. The cat was sitting next to the pillow staring down at my head, willing me to wake up and feed her.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Life in a tourist town...

oh, how well I remember it...

Maybe we should get someone to stand in front of the basilica of St. Benedict and Scholastica here with a big sign saying, "Hic domus Dei est et porta cœli, so shut the hell up!"

Srsly people! Who told you it's OK to stomp into a church and talk in your normal outside-voice?

American tourists. Oh, che gioia...


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Norcia's Bonfire Night

Hey, English people! Miss the happy homely Bonfire Night of your childhood? Do you feel maybe a little guilty enjoying Guy Fawkes as a Catholic?

Well, boy, do I have the solution for you!


Come visit Norcia for our Bonfire Night, December 9, The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, at the Chiesa di San Lorenzo.

Plus, ours has mulled wine and grilled wild boar!

"Festival of 'Faoni' and 'also known as' Festival of the Bells' (on which occasion the bells are operated throughout the country at the stroke of midnight)"

"Groups of volunteers loyal to the tradition each year, prepare the evening of 9 December, when the whole city 'and the neighboring villages glow in the majestic glow of pyres of burning juniper, big and beautiful bonfire 'animated by the ever-present folk songs of organs by happiness and carefree people around some heady glass of mulled wine', sweets and good food cooked on the grill.

"... The evening of December 9 is always a feast for all, a big party waiting for the midnight hour when all the bells of the city' move to announce the passage of the Holy House of Our Lady of Loreto.

"In fact, the sense of tradition, the inhabitants of Norcia and the Catholic tradition, is right here. The fires are lit to commemorate and illuminate the path of the angels who, back in December 9, 1291, being occupied Palestine from the infidels, brought safely the home of the Virgin Mary miraculously traslocated it up to a grove of laurels, in today's Loreto. But what other rites are intertwined around this beloved tribute is not easy to say.

"There are atavistic elements: you go to the more days' short of the year and you have to ward off the darkness has the upper hand on the light, the night the day, the frost on the heat. But there 's also the arcane. The fire is not always destroys, purifies. And finally, the spiritual elements. Fire and 'the symbol of love that comes down on Mary and the Apostles at the Last Supper, the disciples turning into preachers courageous and able to make himself understood by people from different countries. Symbols and rituals, forces of nature and good will ', everything is exalted in the earth truffle tonight. We all look forward to the preparation of these faoni and their power of 9 December!"

Now THAT's the Faith I'm ready to die for!

Here's the Festa's Facebook page

Here's my FB events page for anyone who wants to come. Ladies can stay with me, and we can find accoms for gentlemen in town.


Monday, November 10, 2014

First photos

Out the front door, looking down into the garden.

S. Mar balcony garden transported. Looking rather forlorn.

Out the sitting room window.

Door to nowhere. I think there was supposed to be a balcony outside this door, but it opens onto the terracotta tiled roof. Never mind. The view is wonderful, and it will make a nice place to have tea when I've got another table.

Sitting room, piled up with boxes.

New sink as of Friday morning!

This was a few days ago. It's much tidier now.

Out the sitting room windows. Morning in the mountains seems to follow a pattern this time of year. At night the clouds sink down and settle in the valley like a huge, mountainous bowl of milk. By one o'clock they have gone back up to the sky again and the sun shines down.

Norcia, out my bedroom window, dreaming its ancient dreams.

Little Winnie's favourite activity: worshiping the oil radiator, the only source of heat until the gas gets turned on by Eni.

The fireplace works but the chimney needs cleaning. I tried lighting a fire, but the only way to keep the smoke from filling the room was to open a window. The smoke trailed happily up the chimney then, but it rather defeated the purpose.

Never mind. All shall be sorted in time. Piano-piano, as the Italians say.


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Stupid lazy idiot...

So, not off to the most auspicious start. Slobbed around the house all morning, and didn't get it together to go to the 11:45 Mass. Fortunately, there's a last-ditch NO Mass at the Co-Cathedral at 5:30, but still...

Also, went to the laundromat in the parco industriale yesterday, and it was awful. 7 freakin Euros for a wash!! ... !!! Bloody hell!. And after I'd pumped all my money into the damn machine, the door refused to close and then its little computer decided I hadn't given it any money and demanded 7 more. So I got mad at technology (why can't we have normal laundromat machines, the kind that has a slot for six quarters and then you shove the thingy in? What was wrong with those things? Why do we have to have a damn computer in a bloody washing machine anyway?!) and pulled my stuff out, gave it a couple of sharp kicks, as you do, and was in the process of storming off when the old guy who runs the laundromat came in and pretty much begged me to stay, put his key in the machine and figured out it was broken, so got the other one going for me... and also more or less looked like my dear old grandpa, so I felt like a jerk.

Which, of course, is because I am a jerk.

But at least it's good to know there's a Punish the Stupid Lazy Idiot Mass at the Co-Cathedral, in case I continue to be a stupid lazy idiot. Which actually seems pretty likely, tell the truth...


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Get the picture?

What happens when bad math meets engineering

What happens when bad theology meets liturgy.

Fortunately, no souls were lost in the first video.


Yes, I'm fine.

