Friday, July 31, 2015

A prayer

Today is the feast of the great St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order.

A suggested prayer:

O St Ignatius, grant that thy precious remains, as they spin in thy grave, might provide renewable energy for the whole world.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You can't make it up

A church refreshed: A dispatch from an American Catholic future.

"Song leader Sophia Santiago stood to the right of the altar of St. Gertrude Church in Chicago and invited those in the crowded pews and in folding chairs to greet their neighbors. 'All are welcome,' she proclaimed.

"To the simple notes of a single piano, the parish choir and the congregation sang a sweet, lilting version of "Come to the Water" as liturgical dancers, altar servers, ministers of the word, parish chancellor Emma Okere and pastor Fr. Antonio Fitzgerald processed up the center aisle. The song filled the soaring interior of the 131-year-old structure. On a banner high behind the altar, in large, easily readable lettering, was a quotation from Pope Francis: 'Who am I to judge?'

"This was one of thousands of celebrations across the globe marking 50 years of rejuvenation and renewal dating from the election of Pope Francis in 2013, popularly called 'refreshment of the faith.'"

At first I thought it was a parody, and then I noticed that it was NCR, and had to laugh. These are the people forever locked in the bleak mid-winter of 1978. Patrick Reardon, apparently stung a little by the fact that the commbox instantly filled up with real Catholics laughing at him, instead of the usual NCR crowd of the greying-dreadlocked, said that he doesn't see what's wrong with it, the Chicago archdiocese, after all, is going broke and there's no one in the pews.

How it has managed, all through the last five decades, to fail to cross the minds of these people that it is precisely the kind of feminized marshmallow rubbish they have offered that has driven Catholics out of their Churches. Think about it for a second, Pat. What is the average age of the only people left in the world who still go to stuff like this?

Need some help working it out?

Good thing we got iPhones and Youtube, huh?

I've never been able to understand the inability of these ambered 70s "progressives" to see the evidence right in front of their faces. The polyester pant-suited anti-nuns who keep pouring more money into newer and shinier "formation programmes" for their orders, concocted by the very most up-to-date psychological experts, and who can't understand why no one comes. The Patrick Reardons who are incapable of seeing the plain fact that the parishes (the ones that are allowed to flourish without being stamped out by their so very loving and merciful bishops) that have retained even a modicum of traditional Catholicity are jammed with people, (young people, mostly married and often crawling with babies).

Dude, the reason the AD of Chi is broke, the reason there's no one in the pews, is because of this crap. The thing is, and obviously I'm not alone here, if you want me to get out of bed on a Sunday morning for this ridiculous chick-centered, nursery-school nanny-fest - and you've already abolished all the moral law - why shouldn't I go to the pub instead? I'll get a lot better music, there's beer and it'll be more fun, and I don't have to get out of bed before noon. And I don't have to be lectured on my failure to comply by a pinch-faced, beta-male feminist in a chasuble.

If all it's about is friendly warmth and "welcome" and togetherness, as Flannery O'Connor is rumoured to have said, "then to hell with it."


Live as though God is real

Live as though you're really going to live forever.

Live for eternity. Start now.


New Mac

Dear, lovely readers, who have supported me so kindly and generously for so many years,

just a quick little thank you for all the help that has come in to cover the cost of the Mac repair. In the end, it was decided that it was best to replace the machine entirely. The old one is still mostly functional, and can be used with some additional hardware as a home entertainment unit, but its days of getting carted around the world on the back of my bike are over.

I type to you today from a brand new Mac Air, which is great, but will take a little paying-for. The friend who purchased it for me isn't really wealthy, and I want to pay him back as much and as soon as possible, so your assistance has been a huge help. Thank you.


Saturday, July 25, 2015


Procession through the town on the Festa di Sant Antonio

Posted by Hilary White on Monday, 26 January 2015
What I like about Norcia is not only the food, the people, the weather, the monks, but the culture. This is a place that loves its traditions, and keeps them very consciously as a shield against the outer world that is becoming denuded of unique traditional life.

