Sunday, January 27, 2008

Calendario Romano: Priestcake 2008

Now I have to admit, I have always been obsessed with religious paraphernalia, as a recovering Catholic I look at the more gaudy of accoutrement with fascination, like my Tío Victor who, when he stopped drinking forever kept the assortment of variously filled booze bottles around his office as a reminder. Among my most prized possessions are a Pope John Paul the II snowglobe that I purchased in Pisa (which upon unpacking I discovered to my delight glowed in the dark) and a revolving Virgen de Guadalupe picture, complete with flashing eternity lights and gold plastic frame. And I am the office keeper of the hot pink Jesus, a Pepto-Bismol colored
statue of the son of God himself, that when you ask him a yes/no question, you can turn him over and find a religious-themed magic eight ball prognostication tool that says things like, “Pray Harder” and “No Chance in Hell.” But even to my hardened, Kitsch-collecting self, the newest addition to my collection takes the cake.

“I got something for you Ann, I won it at a Yankee gift exchange and I just know you’re the only one who’ll appreciate it” my friend Tom told me earlier this month. “My brother got it at the Vatican.” He set it down in front of me, a 2008 calendar featuring black and white photographs of thirteen handsome young priests, one for each month and the best looking for the cover. And it is “con cenni storico artistici sul Vaticano.” With historic notes about the Vatican! Yeah! As I flipped through the pages, each month boasting another dark-haired, dark-eyed young man in vestmental garb, my jaw was on my chest. “It’s a priestcake calendar!” I exclaimed. “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen!” Tom’s smile couldn’t have been wider: he had found the calendar the perfect home. As I left his office—did I mention he’s our college president?—I decided I just had to know more about the calendar’s history.

Upon doing some web research I came to discover that the 2008 edition is in fact the fifth one that was produced (how could I have not heard of this? I’ve been in the dark for five long years). I couldn’t find any official quote from the Vatican as to their position on this calendar (if you find one, let me know) however since it is sold all over Rome and around the Vatican (not to mention worldwide on it is highly unlikely that they are unaware of it. I would imagine that the publicity around these hunky men of the cloth ensures a steady stream of young women—and men—in the pews every Sunday.

My mind was, and still is, a vortex of questions. Since when is Catholic church touting it’s men of God as pinups? Is this really Vatican-approved? And why the hell did Father May pose with a lit cigarette and a bottle of Jägermeister? The photographs border (and perhaps plunge right into) homo-eroticism—particularly Father March who is poised with eyes closed and lips parted as a woman’s hand feeds him a piece of bread, the Eucharist I imagine. I mean, come on! The best part is that according to the British publication The Guardian, Father March isn’t even a priest, but rather a Spanish real estate agent who was eating cake during an Easter procession.

Hey look, I love me a good beefcake calendar—my office wall has been blessed with the image of Hugh Jackman all year (of course I ripped out the other X-Men pics so he could remain)—but I was under the impression that the Catholic church had to maintain a level of decorum, to be an example to the sheep in its fold. And given all the sexually related scandals that surround the church of late, this could not be more ill-timed. But still, it fascinates me.
My fascinations are sacrilegious, you say? I don’t think so. You see, my mother brought me up to believe that the church is the people, not the clergy, and like the good mangia preti she was, she went to mass, prayed her rosary and argued with the priests about the ERA. But all those in my family seem to share a fascination with kitsch (is there a Spanish word for this? Some things just must be said in Yiddish), and I can’t help but think she would have loved the Calendario Romano. So though I am appalled, it is like a New York City car wreck: I find I can’t look away. I wish I could totally condemn this calendar, to warn my beloved La Bloga readers to not purchase one if they wish to preserve their immortal souls. But alas, I can’t. For whatever reason, things such as the Calendario Romano captivate me, remind me that though the nuns at Corpus Christi grammar school told me different, the clergy make bad choices…they are indeed, human.

So, will I be logging on to next year to get my 2009 edition? As we say in Vermont, you betcha!


Manuel Ramos said...

Well, that's a weird thing all right. Kitsch? Rascuache, maybe. As for religio-curiosos, how about the Buddy Christ (a plastic dashboard figure from the movie Dogma, thumbs-up y todo)? It's one of my wife's all-time favorites, who seems to understand this "religious paraphernalia" kick. She convinced me to give my mother a bright, blinking, quite gaudy Virgen for Christmas. It was received graciously.

Fenix39 said...

What about a poor native being burned alive by the Spanish, while the love tendering frays would pray for his misserable soul. Is that not the way Catholicism was forced up on us in the Western Hemisphere? So i ask you, why not a realistic paraphenalia?

Kayo Kid said...

I just stumbled on your blog and am extra covetous of the hot pink Jesus. I know that violates one of the commandments, but well, it's not like I've really kept most of the others anyway. I too was fascinated by the astonishing and blatantly homoerotic Calendario Romano--so fascinated I bought two in case one self-combusts.