Saturday, March 31, 2007
What should have been an hour of triumph became mingled with blistering agony, as the sight of Paris after twenty-two years reminded Marie-Thérèse of all the her family had endured during the Revolution, especially her little brother, who was driven out of his mind by his torturers. She did not even know at the time where her parents were buried. The acclaim of the crowd only brought to mind the insults of the mob which had filled her adolescent ears and henceforth frozen her mannerisms into a haughty stiffness. The people wondered why the princess in white did not smile. But in the house of God, there was peace.
Here is what the Notre Dame website says about the statue:
The 14th century statue of the Virgin and child is situated at the south-east pillar of the transept. This statue comes from the St Aignan chapel which is within the enclosure of the Canons (in the present rue des Ursins).
Always surrounded with flowers, this elegant and life-like statue, known under the title of Our Lady of Paris, welcomes the faithful who pray in this atmosphere of peace and calm.
It was near to this statue that the poet Paul Claudel was converted during Vespers on Christmas day 1886.
The Matins reading for this day is one of the most magnificent in the new Roman Breviary. It is from a homily by Saint Gregory Nazianzen.
Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem....We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes towards the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.
If you are Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Jesus. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.
If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ's body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring the spices and prepare Christ's body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself. Share
Father Cantalamessa on the Passion of Christ
"We Are All Responsible for Jesus' Death"ROME, MARCH 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings for this Sunday's liturgy.
* * *
A Historical Look at the Passion of Christ
Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23, 56
On Palm Sunday we will hear in its entirety St. Luke's account of the Passion. Let us pose the crucial question, that question which the Gospels were written to answer: How is it that a man like this ended up on the cross? What were the motives of those responsible for Jesus' death?
According to a theory that began to circulate last century, after the tragedy of the Shoah, the responsibility for Christ's death falls principally -- indeed perhaps even exclusively -- on Pilate and the Roman authorities, whose motivation was of a more political than religious nature. The Gospels supposedly vindicated Pilate and accused the Jewish leaders of Christ's death in order to reassure the Roman authorities about the Christians and to court their friendship.
This thesis was born from a concern which today we all share: to eradicate every pretext for the anti-Semitism that has caused much suffering for the Jewish people at the hands of Christians. But the gravest mistake that can be made for a just cause is to defend it with erroneous arguments. The fight against anti-Semitism should be put on a more solid foundation than a debatable (and debated) interpretation of the Gospel accounts of the Passion.
That the Jewish people as such are innocent of Christ's death rests on a biblical certainty that Christians have in common with Jews but that for centuries was strangely forgotten. "The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son" (Ezekiel 18:20). Church teaching knows only one sin that is transmitted from father to son, original sin, no other.
Having made it clear that I reject anti-Semitism, I would like to explain why it is not possible to accept the complete innocence of the Jewish authorities in Christ's death and along with it the claim about the purely political nature of Christ's condemnation.
Paul, in the earliest of his letters, written around the year 50, basically gives the same version of Christ's condemnation as that given in the Gospels. He says that "the Jews put Jesus to death" (1 Thessalonians 2:15). Of the events that took place in Jerusalem shortly before his arrival, Paul must have been better informed than we moderns, having at one time tenaciously approved and defended the condemnation of the Nazarene.
The accounts of the Passion cannot be read ignoring everything that preceded them. The four Gospels attest -- on nearly every page, we can say -- a growing religious difference between Jesus and an influential group of Jews (Pharisees, doctors of the law, scribes) over the observance of the Sabbath, the attitude toward sinners and tax collectors, and the clean and unclean.
Once the existence of this contrast is demonstrated, how can one think that it had no role to play in the end and that the Jewish leaders decided to denounce Jesus to Pilate -- almost against their will -- solely out of fear of a Roman military intervention?
Pilate was not a person who was so concerned with justice as to be worried about the fate of an unknown Jew; he was a hard, cruel type, ready to shed blood at the smallest hint of rebellion. All of that is quite true. He did not, however, try to save Jesus out of compassion for the victim, but only to score a point against Jesus' accusers, with whom he had been in conflict since his arrival in Judea. Naturally, this does not diminish Pilate's responsibility in Christ's condemnation, a responsibility which he shares with the Jewish leaders.
It is not at all a case of wanting to be "more Jewish than the Jews." From the reports about Jesus' death present in the Talmud and in other Jewish sources (however late and historically contradictory), one thing emerges: The Jewish tradition never denied the participation of the religious leaders of the time in Christ's condemnation. They did not defend themselves by denying the deed, but, if anything, they denied that the deed, from the Jewish perspective, constituted a crime and that Christ's condemnation was an unjust condemnation.
So, to the question, "Why was Jesus condemned to death?" after all the studies and proposed alternatives, we must give the same answer that the Gospels do. He was condemned for religious reasons, which, however, were ably put into political terms to better convince the Roman procurator.
The title of "Messiah," which the accusation of the Sanhedrin focused on, becomes in the trial before Pilate, "King of the Jews," and this will be the title of condemnation that will be affixed to the cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Jesus had struggled all his life to avoid this confusion, but in the end it is this confusion that will decide his fate.
This leaves open the discussion about the use that is made of the accounts of the Passion. In the past they have often been used (in the theatric representations of the Passion, for example) in an inappropriate manner, with a forced anti-Semitism.
