Of the Vatican and Merry-Go-Rounds. No… really…

I am not a fan of huge outdoor Masses, even… especially… in St. Peter’s Square… which is a parking lot.

Today, however, it is more than a parking lot.

I am not making this up.

You can’t make this up.

There is a carnival ride set up in St. Peter’s Square. You can view cams HERE.

And….

My mind is spinning with quips about the Curia and the Merry-Go-Round.

UPDATE

In related news, the Holy Father has his annual meeting with members of the Roman Curia:

All in all, it seemed to go pretty well.  Business as usual.

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39 Responses to Of the Vatican and Merry-Go-Rounds. No… really…

  1. Gratias says:

    I take a relaxed view of this. St. Peter’s square is an architectural marvel. In this age of mass media we are really amortizing the investment in the Basilica. The Vatican is at the center of our religion and our Pope is doing a good job at advancing the Faith from his See. Not bad for an 85 year old.

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    Thirteen photos and a good story:

    Pope greets clowns, acrobats: Circus comes to town, by Nicole Winfield, for the AP.

  3. Yeah, my blood pressure shot up on first reading, too. But I think Gratias is right to be calm about it. In the Middle Ages, it would have been quite normal for the local fair to set up in the cathedral square. And it’s helpful to remember that St. Peter’s Square is — correct me if I’m wrong — not in itself sacred space, though it so often gets used for overflow from basilica services.
    (… You’d rather think that the site of St. Peter’s martyrdom would be sacred space, though, wouldn’t you? But there’s only the obelisk there in the middle. No shrine, no altar.)
    At least His Holiness is keeping the clowns outside the basilica, which is more than a number of his brother bishops do.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  4. anna 6 says:

    The Pope had an audience today with circus and migrant peoples (aka gypsies).
    http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2012/12/01/pope_greets_circus_performers/en1-643686

  5. … and yes I know that San Pietro in Montorio up on the Gianicolo also claims to be the site of St. Peter’s martyrdom. Let’s hope it’s true!

  6. acardnal says:

    I’m pretty confident there won’t be any clown Masses there!

  7. rcg says:

    You sure about that, acardnal? I think now that the Continuity of Reform Reformation is actually getting traction the Clown may have come home to roost. They gotta go somewhere.

  8. Jon says:

    Look, I loved Red Skelton when I was a kid, but can somebody please tell me what this bizarre European obsession is with clowns? I’ve never understood it.

  9. CantareAmantisEst says:

    I would rather Merry del Val than Merry-Go-Round in the Vatican any day.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Look, I loved Red Skelton when I was a kid, but can somebody please tell me what this bizarre European obsession is with clowns? I’ve never understood it.”

    Do you really want to know, mwhahaha…be careful my pretty, for what you ask shall be granted, mwhahaha…do you suffer from coulrophobia?

    You can look it up on Wikipedia, all you want, but the obsession with clowns is from a rather sad perspective. I realized it, one day, while lecturing (not on clowns). I realized that old men loss their hair on top and if they do not comb it, it tends to get upturned and frizzy on the sides. The result is the look of a clown. Now, why would an old man not keep his hair combed? Why would an old man act loopy?

    Because he is demented.

    Clowns are a reflection and a defense (as in a ritualistic avatar), against those old ones who go mad. They are a sign of helplessness, of the loss of what one once was. Perhaps, this is why some people are subconsciously afraid of clowns.

    Clowns are not to be feared. They are not to be laughed at. They are to be pitied.

    Even female clowns enact the aging of the male. It is hard to find a clown with a full head of hair.

    The Chicken

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    Should read:

    I realized that old men lose their hair on top…

    As for why Europe? Clowns are a universal. They are found in many cultures. Europe has seen more death than America, so we are only beginning to become “clownified.” We still, largely, borrow the European model.

    The Chicken

  12. poohbear says:

    Why can’t the Pope enjoy the circus like anyone else? Are we to think there are no Catholic circus performers and that they may see this as an honor to perform for His Holiness?

    A clown Mass would be a different story, but this seems ok to me.

  13. teomatteo says:

    I’m…..i’m afraid of clowns….

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    Chicken,
    It’s nothing as cerebral as that. Human beings are the most dangerous animals on earth, and clowns look like berserk human beings to me. :o Not cool. Not funny. Not entertainment.

  15. I got a gold star! I got a gold star! Woot!!

  16. Clinton R. says:

    “All in all, it seemed to go pretty well. Business as usual.”

