Monday, July 16, 2018

2018 Saint Anne Update

Andrea di Bartolo, Saints Joachim and Anna Giving Food to the Poor  and Offerings 
to the Temple
Italian, c. 1400-1405
Washington, National Gallery of Art
July 26th is the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary and the grandparents of Jesus. They, especially St. Anne, have been important saints for most of the life of the Church and are frequently featured in Christian art. 

Over several the years, since my first post in 2011, I have added various images of Saints Anne and Joachim. The number keeps growing because, as the internet has become a more widely available tool, the number of museums and libraries that make their collections available online keeps growing. Further, museums and libraries that made their collections available several years ago continue to release more material from their holdings and to upgrade the quality of those they had already shared as they continue to enhance their online presence. Since Anne and Joachim have been important for so long, we are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg of images that probably exist.

Each year I propose to continue to add to the collection of images available through this blog as new ones become accessible. I will link these images with the essays about their iconological type which I did in 2011. 

In addition, in each of these last two years I have identified new subjects within the general "Saints Anne and Joachim" theme.  Last year, for example, I came across several images that fit into a new category that I called "Parental Love". Like pictures that imagine the life of Jesus as a boy in His home in Nazareth, these images imagine the relationship between Mary, as a little girl, and her parents. 

This year I have encountered two pictures that I call "Mystical Reflections".  These differ from earlier images of Mary with her parents in that Mary is presented as the woman of the Apocalypse, the Immaculate Conception instead of as a little girl (even a little girl attended by angels).  Both the pictures belong to the later part of the Counter-Reformation era, in the late 17th to mid-18th centuries.  

So, now I present the 2018 additions to the iconography of St. Anne. Each section heading is also a link to the original article which explains the iconography. Click on the section headings to learn more.

Annunciation of Mary's Birth 
Cristobal de Villalpando, Annunciation of the Angel to Joachim
Mexican, c. 1690-1700
Mexico City, Church of San Felipe Neri
Meeting at the Golden Gate
Luca Giordano, Annunciation of the Angel to St. Joachim and the Meeting of Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate
Italian, c. 1696
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
This painting combines the subject matter of the painting just above, the angel's announcement to Joachim that on his return to his wife, she will become pregnant with a special female child, with the joyful meeting of husband and wife at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem.  In the far background one can also see them climbing prayerfully up the the steps of the Temple to thank God for this great gift.
Saint Anne as Teacher (Education of the Virgin)
Education of the Virgin
German, c. 1720-1730
Fuerstenzell, Former Cistercian Church of the Assumption

Anne, the Root of the Tree of Salvation (the Anna selbdritt image)
Anna Selbdritt Wall Painting
German, c. 1446-1455
Lieberhausen, Evangelical Church (painted over in 1589, restored 1911-1913 and 1954)
Anna Selbdritt between Saint Nicholas and Saint Martin with Donor
German, c. 1500-1515
Frankfurt-am-Main, Abbey Church of Our Lady, Saint Anne Chapel
Anna Selbdritt Statue
German, c. 1500-1510
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Attributed to Meister mit dem Brustlatz
Anna Selbdritt, Center of St. John Altar
German, c. 1510-1520
Kiedrich, Catholic Parish Church of
Saints Dionysius and Valentinus

Anna Selbdritt Statue
German, c. 1520
Unterthingau, Catholic Parish Church of Saint Nicholas

Saint Anne, Matriarch of the Holy Kindred
Meister R. L., The Holy Kindred
Austrian (Salzburg), 1518
Vienna, Belvedere Museum

Mystical Reflections
Francisco de Zurbaran, The Immaculate Conception with Saints Joachim and Anne
Spanish, c. 1638-1640
Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Vision of Saints Anne and Joachim
Italian, 1759
Dresden, Gemaeldegalerie

Traditionally, a novena (period of nine days of prayer) precedes the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim on July 26th.  It begins on July 17th.  You might want to join in this novena by reciting the following novena prayer each day.

Novena Prayer to Saint Anne

"O glorious St. Ann, you are filled with compassion for those who invoke you and with love for those who suffer! Heavily burdened with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take the present intention which I recommend to you in your special care.

Please recommend it to your daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and place it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy issue. Continue to intercede for me until my request is granted. But, above all, obtain for me the grace one day to see my God face to face, and with you and Mary and all the saints to praise and bless Him for all eternity. Amen."

