Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ford's Critique

Shortly after Gerald Ford’s death, recent interviews that had been conducted with the president were disclosed. The interviews cover a wide-range of subjects, but a good deal of time is devoted to the late president’s critical view of what he saw as the rightward tilt of the Republican Party. Not surprisingly, the media has been unrelenting in their focus on Ford’s harsh appraisal of the GOP and President Bush. Watching moments of the funeral last night, I lost count of how many times smug commentators reminded viewers of Ford's opposition to the Iraq war. In case anyone missed the point, Ford opposed the war. Today, I came across a a recent Newsweek article that discusses Ford’s outlook. My thoughts on each observation are included.

"As he grew older, he also increasingly moved to the center. He was privately critical of Bush's Iraq war and was also surprised by Cheney's growing hawkishness. He has been quoted criticizing President Bush's Iraq war, and marveled to friends that Cheney had grown so much more hawkish…what stands out most from our talk was Ford's frustration that the Republican Party had lurched so far to the right. 'If I'd been elected in '76,' he told me flatly, 'the party wouldn't be as far right as it is at the present time … I sure hope it comes back to the center.'"

This is, quite frankly, not a very profound or intelligent observation by either Newsweek or Ford. As a general rule, losers in politics are not the first group of people I would go to for advice on how to guide a Party to success, but this trend seems to be a popular one in DC; for Democrats still worship the flop of a president Jimmy Carter. As far as Republicans go, Ford had integrity, but as a leader, he was not much better than the disasterous Carter. He was not elected in ’76 for many reasons. No doubt, his judicious pardon of Nixon contributed to his defeat but it was not the only reason for his demise. His mediocre, bland style of Republicanism was not appealing to the base of the Party. In short, he was rejected by his own. He was a decent man but certainly not an inspirational leader. It is typical for Republicans of Ford’s mold to lambaste fellow Republicans who embrace the traditional values and convictions of their base as “extreme”, “right-wingers” or “hawkish”. The truth is that, whenever Republicans have tried to move to the “center” (msm parlance for becoming liberal) they have their clocks cleaned in elections. In positioning themselves in the center, they abandon the principles of the Conservative movement. Whenever they stake their candidacy on the traditional issues of the Conservative movement (limited Federal government, pro-life, pro-tax cuts, pro-free-market, etc.), they win convincingly. So, move to the center and lose or hold fast to the core convictions of the base and win. What is a Republican to do? Reagan was one of the greatest presidents for many reasons, chief among them because he saw himself as the leader of a clearly defined movement, born of a well-thought out philosophy of government; a movement that was rooted in core principles that were plainly distinguishable from the other side. He defined the Conservative cause and he defined the opposition, drawing a line to mark the differences. He was very outspoken in favor of life, he favored tax cuts and he was not in the least afraid to project the might of America’s unrivaled military into the face of threats to our national security around the globe. He viewed the world in black and white, good and evil. The United States is not perfect, but it is still one of the world’s greatest forces for good. Reagan, in a certain sense was the anti-Ford, and history has vindicated Reagan’s vision for the Republican Party and the United States.

The article goes on…

"He (Ford) criticized Bush Senior's public avowal that he had come to oppose abortion rights. 'I know damn well that he and Barbara are pro-choice,' Ford told me. 'Why didn't they get up and say it? That really disappointed me more than anything.' Ford's comment, Bush says, was off the mark. 'That's wrong,' he says of Ford's suggestion that Bush was secretly pro-choice."

This vignette offers an unfortunate glimpse into Ford’s acerbity. He brazenly questioned the sincerity of President George H. W. Bush’s pro-life convictions. The unwarranted aspersion against Bush Sr. smacks of petulancy emanating from Ford and contributes to the construction of an image of a disgruntled and aged former president who really has no outstanding legacy of his own and has been reduced to unleashing withering critiques of friends.

Continues the article…

"Ford said that during his fall campaign against Jimmy Carter, 'the only time [Reagan] appeared with me … was when … we had a nice, vigorous rally [at a fund-raising dinner] in Los Angeles … He made no other campaign appearances on my behalf … I never understood that. If he had made an appearance in Ohio … Louisiana and Mississippi, we would have won, I'm sure.' A tough-minded politician, he was a decent man who came to symbolize an American longing for bipartisanship and courage. We may marvel that Ford could remain so good-hearted amid such a toxic political environment."

