Friday, March 29, 2013

Exsultet - Liturgie de la Lumiere - Happy Easter!

I love this version of the Easter Proclamation, Exsultet, from the Easter Vigil, 2008, at the Basilique-Cath├ędrale Sainte-Marie et Sainte-R├ęparate de Nice, France.  So I am reposting it from last Easter.

The Easter Vigil liturgy is the most beautiful liturgy in the Roman Catholic Church. This post at walks us through the Easter Vigil, and includes the words to the Exsultet:

For more information about the Exsultet and its history, see:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Benedict XVI on Sacred Music

Cornelius Sullivan
March 23, 2013
Saint Cecilia and the Angel, Carlo Saraceni, c. 1610,
 Oil, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

Pope Benedict makes the case against dumbed down music in Church because it is music to praise God. He brings to this discussion equal expertise in knowledge of proper liturgy and a thorough knowledge of culture in general. As with his gentle hand in guiding the Church toward reverential liturgy and his balanced interpretation of implementing Vatican II, he honors tradition and at the same time encourages creativity. He understands that Sacred Music praises God. Formerly, the orientation facing the altar was correct for praising God rather than the stance of a concert where
everyone sings. 

There are times, for example after Communion, where the music was appropriately hushed and distant for that time of quiet personal prayer, not with an “in your face” ever present aggressiveness demanding attention. And everyone singing, priest and congregation, should not be an end in itself.
As Pope Benedict said

Active Participation –“Wherever an exaggerated concept of "community" predominates, a concept which is (as we have already seen) completely unrealistic precisely in a highly mobile society such as ours, there only the priest and the congregation can be acknowledged as legitimate executors or performers of liturgical song. Today, practically everyone can see through the primitive activism and the insipid pedagogic rationalism of such a position which is why it is now asserted so seldom. The fact that the schola and the choir can also contribute to the whole picture, is scarcely denied any more, even among those who erroneously interpret the council's phrase about "active participation" as meaning external activism.” 1
If there is any feeling that art or the liturgy should be made to  match young people’s sensibilities, one should heed the advice of Flannery O’Connor on the duty of teachers to educate and elevate taste. For a student, “His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed.”

Pope Benedict has contributed greatly with his inspired instructions on the use of Sacred Music in the Liturgy. 

Development in Sacred Music- "An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony." 2

Trent and Music- “In the West, in the form of Gregorian chant, the inherited tradition of psalm-singing was developed to a new sublimity and purity, which set a permanent standard for sacred music, music for the liturgy of the Church.… Church music and secular music are now each influenced by the other. It is clear that these opportunities for artistic creativity and the adoption of secular tunes brought danger with them. Music was no longer developing out of prayer, but, with the new demand for artistic autonomy, was now heading away from the liturgy; it was becoming an end in itself, opening the door to new, very different. ways of feeling and of experiencing the world. Music was alienating the liturgy from its true nature. At this point the Council of Trent intervened in the culture war that had broken out. It was made a norm that liturgical music should be at the service of the Word; the use of instruments was substantially reduced; and the difference between secular and sacred music was clearly affirmed.”  3 

Sacred vs. Performance –“Whether it is Bach or Mozart that we hear in church, we have a sense in either case of what Gloria Dei, the glory of God, means. The mystery of infinite beauty is there and enables us to experience the presence of God more truly and vividly than in many sermons. But there are already signs of danger to come. Subjective experience and passion are still held in check by the order of the musical universe, reflecting as it does the order of the divine creation itself. But there is already the threat of invasion by the virtuoso mentality, the vanity of technique, which is no longer the servant of the whole but wants to push itself to the fore. During the nineteenth century, the century of self-emancipating subjectivity, this led in many places to the obscuring of the sacred by the operatic. The dangers that had forced the Council of Trent to intervene were back again. In similar fashion, Pope Pius X tried to remove the operatic element from the liturgy and declared Gregorian chant and the great polyphony of the age of the Catholic Reformation (of which Palestrina was the outstanding representative) to be the standard for liturgical music.

“A clear distinction was made between liturgical music and religious music in general, just as visual art in the liturgy has to conform to different standards from those employed in religious art in general. Art in the liturgy has a very specific responsibility, and precisely as such does it serve as a wellspring of culture, which in the final analysis owes its existence to cult.” 4

“Not every kind of music can have a place in Christian worship. It has its standards, and that standard is the Logos. If we want to know whom we are dealing with, the Holy Spirit or the unholy spirit, we have to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Cor 12:3). The Holy Spirit leads us to the Logos, and he leads us to a music that serves the Logos as a sign of the sursum corda, the lifting up of the human heart. Does it integrate man by drawing him to what is above, or does it cause his disintegration into formless intoxication or mere sensuality? That is the criterion for a music in harmony with logos, a form of that logike latreia (reasonable, logos-worthy worship)…” 5

1. "In the Presence of the Angels..." Adoremus Bulletin, Vol. 2, Nos. 6-8, Oct-Dec. 1996). 
2.. Speaking in the Sistine Chapel following a tribute concert to Dominico Bartolucci, June 24, 2006.]
3. The Spirit of the Liturgy (SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000), pp. 146-47
4. Ibid, p. 148
5. Ibid, p. 151

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If two lesbians, why not two sisters?