Luca Vescia, St. Anne and Mary
Italian, 1911
New York, St. Jean Baptiste Church, 
Shrine of St. Anne

If you are in the New York City area, please join the 136th novena at the Shrine of Saint Anne in the
Church of Saint Jean Baptiste on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
The schedule can be seen by clicking here.

To view the iconography updates from previous years see:

Saint Anne at the Met

© M. Duffy, 2018

Sunday, June 17, 2018

In Praise of Fathers

Studio photograph of my parents, taken in Charlotte, 
North Carolina, where my father served as an MP
(Military Policeman) in the US Army Air Corps
during World War II.  The Air Corps was the parent 
of the US Air Force.
This is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual topics.  However, one day last week I got to thinking about fathers and especially about my own father and how much I owe to him (and to my mother, of course). 

My father was a simple, good, man.  He was born in Ireland in the last few years of the nineteenth century, a fact that still surprises me.  He was the third child and second son of a fairly prosperous farmer from County Longford.  

It has been fascinating to me to find him among the rest of his family in the Irish censuses for 1901 and 1911.  The first of the censuses lists him as a toddler, in the second he is dignified with the term for a schoolboy “scholar”.  (Also, from the 1901 census I learned that my great-grandmother’s name was Rose and that my grandmother’s nickname was the same as mine.) 

He was living in Ireland at a time of great turmoil and change.  At the time of the Easter Rising he was just 18 years old.  During the bitter years of the Black and Tan War he was in some way associated with Michael Collins, one of the most important rebel leaders, primarily because Collins was engaged to a local girl, Kitty Kiernan, and was frequently in that corner of Longford. 

In 1927, at the age of almost 30, my father came to America, driven, as most immigrants were and are, by the hope of finding employment.  He never talked very much about his life before arriving here, nor of the first years he spent in the US.  I know he lived for a time with some cousins, until he was able to find a steady job. 

The job he found was a tough blue-collar one, as it often is for immigrants.  He was hired as a conductor on the New York City subway.  At that time, in the early 1930s, the subway was not yet owned by the city of New York.  Rather, it was the property of the various investors who had built the lines at the turn of the century.  He found work on the IRT west side division, the second oldest line.  This is the job he held for the rest of his working life, broken only by the two years he spent as an MP in the US Army Air Corps (which later became the Air Force) and a long vacation leave for a trip to Ireland when I was three years old.

The current job description of a subway conductor shows that there has been little change in the duties.  
Conductors are
“responsible for the safe, timely and proper operation of the Transit Authority’s trains in
customer, yard and work train service. In customer service, they open and close doors,
make proper announcements to customers and set up the automatic announcement
system. While in road service, they interact with the Train Operator, Supervision and the
Control Center when necessary. They provide flagging protection service duties, such as
setting up flags and light signals and take other required measures for the protection of
workers performing work on or near trainways. They work as platform conductors in the
stations; patrol platforms; assist customers in safely entering and exiting trains, and assist
in the timely dispatch of trains from key stations. They operate hand-thrown switches in
the yards; make reports of unusual occurrences; and perform related work.

Some of the physical activities performed by Conductors and environmental conditions
experienced are: walking along subway tracks; stepping over rails (including live third rails);
ascending and descending from trains and catwalks to roadbeds; responding to audible
signals such as alarm bells, train whistles, horns and radio conversations; responding to
visual signals including distinguishing colored lights; using manual equipment related to
train operation; remaining in a standing position for extended periods of time; and lifting
heavy equipment.

Special Working Conditions: Conductors may be required to work rotating shifts including
nights, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.”1              

Just about the only thing in that description that seems new is the reference to the automatic announcement system.  Everything else is very familiar, including those rotating shifts and weekend and holiday work.  He usually managed to get Sundays and holidays off, but there was always the possibility that the phone would ring and he would have to go to work.  I particularly remember one New Year’s Eve when the call came around 11:00 PM.  He was needed to replace someone who hadn’t come to work so that the Times Square revelers would have trains to take them home.  He quickly put on his uniform and left my mother and myself to somewhat glumly watch the ball descend on TV.