This is is a little video I took last winter on the Festa di Sant'Antonio when the townspeople bring their animals up to the monastery of St. Anthony and the priest blesses them all, and they have a little festa.


Friday, July 24, 2015

A long, long time ago, the first time I ever visited a cloistered monastery of nuns, the abbess who was leading our retreat told us to let our minds sit gently on the words of the psalms as they were being chanted in the Office. Don't try to grip it too tightly, that is force yourself to concentrate too hard, but let our minds take it in easily, like a cool breeze. She said that at some point during the retreat a phrase or verse might start to occupy our thoughts, and this was what was usually meant by allowing God to "speak to your heart".

Naturally, being young keeners, we three girls enthusiastically set about concentrating very hard on energetically allowing our minds to "float gently," which makes me smile now.

But Dom Calvet, (who once wrote an encouraging note to me) says here that this good abbess was quite right, and it has come about at last, now that I am no longer a young keener, that I also have a single line of the psalms rolling slowly back and forth in my mind, again and again.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at thy altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.


ONE DAY, as we were asking a Carmelite sister to tell us how she made her prayer, her heart to heart with the Lord, she responded that, for thirty-five years, one phrase of the Gospel was enough for her, and she returned to it without ceasing. It seemed to her that drawing on another source would be to be unfaithful to her particular vocation, or at least to the attraction which the Lord had given to her for her time of mental prayer. It is very true that the interior life, more than a response to passing impulses, is chiefly an effort to persevere in the direction of a continuous line flowing from the first grace.

The phrase that our Carmelite was taking in this way was drawn from the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The whole doctrine of salvation is contained in these few words: the divine paternity, the redemptive Incarnation, the role of faith, the drama of reprobation and the perspective of eternal happiness. The ancients gave a name to this verse of the Gospel of Saint John: they called it Evangelium in nuce, the Gospel in a nutshell.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Off for a bit...

The screen of my 2010 Mac, that has been threatening to die for the last six months, has finally this morning become almost unusable. It's currently only showing half of any page that's open.

So, the Mac is taking a little trip down to Rome to spend a while in the Mac store getting fixed, and I am staying here to hang with the kitties and will be computerless until it comes home.

But here's the catch. I could really use a little help paying for the fix. It's off warranty and the last fix I did (new keyboard and trackpad) was 400 Euros.

If anyone could see their way to dropping a few bucks in the paypal tip jar, that would be a great help. Send me an email at and I can give you the info.

Thanks, and talk to y'all soon.


Saturday, July 18, 2015


This is a capital from a 15th century graduale (in the British Library,) with a little miniature portrait of St. Benedict and there's a hedgehog. Why is there a hedgehog? Because they're cute and people like 'em, that's why.

That's the middle ages.

I'm getting better with gouache, and having fun with marginalia. This is my version of a 12th century bunny playing an oboe.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Night sky over Norcia last night by my buddy, Emanuele Persiani. I commented: "WOW! Ho bisogno di guardare verso il cielo più spesso!" I should look up into the sky more often!

He replies, "soprattutto quando non c'è la luna!" Especially when there's no moon.

This neat moon-phase calendar says we're two days away from the dark-night. Just a little sliver left.

“I know that I am mortal by nature, and ephemeral; but when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies I no longer touch the earth with my feet: I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia”
― Ptolemy, Almagest


Monday, July 13, 2015

St. Henry II, co-patron of Benedictine Oblates

Crown of Henry II, Emperor, Oblate, Monk and Patron of Benedictine Oblates

This from Vultus Christi:

Benedictine Oblates living and working in the world have two holy patrons: Saint Francesca of Rome whom we celebrated in March, and today’s Saint Henry, Emperor.

Holy Kings
Saint Henry, whom we keep today, on July 13th, is the first of a series of holy kings who begin to make their appearance in the calendar of the Time after Pentecost, precisely when, at Matins, we begin reading the story of Solomon, Israel’s wise and glorious King, the builder of the Temple.

