Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

As Saint Therese of the Child Jesus said, "As this year has gone, so our life will go, and soon we shall say 'it is gone.' Let us not waste our time; soon eternity will shine for us." Share

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Le Roi-Martyr

Here is a prayer in honor of the Martyr King Louis XVI.

O Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Louis to an earthly Throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and, when his throne was violently overturned, didst give him boldness to confess the name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may in ready obedience accept both prosperity and adversity at thy hand, and that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr Louis Triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Latin in the seminaries

Another revealing article from The New Oxford Review about the importance of Latin in the liturgy and how seminarians need to be instructed in the official language of the Church. Share

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Making Merry

Two wonderful essays from Abbey Roads, one on being alone at Christmas and another on the traditional merry-making of the season and how very Catholic it is to have a good time with family and friends. Share

It's A Wonderful Life


Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The painting is the Adoration of the Magi by Symon Czechowicz (1689-1775), courtesy of scholar and gentleman Jeffrey Smith at Triumphant Baroque. I will be taking a break from blogging for a few days in order to better enter into the mystery of the Nativity with my family and parish. I will be back online by the Twelfth Night.

I wish all of my cyberfriends a blessed Christmas and the joy which the world cannot give or take away. For spiritual reflections I highly recommend Don Marco at Vultus Christi. Here is a beautiful meditation on the face of the Christ Child.

December 22: O Rex Gentium

O King of nations, and their desired One, and the cornerstone that makes both one; come and save man whom thou formed out of earth.

December 23: O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Savior of the nations! come and save us, O Lord our God!

Now all is fulfilled....Ecce completa sunt omnia....(Lauds of December 23) Share

Thursday, December 21, 2006

O Oriens

O Orient! Splendor of eternal light, and the Sun of justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Here is a thought-provoking article from the New Oxford Review about why we need a Savior, and another on "The Embarassment of Martyrs."

There is no need to be afraid, in five more days Our Lord will come to us. (Benedictus antiphon for December 21) Share

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On Midnight Mass and its Mysteries

An explanation of the origin and meaning of the three Masses of Christmas from Zenit. The picture of the Nativity is courtesy of our friend Jeffrey Smith at Roving Medievalist. It is by 14th century artist Dominic Buoninsegna.

More on Apocalypto


Louis XVI's Sainted Aunt

Madame Louise of France, also known as Blessed Therese of Saint Augustine was the youngest daughter of King Louis XV and Polish princess Queen Marie Lescinska. The daughter of Saint Louis according to the flesh, she became the spiritual daughter of Saint Teresa of Avila. Before becoming a nun, she tried to assist the Jesuits who had been abolished from France because of the liberal element at court led by her father's mistress Madame de Pompadour. In 1770 Louise chose the poorest and most rigorous Carmelite monastery in France, that of Saint Denis, where she begged to be treated the same as the rest of the sisters. She was given the veil by the papal nuncio, assisted by the young Dauphine Marie-Antoinette, her nephew's bride. According to Madame Campan, Marie-Antoinette would call Madame Louise "the most scheming little Carmelite in the kingdom" because of the role she played behind the scenes in advising the king on church affairs. She often petitioned the queen for dowries for impoverished young ladies who wanted to become nuns. One young girl, Mademoiselle Lidoine, to whom the Queen gave a dowry at Madame Louise's plea, became the prioress who led the Blessed Martyrs of Compiegne to the scaffold on July 17, 1794.

Madame Louise, Blessed Therese, died on December 23, 1787. Her last words were: "Full gallop, into heaven!"


O Clavis David

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel! who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; come, lead the captive from prison, sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death. Share

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, who stands as the ensign of the people; before whom kings shall fall silent; to whom the nations shall pray: come and deliver us, do not delay.

Here is a quote from the ancient Ambrosian liturgy:

Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the invisible God
There did he deign to dwell, whom seven thrones cannot hold
And she bore him as a light weight in her womb.
(from Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol I)

Father Euteneur of Human Life International has more on the Nativity film and the birth of Our Lord.

Pray for the new Archbishop of Toronto. He has his work cut out for him.


Monday, December 18, 2006

O Adonai

O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gave him the law on Sinai, come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm. Share

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Lord of the Rings

I watched parts of The Lord of the Rings again last night. The casting of the film is practically flawless and the score is of operatic proportions. Fran Walsh and Philipa Boyens wrote some great lines, fleshing out some deep issues in the novel. As I was recently discussing with one of my cousins, my favorite scene is the ride of the Rohirrim at the battle of the Pelennor Fields. The sun rises and the horns blow as the city burns. In a moment of total hopelessness, old King Theoden rallies his men to attack an enemy which vastly outnumbers them. It recalls to mind the old Irish and Scottish kings, like Brian Boru and Robert the Bruce, who held the kingship because they were willing to lead the charge and fight and bleed with the rest of the warriors.

Eowyn and Merry are among the riders and end up saving the day. When Theoden dies after being crushed by the Nazgul's hideous flying dragon, his body completely broken, it always reminds me of my father, who was destroyed by cancer. He died with great peace and courage in spite of many agonies and the words of Theoden could have been his: "I go now to my fathers in whose mighty company I need not be ashamed."

Along with the Pelennor Fields, I enjoy all the scenes with Aragorn and Arwen, especially in the first film when they are standing on the bridge and she asks him, "Do you remember when we first met?" with the Enya song in the background. Aragorn and Arwen have such a powerful connection that they are together even when parted and, of course, they are apart most of the time.

Perhaps the most powerful scene is when Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom. Actually, I cannot really decide which "Sam scene" I love best. The ending is magnificent, when the ship sails into the West, and Sam goes home to his little family. That is what they all fought for to begin with, the safety of families.

General Robert E. Lee

Here is an interesting article about General Lee. I grew up near a Civil War battlefield and have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, therefore the various characters in the conflict have always held a great deal of interest for me. Share

The Great Antiphons - O Wisdom

Today the "O Antiphons" begin at Vespers. The antiphon for today is "O Sapientia." Don Marco has a beautiful meditation on the meaning of true wisdom.

Today is also Gaudete or "Rose" Sunday. Rose vestments are worn as a sign of rejoicing that the Lord is near. Share

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Mystical Doctor

The feast of St John of the Cross is are some of his Counsels....great for Advent....they made me squirm.....

"Anyone who complains or grumbles is not perfect, nor is he even a good Christian."

"Anyone who trusts in himself is worse than the devil."

"Anyone who does not love his neighbor abhors God."

"Whoever flees prayer flees all that is good."

"Conquering the tongue is better than fasting on bread and water."

"Suffering for God is better than working miracles." Share

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Village (2004)

Last night I was watching the M. Night Shyamalan film The Village (2004) and found it an excellent preparation for the feast of Saint John of the Cross coming up in two days. As I have been discussing with Enbrethiliel, the film is like a mystical parable. St John, in his poems and commentaries The Dark Night and The Ascent of Mt Carmel and even in the Living Flame of Love speaks of darkness and blindness as states in which one proves the love for the Beloved. In the film, the blind young girl is the only one able to save her beloved, wounded for love of her. The Spiritual Canticle emphasizes the "wound of love." "Why, since you wounded this heart, don't you heal it?" The soul must not fear the "wild beasts" while going through the "woods and thickets" to find healing for the Beloved, just like the girl trying to avoid the "monsters" in the woods.

In the film, the lovers pledged themselves "in the serene night," "the tranquil night." In The Village the maidens must "stay away" from the "outskirts." The emphasis on solitude in the poems of St John, especially in The Dark Night where it says "in a place where no one else appeared" was similar to the scene in the film where the young maiden realizes she must make the journey alone. Only pure love and self-sacrifice in the blindness of faith can save the one she loves.

