December 30, 2010

Cantate Domino

It’s almost certain that, in the Catholic world, December 30, 2010 will be remembered as the day Benedict XVI issued an executive order, called “Motu proprio,” committing the Vatican to the fight against illegal activities in the financial and monetary sector.

Yet this was not the only significant event of the day. In fact, this was also the day 5 thousand “little singers,” namely the boys and girls of the International Pueri Cantores Federation, lifted spirits in the Vatican with the pure notes of Christmas carols, delighting Pope Benedict XVI who in turn greeted them in eight languages in the Paul VI audience hall. And the brief speech was actually very significant in many respects, including the role of music in the Catholic liturgy—an issue that I am very interested in, as both a staunch advocate of Gregorian chant and one who firmly believes that real beauty—in music and in the arts in general—draws us back to the Creator, who is the very source and essence of beauty, back to the deep core of things. Here is what Pope Benedict said:

Dear young members of the Pueri Cantores Federation,
Dear Friends,
I am pleased to welcome you today as you celebrate your thirty-sixth International Congress here in Rome and I thank you for the commitment you have shown to the apostolate of choral singing in the liturgy. In Saint Augustine’s words: “singing is an expression of joy and … love” (Sermo 34:1). As you use your talents and your faith to sing God’s praises, you give voice to the natural desire of every human being to glorify him, with songs of love. It is hard to find words to convey the sheer joy of the soul’s loving encounter with God, indeed the great mystics could only remain silent before the mystery. Yet beautiful music is able to express something of the mystery of God’s love for us and ours for him, as we are reminded by the theme chosen for your Congress, Deus Caritas Est.
Always remember that your singing is a service. Firstly, it is a service to God, a way of giving him the praise that is due. It is also a service to your fellow worshippers, helping them to raise their hearts and minds to the Lord in prayer. And it is a service to the whole Church, offering a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy that is the goal of all true worship, when the choirs of angels and saints unite in one unending song of love and praise.
I greet especially the groups present today from the United States, Sweden, Ireland, Latvia and South Korea. I encourage you to persevere in your good work, I assure you of my prayers, and I gladly invoke upon you God’s abundant blessings.

The Heritage Foundation's Top Tens

Time to take stock of the year! I guess all of you know The Heritage Foundation, a think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Well, here are three lists you might be interested in. From The Heritage Foundation’s blog The Foundry:

  1. Top Ten Morning Bells of 2010
  2. Top Ten Heritage Charts of 2010
  3. Top Ten Heritage Papers of 2010

“Keynesian Government Spending Multipliers and Spillovers in the Euro Area”

Proponents of discretionary fiscal stimulus—most prominent among them Paul Krugman of Princeton University and The New York Times—emphasize the Keynesian multiplier effect that implies that additional government spending would induce an increase in private spending and therefore a greater than one-for-one effect on aggregate GDP. Yet, as shown in a recent ECB (European Central Bank) working paper by Tobias Cwik of Goethe University, Frankfurt, and Volker Wieland of the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London, this theory is, to say the least, not as good as its supporters claim. In fact, after investigating whether the spending package announced by Euro area governments for 2009 and 2010 is likely to have such a multiplicative effect on euro area GDP, Tobias Cwik and Volker Wieland came to a conclusion that … Read the full paper here (pdf).
Thanks: www.chicago-blog (in Italian).

December 28, 2010

Whether Literature Is A Waste of Time

Anna Karenina (Everyman's Library classics)“Suppose someone says that from reading Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, he or she learned something useful which they then applied to their own marriage(s), […] whereas someone else professes to have had no help at all from reading assorted novels by Anne Tyler, George Eliot, William Maxwell and Anita Brookner […]. Supposing all this, or some variant of it—are we then to say that the second someone’s reading has been a total waste of time?”

See here how Norman Geras—in response to this piece by Alain de Botton in The Wall Street Journal—answers the question.

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just about two years ago I referred to the wonderful story of Silent Night in a short post, which in the meanwhile has become one of the most visited on this blog—this makes me very, very happy... you have no idea how much i love that song! So this year same song, different singer and video (they are both wonderful), but above all, Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2010

In Memoriam: Enzo Bearzot

Enzo Bearzot, the legendary coach who led the Italian soccer team to its third World Cup victory in 1982, died yesterday at 83. I guess you don’t need to be a soccer fanatic or even a fan to mourn him, being a normal Italian, or otherwise a non-Italian who loves soccer, would do just fine. He has certainly been one of the most beloved Italians of his time, and this, at least in my eyes, not just because of his success as a coach, but also, if not above all, because of his human qualities: his sobriety, fortitude, integrity, and courage.

