Father Robert Palladino
Sometime during the afternoon of my visit to his home along the Sandy River, Father Palladino asked if I knew he’d been in a movie.
After his other startling revelations, this was just one more teaser.
Well, he qualified, his name had been in a movie.
While teaching calligraphy at Reed College, he said, he’d had a student in one of his classes–a young man who’d subsequently dropped out, though not before he’d returned for a second term studying and practicing the craft.
It was clear he wanted me to ask who the student was, and I did.
Steve Jobs, he replied.
Steve Jobs? Studying calligraphy?
Father Palladino did not philosophize about the matter with me then and there, though he’d likely often done so with others. He left me to wonder alone what it was about Steve Jobs, the great technological innovator of global consequence, which drew him to calligraphy–and not for just one college term but two.
It seemed to me this must provide a window in to the mind and motivation of the man, the titan. Was it as simple as the elegance of the artform?
How would elegance fit into a mind of… Continue reading
More interesting to me than the little book of Latin abbreviations was the story of Father Robert’s life, both because his early years were so similar to those of my character Brother Alphaios, but more-so for its trajectory, much of which was quite remarkable in mid-twentieth century America. In short, he was born in 1932. Entered a Trappist, cloistered monastery when he was seventeen. Professed as a monk some five years later and then as priest. Choirmaster for his brothers. Left the cloister after some eighteen years. Fell in love with the principal clarinetist of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Resigned his collar and was dispensed from his vows by Pope Paul VI. Wedded the woman he loved and fathered a child. Became an instructor of calligraphy at Reed College. Was widowed only eighteen years into marriage. Petitioned the Church to return to the cloth. Was given papal dispensation, and once more became a seminarian and once more a priest. When retired, continued to serve numerous parishes when their clerics were ill or away. Passed away in February of 2016 at the age of eighty-three.
I would have liked to spend more afternoons with him, learned much more about his nature,… Continue reading
Yes, dear reader, we are in the midst of a serial blogpost…
Father Palladino, as I now knew him to be, invited me to his home (a small farm several miles southeast of Portland) and we settled on a time and date. I asked for his address so I could MapQuest it, but he said he didn’t do computers; he’d mail me an address and map. I decided not to tell him about Siri.
Several days later an envelope arrived, my name and address written in an elegant, oversized script. Calligraphy, done by a master of his craft. The manner of it, the beauty of it, elevated my day. Inside the envelope was a letter of welcome, warm in its content and beautifully penned in the same letterform as the envelope. Also enclosed was a hand-drawn map. Gentlemanly manners at their very best.
Wending my way through an evergreen forest and down and across the Sandy River, I arrived to find Father Palladino waiting for me at a gate alongside the road. He swung it open, closed it behind me and guided me down a curving,… Continue reading
It’s not often that a Google search is as productive as this one…
The principal character in my BOOK OF HOURS novels is Brother Alphaios, born into a poor village in Greece. He entered a monastery as a young man as his only means to an education. There he became a monk—a cloistered monk, one who lives entirely behind monastery walls. He showed considerable artistic talent, and was transferred to a cloister in Italy where he became a master painter and restorer of medieval books. Now, in contemporary time, he has been brought to a metropolis in the United States—New York City. Here, along with Inaki Arriaga, historian and archivist, he is recreating a large and magnificent but severely damaged Book of Hours from the fourteen hundreds. Together they oversee the work of two scribes who are duplicating the medieval text, its errors and anomalies included. When done, it is to be gift for the pope, a gift for the ages.
I note above that Brother Alphaios is cloistered, which is only mostly true. He has lived behind monastery walls virtually all his adult life, and has taken vows of strict prayer and obedience.… Continue reading