First off, big grateful thanks (?) to Simcha Fisher for her shoutout to The How-To Book of the Mass in her Register column. Eleven years after it was first published and seven years after Mike died it’s still going strong, helping a lot of folks understand the Mass and pray it more deeply – and hopefully will for years to come
Saw a good production of On the Town tonight, put on at Samford University. I’d never seen a stage production of the show before, and was really interested to see how different it was from the film. I’d always believed, just based on comparing stage and film soundtracks, that surely, despite the presence of my beloved, Gene Kelly, and as much as I adore the movie, the film version surely must have been homogenized and dumbed down from pointed, dry, Comdon-Green-Bernstein sophistication.
Well, no. I think the one element dropped from the stage that shouldn’t have been is the song “I Can Cook, Too” – which is a fantastic jazzy stew of double-entendres…which is probably why it was dropped. But honestly, all of the other changes make sense to me now. The plot of the film, such as it is, seems more like a plot than a series of set pieces, the relationship between Gabe and Ivy has a bit more grounding in the movie (In the play, they meet in the studio at Carnegie Hall, and then not again until Coney Island, and the play doesn’t have the nice twist of them actually being from the same town), and most of the other songs dropped were not memorable, as it turns out after all.
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In a letter dated July 13, 1909, to the superior general, Mother Angela Ghezzi, Archbishop Maffi said the Vatican Observatory “needs two sisters with normal vision, patience and a predisposition for methodical and mechanical work.”
Father Maffeo said the sisters’ general council was not enthused “about wasting two nuns on a job that had nothing to do with charity.” However, Mother Ghezzi was “used to seeing God’s will in every request,” he said, and she let two sisters go to the observatory.
Work for the sisters began in 1910, but soon required a third and later a fourth nun to join the team. Two would sit in front of a microscope mounted on an inclined plane with a light shining under the plate-glass photograph of one section of the night sky.
The plates were overlaid with numbered grids and the sisters would measure and read out loud each star’s location on two axes and another would register the coordinates in a ledger. They would also check enlarged versions of the images on paper.
The Vatican was one of about 10 observatories to complete its assigned slice of the sky. From 1910 to 1921, the nuns surveyed the brightness and positions of 481,215 stars off of hundreds of glass plates.
Their painstaking work did not go unnoticed at the time. Pope Benedict XV received them in a private audience in 1920 and gave them a gold chalice, Father Maffeo said. Pope Pius XI also received the “measuring nuns” eight years later, awarding them a silver medal.
The Vatican’s astrographic catalog, which totaled 10 volumes, gave special mention to the sisters, noting their “alacrity and diligence,” uninterrupted labors and “zeal greater than any eulogy” could express at a task “so foreign to their mission.”
Like the Sienese Saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves. And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and by the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion. Catherine also belongs to the throng of Saints devoted to the Eucharist with which I concluded my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (cf. n. 94). Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, to strengthen our hope and to inflame our charity, to make us more and more like him.
A true and authentic spiritual family was built up around such a strong and genuine personality; people fascinated by the moral authority of this young woman with a most exalted lifestyle were at times also impressed by the mystical phenomena they witnessed, such as her frequent ecstasies. Many put themselves at Catherine’s service and above all considered it a privilege to receive spiritual guidance from her. They called her “mother” because, as her spiritual children, they drew spiritual nourishment from her. Today too the Church receives great benefit from the exercise of spiritual motherhood by so many women, lay and consecrated, who nourish souls with thoughts of God, who strengthen the people’s faith and direct Christian life towards ever loftier peaks.
A bit more on Catherine. We tend to think of her as “the young woman who told the Pope what to do. Awesome!” There is, of course, so much more to her than that, and even that has a specific – and quite political – context.
If you ever dive into her Dialogues you will find yourself immersed in a riot of imagery that just seems to grab anything and everything from life that might help even a little bit to give a hint of what God is all about.
Blood is very big in Catherine’s spirituality. She begins her letters “in the blood” and she writes of it constantly. The imagery here is earthy and fascinating. We, disciples, go into the world satiated and even drunk on the blood of Christ we’ve been served at the inn called Church.
This is how these beloved children and faithful servants of mine follow the teaching and example of my Truth…..Indeed, they go into battle filled and inebriated with the blood of Christ crucified. My charity sets this blood before you in the hostel of the mystic body of holy Church to give courage….(Dialogues, 77)
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