Everything worked out, and the new place is terrific. I got a new sink put in yesterday morning, and got the bathroom sink fixed, so that's a step forward. No fridge, but I've still got my own freezer chest, so I bought a 24L cooler for keeping the milk and yogurt in, and I got a two-burner camp stove that can run off a domestic gas bombola. (It's a normal Italian thing to run your stove off a bombola, and saves a lot of money. Don't worry, it's safe.)

Got a queen size air mattress, and am impressed at the advances in air mattress technology since the last time I bought one in the 80s. You just flick a switch and it inflates itself! Wonders.

No gas for heat or hot water yet, and the chimney smokes, but we're adjusting. Winnie is slowly calming down. She's sitting now in front of the portable oil radiator, contemplating its many glories.

Boxes piled up everywhere, and any little thing you want to do means half an hour of digging about in them. Which is motivating me to put things away. Unfortunately, there's very little "away" for things to go. Like all Italian homes, this one has no built-in cupboards, closets or shelves, so it's going to be a bit of a shambles for a while.

I took the granny cart down to the supermarket last night, and stopped in at the Basilica for Vespers, and there was Robert Moynihan, whom I've not seen in ages. He promptly invited me to dinner and one of the monks turned up and we had a jolly time. It seems this is a place that attracts lots of people, so there will probably be quite a bit of that sort of thing.

The leaves are all turning and the fog settles over the valley every morning, making it look like a huge, mountainous bowl of milk. The bells of St. Benedict ring out throughout the day, reminding me why I'm here.

More later. (with pics)


Thursday, October 30, 2014

October Country

Dear (central, coastal) Italy,

you don't understand Hallowe'en. Not having seasons, you really fundamentally fail to grasp this quintessentially pagan, harvest autumn festival.

You are already well-equipped with death-festival material, the home of charnel houses and chapels made of bones, a place where ladies still go to have parties at the family mausoleum. I realise that the Catholic culture is dying out here, but you can just decide to revive it if you want. It's all written down in books. Go do native Italian things, related to All Souls and All Saints. The sane world wants this stuff to be preserved.

But Hallowe'en proper is something you really just can't grasp. It's about pumpkins and fallen leaves and straw-stuffed scarecrows on the porch. It's about decorating your house like a haunted house, trick-or-treating (properly, and only if you're under 12) and long slow walks, shuffling through fallen leaves in cold windy weather; bare oak trees and Edgar Allen Poe readings. It is, in short, Northern and English.


Umbria is different, of course. They've got both Autumn and Winter there. In the mornings, you can lie in bed, all curled up with the cat under the quilts, listening to the rain on the roof and the sound of gunshots in the hills as the hunters go after the season's wild boars, the smell of woodsmoke rising up from the valley to heaven through the turning leaves like an evening sacrifice...

Though it might start a little later in the year, since I was there last weekend and the leaves were mostly still green on the trees. So we might have to change it to "November Country".


Anyway, Italy, please stop doing Halloweenesque things in the middle of your perpetual-summer, Mediterranean-climate country. It's really just cringingly embarrassing. Like listening to an American trying to do an English accent; you just want to crawl away and hide from the humiliation the person is visiting upon himself.

So, just go to Mass on Saturday, OK?



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here's for all you Halloween buzzkills out there...


Happy Halloween, ladies...


So, last night's anxiety dreams were fun...

I was dying of ebola in an Italian hospital in which no one was concerned at all about isolation protocols. I kept trying to tell them they needed hazmat suits, but no one could understand me.

Then a bishop came to visit me and started telling me that I was going to be fine because he was there to accompany me. I begged him to hear my confession and he pretended not to understand my English (common Italian dodge when they don't want to do something). He just went on and on about not worrying about my sins and that God loves me just the way I am...

Only there were a lot more bodily fluids involved.

I really, REALLy, need to move up to the hills.


I know: five minutes in the box for sharing too much.


More Pumpkinny goodness

What do you do with the pumpkin after Halloween? Traditionally, you just let it sit there and melt. Which I admit is often pretty fun.

But here's another idea:

a big chunk of pumpkin, about a pound or more
curry powder
cumin seeds
coriander seeds
sesame seeds
heavy cream

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks, about the size of your hand. Slice down into the meat to the skin, to score it and place in a roasting tin. Sprinkle generously with curry powder and cinnamon. In a pan, melt a bunch of butter. Grind a handful of the cumin/coriander/sesame seeds (that you toasted in a dry frying pan earlier and keep in a jar) in a mortar and pestle. Throw the seeds in with the butter and let them fry a little. Then douse the pumpkin with the butter, making sure it gets into the scored cuts. Roast in a hot oven for about an hour, or until it's toasty and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.

When you plate it, douse in a little heavy cream. This will mix with the spices and the butter to make a truly gorgeous sauce. When you're eating it, gish each forkful around in the butter/spice and cream sauce.

Oh baby!!


The walls that divide us

Christ wants to see us reconciled rather than living as enemies, Pope Francis said in his homily at Mass on Tuesday, explaining that a true Christian lives with this hope.

“We all know that when we are not in peace with others, there is a wall. There is a wall that divides us. But Jesus offers us his service to break down this wall so we can meet,” the Roman Pontiff told those gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Martha residence chapel for his Oct. 21 Mass.


If we are divided, we are not friends: we are enemies. And he has reconciled us all in God. He has reconciled us as friends, as enemies, as strangers, as sons and daughters.”


