Sunday, September 30, 2007

Modernism in the Church

Rorate Caeli has an excerpt from the magnificent book by Father Roger-Thomas Calmel, O.P. (1914 -1975) Les Mystères du Royaume de la Grâce - The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Grace.
That modernism has infiltrated the Church can be seen from the democratization of the sacred liturgy. I experienced that today at Mass, at a parish not our own. There were so many lay people coming and going from the sanctuary all during Mass, to the tunes of 70's pop music. Meanwhile, the pastor made fun of the "Tridentine Mass" as being old-fashioned, which was ridiculous, since we were being afflicted with outdated guitar music, played by people older than I am. It would have been laughable, except that the priest sacrilegiously referred to the traditional Latin Mass as the "pre-game show at the football game." He obviously sees his 70's pop liturgy as the highest expression of worship. I withdrew to the ladies' room until the unfortunate homily mercifully came to an end.

The following is what Fr. Calmel has to say about modernism in the Church:

I spoke about the artifice of modernism. Let us be more precise. It is not a common and ordinary artifice. It is a satanic artifice. It comes in a slanted way that we do not expect. Modernism does not attack on a frontline. Modernism does not deny audibly that the Church is mediator of truth and grace and that she is endowed with hierarchical powers. But modernism creeps into the place where some means of ecclesiastical institution, which can be changed in a certain measure, meets the deposit of Divine institution, of which they are the indispensable instruments.


The modernist argument for modernism is this: that which is in the Church from ecclesiastical institution must be said, to be merely and only human. The conclusion that we must draw is that it can become anything in order to meet the requests of history. But speaking like this, is first forgetting that even in a profane city, the human and earthly elements which constitute the city – the human and earthly elements being the political common good and the organization of powers – cannot become anything and cannot be carried off by any historical movement. It is forgetting that there is a nature of city and that the kind of city created by the Revolution of 1789 and carried on by Communism to its fulfillment is a kind of city against nature.

The Bad News about Sugar

Too much sugar generates disease, according to some doctors. It is best to cut back on the use of refined sugar. Unfortunately, so much of the food we give our children is laden with it. Share

Necklace for Sale

It belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette. She gave it to her friend Lady Sutherland, the British ambassador's wife, for safe-keeping during the Revolution. The queen was fond of jewelry, but her tastes were simple, especially compared to those who came after. Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, who set out to bring the "Rights of Man" to the other European nations, was famous for her opulent style.

Above is a picture of Marie-Antoinette's daughter Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, dripping with jewels. The Duchesse d'Angouleme was notorious for her thrift; no one made a fuss when she dressed like a princess. But Marie-Antoinette's love of beautiful jewelry is blamed for the Revolution... and practically everything. Share

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Russian Ark

Blog by the Sea has information about and clips from the fascinating 2002 Russian film by Aleksandr Sokurov, called Russian Ark. It looks eccentric, but interesting. Share


It is Michaelmas Day. (Thanks, Joshua.) The Archangel St. Michael is one of the patrons of France, partly because of his various manifestations in that country, most notably to St. Jeanne d'Arc. In the middle ages the Order of St. Michael was the highest among the orders of chivalry. Today's feast is also shared by St. Michael's angel companions, Saints Gabriel and Raphael.

Great prince of heaven, Saint Michael, to thy protection commend my soul and body, and, by the glory which thou possessest in heaven, I beseech thee that thou wouldst ever assist me, particularly at the close of my life; that thou wouldst strengthen my faint-heartedness, and obtain for me from God the remission of my sins, and au entire submission to His holy will, that my soul may depart full of comfort. Then receive it, and bring it, under the guidance of the holy angels, before the face of God, to enjoy the contemplation of Him for all eternity. Amen. Share

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sèvres Porcelain

It survived the Revolution, and had a gaudy resurgence during the reign of Napoleon, who patronized the opulent porcelain, just like the kings and queens whom he had replaced. Here is an essay on the history of Sèvres.