In his essay “Courage,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that there are three qualities which “conspicuously attract the wonder and reverence of mankind”–disinterestedness, “as shown in indifference to the ordinary bribes and influences of conduct—a purpose so sincere and generous that it cannot be tempted aside by any prospects of wealth or other private advantage,” practical power, “one who, seeing the wishes of men, knows how to come at their end; whispers to this friend, argues down that adversary, moulds society to his purpose, and looks at all men as wax for his hands; takes command of them (…) as the man that knows more does of the man that knows less, and leads them in glad surprise to the very point where they would be,” and courage, “the perfect will, which no terrors can shake, which is attracted by frowns or threats or hostile armies, nay, needs these to awake and fan its reserved energies into a pure flame, and is never quite itself until the hazard is extreme; then it is serene and fertile, and all its powers play well.”

That’s just how I’d describe Enzo Bearzot’s character. And that’s also how those who had the privilege of knowing him well are actually describing him in these sad hours of mourning (see here, here, here, and here).

The following recollection is only one of a number of examples of his philosophy of life:

Bearzot will be remembered for the undying belief he showed in his players and his tactics, qualities he admirably demonstrated in Spain.
Bearzot took tremendous flack for selecting out-of-form forward Paolo Rossi at the start of the 1982 tournament. The criticisms only grew louder as a lethargic Italy stumbled to draws against Poland, Peru and Cameroon in the first round, and only managed to qualify for the knockout stages by the skin of its teeth.
Rossi had failed to score in all three matches, and when he was substituted in Italy's next game against Argentina, again without scoring, Italian journalists were calling for the manager's head.
But Bearzot had faith in Rossi and he was duly rewarded. Rossi recorded a marvelous hat trick against Brazil in Italy's next match scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Poland in semifinals and netted the opener in a 3-1 win over West Germany in the final. With six goals, Rossi finished as the tournament’s top scorer and was named the competition's MVP.

“Enzo Bearzot was one of Italy’s greatest figures in the 20th century,” Paolo Rossi told the Italian news agency ANSA. “He was like a father to me and without him I would never have achieved what I did.”

As Jeff Powell, sports columnist who covered Bearzot during the ‘82 World Cup, writes in today’s Daily Mail,

The morning after that triumph Bearzot walked into the press conference, poured champagne for all the journalists who had vilified him and invited them to join him in a toast: Forza Italia.
This product of the Italian FA coaching regime had inspired a new mentality which generated a subsequent World Cup victory in Germany 2006 and which injected ambition, energy and adventure into Serie A.
My friend Enzo - who died on Tuesday aged 83 - was pure class.

Rest in peace, dear old man, we will always miss you.

December 18, 2010


Fra Angelico, Nativity, Convento di San Marco, Florence

It’s really true that, as Pablo Picasso once said, with age, art and life become one and the same. I mean, as you grow older you learn to understand life a little better, but since art and life are inseparable, then if you understand one you understand the other, and therefore you become aware of how much of your life is … art! Ars vivendi, of course, and not only this, but also art per se, that is an endless search for beauty.

But what is beauty? Well, it’s not an easy question to answer, so let’s start more modestly with the meaning of the word itself. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term beauty indicates “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” But, apart from the effects of beauty (“gives pleasure,” etc.), what is beauty in itself? This is clearly a philosophical question, and a very wide one, indeed. A bit too wide for a blog post! So, let’s just simplify and say that Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates were the first at attempting to define beauty. They thought of objects or nature as being inherently beautiful: beauty is inside us and all around us. In their attempt to define characteristics of a beautiful thing they focused on “simplicity” and “symmetry.” Their concrete and simple concept of beauty was enlarged by Plotinus, according to which beauty cannot be described as just symmetry, but rather as a quality that “irradiates” and moves us. Let’s also say that, in general, according to the traditional Western thought, beauty is a supreme value and a constitutive element of the cosmos, associated with order, harmony, truth, goodness, love, being, and the divine. Modern philosophy, in turn, shifted the study of beauty from ontology to the sphere of human faculties. Hence the “emancipation” of art from traditional religious and social bonds, namely from the constraints and the burden of demonstrating a moral truth or of bearing a moral message, as it was used in the Middle Ages, until just before the Renaissance. And finally the arts themselves were separated from the traditional concept of beauty (but in the Twentieth Century metaphysical discussions of beauty were revived by German philosophers Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer).