Subway conductor at work today.
What the job description cannot convey, of course, is the actual sense of working.  In summer the heat in the subway tunnels is infernal (and this was largely before the trains were air conditioned), in the winter it can be freezing during the periods in which the trains run in the open, as most subway lines do for some part of their runs outside Manhattan.  It can be hazardous, not just from the obvious dangers mentioned in the job description, but from the violence that exists just below the surface in any crowded city.  The conductor is in a fixed location, a small cab in the middle of the train.  At every station he (or she) has to lower the window of the cab and lean out in order to see each end of the train to ensure that no one gets caught by a closing door and dragged by the train.  While thus exposed, they can be subject to attack.  My father occasionally came home from work with bruises from thrown objects and once was delayed for hours due to having to have stitches to a long graze on his forearm where someone on the platform had knifed him just as the train began to move.  Another time he had gashes on his face from being attacked by someone wielding a broken bottle.  Happily, these instances were rare and none were very serious. 

My father’s normal shift began in the early morning, well before the start of the “rush hour” that would see the great majority of office and factory workers traveling to reach their jobs.  So, he would have to get up at 4:00 AM.  As I grew older I would sometimes wake up at that hour and see the light on in the kitchen.  When this happened I would usually get up and visit with him as he ate breakfast and prepared food for his mid-morning lunch break, usually a simple sandwich and a thermos of hot tea with milk and sugar.  Then he would be off to work and I would return to bed since there were still hours to go before I had to get up for school.  When I was in high school I would sometimes be able to catch him on one of his morning runs and ride with him on my way to school.  I think those short visits made him very happy.  They made me happy too.

Like many Irish men and women of their generation my parents married later in life.  My father was 49 when I was born and my mother was 38.  I was in my second year of college, aged 19 when my father retired.  It ought to have been a comfortable retirement as his union, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), for which he and others had fought very hard during the 1930s, had wrested decent provisions from the city, when the city took over administration of the subways.  But, it wasn’t to be.  Within a few months of retiring he began to show the symptoms of what turned out to be lung cancer that had metastasized to the brain.  Barely 12 months after retiring he was dead.  My mother, who was totally broken by his loss, developed leukemia within two years and died 11 years later of its complications.

As I thought about him and his dogged daily effort to get up at 4:00 AM winter and summer, to work at a job that is little considered by those he served, that could at times be dangerous, I realized that he did it to ensure that I would not have to endure such conditions.  In a sense, he did it so that I could be one of the unconcerned public, so wrapped up in my own affairs that I do not see those men (and now women) who are his successors in the same job.  And I realized too that there are still hundreds of thousands of men and women whose lives are ruled by the very same clock, who are getting up in the wee hours and doing the same kind of thankless jobs in order to feed and educate their families so that one day their children can have a better life.  It’s a humbling realization.

So, let us praise those fathers (and mothers) who do the hard, unsung, unglamorous jobs of this world out of love.  And let us honor them as they deserve.

Thank you, Daddy, from my heart.  I still miss you very much.

© M. Duffy, 2018

1.  Job description for Subway Conductor, from New York City MTA website

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bridging the Gap

Mosaic Replica of Palace Triclinium (Dining Room)
Roman, 1743, replica from drawings of original of c. 800
Rome, Piazza of S. Giovanni in Laterano
One of the things that alternately makes me angry or amused, depending, I suppose, on my overall emotional tone at the time, is the contemporary mindset that persists in judging the events of the past by the standards of the present. This lies behind or, perhaps more properly, is the product of the currently fashionable antipathy at all things Western, be it art, history or religion. However, as the English writer, Leslie Poles Hartley wrote, ”The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

What is amusing in the currently fashionable mode of thought, which ignores this bit of wisdom, is that today’s present rapidly becomes tomorrow’s past. No doubt persons in the future will find the actions of today to be dismally wanting by their standards.

However, it must be said that it requires a great effort of the imagination to think oneself back into the world of our ancestors. We can sometimes touch them when we stand in a building that has served a long life, but not often. We can stand in Chartres or Notre Dame or St. Peter’s and participate in the liturgy, for example. Yet, because of modern lighting, sound systems, or simply the soundscape of the modern world of traffic, planes and helicopters, we can never really recreate the world as they experienced it.

Art cannot help us here. It can show us a part of the world they saw, to be sure. However, once again, the changed atmosphere in which we now view it, whether in situ (as for a fresco) or in a museum, or on a computer screen, divorces the work of art from the living reality of the world in which it was created.