On another level, I find The Village interesting for the portrayal of flight from the world. It has long been a Christian practice to withdraw into the desert to find God and peace. However, as the Desert Fathers discovered, we can never escape the our own human nature and the wounds of original sin. In the pristine refuge of Covington Wood, people fall in love with the wrong people, there is jealousy, and even hatred. The elders must keep the youngsters in line through the terrifying story of monsters in the woods, so that even in the safety of the wilderness the children are afraid. While we are in the flesh, there is no escape and the only true refuge is the Lord. Share

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Don Marco at Vultus Christi has some beautiful thoughts on the Patroness of the Americas, whose feast we celebrate today. For anyone interested in the traditions of the sacred liturgy and true spirituality, I highly recommend Don Marco's site. There is food for thought and meditation there everyday. Share

Monday, December 11, 2006

Maravillas of the Order of Carmel

Today is the memorial of Saint Maria Maravillas de Jesus, OCD. What fascinates me about this saint is that she led her nuns through the Second Vatican Council to a more profound living of the Carmelite charism without discarding tradition, for she sought only the original inspiration of the foundress, the Holy Mother Saint Teresa, as was recommended by the council fathers.

It redounds to the good of the Church that institutes have their own particular characteristics and work. Therefore let their founders' spirit and special aims they set before them as well as their sound traditions-all of which make up the patrimony of each institute-be faithfully held in honor. (Perfectae Caritatis)

The End of Socialism

Here is an in-depth article by Murray N. Rothbard about the false-god who failed. Share

Sunday, December 10, 2006


In the study of Revolution it often happens that we come across intriguing characters on both sides of the struggle. Among those rebels who agitated for social change is my own great-grandfather, James Vint Laughland (1885-1957). He was of a generation who hoped to transform the world through political reform, which more often than not in the twentieth century resulted in violent revolution and totalitarian regimes. James Vint, however, was a sincere idealist who was willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of bettering the lot of the workers. In his efforts, although he was not a Catholic, he mirrored the social teachings of the Roman Church. With zeal and conviction for what he thought was right, he risked imprisonment, ostracism, and exile. Heroism inspires and attracts; so often we have seen such heroism in radical groups, and we can only lament that every Christian is not aflame with the same courage for the Gospel.

Jame Vint was born into a well-to-do family in 1885. His parents, William and Margaret Laughland, had come from Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Scotland to Southampton, England in 1879, where they had thirteen children. William operated a prosperous tailor shop in which the uniforms for cruise ships were made, and he sat on the city council for many years. A contemporary described “Councillor Laughland” as a “slightly enigmatic figure” who “played a lone hand and enjoyed doing it,” with traits of “effervescing good humor” and “grim heroism.” Margaret MacGuigan Laughland, called the “Belle of Southampton” for her striking beauty, was active in liberal ladies’ political clubs. She simultaneously nourished fixed, traditional ideas of behavior. Once when her daughter-in-law desired some kind of employment, Margaret locked her in her room, since (in her opinion) ladies were not ever to work outside the home for money.

James Vint was educated in North America where he graduated from the University of Toronto and from Meadville Seminary in Pennsylvania. He became a Presbyterian minister. He was concerned for the plight of the workers, too often the victims of injustice and unsafe laboring conditions. In 1908, he married Margaret MacDougall, the descendant of Highland Scots who had ended up in the coal mines of Nova Scotia. Margaret was a practical nurse and in later years her profession supported the family while James Vint pursued his calling as an activist. They had two sons, Milton and Emerson, named for their favorite poets. James was also a poet and wrote his wife very romantic verses over the years. They returned to England to a thriving London parish and settled into respectability which came to an end in 1918. In the words of a fellow minister:
At the close of World War I, when all churches in Great Britain were invited and expected to celebrate the signing of the Versailles Treaty, Mr. Laughland observed it in his church as a day of mourning instead, believing the Treaty to be so revengeful in substance and spirit that it would eventually lead to another war. How far sighted he truly was at that time! For this courageous realism, he was rewarded by losing his pulpit.

Not long after, he was called to Pembroke Chapel in Liverpool - another famous pulpit. It was a time of considerable unemployment in Great Britain as in many other countries. Mr. Laughland became the Secretary of an organization to help the unemployed and worked tirelessly for unemployment insurance or what has since come to be called “the dole” in British Labor Circles. The late Prime Minister, J. Ramsay MacDonald once said of Mr. Laughland that he had done more than any other individual in the country to get “the dole."

Because Vint Laughland was incapable of double talk and certainly incorruptible when it comes to calling things by their real names, he not frequently said or did the right thing at the wrong time, that is to say before many people were able to see that it was indeed the right thing to say or do….

James Vint ran for British parliament on the Labor Party ticket in 1924 without success. He nevertheless helped thousands to find jobs. He planned protests and spoke at rallies. Once he was arrested and beaten by the police for leading some workers in protest. The family eventually found themselves in upstate New York, where he became a Unitarian, more of an activist than a preacher, working for the unemployed and disadvantaged. He was a newspaper editor and a lecturer for many years, all the while writing extensively to his various “comrades” throughout the world. He was later described by a fellow socialist in the following manner:
Vint Laughland had a fierce hatred, not for any one of his fellowmen, but for some of the things they stood for…. He hated a coward as he did the liar and hypocrite, for he knew that in the minds of such there could be no room for honest thoughts and deeds….He believed that there is only ONE aristocracy, and that is of the mind and character.
(Sounds a bit like Cyrano de Bergerac....)It is interesting to me how what was considered in those times a radical element had more of a sense of honor and decency than many fine, upstanding Christians do today. James Vint was not, in the words of a minister friend “embittered by his experience but rather transfigured by it.” He died in Rochester, New York on November 7, 1957, eloquent, brilliant, poor and greatly beloved.

Saturday, December 9, 2006


I was just picking some rosemary to go on a pork roast. In some climates, rosemary survives the winter, but in Pennsylvania it has to be brought inside. Rosemary is a wonderful herb with curative effects and it is great for making wreaths. Marie-Antoinette loved herbs and probably had rosemary in her gardens at Trianon. Share

Wine as Dessert

Some delightful recommendations from Cottage Living Magazine of wines that work well with dessert or as a dessert in themselves. There is nothing like wine with a selection of cheeses after dinner, as is the custom in France and other countries. Cheese helps the digestion, they say. Share

The Sacrifices of Motherhood

More New Moms Stay Home Even If It Causes Financial Pain
By Sue Shellenbarger
December 1, 2006

It wasn't easy for Heather Brandon to stay home during her babies' first year of life. It meant a two- thirds drop in her family's income to below $30,000 at one point, wearing thrift-store clothes and eating "a lot of rice and beans," says the Springfield, Mass., writer and photographer. But she and her husband, parents of three small children, did it anyway, because they felt so strongly about overseeing their infants' early development.

The first national demographic analysis of the trend toward new mothers dropping out of the work force sheds new light on women's motives for staying at home. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the seven-year trend has been broader than previously believed, with women at all income levels taking job breaks, not just the highly educated, prosperous moms examined in many recent studies. And they are staying out of the work force for shorter periods than in the past. This suggests parents are particularly intent on shepherding babies' crucial first year of growth -- a trend no doubt accelerated by research on infant development.

The analysis, prepared for release within the next few weeks, suggests new mothers' hiatus from the work force tends to be one to three years, compared with longer breaks in the past. Nevertheless, the decisions are still sparking radical changes in family life, reordering couples' work-home roles and bringing some households to a financial standstill, ending discretionary purchases, investments and college savings, parents say.

For Rachel Gunderson, Overland Park, Kan., and her husband, who are both teachers, knowledge about how babies' brains grow was a major factor in Ms. Gunderson's decision to stop working after their twins, now 2½, and their third child, now 15 months old, were born. At home, Ms. Gunderson says, "I try to make sure everything we do together involves some kind of learning."