Yet, with all due respect for philosophy (and Aesthetics, which is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty), for us believers one thing is certain: there is no real beauty but that which God has bestowed around us and upon our lives. As it is written, “He hath made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccles. 3:11). That’s why beauty draws us back to the Creator, who is the very source and essence of beauty, back to the deep core of things. This beauty emanates from the self-giving love of God, love that pours out of the heart of God into ordinary, everyday people and relationships and circumstances.

Unfortunately, in our time beauty has become reduced, both at the popular level and among elites, to being fit or young or rich and glamorous—not to mention other and far worse perversions and aberrations. Thus, beauty leads to lifestyles that are, in the best cases, vain, self-centered, wasteful, and personally destructive in the worst. Thus, art has sometimes become synonymous with corruption and artist with “decadent”—morbidity is a characteristic of the so-called Decadent movement... That’s not the kind of art I was talking about at the beginning of this post. So, what is art for me? Well, art is for me one of the most straightforward and effective ways of worshipping God, showing our gratitude for His gifts, and at the same time of experiencing His presence.

That’s why I have a predilection for the kind of art of which the following video is a precious example. This is also my way of reminding you that the Fourth Sunday of Advent is quickly approaching…

~ First written for The Metaphysical Peregrine ~

December 15, 2010

Fewer Than Half of American Children Growing Up In Intact Families

The Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) defines an intact family as “a biological mother and father who remain legally married to one another from the time of their child’s birth.” Well, according to a survey—the first annual Index of Belonging and Rejection—produced by the above mentioned institute and advocacy group, only 45 percent of American children have spent their childhood in an intact family. This means a majority of American teenagers’ parents have rejected each other, either through divorce, separation or choosing not to marry.

Now, considering that providing children with intact families holds immeasurable benefits—including financial, educational, legislative, legal and judicial gains—for children, adults and society in general, we may conclude, along with Pat Fagan, director of the Marriage & Religion Research Institute, that “American society is dysfunctional, characterized by a faulty understanding of the male-female relationship,” and that its culture “needs a compass correction, learning again how to belong to each other when we have begotten children together.”

I must confess I’d be tempted to add that I feel sorry for America, but unfortunately I don’t think Europe is in any better shape. [Via]

Not The Worst Nightmare

So yesterday Berlusconi narrowly won a confidence vote in the lower house of Parliament—his government received only three votes more than its opponents—soon after rather easily winning the vote in the Senate. To me (and many others) it was no great surprise, though. Of course, it’s true that there was much uncertainty about the outcome of the vote in the Chamber of Deputies, unlike that in the Senate: everybody knew it would be a photo-finish. But in the end common sense prevailed, 314-311.

The no-confidence motion was put forward by opponents who argued that Berlusconi’s scandal-ridden private life, his alleged attempts to head off investigations into his business dealings and the lackluster state of the economy made his continued tenure as prime minister impossible. And all of this is true to a degree, but this is only half of the truth, one of the two sides of the coin, the other of which is the nature itself of the opposition, made up of a jumble of left-wing, centrist and center-right political parties, without a clear leader and with little common ground other than the will to get rid of Berlusconi—enough to seriously undermine the government’s ability to work effectively, too little to present themselves as a reliable, alternative government. And that’s perhaps the real trouble with Italy, or, depending on your point of view, the greatest luck: with such an opposition, Berlusconi’s only opponents are the formidable problems of the country. But the ideal would be a decent government and a decent opposition—and, if I don’t expect too much, less severe problems for the country …

Be it as it may, the worst was avoided: a crisis without any foreseeable solutions. And now? Speaking at the presentation of a book in Rome, soon after winning the vote of confidence, Berlusconi said it was possible he might expand his parliamentary majority. He also said Italy did not need to have elections now but that he was sure his party would win them if they were held. And this is not an unlikely scenario, nor the worst nightmare. Yeah, there’s always something worse, and in life, you need to know how to make do with what you have. After all, aren’t we in the age of Kali Yuga?

December 13, 2010

It's the Political Correctness, Stupid!

Heidi Harris’ version of the “12 Days of Christmas” (outstanding!) from The Heidi Harris Show, Las Vegas :

[Thanks: Rich Hilts]

December 12, 2010

Italy And The Euro Crisis

Giulio Tremonti and Mario Draghi
Olli Rehn, EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner, speaking at a press conference in Rome alongside Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti: Italy is “coping well” with the eurozone crisis and its financial position has deteriorated less than others thanks to its prudent fiscal policy and despite high levels of public sector debt. So sorry for the many international and (above all) domestic cassandras writing off the country’s economy—but, if you want to see the glass half empty, it’s also true that, as Rome-based national statistics agency Istat said last Friday, Italy’s industrial production fell 0.1 percent in October after a 2.1 percent drop in September...