On August 25th we shall celebrate King Saint Louis of France; on September 28th, the Martyr King Saint Wenceslaus; on October 13th, King Saint Edward; and on October 21st, Blessed Karl of Austria. What do all these kings in the Kingdom of Heaven have in common? With the exception of Saint Wenceslaus who, as a martyr, is honoured with the Mass In Virtute, from the Common of Martyrs, they all have the Mass Os Iusti, from the Common of Confessors.

An Authentic Spiritual Portrait
The first place to look for an authentic spiritual portrait of any saint is in the liturgical texts appointed for his feastday. From the Mass Os Iusti, we learn that Saint Henry meditated the revelation of Divine Wisdom, he spoke rightly, and held the Word of God ever in his heart (Introit, Psalm 36:30–31). He was not obsessed with the accumulation of wealth; he used his goods to distribute alms to the poor (Epistle, Ecclesiasticus 31:8–11); he flourished like the palm tree with its thousands of luxuriant blossoms (Gradual, Psalm 91:13–14). (A single palm tree bears multiple clusters of flowers; each cluster contains as many as 10,000 flowers.) He stood fast in the face of temptation (Alleluia, James 1:12) and relied on the truth and mercy of God when confronted with the lies and hardheartedness of men (Offertory, Psalm 88:25). Finally, when the Lord came for his good earthly king, he found him keeping watch; in the kingdom of heaven, he has placed him over all his goods (Communion, Matthew 14:46–47).

Keeping Watch
One of the things related about Saint Henry is that, on arriving in any town, he would spend his entire first night there in a vigil of prayer in a church dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. When he arrived in Rome in 1014, he spent the night in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, Rome’s Bethlehem. While keeping vigil, he saw the “Sovereign and Eternal Priest-Child Jesus” enter to celebrate the Holy Mysteries. Saints Lawrence and Vincent assisted Our Lord as deacons. A throng of saints filled the basilica; Angels chanted in choir. It is noteworthy that in Henry’s vision Christ the Priest is a Child. One wonders if he was not keeping vigil before the altar of the Crib of the Infant Jesus in Saint Mary Major, a place of grace for countess souls through the ages.

Touched by the Book of the Gospels
Henry’s vision is very much like those of Saint Gertrude the Great: a pulling back of the veil, a glimpse of “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Corinthians 2:9). After the Gospel, an Angel bearing the book of the Gospels was sent to Henry by the Mother of God. Normally, one kisses the book of the Gospels. Instead the Angel touched Saint Henry’s thigh with it, saying, “Accept this sign of God’s love for your chastity and justice.” From that moment on, Henry limped like Jacob after his night vigil spent wrestling with the angel (cf. Genesis 32:24-25). How fascinating — and how consistent with God’s dealings with men — that a mark of weakness should be the sign of a special grace!

The Oblate EmperorHenry was crowned Emperor in Saint Peter’s Basilica by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014. Henry cherished Benedictine life, spending time in monasteries whenever he could. His greatest joy was to occupy a stall in choir and join the monks in singing the Divine Office. Henry founded monasteries throughout the Empire and endowed them liberally. While detained at Monte Cassino by illness, he was miraculously cured through the intercession of Saint Benedict. Saint Henry’s feast, falling within the Octave of Saint Benedict, is a reminder of the special bond that united him with our glorious Patriarch. Saint Henry became an oblate of the Abbey of Cluny and then asked to make profession as monk at the Abbey of Saint-Vanne. The abbot received him as a monk, and then ordered him, in the name of obedience, to take his place again on the imperial throne.

Set Your Mind on Things That Are AboveLiving in virginity with his wife Saint Cunegonda, Saint Henry preserved the heart of a monk. Limping through life, because of his thigh touched by the Angel bearing the Book of the Gospels, Saint Henry represents every man who, while living in the world, is not entirely at home in it. “Set your minds on things that are above,” says the Apostle, “not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:3)

In what way was Saint Henry a monk in the midst of the world? He understood that his basic task as a Christian was to seek the Face of Christ. The Face of the Child Christ was shown him in that mysterious dream by night in Saint Mary Major. The Child Christ he saw was also the High Priest ascending the altar for the Holy Sacrifice. As an Oblate, Saint Henry surely knew that, in every Mass, his place was on the corporal, close by the bread and the chalice. The Child-Priest, in raising the paten and the chalice heavenward was lifting up Henry’s life, making it an oblation to the Father. He will do the same for us today. We have only to seek His Face and abandon ourselves into His hands.