However, there is one possibility for coming into close contact with the past on something like equal ground. This is in music. Perhaps because of its transitory nature, of notes that occur and then fade, a reality is created in our world that opens to us the world of the past.

In this regard I would like to mention two CDs that I find particularly poignant in their creation of a world that is lost.

The first is Music of the Crusades (Decca). This CD (a reissue of an LP dating from the 1970s) brings the Crusades and its people to life. There are rousing recruiting songs, songs of loss and longing, songs of dedication. There is the song purportedly written by Richard the Lionhearted while imprisoned by the Emperor.  And there is a beautiful song, Palestineleid, written by the renowned German troubadour, Walther von der Vogelweide, full of reverent wonder at the experience of being in the Holy Land. You can listen to Palestineleid here.

In the variety and intensity of some of the emotions we can touch the medieval world. Too frequently we read history as if it were something enacted by people of two dimensions, somehow removed from our living emotions and complexities. This recording helps to restore some of the living emotions of those who went before us. They were as we are and as they are so shall we be to those who follow us.

Equally interesting is more recent CD, called Chant Wars (RCA). This is a permanent record of what I can only describe as “the greatest concert I have ever attended”. I was privileged to attend a live performance about ten years ago, a few years before the CD was released. If you think of Christian chant as something ethereal and otherworldly, sung by monks or nuns, this CD will change your mind.

The 9th century was formative for Europe. It was the century that saw the creation of the Carolingian empire under Charlemagne, his father and his sons. What this CD reveals is the “war” between the musical interpretations of the older, Mediterranean world and the newly rising assertive world of the Franks. Unfortunately, the CD lacks the verbal narrative comments and readings from contemporary sources that accompanied and enlightened the live performance, and the accompanying notes don’t quite make up for this.*  Otherwise, the recording does provide a terrific way to enter into the real Middle Ages.

Pope Leo III and Charlemagne at the feet of St. Peter
Roman, c. 800 (replica done in 1743)
Rome, Piazza of S. Giovanni in Laterano
Note that both the Pope and the King have squarehaloes, indicating that they were still living 
when the work was created.  Note also that St. Peter is giving each a symbol of their office.  
He gives Pope Leo the special stole, called a pallium, that designates a pope or archbishop.  
He gives Charlemagne a banner with six stars.The text reads "Saint Peter, give life to Leo the 
Pontifex (Pope) and give victory to King Charles" (my translation and parenthesis).  
I found one item in particular to be very worthy of note. It is the last piece on the disk, the Laudes Regiae, a version of the Litany of the Saints. It takes you right back to a specific day, sometime around the year 800, in Rome. Specific saints are requested to come to the aid of Pope Leo III (Leoni, summo pontifici et universalis pape, vita!) and Charlemagne (Carolo excellentissimo et a deo coronato, atque magno et pacifico regi Francorum et Longobardorum, ac patricio Romanorum, vita et victoria!).

Christ, under the title of Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi), Saint Peter and the early papal saints are petitioned to come to the aid of the Pope.  Christ, this time under the title of Redeemer of the World (Redemptor Mundi), the Virgin Mary and the three great archangel saints (Michael, Gabriel and Raphael) are entreated to assist the Emperor (or as the text calls him King of the Franks and Langobards and Patrician of the Romans).

It is sung as more of a definite acclamation, with great excitement, than as a suppliant prayer. Easy to imagine the Pope (who died in 816) and the Emperor (who died in 814) entering old St. Peter’s or the Triclinium of the Lateran Palace (where a replica portrait of the pair at the feet of St. Peter is still visible to this day) accompanied by this acclamation and easy to imagine oneself in the shadows. Suddenly, you find yourself in touch with the living world of 1,200 years ago.

You can listen to it here.

How will our music represent us to future ears?

© M. Duffy, 2018

* The situation is even worse if you choose to listen to this by streaming, since there are no notes, no text and no explanations.  I find this one of the biggest drawbacks of streaming classical or early music.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thoughts on the Met Gala and the Vatican’s Loan, Some Perspective

Rihanna at the Met Gala
I was afraid of this.  Once I read the announcement that this year’s summer Costume Institute exhibition would be called “Heavenly Bodies:  Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” I was very afraid.  When I learned that the Vatican had loaned a large number of items for this show I confess to shaking my head. 

