My recent post on Saint Catherine of Siena prompted several quizzical—not to say unhappy— letters. There seems a common conviction that Catherine’s title “Doctor of the Church” is long-standing. In tandem with that misbelief comes confidence that the very title refutes any claim that the saint was illiterate. Surely the scholarship is faulty! Let us look. “Doctor” is an honorific that ranks Catherine alongside the founding luminaries in the Church’s intellectual history: Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory I, and Jerome. Because it grants her theological and doctrine significance equal to these four giants (plus some thirty other Doctors, including ones from the East), there exists the impression that her “doctorate” is a venerable tradition that goes way back. Continue Reading
Fra Filippo’s resplendent Madonna della Cintola, in the previous post, sent me to a favorite passage in The Waning of the Middle Ages. Johan Huizinga‘s portrait of the linchpins of the medieval world—the ideas that bound together religion, art, and literature—has a few things to say about relics. The significance of them to the culture that embraced them is an integral part of medieval civilization.
The distinctly corporeal conception of the saints was accentuated by the veneration of their relics, not only permitted by the Church but forming an integral part of religion.Continue Reading
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” Nothing salutes the historian’s task more cogently than that lapidary first sentence of L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go Between. In fairness to Filippo Lippi, there is more to say. And the honor of history demands it—not to clear a path through the thicket of present concerns or to shake a finger at either past or present. But simply to understand our world without—as best we can—an ulterior motive. Despite Vasari’s known bent for embellishment, his spirited account of Fra Filippo’s elopement with Lucrezia Buti has been accepted in its essentials. Continue Reading
The sexual saga of Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, S.J., a priapic theologian, artist, and abuser of women, has gotten enough press. Now Catholics ask: “What should we do with his art?” It is the wrong question. The only reason it arises is the infuriating fact that what should be done cannot be done. Punishment ought to be carried out on the man himself. Rupnik should be castrated. Unhappily, we do not do that anymore. So we fantasize about wreaking vengeance on his mosaics. Continue Reading
Today is Earth Day. This annual feast of eco-spirituality has been with us for a half century. It gains more converts every year. Its official patron saint is Gaylord Nelson, then-senator from Wisconsin. He stirred crowds on the first Earth Day with calls for new national policies that will “interfere with what many have considered their right to use and abuse the air, the water, the land.”
Campaign nationwide to elect an “Ecology Congress” as the 92nd Congress – a Congress that will build bridges between our citizens and between man and nature’s systems, instead of building more highways and dams and new weapons systems .Continue Reading