Mad science

Electrocuting mushrooms.

Lightning Makes Mushrooms Multiply

...according to ongoing research that offers a solid scientific basis for Japanese farming lore.

As part of a four-year study, scientists in northern Japan have been bombarding a variety of mushrooms in lab-based garden plots with artificially induced lightning to see if electricity actually makes the fungi multiply.

(See pictures of Brazilian mushrooms that glow in the dark.)

The latest results show that lightning-strength jolts of electricity can more than double the yield of certain mushroom species compared with conventional cultivation methods.

"We have tried these experiments with ten types of mushroom so far and have found that it is effective in eight species," said Koichi Takaki, an associate professor in engineering at Iwate University.

It's interesting, I spose, but what I really want to see is videos of Japanese scientists with a lot of sticky-outy hair, wearing goggles and yelling "THROW THE SWITCH!!"

That's what science is supposed to look like.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Happy B-Day, everybody!

Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep".
Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
"Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts".
And again,
"Whoever has ears to hear,
hear what the Spirit says to the churches".
And what does He say?
"Come, My children, listen to Me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord".
"Run while you have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death overtake you"


Thursday, July 09, 2015

Hilary's Kushari

My favourite spiritual website/blog, City Desert, has an interesting post about what sort of food the ancient desert hermit monks would have eaten while living in their caves in the Egyptian desert back in the day. One tends to overlook these practical things while reading the lives of these extraordinary saints. But (barring miraculous interventions) even a levitating, bilocating mystic gotta eat.

It's got all kinds of interesting links to the foods that would have been eaten in Egypt in late antiquity and early Christian period.

It also mentions a dish that is still the "Egyptian national dish" and which many of us will be familiar with from the local felafel, Lebanese take-away shop: kushari. It's basically, just rice, lentils, salt and fried onions and garlic with olive oil and lemon. These days it's usually served with a dollop of tomato sauce.

Being a bit broke, I did a version of it tonight that was really good.


A cup of the rice/millet/buckwheat combo you picked up on a whim in the healthfood section the other day
two cups water
1 cup lentils cooked in tomato sauce
1 onion chopped
three cloves garlic chopped
grated rind of 1/2 a lemon, minced very fine
handful of fresh mint leaves
1/4 of a vegetale bullion cube
handful of coriander seeds, ground
two small tomatoes, sliced
a bit of red onion, sliced
tobasco and/or plain yogurt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine onions, garlic and olive oil and saute until the veg is softened. Throw in the rice and coriander and the bullion cube and let it cook in the oil a bit. Add the two cups of water and cover, reduce heat to minimum and let it steam up for about 20 mins. In a nice big dish, spoon up a layer of the rice and add a big spoonful of the lentils in a well in the middle. Shake a little tobasco over to taste, and add a big dollop of plain yogurt on top of the lentils. Sprinkle the red onion over all, and top with the sliced tomatoes.


SO good!

Things to add: Chopped parsley, cucumber or fennel


I'm growing more and more interested in the idea that the principles of asceticism can and maybe ought to be applied to our lives as laymen living the Christian life in the world. I was talking to one of the monks the other day about "what makes a monk a monk," and he said that two physical things are really important, fasting and a regular schedule.

Of course, fasting for us regular folks has to take into account a lot of things, esp if you are, shall we say, of a certain age and have experienced health issues and whatnot. But the stuff I've been reading lately in the medical research world all say that a lifetime of fairly low calorie intake can have huge health benefits. Really, regular fasting isn't bad for you at all, done sensibly.

One of the things to remember, of course, is the spiritual requirements. St. Philip Neri teaches that any ascetical or penitential action taken absolutely must be done only with the permission of a religious superior. If you just do it on your own, the only result will be a very undesirable one; spiritual pride. Permission, obedience that is, is totally central to any devotional practice. Most of the time, of course, we have the normal precepts and requirements of the Faith, particularly as they are attached to the liturgical year, so of course, special permissions don't have to be granted to follow the normal life of the Catholic Church. But seriously, anything at all beyond that is very unwise to take on without supervision by competent authority.

