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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism

From a Huffington Post blog today ......


Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism.

It's shocking to write. But it's time to start calling it what it is.

When Jim D. Adkisson walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church with 76 rounds and a shot-gun, he killed 2 people and was charged with murder. His motive was "he hated the liberal movement" and was upset with "liberals in general as well as gays." He should have been charged with terrorism.

Today, George Tiller, the Wichita doctor was killed INSIDE the lobby of his Wichita church. Reformation Lutheran Church became a crime scene; fundamentalist terrorism.

The right wing media hacks make targets of the left. The fundamentalist reverends blather their intolerance of other Americans. Their marriages are in jeopardy if the GLBT community can walk down an aisle. Their children are going to be molested if you have to rent to a same sex couple. Fear...fear...fear the queer.

Bill O'Reilly's hit piece on Dr. Tiller is a training tape for Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists. Never did he ask the woman interviewed how she, as a 13 year old, got pregnant or where her parents were when she underwent an abortion at Dr. Tiller's clinic. I'm sure O'Reilly's drivel will insist on personal accountability for the murderer. I'm sure he won't be in line for any "accountability" for calling the doctor "Tiller the baby-killer" or his clinic a "death mill."

Are anti-choice groups celebrating today? An abortion doctor is dead so women won't have unwanted pregnancies!

The "war on terror" needs to include domestic terrorists.

- Shannyn Moore


Saturday, May 30, 2009


- Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Speaking of London ...

... Jeff has a fun post about his trip to London, and that made me think bout the book I've just started reading which is set in London - the third in a series by the Irish Michael Scott about the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, The Sorceress.

I have past posts mentioning the first and second books of the series (The Alchemist and The Magician), but here's a little background ....

The story's man character is Nicholas Flamel (based on the alchemist of the same name), immortal necromancer in possession of a magical book, the Codex, which he must protect from the evil ones, one of whom is John Dee (based on mathematician and occultist of the same name), with the help of teenage twins Sophie and Josh Newman. The books are fun and filled with mythology and magic :) My favorite character is Scáthach who is/was, as Wikipedia states, a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher who trains the legendary Ulster hero Cúchulainn in the arts of combat.

Here below is an excerpt from the first chapter of The Sorceress. Nicholas and the twins have just arrived by train in London (from Paris) and are looking for Gigamesh (yep, that Gilgamesh about whom the epic was written - amazing how many old guys are immortal :), but they don't realize they're being stalked by Dee's minions, the flesh-eating Genii Cucullati ......



“I think I see them.”

The young man in the green parka standing directly beneath the huge circular clock in St. Pancras station took the phone away from his ear and checked a blurred image on the screen. The English Magician had sent the image: the picture was grainy, the colors washed and faded, and it looked liked it had been taken from an overhead security camera. It showed an older man with short gray hair, accompanied by two blond-haired teens, climbing onto a train.

Rising up on his toes, the young man swiveled his head, looking for the trio he’d glimpsed. For a moment, he thought he’d lost them in the milling crowd, but even if he had, they wouldn’t get far: one of his sisters was downstairs; another was in the street outside, watching the entrance.

Now, where had the old man and the teenagers gone?

Narrow, pinched nostrils opened wide as the young man sorted through the countless scents in the station. He identified and dismissed the mixed stink of too many humani, the myriad perfumes and deodorants, the gels and pastes, the greasy odor of fried food from the station’s restaurants, the richer aroma of coffee and the metallic oily tang of the train engines and carriages. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back. The odors he was seeking were older, wilder, unnatural. . . .


Mint: just the merest suggestion.
Orange: no more than the vaguest hint.
Vanilla: little more than a trace.

Hidden behind small rectangular sunglasses, blue-black eyes opened wide and his head swiveled, following the gossamer threads of scent through the vast train station. He had them now!

The gray-haired older man, wearing black jeans and a scuffed leather jacket, was striding down the station concourse directly toward him. There was a small overnight case in his left hand. He was followed by the two teenagers, alike enough to be brother and sister. The boy was taller than the girl, and they were both wearing backpacks.

The young man snapped a quick picture with his cell phone camera and sent it to Dr. John Dee. Although he had nothing but contempt for the English Magician, there was no point in making an enemy of him. Dee was the agent of the most dangerous of all the Elders.

Pulling the hood of his parka over his head, he turned away as the trio drew level with him, and dialed his sister, who was waiting downstairs. “It’s definitely Flamel and the twins,” he murmured into the phone, speaking the ancient language that had eventually become Gaelic. “They’re heading in your direction. We’ll take them when they get onto the Euston Road.”

The young man in the hooded parka set off after the Alchemyst and the American twins. He moved easily through the early-afternoon crowd, looking like just another teenager, anonymous and unnoticed in his sloppy jeans, scuffed sneakers and overlarge coat, his head and face concealed by the hood, his eyes invisible behind the sunglasses.

Despite his form, the young man had never been remotely human. He and his sisters had first come to this land when it was still joined to the European continent, and for generations they had been worshipped as gods. He bitterly resented being ordered about by Dee—who was, after all, nothing more than a humani. But the English Magician had promised the hooded boy a delectable prize: Nicholas Flamel, the legendary Alchemyst. Dee’s instructions were clear; he and his sisters could have Flamel, but the twins must not be touched. The boy’s thin lips twisted. His sisters would take the boy and girl, while he would have the honor of killing Flamel. A coal-black tongue licked cracked dry lips. He and his sisters would feast for weeks. And, of course, they would keep the tastiest morsels for Mother.

Nicholas Flamel slowed, allowing Sophie and Josh to catch up with him. Forcing a smile, he pointed to the thirtyfoot- tall bronze statue of a couple embracing beneath the clock. “It’s called The Meeting Place,” he said loudly, and then added in a whisper, “We’re being followed.” Flamel grasped Josh’s arm with iron-hard fingers. “Don’t even think about turning around.”

“Who?” Sophie asked.

