Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

First Gypsy Woman Martyr is Beatified

Emilia Fernández Rodríguez was killed during Spanish Civil War

The Catholic Church has beatified its first gypsy martyr in a ceremony in the Spanish city of Almería on the southern Mediterranean coast. Emilia Fernández Rodríguez, also known as “La canastera” (the basket-weaver), was one of 115 martyrs murdered in odium fidei by anti-Catholic militants during the Spanish Civil War.

The beatification ceremony took place in the city’s conference centre attended by over 5,000 people, including twenty-one bishops and four cardinals.

In 1938, Blessed Emilia Fernández was a poor gypsy woman living with her husband in Tíjola and surviving by basket weaving when the Republican forces occupied the town, shutting its church, and conscripting its menfolk. Emilia’s husband Juan with her help feigned blindness to escape conscription but was discovered and the couple were imprisoned separately.

Arriving at the women’s prison in Gachas-Colorás, Blessed Emilia was already pregnant and was jailed alongside many other practicing Catholic women who had refused to abjure their faith. Illiterate and never having been catechised despite being baptised, Blessed Emilia was taught how to pray the Rosary by another inmate. Her devotion to this Marian prayer and meditation attracted the ire of the prison authorities who threw her into solitary confinement for refusing to reveal which of her fellow inmates had catechised her.

After the birth of her baby girl, Ángeles, Blessed Emilia died as a result of her weakened condition from malnutrition and the appalling conditions of her isolation. Just twenty-three years old, her body was dumped into a common grave in Almería.

The painting of Blessed Emilia is by Raúl Berzosa
April 5, 2017 5:20 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

The Lady Altar

The Oratory Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Brompton Road, London

In the south transept of the Brompton Oratory is the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, perhaps the finest altar in the entire church. It is a favourite place for getting in a few prayers and offering a candle or two or three or four. At the end of Solemn Vespers & Benediction on Sunday afternoon (above) it is where the Prayer for England is said and the Marian antiphon sung.

The Lady Altar was designed and built in 1693 by Francesco Corbarelli of Florence and his sons Domenico and Antonio and for nearly two centuries stood in the Chapel of the Rosary in the Church of St Dominic in Brescia. That church was demolished in 1883, and the London Congregation of the Oratory purchased the altar two years beforehand for £1,550.

The statue of Our Lady of Victories holding the Holy Child had previously stood in the old Oratory church in King William Street, and the central space of the reredos was slightly modified to house it. The Old and New Worlds are represented in the flanking statues, which are of St Pius V and St Rose of Lima — both by the Venetian late-baroque sculptor Orazio Marinali. The statues of St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena which now rest in niches facing the altar were previously united to it, and are by the Tyrolean Thomas Ruer.

April 7, 2013 11:00 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Don Bosco in London

Just went to venerate the relics of Don Bosco, which are doing a UK-wide tour organised by the Salesian order. There was quite a crowd waiting for the Saint’s earthly remains to be unveiled at 2 o’clock — suprising for early afternoon on a workday. Before the relics were even made viewable there were pilgrims huddled around the veiled reliquary, whom the organisers eventually had to shoo away in order to organise some proper veneration.

The faithful are able to venerate the relics at Westminster Cathedral from 2:00pm to 8:30pm today and tomorrow only, after which they will spend the next two days at St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark before returning to Italy.

January 11, 2013 3:20 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Cardinal Manning

Over at Reluctant Sinner, Dylan Parry has an excellent post on Cardinal Manning, the second man to serve as Archbishop of Westminster. Manning is all too often forgotten, despite being one of the most widely loved and respected men of his generation. His funeral, famously, was the largest ever known in the Victorian era. Besides his wisdom at the helm of England’s most prominent see, the good cardinal’s greatest legacy might be his influence on Rerum Novarum, the great social encyclical of Leo XIII. Dylan is planning on writing further on the subject of Cardinal Manning, giving us something to look forward to. (more…)

January 16, 2012 7:50 pm | Link | No Comments »

Saints in Heaven, Pray for Us!

There are events occurring very soon which have massive life-changing potential for your humble & obedient scribe, and which could go quite horribly wrong or astoundingly well.

I absolutely implore you to pray to all the saints in Heaven, and especially to whichever Guardian Angels may be relevant, to combine, conspire, pray, and intercede for my special intention.