No doubt the show, which I have yet to see, as it was strictly off limits to non-involved staff and volunteers, will make some interesting and valid connections between the arts of painting and sculpture and especially the textile arts, that have been inspired, commissioned and displayed as part of Catholic worship and prayer through the centuries.  Indeed, as is being reported widely, the decision to make the show center on the Catholic influence on fashion came about when exploration of a larger show proposal about the influence of religion on fashion turned out to be massively tilted toward Catholicism.  Apparently, fashion has drawn very little from other religions, such as Protestantism, Buddhism, Islam or Judaism.  And fashion, it should be remembered, is primarily a Western, First World obsession.  It really isn’t the exhibition that troubled me.
What troubled me was the Gala which precedes it (and which causes the Met to incommode its visitors and close its doors to them for days in advance and days following to allow for the set up and knock down of the sumptuous decoration for the big party).  In this case, several heavily visited parts of the museum were off limits to view for nearly a month, while other portions, including the extremely popular Temple of Dendur, were totally closed for several days in advance of May 7.  The plaza in front of the museum has also mainly been off limits for all of the preceding week and will continue to be for several days as the very large number of tents to accommodate the arriving guests and the attending media, were set up and will be demolished.  This has forced visitors to ascend and descend the stairs by a very narrow channel running directly along the museum wall. 

The entire building was closed on Monday.  In the morning there was a press preview, the afternoon was devoted to the final set up of the interior, and the evening was, of course, the Event.  To get an idea of what the preparation entailed here’s a video from the Met’s Instagram account, showing the transformation of the main information desk near the main entrance in the Great Hall.  Easy to see why visitors and staff are not welcome!  Set up of the Great Hall

The Gala was instituted in the 1940s as a fundraiser for the Costume Institute, which is a self-funded entity within the Metropolitan Museum, supported by the fashion industry and the Gala.  Invitations to the do are limited to 500 or so people and tickets are $30,000 each.  If every ticket is paid for this should result in a gross take of $15 million dollars.  I assume the resulting net amount (after the deductions for the expenses of the event, which must be huge), plus whatever other funding the Institute raises, supports the conservation of the costumes themselves.  It most certainly does not support public access to the collection.  1

This was not always so.  When I was a child, teenager and young adult the Costume Institute actually maintained a number of ground floor exhibition galleries.  It used to be great fun to wander through and look at the manner of dress of people from several hundred years ago.  Like most of the museum in those far away days it was basically a fairly plain space that drew its interest from the items on display.   Lighting was kept fairly low, though not dark, on account of the effects of light on fabric.  There was not much razzmatazz.  Things began to change a bit in the 80s, when the great Diana Vreeland was the director of the Institute.  There was somewhat stronger lighting.  More revolving exhibitions took place, but there was still a fairly large space for the public to wander in and some permanence. 

Somewhere along the line, I’m not entirely sure when, the galleries were closed to the public.  I think some of them may have been given to enlarging the staff cafeteria, especially the area for tables, which happened around the same time.  Permanent exhibition of garments ceased and the cycle of publicity grabbing special exhibitions began.  However, these were small and generally confined to the Institute’s own galleries, still in their downstairs location.  I remember standing for a long time on the stairs leading to them with friends just in front of Sting for a show on rock and roll costumes.  (I think it indicative of Sting’s approach that he chose to stand on the stairs with everyone else rather than to demand special treatment.)

With the change of leadership during the 1990s from Ms. Vreeland to a succession of male curators (Richard Martin, Harold Koda and now Andrew Bolton) the exhibitions broke out of the confines of the ground floor galleries and invaded the body of the museum, starting with 2004’s “Dangerous Liaisons:  Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century”. 

Dress by Christian Siriano
Then, again at some point I’m not really sure of, the Galas, which have been a feature of the social calendar since the 1940s, began to change. From events involving mainly New York fashion and society they became “celebrity” events.  The invitees began to come, less from the more established New York milieu, than from the world of entertainment, pop and hip-hop music, sports and Hollywood and frequently from their most outrageous fringes.  Therefore, they are not very likely to be aware of much history, art history or of Catholicism, apart from the caricature of it which passes for knowledge among the general public.  Does anyone seriously think that Rihanna has any idea of the meaning of her "hat"?