“What?” Josh said tightly. He was feeling nauseated; his newly Awakened senses were overwhelmed by the scents and sounds of the train station. The light was so sharp he wished he had a pair of sunglasses to shield his eyes.

“ ‘What?’ is the better question,” Nicholas said grimly. He raised a finger to point up to the clock, as if he were talking about it. “I’m not sure what it is,” he admitted. “Something ancient. I felt it the moment we stepped off the train.”

“Felt it?” Josh asked.

“A tingle, like an itch. My aura reacted to the aura of whoever—whatever—is here. When you have a little more control of your own auras, you’ll be able to do the same.”

Tilting her head back, as if she were admiring the latticework of the metal-and-glass ceiling, Sophie slowly turned. Crowds swirled around them. Most seemed to be locals, though there were plenty of tourists, many stopping to have their photographs taken in front of The Meeting Place or the huge clock. No one seemed to be paying them any particular attention.

“What can we do?” Josh asked. “I can boost Sophie’s powers. . . .”

“No,” Flamel snapped. “You can only use your powers as an absolute last resort. As soon as you activate your aura, it will alert every Elder, Next Generation and immortal within a ten-mile radius, and here, just about every immortal you encounter is allied to the Dark Elders. Also, in this land, it could awaken others, creatures best left sleeping.”

“But you said we’re being followed,” Sophie protested.

“That means Dee knows we’re here.”

Flamel urged the twins to the left, away from the statue, hurrying them toward the exit. “I would imagine there are watchers in every airport, seaport and railway station across Europe. Although Dee might have suspected that we were heading to London, the instant either of you activates your aura, he’ll know for certain.”

“And what will he do then?” Josh asked, turning to look at Flamel. In the harsh overhead light, the new lines on the Alchemyst’s forehead and around his eyes were clearly visible.

Flamel shrugged. “Who knows what he is capable of doing? He is desperate, and desperate men do terrible things. Remember, he was on top of Notre Dame. He now has some inkling of your powers; he’s also confirmed that you are the twins of legend. He has to have you.” The Alchemyst reached out and poked Josh in the chest. Paper rustled. Beneath his T-shirt, in a cloth bag hanging around his neck, Josh carried the two pages he’d torn from the Codex. “And, above all else, he must have these pages.”

They followed the signs for the Euston Road exit and were swept along by a crowd of commuters heading in the same direction. “I thought you said there would be someone to meet us,” Sophie said.

“Saint-Germain said he’d try and contact an old friend,” Flamel muttered. “Maybe he couldn’t get in touch.”

They stepped out of the ornate redbrick station onto Euston Road and stopped in surprise. When they’d left Paris nearly three hours ago, the skies had been cloudless, the temperature already creeping into the high sixties; but in London it was raining hard, and the wind whipping down the road was cold enough to make the twins shiver. They turned and immediately ducked back into the shelter of the station.

And that was when Sophie saw him.

“A boy in a green parka, with the hood pulled up,” she said suddenly, turning to Nicholas and concentrating fiercely on his pale eyes, knowing that if she looked away, she would involuntarily glance at the young man who had been hurrying after them. She could see him from the corner of her eye. He was loitering close to a pillar, staring at the cell phone in his hand, fiddling with it. There was something wrong about the way he was standing. Something unnatural. And she thought she caught the faintest taint of spoiled meat in the air.

The smile on the Alchemyst’s face grew strained. “Wearing a hood? Yes, that’s who’s been following us.” The twins caught the faintest tremor in his voice.

“Except he’s not a boy, is he?” Sophie asked.

Nicholas shook his head. “Not even close.”

Josh took a deep breath. “So—should I point out that I can see two more people wearing green hooded parkas, and they’re both heading in our direction?”

“Three! No, not them,” Flamel whispered in horror. “We’ve got to go.” Grabbing the twins’ arms, he pulled them out into the driving rain, turned to the right and dragged them down the street.

The rain was so cold it took Josh’s breath away. Pellets of hard water stung his face. “Who are they?” he demanded, blinking water from his eyes, brushing his hair back out of his face.

“The Hooded Ones,” the Alchemyst said bitterly. “Dee must be desperate, and more powerful than I thought if he can command them. They are the Genii Cucullati.”

Sophie shivered as memories suddenly flickered at the edges of her consciousness. She felt something sour at the back of her throat, and her stomach twisted in disgust. The Witch of Endor had known the Genii Cucullati . . . and she had loathed them. Sophie looked sidelong at her brother.




- Christ taking leave of his mother by Correggio

There's an interesting post at David Gibson's Pontifications blog - The Mary Heresy: Papal support for Co-Redemptrix?. Here's a little bit of it ...


A lobby of hyper-Marianists sees signs that Benedict XVI is open to declaring the dogma that the BVM "corempetrix" of humanity with her Son--that'd be Jesus Christ. From the Vatican, RNS' Francis X. Rocca reports this week:

At least 7 million Catholics from more than 170 countries, including hundreds of bishops and cardinals, have reportedly signed petitions urging the pope to proclaim Mary "the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, the coredemptrix with Jesus the redeemer, mediatrix of all graces with Jesus the one mediator, and advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race." ........

Me, I don't see it in Benedict's writings; indeed, if John Paul II, who actually used the "co-redemptrix" phrase, didn't do it, why would Benedict, who is not nearly as "Marian"? Besides, in 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger flat-out nixed the idea, adding that the "formula `Co-redemptrix' departs to too great an extent from the language of Scripture and of the (church) Fathers and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings."

Then again, this so-called dogma (seemes like straightforward heresy to me) has been hanging around for a while. ........ PS: While I might disagree with the proposed dogma, it does allow me to post an image of one of my favorite paintings of all time, Titian's Assumption in Santa Maria dei Frari in Venice.


I have to agree with David - I don't see Mary as Co-Redemptrix, but there is some really good Marianist art. Check out Wikipedia's great page on Marian art - lots of pics.