“He who does not await Jesus, who closes his door to Jesus, does not allow him to go forward with his work of peace, of community, of citizenship,” the Pope noted, saying that this attitude of waiting is part of what constitutes Christian hope.

Unless you're one of those crazy Traditionalists or FFIs, in which case, you're pretty much screwed.

The Catholic faithful cannot participate at Mass, neither request and/or receive Sacraments from or in the Society. Acting otherwise would mean to break communion with the Catholic Church.

Therefore, any Catholic faithful who requests and receives Sacraments in the Society of Saint Pius X, will place himself de facto in the condition of no longer being in communion with the Catholic Church. A readmission to the Catholic Church must be preceded by an adequate personal path of reconciliation, according to the ecclesiastical discipline established by the Bishop.

...and have a nice day.


Just trying to keep score

Pope Francis said that those waiting at the threshold of the Church without going inside are not true members of the Church which Jesus established and on whom it is built.

“We are citizens, fellow citizens of this Church. If we do not enter into this temple to be part of this building so that the Holy Spirit may live in us, we are not in the Church,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse for his Oct. 28 daily Mass.

Rather, “we are on the threshold and look inside…Those Christians who do not go beyond the Church’s reception: they are there, at the door: 'Yes, I am Catholic, but not too Catholic.'

This, on the same day it was announced that anyone receiving the Sacraments from the SSPX are excommunicated latae sententiae...

Holy Father, I thought the message yesterday from your friend the bishop of Albano was that being "too Catholic" was bad.

Didn't you spend several interviews recently, and do a whole bunch of other things, to tell us all that we really don't need to be Catholic to be just fine and dandy with God? So, if the SSPX people are summarily kicked out (latest in about a dozen different conflicting messages about their status over the last ten years) how come the Evangelicals and atheists, Anglicans, Jews, followers of Tony Palmer and whoever else, all "need" to stay where they are and have just as much hope of going to heaven as the Officially Approved Catholics and we wouldn't dream of being so rude as to attempt to "prostelytise" and convert them?

So, as of yesterday's homily, the message of the Church, if we may attempt a summary, is:


Catholics "on the threshold" need to be "more Catholic," ... but not so Catholic that they embrace the Church's pre-Conciliar teaching about the Social Reign of Christ the King and that there is "no salvation outside the Church" because that would make them "unforgiving," "rigid" and "neo-pelagian" traditionalists with "crypto-lefebvrian" tendencies who like to attempt to "proselytize" people.

But people who aren't Catholic at all, our "separated brethren," liberal Jews, atheists, Muslims, Anglicans and Tonypalmerites all have to stay where they are because the Church and the world "needs" them there, and you can reach "salvation" through reading the Koran or Martin Luther or the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or whatever strikes your fancy, because there are "salvific elements" in ... well... everything.

...Oh wait no. Everything except being "too Catholic" in the wrong way, because Mercy!

Did I get it? What do I win?


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Double standards

Let your no be no and your yes be yes... unless it's politically inexpedient at the moment, in which case you should just start issuing random conflicting orders and confuse everyone.

A friend in another venue writes, "Rorate[Caeli] missed the real headline on this one. Follow me here. The bishop's letter reads:

'Therefore, any Catholic faithful who requests and receives Sacraments in the Society of Saint Pius X, will place himself de facto in the condition of no longer being in communion with the Catholic Church.'

"The real story here as far as I'm concerned is that this bishop has de facto refused the language of Vatican II and opted for a TRADITIONAL 'either or' understanding of COMMUNION! Do you see that there? Read the quote above again if you need to.

"Apparently the Eastern Orthodox and the Protestants are said to be in 'partial communion' with the Church. But the SSPX and whoever 'requests and receives Sacraments in the Society of Saint Pius X' is said to have NO communion."


Another points out the history of using interdict against large groups of faithful as a political weapon as a favourite pastime of Renaissance popes of the past:

Pope Clement V excommunicates Venice


Monday, October 27, 2014

Welcome to NuChurch, and...

Quick question...

If I understand this correctly, despite years of messages to the contrary, now "the Vatican" (ahem) is saying that the faithful cannot receive Communion in SSPX parishes....

But I'd just like to know one thing to help clarify a point of confusion: What if they're divorced and remarried?

Is it OK then?


Pius X"
[Roughly translated by a machine]

In recent weeks, were received by the Diocesan Curia requests for clarification about the celebration of the Sacraments at the "Society of St. Pius X," Albano Lazio. In this regard, it is considered proper to state that the "Fraternity" is not an institution (or the parish, or association) of the Catholic Church.

This is true even after the decree of the Congregation of Bishops, 21 January 2009 by which the Holy Father Benedict XVI, going kindly to repeated requests by the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, which revoked the excommunication since June 30, 1988 were incurred four prelates of the same fraternity.

This was pointed out by Benedict XVI with his Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church March 10, 2009, "the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers - even though they were freed of the ecclesiastical penalty - do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church" (in AAS CI [2009], no. 4, p.272).

Benedict XVI himself, the next letter m. p. Ecclesiae Unitatem of 2 July 2009 reaffirmed "the remission of the excommunication was a measure in the 'field of ecclesiastical discipline to free people from the burden of conscience represented by the gravest ecclesiastical censure. But the doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified, the Society
does not have a canonical status in the Church and its ministers can not legitimately exercise any ministry "(in AASCI [2009], p. 710-711).