This is something that everyone today firmly rejects, even if something still remains to be done about eliminating from the Christian celebration of the Passion everything that could still offend the sensibility of our Jewish brothers. Jesus was and remains, despite everything, the greatest gift of Judaism to the world, a gift for which the Jews have paid a high price ...
The conclusion that we can draw from these historical considerations, then, is that religious authorities and political authorities, the heads of the Sanhedrin and the Roman procurator, both participated, for different reasons, in Christ's condemnation.
We must immediately add to this that history does not say everything and not even what is essential on this point. By faith we know that we are all responsible for Jesus' death with our sins.
Let us leave aside historical questions now and dedicate a moment to contemplating him. How did Jesus act during the Passion? Superhuman dignity, infinite patience. Not a single gesture or word that negated what he preached in his Gospel, especially the beatitudes. He dies asking for the forgiveness of those who crucified him.
And yet nothing in him resembles the stoic's prideful disdain of suffering. His reaction to suffering and cruelty is entirely human: he trembles and sweats blood in Gethsemane, he wants this chalice to pass from him, he seeks the support of his disciples, he cries out his desolation on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
There is one among the traits of this superhuman greatness of Christ that fascinates me: his silence. "Jesus was silent" (Matthew 26:63). He is silent before Caiaphas, he is silent before Pilate, he is silent before Herod, who hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (cf. Luke 23:8). "When he was reviled he did not revile in return," the First Letter of Peter says of him (2:23).
The silence is broken only for a single moment before death -- the "loud cry" from the cross after which Jesus yields up his spirit. This draws from the Roman centurion the confession: "Truly this man was the Son of God." Share
Here is a nice clip from Ava Maria radio in which Heidi Saxton tells Teresa Tomeo about Canticle Magazine, a journal for women which she edits. The first half of the clip is an interview with Father Frank Pavone (which is good, of course) and Heidi's portion starts about halfway through. Just slide the button right to move through the show. The writer's blog she mentions is here -- and of course she's always looking for good material to publish.
Mentioned also is the status of Tony Benkovic, husband of Johnnette, who is quite close to death. Prayers for the whole family would be much appreciated.
Friday, March 30, 2007
It was difficult for Armand when the queen had her own children, as well as adopting others, since he was no longer the center of all her attention. As a teenager, he rebelled, joined the Revolution and was killed in the wars. Meanwhile, around 1787, Marie-Antoinette adopted the daughter of servants named Ernestine to be a companion for her daughter Madame Royale. She dressed her as a princess and gave her all the same toys as her own daughter.
Around 1790, she adopted three orphan girls. The two oldest were sent to a Visitation convent to be educated but the youngest, Zoé, who was the same age as the little dauphin, lived in the royal apartments at the Tuileries. Marie-Antoinette would have adopted many more children had she been able. Those whom she could not actually bring to live in the palace, she provided for generously.
At the time of the royal family's disastrous flight to Montmédy in June 1791, Marie Antoinette sent Ernestine and Zoé to safety. Ernestine was entrusted to her birth father. Zoé joined her blood sisters at the Visitation Monastery, where she eventually became a nun and died at the time of the restoration.
In the Temple prison, Marie Antoinette was anxious for news about her adopted children and tried to discover where they were. She managed to find out that Zoé and her two sisters had been taken to their relatives in the country. Of Ernestine, she could could discover nothing, except that her father had been guillotined. Ernestine had actually been whisked out of France by an emigré family and died in exile.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.
Jesus, the Eternal Wisdom, Have mercy on us.
The Word made flesh, Have mercy on us.
Hated by the world, Have mercy on us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, Have mercy on us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, Have mercy on us.
Betrayed by Judas, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, Have mercy on us.
Struck upon the cheek, Have mercy on us.
Accused by false witnesses, Have mercy on us.
Spit upon in the face, Have mercy on us.
Denied by Peter, Have mercy on us.
Mocked by Herod, Have mercy on us.
Scourged by Pilate, Have mercy on us.
Rejected for Barabbas, Have mercy on us.
Loaded with the cross, Have mercy on us.
Crowned with thorns, Have mercy on us.
Stripped of Thy garments, Have mercy on us.
Nailed to the tree, Have mercy on us.
Reviled by the Jews, Have mercy on us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, Have mercy on us.
Wounded in the side, Have mercy on us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, Have mercy on us.
Dying for our sins, Have mercy on us.
Taken down from the cross, Have mercy on us.
Laid in the sepulchre, Have mercy on us.
Rising gloriously, Have mercy on us.
Ascending into Heaven, Have mercy on us.
Sending down the Paraclete, Have mercy on us.
Jesus our Sacrifice, Have mercy on us.
Jesus our Mediator, Have mercy on us.
Jesus our Judge, Have mercy on us.
Spare us, O Lord.
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all sin, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From all evil, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From anger and hatred, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From malice and revenge, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From unbelief and hardness of heart, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From blasphemy and sacrilege, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From hypocrisy and covetousness, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From blindness of the understanding, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From contempt of Thy warnings, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From relapse after Thy judgments, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From danger of soul and body, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
From everlasting death, Lord Jesus, deliver us.