One simply cannot imagine Reagan or even Bush Sr. whining about the past in the manner of Ford. It must have been difficult for a politician of Reagan’s unmatched caliber to psych himself up with regards to Ford’s floundering presidency and, subsequently, the prospects for his election in ’76. It is also somewhat curious that these critical interviews took place under the condition that they be made public only after Ford’s death. Indeed, what was he afraid of? Why wait? If he was so upset about the direction of his Party, why not make reform a top priority? Ford was an honest, well-respected man. His insights surely would have been taken seriously. But instead he chose to have the full force of his opinions released in concert with his permanent departure; it does not reflect well on the man. The media’s gushing over Ford’s criticism of Bush is difficult to bear; there is nothing they like more than to see a self-described Republican lay hard into President Bush. In some way, it vindicates their own insufferable prejudices against the man. The bottom line is that Ford was a man of integrity but was certainly not a great President, or even a very good one. He utterly lacked vision for the country and, being a moderate (liberal) Republican, he was a politician without a home and thus explains his failure as president to win election. The country waited out his and Carter’s listless reigns in expectation of a real leader. The waiting paid off with the arrival President Ronald Reagan. President Bush, despite his foibles, has governed as a Reaganite Conservative on social issues; the very issues Republicans like Ford find so troubling and threatening to the future of the Party. Predictably, Bush was reelected, just like Reagan. There is a strong mandate for conservative issues in America. Republicans who recognize this fact have succeed and will continue to succeed. Republicans, like Ford, who do not accept this have lost, and will continue to lose.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ford vs. Reagan

Here's an article worth reading by Jeffrey Lord from the American Spectator. He discusses the epic clash between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford for the soul of the Republican Party and the Conservative movement. The history lesson hits home when Lord touches on the similar struggles today within the GOP. Lord is right on when he credits Ford for his basic honesty and integrity but faults him severely for his Keynesian-leaning economic policies and soft stance toward the Soviet Union. These faults contributed to Ford's defeat at the hands of Jimmy Carter in 1976.

In this clash between Republican giants, Reagan was the undisputed victor and GOP victories ever since can be credited to his unabashedly conservative vision for the Party's future. Whenever Republicans stray from Reagan's conservative principles, they suffer; as seen in the last election cycle. Ford and Bush Sr. also lost in their day because they pooh-poohed conservative principles while governing. President George W. Bush seems to be a blend of the two schools but at present, he's tilting more toward Ford than Reagan. In retrospect however, George W. Bush will be seen as a great president, despite his shortcomings. With the exception of his failure to curb Congressional spending, Bush gets it right where Ford got it wrong.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

"Jesus came for each one of us and made us brothers...With such sentiments, dear brothers and sisters, let us live through the last few hours that separate us from Christmas, by preparing spiritually to welcome baby Jesus." -Pope Benedict XVI

I also just wanted to put in a reminder to pray for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and especially for those who have been killed in defense of our freedom. They are sacrificing much for our country.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Carefully Timed News Release

Now that the election is over and the results were pleasing to the Democrats, the mainstream media will allow (some) good news about Iraq to trickle forth, as it no longer stands to threaten the Democrat Party's prospects. Newsweek released a major story that covers Iraq's booming, yes, booming, economy. I thought the country was in chaos and falling apart at the seams! Needless to say, we never heard of such news prior to the last election.

Monday, December 11, 2006


The general verdict by respected conservatives on the Iraq Study Group’s (ISG) report is that it contains two fatal flaws that call into question its overall standing as a serious policy study. The first is that it naively presupposes that Iran and Syria would be honest deal-brokers, willing to meet the United States halfway with open dialogue and fair compromise. The second is that it completely ignores the root cause of Islamic terrorism, preferring to see this global scourge in the narrow template of traditional political and territorial disputes. Islamic terror networks are relentlessly seeking to extirpate Western civilization and to substitute in its place a Wahhabist interpretation of Islam, which is an extremely radical manifestation of the Sunni tradition. That there is a global jihad underway against the West can no longer be denied. This obvious fact slips beneath the radar of the heavily secularized analysts in the mainstream media who seem hopelessly bewitched by a moral relativism that fails to clearly distinguish right from wrong. As a result of the media’s reticence, many Americans are oblivious to the global objective of this fanatical sect and, subsequently, they fail to understand precisely what it is that we are fighting against in the war on terror. To buy the na├»ve action line often proffered by the media and other “experts” that the present conflict is born of, or is an extension of, the seemingly eternal border disputes raging between the Israelis and Palestinians would be woefully shortsighted. The overarching premise of the ISG’s flawed plan is the assumption that Iran and Syria will respond positively to the carrot and stick method of traditional diplomacy and reciprocal concessions and, further, that these nations are interested in a stable Iraq. This is a marvelous display of historical amnesia. When has traditional diplomacy ever worked with radical Islamic states or terror cells? Ask Israel about Hezbollah’s appreciation for compromise and reciprocity.