Thank you in advance for all your prayers, and I will keep you all in my prayers as well.

November 14, 2010 8:30 pm | Link | 13 Comments »

Charles of Austria

TODAY IS THE first feast of Blessed Charles since the announcement last December that the cause for the canonisation of his wife, Zita of Bourbon-Parma, has been opened as well. In an age when most people in government and public leadership seem barely even decent, let alone saints, it is all the more important to seek the prayers and intercession of Charles and Zita — husband and wife, mother and father, Emperor and Empress — for the preservation of peace, the prevention of war, and the renovation of our families as well as our societies at large. (more…)

October 21, 2010 12:12 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Journowatch: Headline vs. Story

In an article about the soon-to-be-canonised Australian nun, Mary McKillop, the Daily Telegraph exhibits a peculiar example of the lows of newspaper journalism today.

The headline boldly states “Australian nun ‘to be made patron saint of abuse victims'” only for the sub-headline — “An Australian nun who will be canonised by the Pope next month should be made the patron saint of clerical sex abuse victims, Catholics have suggested.” — to directly contradict this.

Is Mary McKillop “to be” the patron saint of the abused or has it merely been “suggested”? The headline-writer put the ‘to be’ in quotation marks, but the article doesn’t supply a single quotation or piece of evidence showing this decision has been reached, only a quotation suggesting it would be a wise course of action.

I’ve read numerous examples of newspaper articles offering contradictory facts unreconciled, but to do so before the article has even started seems particularly bizarre.

October 1, 2010 2:11 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

George Hitchcock, The Annunciation
Oil on canvas, 62½ in. x 80½ in.
1887, Art Institute of Chicago

March 25, 2010 1:01 pm | Link | No Comments »

A little lack of logic on Pope Benedict from the Guardian’s John Hooper

Over at the Guardian (Britain’s best daily, whether you like it or not!), Rome correspondent John Hooper writes an informative article about the upcoming beatification of Spanish journalist Manuel Lozano Garrido (1920-1971). I’d never heard of “Lolo”, as the saintly journo was known both during his life and afterwards, and was happy to be introduced to yet another shining star of Spain’s happy glut of twentieth-century saints & blesseds.

Lozano Garrido, Mr. Hooper informs us, “wrote his first article for — and went on to edit — a magazine called Cruzada (Crusade). That was a pretty loaded title for a publication of the time because, in the language of the dictatorship, ‘cruzada’ referred to the campaign Franco pursued with ruthless and bloody determination against any Spaniard who dared to hold opinions much to the left of fascism.”

Up to a point Lord Copper! For a Christian periodical — written by Christian journalists, read by Christian people, in a Christian country — to have the name “Crusade” hardly seem loaded at all, despite the Spanish state’s contemporaneous use of the word cruzada. But this is incidental and entirely beside the point.

Mr. Hooper wonders where Lozano Garrido fits in to the bigger picture of Spanish journalism at the time because, Hooper claims, “by approving his beatification, Pope Benedict is sending a message to the world about the sort of journalism that he regards as worthwhile”.

Well, in a word: no. As Hooper admits, “Lolo” isn’t being beatified because of his journalism but because of his heroic virtues exhibited in the face of suffering. In a sense, his journalism has nothing to do with it. If he had been a baker of rye bread instead of a journalist, would we extrapolate that Benedict XVI is sending a message to the world about the sort of bread he regards as worthwhile? Of course not. It simply does not follow.

February 25, 2010 10:00 pm | Link | 5 Comments »

Relic of Blessed Charles in Catalonia

In October of last year, a relic ex ossibus of Blessed Charles I was formally received at the Basilica Church of Our Lady of Mercy & St. Michael Archangel in Barcelona, the capital city of the Spanish principality of Catalonia. The bone fragment is the first relic of the last Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia to be publicly venerated in the Kingdom of Spain. It was requested by His Grace the Bishop of Solsona, Don Jaume Traserra y Cunillera, at the request of the Catalonian Delegation of the Constantinian Order. The relic has been enshrined in the chapel of St. Michael the Archangel, alongside a portrait of the Emperor.