As a result of the above, we must reiterate what has already been formulated in the Pastoral Note on SSPX Bishop Dante Bernini, where we read: Catholics can not attend Mass or take and\or receive the sacraments in the fraternity. To do otherwise would break communion with the Catholic Church.

Therefore, any Catholic who requests and receives the Sacraments in the Society of St. Pius X will arise from the fact [latae sententiae] in the position of not being in communion with the Catholic Church. A readmission into the Catholic Church should be preceded by an adjustment to personal path of reconciliation, according to ecclesiastical discipline established by the Bishop

[We] sincerely regret that certain options, especially if they relate Christian Initiation of children and young people, are in contrast with the pastoral guidelines of the Italian Church and the consequent choices of the Diocese of Albano, which are favored training for the growth and maturation of the life of faith.

Parish priests, the task of giving adequate information
to the faithful.

From the Curia Albano, October 14, 2014, Prot. 235/14.

Marcello S
emeraro, bishop

Didja catch that last bit? "...certain options, especially if they relate Christian Initiation of children and young people, are in contrast with the pastoral guidelines of the Italian Church..."

The what-Church, now?

Yes, can't have all that Catholicism messing up our nice NewChurch.



Meanwhile, this was yesterday: the SSPX celebrating a pontifical High Mass in the (hideous) Basilica of Lourdes, with full permission from the local Catholic authorities...

Messe du Christ-Roi en la Basilique Saint-Pie X (26 octobre 2014) from DICI on Vimeo.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Never a dull moment

Packed 15 boxes last night. Got all the paperbacks and most of the hardcovers, all the art supplies, nearly all the linen closet, all the CDs and DVDs. Ran out of juice around 11:30. I don't know why putting things in boxes is so exhausting.

Anyway, was tuckered out, so slept in and have spent the morning perusing the daily disasters, and it seems like the Synod has had quite a... well... an invigorating effect on many.


Here is Alessandro Gnocchi (in translation from Rorate Caeli), under the headline "Over half of the bishops (in the Synod) have already switched religion..."

We find ourselves confronting a Synod in which the majority of Cardinals and Bishops threw at least three Sacraments overboard: Matrimony, Confession, and the Eucharist. Church history teaches us that schisms have been consumed by much less. The dramatic point is in the fact that there are Bishops and Cardinals who are in substance schismatics in playing out their roles, with no sense of contradiction, in response to the pressure exerted by Bergoglio towards “the new”.

Lots of thoughts on this, of course, but something to keep in mind is that we knew what was going to happen at the Synod. I don't know if we anticipated that it would be quite so ... up front, let's say, but we certainly knew the general parameters. We had known, for instance, that for the most part only those bishops who were known to be in general agreement or who were likely to remain timid, were going to be invited. We also knew well ahead of time that the Synod's organisers were going to be getting up to some shenanigans, because, well, they basically told us. So while we know that the Synod itself was very illustrative of the problems we are facing in the post-Asteroid Church, we must remember that it is representative of a certain trend in the Church and is not the whole story. It is of course a very large trend, one might say the dominant trend, but it must be remembered that there are bishops out there, who were decidedly not invited, who feel quite differently about it.


As to that, we have something today which might be even more shocking than the goings-on in the Synod. Is my journalistic spidey sense failing me, or does this look to you like Notpope Benedict (who totally isn't still also the pope no more, not no-how, not no-way becausetherecanbeonlyoneandhetotallyresignedlegitimatelytotallyandcompletelyfreelybecausehesaidso...sothere)

publicly correcting Pope Francis...

"The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people," retired Pope Benedict wrote. "'But does that still apply?' many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. 'Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?' The counter-question is: 'Can dialogue substitute for mission?'

"In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality," the retired pope wrote. "The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.

"It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine," he wrote.


Just some stuff to think about when deciding whether it is still worth observing the Church's old fashioned, rigid, unforgiving and judgmental rules about the Friday abstinence...

Anyway, I'm going to go out into the wonderful breezy sunshiny day, and walk on the beach-o before collecting today's batch of 20-odd boxes from the supermarket, and continuing to dismantle my life.

Here's hoping I make it out in time. I can feel the clarion call of the mountains, like the faint ring of hunting horns at the start of boar season. Enough of this warm, festering, louche and languid coastal existence...I'm ready to fight the elements for my dinner. Chop some wood. Maybe shovel the walk, like a real Canadian.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkinny goodness!

What is wrong with processed food, in a nutshell? It's not food.