Living on one teacher's salary, the Gundersons regard themselves as "middle income" only "on a good day," Ms. Gunderson says. They have sold their Jeep and avoid eating out or playing golf. As soon as her youngest child passed 1 year of age, Ms. Gunderson started looking for a part-time job and will begin teaching Spanish in January.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics study compared labor- force participation among mothers of infants by husbands' income level and mothers' education and ethnicity. The biggest percentage-point declines in work-force participation, as expected, did come among mothers with a bachelor's degree or more, followed by women with husbands in the top 20% of earners, economists Emy Sok and Sharon Cohany found.

But all other demographic categories showed declines too, including women with husbands whose earnings fell into the middle range, the 40th to 80th percentiles. The dropping-out trend is most pronounced among mothers of children under age 1. Work-force participation rates of all married mothers of infants fell about eight percentage points to 51% in 2004 compared with 1997, the analysis shows. The decline for mothers of 3- to 5-year-old children was less than half as large, down 3.4 percentage points to 63.6%. And for mothers of older children up to age 17, the decline was just 1.6 percentage points.

Whether the balance will continue to shift toward new mothers staying home remains to be seen. Historically, women's movement in and out of the work force over the course of their careers has ebbed and flowed. Data from 2005 show a slight rebound in new mothers' employment rate, but it is too early to call it a trend.

Certainly the importance of women's paychecks to their families has continued to rise, making it more challenging to manage the income loss when Mom stays at home. Bureau data show wives' average contribution to U.S. family income rose to 34.8% in 2004 from 32.7% in 1997 -- the year work-force participation by new mothers first turned south.

Caroline Patterson's decision to quit work as an attorney after her first child was born led her husband to leave his sales job to start his own business, in hopes of boosting their long-term income. Ms. Patterson, of Collegeville, Pa., at first "wanted to take that initial time" with her baby and then return to work. She tried to work part time but had trouble managing child care. Soon, she became so busy managing the household and supporting her husband's start-up that five years later, she is still at home, now with two children, ages 5 and 3.

Kelly Guagenty, a Framingham, Mass., attorney, is planning to stay home until next year, after her baby daughter, now 10 weeks old, turns 1. She feels babies need parent care until "a year at the earliest," she says. But the loss of her income has brought the family's college savings plan to a standstill. And she feels the strain of being unable to use her law degree. "I went to school for a long time," she says. "I feel like I put a lot of work into something and dropped the ball."

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Friday, December 8, 2006

The Immaculate Conception

Everything you need to know about this magnificent feast is at Fish Eaters, including this epitaph from the statue of Mary Immaculate in Vienna, with which the Habsburg Emperor dedicated his realm to the protection of the Empress of Heaven.

To God, infinite in goodness and power, King of heaven and earth, by whom kings reign; to the Virgin Mother of God, conceived without sin, by whom princes command, whom Austria, devoutly loving, holds as her Queen and Patron; Ferdinand III, Emperor, confides, gives, consecrates himself, children, people, armies, provinces, and all that is his,and erects in accomplishment of a vow this statue, as a perpetual memorial. Share

Apocalypto: Paganism revealed

Here is a fascinating review of Mel Gibson's new film from the Lew Rockwell site. It sounds too violent for my taste, but it may offer some insights into our own culture. (Reading the reviews is enough for me, however....) The human sacrifice that was part of many pagan civilizations is shown in its full brutality. Without the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the Cross there is no option but self-destruction.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Princesse de Lamballe

Among the thousands murdered during the French Revolution, one of the most notorious cases was that of the death of the Princesse de Lamballe, friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette. The fury of the new order of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity vented itself upon her frail form in a manner of extreme violence. This was as strange as it was hideous, because other than being a confidante of the queen's, Madame de Lamballe could be counted among the more liberal, "enlightened" aristocrats, devoted to works of charity and civil improvements.

Contrary to the standard depiction of Lamballe as a lovely but simpering idiot, the princess was intelligent as well as cultured. She was the Grande Maitresse of all the French masonic ladies' lodges, for she saw freemasonry as a tool for creating a better world, as did many of her contemporaries. Her liberal politics were one of the reasons, according to scholar Bernard Fay, that King Louis XVI encouraged his wife towards the Polignacs, and away from Lamballe and her Orleanist salon. Madame de Lamballe discovered before the end that utopian politics that seek to create an earthly paradise inevitably lead to social chaos.

Marie-Therese-Louise de Savoie-Carignan was born in Turin on September 8, 1749. In 1767 she was married to the Prince de Lamballe, son of the Duc de Penthievre, relatives of the French royal family. Her husband died soon afterwards, and the young Marie-Antoinette pitied her and took her sleigh-riding. According to Madame Campan, the queen's chambermaid:
It was at the time of the sleighing-parties that the Queen became intimately acquainted with the Princesse de Lamballe, who made her appearance in them wrapped in fur, with all the brilliancy and freshness of the age of twenty,–the emblem of spring, peeping from under sable and ermine. Her situation, moreover, rendered her peculiarly interesting; married, when she was scarcely past childhood, to a young prince, who ruined himself by the contagious example of the Duc d’Orleans, she had had nothing to do from the time of her arrival in France but to weep. A widow at eighteen, and childless, she lived with the Duc de Penthievre as an adopted daughter. She had the tenderest respect and attachment for that venerable Prince; but the Queen, though doing justice to his virtues, saw that the Duc de Penthievre’s way of life, whether at Paris or at his country-seat, could neither afford his young daughter-in-law the amusements suited to her time of life, nor ensure her in the future an establishment such as she was deprived of by her widowhood.
Marie-Antoinette made Madame de Lamballe, known for her virtue and kindness, the Superintendent of her household, which was controversial at the time since there were other courtiers who felt the position was due to them. The two women became good friends. The queen was always trying to recapture the home she had left in Austria, where she had been inseparable from her older sister Maria Carolina, who had mothered her a great deal. Madame de Lamballe and Madame de Polignac were both roughly the same age as Carolina. However, Lamballe was a bit too intellectual for Antoinette and highly neurotic, and so the queen, with Louis' approval, eventually became closer to the Polignacs. She always remained friends with Lamballe, however.

When the Revolution erupted in 1789, Madame de Lamballe returned to France from the safety of England in order to share the troubles of the royal family. She became closer than ever to the king's devout sister, Madame Elisabeth of France, and was horrified at how the masonic principles she had thought to be so constructive had led to such a violent revolution. When the royal family was arrested and sent to the Temple prison in August 1792, Lamballe was separated from them and sent to the prison of La Force. When the September Massacres broke out, in which thousands were killed and the streets ran with blood, Madame de Lamballe was asked to renounce her loyalty to the king and the queen. She refused, and was delivered over to the mob. She was bludgeoned and stabbed to death, and by some accounts raped and mutilated. She was definitely decapitated, and the valet of Louis XVI, Hanet Clery, gave an account of how the mob brought her head on a pike to the Temple prison for the queen to kiss.
We were hardly seated before a head at the end of a pike was presented at the window. Tison's wife screamed loudly; the murderers thought it was the queen's voice, and we heard the frantic laughs of those barbarians. Thinking that Her Majesty was still at table, they had raised the victim's head so that it could not escape her sight; it was that of the Princesse de Lamballe. Though bloody, it was not disfigured; her blond hair, still curling, floated around the pike.
Such excesses became typical of the French Revolution, stirred up by propaganda which played upon the fears of many. The Princesse de Lamballe was a bit misguided but ultimately heroic and loyal, and the grisly death to which she was subjected exemplified not only the misogyny of the new order but a hatred of all that was beautiful and good.

Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Feminine Genius has more on the Nativity film and doctrine of the virgin birth, with commentary by Father Angelo Mary of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. He explains it better than I ever could. As Teresa of Avila often said, there is nothing like the guidance of a learned priest.