The august, blue ribbon ISG seems to present Iran and Syria as potential allies in the search for a solution regarding the crisis in Iraq. A more realistic assessment demonstrates that Iran and Syria are the fundamental problem, not the solution. From the get go, they have been partners in crime in their quest to inflict as many casualties on Iraqis and American soldiers, in the hope of precipitating our withdrawal. Andrew McCarthy explains the ISG’s delusion in his National Review piece: “Iran and Syria, the ISG suggests, could be persuaded to help us in Iraq because, notwithstanding that they have assiduously destabilized the situation for three years running, they are profoundly interesting in having a stable Iraq.” That a group of supposedly serious and erudite analysts would make such a diplomatic leap of faith by trusting Iran and Syria reveals the alarming extent to which many in the DC milieu are in the dark as to the historical track-record of such nations. The conflict in Lebanon last summer should have left no doubt that Syria is hell-bent on nefarious interventions to fuel terror organizations like Hezbollah in its bloody campaign against Israel. It is foolish to believe that Syria would be interested in collaborating with the United States on good faith with the shared goal of stabilizing Iraq. As long as the US military is present in Iraq, Syria will actively pursue sabotaging that country’s security. If the United States were to leave Iraq prematurely, Syria would certainly burrow more deeply still into the country and only then be interested in stabilizing it. Similarly, there can be no doubt that Iran is a principal agent for funneling the means of terror into Iraq and around the world. That Iran is lead by a maniacal president who is convinced that he will play a fundamental role in ushering in a new age of global Islamic dominion guarantees that Iran is hardly a stable or reliable partner for negotiation. Yet the ISG seems more than willing to approach Iran in good faith. National Review contributor Michael Ledeen makes a salient observation when he says that negotiating with Iran would “legitimate that increasingly dangerous regime and reward its violent and hostile actions against us and our allies. We should rather endeavor to discredit and undermine this regime.” Not a bad point. Iran is notorious for bolstering and influencing other radical Islamic groups in Lebanon, Palestine and Somalia. Hezbollah owes its very existence to Iran. This nation needs to be held accountable for its wicked meddling rather than be treated as an equal and given a place of privilege at the negotiating table.

To be fair, the ISG report does say that the US should convince these unlawful and dangerous nations to get their acts together. But outside of its chimerical hope of progress via dialogue and negotiation, it comes up woefully short in the specifics category as to precisely how this lofty goal should be accomplished. However, Ledeen sees a silver lining in the ISG report in that it forces Tehran, albeit obtusely, into the spotlight and under the international microscope. This newfound attention may subsequently encourage the US to amplify its calls for a regime change in that nation. As Ledeen puts it, “the president and the secretary of state should finally educate the American public about the real dimensions of the Iranian threat.”

Does the ISG report focus on victory or on the most efficacious way to bolt from Iraq? Do Americans want a clear, decisive and final victory over merciless fanatics who see us as their sworn adversary? In light of the critical events in Iraq, these seem to be the pivotal questions facing the nation. My concern is that the ISG report attempts to redefine our objectives in the war on terror by substituting our original goal (victory over the terrorists) with that of a reaching a national consensus (whatever that means) on how to most effectively scuttle from the scene while saving at least some face.