Before their untimely deaths, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette patronized the national porcelain. Here are pictures of reproductions of pieces ordered by the king and queen. They had simple taste compared to the revolutionaries who took over the government, as well as the palaces, and the porcelain factories. Share

Faux Chinoiserie

It's easy! (At least it appears to be.....) Share

Please pray for Joel

Please pray for a young man who suffered a horrendous accident while repairing a car a few days ago and now most of his body is severely burned. He was supposed to have been married in a few months. Here is an account:

Joel Fox was involved in a bad accident on Tuesday(9-25-07)as many of you know. As of right now, he is at the Bronson Hospital Burn Unit in Kalamazoo, MI. He has 65% of his body covered with burns, with the majority of them being 3rd degree. His face is perfectly normal. He received a few 1st degree burns on his neck, but nothing that will scar on his face or neck (thank the Lord). He will be in the ICU at Bronson for the next three weeks. His 1st skin graft surgery is on fri. Everyone's job right now is to pray our hearts out. We all need to pray for the whole duration of his recovery, 'not just the first couple days' as Lauren had said. Keep the whole Fox (Szlanfucht)and Kreager family in your prayers, but obviously Joel and Lauren. Share

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Apple Recipes

For anyone with an apple tree in their yard, here is an article which might come in handy. This time of the year always sends me in search of recipes for what to do with all our apples other than keep making pies and applesauce. Share

The Dark Night for Mothers

Mommy Monsters, Inc has some words of consolation for adoptive mothers who struggle, especially when they have children with special needs. Some of the same negative feelings and trials are endured by other mothers, too, I think, although on a different level. To quote:

But sometimes – more often than we’d like to admit – that love is not a feeling, but a holding-on-by-the-fingernails choice. How could it be easy to love a chaos-creating, snot-spewing bundle of snarling rage? How could you not resent the fact that your efforts are unappreciated and resisted at every turn? How could you not feel as though you are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the claustrophobic vortex of insurmountable neediness by a three-year-old insomniac and his openly defiant five-year-old sister? Share

On Being a Writer

Heidi has a wonderful article of what it is a follow the call of writing. She says:

The writing process is often... a solitary endeavor. The world of publishing is, first and foremost, about relationships between people: Those who read, and those who write, and those who mentor, and those who critique. Perhaps most important, those whose lives spin out before us, as we take it all in and try to make sense of it all. It is the desire to create, to write, to express that anchors us. It is also this desire that gives us wings to experience more....

To write well is to step into the void ... and to make no attempt to stifle the screams of terror or the shrieks of delight. This is perhaps the most painful part of the creative process, since many writers tend to be a bit introverted by nature. But to write well is, above all, to tell the terrifying truth, and to let the world listen in.

Monsieur Vincent

He is a saint who reminds us of what it is to be a Catholic. Orthodoxy and true belief cannot get one very far if not accompanied by love, kindness, patience, humility, and effective intervention on behalf of the poor. St. Vincent de Paul renounced his early clerical ambition to be a servant of the indigent. His manner was characterized by courtesy and wisdom, tempered by shrewd insight, which made his counsel sought by bishops and kings. St. Vincent was a friend of both St. Francis de Sales and King Louis XIII. The humble priest intervened in matters of great import for Church and state, as is told here:

The great political and religious conflict known as the Thirty Years War was now raging. Vincent, on hearing of the wretchedness of the people of Lorraine, collected alms for them in Paris. He sent missionaries to other countries affected by the war. Recalling his own sorrows as a slave in Tunisia, he raised enough money to ransom some twelve hundred Christian slaves in Africa. He had influence with the powerful Cardinals Richelieu and De Retz, directors of French foreign policy; and was sent for by King Louis XIII, to minister to him as he lay dying. The king's widow, Anne of Austria, now Queen Regent, had him made a member of the Council of Conscience of the five-year-old prince, the future Louis XIV. Vincent continued to be in favor at court, and during the civil war of the Fronde, tried to persuade the Queen Regent to give up her unpopular minister, Cardinal Mazarin, to help pacify and unify the people.