Well, as I was watching this very interesting video about the(mainly American) processed food industry, I was making a batch of Orange Soup. A long time ago a hippie/foodie told me that putting red lentils and sweet potatoes together gives you a "perfect protein". I really have no idea what that means, and I'm not really even interested enough to look it up on Google. I figure he was probably right, however, and that a "perfect protein" was probably good for you. Good enough. Other reading/rumours told me that orange food is good food. If it's got an orange colour, it's good for you. Vitamins and whatnot. So, I invented a recipe for soup in which nearly everything is orange in colour, and that involves an actual orange.


a knob of butter
1 onion,
2 or 3 garlic cloves,
3 large carrots,
1 sweet potato
1/2 a regular potato
big hunk of pumpkin
1 cup of red lentils
1 orange.
tablespoon of curry powder
tsp of cayenne pepper
chicken powder
1/2 pint of milk
125 ml heavy cream

Chop and saute the onion and garlic in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Peel and dice all the veg while it's cooking. When the onion is softened, put in the chopped veg and the lentils with enough water to cover comfortably. Simmer together, and while it's simmering, throw in the curry powder, chicken powder and cayenne pepper. Grate the rind of the orange and chop it very fine, and add it into the soup, then use the wooden spoon to ream out the juice from the orange. Let it simmer about 15 mins or until the veg is soft.

When the veg is cooked, take the pot off the stove and set up your blender with a large bowl, ladle, the milk and cream. Put on an apron, since it's going to make a little mess. About two or three ladles full at a time, pour the soup into the blender and combine with the milk and the cream in batches. Pour the soup into the bowl as you blend each batch, and when you're done, stir it all together, since each batch is going to have a slightly different ratio. Blend a good long while to get a really cloud-like texture.


You will be amazed! Really!


A martial race

Of all the positions in Parliament, he held the post of the ultimate protector of the democratic domain in that place. Yet no one seriously expected that he would have to act on it in such a fashion that he would literally be the one to put his life on the line to protect the institution from any invader.

People nowadays tend to forget that Canada was once a very warlike nation, and our military exploits, particularly in WWII, are still legendary. Canadians in war are regarded as personally unassuming, but implaccably courageous in battle.

Under the new Trudeaupian dispensation, Canadians are, with some justification, figures of fun to the rest of the world. We have funny accents and like hockey, apologise a lot, don't have guns, don't like Americans and get a lot of handouts from the government. We are, collectively, thought of as a nation of easy-going betas.

But there are still pockets of the old Canadian martial spirit that made a reputation for Canadians as a stoic, noble, soft-spoken people who are all but unstoppable badasses in combat. A harsh climate and a closeness to the land among most of the population - what politicians and high school social studies teachers call an agricultural and resource based economy - means men and women used to hardship and self-sacrifice, who appreciate the few luxuries they can afford and who are accustomed to looking challenges directly in the face and, most important, who care for their own, their family, their town and their country.

Yesterday, in the face of a particularly loathsome and seething evil that is growing everywhere almost unchallenged, one of those old fashioned Canadians stepped up.

Thank you, Kevin Vickers, not only for protecting our government, but for reminding us what true Canadian spirit really is.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Good thing we disarmed all the law-abiding Canadians...

Oh wait...


Experiencing mental stress and anxiety

Bad dreams... very, very, very bad scary dreams.

Moving is, I'm told, listed by headshrinkers along with the death of a spouse or child, divorce and loss of a job as the most stressful things we can do.


Laying off the coffee for a while.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What was it like to be in the war?

A journalist friend in Canada has just asked me what it was like to be up close and personal during ... recent events...

I respond:

Have you ever been swimming in the sea on a rough weather day?

It's sort of fun, but the waves just keep coming and coming, and some of them really pick you up bodily and toss you around, and sometimes you land in the same spot and it's still fun, but other times, which are totally random, it drops you in a spot where the water's over your head and then you realise it's not fun any more and you might be in a bit of trouble, but you're in the sea to have fun so you start struggling through the waves back to the fun spot because it's supposed to still be fun, but really, it's the sea we're talking about, which isn't actually a theme park ride but the frickin' SEA and it doesn't care at all if you're having fun or if you're fish-food.

It was kind of like that.

Only with more pizza.



Also, learning some important caffeine lessons. One cup, means alertness and ability to pay attention. Two means jumping around the house every few minutes to burn off excess energy. Three means having your arguments with the internet out loud in high-pitched incomprehensible yelling.

Normal Hilary

Hilary at third cup.


Gettin' outta Dodge

Well, that's two bits of moving news back to back: the moving guy came, looked at my stuff, wrote some stuff down on the clipboard, and said, 1000 E. Which is a little under what I was expecting.

Called Sandro the realtor, and he said, "You-ra 'ouse is a-ready. When-a you come?" It's going to be 1140 E for the flat: first, last and deposit. Then later I have to give Sandro his finder's fee, because the worker is worthy of his hire. I've learned that in Italy, your realtor will often become your biggest helper when you're moving to a new town, and will be your introduction to the whole community, esp in a place as small as Norcia.

My previous realtor, Mrs. Mazzei, the mad, sweet old creature, took a real shine to me, and helped me find a fix-it guy who came and made all my electrical sockets work, for five E. When I said I couldn't do without a freezer, she gave me one she had in her garage. She helped me with legal paperwork to get registered as a legal "guest" at the cop shop, and helped me get connected to the gas and electric and phone and whatnot, and introduced me to all kinds of helpful people. After I moved in and was settled, I made sure to bring her a bottle of something nice once in a while. She retired after year two in this place, but still greets me very warmly. I will miss her and am often at a loss without her when I'm trying to get things done.

Sandro has offered to help me get the paperwork done for a Rezidenza, which means that I would go from being a settled visitor to an actual immigrant, legally and whatnot. I'd have to start paying Italian taxes, but it would mean all kinds of useful official status (including no more annual fees for the health coverage, which is kind of important for me). He also said he knows a place that sells refurbished furnishings and appliances (doubtless his cousin or brother-in-law). This really is the way you have to do things here, and it really does help.