Old Meets Older in Rome

Saint Pudenziana's Fourth Century Apsidal Mosaic

Last Saturday I paid a visit to two ancient Churches in Rome that serve as repositories for superb examples of early Christian art: Saint Pudenziana and Saint Prassede. Saint Pudenziana is located a short walk from the Basilica of Saint Mary Major and its apsidal mosaic, dating from the late fourth century, is one of the finest examples of Classical art in Rome. The mosaic depicts Christ enthroned, flanked by Saints Peter and Paul, together with other early Christian saints. To appreciate the full context of the mosaic’s story, I did a little background investigation into its history. Art critic June Hager describes the work as “the last gasp” of Classical art in the city, and that “there is nothing comparable in all of Rome” to this mosaic, in terms of its age and combination of Classical and Christian elements. The mosaic “offers a window into the Roman world through which Christianity entered.” We are treated to a scene straight out of Ancient Rome; Christ and the Apostles are depicted wearing the traditional garb of the era, perhaps reflecting what the Emperor and Senators wore over 1,700 years ago. The image is remarkably lifelike; there is a true sense of proportion throughout, and the features of Christ and the Saints are quite realistic. Most of the ancient Christian artwork in Rome is Byzantine-inspired, from the eleventh or twelfth century. However in Byzantine art, the proportions are one-dimensional; the characters portrayed usually possess an almost otherworldly expression, with wide-eyed features, set against a solid gold background. The clothes worn by the subjects in these early medieval mosaics are the traditional robes of Byzantium. After the fall of the Western Empire in the fifth century, the Eastern Empire, centered in Constantinople, continued to rise in prominence while her influence in art and culture spread into the West. However, in Saint Pudenziana, the style found in this mosaic actually predates the ancient Byzantine artwork that dominates most early Christian art in Rome. The apsidal mosaic in Saint Pudenziana, dating from before the sack of Rome in 411, is Classical art in its purest form. It is truly remarkable that it survives to this day and further, that it depicts a Christian scene.

Located about a five-minute walk from Saint Pudenziana was the next Church on my list: Saint Prassede. This Church possesses a precious relic from Christ’s passion. The column to which He was tied during the scourging is reserved in a side chapel, having been brought to Rome from Constantinople centuries ago. The beauty of this Church is found in its explosion of ninth-century Byzantine art. The side chapel, named the Chapel of Zeno, is almost completely encased in bright, colorful mosaics depicting nature scenes, angels, Christ and the Virgin Mary. Throughout the Middle Ages in fact, this small chapel was referred to by Romans as the “garden of paradise” for its glittering and varicolored beauty. For it is here that we see just how powerful Byzantine influence was in Western Europe’s sacred art. The apsidal mosaic in the Church is probably one of the best examples of early Byzantine art in Rome, or anywhere for that matter. Behold Byzantium in its finest and purest; there is a mystical and ethereal quality to Eastern mosaics that sharply distinguishes them from later works of the Renaissance and Baroque in Western Europe. The figures in Saint Prassede's mosaics are flat, one-dimensional. The subject's feet are barely touching the ground as they appear to be on the verge of levitating. This is a forceful break away from the style seen in Saint Pudenziana, which is rooted in the proportion and realism of the Classical age. With the introduction of the Byzantine school in Rome, the realism captured in Saint Pudenziana's mosaic will not be seen again until the Renaissance.

Saint Prassede's Ninth Century Apsidal Mosaic

Scenes from "The Garden of Paradise" Chapel

Saints Peter and Paul

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Turning a Blind Eye

A more careful analysis of the Baker-Hamilton ISG report will be forthcoming. I'm reading up on the subject now and I hope to put pen to paper over the weekend. For now, I just wanted to mention a salient observation that I came across while reading a National Review analysis of the Baker-Hamilton report. It pointed out that the highly celebrated report failed to address, at all, the radical Islamist ideology that is fueling the terror in Iraq and around the world. Can any study, purporting to grasp the root causes of the current crises in the Arab world, be complete if it excludes the eschatological and nihilistic strains driving Islamic terrorism? I think not. Many in the West continue to ignore the particular nature of ISLAMIC terrorism, and speak only in terms of political and diplomatic solutions, which are of course, also important. However, to ignore the thorny and politically incorrect issue of militant Islamic Fascism’s questionable philosophical/ideological strains is a grave error, no doubt rooted in the disgustingly popular political correctness of today’s establishment.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Pope in Turkey: A Recap

Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Turkey was by all accounts, a remarkable success and it proved once again that Benedict is a Pope who refuses to be pigeonholed into neatly prepackaged or loaded categories crafted by savvy, although quite often clueless, media pundits and talking heads. He is a Pope that defies expectations and predictions. His visit to Turkey was covered in the press throughout the world and understandably, with particular intensity here in Rome. In the days leading up to his departure, the media focus on his visit reached a fever pitch. Only a couple days before he left, I attended the Sunday Angelus held under a brilliant, clear-blue sky in St. Peter’s Square. As the Pope addressed us from his apartment window, he asked that our prayers might accompany him during his journey. I could sense a peculiar excitement in the air, of course, blended with more than a little concern for his safety. It was as if he was telling us, “You know how important this is; pray for me.” So the Catholic world did just that. And within a couple days, he was heading east for an encounter with the Muslim world, with our Orthodox brethren and with history.