Liberation theologian ambassador to the Holy See

Here below is what Fr. Thomas Reese SJ has to say about Obama's pick for ambassador to the Holy See, Miguel Diaz. He mentioned the choice of Sonia Sotomayor also, but I tried to just paste the Diaz comments as I find him interesting The conservatives are not so happy with Diaz because he supported the nomination of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, but in my opinion, that's a good thing about him, and he's also a liberation theology guy who's into Katl Rahner - what's not to like? :). You can read what Fr. James Martin had to say about Diaz too by following the link in Fr. Reese's comments below .......


[...] This week, Obama reached into the Hispanic Catholic community for two important appointments, the most prominent being the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. A less prominent nomination is that of Miguel Diaz, a Cuban American Catholic, as ambassador to the Holy See. Diaz is a professor of theology at St. John's University and a member of the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America ....

Diaz, a respected scholar, recently taught courses in "Trinity, Faith and Revelation" and "Christian Anthropology." He is author of On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives and co-editor of From the Heart of Our People: Latino/a Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology.

He is obviously not your usual ambassadorial appointment. He is neither a big donor nor a politician although he did campaign for Obama. Jim Martin, S.J., associate editor of America, has already fantasized that "he and the Holy Father can have some lively Rahner-Balthasar discussions."

While his Catholic and theological background will help him understand the Vatican, he does not represent the Catholic community or Catholic theologians to the Vatican. He will represent the Obama administration and the U.S. Government.

Like any ambassador, he will have to be a quick study, but at least he will not have to worry about military alliances, trade or arrested Americans. His job will be pure diplomacy. His familiarity with Catholic social teaching will allow him to be sensitive to the areas where there will be agreement and friction. There are lots of areas of agreement: nuclear disarmament, poverty reduction, peace, refugees, etc. ........


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


- John Nava, the artist who did the communion of saints tapestry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. You can see a video of him talking about the tapestries here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


The picture on my calendar of Italy today was of a square in Assisi, and that made me look up the town where St. Francis lived. I found something interesting that I hadn't known about - the Porziuncola. Here's a little of what Wikipedia has on it ....


This little church was given around 1208 to St. Francis by the Abbot of St. Benedict of Monte Subasio, on condition of making it the mother house of his religious family. It was in bad condition, laying abandoned in a wood of oak trees. He restored it with his own hands. In this church, on 24 February 1208, St. Francis heard the call of Jesus and had to make his choice of life: a life in absolute poverty according to the Missionary Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew 10, 5-15.

This little church became the home of St. Francis and soon of his first disciples. In this church St. Francis founded the Order of Friars Minor and from that moment it has never been abandoned by the friars.

On Palm Sunday 1211 St. Francis received in this church Clare of Assisi and dedicated her to the Lord.

The General Chapters, the annual meetings of the friars, were held in this church usually during Pentecost (months of May - June).

Feeling his end approaching, St. Francis asked to brought back to the Porziuncola in September 1226. On his death-bed St. Francis recommended the chapel to the faithful protection and care of his brethren. He died at sunset on Saturday, 3 October 1226.


- "St. Francis receiving the Pardon of Assisi" by F. Overbeck

The chapel now exists completely inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. If you're interested, you can visit the online Museum of the Porziuncola, and there's now also a replica of the chapel in the North Beach district of San Francisco - the Porziuncola Project

- the chapel from the side

Friday, May 22, 2009

Green stuff

some photos from the yard today ...

- baby plums

- baby walnut

- baby grapes

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Behold Ascension Day begun

At Burgos
- Arthur Symons

Miraculous silver-work in stone
Against the blue miraculous skies,
The belfry towers and turrets rise
Out of the arches that enthrone
That airy wonder of the skies.

Softly against the burning sun
The great cathedral spreads its wings;
High up, the lyric belfry sings.
Behold Ascension Day begun
Under the shadow of those wings!

- Burgos Cathedral, a World Heritage Site and the resting place of El Cid :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vatican on the Obama speech

This is (hopefully) my last Obama/Notre Dame post, I promise :) but I saw this short post by Fr. James Martin SJ at America magazine's blog, and thought it was worth noting ....


Vatican: Obama Sought "Common Ground"

Rather than editorializing, I'll just give you the entire story from CNS. There were two stories in the latest L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper. One praised him for seeking "common ground," the other quoted critics of the president. Here's the take from CNS. (H/t to David Gibson)

Vatican newspaper says Obama sought 'common ground' at Notre Dame

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican newspaper said U.S. President Barack Obama sought common ground on the divisive issue of abortion in his commencement address at the University of Notre Dame.

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said the president also confirmed that pushing for a more liberal abortion law would not be a priority of his administration. The comments came in a L'Osservatore report May 18, the day after Obama spoke at the university in Indiana.

"The search for a common ground: This seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in facing the delicate question of abortion," the newspaper said.

It said Obama had set aside the "strident tone" of the 2008 political campaign on the abortion issue.

"Yesterday Obama confirmed what he expressed at his 100-day press conference at the White House, when he said that enacting a new law on abortion was not a priority of his administration," it said.

The newspaper, which was reporting on the Notre Dame commencement for the first time, acknowledged the controversy caused by the president's appearance at what it called "the most prestigious Catholic university in the United States."

"Yesterday, too, as could have been predicted, there were protests. But from the podium set up in the basketball arena, the president invited Americans of every faith and ideological conviction to 'work in common effort' to reduce the number of abortions," it said.

The newspaper noted that Obama had called for reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, facilitating adoption and supporting women who want to carry their babies to term, and that he had also spoken of drafting a "conscience clause" for medical personnel who are morally opposed to participating in abortions.


Who Is a Real Catholic?

