Monday, December 31, 2012

Man's dignity

Am I the only one to have noticed that the Vatican's schedule of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council has been somewhat ...ah... low key? Nothing much going on in the Piazza about it. No big papal Masses or speeches, and no one but the Catholic commentariat paying the slightest attention, and that mostly with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Here's my buddy Chris Ferrara, talking about why that might be. Why, despite Benedict's dogged (and frankly embarrassing and tiresome) persistence on the subject, The Council's star is inevitably waning.

Do we have to say it again? Really? We have to? (Sigh)

Because it was stupid!

OK? Are we clear now? Can we please stop talking about it?

Its documents show an absolutely incredible blindness, a disconnect from reality and an eagerness to embrace all of Modernia's worst self-delusions which alone should be sufficient (and never mind the total collapse of the Faith that followed it) to have a veil drawn politely over the whole disaster. Every time I hear a bishop or a Vatican official talking about "The Council," every time I hear them say, " the Second Vatican Council taught us..." it doesn't make me angry, it makes me ashamed at the stupidity and gullibility of our leaders.

As Chris points out, Dignitatis Humanae's premise, lionizing the enlightened moral lucidity of modern men is a perfect example: “A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man…”

No it hasn’t! The crisis of “the modern world” is precisely that “contemporary man” has completely lost sight of his infinite dignity as a being created in the image and likeness of God, with an eternal destiny that should inform all earthly relations and the laws and institutions of civil society.

DH was published in 1965. Two years later, Britain started slaughtering children in the womb and created a law that made it legal. Two years after that, Canada followed suit, and three years after that, the US. It took until 1975 for Modernia's idea of the "Dignity of the Human Person" to reach Pope Paul's back yard.

Today I read that the incidence of violent rape has increased in India while the percentage of criminal convictions for rape and other violent crimes against women has fallen from 46% in the 1970s to 26% this year just past. This writer thinks it is because there are now only 916 baby girls born in India for every 1000 boys.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creamy apples

On my constant search for a replacement for the English Fry-up, I've discovered multiple ways to combine fruit and cream. Lately, in the depths of "winter," one of my favourites has been Creamy Apples. Even in Italy, the fruit choices start getting a little monotonous at this time of year. Must try to make the best of what we've got, hey?

Creamy apples: simplest thing in the world, and OH baby! so nice!


1 large or two medium apples,
250 ml whipping cream
teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water

Peel, core and chop the apples into spoon-size pieces and stew them in a bit of water, (just to cover the pieces) on a low heat in a heavy-bottom pot (my favourite is my enameled cast-iron saucepan I got from the 50p shop in Cheshire). Cook the apples until they are soft but not mushy. Add about 1/2 the cream and continue simmering, stirring constantly, until the cream starts thickening. Add the cinnamon. When it looks all nice and cooked, add a little more cream. Pour into a bowl and eat. Great with tea in the morning.


Thursday, December 27, 2012


is tiring.

Where I found the milk on Monday morning, after making tea. I looked in the fridge and thought, "I was sure I had some left..."

First Christmas tree in five years...bought in Rome,

stuffed into a tiny Roman cab, heaved onto the train and brought safely home by our friend Kevin. Tree decorating party on Sunday, mulled wine, cake...

My nativity set, a gift from a friend last year.

Shopping for tree decorations and presents on Saturday afternoon; this man was sitting playing this lovely instrument. It looked like a combination of lute and lyre.


Signage in Venice: encapsulates everything about Italy one needs to know. Never ask an Italian for directions.

Tea in a tea room on the Rio Maren in Venice. Coziest place I've ever been in this country. Run by a nice Venetian couple who had lived many years abroad. (Note Willow Pattern plate).

The husband was a painter and liked to paint animals, and clearly did so in North America. Not a lot of raccoons and Canada geese around here.

Mass for the third Sunday in Advent at the FSSP parish in Venice, on the Grand Canal.