In order to stay informed on all the details of the trip, I made a point of picking up the local Roman newspaper every morning. Then, over a cappuccino, I poured over the various stories covering Benedict XVI's visit. As his trip progressed, I was pleased to see the positive coverage he received in the press. The initial skepticism and doubts that had peppered the pre-visit news coverage evaporated when confronted with what can only be described as a glimmering demonstration of papal charm and gravitas. Before the visit, I read the snide remarks in the press reminding the world that Benedict XVI will never be a worthy follow-up to the more charismatic and media-friendly Pope John Paul II. It was a foregone conclusion that Benedict XVI was not going to win hearts in Turkey, but at the very least, it was hoped that this academic-turned-pope would avoid causing any major offense by sidestepping serious blunders; so the argument went. Expectations were low; nerves were high.

On the first day of his visit, Pope Benedict XVI honored the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk. Dispelling the conspiracy theorist’s assertion of some cryptic agenda behind his trip, the Pope signed the guestbook at the Ataturk Mausoleum with a touching inscription. “I make the words of Ataturk my own: ‘peace in Turkey and peace in the world’.” By taking up the founder’s words as his own, Pope Benedict immediately struck a cord with the Turkish people, who suddenly realized that, perhaps this Pope isn’t so dreadful after all. His second day was more personal, more spiritual. He celebrated an intimate Mass for only 250 faithful in Ephesus, at the house of the Virgin Mary and Saint John. After the Mass, as he was greeting the faithful, the Holy Father was handed a huge Turkish Flag fixed to a pole and he bore it aloft, carrying it for some time. This was not a neatly timed publicity stunt for the ever-vigilant cameras; rather, it was a genuine expression of the pope’s true affection for a nation and her people. The Holy Father then met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. Both leaders renewed their commitment to seeking full unity between the two Churches and made a memorable appearance together on the balcony of the Patriarch’s residence; the exuberance on their faces was unforgettable. It was as though two family members had been reunited after a long time apart. In a certain sense this was the case, although the reunification was not a perfect one. Both Pope and Patriarch commented that their joy was also tinged with bitter sadness, that they could not yet celebrate “the sacred mysteries” together as one Church, fully united, as in the first millennium of Christianity. Day two proved just as much a success as the first, and there were still two more days to go.

Day three featured the Pope’s most highly anticipated moments, as he prepared to meet with prominent Muslim representatives. In doing so, Benedict XVI became only the second pope in history to enter a mosque. As he was being lead through the famed Blue Mosque of Istanbul, his guide, the Grand Mufti Ali Bardakoglu, brought him to the mihrab, the focal point in all mosques that faces Mecca. The two paused for a couple minutes of prayer and reflection. There stood the Pope, spiritual leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics, with the Grand Mufti, together in a magnificent mosque. Both men remained motionless, with eyes closed and their minds totally absorbed in their own distinct encounter with the transcendent. The Holy Father's lips were quite clearly moving as he continued praying, even after Bardakoglu had finished. And this was the image from the trip that made headlines around the world. Everyone seemed surprised; but then again, what would they have expected the Pope to do? Before leaving the mosque, the Holy Father addressed Bardakoglu, “Thank you for this moment of prayer.” I read one article that quoted an anonymous Turk saying, in reference to the Pope, “He came here as Cardinal Ratzinger, he left as Pope Benedict XVI.” But here again was a perceived disparity where, in reality, none existed. Cardinal Ratzinger is now “papa Ratzinger,” as he is affectionately referred to in the Italian papers. He is the same person with the same message, yet he continues to mystify and even vex those who simply don’t understand him. On the last day of his historic visit, the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass before heading back to Rome. The papers commented how relaxed and joyful he now looked; maybe even the Pope was relieved and surprised at how well his visit had gone.

