Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

August 18, 2012


Our eating habits become ordinary, routine, and uneventful. But sometimes they take on new meaning. Birthdays and anniversaries have a special cachet. More than eating and drinking is involved. Important business deals may be made at lunch; engagement rings presented with champagne toasts at dinner. An extra factor can turn a meal into a memorable occasion. In sixty-seven years as a priest in New York, I’ve experienced hundreds of meals that provided nourishment; a relatively few that stand out in memory.

1.     The Byrnes had moved out of the Bronx, where we had been close to Nana Byrne. Now it was more of a trip from Mount Vernon to Grandma Byrne’s. Down the Post Road then west on Gun Hill Road,  past the twin towers of the Franciscan Church to Nana’s house. The “biggee” at Nana’s was the cuckoo clock. We carefully watched the little door open and the bird come out. Our trip featured an early dinner at Brienlinger’s. Dad took me to the Men’s’ Room.  Returning to our table, I spotted a sign saying, “This way to the bar for a quick drink”. My recollection, after these many years: Nana and her cuckoo clock, the twin towers of the church and the sign encouraging a sneaky drink!

2.    St. Emeric’s rectory. In June 1949, I returned from Catholic U. with a Doctorate in Canon Law and was assigned to the Archdiocesan Tribunal with residence at St. Emeric’s. Vin Brosnan, the pastor, a Chaplain in World War II, was a delightful boss. When I arrived home after a day at the Chancery, he would hear me enter and call out from his room, “Okay. Brud, the martinis are waiting”. Dinner would follow with his interesting stories of the war. Dinner was always pleasant. But then, Bros bought a television. The yearwas1950. A new pervasive presence had entered our apartment and our world. He set it up in the dining room. It ended conversation. 

After a week, I spoke up. Bros was surprised. “You don’t like it?” “Not really, Monsignor. Our conversation is overwhelmed by Hopalong Cassidy. I'd rather chat with you. You’ve had an interesting life.” With further friendly remarks, that was it. The TV remained in his quarters. Evening meals were pleasant in the company of this great man and priest, even if, by rare chance, a war story was repeated for a third time. Memorable meals, memorable conversations, a memorable man. A young priest had spoken up to a veteran monsignor. A memorable occasion, indeed.

3. Cameo Restaurant, Lexington and 86th Street. I was now a full time chancery man with residence at St. Thomas More’s. Frequently late for supper after a busy buerocratic day, I found it better to relax before eating with a shower in the summer. There was no air-conditioning in subway cars at that time. To the Cameo, then, and its regulars: Florsheim Shoe store manager, district leader and members, Jefferson Democratic Club. Before entering, check out who’s inside. If a certain woman community activist is present, keep walking. She never stops talking and does not remind you of springtime in nearby Central Park. Benny, the Greek waiter, was an interesting study. He loved to tell the Father slightly anti-clerical jokes and stories about his need to keep alert. On a recent night, a couple has dinner; man pays the check; leaves tip on table and goes to men’s room. Girl friend steals tip.

More serious matters occurred on 86th Street some years ago: drug dealing on the north side, prostitution on the south, tragically played out by two young blondes with their pimps nearby. Hats off to the NYPD! A mounted police officer was posted on each side of the street. From their lofty posts, the cops could see transactions under way. The horses provided quick arrivals at the spot. Problem solved. The Cameo is memorable to me as an occasional evening oasis for its food, staff, neighborhood diners and its location just off 86th street with its sometimes street theater.

4.    Michele’s Restaurant, Washington, DC As a student  at Catholic U. 1946-1949, my classmate , Terence, later Cardinal, Cooke, myself and two other priests went to dinner one evening at the fashionable Michele’s in our clerical attire. We were graciously received by the maitre’d, who with a bow, ushered us to a prominent table. When we were seated, three musicians with violin, zither, and viola bowed towards us and played, to our considerable surprise, the “Ave Maria”. At the conclusion, sensing an atmosphere of nineteenth century Vienna, we four ceremoniously rose and bowed to the smiling musicians. Yes. A colorful evening, indeed.