We sinners, Beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest spare us, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest pardon us, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest defend Thy Church, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest bless Thy own, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest convert Thy foes, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest spread the truth, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest destroy error, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest break to pieces false gods, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest increase Thy elect, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest let loose the holy souls in prison, We beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldest unite us to Thy saints above, We beseech Thee, hear us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee,
Because through Thy Holy Cross Thou didst redeem the world.
Let us pray.
O God, who for the redemption of the world wast pleased to be born; to be circumcised; to be rejected; to be betrayed; to be bound with thongs; to be led to the slaughter; to be shamefully gazed at; to be falsely accused; to be scourged and torn; to be spit upon, and crowned with thorns; to be mocked and reviled; to be buffeted and struck with rods; to be stripped; to be nailed to the cross; to be hoisted up thereon; to be reckoned among thieves; to have gall and vinegar to drink; to be pierced with a lance: through Thy most holy passion, which we, Thy sinful servants, call to mind, and by Thy holy cross and gracious death, deliver us from the pains of hell, and lead us whither Thou didst lead the thief who was crucified with Thee, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end. --Amen.
By the cross, on which suspended,
With his bleeding hands extended,
Hung that Son she so adored,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
She whose heart, its silence keeping,
Grief had cleft as with a sword.
Oh, that Mother’s sad affliction—
Mother of all benediction—
Of the sole–begotten One;
Oh, the grieving, sense–bereaving,
Of her heaving breast, perceiving
The dread sufferings of her Son.
What man is there so unfeeling,
Who, his heart to pity steeling,
Could behold that sight unmoved?
Could Christ’s Mother see there weeping,
See the pious Mother keeping
Vigil by the Son she loved?
For his people’s sins atoning,
She saw Jesus writhing, groaning,
‘Neath the scourge wherewith he bled;
Saw her loved one, her consoler,
Dying in his dreadful dolour,
Till at length his spirit fled.
O thou Mother of election,
Fountain of all pure affection,
Make thy grief, thy pain, my own;
Make my heart to God returning,
In the love of Jesus burning,
Feel the fire that thine has known.
Blessed Mother of prediction,
Stamp the marks of crucifixion
Deeply on my stony heart,
Ever leading where thy bleeding
Son is pleading for my needing,
Let me in his wounds take part.
Make me truly, each day newly
While life lasts, O Mother, duly
Weep with him, the Crucified.
Let me, ‘tis my sole demanding,
Near the cross, where thou art standing,
Stand in sorrow at thy side.
Queen of virgins, best and dearest,
Grant, oh, grant the prayer thou hearest.
Let me ever mourn with me;
Let compassion me so fashion
That Christ’s wounds, his death and passion,
Be each day renewed in me.
Oh, those wounds, do not deny me;
On that cross, oh, crucify me;
Let me drink his blood, I pray:
Then on fire, enkindled, daring,
I may stand without despairing
On that dreadful judgment–day.
Make Christ’s death my preservation;
May his grace my heart make wise;
And when death my body taketh,
May my soul when it awaketh
Terry at Abbey Roads has a beautiful meditation on the meeting of Jesus with His mother.
Here is an excerpt from a homily given on the Good Friday preceding Terri's death:
Terri Schiavo has undergone a humiliation before the whole world and with her our entire nation has been degraded and disgraced. Her human dignity has been scourged and mocked and spat upon – not by rough and uncouth Roman soldiers - but by modern civilized people with college degrees and high paying jobs; educated people, intelligent people, but evil people.
Our Blessed Savior told His disciples that as He was despised, so they would be despised. Yet still we are Christians, and ultimately nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We know what really happened on that Hill of Golgotha 2000 years ago. We know that this was not a true victory for the devil. We know that the crucifixion of Our Lord brought about the great outpouring of grace into the sinful world. We know as only Christians can know that the gibbet of the Cross is in fact the throne of the King of Kings.
And we know also that in order to be His true disciples we must take up that Cross and follow Him. Placed in this context we understand in a way how the passion of our sister Terri Schiavo was a participation in that of Jesus’ own passion and death. (Read entire homily)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
An unjustifiable lack of trust hurts deeply. If you set a low value on moral worth of another, misjudge his dispositions, drag down his character, misinterpret his intentions, or torture his innocence by false suspicions and accusations, you inflict upon him one of life's bitterest trials. A trial like this caused the heart of the Lamb of God to be wrung with anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. The whole story of Good Friday is summed up in false suspicion.
Mistrust leads astray. Not only unjustifiable mistrust, but at times even well-founded mistrust is a force that drags one down into the depths. When a man is aware that he is being suspected of a sin, he sometimes experiences a desire to commit that very sin and so to take another step on the downward path.
(from Father Lawrence Lovasik's The Hidden Power of Kindness, Sophia Institute Press, 1999, p.98) Share
Be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That from and after the First Day of May One thousand eight hundred and seven, the African Slave Trade, and all and all manner of dealing and trading in the Purchase, Sale, Barter, or Transfer of Slaves, or of Persons intended to be sold, transferred, used, or dealt with as Slaves, practiced or carried on, in, at, to or from any Part of the Coast or Countries of Africa, shall be, and the same is hereby utterly abolished, prohibited, and declared to be unlawful.