Someone said that I'm somewhat anti-Catholic in my posts. I don't think I'm anti-Catholic, but I'll admit I'm not a typical Catholic .... I was raised in no religion, didn't go to Catholic schools or church, didn't have any Catholic friends (unless you count two lapsed-Catholic boyfriends), studied philosophy in college to the point that I didn't believe in anything anymore. Yet now I'm a baptised and reborn Catholic thanks to an historical appreciation of Catholicism and a conversion experience during an online Jesuit retreat. I don't agree with everything in Church teaching, but I'm not alone - guys as diverse as Cardinal Newman and James Alison have dissented and they still remain Catholics. Having said all this, I'm not trying to convince anyone of my Cathlicness, and it means less to me than trying to be a good Christian, but it leads to mentioning an interesting article in The Washington Post by David Gibson - Who Is a Real Catholic?. Here's a quote from it ......

A century ago, the church was deeply divided over Pope Pius X's campaign against "Modernism," which was a catchall for anything Rome deemed suspicious. When Pius died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical calling on Catholics "to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith."

"There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism," Benedict XV concluded. "It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname.'"

Thomas Reese SJ / Obama's ND speech

I saw today that Fr. Tom Reese SJ had a comment on Obama's speech at Notre Dame. You can read the whole thing - He Came, He Spoke, He Conquered - but here's the beginning and the very end ....

President Obama's reception at Notre Dame showed once again that a new generation of Americans, including Catholics, is looking for a different kind of leader, not one who speaks down to his audience, demands strict loyalty and demonizes opponents, but one who addresses complexity with honesty, acknowledges disagreements and tries to bring people together for the common good .....


As the President told the graduates, "no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Illuminated medieval manuscripts

One place I like to visit is the Museum Meermanno and Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague: Interactive Presentation of Handwritings. I can't understand most of it because I don't read the language, but they have beautiful illustrated manuscripts for viewing. Sadly, a lot of them are just thumbnails so far, but if you have patience, you can find some enlargements. Here are a few examples ....

- 73D245 communion of the apostles: Christ giving bread (host) and/or wine to the (standing) apostles

- 73C721 Christ explaining his doctrine to the apostles and disciples

- 73C6113 Christ orders (six) jars to be filled with water ~ marriage-feast at Cana

The Pope's trip

There's a thoughtful post at Jeff's blog about the Pope's visit to the Holy Land that questioned the criticism Benedict has received from some for the way he interacted with the Israelis. I was one of the critics, but after reading Jeff's post I was feeling kind of guilty - maybe I was being too hard on B16? Today, though, I saw a post at Politics Daily by David Gibson that stated, in part, some of my own feelings, so I guess I'm not completely alone in them. Here's a little of what he wrote ....


How the Pope Fell Short as a Guest

[...] The Israeli leg of Benedict's pilgrimage also started out well. He was welcomed with red carpets and flag-waving children. President Shimon Peres gave him a 300,000-word Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible inscribed on a silicon particle with nanotechnology and showed him a new strain of wheat named after the pope. Benedict even bit into dates that Israeli children gave him as part of a traditional Jewish welcome, though Vatican protocol strictly prohibits the pontiff being seen eating in public.

That was the last bit of innovation from Benedict. The fact that this German pope, raised under the Nazi regime and an eyewitness to the Holocaust as a teenager, was visiting the Jewish state that was birthed from that genocide raised great expectations that Benedict--once Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger--would mine that experience during his meetings with Jewish leaders and rabbis, and in particular his visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. But it was not to be. Even before the visit, Vatican sources tried to tamp expectations. One Vatican office told Catholic News Service that Benedict "will not be going to Yad Vashem to apologize as a German, but to invoke a wider lesson on the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism."

And that's what he did, and quite movingly. But it was not what his hosts hoped to hear. "Something was missing," said Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and a Holocaust survivor. "There was no mention of the Germans or the Nazis who participated in the butchery, nor a word of regret. If not an apology, then an expression of remorse." Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev called the pope's "restraint" a "missed opportunity." And those were the gentler critiques.

Were they fair? The Vatican clearly didn't think so. The papal spokesman, a kindly but overworked Jesuit priest, Father Federico Lombardi, voiced his--and the pope's--frustration that they were not being given the benefit of the doubt: "Maybe sometimes he [Benedict] feels he was not well understood," Lombardi said. "I feel the same." But Lombardi--who has a rough job trying to spin some of the pontiff's less politic statements--overshot his defense by telling reporters that Benedict was "never, never, never" in the Hitler Youth even though the pope, in interviews and his own memoirs, spoke of being forced to join briefly. Lombardi then had to issue a clarification, and the story went for another spin through the news cycle.

That is not really what anyone hoped for from the Israeli leg of the visit, though as I wrote in my pre-trip scene-setter, Benedict's performance was not a total surprise considering the pope doesn't like to cite his personal biography to buttress his public statements.

And yet, pilgrimages are by definition internal journeys as well as trips across a physical landscape. It is a fair criticism to have hoped that this pontiff above all--a German Catholic who will certainly be the last eyewitness to the Holocaust to sit on St. Peter's Throne--would have opened his heart during his visit to the Jewish state .......


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sent to me by my stepfather :)

Angels & Demons ...

- Ewan McGregor (R) as the Camerlengo Patrick McKenna

I've had a some past posts about the film Angels & Demons (like Angels, demons, and particle accelerators), but that was before the movie was released. Now that it's out, I've read a review of it by David Gibson at Beliefnet. Maybe I'll even go and see the movie (hey, Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård are in it :) .... if so, I'll post a bit on my own opinion too.

- Ayelet Zurer and Tom Hanks

Here's some of David's review, Angels & Demons: Read all about it right here. It's long and I hate to chop it up, so please read the whole thing if you have time, but here are a few bits of it .....


So here's the good news: It is safe to go see "Angels & Demons." I didn't think the novel of the same name was especially anti-Catholic, but director Ron Howard was apparently stung by reactions to "The Da Vinci Code" adaptation and so scrubbed any Jack Chick traces from the screenplay, as well as a lot of the other absurd plot points that made the novel so terribly good .....