5. Petaluma, 1st Ave and 73rd Street, diagonally across the street from the Ronald McDonald House, a residence for parents who have children afflicted with cancer. My association began when, I, as pastor of St. Joseph’s of Yorkville sold our convent to the RMDH. Increased demands brought about construction of a new building on 73rd Street accommodating eighty-five families. As a board member, I participated in the design including a chapel and establishing a Pastoral Care Department. I offered Mass there on Wednesday evenings, occasionally followed by dinner at Petaluma. One Wednesday, the maitre d’ noticed the smudge on the foreheads of my accompanying friends. “Oh my,” he exclaimed, “Ash Wednesday. Would you be able to give ashes to my staff?” After dinner, I went back to the chapel for the ashes. Staff was gathered in the cavernous kitchen: waiters, busboys, chefs, dishwashers, bartenders, and hat check girls. I conducted a brief ceremony and applied ashes to a variety of foreheads! Diners appeared quizzical. Wait staff with clean faces had suddenly vanished and then reappeared, marked with the ashes of Lent. It was, indeed, an evening to be remembered.

6.          6.    The RMDH is an expensive facility to maintain. Resident families pay a small amount, if they can afford it. Among various efforts to raise the necessary funds, an annual gala is held at the Waldorf-Astoria, bringing in enormous individual and corporate contributions. As the only clergy board member, I was privileged to provide the invocation. At one of the galas, as I began the prayer, I could not help but notice the well-dressed affluent men and women. The evening gowns of the women appeared like moving lanterns of color and style, not to be found in the outer boroughs. This sight prompted me to add extemporaneously to my prayer. “And may I suggest to those who are Catholic in this distinguished assemblage to pray, as we experience the shortage of priests, that our Holy Father would become aware of the wit, wisdom, and charm of this half of the human race and brighten our Church by ordaining some and permitting others to marry members of the clergy.” Applause was heartfelt. Some stopped at my table to laughingly suggest that I might be sent up the river to a little country parish. Apparently Cardinal O’Connor was advised of the incident and had his Vicar General send me a note,  disapproving of my “trivializing” the Holy Father. It was a memorable night at the Waldorf!

July 28, 2012


Many years ago visiting Scotland, I saw a few churches disfigured by black tar graffiti, telling the Pope to do something to himself that was quite gross. Beneath that line was written, “But not John XXIII”. Two different views of the papacy were shaped by writers with different religious affiliations and personality types. But can we, Catholics sharing the one faith, adopt different preferences for different popes?  Part of being Catholic is acceptance of the pope as the Head of the Church. But with that acceptance, we can, as with friends and associates, have different degrees of friendship to a pope. Nothing, of course, gross like the first graffiti. It is fine that Catholics embrace the Pope as the chief of the Church. I am puzzled at how some of the faithful enthusiastically embrace equally two different popes with quite different and even conflicting mentalities. This paper looks into such different papal mentalities.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Popes come in various sizes and shapes. Ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and personal qualities shape each papal personality. As a New York Catholic priest, I look to Benedict XVI as the successor of Peter and the head of my Church. Back in the 60s, I regarded John XXIII in much the same fashion. But there was a profound difference. Governance philosophy! John XXIII believed in seeking facts and forming policies through many sources, witness Vatican Council II, in which, in the mid 1960s, he brought together bishops from all over the world. The Council documents gave new identity and meaning to the individual faithful and gave bishops a recognizable role in policy development. Belief in an organization by its participants can be secured only if they feel they are being invested in the institution, being made to have a stake in it, as well as being asked to support it. John XXIII tried to do that. He looked to the wide world to fashion a new vision for the Church as it relates to the modern world. John Paul II and Benedict XVI looked within themselves and tradition for their vision of Church, which they have continued to impose as they centralize the authority of the papacy that is their own. The faithful accept the Pope, whoever he may be, as the head of their Church; but they can choose to prefer a pope with a more participatory policy of governance.