Therefore, I would guess that more than 95% of the "celebrities" who came to the Gala this year have virtually zero interest in the items on display and even less knowledge.  It is up to the designers they hire (or who hire them, which is more like what actually happens) to draw some idea, no matter how perverse, from it.  And, since the point is to attract attention to the brand, the louder, the skimpier, the more vulgar the better.  One thing that should be borne in mind is that this event, in addition to raising money for the Costume Institute (not the Met, as some people mistakenly think), is all about brand names, something that the Times article I referenced makes very clear.  A lot of brand name recognition for the fashion designers is riding on this.  One nice looking dress that got virtually no publicity was by Christian Siriano, a former winner of TV’s Project Runway.  So, shall we say that “nice” didn’t cut it?

Sarah Jessica Parker by Dolce and Gabbana

In reality, some of the most outrageous outfits were also quite ridiculous, laughable indeed.  Sarah Jessica Parker was probably the funniest, as well as the saddest, covering herself in Dolce and Gabbana gold damask with embroidered images of the Sacred Heart (sort of) and wearing a silly crown chapel with a Nativity scene on top of her dramatically aging face.  

Even more stupid was Katy Parry, fresh from her encounter with Pope Francis and her successful (so far) attempt to evict a group of cloistered nuns.  She came as an angel, fallen perhaps, as she slumped down at the top of the stairs.

It is no surprise to me then, that there should be controversy about the 2018 gala, as there was about the 2015 “China, Through the Looking Glass”, which led to similar complaints about disrespect for a culture, or last year’s incredibly silly “Rai Kawakubo: Comme des Garcons”.

The Sistine Chapel Choir performing in the 
American Wing, underneath a projection of
Michelangelo's Last Judgment from the end
wall of the Sistine Chapel.
That the Vatican should have lent a significant number of items to the exhibition and, in the person of Cardinal Dolan and the Sistine Chapel Choir, lent their presence to the event is not too surprising.2 Loaning the objects, which include papal tiaras and vestments from the collection of the Sistine Chapel, is perfectly understandable.

These objects will be kept within the ground floor Costume Institute galleries, while the fashion garments will be displayed in the medieval galleries at the main Met building on Fifth Avenue and at the Cloisters branch in upper Manhattan.  However, I doubt sincerely whether any of the persons involved in Rome have any knowledge or understanding of the Gala (and the attendees it draws) or realized quite how provocative was the sly double entendre in a portion of the title, as in “Heavenly Bodies”.  * 

And I have never doubted that Cardinal Dolan is a good soldier for the Church.  At the morning press preview, he is quoted as saying “You may be asking, what’s the church doing here? You may be asking, what is the cardinal archbishop of New York doing here? Think about it just for a moment. It’s because the church and the Catholic imagination are all about three things: truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s why we have grade schools and universities, to teach the truth. That’s why we love to serve the poor, to do good. And that’s why we’re into things such as art, poetry, music, liturgy, and, yes, even fashion, to thank God for the gift of beauty.”3 Lots of luck with that, your Eminence!

Cardinal Dolan at the Gala with Stephen and Christine Schwarzman, the Honorary Chairs of the Gala.  To his left are Donatella Versace, Amal Clooney and Anna Wintour, all co-chairs of the Gala.  Co-chair Rihanna is missing.
No doubt the Cardinal hoped that his presence in the evening would be interpreted as a gesture of good will to the Met and not as an endorsement of the goings on.  But, I’m sure that many of the participants, with probably no idea of who he was, probably thought he was a chubby guy wearing one wild party frock.  However, not everyone there was entirely disrespectful and vulgar.  I think that the lovely Versace gown (thank you, Donatella) worn by actress Blake Lively was a nice adaptation of the theme.
Blake Lively in a beautiful bead embroidered gown from Versace.

In fact, based on the number of retweets of her gown, it was the clear public favorite, beating out all the coarse, vulgar, over-the-top competition.  And, of course, the press, in its desire for sensation, mostly showed us only the most outrageous of the costumes on the stairs.  The number of published photos is relatively small, when one considers the number of tickets, representing well under 1/5th of the total possible.  No doubt most women wore regular evening wear.  Men, of course, had the default position of some iteration of the tuxedo, which no doubt the overwhelming majority of them wore.

Brook Shields in a simple but elegant gown.