Novusordoism everywhere in Venice...
That little glowing point of light at the back where the altar used to be is from a CD player that was running an endless loop of some kind of neo-Catholic New-movementy music... to lend a 'religious' air to this ancient, Byzantine church.


For some reason, I could not resist the urge to go around Venice taking photos of all the People's Trestle Tables that had been set up in the wake of the Asteroid in the sanctuaries of these old churches. And the Presiders' Chairs and Holy Microphones placed exactly to send the clearest possible message; right in front of the Tabernacle with the priest's face to The World, and his back to Christ.

Venice, early in the winter morning.

Setting off for Mass and then home on Sunday morning.

Fancy shops near St. Mark's

Live like a Venetian prince... shops near San Zaccharia


Found Religion at San Zaccharia... got there just in time for the parish Holy Hour.

The organist had to come out and ask the six chattering old ladies to be silent. I was the only one with a mantilla.

Giovanni Bellini: my new favourite Italian painter.

Favourite crucifix in Venice.

"Gondola ride, Madame?"
"No, grazie. Questo e troppo caro, per me."


Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Several years ago now (!) I spent a couple of years teaching the Confirmation catechism class at the Toronto Oratory's North Parish, St. Vincent de Paul. It was a blast, really, and I helped develop a meaningful curriculum that helped overcome a little problem they were having. (Most of the kids came from an Oratory-associated private Catholic school founded by a bunch of homeschooling parents so they more or less knew the stuff backwards. The other half came from a publicly funded "official" parochial school of the AD of Toronto and the kids had to be taught the entire business from the ground up. So the curriculum took the whole thing step by step from the catechism of St. Pius X. Don't know if they're still using it.)

One of the problems I had at first was discipline. Of course, the kids reacted to it the same way they would to a school class, which is to say, they worked at getting away with whatever they could. I remember one particularly amusing incident when three of the lead troublemakers were sitting together in the front row about four feet in front of me, talking and giggling together. I stopped talking for a moment to watch them at it while the rest of the class watched me watching them. After about a minute, they realised they were the centre of attention and stopped. I smiled and said, "What puzzles me is that you think that by putting your hand in front of your mouth I'm not going to notice that you're talking...

"Hello! I'm three feet away!"

This got a pretty big laugh.

It wasn't really a big problem and they knew that I liked them and actually had something interesting to say, so we mostly all got along pretty well. I was gratified once a couple of years after I had stopped teaching it when one of my former students told me he had given up a weekend trip because he knew he had to be in the Saturday afternoon class.

There was only one time when I had to speak privately to one kid in it who was consistently being disruptive. Monica was very bright and had a little cadre of followers whom she led in chatting and giggling during class. I cured this by taking her aside and giving her my superpowers speech.

"So, you've probably noticed that you're generally smarter than most of the other kids in your class in school, right?"

"Yeah..." smirking...

"And you probably find yourself ahead of some of your teachers once in a while, right?"

Looking a little worried now: "Well yeah, sometimes..."

"Have you ever read superhero comics?" No. "Well, I did when I was your age, and there is one thing that all superhero comics have in common. In every one of them, the hero has superpowers and at some point someone tells him that he has to make a decision whether to use his powers for good or for evil.

"Well, you, Monica, have a kind of superpower. You're really smart and the other kids can tell this. You also have an even stronger power that makes the other kids want to follow you and do what you say and do.

"So you have to decide whether you are going to use your powers for good or for evil. in this class we are doing something that will have an impact on these kids for the rest of their lives. You study algebra in school and have probably said that you can't think of where in real life you're going to use it, and you're right. I have never used algebra in my life. But this stuff is of cosmic significance, and this is going to be your last chance to get any formal instruction in it.

"In my class right now, 'the good' is being quiet and paying attention and handing in your assignments.

"Now, that is simple to say, but actually in reality pretty difficult to do, and it gets more difficult when the kid you're interested in following isn't doing it and is being distracting.

