Milan, Ancient but Not Easy to Pray

Duomo Milano columns.jpg

You step into a giant forest of marble, when you enter the cathedral of Milan.

St. Bartholomew Milan

Then I found myself next to the famous statue of St. Bartholomew, flayed alive for the faith.

St. Charles Borromeo lies in the crypt, under the high altar.

They don’t make it easy to pray in the Duomo Milano. Large parts of the church lie behind impenetrable barricades. Couldn’t even find the Blessed Sacrament.

But across town, the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio has the great Father of the Church, entombed with two martyrs to whom he was devoted, Sts. Gervase and Protase.

Ambrose made them the patrons of Milan, as narrated in St. Augustine’s Confessions. (St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine.) After Ambrose died, they re-interred the martyrs with him, since he had become the city’s perennial patron.

St. Ambrose

The martyrs are vested as St. Ambrose’s deacons. They lie beneath this mosaic:

Basilica Ambrogio mosaic.jpg

Easter-Wednesday Paintings

When I find a new member of my favorite painting genre (St. Francis praying), I stand in amazement:


Bernardo Strozzi, St. Francis in Prayer

…I couldn’t find a complementary painting of St. Joseph (for the patron of my other parish). But Jusepe painted this masterpiece of St. Bartholomew:

Jusepe de Ribera Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew

Jusepe de Ribera, Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew

The sharpening of the knife before the flaying resonates with all the more intensity when we keep in mind the after. (Click HERE for the Sistine-chapel version of the after.)

…Meanwhile, just when I thought we could not find a more discomfiting Edward-Hopper painting, it turns out that the Corcoran has owned one for years:

Ground Swell Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper, Ground Swell

Somehow, I find Hopper’s preternatural capacity to depict empty meaninglessness strangely consoling.

Source of Apostolic Zeal: the Promise

(for the Feast of St. Bartholomew)

The Holy Apostles acted with such great courage that they seem superhuman.

Among the Apostles, we know St. Paul the most intimately, since so many of his writings have been passed down to us. We know the details of how he willingly suffered every possible hardship for the sake of expanding the kingdom of Christ.

St. Paul nearly starved; he nearly drowned; was repeatedly imprisoned, flogged, beaten within an inch of his life. He patiently endured painful mistreatment of every kind—the willful misunderstanding of his motives by people he had helped, betrayal by people he loved, the unfair judgment of countless supposed allies. In the end, he willingly bent his neck under the executioner’s axe, rather than deny Christ.

All the Apostles acted with similarly astonishing zeal and dedication. The Church expanded from a small band of dreamers, apparently beaten in an obscure Roman province, to a unified worldwide organization.

In other words, a great miracle of social development occurred. And at the heart of this miracle lies the Apostles’ superhuman zeal. Where did it come from?

Continue reading “Source of Apostolic Zeal: the Promise”

The Martyr of the Taxman, Etc.

Who needs horror movies? On Wednesday, we will keep a feast for St. Bartholomew.

Statue of St. Bartholomew in Milan Cathedral

The Holy Apostle appears to be wearing a toga. But he was flayed alive. Skinned. He wears his flayed skin like a toga.

Were Nathanael and Bartholomew the same person? Yes; most likely, yes. Nathanael is a first name; Bar-tholomew is a last name.

He hailed from Cana, followed St. Philip to Christ, evangelized India, suffered martyrdom in Armenia, lays entombed on a little island in the Tiber.

Perhaps we could implore him to pray that we, too, might be zealous enough to be skinned for the faith.

…Holy Father gave a talk back in January ’09 which explains the Mass brilliantly well. Or just go straight to St. Augustine’s City of God, Book Ten, chapter 6…

…A charming explanation of dynamic- vs. formal-equivalence translation:

…Also, in case you missed it, click HERE to read about worshipping the Blessed Mother as a god.