This was the question posed by the Burden sisters in England. See posts above for September 18, 2010 ("Treat Us Like Lesbians!") and April 30, 2008.  In addition to the question of why the Brave New World of "marriage" should be limited to two people (so discriminating against polyamorists), there is the question posed by siblings like the Burden sisters in England and this author from New Zealand of why such "marriage" law should exclude two people who live together in a loving committed, interdependent relationship which is not sexual. What is the state's interest in privileging sexual relations over sibling relations in these circumstances, where there is in principle no possibility of children coming from the relationship? The great virtue of Hawaii's reciprocal beneficiaries law was that it did not exclude non-sexual relations. It did not assume or require that two people living in a committed reciprocal relationship be having sex. It addressed some of the problems of such relationships (hospital visitation, inheritance, etc.) without mimicking or hijacking marriage. Here Carolyn Moynihan, Deputy Editor of MercatorNet, takes up the question with reference to her own situation.

Carolyn Moynihan

lesbian weddingNew Zealand’s Marriage Act 1955 does not define marriage; no-one then thought it necessary to define what was self-evident, anywhere. As the agitation for same-sex marriage grew, however, the United States federal government passed the Defence of Marriage Act in 1996 defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, a move ratified by the majority of states.

In New Zealand that did not happen and marriage revisionists have seized the initiative to define marriage in a way that would accommodate same-sex couples. A bill for this purpose was introduced last August by Labour Party list MP Louisa Wall.

This piece of legislation, passed by two-thirds of MPs after its second reading debate last Wednesday, is meant to ensure that our marriage law is "not applied in a discriminatory manner."

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill "will make it clear that a marriage is a union of 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity," says the preamble. "It will ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose."

That sounds about as inclusive as you can get, doesn’t it? But even this version of marriage law discriminates against certain classes of people. I cannot, for example, marry my sister. A schedule to the bill excludes me from marrying a sibling, a grandparent, parent, child, grandchild and a list of in-laws. This list of prohibited degrees of marriage is carried over from the Marriage Act 1955 -- purged, of course, of brother, sister, mother, father and all terms which imply that the human race is either male or female.

But why could I not, in the brave new era of marriage equality, marry my sister? What is the difference between us and two lesbians who present themselves to a marriage celebrant? Neither couple can produce a child, so the customary reason for “siblings” (brother and sister) not being able to marry or even have a sexual relationship -- a genetically impaired child -- is irrelevant.

Advocates of this law change insist that marriage is all about love, commitment and stability. I believe the relationship between me and my sister meets that description. We love each other and have lived together for over 20 years. We are committed to each other and care for each other, jointly own our home, have wills favouring each other. We have cared for dependent relatives and also, at one stage, an unrelated young girl. Neither of us has her own children but we are still capable of raising a child, should we feel so inclined.

What part of Ms Wall’s definition of marriage as “a union of 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity” does not fit us?

Perhaps it is the “union” bit. However, although it is supposed to define marriage, the term itself is undefined. What does marital union mean in an era of same-sex love? Does it have to involve sexual attraction? It is necessary to say at this point that my sister and I have no sexual interest in each other. It is conceivable that sisters might -- as a student told an attentive select committee at a hearing on the bill, "all forms of attraction exist" -- but we do not. Is our sisterly love therefore less worthy of public recognition in the form of a marriage certificate than the love of two lesbians who are romantically involved?

An affirmative answer to this question has to explain what is the public interest in what two women who are not blood relations do together in bed. Remember, my sister and I have a loving, committed, stable relationship in which we share our lives and goods -- equal, I am sure, in those respects to any settled lesbian couple.

To repeat: what is the public interest in the romantic desire and sexual activity of two women? I suggest there is none.
Marriage is associated with romance because romance is the kind of desire that aims at bodily union, with its potential to beget children. Partners of the same sex cannot achieve such a union no matter what they do. Strictly speaking, therefore, they cannot achieve sexual union at all. They can have sexual encounters in which they give each other pleasure and, no doubt, produce a feeling of being more united, but this is quite a different thing from the organic union that a man and a woman achieve in sexual intercourse -- particularly when it results in the conception of a new human being.

It is that organic, conjugal union that defines marriage, and its potential to generate children that creates the state interest in marriage. The state needs marriages to produce new citizens and to ensure that they grow up into decent, law-abiding citizens. It is all too evident in New Zealand's poverty and abuse data how disastrous it is for children and society when marriage culture breaks down.

If the good of existing children were the main issue in recognising same-sex relationships there might be reason to revise existing laws regarding adoption and civil unions, but it is not. We have been told repeatedly that this bill is about the good of same-sex couples, with or without children, about their right to have their love equally recognised by New Zealand society.

At best, this is a purely sentimental claim. It is not rational. There is no more reason for the state to bless the romantic relationships of couples who cannot unite sexually than there is for it to bless the affection of two sisters. In a sane world marriage law would discriminate against both.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet
A slightly different version of this article was published in the New Zealand Sunday Star Times, March 17.  Copyright note from MercatorNet:

This article is published by Carolyn Moynihan and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Postmodern Pope

March 18, 2013
By Cornelius Sullivan

He cares about the poor. But he rejects the Marxist Liberation Theology meta-narrative where “the poor” are a class. He knows and has helped poor people in familial ways as individuals. For Pope Francis the beauty is in the details, the white cassock, the small car, riding the bus, carrying his own luggage.

This Pope is not an ideologue who has a vision for a new world order. It’s the Gospel, the Gospel lived locally. Subsidiarity has been a Catholic theory or organizing principle that says that political and economic matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The question is, since the encyclical Rerum Novarum of 1891 by Pope Leo XIII, has there yet been an example showing how to live it?