The following examples illustrate the centralization of the Church’s governance and authority under John Paul and Benedict with a corresponding diminution of the authority of the bishops.                                                                                                                                                   1.           The International Commission for English in the Liturgy, made up of appointees by bishops from English-speaking countries, presented in 1998 a new translation of the Mass to the Vatican for approval. It was rejected. John Paul had decided on a different manner of translation. In 2001, ICEL was disbanded and new bishops, appointed by the pope, took up the work. In 2010 John Paul's new Missal was presented to the USCCB for approval. I have it on good authority, although anonymous, that the presenter said, in effect, that this need not take a lot of discussion, but could be simply approved, as indeed it was. Its use became mandatory in the US in Advent 2011, despite petitions from priests and people asking that the translation first be tried before final acceptance.

2.         Caritas International, a ederation of 165 Catholic welfare agencies providing humanitarian aid to refugees and those distressed by natural disasters or warfare, was governed by its General Assembly, its members appointed by bishops in seven regions of the world. In 2004, it was reorganized under John Paul II, oversight given to Cor Unum, a papal agency. In 2011, Benedict, in his wish to have the aid agency be more linked to evangelization, interfered in the election of the General Secretary, putting his man in that position.

3.         At some point in the papacy of John Paul II, national associations of bishops like the USCCB received a Vatican directive that certain matters decided by a national conference by a majority vote, would henceforth be referred to Rome unless it had received a unanimous vote.

4.         Further Vatican efforts to curb new voices for change, this time from Presbyteral Councils, appeared in the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law, where, unlike the previous model, the bishop now chairs the Council and prepares its agenda. The bishop's presence is undoubtedly a chilling factor as to open and candid discussion. His agenda control establishes his priorities among topics. It can also serve him as a blocking instrument.

5.         John Paul, made the Synods of Bishops, expressions, not of their voice and vision, but those that were his own.

Observers may well wonder at the continuing appetite, some might say, voracious, for centrality and power on the part of Rome and its acceptance by local bishops. Did any object? This trend is clearly in opposition to what Vatican II had engendered in the way of subsidiarity and collegiality. For example, the Vatican’s dismissal of the ICEL bishop-appointed members after two decades of work, their replacement by creatures of John Paul II, and then the imposition of the new translation in Advent of 2011? It was confidentially reported to me that when the new translation of the Missal was presented to the USCCB for acceptance, the presenter declared that there was no  need for discussion; a quick approval would be fine. And the USCCB gave its quick approval. Undoubtedly unanimous! No division in this house! When Benedict took over Caritas International, did our bishops offer any opposition?   That John Paul used the extraordinary personality that was his to use the Synods of Bishops to negate the voice of the bishops in favor of his own is shown in many of his “Exhortations”, which, under a different name, were intended to express the views of the bishops. Many examples are available. Here is one. At the conclusion of the Synod of Asia in 1998, a numbered Proposition of the bishops asked that the papal diplomatic corps and nuntiatures be more internationalized. John Paul’s response, connected by a footnote to the Proposition, stated, “The fathers of the Synod praised the papal diplomatic corps for its helpfulness”.

This paper intended to illustrate two styles of papal governance and raises questions as to how the lack of continuity in papal rule has affected the legacy of Vatican  II and the participation of bishops, priests, and the faithful in forming policies for church administration.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

July 19, 2012



     I agree with Henry Stern's positive appraisal of Mayor Bloomberg's governance. I have one negative: his effort to bar only religious groups from renting public school facilities, when school is not in session. 
    Since World War II, people of various faiths have moved into new amity. This is not mere tolerance, but respect for differences, which is a hallmark of our city. Current  traces of hostility seem to come from those possessed of an exclusively secular ideology, who see any "accommodation"of religion as a newly perceived "establishment". Justice Kennedy of our highest court has characterized this as "a recent and,  in my view, a most unwelcome addition to our tangled establishment clause jurisprudence".