This weekend is the Traddie pilgrimage in thanksgiving for Summorum Pontificum, when Cardinals Pell, Burke and Brandmuller will be saying Masses for the Traddies, and then we all get on a bus and go up to Norcia for a talk from Fr. Cassian.

I told Sandro I'd drop by the office and sign things and give him the rents and deposits. I'm going to ask him if he knows a guy who can get me a gun and a hunting license: it's wild boar hunting season.

Oooo! It's really going to happen! Eeee! I'm excited!

This is the Abbey of San Eutizio, one of the ancient monastic foundations of the Valnerina. Just up the road in Preci.


Monday, October 20, 2014

How to think in three easy lessons

Now my expression, "people who don't know what the jiggety they're talking about" will become famous!

Why is it just nonsensical to say that "doctrine" and "pastoral care" are opposed? Because they are both about the same truth, the Truth, in fact.

Saying "The truth is true" sounds like it shouldn't need saying, but in the last two weeks, we have seen it denied either explicitly or implicitly by many, many people who are supposed to know better.
But what does "nonsensical" mean, really?

"Aristotle wrote: “there cannot be an intermediate between contradictories…This is clear, in the first place, if we define what the true and the false are. To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true; so that he who says of anything that it is, or that it is not, will say either what is true or what is false.”

My first post at Steve Skojec's project 1Peter5

Also, I looked things up to write it, even in a BOOK! So it's a really good one.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.'

Robert Hugh Benson died exactly 100 years ago today.

It's funny, because during the first week of the Synod, I just happened to be re-reading LotW and we were sweltering in some of the most miserable weather I've yet to experience in Italy in October, which is usually our month of relief from the Summer's Awful.

It was (and remains) unseasonably hot, incredibly dense, thick and humid, the kind of weather that makes showering redundant and in which one feels disinclined to breathe too deeply for fear of choking on the water. The air clings to you in a way that makes you wake up from suffocating dreams of being wrapped in a honey-dipped velvet blanket.

Towards the end of the book, when the final confrontation of the Antichrist was coming, Benson wrote of the horrifically and freakishly hot weather that was oppressing everyone and that in the end culminated in a colossal black lightning-riven cloud over half the world...

And then...


Dr. Shaw asks, "Where do we go from here?"

Cue catchy Buffy song which will now play relentlessly in my head until at least bed time.

What we have seen this fortnight is, nevertheless, quite scary. We have witnessed the operation, exposure, and defeat, of a ruthless attempt to manipulate the synod and, through the synod, the whole Church. There is no reason to imagine the threat this represented is going to go away.


How it's done in the old town

Allow me to help people understand what just happened by making a comparison with a piece of legislation that is ongoing in Italy, and the political concept of the "ratchet effect".

The Italian anti-homophobia bill started out an absolutely absurdist, almost parodic piece of legislation that no government could possibly pass. It included, among other things, provisions for the arrest and detaining of people suspected of being likely to cause offense to gays, and allowed the courts to order such people to undergo re-education programmes, part of which was to work for the gay lobbyist groups.

Of course, the response was howls of outrage from the right, and from (likely carefully coached) people on the left, defending civil freedoms like freedom of expression and religion, but with everyone carefully saying, "But of course we deplore the evils of homophobia itself... "

Parliament carved out all the really outrageous stuff in committee, and presented the bill, with its 400+ amendments, in a new and acceptable form. The gay lobby groups dutifully issued press releases complaining that it was now toothless, and the bill is now peacefully sailing through the Senate more or less unopposed, and we are about to insert for the first time into Italian law the concept of "homophobia" (still undefined) as an offence. Mission accomplished.

Ratchet effect.

Now, ask yourself how the mid-way relatio at the Synod could have fulfilled such a role. The first one was a red herring; it was so obvious a piece of liberal engineering that anyone, even those bishops who are not that... shall we say... attuned to the Traditional end of the Church were shouting from the rooftops that it was impossible. Then, a revolt in the synod aula, and everyone congratulating each other on having thwarted the forces of darkness.

Two days later, presto! Along comes the final document with most of the squelchy stuff taken out (sort of) and everyone is shouting that it's a major victory for the faith, and Sauron's Morlocks have been defeated... cue swelling Aragorn coronation music...

Everyone now goes home to carry on our "weak and ambiguous" business as usual.

Wondering if I'm making it up?

Ask our friend Mr. Terrence Weldon over at Queering the Church what he thinks...

"Two (or Three) Steps Forward, One Back Is Still Progress"

"The interim report got such a strong reception on Monday precisely because it was so very much more supportive than anybody had been expecting. The fact that the same language did not make into the final report therefore, should have surprised nobody..

"The LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council press release draws attention to just how close we came to an endorsement of full and explicit inclusion (emphasis added):

'We note that the paragraphs on homosexuality which did not receive the required 2/3 rd‘s vote, failed by only two votes, notwithstanding significant support from a majority of bishops.'


"If the more welcoming / progressive bishops failed to retain the positive language originally proposed, for us or for those who have divorced and remarried, because they only just failed to secure the required two – thirds majority, it is far more important to note the far more dismal failure of the reactionaries to secure even a simple majority..."