A grandson of Blessed Charles, HIRH the Archduke Simeon of Austria, attended (with his wife) as the representative of HRH the Infante Don Carlos, Duke of Calabria, the Grand Master of the Constantinian Order and head of the Royal House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Also in attendance were Lt. Gen. Don Fernando Torres Gonzalez (Army Inspector General), General Mainar Don Gustavo Gutierrez (Chief of the 3rd Sub-inspection Pyrenees and Military Commander General of Barcelona and Tarragona), as well as representatives of the Order of Malta, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, various guilds and corps of Spanish nobility, and lay fraternities.

January 20, 2010 8:06 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

Hapsburg Hebraica

Empress Zita and Emperor Charles of Austria are prayed over by a Jewish rabbi.

After the passing of the Hapsburg empire, which had been so protective of its Jewish subjects (especially compared to the regimes which succeeded it), numerous prominent Jews were received into the Catholic faith, perhaps having come to a full appreciation of precisely what they had lost. The subject of “Literary Jewish Converts to Christianity in Interwar Hungary” is worthy of further investigation (some graduate student should write a dissertation on just such a matter). I am no longer surprised when, in my researches, I come across yet another fascinating Hungarian Jew — be he a writer, playwright, poet, or patron — and discover, usually buried in some footnote, that he died a good Catholic.

December 30, 2009 10:02 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

St. Zita?

Church Opens Investigation into Sanctity of Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Wife of Blessed Charles and Last Empress of Austria-Hungary

It was announced recently that Mgr. Yves Le Saux, Bishop of Le Mans in the traditional province of Maine (Pays de la Loire), France has opened the cause for the beatification of Zita of Bourbon-Parma, the long-lived wife of Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria. Charles, the last (to date) Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and King of Bohemia (&c.), died in exile in Madiera in 1922, aged just thirty-four years. Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese de Bourbon-Parma, meanwhile, was born in Tuscany in 1892 and lived a long life, giving up the ghost in March 1989, and interred in the Capuchin vault in Vienna following a funeral of imperial dignity.

“The process was opened in Le Mans,” Gregor Kollmorgen of TNLM reports, “and not in the Swiss diocese of Chur, where the Empress died twenty years ago in 1989 in Zizers, with the consent of Msgr. Huonder, the Bishop of Chur, and the permission of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, because within the diocese of Le Mans is situated the Abbey of Solesmes, well known to NLM readers for its leading rôle in the early liturgical movement in the nineteenth century, especially regarding Gregorian chant, and which was the spiritual center of the Servant of God Zita, her home among her many exiles.”

Zita’s relationship with Solesmes dates back to 1909 when she first visited its sister-abbey of St. Cecilia on the Isle of Wight in England. She became an oblate of the Abbey of Solesmes itself in 1926. Her daily life after the exile & death of her saintly husband included the Rosary, hearing multiple daily masses, and praying part of the Divine Office. (more…)

December 13, 2009 9:18 pm | Link | 10 Comments »

Jan Steen, The Feast of St. Nicholas
Oil on canvas, 32 in. x 28 in.
1665-68, Rijksmuseum

December 6, 2009 10:08 pm | Link | No Comments »

Patron of the Knickerbockers, pray for us

From the Knickerbocker magazine.
December 6, 2009 10:02 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Life of St. Hildegard Hits the Silver Screen

But is it the Hildegard of historical fact or modern fantasy?

THE LIFE OF Saint Hildegard von Bingen — the Benedictine nun, writer, scientist, physician, and poet perhaps best known as a composer — has been brought to the screen in a new German-produced film. “Vision – Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen” was released in Germany & Austria in September and may receive a wider European release in 2010. From the voluntary confinement of the cloister, this woman corresponded with the Emperors Lothair II and Frederick Barbarossa, the popes Eugene III and Anastasius IV, the great patron of art Abbot Suger, and of course the great Cistercian reformer St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Hildegard was authorised to go on four preaching tours, and her Ordo Virtutum was the first allegorical morality play of the medieval period. She even invented a demi-language, Lingua Ignota (“unknown language”), and created an alternative alphabet in which to write it. (more…)

October 12, 2009 12:02 am | Link | 11 Comments »
September 16, 2009 10:00 pm | Link | 6 Comments »