Here is an excerpt from the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, I firmly believe in thy Immaculate Conception. I bless God for having granted thee this glorious privilege. I thank Him a thousand times for having
taught it to me by the infallible voice of the Church. Receive my heart, O Immaculate Virgin; I give it to thee without reserve; purify it; guard it; never give it back to me,
preserve it in thy love and in the love of Jesus during time and eternity. AMEN.

V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.

Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, did prepare a worthy habitation for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as in view of the death of that Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain of sin, so Thou wouldst enable us, being made pure by her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Feast of Saint Nicholas the Wonder-worker

Saint Nicholas of Myra, the "Wonder-worker," was in some ways the Padre Pio of the fourth century. If people of some distant century were to read of the extraordinary miracles of Saint Pio, they would surely think them to be legendary, except that so many of his healings are documented. Saint Nicholas did not have the advantage of modern medical science to affirm the healings worked by God through him, but he has the devotion of the Church of the East and the West, and has long been venerated as patron of children, mariners, and brides. Share

The Massacre of the Swiss Guards

August 10, 1792 saw the fall of the French monarchy. The Brunswick Manifesto, published earlier that month, issued a warning to the citizens of Paris that if the royal family were injured, the city would be invaded. The Manifesto only added to the unrest of the city, already agitated by Jacobin propaganda and the war against Austria. Hearing that the Tuileries palace was about to be attacked, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their family escaped across the gardens to the National Assembly, where they took refuge in the stenographer's box. Louis sent an order for the Swiss Guards to lay down their arms and retreat in order to save their lives. As British historian Nesta Webster says in her book Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution: "Could [Louis XVI] imagine...that the mob, not content with venting their fury on the Chateau, would massacre not only the Swiss Guard, men of the people who had remained at their posts, but even the luckless servants in the kitchens of the Palace? The horrors committed on this 10th of August were such as no human mind could possibly have conceived." 900 Swiss guards were brutally killed, many tortured, some roasted, mutilated, decapitated, with their limbs distributed throughout Paris. Children played ball in the streets with the heads of the brave Swiss, and the steps of the Tuileries ran with blood, like some gruesome altar of human sacrifice. People dipped bread into the blood of the victims. The massacre was only the beginning of the mass murder which already characterized the French Revolution; in September 1792, 2000 more people would be horribly killed, including priests, religious, small children, and the Queen's friend Princess de Lamballe. The statue of the Lion of Lucerne commemorates the fallen Swiss. Share

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

History of the Breviary

Here is a link to an interesting article about the history of the breviary from The New Liturgical Movement. The Liturgy of the Hours is part of the official prayer of the Church. The various hours are like rays of light shining from the Holy Mass, the central act of Worship. Liturgical prayer should take priority over private devotions since when saying the Divine Office one is united to the entire universal church, even when praying alone. Of course, the Hours should be prayed with devotion, leading to inspirations which can promote meditation and contemplation.

The hours are Matins (Office of Readings), Lauds (Morning prayer), Terce (Mid-morning prayer), Sext (Mid-day prayer), None (Mid-afternoon prayer), Vespers (Evening prayer), and Compline (Night prayer.) Most tertiaries (lay members of a religious order) are required only to say Lauds and Vespers. Many lay people, including royals, have prayed the hours throughout history, such as Saint Louis IX, Louis XVI, and Madame Elisabeth of France. The rosary has been seen as a psalter for the illiterate, but there have been many literate persons in history who have prayed the rosary as well as the Divine Office. Similarly, there have been people who could not read, such as Saint Joan of Arc, who loved to assist at the Hours whenever possible. Saint Joan loved Compline, and asked for the chapel bells to be rung throughout the chanting of the office, for then she heard the voices of her saints. Share

Sunday, December 3, 2006

An Unknown Heroine

Some readers have asked for more information about my grandmother Magdalena and her family in the Philippines. In the darkness of this world there are souls of courage who, by their moments of valor, inspire for years to come. One such hidden soul was Magdalena's oldest daughter, my Aunt Floy, who died about a year ago on November 24, 2005. To most people she was a tough, chain-smoking old lady in a Florida trailer park. I grew up aware that she could be counted among the brave.

Floy was born on August 10, 1928 in a mountain silver mining camp where her father was the accountant, in the Philippine Islands. "Floy" was an Alabama name and she was called after her father's little sister who had died at age twelve. She was baptized in the Anglican church. At the age of four she lost her sister Jeanette Fe, age 3, an event from which I do not think either of my grandparents ever fully recovered. The family
eventually settled in Manila after two more children, David and Alice, were born. The above photo is of Floy at age twelve when she was chosen "queen" of the carnival at her school during Mardi Gras.

At the beginning of the Japanese occupation in 1942 my grandfather was arrested as an American citizen and imprisoned in the Santo Tomas concentration camp in Manila. He worked at hard labor, suffered beatings and almost died. The camp was liberated the day before he was scheduled to be executed. In the meantime, Floy helped her mother take care of the family. They worked for the resistance by hiding a Filipino guerilla soldier in their house. My Uncle David, who was a little boy at the time, describes it as follows:

I remember the Filipino guerilla my mother hid. I walked in on him once when he was cleaning his gun and he told me not to tell anyone. Mother also told me if I ever saw him on the street, to ignore him. I did see him once when on a errand, he looked at me and held his forefinger up to his lips....

Once the Japanese searched the house while the soldier was hiding in the attic. Floy and David both thought it was the end. They did not know that my grandmother had made a deal with the elderly lady next door. The gardens of the houses were connected and the guerilla slipped over the wall into the neighbor's garden, saving all their lives.

Before the liberation forces landed, the Japanese planted land mines in the streets. Floy, age sixteen, happened to be at the window and memorized each place where they planted a mine outside of the house. That night Magdalena, Floy, David (age nine), and Alice (age five), escaped with a few possessions in pillow cases. It was raining so they had to crawl in the mud around the mines. My grandmother prayed for guidance and heard a voice tell her where to go. They hid in the cellar of a burnt-out house. She found out later that she had almost gone to a neighborhood where there had been a massacre. The Japanese had begun to slaughter all civilians, committing every atrocity. My grandmother, Floy and the children endured days of terror and near starvation which afterwards my aunt said they survived by being completely obedient to their mother. Some neighbors had a small boy whom, while hiding from the Japanese, they could not keep quiet. The soldiers found them and bayoneted the entire family.

When Magdalena and the children ran out of food, Floy several times dodged bullets and Japanese troops to return to their house for supplies. Her clothes were so filthy from crawling in the mud that she changed into clothes from the laundry hamper. She would sneak to the house after curfew, cook food, and bring it back to the hiding place. Once on her way back she ran headlong into a soldier. Her heart almost stopped from dread until she saw his blue eyes; he was an American. He helped her to get safely back to her famly. They were finally reunited with my grandfather after the fighting stopped but their house had been destroyed as was most of Manila. They took a ship back to the USA; it almost capsized during a storm in the Pacific.

The rest of Floy's life was very difficult. My grandparents divorced; Floy quit school and went to work at seventeen. She had two marriages ending in divorce and was not able to have children. While she was with her second husband, she was asked to babysit a beautiful three year old girl named Debbie. The father of the little girl never came back for her so Floy, after trying to locate Debbie's family without success, raised the child as her own. In her sixties she moved to Florida to be near her adopted daughter, who was with her in her last days.

Before moving to Florida, Floy lived with us for a few years in Maryland. She read voraciously while chain smoking and watching TV. For someone who did not graduate from highschool, she was one of the most well-read and well-informed individuals I have ever encountered. It was fascinating to watch the evening news with her, in order get her take on events. She did not go to church and efforts to convert her only resulted in horror stories of misbehaving Catholics and priests she had known in the Philippines. "I am not the praying type," Floy always said. However, after losing a slip of paper on which I had scribbled a prayer, I saw it in Floy's room, among her crossword puzzles and novels. Here is the prayer, from an old Irish poem:

O Holy Mary, take thy suppliant under the shelter of thy shield. When walking on the slippery path, be my firm support and handstaff. There is no hound in swiftness nor in chase, swift wind or rapid river, as quick as the Mother of Christ to the bed of death, to those who invoke her help and protection.

Rest in peace, dear Aunt Floy. Share

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Martyrs of the Vendee

Here is a link a reader sent me to a site dedicated to those who died in the Vendee during the French Revolution.

Pope John Paul II spoke to the youth on September 19, 1996, during his pilgrimage to France, concerning the Martyrs of the Vendee:
Dear Friends from Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre and the Diocese of Lucon, Dear Young People,

1. Thank you for coming to welcome me on my way in pilgrimage to the tomb of St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. I am happy to greet you who were born in this land of the Vendee, you who cherish the precious memory of the pages of your history, both tragic and beautiful.
You are the heirs of men and women who were courageous enough to remain faithful to the Church of Jesus Christ at a time when its freedom and independence were threatened. They were not detached from the movements of the time and they sincerely desired the necessary renewal of society, but they could not accept the imposition of a break with the universal Church and, in particular, with the Successor of Peter. And so the parish priest of Maille Joseph Herbert, inspired by the words of Christ, said nobly: "As a citizen of the State I have always given to Caesar what belonged to Caesar; but I will not refuse God what belongs to God".

In the terrible struggles, many deeds on both sides were stained by sin. But it was in holy union with Christ that numerous martyrs offered their life here, uniting with the Son of God in the sacrifice of the Cross. To the very end they followed their true Master, the One who came to reveal the truth which sets us free and the depth of God's love for all men.

In the numerous acts of witness which have come down to us, it is moving to see that the people of the Vendee remained attached to their parishes and their priests despite the cruelty of the persecution. They had a real hunger for the Eucharist, at the risk of their lives, they desired to take part in Mass and to receive the Bread of Life. They wanted to receive the sacrament of forgiveness aware that we are always in need of divine mercy.

Some of them, religious or lay, showed a touching Christian spirit when they tended the wounded regardless of which side they were on, or, when inspired by their leaders such as d'Elbee who convinced them to take seriously the words of forgiveness in the Our Father, they decided to spare their enemies.

Dear friends, in recalling just a few events of your history, I would like to invite you to remember the best ones. Continue to follow Christ, like him, love all humanity, starting with the most underprivileged. Remain faithful to the Church, to the Eucharist and to the sacrament of forgiveness. Let yourselves be imbued with the love which comes from God! Far from cultivating a fruitless nostalgia, you will then be worthy of your ancestors and continue to live generously as living stones of the Church to which they remained attached to the point of shedding their blood for her.

2. And now I address the young people gathered here, students of the Catholic and State schools. My friends, what I have just said concerns you just as much as your elders. I know that you sometimes have real difficulty in affirming your faith and your membership in the Church.

So, I say to you: be brave! Do not let yourselves be overcome by the indifference so widespread around you! Do not let yourselves be impressed by those who reject the demands of our Christian faith or who scorn it.

It is now up to you to make your way! Your formation is a real training. Remember St Paul: he spoke of the athletes who trained for the race, at the cost of severe discipline, for a perishable prize, but the Christian knows where his efforts are leading him: to make his life succeed as a disciple of Jesus (cf. I Cor 9:24-27).

If you enroll in the school of Christ, you will develop whatever is best in you; you will learn how to give as wel1 as to receive.

You are not alone; you are part of a large community. In the Church the Pope, the Bishops united to him, the priests, the religious and the lay teachers in conjunction with your families are there to hasten to you, guide you and point you in the right direction. They have no other ambition than to pass on to you the Good News of Christ. Do not hesitate to call on them to help you grow in the faith!

Like the disciples beside the river Jordan, you ask the Lord: "Master, where do you live?" He replies: "Come and see" (Jn 1:38-39). You know that these words are the theme for World Youth Day, next year in Paris. It will be an opportunity for many of you to share your Christian experience with young people from other countries in the world. Be ready to give them a friendly welcome.

Dear friends, trust in Christ, hunger with him in prayer, be active members in the community of his disciples. Take your place in the Church without delay. With your brothers and sisters of all generations, work so that "steadfast, love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other," as one of the psalms says (Ps 85 [84].11).

I pray that the martyrs of times past will guide you on your way, so that they will keep you free from all influence and power, and communicate to you their joy in believing and their courage in serving, after the example of Christ.

3. For you, my young friends, and for you all dear faithful of the Vendee, I fervently invoke the intercession of St Louis-Marie, missionary, and that of all the blessed martyrs of your land. May Our Lady protect you!

With all my heart I grant you my Apostolic Blessing.
--Pope John Paul II

The Advent Wreath and the Birth of the Savior

Tell us if you are he who is to reign over the people of Israel?
--from The Roman Breviary, Matins responsory, First Sunday of Advent

Here is a link from Fish Eaters about making an Advent wreath, with accompanying meditations.

I read that in the new film about the Nativity of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother is shown having labor pains, in contradiction to the writings of many of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who maintain that Mary gave birth without pain and without loss to her perpetual virginity. The preceding link gives the theological reasoning for this de fide teaching, as well as the quotations below:

"Who loves you is amazed and who would understand is silent and confused, because he cannot probe the Mother who gave birth in her virginity. If it is too great to be clarified with words the disputants ought not on that account cross swords with your Son (St Ephraim, Songs of Praise, 1, 2; )

"Believe in the Son of God, the Word before all the ages, who these last days, for your sake, made son of Man, born of the Virgin Mary in an indescribable and stainless way, -for there is no stain where God is and whence salvation comes...." (St. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration on Holy Baptism, 40:45; 381 AD)

"According to the condition of the body (Jesus) was in the womb, He nursed at His mother's breast, He lay in the manger, but superior to that condition, the Virgin conceived and the Virgin bore, so that you might believe that He was God who restored nature, though He was man who, in accord with nature, was born of a human being." (St. Ambrose of Milan, Mystery of the Lord's Incarnation, 6:54; 382 AD)

"Who is this gate (Ezekiel 44:1-4), if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when He was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity." (St. Ambrose of Milan, The Consecration of a Virgin and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, 8:52; c. 391 AD) Share

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Madame de Polignac and the Politics of Calumny

Once a week on this blog there will be a cameo of certain friends and relatives of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, those who might have indeed "taken tea" at Petit Trianon. The queen's closest confidante was Madame de Polignac. Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchesse de Polignac, also referred to as "Yolande," is usually portrayed in books and films as Marie-Antoinette's "bad girl" friend, responsible for leading the young queen of France into a wild, decadent lifestyle. Often depicted as a greedy, spendthrift slut, Gabrielle preferred simplicity, was a devoted mother and loyal friend of both the Louis and Antoinette. Part of the rehabilitation of Marie-Antoinette's reputation is a careful look at her relationship with Gabrielle.

Gabrielle, born in September 1749, came from an old family of Languedoc. After her mother's death when she was three, Gabrielle was given to the care of an aunt, Madame d'Andlau. While still a small child Gabrielle was placed in a convent school, where she grew up. Now many girls of high and low estate were educated by nuns in those days, including Louis XV's mistress Madame du Barry. In Gabrielle's case, perhaps because she was separated from her family at such an early age, there seems to have some influence of the religious life in her personal habits. She wore simple, tasteful clothes, never wore perfume or flashy gems, such as diamonds. Cheerful and discreet, a lover of music and the outdoors, Gabrielle grew into a refined lady of enchanting grace and beauty.

At the age of eighteen Gabrielle, was given in marriage to Comte Jules be Polignac of an ancient family of Auvergne. Since the twenty-two year old bridegroom was a captain in the Royal Pologne regiment, they moved to Paris. According to Edmond Giscard d'Estaing in the June 1977 Historia magazine (translated by a Belgian friend):

This young couple had a fortune, but they also had the charges of the poor members of their family, so that they could not afford Versailles.... So they remained with Polignac's father or Madame d'Andlau, in the Louvre or at Claye. This young woman enjoyed living in the country, and would have stayed there for her entire life without Diane de Polignac's intervention. Diane, her sister in law, was not very pretty, but she was clever, ambitious, and gifted for intrigues.

In 1774, in the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI, Gabrielle met Marie-Antoinette, and as Diane had hoped, Gabrielle's charming, easy-going manner captivated the eighteen year old queen, who was struggling with the iron restraints of the court etiquette. Antoinette had been sent to France as Louis' bride in order to further Austrian interests. Louis XVI, however, did not want his wife to meddle in politics, knowing that as a foreigner it could lead to her unpopularity. He feared to replicate the pattern of his grandfather Louis XV's reign, in which at times it seemed like Madame de Pompadour was ruling France. He also wanted to keep her from manipulation by the various factions at court, especially the liberal Orleanist clique. Authors such as Philippe Delorme, Girault de Coursac, and Bernard Fay maintain that Louis XVI encouraged his wife to befriend Gabrielle, and so created for her a circle of politically "safe" friends.

Marie-Antoinette also needed a calm, motherly companion, older than herself, to advise her about her difficulties in her marriage, her fears about pregnancy and childbirth. Gabrielle was such a friend, soothing the queen in her moments of hysteria and depression. Louis XVI held her in high regard, and gave a high office to her husband so that the Polignacs could afford to live at court. Madame de Polignac was the only person Louis XVI ever visited in a private home; he sat with her at the opera, and wrote to her when she left Versailles. As the royal family grew, the king and queen entrusted Gabrielle with their children, being that she had showed herself to be an exemplary mother of her own three. Gabrielle influenced the queen to adopt simpler styles. At Gabrielle's home and with her family, Marie-Antoinette said, "Here I truly feel at home."

According to Giscard d'Estaing, the "salon Polignac" soon provoked envy and calumny among the courtiers who were excluded from the queen's circle.

Among men in this circle, the first place was for "divine Vaudreuil," the most faithful of knights and adorers of Yolande de Polignac. This 40 years old Creole, with his face marked by smallpox, was noticeable for his entire devotion, but also for his sparkling wit, and his constantly imagining new parties, new spectacles... .Another lively person was Besenval, this greyheared Swiss, somewhat heavy, however so flexible and smart, and loyal. Fersen, this young romantic Swede, so elegant with his languid eyes, was among the most frequent too. "Handsome Fersen" and "divine Vaudreuil" played, the one towards the queen, the other one towards the duchess Jules, the same roles, that calumny arose, without convincing anyone other than those who wanted to be convinced.

But sumptuous Versailles was not built for this light existence.... this isolated little circle provoked rumors, that would soon get venomous. If the whole court was invited to the great balls organized at Versailles, only a few intimates were allowed in Madame de Polignac's salon, and this even more when the queen stayed at Trianon. Soon arose terrible criticisms and awful calumnies....The necklace affair is the most characteristic way calumny was used... The whole city of Paris was passionate about this affair, pamphlets went from hand to hand and, while the queen was so obviously totally innocent, public opinion considered her guilty, so that, even today, the queen seems to have been part to this scandal.

Marie-Antoinette was terribly upset. Madame Campan told what happened when she heard that the Cardinal had been released. "The queen cried and sobbed. 'Ah ! I feel like dying ! Ah ! Those wicked people ! What have I done to them ? If you love me, you'd better kill me !' Then, she asked for 'her friend, her dear Polignac,' who would console her. Within 10 minutes, Madame Campan wrote, she was beside the queen. She immediately entered the room. The queen stretched her arms towards her, and she ran to her. I still heard sobbing, and I went out.

The Polignacs were accused of greediness, but they were probably not anymore greedy than any other family. As Giscard d'Estaing writes:

The gifts [Madame de Polignac] received were insignificant besides those which courtiers, lords and, a fortiori, members of the royal family, were massively given. Sums Louis XIV and Louis XV spent for favorites or for palaces that were liberally distributed are considerable, and we are astonished to see how legend focuses on Yolande de Polignac only, and reproaches her, the most innocent of all, forgetting about all the other people.

The calumnies grew uglier as the propaganda machine, aimed at provoking the revolution, produced porngraphic pamphlets depicting Antoinette and Gabrielle as lesbian lovers, engaged in orgies at Trianon. Gabrielle became universally detested and was blamed for depleting the royal treasury, although it was war that had caused the bankruptcy. She "often asked to retire from the court. 'I am not made for living at Versailles,' she kept repeating."

The king wished to reform the feudal tax system and get rid of the deficit by taxing the nobility, and so he called the Estates-General in May 1789. The opening of the Estates General coincided with the death of the king and queen's seven year old son, the Dauphin Louis-Joseph. The royal couple were devastated and with difficulty met the escalating crisis. When violence erupted on July 14, 1789, Antoinette begged her friend to leave, fearing that she would be assassinated. Gabrielle begged not to abandon Louis and Antoinette in their hour of need, but the queen said, "Remember that you are a mother." On July 16, the Polignac family left Versailles for a life of exile.

Gabrielle's health deteriorated. She had cancer as well as being consumed with horror and anxiety as she heard of the imprisonment and tragedies that befell Louis and Antoinette.

One of her friends wrote: "She did not stop crying. For six months, a deep sadness, great sufferings without certain causes weakened her each day more." A last blow hit her when they were forced to announce to her this horrible news: on October, 16th, 1793, Marie-Antoinette had been beheaded in Paris. This was the true beginning of Madame de Polignac's agony. She could not survive the queen, and she herself died on December, 9th, 1793, one month and a half, precisely, after her friend.

A witness told of her death: "Her last sigh was but her last breath, and to tell this in one word, her death was as sweet as she herself had been. She was buried in Vienna and they wrote on her tomb her name only, followed by this mention: 'Dead from suffering' on December 9th, 1793."

I am more and more convinced that Gabrielle has been just as maligned as the queen. What went on with her relations and friends was a common occurence in a every court of Europe - when you rose, your family rose with you, it was almost expected. If there had been no revolution, no one would have given a second thought to the Polignacs, except perhaps to find them annoying, as many did. But with the complete upheaval of society in the Revolution, contemporaries and historians alike were/are grasping for straws to see what the queen did that made her so hated by the French people. They think it must have been the problems with La Barry, or the queen's dress allowance, or her Trianon, or Gabrielle's grasping relatives, etc.

However, Marie-Antoinette was hated because she was deliberately maligned by a careful campaign on the part of political enemies, which included dissimulating false and exaggerated rumors to the people, as well as every form of the most vile pornography. Gabrielle was routinely included in the pornograhic depictions. People were scandalized and believed that some of it must be true. Gabrielle must have done something wrong. To this day Gabrielle is seen as the naughty, greedy friend, when in reality she probably saved Antoinette's sanity. The powerful tools used to destroy the French monarchy and transform society into a totalitarian state are with us still, but on a much larger and more pervasive scale. Share

Saint Andrew's day, "O Bona Crux!"

Today is the feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, patron of Scotland. I was able to find the tartan sash of the ancient clan of MacLachlan and wear it to Mass. My kinsmen wore the same tartan at Culloden in 1746 while fighting beside Bonnie Prince Charlie. Happy feast day to my sister Andrea and my several cousins with the name of Andrew.

Here is Robert Burns' poem Scots Wha' Hae,' one of my favorite poems as a child.

Scots wha' hae'
Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victorie!

Now's the day, and now's the hour:
See the front o' battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power
Chains and slaverie!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn, and fleel

Wha for Scotland's King and Law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
Let him follow me!

By Oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free!

I always loved the stanza of Wha will be a traitor knave?...Wha so base as be a slave? It still gives me a chill.

On a darker note, Scottish native Tony Blair's wife Cherie is about to be appointed to the Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences. Mrs Blair is a Catholic but she diverges from Church teaching on many points and one wonders if her appointment is some diplomatic gesture. British Catholic author and journalist Joanna Bogle writes of this on her blog; she and many of our Catholic brethren in the U.K. are not pleased and I understand why. Prayer is definitely in order.

Today begins the prayer which if prayed 15 times a day from the feast of St Andrew, Nov 30, until Christmas eve is supposed to be instrumental in bringing many graces:

Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment when Jesus Christ was born of the pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Behlehem in piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe O my God to hear my prayer and grant my petition through the intercession of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary His Mother. Amen.

From the old Martyrology for November 30, Feast of St Andrew the Apostle:

Andrew, having been brought to the place of execution, seeing the cross at some distance, began to cry out: O good cross, made beautiful by the body of my Lord! so long desired, so anxiously loved, so unceasingly sought after, and now at last ready for my soul to enjoy! take me from amidst men, and restore me to my Master; that by thee He may receive me, Who by thee redeemed me. He was therefore fastened to the cross, on which he hung alive two days, preaching without cessation the faith of Christ....

Thus passed into eternal glory on this day the poor fisherman from Galilee, Patron saint of Scotland, of Greece, and of Holy Russia.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Hope of November 2006 by Lew Rockwell

Here is an interesting overview of the state of politics in America by Lew Rockwell. He says that a solid education is vital for a free people. I have the growing impression that people are not taught to reason anymore, but lap up whatever is fed to them by the media.

I am grateful that as a child my parents encouraged lively discussions around the dinner table. The television was in the basement, and so it did not monopolize the family dynamic. We had plenty of books and read aloud to each other, which enriched our conversations. We studied Scripture as a family. We spent a lot of time outdoors, too, roaming the woods, playing with our pets, interacting with friends. I think so many factors contributed to us being strong individuals with independent thought. Now that I am a parent myself I appreciate all the more what my father and mother did for us. Oh, we, my siblings and I, are far from perfect, but at least (I hope) we are not automatons to be manipulated by the media, or by the state. Share

The Armenian Genocide

While surfing through Catholic blogosphere for details about the Holy Father's visit to Turkey, I came to what is perhaps the snarkiest, purportedly "Catholic" blog, rich in ostentatious piety but poor as far as civility and charity go. In spite of such drawbacks, I saw the mention of "Christians persecuted in Turkey," and it reminded me of the Armenian holocaust of the early twentieth century, in which two million died. The genocide perpetrated by the Moslem Turks upon the mostly Catholic Armenians during the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire is largely forgotten. It was, however, the first mass murder of the twentieth century, a century which was to see plenty of mass killing. Armenia adapted Christianity in 301 AD, becoming the first nation to do so. The Armenians have a long tradition of suffering and martyrdom. Theirs is part of the woundedness of the land where the Vicar of Christ has gone as a true Shepherd. Share

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Review of Leslie Cottle's "Let Them Eat"

Let Them Eat (2006) starring Leslie Cottle and Mark Camacho is an independent film depicting the final hours of Marie-Antoinette. I would like to post a review by Tony Medley in the Tolucan Times, as well as links to another article here. The article and the review mention something about the Voice of God being a female, but when I watched the DVD it seemed to me to be the queen struggling with her own conscience. When my mom saw it, she understood the voice as being that of Marie-Antoinette's mother, or even that of Our Lady. I think it is open to interpretation. Anyway, it was refreshing to see someone in a film having a dark night of self-examination and self-confrontation, in this world where every sin is shrugged off as a psychological malaise.

What struck me most about Let Them Eat was Leslie's ability to become the condemned queen. Leslie is a gifted character actress; she puts herself into her performance heart and soul. She has portrayed Maria Callas among her other roles. She is also a poet and singer, a writer and director. The film is the product of her combined craftsmanship.

Leslie is a friend of mine and we have had long conversations about religion and Catholicism. She knows that I am a practicing Catholic. There are many things that we disagree about, such as past lives. However, I do not have to be in total agreement with a person in order to appreciate their art, or be their friend.
At The Movies by Tony Medley, November 15, 2006
Leslie Cottle's 43-minute DVD is a counterpoint to Sofia Coppola's grotesquely superficial biopic of the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Unlike Coppola's beautifully filmed dirge, Cottle takes a more serious look at Marie's last days, segueing between Marie in her cell waiting execution and a modern day Bella, both played by Cottle, who feels she is Marie reincarnated and who is going through problems of her own. Voiced over most of the scenes is Cottle reading from her own poetry. Cottle's picture of Marie is clearly more accurate than the eye candy that Coppola presents, which was an embarrassment. At least Cottle captures Marie's fight with despair as she awaits her fate. Adding to the quality of the film is the score by Yacoub Moilim. Cottle not only plays Marie and Bella, but her voice also appears as God, who discourses with Marie throughout the film, explaining to her why she is meeting such a terrible fate. This connection with what was going on in France was sorely lacking in Coppola's frivolous picture of Marie. It was hard to believe that someone could spend the money Coppola spent on her film and not even touch on what was going on in France, why people hated Marie, and why she met her fate. In 43-minutes and a miniscule budget, Cottle brings a much clearer picture of why Marie found herself in such a terrible predicament. Another part of the DVD that sets it apart for me is that it shows the courage and relative calm with which Marie accepted her fate, something that is completely lacking in Coppola's treatment.
Read more reviews at

Leslie indeed captures the courage of the queen while in the pit of abandonment, as well as her tears and her forgiveness. It is a brief film and does not cover every detail, but the essence of the portrayal is heart-wrenching and true. Ultimately, it depicts the reality of death which we all must face.

Monday, November 27, 2006

John Laughland, my cousin

As my friends have come to discover, I have lots of cousins. If I were to mention some of them on this blog, they might not be too pleased. I do not think my second cousin once removed John Laughland will mind, however. John is a distinguished Bristish journalist who writes for The Spectator, The Guardian, Lew, The American Conservative, and many other political journals. He is also the author of several books, including Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic, The Death of Politics, and The Tainted Source. He seems to enjoy taking on controversial issues, but then a taste for controversy is a very distinct family trait. He was the last Western journalist to interview Slobodan Milosevic before his death, I am told.

Here is an book review written by John Laughland on Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt by Paul Gottfried, originally published in Insight on the News in April, 2003.

If nature abhors a vacuum, this is nowhere clearer than in the one created by modern secularism. Theological discourse having been banished from the public realm--or the churches, at any rate, having abandoned it, preferring instead to restrict their own pronouncements to tepid endorsements of the latest social and political fads--it is now only militant secularists who utter theological language.

In Britain, where child-murderer Myra Hindley died in prison recently, the tabloid press excoriated her claim to have converted to Catholicism by screaming that she was "a devil" who should "go to hell"--words which hardly ever now pass the lips of your average modern cleric. Similarly, those who attack the Catholic Church for allegedly harboring pedophiles demand from the church "a sincere act of repentance for its sins" at the very moment when the administration of the sacrament of confession has been effectively diluted out
of all existence.

If Paul Gottfried has established himself as a virulent critic of the cultural Bolshevism which has forced the progressive abandonment of such collective nostrums as national identity and Western values, he now takes that reasoning to the next logical step. In Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt (University of Missouri Press, 2002), he shows how the secularist project merely causes theological forms of behavior to erupt into the political realm, albeit in a particularly nasty and deformed way.

Gottfried speaks of the "managerial state"--he has appropriated James Burnham's phrase to lambaste the modern liberal state, which regards it as its vocation to administer the behavior and even thought processes of its own citizens. Gottfried says it has now transmuted into the "therapeutic state" in which state action is devoted to expiating the self-inflicted and unmerited guilt at the very fact of being a developed Western society.

While the United States generally is considered less "socialist" than Western European societies, Gottfried convincingly argues that the leftist project is ultimately just as strong in America, where the campaign to enforce political correctness is probably even more virulent than in Europe. But it is pretty bad over here, too. British television, for instance, recently produced a multiparty documentary about the hajj in which devout Muslims explained at length during prime time the religious significance of their journey to Mecca. It is inconceivable that the same time or prominence would be devoted to a series of programs with Christians explaining in all seriousness why walking to Santiago de Compostela obtains you a plenary indulgence, or why Our Lady of Lourdes has proven healing powers. Far from it: In Germany, as Gottfried shows, one bishop has joined the campaign to remove crucifixes from school classrooms in Bavaria.

Gottfried argues that the modern Western state now encourages the behavior patterns of a "deformed Protestant culture." The individual inheritance of Protestantism has, he says, ultimately caused the destruction of communal ties and of any sense of a common past. But, as he rightly points out, and as we see in the current crisis over Iraq, the politics of guilt does not lead to any genuine humility. On the contrary: "The repentant Protestant is allowed to go forth and bring enlightenment to others--the humbled, self-debasing sinner achieves ultimate purpose as a crusader on a never-ending global mission." George W. Bush, please note.

Literally nothing is then allowed to stand in the way of this crusade. Francis Fukuyama, as Gottfried reminds us, thinks it is wrong to agonize too much over the mass slaughter of the wars of the 20th century because, says Fukuyama, that was "the price paid" for democracy. Such universalism forms the backbone of the neoconservatives' commitment to nation-building, the export of democracy and wars to "protect peace." Even the supposedly conservative Bush administration legitimizes its attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan in the language of gender empowerment--as if bombs were the right price to pay to get Afghan women to throw off their burkas (which, in any case, few have done).

Although in some instances, the neoconservative message seems to be at odds with Gottfried's portrayal of the neoconservatives as part of the problem (David Brooks of the Weekly Standard, for instance, writes fervently of the need for a "return to national greatness"), Gottfried is right to say that important elements of the left around the world now regard the United States as their Utopia. The so-called collapse of communism was in reality the result of the abandonment by a crypto-Trotskyite new generation of communists of precisely the most conservative aspects of the late communist regime: its social prudishness
and its belief in national sovereignty.

Faced with their desire to create a nihilistic and rootless world regime of open borders and cultural cosmopolitanism, such new leftists naturally turned to America. But the Iraq crisis has produced an unexpectedly strong counter-reactionto such U.S.-imposed globalism, mainly driven by the old left. And it may therefore be that the high-water mark of U.S. crusading adventurism is also the beginning of its end.
—John Laughland, April, 2003


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Saint Cecilia's Punch

Those of you who have been to our parties have enjoyed the Saint Cecilia's Punch. My friend Virginia passed it on to me from her grandmother's recipe book. It is delightful, but please don't drink and drive! Share

A short reflection on martyrdom for Saint Cecilia's day

While in Rome, my mother bought me a small statue of Saint Cecilia, the early Roman martyr from the turn of the early third century. It is based on the life-size one in her basilica, sculpted after her incorrupt body was exhumed in the sixteenth century. She is lying on her side in her dressing gown with her neck half-severed. Cecilia was killed in her bathroom, and the executioner who hacked at her neck was put off by her calm dignity. It took her three days to die. The prelude to her ordeal was an attempt to scald her, which was why she was found near the bath - one of those huge Roman baths. For Cecilia belonged to one of the ancient Roman families and possessed great wealth. She was young, beautiful, and desired, but she died because she refused to renounce her Savior.

While journeying through life it is easy to understand why so many of the martyrs were very young. When people are young they do not understand what it is to lose life. Sacrifices are easier when you do not fully grasp what is being renounced. There is a special valor, a reckless courage, possessed by young soldiers which old soldiers do not always have. And yet Christians of every age are called to be soldiers of Christ and martyrs in spirit if not in body. The fortitude that seemed so effortless in my grandparents in their old age I see now was no small thing.

As Abbot Gueranger wrote in The Liturgical Year, Volume XV: "The lesson will not be lost if we come to understand this much: had the first Christians feared, they would have betrayed us, and the word of life would never have come down to us; if we fear, we shall betray future generations, for we are expected to transmit to them the deposit we have received from our fathers." Those who had faith and courage, whether it was Saint Cecilia in her agony, or my grandmothers in their nursing homes, where they spent many years before they died, have passed on to me a priceless gift.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Let's Bring Back Etiquette

(Here is an excerpt of an article I originally wrote for the Daughters of Mary newsletter in December, 2000.)

Etiquette is a lost only occasionally surfaces like the relic if a forgotten martyr, or an artifact of a bygone civilization. The doffing of a gentleman's hat, the curtsying of a little girl, hand-written thank-you notes and the idea of dressing for dinner, are generally regarded in the same light as the quaint customs of an indigenous tribal people. Yet the loss of etiquette is a sign of the degradation of a society that has abandoned respect for its own members because ultimately it has abandoned public, as well as private, respect for God.

We must have respect for others, as well as for ourselves, as being made in the image and likeness of our Father in Heaven. The exterior forms of courtesy are merely a concrete means of showing charity towards people, of giving them what is due to their human dignity.

Through good manners we display consideration for the feelings of others. By refraining from behavior which may disturb or disgust, we can instead cultivate words and actions which soothe, charm, and set at ease. Rather than flattery and falsehood, etiquette helps us to be at our best while bringing out what is best in our friends.

Forms of courtesy are small ceremonies or rituals applied to the most mundane situations. As Amy Vanderbuilt wrote in her 1958 Complete Book of Etiquette: "Ceremony is really a protection...If we have a social formula to guide us and do not have to extemporize, we feel better able to handle life." Knowing what to say or do in any given social situation builds self-confidence. It is not intended to make one boring or stuffy, but rather more efficacious in the giving of love. Share

Monday, November 20, 2006

Petit Trianon

Petit Trianon was originally built by Louis XV for his mistress Madame de Pompadour. It was a country-house on the grounds of Versailles, about a fifteen minute walk from the main palace. In 1774, the new twenty year old King Louis XVI gave the Little Trianon to his wife, nineteen year old Marie-Antoinette, saying, "Since Trianon has always belonged to mistresses of the king, it is only right that I should give it to you." It became a retreat where the queen could escape from the opulence and stiff formality of the court and live simply with her family. After her children were born, the queen was often there with them, desiring them to have as normal a childhood as possible. Marie-Antoinette has been criticized for "playing dairy maid" because of the farm she etablished at Trianon, giving homes and employment to otherwise destitute peasant families. Furthermore, the royal family was fed by the produce of the farm, in an attempt to cut back expenses. There were fish in the lake, fruit trees, berries, vegetables, livestock and the famous dairy with the Sevres milk pitchers. Horticultural experiments were applied there, new strains of plants, which were meant to better the lot of all the people. It was at Petit Trianon in 1785 that potatoes were introduced to France.

I first visited Trianon when I was seventeen years old. It was January, but the birds were inexplicably singing in the gardens. There was a strong sense of timelessness that I experienced then and on successive trips. Others have confided to me a similar feeling of enchantment when wandering through the gardens of Marie-Antoinette. Friends and relatives who have visited Trianon tell me that the descriptions and ambiance in the novel are quite accurate. There is nothing more pleasing to an author....

I hope this blog will capture the spirit of Trianon, which is the spirit of a queen who only sought to love and be loved in the company of her family and friends. Above are paintings by Joseph Caraud (1821-1905) of Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, their daughter Madame Royale, and friends, particularly the Princesse de Lamballe, relaxing at Trianon in the calm before the storm.