What is worth seeing are the awesome CGI images of Saint Peter's Basilica and the Square, which are front and center as the film opens with shots of a pope's funeral--clearly inspired by the outpouring for John Paul II. If you didn't make it to Rome for that funeral (and that would have put you in a minority of the world's Catholics, I think), the movie will give you a sense of it .... Admittedly, some of the other mock-ups are appalling, such as Bernini's Saint Teresa in Ecstasy in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria .....

What of the Illuminati, the secret society that turns out to have been behind the death of the pope, and which is planning to destory the Vatican--and the conclave of cardinals meeting to elect a successor--using anti-matter stolen that day from CERN?! Donohue and others fulminate that in fact the Illuminati, a fraternity of freethinkers that existed for a few years in the late 1700s before being disbanded by the emperor, do not exist. But they really don't exist--either in the novel or in the film. They Illuminati are a school of red herrings, or actually one red herring, whose identity will be revealed shortly .....

The Big Reveal, however, is the same as in the book: There is no secret society, just a rogue priest, the Camerlengo, or Chamberlain, played by Ewan McGregor, who brought far more priestly charm to his role as the Jedi knight (and pseudo-Jesuit) Obi-Wan Kenobi. Okay, that a priest would be the Camerlengo is funny. But that's the end of the laughs. This Camerlengo turns out to be the bad guy, a raving right-wing nut case who has turned on his father-figure, the deceased pope, because he feels got too cozy with modern science. Hence the plot to use science to destroy a church (St. Peter's, in particular) that must be entirely rebuilt, with himself as pope.

Lots of people--and a few cardinals--die gruesome deaths, as they plot ticks off the requisite scenes until the mask drops and Langdon saves all. There is reconciliation between Science and Church, Langdon and the cardinals .....

But what may really make the likes of Bill Donohue and the evangelical movie maven Ted Baehr mad is that the bad guy turns out to be a right-wing raver who castigates the dead pope and the cardinals and the rest for going soft, for allowing the modern world to take over. Sound familiar?

In effect, the film is respectful of the Catholic tradition of faith and reason, and the Catholic tradition of rejecting fanaticism in favor of careful discernment. The system of celibate old men with their sexist, dogmatic blinders turns out to be the best one, at least in this movie ....


Another review you might want to check out is Roger Ebert's. He gave it three stars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Angel of the Sea

- Edward Reginald Frampton

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sarajevo Haggadah

- An illustrated page from the Sarajevo Haggadah, written in fourteenth-century Spain. Top: Moses and the Burning Bush. Bottom: Aaron's staff swallows the magicians'. Wikipedia

I checked a book out of the library today that seems like it will be a keeper - People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I'm not so enamored of the main character so far, but the subject of the book is really interesting - it's about the real life Sarajevo Haggadah, which, as Wikipedia states .....

... is an illuminated manuscript that contains the traditional text of the Passover Haggadah which accompanies the Passover Seder. It is one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350. The Haggadah is presently owned by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, where it is on permanent display. The Sarajevo Haggadah is handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold. It opens with 34 pages of illustrations of key scenes in the Bible from creation through the death of Moses. Its pages are stained with wine, evidence that it was used at many Passover Seders. It is considered to be the most beautiful illuminated Jewish manuscript in existence and one of the most valuable books in the world. In 1991 it was appraised at US$700 million .....

Here's a review of the book from The New York Times ......


All the World’s a Page

Published: January 20, 2008

When Hanna Heath, a manuscript conservator, first touches the centuries-old Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, she feels a “strange and powerful” sensation, something “between brushing a live wire and stroking the back of a newborn baby’s head.” The manuscript is small, the binding soiled and scuffed, but its lavish illuminations — miniature scenes “as interpreted in the Midrash,” created “at a time when most Jews considered figurative art a violation of the commandments” — are stunning. It’s the spring of 1996 in Sarajevo, and Hanna has been called in to examine the book before it’s put on display.

To understand the work of the craftsmen who created the medieval texts she restores, Hanna has made her own gold leaf and created white pigment by covering lead bars with the dregs of old wine and animal dung. She’s familiar with “the intense red known as worm scarlet ... extracted from tree-dwelling insects” and the blue, “intense as a midsummer sky, obtained from grinding precious lapis lazuli.” Looking closely at the parchment of the Haggadah, she can tell it comes from “the skin of a now-extinct breed of thick-haired Spanish mountain sheep.” These lush details, at once celebratory and elegiac, will appeal to the sort of reader who picks up a book just for the feel of it.

Hanna is opposed to “chemical cleanups” and “heavy restorations,” believing that damage and wear reveal much about how and where a manuscript has been used. “To restore a book to the way it was when it was made is to lack respect for its history,” she tells Ozren Karaman, the Muslim librarian who risked his life to save the Haggadah while Sarajevo was being shelled. During her examination of the manuscript, Hanna finds a fragment of an insect’s wing and a small white hair, which she slips into glassine envelopes for later analysis. These clues and other oddities — where are the book’s clasps? — are the springboard for Geraldine Brooks’s panoramic third novel, “People of the Book.”

Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her previous novel, “March,” has drawn her inspiration from the real Sarajevo Haggadah. As she explains in an afterword, little is known about this book, except that it has been saved from destruction on at least three occasions: twice by Muslims and once by a Roman Catholic priest. Building on these fragments of information, Brooks has created a fictional history that moves to Sarajevo in 1940, then back to late-19th-century Vienna, 15th-century Venice, Catalonia during the Spanish Inquisition and finally Seville in 1480, the new home of the artist responsible for the Haggadah’s illuminations.

The history of this holy book is a bloody one, bound with brutality and humiliation. Families who protect it are torn apart; the book itself is plundered to pay for a questionable medical cure, then lost in a game of chance. A particularly disturbing scene occurs during the Inquisition in a grotesquely named “place of relaxation” where those accused of heresy by the Spanish authorities are tortured.

