The Grave of Mona Lisa: Discovered?

A team of archaeologists searching the Convent of St. Ursula in Florence for the remains of Lisa del Giocondo believe they have them. Lisa, the model for Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, became a nun after the death of her husband, and lived in the convent until her death in 1542. The bones were found under the floor of the convent.

The female skull, along with various bone fragments, will be subjected to DNA testing and facial reconstruction. The claim seems a bit premature given the evidence (how many other nuns were buried in the same area?), so we’ll have to wait and see.

When I first posted on this story, there was some question of the propriety of disturbing a grave to satisfy our own curiosity. I think this is misplaced. Exhumation of remains is not at all uncommon, and indeed ancient cultures tended to keep remains near at hand. Some were buried in the floors of home, partly as one aspect of ancestor worship. Others were allowed to decay, and then the bones were moved to ossuaries after a year. This was common in the culture of ancient Israel, and persists in eastern cultures. Indeed, you don’t need to look very far to see the exposure of human remains in Catholic culture. Exhumation and display of remains is part of the process of declaring saints.

So this squeamishness about “disturbing graves” is rather a modern attitude, and rooted more in European superstition and prudishness than ancient Judeo-Christian culture and practice.




Mass at the Principal Church of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross

As reported over at The Anglo Catholic:

A West Australian friend has been attending Sunday Mass at the Principal Church of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross for the last several weeks, ever since the happy day of the reception into full communion of many incoming Anglicans, and the ordination to the priesthood of their leader the new Ordinary, Monsignor Harry Entwistle, in Perth last month.

For all interested readers, then, here is an account – extracted over the telephone – from my correspondent (who is himself a former Anglican, and thus particularly sympathetic to the Ordinariate) of Mass this morning in Perth.

The Church of SS Ninian and Chad (which I have peeped into myself some years ago) is quite small; it was full for the 9.30 am Sunday Mass, which means a congregation of perhaps seventy. As well as the recently-arrived Ordinariate members, quite a number of other Catholics were in attendance, including (I am told) some familiar faces from my years in the West.

As should be expected, Mass began with full-throated hymn-singing (Patrimony! Catholics can’t sing like that!), and the music was excellent throughout, including the organ-playing.

Mass was conducted in the Ordinary Form, with two notable (approved) additions: the Collect for Purity at the outset (between the salutation and the Penitential Act, I understand), and the Prayer of Humble Access at Communion (just before “Behold the Lamb of God”, at the place when the priest says a private prayer for worthy reception). Mgr Entwistle remarked at the very good bunfight afterward (Patrimony!) that to Anglican laity, the use of those two prayers are the sine qua non of Anglican liturgy, and I think I may as an interested observer agree: the first is of course Sarum, and the second is Cranmerian but certainly orthodox.

One tiny variant was also quietly pleasing: whether “official” or not, the congregation very devoutly said “And with thy spirit” throughout, and who can but applaud this?

The readings were taken from the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (the so-called Ignatius Press Lectionary); apparently the ACCA has been using the RSV for some years prior to the establishment of the Ordinariate in any case. The sermon was good, solid, and of fair length – more Patrimony! (If Catholics can’t sing, neither in the main can the average Catholic priest preach, after all, so may these good people diffuse their gifts widely and quickly…)

The prayers of intercession were not, as I had surmised, recited using the Anglican Prayer for the Church. As I have said, only two prayers from the Anglican tradition supplemented the liturgy. The celebrant said the Roman Canon on this Sunday, but I am informed that he has used other Eucharistic Prayers from the Roman Missal on other days.

There were two servers, and incense was used – this being the first time in my friend’s experience of attending Ordinariate Masses there. Why so? SS Ninian and Chad being a very small church in truth, the sanctuary is not suited to large services, and this accounts for the restrained but reverent liturgical style there – in such a small church one cannot expect the sort of liturgical pageantry that larger churches can put on. In other words, SS Ninian and Chad is not the Brompton Oratory!

Mass was, of course, said ad orientem, and everyone knelt for Communion at the rail. My friend was careful to remind me that Communion was given in Both Kinds, and that the chalice was administered by being held to each communicant’s lips, in the usual Anglican fashion, so that the communicants did not themselves handle the chalice. This would be entirely new to average Catholics!

(Since at present the Monsignor is the only priest of the Ordinariate – though I hear that ordinations in Melbourne, Queensland, Adelaide, and so forth will occur fairly soon, as least as regards the first city named – it has seemed prudent to use the Ordinary Form, just slightly supplemented, rather than the Book of Divine Worship’s Eucharistic liturgy, the only other approved Anglican Use Mass at present, since if a local diocesan priest has to say Mass while Entwistle is off on Ordinariate business around Australia, it would be difficult for such a supply priest to celebrate a liturgy to him unknown.)

The Ordinariate is still but newly-born; the Ordinary has very slender resources, and so matters will progress slowly at first. One might say that Our Lady of the Southern Cross indeed holds a precious infant in her arms – one of Our Lord’s youngest brethren, still literally infans, unable to speak (having no website for the moment)! We know that she will dearly care for this her latest adopted child.

Given this, it is unsurprising that these recently-arrived Ordinariate members have been happily received by the wider Archdiocese of Perth, and feel very much welcomed. Holy Mother Church rejoices in these members now fully united to her!