A EUROPEAN PRINCESS RETURNS TO HER CATHOLIC ROOTS AND SPREADS THE JOY
Excerpts from telegraph: "In the 1990s, she was one of those European aristocrats whose names we came to know only because they were forever appearing in glossy magazines, attending all the right grand weddings and openings. She even published an A-to-Z guide to good manners with her great friend, the German Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, better known in the society pages as the 'punk princess' or 'Princess TNT'.
Alessandra Borghese was one of the heirs to the San Pellegrino water fortune. She founded her own cultural centre in Rome, and then married Greek shipping tycoon, Constantine Niarcose who later died of a cocaine overdose.
It was Princess "TNT" Gloria von Thurn who encouraged Borghese's return to the faith after her own conversion.
"Catholicism is not a philosophy, neither is it a theology, but it is a meeting with a person. So the moment you meet Jesus Christ, your life can change radically. That is when I started to look at everything differently.'
"Her 2004 book, With New Eyes, the story of her return to the fold, was a bestseller in her home country and over much of Catholic Europe."
"I was brought up to know that my family had given a very important pope to the church, Paul V [at the start of the seventeenth century], so important that his name is written on the façade of Saint Peter's Basilica itself, along with our coat of arms.'
'But for me growing up, that was all history. I didn't participate in it.' She was, she says, 'very conformist' as a young woman. 'I couldn't care less about praying, about the Church, I had to be emancipated.'
But she has become a woman who is fiercely and unapoligetically attached to traditional Catholic values.
[W]hen the question of women priests -banned by Catholicism - comes up. 'If you're Catholic and want to be a woman priest,' she protests, 'join the Anglicans or the Protestants. Why do you want to change the Catholic tradition according to your point of view? If you look at Holy Mary, you see that her grandeur was not because she did anything, but because she was able to stand behind something bigger.'
In fact Borghese appears to be a fan of the traditional Latin Mass. Recently, at the Little Oratory, a traditional Mass was held to mark the publication of Borghese's latest book, In the Footsteps of Joseph Ratzinger. According to Damian Thompson of "HolySmoke" fame: "Last night I attended what may have been the most beautiful religious service of my life....The Pope would have been delighted that she chose to launch [her new book] with a Mass using the older Missal – which is superior in so many ways to the hastily assembled (and barbarously translated) Bugnini Missal forced on the Church in 1970."
Also from Thompson's Holy Smoke: "Interestingly, in her speech the princess spoke not about the finer points of liturgy but about her personal relationship with Jesus. And listening to her approvingly, I noticed, was none other than Nicky Gumbel, vicar of the distinctly Protestant Holy Trinity Brompton next door."
[Borghese asserts that her] "successful career, as an author, has nothing to do with female emancipation, she insists. 'Sometimes you should try to make a step back, not forward, and you can be very useful to a bigger scheme. I know its difficult because we live in a society where we are all pushed to be in front, to be visible. If you don't appear, you don't exist. You have to be seen, be successful, be good looking, be cool. But it just isn't true.'
"[What] do her old friends, from her pre-1999 days, think of her now in her role as arch-Catholic? 'Of course, they think I am strange. People look at me in a weird way, but others respect me. It is life. It doesn't worry me. Because the great thing when you rediscover faith is that you don't feel alone anymore. And so you are stronger.' The inference is that she felt alone before that rediscovery. 'No, its not that I felt alone, rather that, even though I had everything, something was missing.'
Her personal mission is to be 'a witness to the possibility in our age of rediscovering faith'.