Brooks’s extensive research is evident throughout, but she occasionally chokes her storytelling with historical detail; her dialogue can also be heavy with exposition. The narrative works best when the burden of the past is borne more lightly, when Brooks burrows into her characters’ inner lives. In fin-de-siècle Vienna, for example, a syphilitic bookbinder, overcome by symptoms of dementia, forgets how to make tea or even pursue his craft. Terrified, he experiences his thoughts as “an army in retreat, ceding ever more territory to his enemy, the illness.”

An inscription in the real Sarajevo Haggadah reads Revisto per mi. Gio. Domenico Vistorini, 1609. Taken with the notion that a Catholic priest surveying the codex during the Inquisition might choose to save it, Brooks creates another memorable character, an erudite scholar with “an innate reverence for books.” Sometimes, he finds, “the beauty of the Saracens’ fluid calligraphy moved him. Other times, it was the elegant argument of a learned Jew that gave him pause.” This priest haunts the sacristy for draughts of unconsecrated communion wine, intent on obliterating painful memories from his childhood — “the blowing sand of that desolate town,” the secret niche within a carved Madonna — not to mention thoughts of all the texts he has sent to the fires in his 17 years as a censor.

In the intimate first-person narration of the captive artist who creates the book’s original illuminations, a longing for freedom — a theme echoed throughout the Haggadah’s account of the liberation of the Jews — is eloquently evoked. Imagining a walk to the coast, holding an enchanted staff, the artist believes that “the great sea would part, and I would cross it, and make my way, in slow stages, down all the dusty roads that lead toward home.”

These self-contained historical interludes shelter within the overarching and at times problematic story of Hanna Heath. An irreverent Aussie, she’s an appealing character, but as she travels to Vienna, Boston and London, meeting with experts who might help answer her questions about the Haggadah, the structure of the narrative works against her. A chapter that ends with Hanna wondering about the insect wing or the stain will be followed by a historical interlude solving that piece of the puzzle. Not only predictable, this back-and-forth scheme also creates a discrepancy: the reader learns far more than Hanna ever will.

Woven into the puzzle-solving is the account of Hanna’s romance with the Muslim librarian who has saved the book, as well as glimpses of her disastrous and at times melodramatic relationship with her mother. (“How is your latest tatty little book, anyway? Fixed all the dog-eared pages?”) Readers will eventually learn why Dr. Heath, an eminent neurosurgeon, is so dismissive, but this part of the plot has an artificial feel.

We are left wishing Brooks had found a less obtrusive way to gather up the many strands of her narrative. While peering through a microscope at a rime of salt crystals on the manuscript of the Haggadah, Hanna reflects that “the gold beaters, the stone grinders, the scribes, the binders” are “the people I feel most comfortable with. Sometimes in the quiet these people speak to me.” Though the reader’s sense of Hanna’s relationship with the Haggadah rarely deepens to such a level, Geraldine Brooks’s certainly has.


If you're lucky enough to be a subscriber of The New Yorker, you can read Brook's essay about the Muslim librarian who saved the Sarajevo Haggadah (Geraldine Brooks, Chronicles, “The Book of Exodus,” The New Yorker, December 3, 2007, p. 74 ). Here's what the abstract has ....

ABSTRACT: CHRONICLES about Muslim librarian Dervis Korkut’s heroism in Sarajevo during World War II. When Yugoslavia was divided, in 1941, Sarajevo did not fare well. Hitler’s ally, Ante Pavelic, proclaimed that his new state must be “cleansed” of Jews and Serbs. Jews, Gypsies, and Serbian resisters turned frantically to Muslim or Croat neighbors to hide them. The Bosnian National Museum’s chief librarian, Dervis Korkut, was an unlikely figure of resistance, but he’d already made his anti-Fascist feelings clear, in an article defending Sarajevo’s Jews. In 1942, when Nazi commander Johann Fortner arrived at the museum, Korkut rescued the museum’s greatest literary treasure, a masterpiece of medieval Judaica known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. Korkut was the scion of a prosperous family of Muslim intellectuals. He was born in 1888 and he studied theology at the University of Istanbul and Near Eastern languages at the Sorbonne. His abiding interest was the culture of Bosnia’s minority communities. Describes the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah, which probably left Spain in 1492, then found its way to Venice, before being acquired by the Bosnian museum in 1894. The writer spoke to Dervis’s widow, Servet Korkut, who was sixteen when she wed fifty-three-year-old Dervis, in 1940. Servet told the writer about how Dervis rescued a young Jewish girl named Mira Papo, in April of 1942, by bringing her home and passing her off as a Muslim servant. Mira had been a member of the Young Guardians, a socialist Zionist youth movement. After the war, Mira returned to Sarajevo and was commissioned as an officer in Tito’s Army medical corps. In 1946, she ran into Servet, who begged her to testify at Dervis’s war-crimes trial; Dervis was being charged with aiding the Fascists. But Mira never testified because her fiancé feared the Party would turn against her. She assumed that Dervis had been executed, but, in 1994, she read a newspaper article which revealed that Dervis had died an elderly man, from natural causes, in 1969. Now aged seventy-two, Mira wrote a three-page letter to the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial center, which testified to Dervis’s heroic actions. She died in 1998. Mentions Dervis’s son, Munib, and his daughter, Lamija. In 1999, Kosovo started to slide toward war, and Lamija evacuated her children, but was unable to escape herself. She and her husband were herded by the Serbs into a camp with thousands of other refugees, but they escaped and soon tracked down the head of the local Jewish community in Kosovo, producing a photocopy of Mira’s testimony. Four days later, Lamija and her husband were flown to Tel Aviv and told their children would soon join them there. The story of how Dervis, a Muslim, had saved Mira, a Jew, and how Mira had then saved Dervis’s child proved irresistible to the Israeli media. When Lamija and her husband arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport, they were greeted by Davor Bakovic, Mira’s son.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

America magazine on Notre Dame/Obama

Today I read an editorial from America magazine which has been criticized by some, but which I think is right on target. Here's just the beginning of it .....