"So the decision you have to make is whether you are going to use those superpowers of yours to lead the kids to the good or the evil. Are you going to be my ally and help me get this information into their heads in the time we have? Or are you going to keep leading them into The Bad?"

I never heard another peep out of her posse for the rest of the year.

I first consciously realised I had superpowers when I took a job as a telemarketer, for one day, for a charity that raised money for liver disease research. I went to the orientation and they gave us the script and I took it home and memorised it. In the first hour, I tried a few calls and got nowhere. Then it dawned on me that this was a matter of making people do what I wanted. Suddenly, I knew exactly what to do and how to do it. I just turned on that thing I knew had been there all my life and started making them do what I wanted. By the end of the day, I'd brought in more money in direct payments (not pledges) than they'd ever had a newbie bring in.

It was just something to do with modulating my voice and knowing how to tell them what I knew they wanted to hear. To this day, I'm not entirely sure how to articulate what, exactly, I did, but it was a lesson I never forgot. And there have been more than a few tight moments that I've, frankly, been able to weasel out of trouble by using this latent gift for evil manipulation.

Many, many years later, I had an unusually frank conversation over drinks with a priest-friend about this, having noticed what he was doing and how. He was very, VERY popular in the diocese and knew how to use his good looks and charisma to get what he wanted. "It can be scary, can't it," I said, "knowing you can make people do what you want." After that, though we remained friends, he was more cautious what he said and did in front of me.

Mind powers. Once you know you've got them, it can be pretty frightening.

One of the reasons I've been enjoying Fringe is that I identify with the character of Peter Bishop. He was orphaned by circumstances at an early age, and being smart and needing to survive, developed his mind control powers to the point of being a professional and fairly successful conman. With the all-American boyish good looks of Joshua Jackson attached to his face, Peter Bishop's charm can sometimes be a little frightening. And though he is unquestionably the Good Guy in the series, there are some pretty dark conflicts going on most of the time that I think I understand. He had to be wooed over to the side of the angels, against the instincts created by his survival skills.

The writers handle this extremely well, depicting a man who is slowly won over but who retains a reserve about Doing Good, as though he has remained unconvinced that the moral path is ever going to be the most effective. The periods where Peter simply abandons the by-the-book methods and takes matters into his own hands, are probably the most interesting parts of the series. And the moments where he is shown brazenly lying to those he loves most, using their trust to his advantage without batting an eye, well, frankly, I melt.


One of the disadvantages of being brought out of The World's madness and being shown The Real and how to live in it, is that we can't ever again deny that we know what we are doing. And those of us who have spent a long time over there, been formed and trained by it, have a job of work to avoid the temptation to go back, bit by little bit.

We live with the dark side.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Hey! Let's play a game!

The Sharing Game.

It's our very favourite.

Share the closest you've ever come to dying.

Mine's easy. And not what you might expect.

It was April in Halifax and it had been a really snowy winter but it had been thawing and re-freezing a lot in the previous couple of weeks, as it does in early spring, and there was still a LOT of ice and snow around. A lot of the roofs had huge overhangs of ice, hundreds of pounds, some of them. And of course, it was all pretty unstable and when it warmed up in the afternoon on sunny days, sometimes the whole enormous pile of it would come sliding off the roof and crash onto the ground. The city was supposed to make people knock the ice and snow off their roofs, but people often didn't bother.

I was walking down Barrington Street, heading over to the Trident cafe for a tea and a read one sunny afternoon. Close to St. Patrick's church I had just passed under one of the really big ice overhangs, one of the kind that was produced by a really big pile of snow that no one had knocked off all winter, that had thawed and re-frozen a couple of times, so it was as big and heavy as a load of cinderblocks.

