>Of Interest To My Readers – One Hopes

>Gentle reader, I have some suggested events and reading material for you this morning:

– If you are in the Washington area, I encourage you to join me and drop by the Young Conservatives Coalition’s “Reaganpalooza” this Saturday at the Teatro Goldoni bar-restaurant on K Street. You must RSVP on the event website, and there is a $5.00 entry charge at the door. This year marks what would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, and there will be numerous events around the country this year to reflect on his life and legacy. This event in particular will be a fun and stylish evening in celebration of the great man, as well as a fantastic opportunity to meet new acquaintances – and of course, if you spot me in the crowd please do come up and introduce yourself!

– Hearty congratulations to my friend Matthew Alderman of New Liturgical Movement and Shrine of the Holy Whapping fame, whose art will be featured in the forthcoming new edition of The Roman Missal. Fifteen of Matt’s illustrations will be included in the publication, which is available now for pre-order. Those of my readers of a priestly vocation know that the new translation will be coming into effect this Advent, so why not order your copy today? And of course drop by Matthew Alderman Studios to see the wide range of past, present, and future projects by this gifted young man.

– Congratulations also to the ever-gracious Diana von Glahn from The Faithful Traveler, who along with her producer-husband David and their crew will be accompanying Philadelphia’s Cardinal Rigali on pilgrimage to the Holy Land next month, and filming their adventures for a new series on EWTN. Regular readers know that I much enjoyed the first season of The Faithful Traveler, and that Diana’s example encouraged me to start my ongoing Catholic Barcelona project. I am looking forward to seeing the results of their filming.

– Some amazing sculptures dating from the early 3rd Century A.D. were found yesterday during archaeological excavations on the Via Anagnina, in the outskirts of Rome, as shown in this slideshow released to the Italian press. They include a statue of a male god (probably Zeus), and a number of portrait busts believed to represent members of the Severan Dynasty, the family of the Emperors Septimus Severus and Caracalla, which ruled Rome from the murder of the Emperor Commodus in 193 A.D. – he of “Gladiator” fame – until the year 235 A.D. The statues were found together in a cache, carefully buried in the grounds of a villa belonging to a wealthy supporter of the imperial clan, though why they were hidden this way is unknown. They have now been taken to the National Museum in Rome for conservation and study before being put on display.

And finally:

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Eulalia, patroness of Barcelona, who was martyred in the city on February 12, 303 A.D. under the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The city’s Cathedral is dedicated both to her and to the Holy Cross, and her tomb is a magnificent shrine located directly beneath the high altar. Readers may not be aware however, that the story of her martyrdom produced one of the most striking Pre-Raphaelite paintings of the later 19th century.

As it happens, yesterday was the anniversary of the death of the English Royal Academician John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), who continued to develop Pre-Raphaelite painting into the 20th century through a mixing of the ideals of the Brotherhood with classical and Impressionist styles and techniques. Probably Waterhouse’s most famous painting is his 1888 masterpiece “The Lady of Shalott”, now in the collection of the Tate Britain museum. This is a haunting image and one which, in reproduction, I suspect a number of my readers may have hung on their wall at one time or another.

Earlier, in 1885, Waterhouse painted a disquieting work of particular interest to me and to other Catalans: his “Saint Eulalia”, which is also now at Tate Britain. It depicts the pious legend that, after the teenaged martyr was killed and her body left exposed in Barcelona’s Roman Forum, as a warning by the Emperor Diocletian against those who would practice Christianity, a miraculous snow fell, modestly covering her body. No doubt, it is not exactly a pleasant image, but nevertheless it is certainly a most arresting one. We are accustomed to seeing tidied-up images of the early martyrs, but the stark realism of what actually happened to them should give all of us pause, and an opportunity for reflection on our own level of faith.

“Saint Eulalia” by JW Waterhouse (1885)
Tate Britain, London

Review: The Faithful Traveler

Some time ago I was (virtually) introduced to Diana von Glahn – a fellow Notre Dame Law alum – who, along with her husband David, was working on a television film project entitled “The Faithful Traveler”. The series explores a number of the Catholic cathedrals, monasteries, and shrines in the United States, looking at their history, art and architecture, and in the course of so doing explores the lives of the people involved in the construction and use of these sites, as well as the theology behind their layout and decoration. One of the key elements in these films is to encourage people to make pilgrimages to these places, and in so doing help the pilgrim to understand and experience more deeply the Catholic faith.

Diana and David’s work in putting this series together inspired me to finally put fingers to keyboard and begin work on my other blog, Catholic Barcelona, which debuted last autumn. Fortunately no one has asked me to be on television, as I would be horrid in front of the camera, but the von Glahns’ example encouraged me to take up the work of cataloging in English the history of the numerous Catholic historical sites in the city of Barcelona. I continue to do so with the similar hope of encouraging pilgrims to visit these places, which are too often overlooked by guidebooks.