    Our Supreme Court  has a history of balancing the "establishment"  and 'free exercise" clauses. Our Federal District Court has recently declared the constitutionality of a Bronx Evangelical Church using a public school's facilities. I conjecture that the congregation, at issue, does not consist of affluent members, financially able to construct their own religious buildings. Rental of public school facilities enhances their freedom to worship, so basic in common practice, authorized by state law, and consonant with our nation's constitution.

    I think it quite out of order for Mayor Bloomberg to establish the city as plaintiff again, this time to appeal the decision of the District Court. A few year's ago, Mayor Bloomberg
enthusiastically supported the construction of a mosque near ground-zero in the name of our city's devotion to freedom of worship. Mr. Mayor, please apply that principle here.

July 6, 2012


Bill Keller, the Editor of the New York Times from 2003 to 2011 now holds forth as a periodic columnist.  On June 16, his Op-Ed piece described many of the tensions within the Church, leading him and many others to become "collapsed Catholics". He recommends that those Catholics, who are disaffected by the leadership of the Church, rather than continuing their fight for reform, should leave the Church.

Two days later, four Letters to the Editor were published in the NY Times. Each expressed sympathy with Mr. Keller's diagnosis and prognosis for the Catholic Church. But no one seemed about to take his recommendation to leave.

Marc Lavallee writes that "to leave allows no room for reconciliation, reformation, and peace within conflict that is central to Christian social life".

James Jenkins: "Catholics need to understand that the church fostered by John XXIII is surely dead. It is past time that they should let go...Abandoned and betrayed by their shepherds, Catholics will struggle to keep the faith alike for future generations."

Jean E. Rosenfeld declares: "Catholicism has a distinguished spiritual tradition of cultural openness; while fundamentalism is driven by intolerant exclusivity...Rottweiler (Pope Benedict's name) politics is destroying Catholicism. As a Catholic woman, I call on the Catholic sisterhood, lay and religious, to stay, speak, and reclaim Catholicism."

Marion Eagen states: "The  behavior of the Roman Catholic hierarchy disappoints me on so many fronts...How many times have I contemplated joining the Episcopal Church?...Why do I stay? Because my own parish, with its engaged pastor, deacon and staff, vibrant liturgy, and forward-leaning membership, is a comfortable home that embraces each one of us in times of joy and sorrow and provides an atmosphere for real spiritual growth...I would suggest that those who are on the verge of leaving that they should shop around first. There are welcoming and joyful Catholic communities just waiting for you to join. I know. I belong to one."

Vox populi!

posted by Msgr. Harry J. Byrne | 3:13 PM | 0 Comments

May 30, 2012


Archangel’s last post treated the basic nature of “conversation” as mouth to ear communication between individuals as different from e-mail, I-pod, and other assorted electronic and cyber instruments.

The topic opened up a storehouse of remembered conversations that shed light on the subject of the conversations and the qualities of the participants. Here is a good example of successful word of mouth conversation.
         After I retired as pastor of Epiphany Church in 1996, I became Weekend Associate at St.Ann’s Church in Ossining, NY, founded in 1927 by Italian working people. The pastor, Father Ed Byrne, is energetic and creative with a number of educational, spiritual, and service programs in the parish. Italian parishioners in recent years have  become outnumbered by Hispanic individuals and families. Most are from Ecuador. It is not surprising that slight frictions developed between the two ethnic groups. Father Ed, fluent in Spanish from five years of service in Venezuela, has seen a remarkable increase in the number of Hispanic parishioners. On his arrival in 1994, there was one Sunday Mass in Spanish. Now there are three. They are conducted in the school hall.