Here is an essay about aprons from 1926:
Did you ever stop to consider how many different kinds of aprons there were? A great, big, roomy, coverall apron for mother when guests are expected and important things are happening in the kitchen. A wee bit of a lace apron for the person who is in charge of the tea-urn at five o'clock. A smart bungalow apron to make household duties seem pleasant, and a rather petty apron with deep pockets for the sewing room. And, of course, sweet little aprons for the kiddies—gaily colored and bound with an almost grown-up regard for smartness.
You see, there are really so many interesting kinds of aprons that the subject deserves a lesson all by itself. We're going to teach you little important points about tea-aprons and work-aprons, children's aprons and chafing-dish aprons. And when you are all finished with the lesson, you are actually going to make a pretty apron for yourself.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that an apron is a not-so-very important garment. As a matter of fact, it is really quite as important as a dress—for who can tell when an unexpected guest is going to "drop in" for a chat and find one at the disadvantage of being aproned! But the disadvantage can be changed to an advantage. The apron can be made a very delightful garment. One may actually feel proud to be found wearing a pretty combination of lace and ribbon and soft white dimity—or a rather trig apron-affair of gingham and muslin ruffles.
And then, of course, there is the feeling of utter neatness and satisfaction when one is wearing a crisp little apron. Even though it does hide the pretty dress underneath, it can be so very pretty itself that one hardly minds. And that's what we're going to do—we're going to teach you all about pretty aprons that you can make at home and that you will be delighted to wear.
To be entirely consistent, an apron that is worn in the performance of household duties must cover the whole dress underneath. Otherwise it wouldn't be much of a protection, would it? But the apron must be absolutely neat, for surely one cannot do neat housework when the apron one wears is untidy! And after all, why shouldn't a woman look as attractive in her own home, among her own dear ones, as she does at a fashionable dinner? (Read entire essay.)Share
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
From the nature of the child, the first of his needs is a family, where the mother is of the greatest importance. At first there is complete dependence of the child on its mother, but there is a growth of independence. To five years of age the child has need of nothing, except its home. If that home is satisfactory there is no need of kindergarten or school. I would even say that, if the home is healthy, no amount of poor social influence, short of catastrophe, can do great or even moderate damage to the child....
Unfortunately, not all homes are healthy and present day culture, while more or less based on Christian culture, is not one in which the Catholic tradition easily flourishes. To my impression it is one in which it is almost difficult to be a Catholic and raise children as Catholics. It is a culture which, perhaps, is no more troubled than any previous culture, yet if I may be permitted to express a further impression, it is an era of doubt and uncertainty.
A healthy child is one who is so adapted towards himself and his surroundings that he is able to do all that his capabilities permit with a maximum of satisfaction to himself and to the persons associated with him. Such a child has been fed and has been allowed proper and adequate experience and has been taught by example and training to satisfy his intellectual curiosity....
Christian virtues in parents and teachers, which are described by the common names of love and goodness, are the main things useful. Specialists are for special cases only, and they are subordinate to traditional truths.
(from Memory Turns the Dial by Madeline O'Connor)
From Rorate Caeli:
As it is seen, Irenaeus does not limit himself to the definition of the concept of Tradition. His tradition, the uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always internally vivified by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live again, who makes it interpreted and included in the vitality of the Church.
General Audience, March 28, 2007
Modesty and beauty - the lost connection
by Regina Schmiedicke
In his book Man and Women, Dietrich von Hildebrand points to a particular "perfection" of the feminine nature: "We find in women a unity of personality by the fact that heart, intellect, and temperament are much more interwoven...This unity of the female type of human person displays itself also in a greater unity of inner and exterior life, in a unity of style embracing the soul itself as well as the exterior demeanor."(1) In other words, women possess a special genius for harmonizing their outward appearance with their interior life-for incarnating their beliefs and ideas in concrete, visible ways.
Sadly, just as many women have forgotten what it means to be feminine, we have also forgotten how to attain this unity. In short, while many of us Catholic women believe strongly in chastity and purity, our dress does not always reflect our convictions. In order to correct this situation, we need to recover a sense of the reason why women in the past dressed modestly, and how modest dressing "befits" the dignity and vocation of women.
In our fragmented society, scanty clothing has somehow become associated with women's social progress-as if the "right" to wear less indicated that we are moving up in the world. But my casual overview of history leads me to almost the opposite conclusion. It seems to me that in most cultures, the more clothing a person wears, the more important that person tends to be in society. (Read entire article)
Here is a humorous but compelling article, "In Praise of the Skirt."
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
From Maggie Gallagher:
Defining Marriage Down . . .
is no way to save it.
by David Blankenhorn
04/02/2007, Volume 012, Issue 28
Does permitting same-sex marriage weaken marriage as a social institution? Or does extending to gay and lesbian couples the right to marry have little or no effect on marriage overall? Scholars and commentators have expended much effort trying in vain to wring proof of causation from the data--all the while ignoring the meaning of some simple correlations that the numbers do indubitably show.
Much of the disagreement among scholars centers on how to interpret trends in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Stanley Kurtz has argued, in this magazine and elsewhere, that the adoption of gay marriage or same-sex civil unions in those countries has significantly weakened customary marriage, already eroded by easy divorce and stigma-free cohabitation.