Saturday, October 18, 2014

So far from over.

So very, very far...

But Fr. Blake puts into words something I've been thinking: one of the better things to come out of this whole bizarre thing, as painful as it has been to watch, has been the absolutely undeniable fact of two utterly opposed and utterly implacable "factions" in the Church, and the war between them.

What will be very apparent is that there are definitely two factions, let's not be over dramatic, there is not a schism but there is a very visible split. And splits tend to multiply. [And I would say, widen, HJW]

The highly significant Kasper interview identifies it as a North South, black white split but there is also, significantly, a demographic split. Burke will be voting in the next Conclave or two after Francis is laid to rest, and possibly on his way to Beatification.

There is recognition too that Francis is partisan and really against collegiality, as much as any renaissance pope. I suspect that many Cardinals who voted for him are being forced to have serious second thoughts. His high-handed approach is more reminiscent of Vatican I, than Vatican II.

Too bad that war highjacked the Synod from its actual purpose, but maybe in the end that was really the more important topic...The catastrophe in the Church has been this Civil War that has not let up for 50 years. the aggressors were slowed and forced to be more stealthy and quiet for a long, long time, so much so that a lot of people almost forgot the threat. But they have roared back to life like the monster at the end of a horror film.

During this last two, agonizing, exhausting and incredibly stressful weeks a lot of things have come glaringly into the foreground that had previously remained the stuff of whispered, unofficial, backroom and coffee bar conversations. One of the biggest handicaps we have had has been the fact that very, very few have been willing to talk openly about the Church's civil war. Well, here it is, in all its glory, now undeniable, even to those whose strategy it has been to deny that it is going on.

More later.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Found another glorious Catholic musical gummy-sour

Suck on this for a while, it'll make you feel better.

(The drone really makes it a great creep-fest)


Spooky Catholic medieval wonderfulness!

Jinkies! This Eleanor of Whatsis Kyrie thing is a thrill-ride-stravaganza o' Catholic spooky!

Imna listen to it again. Right nowsies!

Man! Whaddya bet if we had stuck with this stuff in the churches, and tossed all that smarmy Hallmark pancake syrup of the 70s, this whole Synod business wouldn't have happened? Can you really imagine THIS Catholic Church producing that Relatio thing?


And really, it's not all doom n' gloom either...

I can't give details, but I thought readers would like to know that the news out of the Synod isn't all bad. We have received messages from bishops and priests who very much appreciate the threat of the general direction things appear to be taking, and who say that they are fighting for the Truth. Their names are both the famous and the unknown, but they are the real pastors and shepherds, and they are not giving up.

The laity who retain the Faith and seek to find ways to preserve and defend it often feel as though they are alone, but it isn't true. While they may not be getting the press they deserve, there are leaders in the Church who still humbly and bravely follow Christ. I can't for the moment give names and exact quotes, but be assured that we are in contact with these good men, and they know what we know, and are on our side.


Moan moan moan...

Well, yes. I suppose you have reason to complain. I know that since starting to use Facebook more, I have drastically reduced the average number of posts to this site, which I still think of as my Mothership. All the dozens of little quippy posts I used to put up here, just little quickie things responding to the absurdities in the news, I now more or less just started doing on my FB feed. And lately, even that has dropped off significantly.

I am also being told more and more that I can be paid for this sort of thing, which makes me less eager to continue to entertain you lot for free. Nevertheless, I am aware that this is like a virtual home, and all you, my loyal 500-a-day who have been with me for all these years, encouraging and commenting and arguing and making me laugh (not to mention frequently generously donating their hard-earned cash) deserve much better than such venal calculations.

I have come to sort of use this place as a spot for longer more personal, thinky posts about the stuff underneath the surface. This means, of course, that there will continue to be fewer of them. But be assured that this is still the more important place. And I'm thinking of y'all, and remembering that my little band of readers in this cozy little corner parlour are more interesting to me than all those faceless thousands out there.

Sue Sims, one of our longest-suffering reading friends recently shamed me by sending a note along with her very kind and generous donation to my moving/tooth fund: "Even if it's not for the root canal because the antibiotics have worked, put it towards the move. BUT... You'd better blog a bit more, or I'll turn up at your front door (you've described it so well that it's probably easily discoverable) and demand it back."

OK. I guess I forget sometimes that it's not just me talking to myself.

Soh, here are my two favourite videos describing in images...

what I think of Vatican II.5 the Synod...

and the whole yelling-fest, including the bishops and journalists...

(No, not really. I just wanted an excuse to introduce my favourite new funny-animal vidoe genre. Goats-yelling-like-humans... hilARious!!)

Aaand one more, that pretty much summarises how I personally feel about it all these days...


I wanna be a naturalist

And I gotta get me a coat like that one.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014


or, Why I'm not the least surprised or perturbed about the Synod or the Relatio.

Gravity works, doesn't it? It always works all the time. Same with math. Numbers always turn out the same no matter how you put them together on a page. Logic is the same kind of thing; a syllogism will tell you a true conclusion if you follow its rules, starting with true premises.

If you head off in a particular direction and keep walking along the same path for a long time, if nothing stops you, you will eventually reach your destination.