Indeed, one comment that I read lamented the fact that so many women came plainly dressed, wearing, as the writer put it, exactly the same kind of dress they would have worn to any other gala.  But who would call Brooke Shields ladylike gown plain?  Or thought Colin Firth’s wife, Livia Giuggioli, was inappropriately dressed?  Probably the vast majority of the attendees were appropriately dressed and those that made themselves absurd and vulgar were a tiny, albeit heavily publicized, minority.  It is interesting to note that neither of the photos of these two referenced ladies came with designer information.  This gives you some clue about what was really going on at the Gala.   So let’s all take a deep breath and calm down.

Mr. and Mrs. Colin Firth

By far the funniest comment I read on the event was on the Met’s Twitter feed for the event.  The writer said “Sitting here judging these $273,927,293 dresses as if I don’t wear the same four shirts every week.”  That puts things into proper perspective, I think.  One should really think of this event as a costume party, with extremely expensive costumes.  Would that some of the cash for that bling could have been given to the Church to serve the poor of the Archdiocese!

The actual exhibition opens this week and will run until the beginning of October.  I’ll be going to a preview viewing tomorrow and will make up my own mind.*

1.  For some background on the event see:  Vanessa Friedman, “What Is the Met Gala, and Who Gets to Go?”, New  York Times, May 3, 2018,  and now also
Nancy Chilton, "The Met Gala:  From Midnight Suppers to Superheroes and Rihanna" on the Met's website at  Also, the Met's publicity department puts the profit of the 2018 Gala at "over $13 million".

2.  To the folks who were worrying on Twitter about what the boys might have seen I say, they probably could barely see anything due to the strength of the spotlights that were shining on them.  In circumstances like that anything beyond the immediate space appears as just a dark blur of heads.

3.  Quoted in H.W. Vail, “Inside the Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” Exhibit”, Vanity Fair, On the Scene, May 7, 2018

*  Update:  Apparently  the Vatican is now acknowledging that they slipped up, regarding the Gala "as a “stand-alone event” and took little notice of it — indeed most knew nothing about it until this year".a While I find this excuse entirely in keeping with other similar flubs in recent Vatican history, it is appalling that no one made the minimal effort to search the internet for information about the Met Gala's history.  Not for the first time recently, the Vatican is coming up with a great deal of egg on its face.  

Quoted in Edward Pentin blog post "How the Vatican Became Enmeshed in the Met Gala" at the National Catholic Register website

* I did attend the preview.  However, the amount of time it took just to get through the Vatican items in the densely crowded ground floor rooms of the Costume Institute made it impossible to catch more than the briefest glimpse of the fashion part of the exhibition.  So, I will have to wait a bit before writing any kind of review of the whole.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

Benedetto di Silvestro, The Resurrectin
From the Vita Christi
Italian (Lombardy), c. 1500-1550
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M508, fol. 39r

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary ask us to reflect on the joyful event of the Resurrection and its aftermath.*  Thus we begin with the first Glorious Mystery, the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Then we move on to the last sight of the glorified Risen Jesus on this earth, the Ascension, as He is taken up into heaven.  The next sight of His glorified body will be at the second coming.

The last three of the Glorious Mysteries are reflections on the early history of the Church, the first being the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The fourth Mystery is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, when Mary’s mortal remains were taken up into heaven, where she lives as a fully alive human being. 

The final decade of the five Glorious Mysteries is speculative.  It is the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven.  We believe that, on the arrival of her body in heaven, the complete person that is Mary was crowned by her Son as Queen of Heaven.  As the human mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, she receives special honor from all the angels and the other saints.  She herself adores the Holy Trinity, along with those angels and saints, of which she is the highest in rank.

The five decades of the Glorious Mysteries are:

1.  The Resurrection

2.  The Ascension

3.  The Descent of the Holy Spirit

4.  The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
  • ·         Vigil of the Feast of the Assumption – The Dormition of the Virgin
  • ·         Assumpta est Maria in caelum – Mary Is Assumed Into Heaven

5.  The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin
·         Ave Regina Caelorum –The Queenship of Mary

As with the recitation of the Rosary in general, the intent of praying the Glorious Mysteries is not the simple recitation of well-known prayers but the contemplation of the outcome of the sacrifice of Calvary.  While reciting the prayers we may mentally witness the Easter events in the lives of the Risen Jesus, the early Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary and gain a foretaste of what will come for us at the end of time.

© M. Duffy, 2018

*  For a general explanation of the Rosary see: