Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The George Orwell Roller-coaster

From The Telegraph:
George  Orwell' s admirers each seem to admire him for a different reason. Some revere his politics, though those change according to which passage in his depressingly short life one focuses upon. Others laud his abilities as a novelist. For some, he is a great essayist - my own favourite is his 1952 memoir of prep school, Such, Such Were the Joys. For others, the content of his writing is secondary to his command of the English language; he has a justified reputation as the finest writer of English prose of the last century.

There is much more to Orwell,  though, than comes under those headings. Another important aspect is considered in Robert Colls's superb analysis of his writings, George Orwell:  English Rebel. As the title suggests, Colls considers  Orwell' s relationship with his country: and what a roller-coaster ride it was. (Read more.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


 P. Bernaigne, "A Carnival Ball"

José Benlliure y Gil, "At the Carnival"

Carnival season officially began on January 6 and ends on Shrove Tuesday or "Fat Tuesday," called Mardi Gras. It is now Shrovetide, when most parishes used to have Forty Hours devotions in order to atone for the excesses of Carnival. Outside of certain exotic places such as New Orleans, carnival is not celebrated to the extent that it once was in the Christian west, when the season was a time of joyful merry-making before undertaking the rigors of Lent. At home, we usually have a "king cake;" HERE is an easy recipe. Amid the festivities, the traditions of the liturgy remind us that Lent is near. Not only Lent approaches, but death as well; the hour of reckoning for each soul is unknown.

"If Ever I Cease To Love" is the theme song of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is a song which does not make sense, but then neither does love, most of the time.
In a house, in a square in a quadrant
In a street, in a lane, in a road.

Turn to the left on the right hand
You see there my true love's abode

I go there a courting, and cooing to my love like a dove;
And swearing on my bended knee, if ever I cease to love,
May sheep-heads grow on apple trees, if ever I cease to love.


If ever I cease to love, if ever I cease to love,
May the moon be turn'd to green cream cheese,
If ever I cease to love.

Winslow Homer, "Dressing for Carnival"

Mary I and the Wyatt Rebellion

From author Janet Wertman:
After assuming the throne in 1553, Mary I did what would have been expected from any queen: she searched for a husband so that she could produce an heir. Unfortunately for Mary, she chose Philip of Spain – which infuriated many in her country and led to an uprising. Led by Sir Thomas Wyatt (the son of the poet who wrote verse to Anne Boleyn) and several others, the rebels wanted to prevent the marriage to a foreign power…and place the Protestant Elizabeth on the throne. When news came that Wyatt’s troops were preparing to storm the city, Mary spoke to her people at Guildhall, exhorting them to bravely support her. It was a brilliant speech, one that led twenty thousand men to swarm to her side. Many believe that Elizabeth used it as the basis for her Armada speech…but that’s a story for another day. (Read more.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Mysterious Quality of the Eighteenth Century

From The Paris Apartment:
There’s always been a mysterious quality to the 1700s, at least for me. How did these women come up with what is still considered the essence of chic right out of thin air? Of course it was not only women but I’m sure they were directing the men in terms of shapes, color and proportion of everything from fashion to furniture....There was a sort of whimsy, a playful frivolity and innocence that no other time before or since has captured. (Read more.)


Religion and Violence

From ChurchPop:
At the top of the list of the twentieth century’s deadliest regimes, you’ll find three anti-religious states: Communist China, the USSR, and Nazi Germany. These three alone were responsible for an estimated 130,000,000 victims, which dwarfs the number of people killed in the name of all religions throughout all of history. And that number doesn’t even take into account the millions killed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rogue, the Communist North Korean regime, or the Derg (the Ethiopian Communist state, headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam).

Religion isn’t the cause of most of the world’s violence: it’s not even close. In fact, in each of the deadliest states of the twentieth century, we see the same pattern: an aggressive campaign to neutralize or eliminate religious belief (and believers). Ross Douthat pointed this out, using the example of the Soviet Union, in a debate with Bill Maher:

Maher: “Someone once said: to have a normal person commit a horrible act almost never happens without religion. To have people get on a plane and fly it into a building, it had to be religion.”