Here's a few handy rules of thumb that the City Desert website suggests with regards regulating one's eating habits:

The basic principles, which can (and probably should) be applied by contemporary Hermits, were that diet needed to be based on ingredients that were:

• simple – it was not intended to be “gourmet cooking”, nor to require unnecessary expenditure of resources, time or effort in preparation;

• sustainable – any ingredients needed to be able to survive (often for long periods) in the desert without refrigeration, preserving or canning (thus, dried lentils or chickpeas are excellent resources)(although olives might be preserved in oil, or vegetables in brine);

• accessible – ingredients needed to be easily accessible either from the Hermit’s own garden or from local suppliers close-by;

• seasonal – given the lack of means of storage for anything not dry, only seasonal produce could usually be used;

• cheap – Hermits lived with minimal resources and could only buy the cheapest (which also means the best value for money) food;

• nutritious – since Hermits ate frugally (and often infrequently), the diet needed to provide maximum nutrition with minimal quantity and cost (again, lentils are an excellent resource in this regard).


Laudes Divinae

So, both my appointments, for various reasons, got cancelled today and I now find myself with a free day. Having expected someone over, I have even done all the housework this morning before ten am. Not wanting to waste a windfall, I think today's the day I'll finally get around to a project that's been brewing.

Every Sunday, I've been attending the Solemn Vespers and Benediction at the Basilica, and the monks do a very nice Gregorian version of the Divine Praises which I'd like to sing along to. The trouble is that I've never learned it in Latin. So I think today as a bit of calligraphy practice, I'm going to make the card I keep thinking I should make.

Benedictus Deus.
Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius.
Benedictus Jesus Christus, verus Deus et verus homo.
Benedictum Nomen Jesu.
Benedictum Cor eius sacratissimum.
Benedictus Sanguis eius pretiosissimus.
Benedictus Jesus in sanctissimo altaris Sacramento.
Benedictus Sanctus Spiritus, Paraclitus.
Benedicta excelsa Mater Dei, Maria sanctissima.
Benedicta sancta eius et immaculata Conceptio.
Benedicta eius gloriosa Assumptio.
Benedictum nomen Mariae, Virginis et Matris.
Benedictus sanctus Ioseph, eius castissimus Sponsus.
Benedictus Deus in Angelis suis, et in Sanctis suis.

The tune, sung by the monks of Pluscarden, can be found here.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

The peaceable kingdom

There's a thing about Norcia that is wonderful but hidden, and something you won't realise until you've been here a little while and thought about it. Any town where there's a lot of people with Down's, working at jobs in shops, strolling in the evening with family, going to Mass, shopping and just being regular folks, is a town you want to live in.

It means they don't kill people here who the world thinks don't measure up. It means they cherish and love their children, and don't hold up a genetic measuring stick.

It's also a pretty good indication that it's also place where you're allowed to be a little less perfect than the world's idea of perfect.


Saturday, July 04, 2015

A world forgotten...

When I was a kid, my mother and I were surrounded by quite a wonderful collection of oddballs. Only a few of them were horrible hippie/feminists bent on world domination (sadly, these had a rather disproportionate influence). Quite a lot of them, it being Victoria, were highly educated older English people of the first half of the 20th century, who themselves were influenced by William Morris's Arts and Crafts movement and were great lovers of history and art. I was educated in large part by my mere proximity to these intelligent and cultured people, who showered me constantly with books. (Books that are today, I see from Amazon and Ebay, quite valuable collectors objects themselves...Oh well...)

A few days ago, I tried out my new calligraphy pen and to my surprise could still cut a halfway decent letter. I noted on FB that I was surprised both that I could do this, and that I had somehow forgotten that I could. Not only had I all but forgotten that I knew how to do this, but I had obviously completely forgotten where I picked up the skill.