The crash sounded loud enough to be a car accident, and I froze, realising that a good 2 or 3 hundred pounds of solid ice, with lots of pointy jaggedy bits, had just crashed down onto the sidewalk about five feet behind me. A few seconds slower and I'd have been a bit of a jaggedy mess myself.

And people say that a belief in guardian angels is dumb.

OK, now you.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

What kind of woman are you?

In my ongoing considerations of the meaning of sexuality, call it Hilary's Gender Theory, I am often minded to wonder what kind of woman I am.

When I see something like this

and think, "I'd like to try that..."

...when I find that I despise the kind of simpering, murderous manipulativeness that has become the hallmark of modern femininity,

I wonder what is wrong with me.

I used to wonder, with much pain, in school why I never fit in. In the early to late 1970s, I thought it was because my parents were divorced, which at that time was still unusual.

It was years, decades really, before I started understanding the difference between me and the other kids. I simply never lived in the same world they did. I lived in a world that had been abolished by the time I was in school. And they lived in a new world defined, principally, by a totally new paradigm of being male and female, and which I had unconsciously rejected by the time I was ten.

I remember having a discussion about feminism with a woman I lived with when I was fifteen, telling her that she was wrong about feminism, that it was destructive and was warping her and her two young daughters and the whole world. I didn't have a vocabulary to describe what I knew, but I knew that her liberal/feminist interpretation of the universe was not just wrong, but evil.

Feminism remains the most vile and insidious creed, the most evil ideology I've ever examined. And it rules the world. The whole world. It creates monsters out of men and women, people who would rather eat their own children than give up their petty, passing pleasures.

Why don't men hunt? Why don't they farm? Why don't they marry and have children and teach their children to hunt and farm and fish? Why aren't they the heads of their homes? Why won't they stand up and teach their women to be women? Why won't they reassert the natural order of things for everyone's benefit?

I've spent my whole life feeling lost in this new world. At 23 I started roaming around the world trying to find a corner of it that was not corrupted by this thing that I had learned to hate and fear. But it is everywhere in the western world. Every place that Christianity created, it now rules.

I haven't been to Malta yet.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The other day I was overjoyed to see that the wonderful Fibonacci broccoli is back in the shops.

Italy's food production is determinedly cyclical. In the wrong season, you cannot, for love or money, get anything that isn't coming out of the ground or off the tree right now. It makes grocery shopping a little more fun. You have to learn what things are available when and what things to look forward to, and when to stop buying something because, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Italians are usually right. Food that is getting to the end of its season is really not as nice. And every time you get used to something (I've been eating the huge yellow peaches at a rate of about a pound a day) you have to learn to let it go when it's at its end. But it's OK, because it just means that the next nice thing is coming along.

The Fibonacci broccoli, properly called Romanesco, is much, much nicer than the "regular" kind we're used to in Britain and N. America. Apart from its delightful shape, and interesting mathematical/cosmological implications, it's taste is much milder and somewhat sweeter. It comes in heads like a cauliflower, only smaller, and you can cook and eat every bit, stems and leaves too, which are also very good. I usually steam it lightly, drizzle in a little olive oil or fresh butter and grate some peccorino over it.

But when I was very small, I was not such a broccoli enthusiast.

I don't know whether this memory is one of those real ones, or one of the kind your brain makes up later and convinces you is real, but one way or another I do remember it.

My dad used to take me for weekends when I was small, and on one of these occasions, I recall that we were to have dinner at his house and then go to the park to play on the slides and swings, at that time, my all-time favourite thing to do.

I asked him what was for dinner and he said, something, something... "and broccoli".

I said that I didn't like broccoli.

My father, being a guy and therefore having a rather more practical turn of mind than a woman would have, promptly responded, "OK, will you eat it if I give you five dollars?"

I agreed to this sensible transaction, believing that I was definitely coming out the winner. ("Five bucks!! Woot!"... I'm five, remember).

