“Their Wives and Their Wealth Have Made Them So Mute”: Reading Waugh’s biographies of Campion & Knox

Recently finished Two Lives, which encloses in one volume Evelyn Waugh's biographies of St Edmund Campion, a martyr of the English Reformation, and Ronald Knox, a semirandom priest. You should absolutely read the Campion biography. It's passionate and the prose hangs in garlands, with thorns tipped in blood. It isn't swoony or silly (like the sentence I just wrote), it isn't sentimental or polemical although this is Waugh so he does stick a shiv in occasionally; in general it's crisp and acrid, … [Read more...]

“St. Agnes and the Women’s March”: The Dominicana Journal

on living as a sign of welcome without compromise: ...Surprisingly, a few marchers spontaneously started collecting money for the church. It started with their passing around a hat. (I was told not to look at the text on the front, and I didn’t.) Over the course of about two hours hundreds of dollars were donated to the church without any prompting by the friars.Many were also fascinated by religious life and the habit we wear. The peculiar situation of some people wearing “Get your ros … [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...]

The Relics of Richard III: An older but provocative post on medieval bones and modern worship

by Eleanor Parker aka A Clerk of Oxford. The rest of this post is quite peaceable and non-polemical but I fastened my fangs on the very David Foster Wallace/"everybody worships" bit: There's no doubt that many people today are fascinated by the relics of kings, even as they look down on the medieval age for caring about the relics of saints. We're quite accustomed to the idea of a royal shrine as a place of historical pilgrimage - or else Westminster Abbey wouldn't be able to charge such steep … [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...]

Christina the Astonishing: From Laura Swan, “The Wisdom of the Beguines”

(of which more soon) Once, while visiting the Benedictine nuns at St. Catherine's near Sint-Truiden and speaking of Christ, the nuns reported that "suddenly and unexpectedly she [Christina] would be ravished in the spirit and her body would whirl around like a hoop in a children's game. She whirled around with such extreme violence that the individual limbs of her body could not be distinguished. When she had whirled around for a long time in this manner, it seemed as if she became weakened by … [Read more...]

When the Last Days Come, We Shall See Visions: A Holy Week Roundup That’s Really an Excuse…

...to talk about the Mountain Goats. Once more I did my annual Mountain Goats Holy Week and once more it was awesome. Notes from this year: 1. Whoa, my sense of when these albums were made is totally off. Assumed Get Lonely and Heretic Pride were early because I don't like them much but it turns out that's not at all true! I still ease in with Get Lonely, but I'm now fond of that one song about the Tianchi monster, the one that's kind of a knockoff "Bigfoot!" in subject matter and general … [Read more...]