Unlike yours truly, however, Diana is very comfortable in front of the cameras; her friendliness, her painstaking research, and her deeply held faith come shining through in this series, which was broadcast on EWTN. Now the entire EWTN series is available on a 2-DVD set to purchase through The Faithful Traveler website, and I want to strongly encourage my readers to consider obtaining a copy for yourselves. Among the 13 pilgrimage sites visited in these films are St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York (including both the old and new Cathedrals); the very distinct Cathedrals of Baltimore and Newark; the shrines of American saints St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Katherine Drexel, and St. John Neumann; and many others. Each of the episodes provides visitors with tours of the sites, as well as interesting history about the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States, and pauses to reflect on the teachings of the Church and their impact on the life of the faithful Catholic, from the Eucharist to Confession to the Incarnation.

While united by a common purpose, each of the shows differs slightly from the next, thereby avoiding a kind of formulaic narrative that is too often apparent in most travel programs. The music used in the films reflects a broad diversity of styles, from contemporary to traditional, and in many instances featuring the choirs of the featured pilgrimage spots themselves. Diana takes the viewer around the main public areas of these sites, but also gives us access to parts of these buildings which regular visitors may not normally get to see, or pauses to show us something which we might otherwise miss unless we had done careful research before our arrival.

For example, being something of a habitué of the Soho/NoLITa area of New York City, I have been to Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral previously. However I had never understood why there was a great wall built around the church, or why it had been preserved following the development and expansion of Manhattan northward; the anti-Catholic riots of the 1830’s and the part the parishioners of the Cathedral played in defending the site is explained in detail in the episode dealing with the church. Similarly, I had never noticed that there was the grave of a bishop outside the entrance to the building, and Diana paid a gracious tribute to the man buried outside of it in explaining why he rests where he does.

In the visit to the magnificent Gothic Revival parish church of St. Alphonsus Liguori in downtown Baltimore, the building is allowed the opportunity to speak to us through loving shots of the myriad of elaborate details that characterize the structure, and what a stunning structure it is. I have not been to Baltimore for some time, but the overwhelming beauty of this church has placed it at the top of my must-see list for the next time I get to Charm City. It is very likely that but for this series, I would probably never have heard of this place.

Yet this episode, like the others in the series, is not just about looking at pretty pictures: it is about the people associated with it, as well. The opportunity is taken in the film to sit down with its pastor and lay director of development to talk about the history of the parish, its connection with St. John Neumann and Blessed Francis Seelos, as well as how the parish has changed over the years and what it means to the people of Baltimore today. And you will not soon forget the charming sight of a very small boy with very thick spectacles, attempting to conduct the parish choir in the choir loft.

While her energy and enthusiasm will endear Diana to young adults, children and adolescents, this is by no means a program designed for younger people; it is certainly universal. The breadth of the material and the excellent production values will appeal to any age. Diana never over- or under-estimates the viewer’s knowledge and understanding of theological subjects, church history, or art and architectural terms. Even someone like myself, who knows a fair amount about the terminology and construction methods used in church building, found myself surprised to learn a number of interesting facts about topics such as the use of color in ceiling decoration and the meaning of iconographic symbols which I had seen but never thought about previously.

Whether you are interested in learning about the history or artistic efforts of the Catholic Church in America, in planning pilgrimages to some of the shrines located on this side of the pond, or simply having a spiritual retreat from the privacy and comfort of your couch, The Faithful Traveler is a series which will not disappoint. You will learn a great deal, but I daresay you will also be encouraged to visit the places featured in this series – even if you have visited many times before – and look at them with new eyes. It is a series which will serve individuals, parishes, schools and groups as a wonderful teaching tool, and also as a touchstone for meaningful conversations and reflections upon our Catholic Faith.

>Cronyism for Your Consideration

>Being blessed with a surfeit of interesting reading material over the last 24 hours, The Courtier wishes to direct the reader’s attention to the following articles in a blatant bit of cronyism. He has no intention of apologizing for this, as he has had many friends do the same for him. Among those of us who scribble, albeit electronically, it may help to form new connections that will produce much fruit; hopefully St. Isidore of Seville, patron of the internet and computer users, will keep us in his prayers.

Michael Fragoso at Public Discourse
Sr. Fragoso explains in detail why recent FDA approval of the drug Ella for use as a delayed artificial contraceptive is sidestepping the fact that such drugs induce abortions.

The Rev. Gregory Schaffer at GW Catholic
Father Greg, who is in residence at The Courtier’s parish of St. Stephen Martyr and is the Chaplain of George Washington University’s Newman Center, gave an excellent homily on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady this past Sunday, which The Courtier was privileged to hear for himself; the text of the homily is well-worth reading.

Diana von Glahn at The Faithful Traveller
Mrs. von Glahn is understandably excited because the DVD’s are now available of the informative and entertaining “The Faithful Traveler” television series shown on EWTN.

St. Isidore of Seville by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, painted 1655
Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede, Seville