I have a more positive attitude about Postmodernism than some Catholic thinkers today who link it inextricably with relativism and deconstruction. 

I was at Rhode Island School of Design in 1989, as the Berlin Wall was coming down, and had the privilege to know a Polish film critic who was teaching a class in “Post Modernism in the Visual Arts”. (As a marble sculptor who also painted, I suffered through Modernism where Clement Greenberg and his Theory of Flatness reigned, Painting and Sculpture must be separated for purity. And “Sculpture was what you backed into when you were trying to get a good distance for viewing an abstract painting.”)

In visual art Postmodernism meant not just a reaction against Modernism but freedom. We could paint our sculpture and the figure returned to painting and sculpture. Derrida's and the post-structuralist’s philosophy and deconstruction had a superficial influence on Postmodern Architecture in its fragmentation, but Postmodern Architecture’s freedom from the tyranny of Modernist aesthetics was more important. The Modern architects did not care if you knew the building was a church or an apartment building or even if you knew where the door was. They knew better, and they were making great abstract form. Postmodern architecture took some ideas from Route 66 with its shoe store in the shape of a shoe, and meaning became clear, a church could look like a church.

Modernism has always been wedded to the meta-narratives. The housing for the poor was for “the poor”, never considered as suitable for or accommodating to individuals. Charles Jencks in his best selling book, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (1977),   

described modernism as dying on 15th July 1972, at precisely 3:32pm when the demolition of the Pruitt- Igoe development in St. Louis occurred. The building, a modernist post-war social housing project, was constructed to provide cheap and affordable housing to promote equality and a fair society.

Less than twenty years on, the failings of the modern utopian ideal are showcased in this demolition. It became a place of crime and violence. The place had no human scale, there was no privacy, there were no architectural features promoting human dignity. And yet, the architects were arrogant in thinking that they knew what was best for “the poor”.

Postmodernism is suspicious of the promises of technology.

A friend wrote after the conclave “Some naive people see it as a victory for left/"social justice" tendency because they equate concern for the poor with government programs and redistribution.” They may be disappointed. Look at the localism of the way that Pope Francis lives the Gospel.

The wonderful drawing at the top by Beppe Giacobbe is with the article The Priest Came from The New World to Give Back Faith to Old Europe by Gian Arturo Ferrari in the Sunday edition of the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. (I did not notice at first the subtle world map on the scooter.)

Ferrari emphasizes that Papa Bergoglio is a priest and that he is from the New World. He recalls that Montini (Pope Paul VI), Wojtyla, and Ratzinger were Europeans in culture and in vision of the world from the war and cold war years. He says on the other hand, Bergoglio has simplicity, honesty, and humility, and he is a Jesuit like the ones who converted the Indians in the AmericasEurope is in decline, not only religiously, but also geopolitically. It is bleary eyed and no longer has the clarity of vision that was once its glory. And pessimism is the work of the devil.

He ends by proposing that there is a message of hope for Europe and Italy. Pope Francis will “have a great gift for everyone, whether believers or not.”

home (c) 2013 by Cornelius Sullivan

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Francis, Rebuild my Church!" - God

Fr. Robert Barron's first thoughts on our new pope.

Pope Francis - They Chose Well

Habemus Papam

The South Americans, the Italians, and the journalists think the Cardinals chose well, the surprise Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.

He is a simple pious man who lives the Gospel. He is a Jesuit who lives like Saint Francis of Assisi. As an outsider, he can be a reformer. He was the runner up to Cardinal Ratzinger in the conclave in 2005, so it is said. He was being used to block Ratzinger and he said, do not vote for me. In 2002 he dodged the move to bring him to the Curia in Rome. So, he has been known by the Cardinals for some time.

I did not expect white smoke but decided to take my camera and go out anyway for an evening passagiata just before 7. Ten blocks from Saint Peter’s there was a bus stopped in traffic. Suddenly, all the doors opened and everyone ran out toward the basilica. In the piazza everyone was smiling, it was a sight such that I had never seen before. I wished I could freeze time and take a picture of every face. Standing behind me were three men speaking English. A young priest from Milan, an older man from Australia, and another young man from Brazil. The priest said to me, “This is family, this is a family event. We are together here, we are from three different continents.”


Then the surprise announcement of Cardinal Bregoglio came, he would be Pope Francis.  I had heard of him. The crowd turned quiet and subdued but only for a time. Then chants of Viva Francesco! and Viva Papa! filled the cool air. It had rained for a week. Gulls circled the cupola of the church as we waited. Then the rain stopped just before the new Pope appeared. Just in time, umbrellas came down so we could see. Today is my first day of sun in Rome.

I had heard a great deal about the Cardinal from Argentina. On Saturday evening walking home late down Via Borgo Pio, the street that leads directly to the Santa Anna Gate into the back of the Vatican, half way down the street, there was a wine bar restaurant with the door open, a man singing and playing a guitar, and a sign painted on arched glass above the door, Enoteca Amor Divino.  It was like a living room or dining room with bottles on the table. I did not see a menu. You poured your own glass. If the wine that you wanted was not yet opened, you opened it.

 After a while the owner of the bar stood behind a large Italian man at the head of a big table of ten people. The woman with the big man had just sung with the guitar man in a trained classical soprano voice. Riccardo, put his hands on the big man and said in English, “He combines Sean Connery and Padre Pio. He combines the sacred and the profane. The saints are always connected to the earth…. I knew we would talk.