Last night, in my digging around the innernets for stuff about medieval manuscripts, I discovered a heretofore forgotten book that has been made available in its entirety online by the good offices of the Kelly Library at the University of Toronto. As I flicked delightedly through, I realised instantly that I recognised every page of it. This was one of the books that I had been given by my mother's older friends as a child, and it all came flooding back to me.

Once I showed an interest, they also gave me materials, and I now remember hours and hours sitting at the dining room table on hot afternoons just like this one, poring carefully over the illustrations and meticulously copying the letters and forms.

Writing Illuminating and Lettering, by William Johnston, who is known today in the circles as the "father" of modern calligraphy, who almost single-handedly revived the art, and contributed enormously to the early 20th century revival of interest in all things medieval that was to strongly influence Tolkien. The book was first published in 1906, and I'm fairly certain that I had one of the early editions. 

It was a strange experience flipping through the pages electronically, and seeing again the images that had been completely dug into my synapses before I was ten. It transported me back to a time when I was very certain about who I was, and who God was,  before my teenage apostasy and the near-ruination of my life, the derailment from which I am only now recovering.

It's a strange thing to realise that you were more right about the universe, more authentically yourself and more in line with the genuine ordering of All Things, when you were ten than when you were 35.  And equally strange to start going back to those original mental conditions in middle age. But it's a strange world we've created, and it confuses the young. 

The other day I was chatting with Fr. Cassian on the steps of the Basilica after Mass, and we fell to lamenting the terrible effects of the anti-culture on young people. I said that I felt terribly sorry for them, and that I mostly wrote with a mind to helping them avoid the great fallacies and Fantasies of our time. He said, "Oh yes! I remember being young, and it was awful." We both agreed that it was much better over as soon as possible, so one could return to the sensible and straightforward things we first learned. 


Practice, practice, practice...
I had, of course, forgotten the sublime pleasure of spending hours practicing calligraphy. I'm working on developing a style to use with my Saint Paintings, that is turning out to be a combination of half uncials and mid-Gothic.  I'm finding the "d"s quite tricky. 

Of course, as with everything else in our times, if you want to learn something, there's a YouTube video to help:

Art and Fear
I told a new friend here in Norcia about the plans for the Saint Paintings and said I was feeling rather intimidated by the whole thing. The notion of actually making a living as a painter is ... well... it seems a little fantastic. She gave me an excellent suggestion, saying that I should think of it as "doing crafts". It's a perfect solution. I know how to "do crafts"! We all do, right? We did it in kindergarten. It's easy and fun. 

Sometimes you just have to learn how to trick your brain. 

I'm revisiting a book one of you all sent me a few years ago called Art and Fear, a little slim volume that addresses that stuff your brain does to you when you want to make art but are so afraid of failure you don't try. It's been translated int an astonishing array of languages and has had 12 printings, so it seems it's not just me.

Technical stuff...

I'm also having quite a wonderful time mucking about with a new medium. I'd taken a little weekend workshop in illuminating when I was about 11, and I remember for many years practising with Windsor and Newton drawing inks. The instructor said that the best medium available in modern art suppliers, the one that most closely approximated what the medieval scribes used (and wasn't too expensive) was gouache, but I never tried it at the time. 

But when I started this project, I saw that the local stationer's here in town had a good supply of gouache tubes, and that it wasn't very expensive, so a few weeks ago, I dug them out of the art cupboard, and I'm finding that they're fantastic. Exactly suited to this project. Easy to use, opaque colour that you can use like oil paints or dilute and use more like watercolours. When they dry on the palette you can reconstitute them with a drop of water, and they dry in minutes so there's no long waits between painting sessions. You can paint over mistakes quite easily, and do exactly the same techniques of colour mixing as with oils. 

For glazes and washes they're not so good, because once you dilute it too much, all you really get is the chalky medium and very little pigment, which turns out just sort of a ghostly, chalky pallor. I've figured out how to deal with this, however, and will finish the main parts in gouache, do a coating of fissativo to set the gouache, and then use pure watercolour as a light glaze over top to deepen the colours.