 Several years ago, Ruperto Garcia, a member of the Hispanic community, asked to meet with Father Ed. He pointed out that at the 10:30 Spanish Mass in the school hall, an average of just over 400 attended, while the 10:30 English Mass in the church averaged about 200! Would it not be more appropriate to hold the Spanish Mass in the church and the English Mass in the school? A question with two “no win” answers!

Ed and Ruperto were both intelligent and devout. Ed had long since proved himself to the Hispanic community. Special Masses featured readings in English and in Spanish. Holy Thursday processions were alive with hymns in both languages, as well as in Italian, Tagalog, and Portuguese. Hispanic day laborers were frequently cheated in various ways by their “patrones”. St. Ann’s maintains a HELP clinic, at which cheated laborers would find assistance. Some times a mere letter from a HELP attorney to the employer would solve the problem. If that did not suffice, HELP would shepherd the case through Small Claims Court. The parish sponsored classes in English as a second language

Father Ed recited a litany of accommodations the parish had made to the newcomers. He described the reactions of the Italian parishioners. They had founded and built the church and school. At times, they felt overwhelmed by the Hispanics. Most of the children in the public and parish schools spoke Spanish. Many Masses featured readings in both languages with hymns and instrumental music frequently in the Spanish idiom. They felt that some of their native culture was being superseded by a different one. Their sensitivities could reach a breaking point if the 10:30 Mass in Spanish moved the English Mass to the school. The Italians had the ultimate threat. They could vote with their feet. St. Augustine’s was only a mile down Route Nine.

Father Ed and Ruperto had an important conversation. It was agreed that the Sunday 10:30 English Mass would remain in the church. Father Ed, diplomat extraordinaire, priest exemplar, maintains a happy balance and happy parishioners.

May 10, 2012


The NY Times recently ran an opinion piece "The Flight of Conversation", decrying the substitution of electrical and digital impulses instead of the human voice from a human face. It made me think: What were some of the noteworthy conversations in which I participated?
1. With Jim Colbert, Iona Prep '38 classmate: On an autumn day in one of our high school years, we listened to long playing 33 records, discussed G.K.Chesterton, Graham Greene, Romano Guardini. Chesterton's poem about Don Juan of Austria stirred up our interest with its martial atmosphere and the satisfaction we felt at the turning back of the Muslims. This turned our attention to how North Africa, Constantinople, and Spain were conquered by Muslim armies.

We, enthusiastic Catholic young men, were humbled by Greene's depiction of the "whisky priest" in his "The Power and the Glory". We then discussed other portrayals of the conflict between good and evil. From "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostoyevsky, I brought up the scene where one brother says, "How awful the man who begins with the ideal of the Madonna and ends up with the ideal of Sodom". The other brother responds, "Even more terrible is the man who ends up with the ideal of Sodom, while still in his heart is the ideal of the Madonna, strong and vibrant”. The conversation was lively and coherent.

For later in life, the conversations I had with Jim Colbert, MD over the years furnished food for thought and more words, perhaps with modifications and additions.

2. With Ms. Ilah McDermott, elderly, yes, elderly, parishioner of St. Thomas More parish, in whose parish house I was in residence for my twenty years as an official in the Archdiocesan Chancery. Ilah, a devout Catholic, lived around the corner from the church with her mother and daughter. She was the proprietress of Wakefield Young Books, on the gold coast of Madison Avenue in the East 60s. Early in life, she had run a book shop on a Cunard ocean liner. At a stop-over in Tel Aviv, she fell in love with a British Marine captain. They married and lived happily for a while. Then he contracted tuberculosis and turned bitter against life, Ilah, and God. Despite all that, Ilah had a fund of happy stories and was a stimulus to listeners to respond in kind.

In her travels, Ilah had met one Meg Campbell, a Methodist, who decided to become a Catholic. Ilah turned her over to me. After instructions, I received her into our Church. This was convenient as she was in New York on vacation from her home on the Isle of Canna in the Inner Hebrides, off the West Coast of Scotland.

I was their guest on Canna on two occasions. Meg’s husband, John Campbell, the Laird of Canna, was a Catholic and knowledgeable about the history of the Hebrides. Meg was an expert on the flora and fauna of the islands. On a visit, I had discovered, in the mansion’s library, a diary of Father Allan McDonald, pastor of the nearby Isle of Eriskay (Check him out in Google). From the diary, I passed on stories to Ilah and Meg, (the Laird knew them all) of sick calls across turbulent seas, taking a devastated widower back to the rectory on Eriskay, and Father Allan’s organizing the fishermen and pressuring the English government to build a breakwater, providing a safe harbor for the fishermen.

One of the best stories: Father Allan bringing Holy Communion to a pair of elderly sisters. Fog and pelting rain were inappropriate accompaniments to the coming of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. On arrival at the sisters’ cottage, Father Allan saw that their cow had been brought into the parlor to protect it from the storm. It appeared to be sick. After Holy Communion, one of the ladies offered a cup of tea to Father Allan. “Would you like some milk for your tea?” The diary reads: “I looked at the sick cow and said, ‘No. I’ll have it plain’”. Nights of conversations at Canna linger long in memory.

3. A classic non-conversation: As a graduate student at Catholic University, I was crossing the campus one evening in the late forties and fell in step with Monsignor Joe Fenton. F “What are you reading these days?” HB “Theological Studies, an article by John Courtney Murray, SJ.” F “Oh, that stuff. Right on the edge of heresy.” HB “Murray is very much aware of the old Catholic view that the Church should dominate the state, where possible. But that just doesn’t work in a democracy like ours.” F “Who says so? And if you are serious and reject that centuries old tradition, well, you’re a heretic yourself.” HB “Good evening, Doctor Fenton. Sorry we did not have time for a conversation.” There had been no conversation. Two decades later in Vatican Council Two, Doctor Fenton and Cardinal Ottaviani. Both opposed most of the advances made by the Council. John Courtney Murray, SJ, initially barred from the Council, was chosen by Cardinal Spellman to be his theological advisor. Murray was the architect of the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom. He was a significant figure in persuading the Council Fathers to adopt this Declaration. His conversation proved fruitful.

I have been intrigued by searching through my memory and finding speeches and personalities that have remained in place over the years. I shall try to continue this chain of memories in future blog posts. What makes a conversation memorable? What turns words into a conversation?

April 14, 2012


As the hopefully named Celestial Express crosses the last fringes of the plains before heading up into mysterious mountains, we, passengers in the caboose, look back to bring with us into another dimension of existence, the memories of the places where we have dwelt or have visited, the men and women we have encountered, the events and happenings that exceeded our expectations. Images, memories, and personalities can flicker and fade. But a cherished book can bring a welcome renewal of its initial delight. Each time we change residence, we dispose of many books that have outlived their relevance to ourselves or to our times. As I disposed of scores of books over the years, one volume always caught my eye and was saved for another day: “Poets in a Landscape” by Gilbert Highet, Knopf, 1957, 267pp.

Highet, a Scotsman and distinguished professor at Columbia in ancient Greek and Roman history, captures in this volume, the love he had for Italy, its people, and poets. His prose suggests the swift, silent flow of the Mincius River near Vergil’s birthplace and the springs of Clitumnus, where the river of that name originated, - to steal some of Highet’s words and rhythms - “not in a cascade from a rock or the overspill from a lake, but from a kind of miracle from the flat earth itself”. It is there that Propertius lived. Highet devotes five lucent pages to a description of the springs and the surrounding worlds of nature, his own reflections and those of Pliny, a contemporary of Propertius.

Seven poets and the seven landscapes, where they lived and whence they distilled their poetry from the lives, personalities, and ecologies that they encountered, are presented in bright and effortlessly read prose. Highet weaves historical and linguistic contexts into the stories and accomplishments of each poet. Propertius, a likely subject to begin with, was born around 50 BC in a small town near Assisi in Umbria. The region suffered much in the civil wars that followed the death of Julius Caesar. The people of Umbria spoke a language different from their neighbors, neither Latin nor Etruscan but a dialect of Oscan. Although high-minded Romans tended to look down on  the people of Umbria as on a peasant level, several of the most eminent Roman poets came from Umbria. Highet’s comments help in understanding a poem by Propertius about his origin and the cause of his distress at the death of a kinsman.

Propertius captures the dramatic differences of character between two women featured in his poems. Cynthia was a part of the high society of Rome, beautiful, well educated and herself a poet. She was the center of Propertius’ life, hard and cruel to each other, perhaps an embodiment of the 1940’s pop hit, “You always hurt the one you love”. Propertius had days and nights of happiness together with her that alternated with periods of doubt and anger on both sides. Cynthia would use Propertius’ intense desire mixed with genuine love as a weapon by withholding its physical expression. Cynthia’s occasional bouts of drinking and casual infidelities would torture Propertius, as she knew they would. Propertius would respond by his own infidelities. Rebuffed by Cynthia, Propertius flees being alone; he invites “Phyllis on the Aventine – when sober, unattractive; charming drunk. Then there is Teia – lives near the Tarpeian Park – a lovely thing but hard to satisfy.” He sets up a threesome in his garden. “A Nile boy played the pipes, Phyllis the castanets, we scattered simple roses for our scent.” In the midst of this heady scene, Cynthia burst through the garden gate. In a torrent of wild language and physical violence, she sends the girls fleeing and reduces Propertius to an abject figure, seeking Cynthia’s forgiveness. Curiously, in this pre-Christian period, she sets up conditions “if you wish absolution for your sin…” Perhaps an intrusion by a later translator! Cynthia
savors her victory; Propertius, a melancholy defeat caused, as much by his own lack of discipline as by her passionate disposition and will to conquer. Cynthia dies and, in a more settled mood, Propertius composes an elegy that captures much of her personality  and the reasons for his addiction to her.

      Propertius brings his poetry to bear on other woman, Cornelia, whose character is apposite to Cynthia’s. Cornelia is the step-daughter of the emperor, Augustus and is married to Lucius Amelius Paullus, a distinguished statesman. Unlike Cynthia, she is poised and disciplined. She dies, apparently at an early age, leaving a son and two daughters. Propertius composes an elegy, spoken by Cornelia herself.

In his elegy, Propertius puts the words of Cornelia, first about herself: she is from a noble Roman family, her father’s side was associated with the Roman legions, which “conquered Africa with its wealth and power”. Her mother’s ancestors were of the renowned Libones. “Both houses stand secure in old renown.” From pride of family, she turns to herself and her own character and declares her innocence and established reputation: “write on the stone that I was one man’s bride always, pure from the wedding torch to the torch of death. Nature gave me a code of laws drawn from my blood…However harsh the standard, I can meet its test.” Cornelia, through the poetry of Propertius, turns next to praise her husband: “You, Paullus, are my consolation. In your embrace I closed my dying eyes.” She speaks of the finality of death, but urges Paullus and their children to go on, as a family, the children sensitively to accept a stepmother. She speaks of the demeanor Paullus must have for the children she leaves behind:

“Even in my ashes breathes my love for them.
You must be both their mother and their father: all
 my darlings’ weight now clings around your neck.
Kiss them when they weep, and add their mother’s kisses:
Now all our household rests upon your arms.
And if you grieve for me, they must not witness it.
When they embrace you, cheat them – dry your eyes.
 Enough for you, Paullus, to wear the nights with longing,
to dream  of phantoms with Cornelia’s face;
and when you talk in secret to my portrait, speak
and pause awhile, as though I might reply.”

Noble Romans, indeed; a loving family! Propertius, poet extraordinary!

How did Propertius manage to live with Cynthia at the same time that he understood and articulated the love of Cornelia?