Italy’s Central Bank governor, Mario Draghi, in an interview with the Financial Times (article and video): The euro is not in question, and “Europe is moving in the right direction of creating the rules and institutions to address future crisis in a systemic and comprehensive way.” But the large-scale purchases of government bonds could threaten the ECB’s freedom to act without political interference and break European Union rules.

December 7, 2010

The Murderers of Christianity

In Baghdad and in other places in Iraq the killing of Christians continues: the last two, a married couple attacked in their home on the night of Sunday, December 5. What is worse—as the October 31 massacre in the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad demonstrates (the terrorists opened fire and threw grenades shouting, “You will all go to hell, but we to paradise. Allah is most great” …)—is that the attacks denote a hatred that is ever more distinctly religious, Islamist.

As a result, the exodus of Christians from Baghdad and Mosul to the safer Kurdistan, in the extreme north of the country, continues.

The situation in Egypt—where a few weeks ago two Coptic Christians were killed by the police and 50 were wounded during a demonstration calling for the construction of a church in the city of Giza—is not much better. Hence the Pope’s call for the respect of human rights in Iraq and Egypt, as the video below shows. Meanwhile the international community continues to turn a blind eye to what is going on.

December 6, 2010

Ron Paul: “What We Need Is More WikiLeaks On The Federal Reserve”

One may not agree with Ron Paul on certain points (or many). Likewise, one may not disagree more with Julian Assange and what he stands for. But this is worth mentioning …

[Via Tea Party -- One Lump or Two?]

December 4, 2010

Please Help Free Liu Xiaob

Not that, to be honest, I am overly confident that this Call to Action will be crowned by success (and this for at least two quite obvious reasons I won’t mention here), but I can’t help doing my own little part to help support Tibetan and Chinese political prisoners in China, including Chinese literary critic, writer, professor, and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” and is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” That’s why I accept the call to action launched by the International Campaign for Tibet:

Liu Xiaobo, Chinese literary critic, writer, professor, activist and supporter of the Tibetan people, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." Currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for "inciting subversion of state power," Liu Xiaobo is the first Chinese person to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China.

Thousands of prisoners - Tibetan as well as Chinese - continue to be held behind bars, serving long sentences for speaking out and voicing their opinions. They include Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan film-maker; Migmar Dhondup, a Tibetan tour guide and writer ; Runggye Adak, a Tibetan nomad; and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan religious and community leader.
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, which the Chinese government is not allowing Liu or his family to attend, will be held on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

Please add your voice before December 10, 2010 by sending a message to President Obama to urge him to stand up to press China for the release of all political prisoners detained for exercising their right to free expression, and to implement the political and human rights reforms that multitudes of Chinese and Tibetan advocates risk their lives to promote.
Take action and send your message now!

December 3, 2010

A Couple of Questions About WikiLeaks and The New York Times

Is Wikileaks motivated by stopping deciet, lies, fraud and abuse of the power, or just the United States? Why did the New York Times ignore other things against the left?

When a newspaper allows its personal beliefs and agenda to color not only the news, but what it selects as the news, it becomes no better than the newsstand rag used to attract the illiterate and stupid at the supermarket checkout to look at the same blurred out alien baby picture for the 600th time.


WikiLeaks has shown a chink in its armor. WikiLeaks is simply concentrating on one “evil”. This does not match up with its founders’ “purpose” of defending everyone against abusers of power everywhere.

It is understandable if someone wants to reveal something as dastardly as the Abu Gharab situation or the incident with the helicopter, shooting what definitely appeared to be innocent people. But to release millions of documents because of a few abuses, the white knights of the world become the abusers and not the defenders of the abused.

Read the rest.

December 1, 2010

Let’s Be Inspired By Beauty!

The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, by Sandro Botticelli, Edinburgh National Gallery of Scotland 

Tired of bleak political news? Here is a more optimistic view of the world, made up of beauty and true joy of life : just put together Sandro Botticelli and J.S. Bach—The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude And Fugue No. 1 In C Major, BWV 846—and you’re done… [Thanks: Riflessi d'acqua]

This is also meant to remind you (and me) that last Sunday was the First Advent in the Christian calendar—because Beauty and true Joy, a joy that is certainly different from the illusory feelings advertised through publicity…, both come from God’s love, and “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). The Lord is coming—that’s what Advent means! So, let’s wait for Him in Joy and Hope, and let’s be inspired by the Beauty He has surrounded us with!