“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...]

A Short Review of “The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement”

Going into this book I knew basically nothing about the beguines--not even how you pronounce it. (BEG-een, BEY-geen or buh-GEEN, according to dictionary.com.) All I really wanted from Laura Swan's short popular historical survey was an introduction to a vocation that has been almost entirely forgotten: laywomen, sometimes itinerant but sometimes living in communities from two or three people to a miniature city of over a thousand women, ministering to their neighbors and developing a unique … [Read more...]

“Famous Monsters of Filmland”: I review Tim Powers’s new novel

for AmCon: The novels of dark fantasist Tim Powers often flow out of weird, grim moments in real history: the strange encounter of a fox and an English spy; the long lit matches burning in a bloodthirsty pirate’s beard. Powers’s latest book, Medusa’s Web, got its start when Powers encountered one of these disturbing little bits of trivia: Rudolph Valentino received Last Rites twice. Why? To answer that question, Powers spins a tale of family secrets and Hollywood ghosts–and an otherworldly, addi … [Read more...]