“Piety and Hunger”: Nice intro essay on “Kristin Lavransdatter”

why not start your journey w/Kristin during Lent? Undset was an obsessive researcher, and her 14th-century Norway has texture down to the dirt of the smithy floor. She captures annual agricultural rhythms of shortage and plenty, obscure ecclesiastical laws governing punishments for adultery, and the way the men douse themselves in ice water to sober up for church after Christmas festivities. Her descriptions of food, decor, and clothing are precise: the way Kristin strews juniper and flowers on … [Read more...]

“To Fast Again”: Eamon Duffy

says a lot of important things: The ritual observance of dietary rules—fasting and abstinence from meat in Lent, and abstinence from meat and meat products every Friday, as well as the eucharistic fast from midnight before the reception of Communion—were as much defining marks of Catholicism before the council as abstention from pork is a defining characteristic of Judaism. The Friday abstinence in particular was a focus of Catholic identity which transcended class and educational barriers, uni … [Read more...]

“The Queen of Bliss and of Beauty”: A Candlemas Carol

I'm telling you, ClerkOfOxford is twitter mvp. Follow her! February 2 is Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification, so here's a medieval Candlemas carol.Revertere, revertere, The queen of bliss and of beauty.Behold what life that we run in, Frail to fall and ever like to sin Through our enemy's enticing; Therefore we sing and cry to thee: Revertere, revertere, The queen of bliss and of beauty. more! … [Read more...]

“To Paradise, By Way of Kensal Green”: I review “The English Way”

for the University Bookman. Papist polemics, monks with painted eyelids, "apostolic viragoes" and more! You might expect a book called The English Way: Studies in English Sanctity from Bede to Newman, compiled under the reign of King George V, to rustle through the fingers like a necklace of finely-wrought gold. You might expect serenity, monumentality, harmony: a peaceable parade of right little, tight little saints.You might expect that, anyway, if you don’t remember much about English h … [Read more...]

Tom Holland: The Tyrannosaur vs. the Crucified

excellent metaphor and accurate insight at the heart of this piece from a scholar of antiquity: When I was a boy, my upbringing as a Christian was forever being weathered by the gale force of my enthusiasms. First, there were dinosaurs. I vividly remember my shock when, at Sunday school one day, I opened a children’s Bible and found an illustration on its first page of Adam and Eve with a brachiosaur. Six years old I may have been, but of one thing – to my regret – I was rock-solid certain: no h … [Read more...]

“Haunting Photos Show Monks Returning to Abbey–500 Years After It Was Destroyed by Henry VIII”

And it's St Aelred's abbey, too: A hauntingly beautiful set of photos, appearing on DailyMail, shows two Cistercian monks, Father Joseph and Brother Bernard, visting the ruins of a former Cistercian Abbey in England that had been destroyed during Henry VIII’s reign. more … [Read more...]

“Humiliation and Reconciliation”: I’m at AmCon

as usual I seem to have kept the most important stuff for the last three paragraphs, but here's the opener: My poolside reading this July has been Mary C. Mansfield’s 1995 work The Humiliation of Sinners: Public Penance in Thirteenth-Century France. The book illuminates human questions we still have not resolved with stories from civilizational past. You don’t have to care as much about the Rogation dragon as I do to see echoes of Mansfield’s medieval world in our own rituals of public abase … [Read more...]