    And the LA Religious Education Congress just got it’s next idea for Mass at next year’s gathering.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Dear @poohbear, I agree.

    Dear @catholicmidwest, well then… for the protocol: you say that you have an actual moral problem with clowns and jugglers, absolutely, anywhere, anywhen. In that case, of course you must dislike such a proceeding. But it seems no problem of appropriateness to St Peter’s Square, or does it.

    In that case, let those who have no moral problem with clowns etc. still go on to enjoy them, or (if they, without having a moral problem, do not find them so much funny or so) not care about them… for I simply do not know where is the precept that forbids clowns.

    Human beings are dangerous, yes. But we just can’t help being ones; so we might as well accept it.

  18. Widukind says:

    This gives a fresh meaning to the name “Roman Circus”, and as well,
    I do like it as a new nickname for the Roman Curia.

  19. mpolo says:

    The actual site of St. Peter’s execution is inside the current basilica (the obelisk was moved from its original location). It’s in the arm to the left of the baldachin, as I remember. Look for inverted crosses at the site.

  20. Martin_B says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this.

    Just remember: Most if not all fairs and festivities have their origin in christian feast days.
    The people just wanted to carry on celebrating even after the mass was over. That’s what started all these a long time ago.

    And the days just prior to lent and advent was always a very special time for celebrations. Just think of carneval and Martinmas (just before the formerly 6 weeks of advent). So also the time for such is just right.

    A little fun before we focus on the important things that lay ahead. That’s all. And the people who run this business really can do whith all the blessing they can get. Because working with wild animals, performing on high ropes and don’t forget travelling around is still a very dangerous way to earn a living.

    Martin B

  21. catholicmidwest says:

    Imrahil,

    My personal opinion about clowns has nothing to do with this:

    Clowns in St. Peter’s square make the Vatican look silly and clown-ish to people in many cultures who do not share the particular European enthusiasm for clowns. For instance, about 75% of Americans aren’t Catholic. They think Catholics dress funny in the first place. Catholics in vestments standing next to clowns in costumes all over the internet is a TERRIBLE idea for this reason. It’s all about what teachers call “with-it-ness,” which isn’t being “cool,” but rather having some common sense about what you look like, who’s paying attention and how you look to them so that you can be effective in communication.

    Does it even dawn on these Europeans what they look like to the rest of the world? I can’t speak for Asians of all the different types, Africans, etc. But somebody better be paying attention to this. The world is connected via the internet down to the smallest village with the rarest culture. These things no longer pass un-noticed. Hello.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    “With-it-ness” also includes knowing what’s going on in the back of the room, and who’s trying to hide it from you. More things that the Vatican needs to pick up the pace on. It took them decades to comprehend the ICEL thing (approximately 1960s-1997). Very slow on the uptake.

  23. robtbrown says:

    The Masked Chicken says:

    You can look it up on Wikipedia, all you want, but the obsession with clowns is from a rather sad perspective. I realized it, one day, while lecturing (not on clowns). I realized that old men loss their hair on top and if they do not comb it, it tends to get upturned and frizzy on the sides. The result is the look of a clown. Now, why would an old man not keep his hair combed? Why would an old man act loopy?

    Because he is demented.

    Clowns are a reflection and a defense (as in a ritualistic avatar), against those old ones who go mad. They are a sign of helplessness, of the loss of what one once was. Perhaps, this is why some people are subconsciously afraid of clowns.

    Clowns are not to be feared. They are not to be laughed at. They are to be pitied.

    Even female clowns enact the aging of the male. It is hard to find a clown with a full head of hair.

    Isn’t calling yourself the Masked Chicken an example of being a clown?

    Clowns are a satire on the human condition. No matter how diligent our toil, many of our efforts end in failure.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear @catholicmidwest,

    I was thinking your first comment was about your personal stand towards clowns. If I was wrong there sorry. Anyway, you gave (or so it seemed to me) some better reasons in the second place.

    Anyway, thanks.

    Maybe more later. Just this much: In my view the best thing to treat the vestments as the normal dress is not to be afraid whatever anyone else dresses. It were the clowns that are dressed as clowns.
    Then, the clowns were guests that were received and performed their arts before the ruler, as the practice goes since a millenium and maybe some centuries more. I think hospitality, if no other reason, is worth a little seeming-strange to third people.
    Then, once they have understood why Catholics vest Catholic, I very much doubt they’d think a minute about them greeting clowns in clowns’ costumes.
    Then, there are many dresses around the world. American, European and all-world gentlemen dresses seem to be very much alike, but apparently aren’t so really; but Africans dress differently. Hawaiians, I hear, dress differently. Bavarians, traditionally, dress differently. So people might as well accept different clothes. The tuxedo has a very loose connection to morality.
    And while I don’t know the term “with-it-ness”, being no native American, if you allow me to really use the expression “cool”, then as the saying goes “cool is he who does not care whether he is cool”.