St. Nicholas of the Seven Seas

ONE OF OUR correspondents sends word that Russia is to name the fourth of her Borei-class ballistic missile submarines Николай Чудотворец, which is to say “Saint Nicholas”. The Borei-class vessels are the first series of Russian strategic submarines to be launched in the post-Soviet era. The previous subs in the class have been named the Yuri Dolgoruki (after Prince Yuri I, founder of Moscow), the Alexander Nevsky (after the Grand Prince of Vladimir & Novgorod venerated as a saint in the Eastern churches), and the Vladimir Monomakh (after the Grand Prince of Kievan Rus). The Saint Nicholas is of course not the first boat or ship to bear the name of New York’s patron saint. There was HMS St. Nicholas as well as a Spanish naval ship San Nicolas in the 1790s, eventually captured by the Royal Navy and commissioned as HMS San Nicolas. A Sealink (later Stena) ferry named St. Nicholas traversed the Harwich/Hook-of-Holland route from 1983 until it was renamed Stena Normandy in 1991 and transferred to the Southampton/Cherbourg route. Numerous merchant vessels took the saint’s name and patronage throughout the nineteenth century.

September 3, 2009 8:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

Reclaiming his Birthright

Blessed Emperor Charles’s two homecomings to Hungary after the overthrow of the Hapsburgs are worthy of the greatest spy novels, except they are fact: the hushed secrecy and underground preparations, the airplane contracted under a false name, the disguises used to sneak over borders. In his first attempt, Charles — the Apostolic King of Hungary — made it all the way to Budapest, only to be persuaded to return to exile by the self-appointed regent, Admiral Horthy (a naval commander in what, by then, was a land-locked country).

The King’s second attempt to reclaim his power was much more considered and deliberate, and he spent some time securing a loyal power base of local nobility before pressing on to Budapest by armoured railway train. The King’s force made it to just outside of the Hungarian capital before they were overwhelmed by troops loyal to Horthy — who, in order to maintain their loyalty, neglected to inform the soldiers and officers that the “rebels” they were fighting were actually those of their King and Queen.

Along his path to the capital, the King was greeted by fervent crowds, and stopped at least twice to review small detachments of troops and to show himself in person to his loyal Hungarian subjects. The King had returned, but sadly not for long. After the failure of this second attempt, the Allied powers refused to allow the Imperial & Royal family to remain in mainland Europe, and exiled them to the Portuguese island of Madeira, where the Emperor-King grew ill and eventually died. He is entombed on the island today — a source of great pride, I am told, to the Madeirans.

Elsewhere: Miracle Attributed to Blessed Charles (Norumbega)

August 7, 2009 11:16 am | Link | 4 Comments »

Recent Promulgations from the Holy See

Decrees recently promulgated in the Vatican move sixteen candidates for sainthood forward in their cause. The most famous of the twelve is the English cardinal & convert from Anglicanism, John Henry Newman (above, center). A miracle attributed to the intercession of Cardinal Newman has been accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The Congregation has also accepted individual miracles attributed to the intercession of: Blessed Cándida Maria de Jesús Cipitria y Barriola (above, second from left; 1845-1912), the Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus; the Servant of God Angelo Paoli (below, second from right; 1642-1720), an Italian Carmelite priest; the Servant of God Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas (1843-1927), a cofounder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem.

Eight martyrs were proclaimed in the recently-promulgated decrees: all of them of the twentieth century and all of them victims of totalitarianism. Fr. Teófilo Fernández de Legaria Goñi (below, far left) and four companions (all professed priests of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary), as well as the diocesan priest Fr. José Samsó i Elías (below, far right), were all killed by the Communists in 1936 during the horrible persecution of the Church during the Spanish Civil War. Fr. Georg Häfner (above, far right), a German diocesan priest, was killed in the concentration camp of Dachau in 1942 under the Nazi regime. Bishop Zoltán Lajos Meszlényi (above, far left), an auxiliary bishop of Esztergom, was killed at Kistarcsa in Hungary by the Communist authorities in January 1953.

Proclamations of heroic virtue — the first step on the road to being recognised as a saint — were issued for: Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig (below, center; 1911-1945), a German priest of the Mariannhill missionaries; Anna María Janer Anglarill (below, second from left; 1800-1885), the Spanish founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Family of Urgell; Maria Serafina del Sacro Cuore di Gesu Micheli (1849-1911), the Italian founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Angels; Teresa Manganiello (above, second from right; 1849-1876), an Italian laywoman of the Third Order of St. Francis.

July 8, 2009 2:19 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

St. Juan Macias, ora pro nobis

I would ask that all readers of this blog pray for a good friend of mine in Scotland who is now very, very ill.

June 5, 2009 12:49 pm | Link | No Comments »
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