When we did talk it was about the sacred and the profane, I was reminded of the Titian painting in Museo Borghese of Sacred and Profane Love.  Later, I said to him, “I noticed that the sign over the door says “Winebar Divine Love” and the menu says “Enoteca Amor D Vino”, which is “Enoteca Love of Wine”. He said, yes, the sign painter made a mistake!” I said, “God tricked you.” He shrugged and said, “Yes, but I like God.”


Amor D Vino

We agreed to meet the next day and I would interview him about Vatican things. We went to a little park across the street. I sat and wrote by the fountain. He stood in front of me so he could have space to wave his arms, pace, and move.

Mr. Della Chiesa (from the Church) is middle aged, a photographer, an energetic, charismatic man who is passionate about ideas. About the Curia and the conclave he said, “It begins, the politics, we want this, and we want that,…then when they give up. That is the God moment.” He continued, “To clean up the Curia, well, to clean up a room, you have to empty it first.”

I was trying to understand his ideas, they were in good English mixed in with Italian phrases for emphasis. He said, “We need a new era, a Post Humanism, a new Middle ages.” He talked about how man has tried to become God with machines. This is where he talked about Cardinal Bergoglio as a holy man. I could not connect all the dots but his passion and clean heart were apparent. It sounded like a repudiation of Enlightenment ideas that have privileged progress, science, and world order over some more human values that he mentioned, like honesty, simplicity, and humility.

Is he an Italian Post-Communist Hippy or a bar man secular saint?  The night after the election he saw me on the street coming to see him and he ran to me, took my hand and would not let go, and said, “I told you, I told you.” He did not stop smiling.

Then he told me that he lived downstairs from Cardinal Ratzinger for eight years at Piazza della Leonina Citta, 1.  He said the Cardinal was the “kindest man I ever knew, gentle and reserved.” He said as Pope, Benedict bore his cross and suffered greatly because he was so shy. He said that he did not think that Benedict gave up his office from weakness because he is a German who lived through the war and that his generation never would give up. He said we must look at the Pope’s words, “I wish forgiveness for my weakness.” And, “The Cardinal always asked about my family, my children and my mother.”

home (c) 2013 Cornelius Sullivan

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Choosing a Pope

Jesus and Saint Peter Calling, detail, Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio.

March 12, 2013
By Cornelius Sullivan

Is it a sacred office or a CEO job? If the latter, then what continent he is from counts, how many languages he speaks matters, if he is too old, or too young must be considered. Or is he a compromise candidate to block the Americans or to block the entrenched Roman Curia? These are all important political things to be mindful of.

If it is indeed a sacred office, we can look at some ideas about who chooses whom, or who finds, and who is found. Pope John Paul II said, “I did not choose you, you chose me.” Pope Benedict has summarized all of sacred scripture as God not having been found but of first finding, beginning with Abraham and all the others that he revealed himself to.

In Benedict’s book Saint Paul he says that the apostle to the Gentiles did not have just a conversion because that implies some change internally, in the ego. He says, “Rather it came from the outside: it was a fruit, not of his thought, but of his encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a development of his “ego”, but rather a death and resurrection for Paul himself.” “One existence died, and another, new one was born. This encounter is a real renewal that changed all his parameters.”

So many things remind us of the sacredness of the Pontifical Office, from the Swiss Guards' uniforms, the white smoke, the locked doors and secrecy. And John Paul’s poem about the Sistine Chapel, part of The Roman Triptych, when he said to the Cardinal electors, "When it is time to vote, look up to Michelangelo for guidance."

In front of Michelangelo’s Genesis and Last Judgment, ideas about time change, and it is not so easy to politic as usual.

From My Interview with Saint Peter, The Art of Martyrdom, an article from 2011, He (Saint Peter) said, "So to conclude about martyrdom. Do you know that all but two, of the fifty two of my immediate successors as Bishop of Rome are saints, most were martyrs?"

And he continued, “Losing one’s head, being pierced, or cooked, is not for everyone. There was a time when we had to think about it. We had to be prepared. You had to give it all. It was a big distinguished club to join. There were some seriously impressive witnesses. The Greek word for witness means martyr. You wanted to be like them, and then most of all was the master’s example, so fresh in our minds. You know it happened so fast. It seemed right for me given the position that I had. What else could I do, get another fishing boat?"

This is the state of mind and soul that is required for a man to say, “Yes, I accept the office.”

Pope Benedict chose for the cover of his Saint Paul book a detail of Caravaggio’s painting of Saul changed to Saint Paul.

Having said all that about God choosing, the conclave will still be carried out in real time beginning today by more than one hundred men from all over the world.

Within that group today there is a split between those who want to maintain a status quo and those who want reform, the cleaning of the filth that Benedict began. There are observers who see his stepping aside as a means to achieving that needed cleansing. When he left office every curial department shut down. A new younger pope will be able to start fresh, and the new pope will have the special report prepared by the three cardinals that came out of the “Vatileaks” scandal. Only Pope Benedict’s eyes have seen that report. The electing cardinals asked to know what it contained but we are not sure exactly what and how much information they have received.

On the ground here and on Italian TV there is a great deal of talk about Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal O’Malley. We can imagine Dolan at World Youth Day in Rio. The Italians say that O’Malley reminds them of Padre Pio. I know Cardinal Sean from Boston. I think they both live the joy of the Faith. It has been said of Dolan, "Is he not too brash?" Saint Peter was a fisherman. We saw the shy Benedict suffer in the public position, do we want to see a shy man suffer in that way for twenty years? Benedict bore his cross and suffered in the spotlight but I think he is one of the great popes, and like Dolan I say, “Oh, I love him so much.” The part of the office that Benedict could no longer do was the part of being an Apostle. After the philosopher and theologian popes we have lots of heavy reading for many more years.  The counter-cultural position of the Church will become more tested as the clash with secular governments continues. The Dolan-Obama confrontation is ongoing. Throughout that I have admired Dolan’s affable firmness.

 I like some things that I have read about Viennese Cardinal Shoenborn, a Ratzinger student. They say a plus is that he has many enemies in the Curia so he would be a reformer. There was a question about his action overriding a local pastor and re-instating a homosexual parish minister. It seems that the minister said he refrains from taking Holy Communion. Those who know Shoenborn say he was satisfied with this situation and acted out of charity for the man.

Italian Tradition
The Italian patrimony and tradition is not trivial. It has worked for the country, the city, and the Vatican. Here is one good example first, and then I will point out a current problem with it that is analogous to what is happening now in the Curia.

Recently this story has been questioned but I like it as a story anyway for what it points out about the way things work in Rome.

In 1586 Pope Sixtus V (the Sistine Chapel is named after Pope Sixtus IV) set architect Domenico Fontana to move the obelisk from Nero’s Circus to the center of the piazza in front of the almost finished Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is from a single block of granite, 25 meters high weighing one million pounds.  It was brought from Egypt by Emperor Caligula in 37 AD. The obelisk has been called the “Silent Witness” because it saw Saint Peter and so many others martyred by Nero right to the left of where the fisherman’s basilica is now.

Given the history and the symbolism it was important that it not be broken in the move. There were 900 men and 140 horses for the task and the men were required to confess and receive communion before the final stages of the move that took four months. There were instructions that if any man spoke he would be executed. As the ropes began to burn, a sailor yelled, “Water the ropes.” He was not executed and to this day his family, his town, has the contract to supply the palm branches at Saint Peter’s on Palm Sunday. This seems appropriate as long as he can deliver on the contract. This is tradition.

I have often spoken of the generosity of the Romans for putting up with us art pilgrims and generously sharing their patrimony. But lately the union influences in Rome have required museum guides to be only those certified as Italian guides. The vigilance has been excessive and a woman was escorted out of the Vatican museums even though she was just explaining something to a family member. This is not tradition, it is grasping petty provincialism. Things may be getting better because I know a well respected guide who has spoken up and is being listened to now, and is being asked for advice.

Inside the Curia there are two groups favoring a status quo, those who want to keep control, and another group that is about maintaining contracts. Cardinal Bertone has been linked with the latter. In opposition to these, are the cardinals who wish to complete the reform that they believe Benedict began. Those who favor the status quo keep proposing compromise candidates to block reform, but none has caught on yet.

Will the fact of the media falling for Dolan and O’Malley have influence in the conclave? We will know soon.

Cum clavi is Latin for with a key. Today there will be only one vote. After today there will be two votes in the morning and two in the afternoon. A two thirds majority is required. Pope John Paul II had changed it to a single majority 50% plus one if there was no two thirds vote after twelve days. Pope Benedict in 2007 changed it back thinking that there may be a faction that could not get the two thirds and would block until for the twelfth day to get the simple majority.

The vote is hand written on paper and is secret. The ballots are burned after each second vote.
home (c) 2013 by Cornelius Sullivan

Monday, March 11, 2013

Notes from Rome - Cornelius Sullivan


March 11, 2013
By Cornelius Sullivan

The normal Sede Vacante, the vacant Chair of Saint Peter period, usually involves a funeral followed by a Conclave. In this uncertain interregnum time we can be certain of only one thing. There will be a Papal Funeral at some time celebrated by a Pope. A funeral for a Pope by a Pope is unprecedented in Modern Times.

The mourning time for Pope John Paul II that preceded his funeral involved lines of pilgrims for days coursing through the city streets leading to Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Funeral celebrated by Cardinal Ratzinger was a world event that dominated the interregnum period before the conclave.

The spotlight of History is now focused on the future next week. In Rome time seems to be racing ahead even though it is a waiting time. A big story now is about the press, there will be five thousand six hundred journalists temporarily accredited by the Vatican Press Office. With large laminated identity badges strap slung around their necks they are intent in anticipation, wide eyed and aware of the immense historical importance of the coming days.

I have seen people fervently praying in Piazza San Pietro, amid the crowds, on their knees, looking at the basilica and looking at the light-less empty Papal Palace.

Sunday was a day without meetings for the Cardinals. They said Masses at their respective titular churches. I had dinner last night with two experienced media journalists, who are busy now doing TV spots, and a writer from the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. The reporters went to the Mass celebrated by Boston’s Cardinal Sean O”Malley at Santa Maria delle Vittoria, the church with Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. They were impressed with Cardinal Sean’s strong voice and by the fact that if he is chosen, as a Capuchin Franciscan, he will still wear his sandles. My companions are all pulling for Cardinal Ouelett from Quebec. The writer from Osservatore went to his Sunday Mass at his church on Via delle Conciliazione, Santa Maria in Traspontina, only hundreds of yards from Saint Peter’s. She said he was very nervous and that he shook.

I said that the words of Cardinal Dolan resound with clarity through the canyons of New York, and that he could clean house because he has political genius, meaning that, we like him no matter what he says. He has the gift of doing things in a way that even those that he sends away after cleaning house may end up thanking him.  My friends said that he can not relate to the Europeans. I reminded them that Pope Benedict in 2012 asked him to speak to all the Cardinals on the subject of “Evangelization in a Secular World”. My academic friends say he hit a home run with that talk. I saw him in Rome at that time, more about that later. My European friends in the United States scoff at the idea of an American Pope. Cardinal Weurl has said that it would be a problem because the US is a super power. Only a Cardinal from Washington DC would say something like that.

It is getting loud in the Press Office. Phones ring and conversations in many languages get louder as they increase in frequency. And now we await Farther Federico Lombardi’s press release for the day, Monday. The Cardinals have met for a final time before the conclave to allow the Cardinals who arrived late to speak.

At 1:15 PM Father Lombardi speaks In Italian, then there is an English translation, and then in Spanish. This is the last briefing before the conclave. The conclave begins tomorrow with a Mass in the morning.

Today there were one hundred and fifty two Cardinals present. Three Cardinals were chosen to assist the Head of the College of Cardinals.

Twenty eight Cardinals spoke this morning. Some who wished to talk did not get chance to speak because of a vote to end the talks.

The Mass tomorrow will be celebrated by Cardinal Sodano with his homily in Italian and with music by Palestrina.

After the Mass there will be a solemn procession through the Pauline Chapel below the Michelangelo frescoes of the Conversion of Saint Paul and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter with the chanting of the Litany of the Saints.

Then to the Sistine Chapel and the Cardinals take an oath in Latin and each places his hands on the bible.

The Master of Ceremonies takes out the observers and the doors are closed and locked.

It is expected that there will be a vote by 4:30 and probably some smoke by 8:00 PM. It is not likely that it will be white because this is only the first vote.

The Vatican camera will be on the chimney. “If you see white smoke, you will know what to do.”

Once elected, the one chosen will be asked, “Do you accept?” Then, “What name do you take?”

Then there will be a special prayer.

The new Pope is taken to “The Room of Tears” where he is vested with a white cassock.

The new Pope will stop at the Pauline Chapel to pray alone before the Blessed Sacrament.

Then the world will see him on the balcony.

Last time it was 45 minutes between smoke and balcony.

The Mass of ordination does not have to be on a Sunday, there will be a period of time for people from all over the world to travel.

If the Cardinals choose to not vote tomorrow, Father Lombardi with his inside information, will know because the Cardinals will have made their way to Saint Margaret’s Hall for dinner.

The whole process is both grand and familiar at the same time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Caravaggio, the Interview

Cornelius Sullivan - Rome

"Saint Peter, is Caravaggio here?"

He smiled and said, "Oh, you recognize me from the portrait he did of me that is in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome."

Crucifixion of Saint Peter, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

I liked Saint Peter as I liked most of the fishermen that I have known. They are honest like tradesmen, but a little different. Fishermen have far looking eyes, to the horizon, as the sun goes up and down, and they are driven to search the deep.

He asked, "Did you know we have reproductions here?"

I said I did not. He went on, "Yes, my mother has that one, she likes it, even thou it’s my upside down crucifixion."

I asked again, "And Caravaggio? I just read that maybe his, you know, his trouble, his capital murder offense in Rome, that maybe it was self defense, this from a serious researcher." Saint Peter replied, "Yes, he’s here. He’s with the artists. And you want to speak with him? Interviews are such timely things. I can’t really let you in." With passion I said, "I need to know, we all need to know the facts."

He waited a minute then said, "Oh, yes, yes, the facts. The historians and journalists, (only a few journalists) they have the facts. It’s not as light as where the artists are. You might think it is musty with all those volumes of facts. But we like writers that leave room for mystery, you know that different kind of truth. We greatly value understanding but realize that we can not know everything."

Then he said, "I’ll see if Caravaggio will consent to come out to the porch. We have all the time in the world, but you don’t, you are not supposed to be here, so you must be brief."

"Yes, thank you, sir."

He said, "There are a few things that I should tell you. You may find out whatever you can from the great painter but you must understand that we do not have a scale here to measure things, like five assaults against however many, say seven, great portraits of the Blessed Virgin, not to mention all those virile, human, incarnations in paint of Jesus. It’s not like that at all. It’s about the heart. Don’t misunderstand, Justice must be served, but we are constantly dazzled by the brilliance of mercy that covers it. And, I’m here at the gate especially because I required more second chances than anyone."

Portrait of the Artist, detail, Martyrdom of Saint Mathew, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

Caravaggio looked very much like his self portraits except that he was not so round, was finer, thinner, and quick. When he saw me, he saw all of me, measuring me with his eyes. He was dressed all in black. When he sat opposite me I thought he was going to put his boots on the table as he leaned back. He smiled and kicked my shoes and said "running boots". I said, "running shoes". He repeated slowly rolling the "R" and drawing out the "shoes". He asked, "You do sport, and do you fight?" I said I did in my foolish youth. I only wanted to ask him about sword fighting and paint mixtures and techniques but I thought I had to get some other things out of the way first.

"Maestro, can I ask you a few questions? I have found new information about the swordfight and homicide, and I would like to ask you about your death, there is also much speculation about that. And incredible as it may seem, scholars and newspapers are saying that you used a form of photography to make your paintings!"

His restlessness went to relaxation and he said, "Yes, I do have time."

"I just read that in Campo Marzio in 1606, maybe…here it is. A researcher named Francesco Tresoldi has written that,"

The Truth of the Conviction of Murder - devoting years to documentary research on the life of Caravaggio, I have had the opportunity to investigate what may have been the truth of the facts at the time of the killing of Ranuccio Tomassoni by Caravaggio. In an effort to defend him from so many frivolous interpretations… a careful evaluation, therefore, would have favored the judges of the Roman court at that time to arrive at a ‘no condemnation’, considering the fact that Caravaggio after being attacked, killed Tomassoni only to defend himself.

The artist said, "Oh, yes, we have been over that here, no need to go into it further. And you do know that the charge was dropped and in Rome, the case is closed."

I replied, "Yes, I saw, ‘non condanna’ and on a city document case closed. And then later there was the full pardon."

Caravaggio said, "Those … I must watch my tongue here. You heard about the pornographic poem demeaning my biographer, Baglione, and his art that got me in trouble."

I did hear of it and continued, "I loved what you said at trial, one of only two times that you spoke in court. When they asked, ‘Are you the poet?’ you said, Poet? The one who wrote that is a critic of art."

He reminisced, "Yes, that was fun. I was so misunderstood. I was a sensitive boy. You are smiling? I have fun with my friends here, they think my life was a series of mishaps interspersed with good art. I did have a sense of humor and I had a sense of what I must do, a sense of the importance of my work painting. You know how it is. No body said "Please, Caravaggio will you work hard day after day to make beautiful paintings". It had to come from me. Do you think I could drink and fight all the time and have such a steady hand? You don’t have to answer that."

I wanted to know more, so then I asked, "And your other biographer, Bellori, if we should call him that, your other slanderer, said you ‘died as miserably as you had lived’. Was he right?"

"No, not true at all. I knew what I had accomplished. I died in peace. I had more ideas to paint, but I had to leave some room for future artists. It was a most amazing, beautiful life, always full of surprises, and full of love."

I noticed an angel that was quietly telling me that I had to go. I pointed and asked, "Did you do a portrait of him, or her?"

He shook his head and said, "Yes, yes, I painted her. You probably never saw the painting, the first Saint Matthew and the Angel, the one that was destroyed with bombs in Berlin."

I told him that I knew of the painting from the black and white photograph.

File:Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - St Matthew and the Angel - WGA04127.jpg

Saint Matthew and the Angel, destroyed 1945, Berlin

The painter said, "You know the funny thing is, here you find out that, for example, that angel that I dreamt up, that I painted, came from somewhere, not exactly the same of course, I made her up, but related. You find out that so many dreams are in fact real. Interesting don’t you think? And the way art happens, I find it endlessly fascinating. Someday I’ll tell you about the color of that first painting with the angel. There are some singing yellows, and I began to explore the red, orange, and light green together."

Then he continued, "As with many of my paintings, this one was rejected. They said that the saint was not refined. I painted the second version quickly using a different model."
I said, "May I ask you about some other things. I’m not making this up. I have to force myself to read this trash. This is a headline from the…"

Telegraph, from the UK : Caravaggio used 'photography' to create masterpieces -Renaissance artist Caravaggio used an early form of photography to project images of his subjects onto a canvas using a noxious concoction of crushed dramatic fireflies and white lead. Published March 10, 2009 by Nick Squires in Rome.

"Someone should tell Squires that you were born a hundred years too late to be a Renaissance artist. Maestro, you can tell us, was your secret crushed fireflies?"

Then I said "And it seems the Telegraph is out to get you, you are a Counter Reformation artist. They are determined to take the mystery out of your art and turn you into a hack."

Telegraph July 13, 2010 - headline-‘ How Caravaggio saw in the Dark- The scoundrel and a killer, but did he also use a machine to help him "cheat" as he created his paintings? Martin Gayford sheds new light on a 400 year old mystery.’

"They always trot out the camera obscura especially with you and Vermeer because your art is so beautifully inexplicable. David Hockney has proposed its use by old masters because his own drawing is based on photographs and that is all that he knows. He and others can not imagine that a mind could have such a clear vision without the aid of a little box with a pin hole. And it is the mind that has the clear vision, not the eyes."

I continued, "This can only be understood as a manifestation of the need to reduce art to technology and take the very art and mystery out of it. Kantian aesthetics, Modernist aesthetics, comes from Descarte’s dualism, ‘Cogito ergo sum.’ If body and soul are separated, then matter can be controlled, and art can be understood solely in the terms of technology. Man rules Nature and man is the independent creator and not a creature. Creature-hood embraces an overall contextual inspiration, a ‘breathing in’, rather than an isolated dominance, the dominance of science that takes apart."

He responded, "My art, it is paint on canvas and I put it on with these hands. It was not easy. It was the most difficult and fun thing that I could think of to do. I enjoyed sharing some ideas with you."

Caravaggio got up, looked behind where he was standing, as if to see if he was being followed, then he laughed and tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Va bene, ci vediamo."

articles (c) 2013 Cornelius Sullivan

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Interview with Saint Peter, the Art of Martyrdom

Cornelius Sullivan- Rome

Talking of the papacy, Cornelius Sullivan interviews the first pope

Saint Peter, Rembrandt, 1632, National Museum, Stockolm.