    Besides, there is no European enthousiasm for clowns that I am aware of. The traditional place here would be occupied by Mr Punch and equivalents, who is not dressed as a clown, even though with many colors.
    Except that clowns are a normal part of a circus, and sometimes make entertainment for little children. If that is enthousiasm to an American, then I’d better understand why you find them so abnormal (or so it seemed to me in your first comment).

  25. Bill Foley says:

    On a previous article in this blog the masked chicken wrote that the Catechism of the Catholic Church did not equate prayer with mental prayer. I was unable to further comment because Father Z apparently shut down the comments; therefore, I now want to clarify this matter. True prayer is mental prayer even if the Catechism does not always use the word mental.
    The teaching of the Catholic Church on matters in ascetical and mystical theology has been amply written about by saints and the great Catholic spiritual masters, for example, Chautard, Arintero, Marmion, Garrigou-Lagrange, and Boylan. All have clearly defined true prayer as the “raising of the mind and heart to God in loving discourse.”
    For example, Dom Boylan in his modern masterpiece on the spiritual life, This Tremendous Life, comments on page 129: “There are two important meanings of the word prayer. One is the narrow sense of the asking of seemly things from God; this is the prayer of petition. The other is a broader one: the elevation of the mind and heart to God. No prayer in which the mind does not in some way share is prayer at all. No prayer ceases to be mental prayer because words are used to express one’s thoughts or desires.”
    On page 30 he continues with a quote from Saint Teresa of Avila: “Know that with regard to our prayer being mental or not, the difference does not consist in keeping the mouth shut; for if uttering a prayer vocally, I do attentively consider and perceive that I am speaking with God, being more intent on this thought than on the words which I pronounce, then I use both mental prayer and vocal prayer together.”
    I ask your forbearance as I give you a quotation on page 31, which I read when I was 20 and which has been on the forefront of my mind for the past 52 years: “One thing we insist upon. You must make a grim, ruthless resolve, that never, never, never, on any account whatsoever, will you give up the practice of attempting to pray thus daily, no matter how fruitless your attempt may seem. Until you make this resolve, your progress in the spiritual life will never be anything more than that of a cripple.”
    If any one of you has not read this spiritual masterpiece, first published in April 1947, please do so. I cannot count the times that I have re-read it.
    In conclusion I would like to contrast non-prayer—although apparently prayer—with true, mental prayer—the elevation of the mind and heart in loving discourse with God. One says all 20 mysteries of the rosary or recites all 150 Psalms, but one does not raise his mind and heart to God. This is a sterile exercise—non-prayer. Another sits in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or in front of a crucifix for an hour, raises his mind and heart to God, and only utters interiorly a few times “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and perhaps wards off involuntary distractions, and maybe endures complete aridity with no consolation. This is true prayer, true mental prayer.

  26. Gulielmus says:

    While there is no compulsion to like them, clowns in some form exist in every culture in the world. And the Catholic Church has an extremely long , dare I say “traditional,” relationship with the role of clown. Medieval drama has deep roots in the Church and the farcical qualities seem to have been accepted by the hierarchy.

    Having said that, when I saw this, I wasn’t concerned about non-Catholics misinterpreting this, but assumed the lovely folks at Tradition in Action would throw a spittle-flecked nutty.

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    Imrahil,

    I’m not sure where you are but I’m speaking from an American perspective, for what that’s worth. 75% of the American population is not & never has been Catholic. They are not open to instruction on the meaning of priestly vestments and that’s not negotiable as an independent topic for them. It is what it is. They think Catholics dress funny. Clowns dress funny. Standing next to a clown presents an automatic comparison to the clown. Bad idea if you’re wearing “funny” clothes from the perspective of one of the 75%. It probably presents an obstacle for communication which is a bad thing.

