Sweet Miscellany

Amuse-Bouche For August

It is August. This is the time of year to loll in a hammock, take bribes, and be fanned by eunuchs. But I have no hammock. No one is coming forward with a bribe. And all the eunuchs are clustered where they have always been—in high places, far from here and out of reach. Still, I can dream. In reality, there is no alternative to getting on with the job. This time, though, hot weather gives me a plausible excuse to put aside a proper essay and just . Continue Reading
P.T. Barnum & Vatican Productions

P.T. Barnum gave us Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale. The Vatican has given us the Pope of Peace, headed for Egypt later this month. And the Pope of Hearts will perform at Fatima in May. The show is on the road. How much longer before we have The Singing Pope? Light opera will do. With Laudato Sí in mind, a libretto in the spirit of the “Major-General’s Song” in The Pirates of Penzance would suit: “I am the very model of a modern Major-General, / I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral.”   Amoris Laetitia presents more subtle complications but lines from HMS Pinafore might point the way: “Let the air with joy be laden, / Rend with songs the air above, / For the union of a maiden / With the man who owns her love.” The librettist will have to add something about the proprietary lover’s previous wife, the abandoned Buttercup. Continue Reading
I Do Not Like Thee . . .

I do not like thee, Dr. Fell, The reason why, I cannot tell; But this I know, and know full well, I do not like thee, Dr. Fell. —Nursery Rhyme c. 1860 // We are enjoined to love one another. Thankfully, we are not commanded to like each other. Loving and liking are quite different orders of response. One abides; the other shifts about, subject to the weather of our lives and changing as we change. Georgiana Berkeley. Watercolor added to portraits of Louisa and Cecilia Cavendish (c. Continue Reading
Matt Talbot

Within a year of Matt Talbot’s death, the first biography of his life appeared. Written so soon after death, the author, Sir Joseph Glynn, had access to people who knew him. Publication of that first brief version triggered immediate and wide-spread devotion. Matt’s pauper’s grave–since moved–became an urgent pilgrimage site. As early as 1931 the Archbishop of Dublin initiated formal inquiries into his sanctity and asked that any “favors” received through his intercession be reported to him. But how are such favors recognized? Continue Reading
Venerable Matt Talbot

Have you met Matt Talbot? I have just met him myself. Rummaging through the book bins in my local dump recycling center, I found a small red pamphlet Matt Talbot, Alcoholic. Subtitled The Story of a Slave to Alcohol Who Became a Comrade of Christ’s, it was written in 1947 by Albert H. Dolan, a Carmelite priest sympathetic to the labor movement of the era and to the newly formed Alcoholics Anonymous. The red pulp cover, the length of the title, the graphics, the old imprimatur by Chicago’s esteemed Cardinal Stritch—how could it be left for the shredder? Continue Reading