Sectarian Catholicism

The clouds roll with thunder, the House of the Lord shall be built throughout the earth, and these frogs sit in their marsh and croak—‘We are the only Christians!’” So wrote St. Augustine about the Donatists, a perfectionist North African sect that attempted to keep the church free of contamination by having no truck with Roman officialdom. In the United States today, self-appointed watchdogs of orthodoxy, like Randall Terry and the Cardinal Newman Society, push mightily for a pure church quite unlike the mixed community of saints and sinners—the Catholic Church—that Augustine championed. Like the Circumcellions of old, they thrive on slash-and-burn tactics; and they refuse to allow the church to be contaminated by contact with certain politicians ......


Friday, May 08, 2009

Boysenberry bee

Tried to post something interesting and timely but all I saw in the news today was depressing - the latest Notre Dame/Obama stuff .... the wildfires in Santa Barbara .... Elizabeth Edwards' book/interview - so instead here's a photo I took today (had to snap 10 actual photos to come up with one that wasn't blurry :) of a bee on a flower of one of the blooming boysenberry bushes in the yard ....

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bigotry or death?

Sometimes I keep up with what's happening to the Anglican Communion (got interested during the Lambeth Conference - here's one of my past posts on it) and I guess they're still arguing over the same issues (women and gay bishops, etc), with the ABC Rowan Williams taking the stance that unless the status quo is maintained, the Communion will perish. I saw a post at the Episcopal Cafe on this, along with a funny video ....


Bigotry or death?

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica is the deliberate fear mongering engaged in by men like Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop Gregory Cameron, the deputy general secretary of the Anglican Communion. At one news conference after another they suggest that the Communion will rupture if the anti-gay measures embedded in the proposed Anglican Covenant and the report of the Windsor Continuation Group are not embraced and enforced. While they might dispute the characterization, the choice these religious leaders are putting before the Communion is a simple one: bigotry or death. Either the Communion embraces open-ended moratoria on the blessing of same-sex relationships and the consecration of gay bishops and a set of disciplinary procedures to punish wayward provinces and individual bishops or the sky falls.

Enjoy this Eddie Izzard routine [the video below] while you still can. In ignoring the rampant bigotry espoused by so many in the Anglican Communion, and focusing instead on denying gay Christians access to marital blessings and membership in the episcopacy, Williams, Cameron and their allies have made it imminently clear that unlike Izzard's softhearted churchmen, they actually are willing to inflict pain on designated scapegoats for the sake of centralizing authority in the Anglican Communion.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Basilica of Santa Croce

The picture on my Italy calendar yesterday was the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence. I was in Florence on my one trip to Italy, but missed this .... all I really remember of Florence was our neat old-fashioned hotel with high ceilings, tiled walls, and a balcony overlooking a garden that had tiny dusk-flying bats :)

Here's a little of what Wikipedia says of the Basilica ....

- Michelangelo's tomb


The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence ..... It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi, thus it is known also as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell'Itale Glorie).

The Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, and its tombs and cenotaphs. Legend says that Santa Croce was founded by St Francis himself. The construction of the current church, to replace an older building, was begun on 12 May 1294 .....

In the Primo Chiostro, the main cloister, there is the Cappella dei Pazzi, built as the chapter house, completed in the 1470s. Filippo Brunelleschi (who had designed and executed the dome of the Duomo) was involved in its design which has remained rigorously simple and unadorned .....

- Galileo's tomb

A Jewish architect Niccolo Matas from Ancona, designed the church's 19th century neo-Gothic facade, working a prominent Star of David into the composition. Matas had wanted to be buried with his peers but because he was Jewish, he was buried under the porch and not within the walls.

In 1866, the complex became public property .... The Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce is housed mainly in the refectory, also off the cloister. A monument to Florence Nightingale stands in the cloister, in the city in which she was born and after which she was named. Brunelleschi also built the inner cloister, completed in 1453 .....


- here's an almost scary photo of the interior (click to enlarge :) You can find more photos at this Wikipedia page.

Tom Reese SJ on the US Bishops

With every new day bringing another new condemnation of Obama by conservative Catholics (Obama = Hitler?), it was refreshing to read Jesuit Thomas Reese's latest post at On Faith. Here's a little of it ....


Memo to Bishops: Most Catholics Aren't Listening

During the 2008 presidential campaign, there was a steady drumbeat of opposition to Barack Obama from some U.S. Catholic bishops, which only increased after his election. But despite the attention these attacks received in the media and on Internet blogs, polls show that the Catholic people are not listening .....

Nor are Catholics listening to those bishops who have condemned Notre Dame University for inviting the President to speak at its commencement this month .... What is wrong? Why are the bishops not being listened to? ....

I think part of the problem is that the bishops stopped listening and teaching and started ordering and condemning. With an educated laity it no longer works to simply say, "it is the teaching of the church." This is the equivalent of a parent shouting, "Because I said so."

The bishops must persuade and convince with arguments not by turning up the volume. When they resort to commanding and threatening punishments, people are turned off. Banning speakers, denying Communion, silencing theologians is a sign of weakness not strength. Censorship and violations of academic freedom come across as admissions that their arguments are not convincing and therefore the opposition must be silenced ....

The bishops are being egged on by Republican activists whose presidential candidate lost the election. There is clearly a conservative conspiracy to do whatever is possible (including lying about ambassadorial candidates) to create conflict between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration. They want the Catholic Church to be the Republican Party at prayer. Some bishops are falling for this. But the Vatican is not falling into this trap. It clearly wants to have a positive relationship with Obama ....

The bishops who oppose the President's presence at Notre Dame are going to be embarrassed by the warm welcome he receives from the commencement audience. Every round of applause will be a repudiation of their condemnations.

The bishops will also be embarrassed when Pope Benedict welcomes President Obama at the Vatican, or are all these people going to tell the Pope that he cannot talk to a pro-choice President?


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pius XI and Pius XII

I saw a good post at On Faith today by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield .... Pope to Skip Israeli Holocaust Museum .... and it made me think again about Pope Pius XII and the Nazis (B16 won't visit the Holocaust Museum because there Pius XII is accused of silence on the Holocaust).