Eskridge and Spedale want it both ways. For them, there is no proof that marriage has weakened, but if there were it wouldn't be a problem. For people who care about marriage, this perspective inspires no confidence. Eskridge and Spedale do score one important point, however. Neither Kurtz nor anyone else can scientifically prove that allowing gay marriage causes the institution of marriage to get weaker. Correlation does not imply causation. The relation between two correlated phenomena may be causal, or it may be random, or it may reflect some deeper cause producing both. Even if you could show that every last person in North Carolina eats barbecue, you would not have established that eating barbecue is a result of taking up residence in North Carolina.
When it comes to the health of marriage as an institution and the legal status of same-sex unions, there is much to be gained from giving up the search for causation and studying some recurring patterns in the data, as I did for my book The Future of Marriage. It turns out that certain clusters of beliefs about and attitudes toward marriage consistently correlate with certain institutional arrangements. The correlations crop up in a large number of countries and recur in data drawn from different surveys of opinion.
Take the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), a collaborative effort of universities in over 40 countries. It interviewed about 50,000 adults in 35 countries in 2002. What is useful for our purposes is that respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with six statements that directly relate to marriage as an institution:
1. Married people are generally happier than unmarried people.
Let's stipulate that for statements one, two, and six, an "agree" answer indicates support for traditional marriage as an authoritative institution. Similarly, for statements three, four, and five, let's stipulate that agreement indicates a lack of support, or less support, for traditional marriage.
Then divide the countries surveyed into four categories: those that permit same-sex marriage; those that permit same-sex civil unions (but not same-sex marriage); those in which some regions permit same-sex marriage; and those that do not legally recognize same-sex unions.
The correlations are strong. Support for marriage is by far the weakest in countries with same-sex marriage. The countries with marriage-like civil unions show significantly more support for marriage. The two countries with only regional recognition of gay marriage (Australia and the United States) do better still on these support-for-marriage measurements, and those without either gay marriage or marriage-like civil unions do best of all.
In some instances, the differences are quite large. For example, people in nations with gay marriage are less than half as likely as people in nations without gay unions to say that married people are happier. Perhaps most important, they are significantly less likely to say that people who want children ought to get married (38 percent vs. 60 percent). They are also significantly more likely to say that cohabiting without intending to marry is all right (83 percent vs. 50 percent), and are somewhat more likely to say that divorce is usually the best solution to marital problems. Respondents in the countries with gay marriage are significantly more likely than those in Australia and the United States to say that divorce is usually the best solution.
A similar exercise using data from a different survey yields similar results. The World Values Survey, based in Stockholm, Sweden, periodically interviews nationally representative samples of the publics of some 80 countries on six continents--over 100,000 people in all--on a range of issues. It contains three statements directly related to marriage as an institution:
1. A child needs a home with both a father and a mother to grow up happily.
Again grouping the countries according to the legal status of same-sex unions, the data from the 1999-2001 wave of interviews yield a clear pattern. Support for marriage as an institution is weakest in those countries with same-sex marriage. Countries with same-sex civil unions show more support, and countries with regional recognition show still more. By significant margins, support for marriage is highest in countries that extend no legal recognition to same-sex unions.
So what of it? Granted that these correlations may or may not reflect causation, what exactly can be said about the fact that certain values and attitudes and legal arrangements tend to cluster?
Here's an analogy. Find some teenagers who smoke, and you can confidently predict that they are more likely to drink than their nonsmoking peers. Why? Because teen smoking and drinking tend to hang together. What's more, teens who engage in either of these activities are also more likely than nonsmokers or nondrinkers to engage in other risky behaviors, such as skipping school, getting insufficient sleep, and forming friendships with peers who get into trouble.
Because these behaviors correlate and tend to reinforce one another, it is virtually impossible for the researcher to pull out any one from the cluster and determine that it alone is causing or is likely to cause some personal or (even harder to measure) social result. All that can be said for sure is that these things go together. To the degree possible, parents hope that their children can avoid all of them, the entire syndrome--drinking, smoking, skipping school, missing sleep, and making friends with other children who get into trouble--in part because each of them increases exposure to the others.
It's the same with marriage. Certain trends in values and attitudes tend to cluster with each other and with certain trends in behavior. A rise in unwed childbearing goes hand in hand with a weakening of the belief that people who want to have children should get married. High divorce rates are encountered where the belief in marital permanence is low. More one-parent homes are found where the belief that children need both a father and a mother is weaker. A rise in nonmarital cohabitation is linked at least partly to the belief that marriage as an institution is outmoded. The legal endorsement of gay marriage occurs where the belief prevails that marriage itself should be redefined as a private personal relationship. And all of these marriage-weakening attitudes and behaviors are linked. Around the world, the surveys show, these things go together.
Eskridge and Spedale are right. We cannot demonstrate statistically what exactly causes what, or what is likely to have what consequences in the future. But we do see in country after country that these phenomena form a pattern that recurs. They are mutually reinforcing. Socially, an advance for any of them is likely to be an advance for all of them. An individual who tends to accept any one or two of them probably accepts the others as well.
