Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pope St. Pius V and Lepanto

"Lepanto, 2001 (Panel 2 of 12)" Cy Twombly

Pope St. Pius V was pope for only six years, but he accomplished a great deal.  Perhaps Pius's most amazing achievement was helping to bring about the decisive defeat of the Ottoman Empire, which  after decades of victorious advance appeared to be on the verge of overrunning Christian Europe.   In order to obtain this victory, Pius proceeded energetically on many fronts.  He exhorted the faithful to pray and give alms, and led the people of Rome in vigils, processions, and recitation of the rosary, while channeling all available funds towards Europe's defense.  So that the Ottoman threat might be met in a coordinated and powerful way, Pius persuaded most of the major Catholic maritime states of the Mediterranean (though not France, Portugal, or the Holy Roman Empire) to unite as "The Holy League."  Even this combined force was outnumbered as they assembled to face the Ottoman fleet off Greece.   The Ottomans had already seized Cyprus, where less than two months earlier, a Venetian force had surrendered after being promised safe conduct by the Ottoman commander, Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha.  However, Mustafa Pasha broke his promise, and not only imprisoned the Venetian sailors, but had the admiral of the Venetian force flayed alive, afterwards displaying the skinned body from his galley.   Mustafa Pasha also ordered the execution of the admiral's top commanders, adding their heads to the display of gruesome trophies on his galley. 

These atrocities were well known in the Christian fleet, and must have hardened the resolve of its officers and sailors as they maneuvered for battle.   When battle was imminent, Don John of Austria, the 24 year old commander of the fleet, unchained the criminals who rowed the galleys, issued them weapons, and promised that if they fought well they would receive their freedom.  Pius V had already granted every man in the fleet a plenary indulgence, and that evening every man in the fleet prayed the rosary.  On the following day, thanks to fair winds, revolutionary tactics, advanced weapons, and ferocious fighting, the fleet of the Holy League destroyed or captured all but thirteen ships of the Ottoman fleet.  30,000 Ottomans had been killed, including Mustafa Pasha.  Not until the Great War would Europe again witness such carnage.

News from the fleet would not reach Rome for days, but Pius learned of the victory as soon as it happened.   At the time of the battle, Pius was meeting with his cardinals at the Dominican Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.   In the midst of this conference Pius paused to gaze out the window.  There in the sky the Blessed Mother favored him with a vision of the victory. Turning to his cardinals Pius said, "Let us set aside our business and fall on our knees in thanksgiving to God, for he has given our fleet a great victory."  The victory decisively checked the Ottoman Empire's expansion.

Miguel Cervantes, who would later write Don Quixote, fought courageously at Lepanto, suffering three wounds, one of which cost him the use of his left hand.  Cervantes called the battle “the highest and most memorable occasion that past and future centuries will ever hope to see”.  

A message to Catholics from today's saint

Did he really say "all"?  Yup, he did.

Mystery of the missing galeros solved

Cardinal Montini, later Pope Paul VI, playfully displaying his galero upside down

Galeros are tasseled hats cardinals receive from the pope upon being elevated to their new rank.  Originally, a galero was a simple pilgrim's hat, but over time a distinctive color (red) and the tassels were added to indicate the cardinal's rank.  The practice of bestowing galeros upon cardinals began at the First Council of Lyon in 1245, and continued for more than seven centuries, until 1967, when Pope Paul VI abolished the practice, on the grounds that the hats were too elaborate and very few understood why they looked like that.  This is why there are no galeros hanging from the ceiling of St. Patrick's Cathedral for Cardinals Cooke and O'Connor, since neither received a galero from the pope when they became cardinals.

Are cardinals forbidden to have galeros, or could Cardinals Cooke and O'Connor have bought their own galeros and worn them around, or put them aside for hanging from the cathedral ceiling when they died, thereby continuing the edifying practice of demonstrating that worldly glory is passing, even if it passes very slowly?  Yes, they could have, and some cardinals do just that.   Some do a lot more than just wear galeros.  Some even drive around in galero mobiles:

   Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo Sri Lanka in his galero mobile

Although the pope no longer distributes galeros to cardinals, everyone from a cardinal down to a monsignor is allowed to display an imaginary galero in his coat of arms, and the Archbishop of Prague and many others do this.
Arms of the the Archbishop of Prague

Bishops generally choose green for the color of their imaginary galero, except in China, where "wearing a green hat" is slang for a cuckold, though why this should bother a bishop is not obvious to me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why so few galeros?

Galeros very slowly turning to dust

Galeros are broad brimmed, tasseled hats that cardinals receive from the pope when they are installed in office.  The hats indicate a cardinal's status as a prince of the church.  After the death of a cardinal it's traditional to hang the cardinal's galero from the ceiling above his tomb until it's reduced to dust.  This is to show that earthly glory is passing. 

St. Patrick's Cathedral in NY has a crypt, and six cardinals (McCloskey, Farley, Hayes, Spellman, Cooke, O'Connor) are entombed there.   However, only four galeros hang above the crypt.  What happened to the other two galeros?  Answer to be posted tomorrow.

By the way, Cardinal McCloskey's galero has been hanging from the ceiling since 1885, and it has a long way to go before it's dust.  Hanging galeros from the ceiling until they turn to dust is definitely not the clearest way to show that earthly glory is passing.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Unfortunately there are no questions about chapels

Blessed Duns Scotus, pray for us

In 2010, Pew Forum tested Americans' knowledge of religion.  Atheists got the highest grades, Catholics got the lowest.   Most Catholics even got the basic Catholic questions wrong.   You can take the Pew Forum test here.

A religion professor recently published a book on American religious illiteracy, and naturally, the professor has a quiz too, which you can take here.