Saint Peter said, "You’re back."

"Yes, Caravaggio said I could speak with him again. I brought a copy of the portrait of you by Rembrandt for your mother. You said she liked the Caravaggio painting of you. Rembrandt catches a good likeness, don’t you think?"

"He’s Rembrandt, yes, that’s me."

"Saint Peter, can I ask you a few questions while I’m here about the Caravaggio painting of you being crucified upside down? What is the look on your face? It’s not fear."

Crucifixion of Saint Peter, Caravaggio, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.

"You want an interview with me?"

He went on, "The problem with an interview is that whatever I say in response to you must be in a form that you can comprehend. Did you study theology? Heaven is a place, you can see that, it’s also a state, being in the presence of God. I can only, with great difficulty, pretend to not be living in that presence. To speak with you, I must imagine that I am the old me, bumbling around on earth. It feels ingenuous to do so, but it’s the only way that we can connect since you are neither here nor there."

"That’s fine, I see, but I don’t fully understand what I’m seeing. I feel like Alice or Gulliver, not at all like Dante, would that I had a guide like Virgil."

"Alright, there is some truth in the Caravaggio painting of my crucifixion. The time for fear had passed. I was jailed and freed many times. You know of my chains in the church named for them in Rome, San Pietro in Vincoli, Saint Peter in Chains, now the resting place for Michelangelo’s Moses and the tomb of Pope Julius II." He continued, "The term ‘martyr’ envelopes choice. Do you know the story of ‘Quo Vadis’?"

"I know of the church by that name on the Appia Antica in Rome. I think there was a Hollywood epic movie by that name too, from the fifties. Peter Ustinov played Nero."

Peter Ustinov as Nero

He said, "In Technicolor, and I was played by a Scottish actor with an agreeable accent. He made me look like Moses, tall, dresseed all in white, with flowing white hair and beard. ‘Quo vadis’ was what I questioned when I saw a vision of the Lord on the road. I was fleeing the city. I said ‘Where are you going?’ He said he was going into the city to be crucified again. I knew then that I had to turn around."

I said, "I have noticed that in the art about martyrdom that Rome is full of, that the martyr willingly grasps the palm branch, the symbol of that fate. And they are often shown experiencing a transcendent vision."

Saint Peter said, "Yes. There are only two possibilities of why anyone would choose a violent death, seeing a vision of what lies beyond that reality, or, the alternative is that the person is insane."

"The worst thing about being crucified upside down is that the blood rushes to your head. Sorry, we do martyrdom jokes here all the time."

I knew of one such. "Didn’t Saint Lawrence say on his grille, as he was being roasted, something like, turn me over, I’m done on this side? Is that true?"

"You would have to ask him yourself."

Saint Lawrence, Bernini, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

I said, “Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s first great sculpture was of his patron saint, Saint Lawrence. 

“Yes, and he carved flames in marble.”

On this visit I was able to look around a little. I realize now that my old idea of where I would see Saint Peter was an impoverished vision. I imagined a barren expanse of blue and a cloud, a gate, a sense of being precariously high up, and a lonely silence. It wasn’t like that at all. It was more like a city with many people doing many different things. Many were doing things together or were talking in groups. There was music, I could only hear it if I thought about it. Saint Peter was very close to me and yet I was aware of many things happening around us. I think some of those that I saw may have been angels. I say this because of the way they walked. I felt like I did as a boy. My parents loved me and I knew it. They told me that people were good and the world made sense. I sensed beauty everywhere.

I said, "San Pietro, I see art everywhere, is that just me?"

He said, "You think your own predilections cause you to perceive things that way? What you see is an environment of order. Not like the order of nature that you are familiar with, that as Paul has said, still groans for perfection. I think the analogy with art is apt, I like it."

He continued, "So to conclude about martyrdom. Do you know that all but two, of the fifty two of my immediate successors as Bishop of Rome are saints, most were martyrs?"

I was proud to say, "I know, someone gave me a piece of paper on the street in 2005 with a list of all the popes. Typed in at the bottom was the name of the new pope. I have kept that list. It is well worn, I will tell you how I used it. Some years ago I did tours of the Vatican Museums. There was another docent who was saying that the museums were all about propaganda and the Church reifying its power. I was not content to read the interpretations of historians of what the place was about. I hoped that I could know for myself the reality behind the grand collection and the buildings. The key was the paper that I had saved. The place is built over the grave of the fisherman, you, and on the blood of the martyrs. When I showed it to visitors they noticed the capital "M", for martyr, after the names of the first popes, thirty three of them, often in office for a short time. Pope Cornelius made it for three years before he was murdered. I continued, Caravaggio painted many martyrdoms."

Saint Peter said, "Yes, he never shied away from telling graphic tales. Losing one’s head, being pierced, or cooked, is not for everyone. There was a time when we had to think about it. We had to be prepared. You had to give it all. It was a big distinguished club to join. There were some seriously impressive witnesses. The Greek word for witness means martyr. You wanted to be like them, and then most of all was the master’s example, so fresh in our minds. You know it happened so fast. It seemed right for me given the position that I had. What else could I do, get another fishing boat?"
Then he went on, "As far as the wealth of art all over Christendom, especially in Rome, there are more works about miracles than there are about deaths."

I said, "Yes, the longer I stay in Rome the more I find that there is art about a miracle on every street."

"How true, that’s Rome, do come back and see me again."

home - (c) Cornelius Sullivan