    And as I mentioned earlier, “with-it-ness” does NOT mean “being cool.” It means being aware of what’s going on around you so you don’t get misunderstood, USED, robbed or worse. With-it-ness is necessary, whether one has the guidance of the Holy Spirit or not. Big realization has to happen with big communication possibilities, no? We are no longer in a million little villages all ignorant of each other.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, Imrahil,

    In the US, clowns are now really only advertizing characters and characters in horror movies for most people. Circuses used to come to smallish towns in the real sense decades ago, but they no longer do so, and the great majority of the population doesn’t really remember that. What few circuses still exist here are something like the “Ice Follies,” a minor entertainment designed mainly for children, although most children never actually go to these spectacles which are highly commercialized and only available in a few places.

    Thus, most Americans don’t really know what to do with European style clowns. Their presence in St. Peter’s square looks like some kind of a joke or unkind comparison or anomaly to us. And trust me, standing next to a clown in religious vestments is a bad idea from an American standpoint, particularly a non-Catholic standpoint. It looks like dressing up for some un-disclosed reason. It looks kind of like Halloween to us without the expectation of pretense that’s involved in Halloween. Not a good thing for the Church.

  29. AnAmericanMother says:

    Hey, if a clown and juggler is good enough for Our Lady, he is good enough for me!
    Our Lady’s Juggler
    (I still won’t turn my back on a clown, though.)

  30. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear AAM: Exactly!

  31. RichardT says:

    Not all clowns are bad. One of them founded a wonderful church:
    http://www.greatstbarts.com/Media/Images/Page%20Images/interior01.jpg

  32. Matt R says:

    Father, I ask you to keep this conversation on-topic. I’m really sick of the talk about mental prayer, salvation, etc from the other day. Thanks.
    Chicken, your post on clowns was insightful and interesting. Thank you.

  33. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Everything that living humans do is mental. And physical. And performed by the soul as well.

    Merry-go-rounds are associated with the old chivalric game of riding at the ring. The moving carousel represents the world. St. Peter has chivalry and the whole world within his purview, so having games and simulations of them within his front yard isn’t disrespectful.

  34. JKnott says:

    Actually, this was really the Pope receiving the State visit of Obama, his administration and troupe of unelected Czars.

  35. southIndia says:

    Many people on the secular sites have commented, that after reading the headlines, they thought the sitting president and the congress had gone on a visit to the Vatican.

  36. Central Valley says:

    Looks like ad lumina shots.

  37. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Chicken,
    It’s nothing as cerebral as that. Human beings are the most dangerous animals on earth, and clowns look like berserk human beings to me. :o Not cool. Not funny. Not entertainment.”

    “Isn’t calling yourself the Masked Chicken an example of being a clown?

    Clowns are a satire on the human condition. No matter how diligent our toil, many of our efforts end in failure.”

    Berserk human beings do not, usually, cause people to laugh (yes, fear can cause some people to panic laugh). Now, that is an interesting hypothesis for the development of a surprise response in humor, but the connection would have been bred out millennia, ago.

    There are many types of satire on the human condition, but clowns are a specific type of satiric representation and while they can or can not be satiric, the sort of traditional circus clowns (at least the American variety, which is not quite the same as the European variety) seem to have started relatively late (the idea of the Fool is a precursor – the difference is that the Fool often displays a hidden wisdom, whereas the clown does not – he calls forth pathos). Why does the clown have the characteristics he does? The clue is that there are no female clown archetypes. American clowns are male morphs. I also know of no female fools or clowns of historical significance. Clowns are a representation of the loss of power and control – things associated with the male of the species.

    Those are not clowns in the photos, above. They are comic entertainers. Their history goes back millennia. One can even find examples in Scripture (don’t have time to look up the examples). True clowns come from the Renaissance, but they come out of musical theater (or early prototypes). These evolved into the pathos-generating opera characters, such as Rigoletto and Petrushka – they were characters of tragedy, with comic overtones. American circus clowns toned-down the pathos (since there was no backstory as in Opera), but the sense of the loss of power that comes from aging (without the wisdom) was maintained. It is the lack of wisdom that is the give-away that the clowns represent dementia and the humor is accidental.

    I don’t do research on humor history (some of my colleagues in the humor field do), but I know some things about musical theater. I think my clown hypothesis satisfies all of the data. I have not, personally, seen it in print, before, but I am sure that anthropologist have known about this for some time.

    Am I a clown? Well, I’ll leave that for you guys to decide :)

    The Chicken

  38. StWinefride says:

    No, not a clown, dear Chicken, rather a Gallus Gallus Domesticus! Deo Gratias!

  39. catholicmidwest says:

    On the contrary, Chicken, berserk people can be quite funny, but still very dangerous. The novelty is what makes people stand and gape, instead of turning tail and running like they’d ought to do.