The dull matte finish of gouache doesn't really appeal to me much, having been trained to paint with oils, and because they stay "active" more or less forever, you normally have to put gouache paintings under glass; a single drop of water on them can ruin the painting even years after it's finished. I don't want to bother with framing under glass, and don't think the ceramic tiles would do well in such contraptions anyway. But I've solved both of these problems with the simple application of an acrylic varnish that brings out the beautiful jewel-like colours that it had when wet, and gives it a nice low-gloss finish and protects them. 

But in general, these little drawbacks are nothing compared to the ease of gouache as a medium, and it's affordability. A 20 ml tube of artists' gouache goes for 4 to 10 Euros, compared to comparable oils that can be as high as 50 E a tube, and sometimes more.

Here's a nice American chap who has taught himself to paint and did most of his landscape work in gouache...

And here's someone else who mainly does gouache and watercolour, plein-air, which I've not yet worked up the nerve to try.

You can see that the medium's very "dry" appearance lends itself brilliantly to the style of the 19th century realists. It's very Sargent-y.


Also, I wonder if someone couldn't perhaps see their way to making me one of these.

Or this one would do, 

These, apparently, are miniatures, but I could do with one full size. 



Friday, July 03, 2015

Ok, oh-KAY already!

Morning snoozy time on the lap while I have my coffee and Office

I use my old wheelchair as a desk chair, and they like to sleep on my feet on the footrest. This is two of them.

I foresee quite a bit of this.

I'm trying to work... 

They like to use the padded cat-carrier as a play house and a place to snooze.

What would you do?

How do you deal with this problem: you have an old friend who wants to re-connect. You really care very much for this person. He has enormously good qualities and is loyal and decent, but he suffers from such ferocious anxiety and other emotional disorders - mainly caused by "family of origin issues" - that it makes him manipulative and in some ways actually kind of dangerous to know. A long time ago, you were pushed to making the drastic measure of cutting off all contact because of it all. It was very painful because for a while you'd been fairly close.

He isn't aware of the motives for most of his more difficult behaviour, and spends a lot of time fairly confused about why he can't keep his friends and relationships better. He suffers a lot because of the awful lies his evil brain tells him all the time.

When he's relaxed and not feeling threatened he is smart, fun, interested in the same kinds of things and a genuinely warm and good soul. On the side of the angels, and all that.

He's also very lonely because of his brain-troubles and has reached out to you on FB.

What would you do?


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Why chant?

Fr. Cassian Folsom, Prior of the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, on why this particular form of music is ideal for the spiritual life:

Why do we sing? St. Augustine says: Cantare amantis est: a good paraphrase might be: "only the lover sings." Our singing is the expression of our love-longing for God. Now the texts we sing are primarily Scriptural, and the melodies are very ancient, some of them technically demanding. The result is that there is plenty of material both for the intellect and the heart. We pray with our lips, with our bodies, with our emotions and with our minds...

The music is sacred music, which means it doesn't resemble secular musical forms. So worshipers encounter a kind of music -- with its specific melodies, rhythms and tonalities -- that removes them from the ordinary and places them in the realm of the holy. Our monastery has chosen the classical repertoire of Gregorian chant because of its extraordinary beauty and its capacity to draw the listener into prayer.

And on religious life:

What do you think it is about your monastery that attracts Young Monks?

I think it's always been the case that young people tend to be idealistic, enthusiastic, generous, critical of the status-quo, and eager to change the world. Our way of life offers a concrete proposal: "Do you want to give your life to God in a radical way? Here's a great way to do it." Ours is a young community (the average age is 33) and like attracts like.

For those that do not understand the life of a Monk can you give some
insight into your world?

The Gospel of John interprets the actions of Jesus by referring to a saying of Jeremiah the prophet: "Zeal for thy house consumes me!" (Jn 2:17). That's what motivates the monk: zeal for God, desire for God, love-longing you might say. All the tools of monastic prayer and asceticism flow from this passion for God. The monastic charism of hospitality inspires us to share this zeal with others. People flock to the monastery from far and wide. They're not looking for us monks, they're looking for God. So our task is to become transparent, so that our own weakness and sins don't get in the way of God's powerful action in the world.


What photoshop should always be used for