And as a political and strategic matter, anyone who is fighting for any one of them should--almost certainly already does--support all of them, since a victory for any of them clearly coincides with the advance of the others. Which is why, for example, people who have devoted much of their professional lives to attacking marriage as an institution almost always favor gay marriage. These things do go together.
Inevitably, the pattern discernible in the statistics is borne out in the statements of the activists. Many of those who most vigorously champion same-sex marriage say that they do so precisely in the hope of dethroning once and for all the traditional "conjugal institution."
Similarly, David L. Chambers, a law professor at the University of Michigan widely published on family issues, favors gay marriage for itself but also because it would likely "make society receptive to the further evolution of the law." What kind of evolution? He writes, "If the deeply entrenched paradigm we are challenging is the romantically linked man-woman couple, we should respect the similar claims made against the hegemony of the two-person unit and against the romantic foundations of marriage."
Examples could be multiplied--the recently deceased Ellen Willis, professor of journalism at NYU and head of its Center for Cultural Reporting and Criticism, expressed the hope that gay marriage would "introduce an implicit revolt against the institution into its very heart, further promoting the democratization and secularization of personal and sexual life"--but they can only illustrate the point already established by the large-scale international comparisons: Empirically speaking, gay marriage goes along with the erosion, not the shoring up, of the institution of marriage.
These facts have two implications. First, to the degree that it makes any sense to oppose gay marriage, it makes sense only if one also opposes with equal clarity and intensity the other main trends pushing our society toward postinstitutional marriage. After all, the big idea is not to stop gay marriage. The big idea is to stop the erosion of society's most pro-child institution. Gay marriage is only one facet of the larger threat to the institution.
Instead, the deep logic of same-sex marriage is clearly consistent with what scholars call deinstitutionalization--the overturning or weakening of all of the customary forms of marriage, and the dramatic shrinking of marriage's public meaning and institutional authority. Does deinstitutionalization necessarily require gay marriage? Apparently not. For decades heterosexuals have been doing a fine job on that front all by themselves. But gay marriage clearly presupposes and reinforces deinstitutionalization.
By itself, the "conservative case" for gay marriage might be attractive. It would be gratifying to extend the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples--if gay marriage and marriage renewal somehow fit together. But they do not. As individuals and as a society, we can strive to maintain and strengthen marriage as a primary social institution and society's best welfare plan for children (some would say for men and women too). Or we can strive to implement same-sex marriage. But unless we are prepared to tear down with one hand what we are building up with the other, we cannot do both.
David Blankenhorn is president of the New York-based Institute for American Values and the author of The Future of Marriage (Encounter Books).
Monday, March 26, 2007
To be oppressed by weariness and boredom is to despair of the glory to which God calls us. The inability to delight in God is the inability to glorify God. If faith is the “eye of love” that “sees” and delights in the beauty of God’s love in all things, acedia implies the absence of the love which both “sees” and delights in the all-encompassing splendor of God’s love.
The remedy for boredom is prayer. Through prayer and meditation come inspiration and joy, even when the prayer is dry and difficult. When inspired, it is easy to see how the world is full of wonders. There is always something more to learn, to do, to create. And life is so short.
In life, there are only two things to worry about?
Either you are well or you are sick.
If you are well, there is nothing to worry about,
But if you are sick, there are only two things to worry about?
Either you will get well or you will die.
If you get well, there is nothing to worry about,
But if you die, there are only two things to worry about?
Either you will go to heaven or hell.
If you go to heaven, there is nothing to worry about.
And if you go to hell, you’ll be so busy shaking hands with all your
friends. You won’t have time to worry!
What Shall I Say About the Irish?
The utterly impractical, never predictable,
Sometimes irascible, quite inexplicable,
Irish. Strange blend of shyness,
pride and conceit,
And stubborn refusal to bow in defeat.
He’s spoiling and ready to argue and fight,
Yet the smile of a child
fills his soul with delight.
His eyes are the quickest to well up with tears,
Yet his strength is the strongest
to banish your fears.
His hate is as fierce as his devotion is grand,
And there is no middle ground
on which he will stand.
He’s wild and he’s gentle,
he’s good and he’s bad.
He’s proud and he’s humble,
he’s happy and sad.
He’s in love with the ocean,
the earth and the skies,
He’s enamoured with beauty wherever it lies.
He’s victor and victim, a star and a clod,
But mostly he’s Irish?
in love with his God.
Yes, she was too young to be married. We must remember that in other cultures and in other places and times, girls were married as teenagers. Our society has become so perverse that we are shocked by such early marriages, but the girls in those cultures were raised with the expectation that they would be married young.
Puccini was certainly not celebrating the manner in which his Japanese heroine was treated by her husband. He was condemning it, and the music captures the unspeakable outrage. Such thoughtless cruelty was happening all over the world and what way does an artist have to make a statement about a bad situation other than paint a picture, write a novel, make a film, or compose an opera. Madama Butterfly actually opened many people's eyes to the careless behavior of Europeans and Americans in pagan cultures - behaving in ways which did not win souls but rather led to death.
Here is some more commentary on this most tragic of operas.
Madame Butterfly originated in a story by John Luther Long and was adapted for the stage by David Belasco. The play premiered with great success in New York in 1900, then quickly crossed the Atlantic for a London production where it was seen by Giacomo Puccini. Puccini's first version of the opera failed at La Scala in 1904, but a revised version was successful the same year, the version that we hear today, one of the most frequently produced operas in the entire repertory.