Well, it turned out that broccoli was actually wonderful, and I've had a lifelong love of the stuff ever since. But Fibonacci broccoli is an entirely different matter, a stage of evolution better. If you see it in some N. American yuppie specialty food store, get some immediately. You won't be sorry.


Mystical Poetry prize

Who knew there was such a thing? And it's worth some pretty big money too! €7000 Euros is nothing to sneeze at.
XXXII World Prize for Mystical Poetry Fernando Rielo in Rome

The proclamation of the XXXII Fernando Rielo World Prize for Mystical Poetry, which includes €7000, publication of the work and commemorative medal, will take place in Rome, on December 13th, at the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The event will be presided over by the Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In addition, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will be present in a message that will be read by his representative, Monsignor José Manuel Del Río Carrasco.

I'll be going to see the Hobbit, but anyone else who's around, I'm sure there'll be really great snacks.


You can't kill people to solve your problems

because it makes you go insane.

"...Webster traipsing around the complex in a devil costume dung Webster spread along his property line to deter pro-lifers, and ... this one of Webster’s friend verbally assaulting a black pro-lifer and yelling out at a mom entering the mill to abort, 'You’re doing the right thing, and God will honor you! I believe in you, Mom'."


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brits freak out

I have scant memories of the lower middle class life I lived with my family in Manchester c. 1972, but I do recall that it wasn't pretty. It really, really didn't look anything like Downton Abbey. One of the things I appreciate about YouTube is its ability to show us television from other periods.


kind of shows what life was like then in a middle class suburb of an English conurbation in the 70s/80s. And how they really felt about it.

Is it any wonder that the English are kind of freaking out right now? The only thing holding them together at all since the Anglican takeover and the forcible suppression of The Real, has been the social rules.

Well, we got rid of those, didn't we?


A fitting tribute

...and I agree, it's a pity we don't make music this big any more for TV.
The theme music is unmistakable: Four mysterious, tentative notes descend in pings, building to a fanfare that heralds the slowly approaching vessel. As the brasses gather excitement, the giant ship gathers speed, cruising past the starry backdrop, an exhortation to venture on to strange new worlds. And then the voice-over: "Space, the final frontier…"

It is, of course, the opening of the original "Star Trek," the most famously cultish TV series of all time. When it debuted in 1966, it was unlike anything previously seen on the small screen, and the music was no exception. In fact, on a show that had an average per-episode budget of less than $200,000, music was often essential to evoking the necessary sense of wonder.

H/T to our longtime bloggie friend Six-Bells John

BTW: regular readers may find it shocking, shocking! that I own only Season 1 of TOS...(Jingle bells...jingle bells...)


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Weird, removed from reality and spooky; indeed, slightly creepy

I've figured it out: Venice is Miss Havisham.

Indeed, if there ever were a place hiding a mad old woman living in a crumbling palace, dressed in motheaten finery, waiting in bitterness for her long lost grandeur to return,

you'd find her in Venice.

I'm home. Somewhat the worse for wear. I spent 12 hours stomping around the weird old place in my big tall black winter boots in the freezing cold on Saturday. My legs, not used to that much punishment (all stone streets, up the bridge stairs, down the bridge stairs, stomp, stomp stomp...) have entirely seized up. Am applying the ancient Grandma solution of a hot-water bottle under the knees.

I can see why people get obsessed with that creepy old place, and can't stop themselves from going back again and again. It's out of my system for now, but I suspect I'll be seized with the urge again at some point. But I can't tell you how good that strangely sterile and crumbling old city makes Rome and Santa Marinella look.

Rome is vibrantly alive. Venice is a ghost.

More later. I'm tired.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Happy Punching-Heretics Day!

St. Nicholas of Myra,
pugilist and patron of the fighty,

ora pro nobis.

During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius — a heretic — was of the idea that Christ was not divine, but rather a mere creature. The Council gave him leave to speak, to defend his claims, and he did, yammering on — I have no doubt — in a relentless flood of sophistry.