50 years ago, the Second Vatican Council started the Church off in a direction it was never supposed to go. Many, many people followed along in good faith, assuming that the people in charge knew what they were doing. But a smaller number of others sounded a warning, saying that the direction leads to a deadly falls.

Well, now we are seeing the roaring falls that we have been hearing, and largely not heeding, for all this time. There is still time, of course, to start rowing back and return to the true course. The closer we come to the falls, the harder it will be, but it can still be done.

The only problem is that most of the people we have in charge of the boat are paddling for the falls as hard as they can.

What happens in the next week will be crucial. There are, reportedly, a lot of people in the Synod hall who do not agree with this direction. They now have a sacred duty to make it clear that we do not have to go in this direction, that to do so is disaster. Do they have the strength to force the boat backwards now that the falls is in sight? Do they even have the vision clear enough to understand where we went astray in the first place?

I don't know. I only know that this is the wrong direction, and I don't have to follow. Even if I am the only one, I don't have to go over the falls with them. I seem to have been standing on the shore with my friends shouting at the people in the boat, trying to warn them. But they do seem to be getting further and further away, and the roar of the falls is now so loud, that I wonder if they can hear us at all.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thank you

Holy cow! Eleven days since the last post! Sorry.

There's just been a lot of stuff going on: bishops, popes, sore tooth and my little brain going "worryworryworry" all day long. The Asteroid 2.0 continues on course. Running madly around Rome talking to people. Editorial staff arrived from the New World. Miserable weather, with the humidity shooting up and giving the zanzare more encouragement...


First, I wanted to thank very sincerely the kind readers who donated so generously to my bleg for help with funding the move up to the mountains and tooth-repair. The money donated will make a huge difference.

The tooth has settled down with the application of antibiotics, but as soon as the move is done it's going to have to get a visit. I think it will be safe to push the root canal back another couple of months. No pain and the abscess is down (tbgt) but this time I'm finally convinced. It's going to have to happen sooner rather than later.

I looked it all up on teh internets, and found out that just trying to ignore a tooth with a chronic root infection can lead not only to the loss of the tooth, but "bone loss" in the surrounding err...bones. Yeah, that's my skull we're talking about "losing". So, OK. My fear of dentists and lack of moolah has just lost out to fear of my skull disintegrating. (No, it doesn't happen over night, and antibiotics can stave it off for a while... but still! Yi!)

The moving plan proceeds apace, though thus far, a bit slower than I'd hoped to get packing because of ... some stuff... going on in Rome, err... anyway...

Winnie still doesn't suspect a thing. (She's pretty dim, but always gets suspicious when the boxes start appearing.) But it really is truly astounding how much worthless crap we tend to accumulate in this life, even if we're not the sort of person who's into recreational shopping.

This weekend is set aside for shoving a lot of stuff into the huge double-strength garbage bags I bought. A friend has promised to come over and help me ditch a load of it and strengthen my resolve. We will be honouring the ancient tradition of getting rid of the really big stuff, an old mattress, by sneaking it out of the house at three am, propping it up against the local dumpster and running away.

But of course, at this stage in my life, no matter how much stuff I leave to the elements, it's going to be too much to deal with myself, so I'm looking at traslochi companies. It's the furniture. All this time, I've mostly had stuff that would go in boxes, but I guess part of being a grown-up is having stuff you need movers for. With any luck, this will be the last move for a long time.

In total, the amount kindly given will take a bunch of pressure off closing out the utilities accounts. Between my regular paycheque and other writing work, it's going to cover the gas and probably the electric.

I'm still looking at the moving company (€1150) and the actual cost of the flat (€1500) to go, so would still be very grateful for any help.

I managed to get a pic of the house from the internet.

It's up on the hill from the town walls, about a ten minute walk. The flat is the whole middle floor (that the Italians call the first but Anglos call the second.) There's a covered car port on the other side and the garden on this side goes up a sharp incline and is mostly shaded by that big oak tree. Above the oak there's a little flat space with one of those nice Italian brick barbeque things, and a little wooden table and chairs where you can have your tea in the mornings.

Th garden is much bigger than it looks in this pic, with the laurel hedge in the front hiding a strip of flat about ten feet wide running along the length of the property. Perfect place for climbing flowers and herbs.

I'm hoping little Winnie will learn to like going outside a bit. We had a flat in S. Mar for a while that had a garden and she got used to poking about and sitting in the sunshine in the flower beds, and even caught a bird once! I was so proud! But one of the neighbourhood bully feral cats started coming round and beating her up, so she gave it up. Having been the target of neighbourhood bullies, I was sympathetic. But it can't be good for cats to spend all their time indoors, and I have felt guilty about it ever since we moved in here. In the new place, the front door opens straight onto the garden, so I can start letting her try Outdoors again. Inside at night, though, because ... wolves. (Yes, actual wolves).

The road goes zooming straight down the hill to the Porta Romana, the gate that the sign says leads to Rome. I walked up the hill from the gate to the house in exactly 11 minutes. The monastery and basilica of San. Benedetto is another five minutes walk.

On another, completely unrelated note,

while the swimming season comes to a close, there are others who continue the exploration of the real final frontier.

I've been watching the videos of the Nautilus deep sea exploration expedition.

Ever heard of a siphonophore? Me neither until a short while ago.

Cool, huh?