Of course, you don't need to pass a multiple choice test to become a saint.  On the other hand, there's never been a saint so ignorant of the Faith that they couldn't name the seven sacraments, and didn't know what takes place at Mass.  Knowing those kinds of things has generally been considered the easy part about being Catholic.

If you are not a religious know it all but would like to become one, a good way to achieve this goal is by meandering through the Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan of the Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, SJ.   A list of the works included in Fr. Hardon's Reading Plan is here.   There are a lot of books in the plan; Fr. Hardon allowed for unusually long lifespans. 

On her deathbed, St. Teresa of Avila, the great mystic and doctor of the Church, joyfully exclaimed again and again "I am a child of Holy Church, a child of Holy Church!"  It is indeed a great gift from God to be a child of Holy Church.  As St. Alphonsus Liguori notes, "He hath not done in like manner to every nation." (Ps. 147:20)  The reason for St. Teresa's joy can certainly be found in the books included in Fr. Hardon's reading plan.  Heck, St. Teresa wrote three of them herself.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

So why is it called a chapel anyway?

Charlemagne had a nice chapel

In the latest of a continuing series of posts beating the topic of chapels to death, today we look at why these funny little churches are called chapels in the first place.  Since we like quizzes around here, we'll give you four choices.  If you pick the right one you will be eligible for an official Inigo Hicks refrigerator magnet, to be distributed by Inigo Hicks himself at the next Inigo Hicks Fan Club Convention.

Choice #1: Chapels are small structures around the main altar of cathedrals, which are usually in the main cities ("capitula") of a district.

Choice #2: Chapels are small structures along the sides of a cathedral where travellers could pray without having to remove their riding britches ("chaparrals").

Choice #3: Chapels are small structures for sheltering the cloak ("capella") of St. Martin of Tours, the soldier-saint, which in olden times the Kings of France would carry into battle.

Choice #4: Chapels are small structures around the sides of a cathedral where the cathedral chapter ("capitulum"), a college of clerics which advises the bishop, meets.

Good luck.  By the way, "Why is it called a chapel?", like "Name that Chapel", is a no holds barred game without rules.   Feel free to consult google, dusty tomes of religious knowledge, and local religious know it alls.

Friday, April 25, 2014

More NY Catholic Trivia: Name that chapel

The 1955 chapel, which did not cost a million dollars
The 1966 chapel, which did cost a million dollars
 A wedding at the million dollar chapel

This chapel's construction was spearheaded by a US Customs employee seeking to honor a battlefield vow he'd made to the Virgin Mary.  The current chapel is actually the third built on the site in less than 50 years.   The first was built in 1955, but was soon demolished to permit airport expansion.  A second chapel was built in 1966, at a cost of more than a million dollars, which was a very large amount of money back then.   Willie Mays, the highest paid player in baseball that year, made $133,000.  The current highest paid baseball player makes $33 million.   If the cost of chapels has risen at the same rate as baseball salaries, a million dollar chapel, in 1966 dollars, would be the equivalent of a $225 million chapel today.

The chapel was heavily used; nine Masses were said in the chapel every weekend.   It's been observed that the acid test of a church's beauty is whether it's popular with brides.  If so, the million dollar chapel was certainly very beautiful, since droves of brides chose to be married there.  More than 100 weddings took place in the chapel every year, quite a large number considering the chapel wasn't associated with a parish, and its location was not especially convenient.  For most, getting to this chapel would entail beating the Van Wyck, which of course no one has ever done.

In 1988 the million dollar chapel, like its 1955 predecessor, was demolished to make way for airport expansion.  However, this time the budget for a new chapel was dramatically smaller than the amount available in 1966.  The new budget permitted only a closet-sized space within the airport terminal itself:  see the photo of the new chapel's dedication below.

I doubt the current chapel is popular with brides.

All three chapels shared the same name.   Name that chapel, and win an official Inigo Hicks refrigerator magnet.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New York Catholic Trivia

This wasn't the main attraction

If you grew up in the NYC area during the early 1960s there's a good chance you visited this place.   More than 27 million people did, including Pope Paul VI.  On the busiest day, almost 184,000 people elbowed their way through.   Notable for its novelty rather than its beauty, this chapel was part of a larger building, but not a trace of it remains today.  Can you name it?  The usual refrigerator magnet will be awarded for each correct answer.

UPDATE:  We have winners!  It's the Good Shepherd Chapel of the Vatican Pavilion from the '64-'65 World's Fair.    The Vatican Pavilion's  big draw, and the crown jewel of the entire Fair, was this famous statue:

 Michelangelo's "Pieta" (1498 AD)
Visitors were moved past the statue along three motorized walkways.  Between the walkways and the Pieta was a wall of bullet proof glass; perhaps they feared Americans would be unable to resist pumping lead into such a pretty statue.  Notwithstanding the bullet proof glass, 27 million people gliding within yards of such a masterpiece evidently made the Vatican people very nervous, because afterwards they decided never to allow their treasures to be exhibited outside the Vatican again.  Little good it did the Pieta, as a madman would enter St. Peter's Basilica in 1972 and attack the statue with a hammer.  Applying a lesson learned in Queens, the Pieta has ever since been displayed behind bullet proof glass.

After the Fair, the Vatican Pavilion was demolished.  This engraved bench, with the oddly grandiose name of "Exedra," is the only reminder:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The country's in the very best of hands

 This eagle always reminds me of
this eagle

I couldn't resist stealing that header from the great professor, because it fits this story about the IRS, "where a worker at the tax agency’s customer help line urged taxpayers “to re-elect President Obama in 2012 by repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of his last name,” the Office of Special Counsel said in a statement."

We can't get chant restored to the Mass, but over at the IRS they've got people chanting the president's name all day long.

It's almost like the IRS has become partisan and politicized, which is of course unpossible.