Butterfly is different from many operas. It is intimate, devoid of spectacle, taking place completely within a house in Nagasaki. There is one straight plot line, without subplots. Girl wins boy, girl loses boy, girl commits hara kiri. What makes the piece work are the characterizations of Butterfly and her Captain Pinkerton, both in the drama and in the rich and luscious Puccini score.
From when we first meet Pinkerton, a dashing officer in the United States Navy, it is clear that the man is a philandering heel, infatuated with the fifteen year old Butterfly, cognizant of her fragility, but "not content with life unless he makes his treasure the flowers on every shore." He says as he compares her to a butterfly, "I must pursue her even though I damage her wings."
The stage for the tragedy is set. We meet the beauteous Cio-Cio San, not a complete innocent - she has been a geisha, after all - but nonetheless fragile, unworldly, and in love with the handsome sailor. She deceives herself, despite abundant warnings, as to Pinkerton's motives.
The tale unfolds with well written dialogue, sung to music which captures the feelings of love and yearning and pain, raising the entire experience into the realm of great art, transcendently moving. This simple plot provides the vehicle for the arias of love and loss and hope and despair, the stuff of which the very best operatic music is made.
Madama Butterfly is actually the perfect opera for our times, as young girls are mercilessly exploited not by foreign invaders but by their own friends, families, communities, schools. Like Butterfly, they are often forced to surrender their children when the children are slain in abortion. Written at the dawn of the modern era, Puccini's opera transcends musical entertainment, for it is more than opera; it is prophecy.
There are other sayings of Jesus which could be examined. Someone might even accuse Jesus of being the cause of the proverbial difficulty in agreement between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law since he said: "I have come to separate son from father, daughter from mother, daughter-in-law from mother-in-law" (Matthew 10:35).
But it will not be Jesus who divides; it will be the different attitude that each member of the family takes toward him that will determine the division. This is something that painfully occurs even in many families today.
All of the doubts about Jesus' attitude toward the family and marriage will fall away if we take into account the whole Gospel and not only those passages that we like. Jesus is more rigorous than anyone in regard to the indissolubility of marriage, he forcefully confirms the commandment to honor father and mother to the point of condemning the practice of denying them help for religious reasons (cf. Mark 7:11-13).
Just consider all the miracles that Jesus performed precisely to take away the sorrows of fathers (Jairus and the father of the epileptic), of mothers (the Canaanite woman, the widow of Nain!), and of siblings (the sisters of Lazarus).
In these ways he honors familial bonds. He shares the sorrow of relatives to the point of weeping with them.
In a time like our own, when everything seems to conspire to weaken the bonds and values of the family, the only thing that we have not set against them yet is Jesus and the Gospel!
But this is one of the many odd things about Jesus that we must know so that we are not taken in when we hear talk of new discoveries about the Gospels. Jesus came to bring marriage back to its original beauty (cf. Matthew 19:4-9), to strengthen it, not to weaken it. Share
The Angel's explanation does not prevent future events and circumstances from remaining hidden and obscure to Mary. She finds herself face to face with a mystery, a mystery which she knows intuitively to be rich in suffering; for she has learned from the Sacred Scriptures that the Redeemer will be a man of sorrows, sacrificed for the salvation of mankind. Therefore, the ineffable joy of the divine maternity is presented to her wrapped in a mystery of sorrow: to be willing to be the Mother of the Son of God means consenting to be the Mother of one condemned to death. Yet Mary accepts everything in her fiat: in the joy as well as in the sorrow of the mystery, she has but one simple answer: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." Share
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The consummation took so long because Marie-Antoinette was a mere child when she was married; she was fourteen but looked as if she were much younger, and Louis was not a pervert. He waited for her to mature. He also approached his bride in a restrained manner because his aunties had inculcated in him the dangers for France when a king became enthralled by a woman, as had happened to his grandfather Louis XV. Louis could see himself becoming quite easily enthralled by Marie-Antoinette, and so he held himself back. Also, as author Simone Bertiere speculates in L'Insoumise, there may have been a physical problem with Marie-Antoinette which made marital relations difficult at first. In their early twenties, however, the young couple found their bonheur essentiel, their "essential happiness," as Marie-Antoinette wrote to her mother. It became a marriage which all the forces of hell could not sunder. Share
Much has been made of Antoinette's refusal to speak to the royal mistress, but really, it was the kind of power play and petty misunderstanding that happened in courts all over Europe. I sometimes wonder that if Antoinette had lived to be an old lady and had died peacefully in her bed, if anyone in posterity would have given the incident between her and Madame du Barry a second thought. But because Antoinette died stripped of all human dignity, after being destroyed in every way a woman can be destroyed, just about; her reputation in shreds, people are always looking for reasons that led to such a dreadful fate. Hence the focus on the early rift with Du Barry, which but for the debacles that followed, would have been forgotten.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Also, the guide says that a couple living together without being married are to receive a joint invitation as if they were spouses. I disagree, and abide by the old rule which recommends that persons of the same household, over eighteen, who are not married to each other, receive separate invitations. (If people want to enjoy the privileges of married life then they need to take the plunge and GET MARRIED.) Share
As Abbot Gueranger writes in The Liturgical Year, Vol VI:
Let us hope that, by God's mercy, the holy time we are now entering upon will work such a happy change in us, that, on the day of judgment, we may confidently fix our eyes on Him we are now about to contemplate crucified in the hands of sinners. The death of Jesus puts the whole of nature in commotion; the midday sun is darkened, the earth is shaken to its very foundations, the rocks are split; may it be that our hearts, too, be moved and pass from indifference to fear, from fear to hope, and, at length from hope to love; so that having gone down with our Crucified to the very depths of sorrow, we may deserve to rise with Him unto light and joy, beaming with the brightness of His Resurrection, and having within ourselves the pledge of new life, which shall then die no more. Share
Envy disrupts social life generally. It sets the child against the father, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, and nation against nation. It kills friendship, undermines business relationships, and hinders reconciliation. It is one of the chief sources of misunderstanding, criticism, hatred, vengeance, calumny, detraction, and perverse attacks upon private life.