Jolly Old St. Nicholas — oh yes, he was a bishop — wasn’t having any of it. He tried to listen patiently, he really did, but Arius’ speech was just so wrong, that he was compelled to get up in the midst of it and, yep, punch him in the face.


I hold that this is the image of Santa Claus we need to reclaim. Because when you think about it, this was the original campaign to Put the Christ Back in Christmas. Arius would have made the nativity a non-event (woop-de-freakin-doo everyone, God made something else). He, majestically prefiguring the various sects of Happy-Holiday-ers, Winter Solstice-ers, and it’s-actually-a-pagan-holiday-ers (that’s the point, you muppets!) denied that Christmas need be a celebration of substance at all. So when the modern world promotes the consumerist image of Santa Claus over the image of Christ, it is not so much the wrath of Christ they should fear as it is the wrath of Santa Claus. He may very well climb down the chimney and wup yo ass.

Christmas is about this singular, terrible reality: That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In the spirit of St. Nick; accept no substitute.

All of which leads me to the belief that our Christmas carols need to be rewritten in light of the Grand Punch of St. Nicholas. It wouldn’t be too hard, we could sing: “Jolly Old St. Nicholas/Lend your fist this way,” ”I saw Dawkins rocked by Santa Claus/flying from the podium last niiighht,” and of course, ”He sees when you’re dissenting/he knows when you’ve blasphemed/he knows your schismatic doctrines/and so he’s gonna punch your face/Oh, you better not doubt/You better not divide/You better not bring scandal to the Holy Roman Catholic Church/I’m telling you why/Saaaanta Claus is smacking you down,” etc. etc.

So thank you St. Nicholas, for your inspired punch. Oh I almost forgot the end of the story. I’ll let Taylor Marshall, who writes over at Cantebury Tales tell it:

Now if that were the end of the story, we probably wouldn’t know about Saint Nicholas, and our children wouldn’t be asking him for presents. However, after Nicholas was deposed, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Nicholas who was being held in a prison cell for his fist-fight with the heretic.

Our Lord Jesus Christ asked Saint Nicholas, “Why are you here?” Nicholas responded, “Because I love you, my Lord and my God.”

Christ then presented Nicholas with his copy of the Gospels. Next, the Blessed Virgin vested Nicholas with his episcopal pallium, thus restoring him to his rank as a bishop.


Unrequited Love

It's a sad thing, but sometimes no matter how much you admire someone from afar, they're just gonna hate-cha. It's not fair, and it's not nice, but there you are. That's life on planet earth. Sigh. It's tough being a mean, nasty hater.

These two, Kate Stone and David Gluck, are doing some of the best Classical Realist painting of anyone I've found so far on the net.

They've got a show at the M Gallery of Fine Art in Charleston SC., though they live in lovely old Duncan, BC. the same town as my Dad, in fact.

Oh well.

(I wonder if I'll get another nasty note from the irony-challenged guardians of tolerance and diversity.)

Check it out.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012


I'm having a "Yay, I didn't die of cancer!" celebratory holiday in Venice.

When I was too sick to move off the sofa without help, I vowed I would go to Venice the first moment I was strong enough. This week, I've managed to get my medication down to a quarter of what I was on at the start, and I can consistently do two articles a day and ride my bike all over Rome and go to class after work, so the time has come.

There's an el-cheapo train ticket for the slow train from Termini up the Adriatic side of the Boot. Six hours from Rome and lots of sights.

Going up for Immaculate Conception at the FSSP parish there and will spend Friday and Saturday nights camped out at a convent and walk all over the weirdest city in the world.

Got my Blue Guide (thanks Greg!) and a map, and my sketchbook and my rubber walkin' boots and I'm all excited!

Maybe even get an Acqua Alta!

Wouldn't that be cool!

Last trip in July 2010

More more more!

And here's a video for you from a band I was crazy about when I was 27