This past Saturday evening in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Benedict XVI prayed vespers with the faithful, marking the beginning of Advent. I wanted to catch a glimpse of him after having returned safely from Turkey and, in my own way, to show him my support for coming through as he did. It couldn’t have been easy to go to Turkey, but he went nonetheless. As he walked by, only an arm’s reach away, he looked peaceful, relaxed and happy. He then spoke about Christ, and His coming into the world to save us; in other words, the story of the Father’s love for man, the story of our salvation. This is the message of Pope Benedict XVI, nothing more, nothing less, media expectations and predictions aside.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Off Beat Political Humour: Carter on Book TV

I thought that this was mildly entertaining, and imagine that C-SPAN will be screening their callers more carefully in the future.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini: 1598 - 1680

For a city as rich in renowned works of art as Rome, it’s not easy to single out one particular artist as one’s favorite. After more than two years here, I’ve been able to take in most of what the city has to offer. I can’t say that I’ve seen everything, since I’m still discovering new surprises on an almost weekly basis. But in terms of the best-known masterpieces, I’ve been fortunate to receive a liberal exposure to them all. I guess it’s one of the fringe benefits of taking out a hefty student loan and relocating across the Atlantic. Rome is a city bursting at the seams with unparalleled works of art. Paris, most likely, is Rome’s closest rival, but the Eternal City still stands heads and shoulders above the rest. Indeed, the Louvre owes much of its own repute to Rome, as a result of Napoleon’s relocation (some might call it stealing) of many of the city’s priceless works of art to Paris during his occupation of the city. But what museum in the world can compare to the experience of stepping into the Sistine Chapel, and elevating the eyes toward heaven? In terms of a single painting, there is probably nothing on the earth that can surpass Michelangelo’s sublime tour de force depiction of the history of mankind and salvation. As is the case when confronted with transcendent beauty, words fail to pay worthy homage to such a magnificent display of artistic splendor.

One of the experiences that I never tire of while in Rome is entering an inconspicuous church off the main drag, along a narrow cobblestone street, and stepping into what seems to me to be another world of indescribable beauty. Perhaps it is the Church of Saint Louis of France where, tucked into a side chapel, one will find a cluster of Caravaggio’s paintings. His stark realism and use of light and darkness always catch my eye. The simplicity of the subjects in his paintings is a striking feature, particular to him. There is no idealism to be found in the features of Christ or the Virgin Mary. They are normal human beings, just like us. This tendency of Caravaggio, to stress the unadorned humanity of his subject was, and still is, controversial. Should the Virgin Mary be depicted in art as a glorious queen or as a simple peasant girl? Does heaven meet earth in a Caravaggio, or does the viewer stay grounded? Opinions will vary.

Rome is the place to be for the aficionado of Baroque. I’ve narrowed down my own list of favorites in that genre, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini ranks at the top. He designed the vast, Saint Peter’s Square and the stunning baldacchino that rises above the high altar in the basilica. But it was his gift as a sculpture that makes him unique to me. Frozen in the middle of dramatic action, his subjects appear ready at any moment to burst free from their thin marble shells. The Galleria Borghese in the north of Rome hosts a generous supply of Bernini’s earlier works, many sculpted when he was only in his mid-twenties. One of Bernini’s best-known works is his Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, located in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Here, the artist captured the precise moment before the Saint’s heavenly visitor plunged his burning arrow, symbolizing God’s love, deep into her bosom. The expression on Teresa’s face, revealing a blend of pain and passion, coupled with the unearthly serenity of the angel, speaks volumes about the intensity of her mystical communion with God. That Bernini was able to carve out such a spiritually action-packed moment, from a cold block of marble no less, seems in itself a miraculous feat. Another powerful demonstration of Bernini’s skill can be seen at the Church of San Francesco di Grippa across the Tiber River in Trastevere. Here, Blessed Ludowica Albertone is depicted in the midst of one of her ecstasies. So impeccable was Bernini’s ability to capture the moment, and the movement involved in that moment, that there’s an undeniable fluid and airy quality to the light garments of his marble subjects.

Bernini never disappoints. Whether it is his athletic David, with lips pursed, torso twisted, on the verge of launching his deadly stone at Goliath, or Daphne caught in the very moment of being morphed into a tree to escape the clutches of the love-struck Apollo, or Saint Teresa’s mystical encounter with the Divine, Bernini’s genius was in his unrivaled ability to freeze dramatic action in his artwork, to stop time as it were.