Envy and greed, the source of the world's unrest and wars, are sins against charity, because they make us seek what belongs to others. Often, even at the cost of harm to our neighbor, we want what does not belong to us....The envious person becomes distrustful, unjust, suspicious. Envy makes its victims ill-tempered, sad, and unapproachable....
Jealousy implies the fear of being displaced by a rival, or of being deprived of that which is rightfully ours or of that which we think ought to be ours. Jealousy is anther form of envy. Jealousy has to do with our own possessions, whereas envy has to do with the possessions of others. We resent an intrusion upon that which belongs to us, and we are prone to become vengeful at this disregard of our rights and claims.
Jealousy goes a step further than envy; it not only tries to lessen the good opinion others enjoy and criticizes those who are praised and rewarded, but is characterized by an excessive love of our own personal good and brings on a fear that we will be deprived of it. Jealousy prefers to see good left undone rather than lose a single degree of praise.
(Excerpt from The Hidden Power of Kindness by Father Lawrence Lovasik, Sophia Institute Press, 1999, pp.62-63) Share
Friday, March 23, 2007
In response to inquiries, I can only say that I do not know the “inside story” of what happened leading to the abrupt dismissal of Fr. Joseph Fessio as provost of Ave Marie University (AMU) by Mr. Tom Monaghan, founder and chancellor. The curt statement issued by AMU, referring to “irreconcilable differences” and noting the contributions of Fr. Fesso to the university, reads like an agreement worked out by lawyers.
I have been supportive of AMU from its launching in 2003, albeit not without misgivings. And I am glad to count Fr. Fessio as a friend. As usual, Amy Welborn has some useful links on this latest development over on Open Book.
I had initially agreed to serve on the board of directors of Ave Maria, but after a time it became apparent that the rapidity and complexity of decisions necessarily involved in establishing such an ambitious project demanded much more time and attention than I could give. So it was very amicably agreed that I and several others would be moved from the board of directors to a board of regents, which is a more nominal association with the enterprise.
I continue to be very supportive of Ave Maria University. It is a very important part of the mix that is required for the revitalization of Catholic higher education in this country. AMU has attracted some very impressive faculty in its first three years, and hundreds of students have enrolled despite the fact that the school is not yet accredited. There are questions still unsettled, and they no doubt have a bearing on leadership disputes, including the dismissal of Fr. Fessio as provost.
One important question is framed this way: Should AMU be “Steubenville South” or “Notre Dame South,” or something quite different from both. Denigrating in no way the notable achievements of Steubenville, my view is that AMU should aspire to being Notre Dame South on the way to its likely becoming something quite different from both.
But such decisions will be made most importantly by Tom Monaghan. Without his inspiration, determination, and generous funding, there would be no AMU. This is also as good a place as any to make clear that my comments about Mr. Monaghan in a recent profile in the New Yorker were not intended to be critical, although I am told that some took them that way. On the contrary, to say that he is as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove is to say that he exemplifies Our Lord’s counsel to turn worldly means to apostolic ends.
As for Fr. Fessio, he is routinely described as “controversial.” Few people of great achievement are in their obituaries described as “uncontroversial.” And, please God, we are many years away from the writing of Fr. Fessio’s obituary. The Church in America and the world owe him an inestimable debt for his founding of Ignatius Press, of which he continues to be the editor. Almost singlehandedly, Ignatius has made available in English some of the most important Catholic thinkers of our era, most notably in publishing the works of Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
At the University of San Francisco, where he taught for years and established a pioneering Ignatius Institute, Fr. Fessio was treated shabbily by his fellow Jesuits, finally being exiled to a perfectly superfluous post as chaplain in a small nursing home that already had a chaplain. With notable constancy, he has been obedient to leaders in the Society of Jesus who hold him in obvious contempt. Despite all, I hope and expect that he will be making further and important contributions to the renewal of the Church in the years ahead.
There is no denying that these are unhappy days for Ave Maria University, for Tom Monaghan, and for Fr. Fessio. One prays that out of the clash of great visions and great talents all three will emerge the stronger in their manifest devotion to Christ and his Church.
(For the latest developments, in which it appears Fr. Fessio will continue teaching at AMU while having no administrative responsibilities, see here.)