Douthat: “I think that what’s true is: to get a normal person to commit a crazy act, it does take ideas, right? But those ideas can be secular as well as religious. A lot of normal people …”
Maher: “But mostly, in history, they’ve been religious.”

Douthat: “Not in the twentieth century. Not in the Soviet Union. A lot of dead bodies there, not a lot of Christians… except among the dead bodies.”

Maher: “I would say that’s a secular religion.” (Maher then quickly shut down debate before Douthat could respond.)

In a way, Maher ends up conceding one of Douthat’s points: that secular ideas can be just as deadly religious ones (and in fact, have been many times deadlier). But Douthat’s other point is worth drawing out: religious belief serves not only as a potential motivator for violence, but as a check against state totalitarianism.

For a totalitarian regime, religion is dangerous. As a believer, I recognize that human rights come from God, not the state or social convention. I recognize that there’s an authority higher than the state to Whom both I and the state leadership will someday be accountable.

It’s precisely this sort of belief system that serves as a check on ideology and state authority that made these Soviet and Nazi states so anti-religious: they don’t want you to render unto both God and Caesar. They want you to obey Caesar alone. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Marie-Antoinette's Toilette

From Geri Walton:
Marie Antoinette was well-known for her fashion sense and for placing great importance on her wardrobe and toilette. Applying makeup was a daily task and to ensure the Queen looked her best, she had a makeup table or desk that held all the goodies necessary for her to apply her makeup. Her toilette began after she finished her petit déjeuner (breakfast) and took her morning bath in a slipper tub that was rolled into her room. It was then that she got dressed and applied her makeup creating the pale, milky white complexion so popular at the time. One particular piece of furniture believed to have belonged to Marie Antoinette to aid her in this process was an escritoire à toilette (makeup desk). Read more.)

The Eucharist and the Thirty Years War

From Vultus Christi:
Today’s Feast of Reparation for offenses committed against Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love was instituted in the 17th century when, particularly in a France ravaged by the Thirty Years War (1618—1648), churches were desecrated and burned, the Most Blessed Sacrament was thrown to the ground, trampled, and even fed to animals. Bands of mercenary soldiers descended from the Protestant countries of Northern Europe to pillage and destroy everything that represented the Catholic Faith. Two things, in particular, became the object of their fanatical wrath: images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

At the same time, in certain ostensibly Catholic circles, there was a surge of interest in black magic and in engagement with the powers of darkness. Not infrequently, Sacred Hosts were stolen from churches, or taken away surreptitiously after a sacrilegious communion. Too many priests were seen to offer Holy Mass hurriedly and with scant reverence. Tabernacles were neglected. Churches were forsaken. The King of kings and Lord of lords (Apocalypse 19:16), the Thrice–Holy God before whom the Angels veil their faces and adore, hidden beneath the fragile appearance of the Sacred Host, remained silent in a state of utter abjection, abandoned to the coldness, indifference, and carelessness of men. “O my people, what have I done to thee, or in what have I molested thee? answer thou me” (Micheas 6:3). (Read more.)

Baby Boomers and the Latin Mass

My experience with the Latin Mass has been the same as the author of the article. I never took Latin in school but after a short time of assisting at the Latin Mass as an adult I had no trouble following along. Not only did I understand what was going on but I found it easier to concentrate on the mysteries. I wish there was a Latin Mass nearby that I could attend. From The Liturgy Guy:
Someone in the wonderful world of social media left this comment in response to my most recent Liturgy Guy post on the use of Latin within the Mass:
“I remember Latin Masses.  No one understood what was being said.  If you tried to follow where the priest was you couldn’t because you couldn’t see what he was doing.  So, you took out your rosary and prayed.  The common expression was that the Mass was in Latin so that NO ONE in the world could understand it.”
I’m sincerely beginning to believe that some baby boomer Catholics are making a concerted effort to undermine the resurgence of the Latin Mass with such “memories” as this one.  The comment above is unfortunately a rather common occurrence on social media these days; a recollection that is invariably shared each and every time an attempted discussion of the traditional liturgy begins. (Read more.)