A Pilgrimage to Jordan

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.”

Over the next ten days I’ll be posting from holy sites throughout Jordan as I travel with a group of Christian journalists and bloggers, courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board of North America. We’ll visit Amman, Jerash, Madaba, Mt. Nebo, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Petra, Wadi Rum, and Mukawir. The baptismal site of Jesus, the place where Moses stood to behold the promised land, some of the cities of the Decapolis, the site where Jesus exorcised the Gerasene demons, the enigmatic Copper Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls, early Christian churches, and other locations are all part of the itinerary. It’s an unbelievable opportunity and I plan to share what I can when I can from the road. 

The easiest way for me to do quick posts and photos that populate across social media is through Tumblr, which will then send it to the Wonderful Things blog, Twitter, and Facebook. You can follow me at any of those places to see updates and look for the shared hashtag #HolyJordan.

Longer pieces will appear at my blog at the National Catholic Register, and will also be linked here. 

Please pray for safe travels for all the pilgrims and, as always, for peace in the Holy Land. 

The Wild Hunt and the Purgatorial Procession

The Wild Hunt and the Purgatorial Procession:

A mass of ferocious men ride across the sky on giant black goats and black horses, making a fearsome din as they charge to the hunt, baying black hounds at their sides. Those who hear the approaching noise must not look or they risk being dragged into the Wild Hunt of the dead.

With plenty of local and national variations, this image of phantom hordes of huntsmen or soldiers has deep roots in Northern European culture, most firmly associated with Woden. We first find it recorded in the middle ages in various forms, and after that it never really leaves. Jacob Grimm named and described it in Deutsche Mythologie (Teutonic Mythology) Volume III, arguing that Germans didn’t drop their stories of the gods when they became Christian, but merely assigned them new roles. What he called the Wild Hunt took on the name Hellequin’s (or Herlechin’s, or Helething’s) Hunt, from the Germanic roots heer (“army”) and thing (“assembly”), and a new religious meaning.


King Arthur in a Dress, With Saints

Monty-Python-and-The-Holy-Grail-monty-python-16538792-845-468This week’s column at the Register is about appearances of King Arthur in the lives of saints:

Nine different hagiographies show us a figure quite different from the one depicted in legend. TheLives (known as Vitae) of the Welsh saints are as obscure as their subjects. Written in the 11th and 12th century long after the deaths of their subjects, their value as historical documents is nugatory, but their insight into medieval piety and attitudes about the past at the time they were written is valuable. There is a common strand binding five of these Lives: the monastery of Llancarfan, founded Glamorgan by St. Cadoc. This hive of hagiographic activity was basically aVita factory. Biographies from Llancarfan include those of Ss. Gildas, Cadoc, Illtud, Carannog, and Padern, all of which mention King Arthur, often in a less than flattering light.

Read the rest.

A Specimen Book of Pattern Papers Designed for and in Use at the Curwen Press (1928)


These gorgeous examples of decorated paper come from A Specimen Book of Pattern Papers Designed for and in Use at the Curwen Press (1928). While this paper most commonly would have been used as endpapers, Paul Nash explains in his introduction that he chose “pattern paper” as a more general term since this paper would also be used for book covers and jackets.

The 31 samples included in this book range from florals reminiscent of wallpaper to bold modernist wood engravings. They were designed by artists Lovat Fraser, Albert Rutherston, Margaret Calkin James, Thomas Lowinsky, E.O. Hoppé, Edward Bawden, Paul Nash, Enid Marx, Eric Ravilious, and Harry Carter.

OED Word of the Day: rubricism

The Oxford English Dictionary got Catholic with this morning’s word of the day. Note the first recorded example from Newman, as well as the nonsense 1978 quote:

rubricism, n.
The strict or overzealous observance of liturgical rubrics.

1840 J. H. Newman Let. 10 Mar. in Corr. with John Keble & Others (1917) ii. 62–Right views and practices are spreading strangely; nor do I think with you that they tend to nothing more than rubricism.

1862 Macmillan’s Mag. 5 203–Its congregational worship affected no revolutionary Rubricism.

1904 Amer. Pulpit Apr. 39/3–Pedantry and rubricism were augured, as now they are, when Christ assailed their..stuffy theories as so much superfluous baggage.

1978 C. Howell in C. Jones et al. Study of Liturgy ii. iii. x. 241–Trent ushered in four centuries of rigidity and fixation; it was an era of rubricism.

2003 Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Jrnl. Sentinel (Nexis) 26 July b5–There are some people who see this as a retrenchment, a going backwards into more of a rubricism.


Goodreads–Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life by Pope Benedict XVI

Eschatology: Death and Eternal LifeEschatology: Death and Eternal Life by Pope Benedict XVI
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ratzinger’s textbook on the last things is very strong on the debates swirling around the nature of the soul, the body-soul relationship, and the temporal aspects of eschatology. Purgatory is adequately treated and heaven inspires some of that fine Ratzingerian theological poetry, but hell is handled briefly and not in much depth. He seems to want to just get it out if the way. That said, it’s a good treatment of the subject, but probably not the introduction a novice should turn to.

View all my reviews

Buy Eschatology by Joseph Ratzinger at Amazon.