Benedict wants to have Pius XII canonized and the postulator in charge of promoting the case is said to have uncovered a nun's 1943 diary note that says Pius urged Catholic religious houses to give hospitality to Jews hiding from the Nazis.

On the other hand, a 2008 article in TIME stated ....

Over the past decade, historians have stepped up debate over the Vatican's actions before and during the war. Pius' defenders say that speaking out more would have made matters worse for Jews, while critics say he was too cautious, at best. Before becoming Pope, Pius, then known by his birth name, Eugenio Pacelli, served as both the Vatican envoy to Nazi Germany and later as the Vatican's secretary of state. Indeed, even while Benedict and most of the church hierarchy stand firmly behind Pius, Italian Jesuit scholars say they have recently turned up documents showing that Pacelli's secretary of state office in 1938 put its focus on saving Jews who converted to Catholicism, a revelation likely to reinforce opposition to Pius.

There's more ammunition on both sides of this debate, but whether Pius XII did secretly help save some from the Holocaust or not, one thing can be agreed upon ..... he did not speak out publicly against it.

Some say keeping silent was the only thing a Pope could reasonably do given Pius XII's situation, but as I was looking around the net I came across something interesting - Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII and Two Different Responses to Hitler’s Anti-Jewish Laws. This blog post is a comparison of how differently the two Popes who served while the Nazis were in power reacted and acted in response to growing anti-Semitism. It made me want to look up Pius XI, and here's a bit of what Wikipedia says of him in that regard ....


Pope Pius XI (Latin: Pius PP. XI; Italian: Pio XI; May 31, 1857 – February 10, 1939), born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was Pope from February 6, 1922, and sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on February 11, 1929 until his death on February 10, 1939 .....

Pius XI responded to ever increasing Nazi hostility to Christianity by issuing in 1937 the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge condemning the Nazi ideology of racism and totalitarianism and Nazi violations of the concordat. Copies had to be smuggled into Germany so they could be read from the pulpit .....

While numerous German Catholics, who participated in the secret printing and distribution of the encylical, went to jail and concentration camps, the reaction in the Western democracies remained silent, which Pope Pius XI labeled bitterly as "a conspiracy of silence". As the extreme nature of Nazi racial antisemitism became obvious, and as Mussolini in the late 1930s began imitating Hitler's anti-Jewish race laws in Italy, Pius XI continued to make his position clear, both in Mit brennender Sorge and in a public address in the Vatican to Belgian pilgrims in 1938: "Mark well that in the Catholic Mass, Abraham is our Patriarch and forefather. Anti-Semitism is incompatible with the lofty thought which that fact expresses. It is a movement with which we Christians can have nothing to do. No, no, I say to you it is impossible for a Christian to take part in anti-Semitism. It is inadmissible. Through Christ and in Christ we are the spiritual progeny of Abraham. Spiritually, we [Christians] are all Semites" These comments were subsequently published worldwide but had little resonance at the time in the secular media ......

The fascist government in Italy had long abstained from copying the racial and anti-Semitic laws and regulations, which existed in Germany. This changed dramatically in 1938, the last year of the pontificate of Pius XI, when Italy introduced anti-Semitic legislation. The Pope asked Italy publicly to abstain from demeaning racist legislation, stating, that the term “race” is divisive but may be appropriate to differentiate animals. The Catholic view would refer to "the unity of human society", which includes as many differences as music includes intonations. Italy, a civilized country, should not ape the barbarian German legislation. In the same speech, he counter-attacked again the Italian government for attacking Catholic Action and even the papacy itself. .....

Pius XI fought the two ascendant ideologies of communism and fascism. His success in fighting them was limited and there is much controversy over the concordats he entered with European regimes to improve the situation of the Catholic Church. At the outset, it was clear that he found communism to be the greater of the two evils but in his later years, there is no doubt that he was repelled by the momentum of Nazi Germany, not only in its opposition to the Catholic Church but also in the ferocity of its attacks on the Jewish people. Whatever the results of his activism, Pius XI did not sit by idly and was fully engaged until the end ....


Which Pope did right? I cast a vote for Pius XI. I think Pius XII should have taken a public stand against the Holocaust, and here's a quote from the blog post I mentioned above, with which I agree ....

Though I empathize with the quandary that Pope Pius XII was in, I tend to agree with critics that he should’ve followed his predecessors example and made an explicit statement against the Holocaust. Costa-Gavras noted in his movie Amen that the Catholic Church took a stand to stop the Nazi policy of euthanasia of the mentally ill. At another time, gentile wives of Jewish men protested as a group the roundup of their husbands and the Nazis released them. Though there would be consequences to taking such a public stand, the enormity of the Holocaust made it an imperative that any spiritual leader should’ve spoken out against it. Though Pius XII probably felt that his diplomatic skills were what was needed to save the thousands of lives sheltered in Catholic churches, the millions that died in concentration camps demanded more of an explicit stand.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jesuit secrets

My sister just sent me the above photo of a book I had given her - The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry SJ - and the cornbread she made from a recipe within it :)

Br. Rick Curry is an interesting guy - he's a Jesuit of the New York Province and besides writing a cookbook he's also interested in acting and has started a National Theatre Workshop for the Handicapped. He himself is missing an arm, but he hasn't let it stop him from becoming an actor - he was in an episode of the tv series Monk, and has a page at the internet movie data base.

Friday, May 01, 2009

St. Joseph the Worker

- Barbara Hershy and William L. Peterson in The Staircase

This day reminds me of an old made-for-tv movie that starred William L. Peterson (of CSI fame) ..... The Staircase. The movie is based on a true story about the Loretto Chapel in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Here's what their site says of the staircase ....

When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.

Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.

The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction.

In the movie, the unknown carpenter, played by Peterson, is St. Joseph in desguise. I was really touched by the movie.

- the staircase at the Loretto Chapel