It was St. Vincent who later appeared to St. Catherine Labouré, encouraging her to join his order. It was on his feast in 1830, formerly kept on July 19, that St. Catherine had the first of the amazing apparitions at the Rue de Bac, which were to have such immense significance to France and to the world.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Fr. Blake has a beautiful, concise explanation of the Church's veneration of relics. As Father says:

The use of relics has some, although limited, basis in sacred Scripture. In 2 Kings 2:9-14, the prophet Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah after Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. With this Elisha struck the water of the Jordan, which then parted so that he could cross. In another passage (13:20-21), some people hurriedly bury a dead man in the grave of Elisha, "but when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet." In the Acts of the Apostles we read, "Meanwhile, God worked extraordinary miracles at the hands of Paul. When handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases were cured and evil spirits departed from them" (19:11-12). In these three passages, a reverence was given to the actual body or clothing of these very holy people who were indeed God's chosen instruments—Elijah, Elisha and St. Paul. Indeed, miracles were connected with these "relics"—not that some magical power existed in them, but just as God's work was done through the lives of these holy men, so did His work continue after their deaths. Likewise, just as people were drawn closer to God through the lives of these holy men, so did they (even if through their remains) inspire others to draw closer even after their deaths. This perspective provides the Church's understanding of relics. Share

More on Mantillas

Mrs. Wasson has a post about head-coverings for women in church, reminding us about Pope St. Linus' decree. Share

A Great Lady

Columba has an article about Florida author Zora Neale Hurston. Her approach to writing about African-American womanhood stands in stark contrast to Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. To quote:

Hurston is flying in the face of the power of the matriarchy in African American society. In this, she stands in opposition to Toni Morrison as well as to Alice Walker. (Interestingly, Dorothy West, whose own mother exemplified this matriarchy as West describes it in her book Living Is Easy, was a close friend of Hurston's in Harlem.) That Hurston is celebrating the joys of loving the other is the interpretation that is in keeping with the work of Hurston's entire life. She did not apologize for being black, for being a woman, for being a human being, but sought to discover the rich lode of African Americans' iron grip on life and humanity and present it as a gift to America and to the world. Share

Tea-time Traditions Now

Under the Gables has a lovely post about tea-parties. Share

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Philippe Égalité

Richard has a post about the notorious aristocrat and revolutionary, Philippe Égalité. He cast the deciding vote which sent his cousin Louis XVI to his death. (Note the masonic insignia pinned to his robes beneath the medal of the Holy Spirit.) Share

Church and State

Scott Richert's article came out a few days ago but I was away. So here it is. Mr. Richert correctly observes:

The widely held, apparently self-evident, assumption that the pro-life movement is the creature of the “religious Right” has blinded even most informed observers to the unexpected and intriguing fact that, for some on the Catholic part of “the Right,” the life issues are no longer paramount, if they ever were. Share

Waking Rose

If you have not seen author Regina Doman's blog, please do so. Her work is very creative, tasteful, spiritual and wonderful for young people. Here is a review by Catholic writer Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur of Regina's most recent novel, Waking Rose. Share

The Irish in Ontario

It was a wonderful trip. I spent three beautiful days by a lake in Ontario, sunning on the beach, hiking in the woods, and having long talks about local and family history with my cousins. I gleaned a great deal of information and inspiration and even got some writing done.

Here is an article that one of my cousins sent me about the Irish settlers in Ontario, and how religious differences are still a source of contention in Canada. As it was once said of the old Irish by those who despised them:

"... Irish beggars are to be met everywhere, and they are as ignorant and vicious as they are poor. They are lazy, improvident and unthankful; they fill our poorhouses and our prisons, and are as brutish in their superstition as Hindoos." Share

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Blogging Break

I am going to take a blogging break for a few days. My other writing obligations require that I put everything else aside. Please keep me in your prayers. Blessings to all! Share

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

by John Keats Share

Martyrs of Korea

Today is their feast. They endured a great deal for the love of Christ. It is humbling to think that we are trying to get into the same Heaven.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Pope Benedict XVI quotes St. John Chrysostom on the importance of training children in the faith.

"'In this first stage inclinations to vice and virtue begin to show,'" the Holy Father said. "That is why God's law must be impressed on the soul from the beginning 'as on a table of wax.' In fact this is the most important age.

"We must be aware how important it is that in this first phase of life the major orientations that give the right perspective to existence truly enter into man. Chrysostom therefore recommends: 'From a very young age, arm children with spiritual weapons.'" Share

The Tears of the Virgin

Our Lady wept at La Salette on September 19, 1846. It was roughly two years before another wave of revolution would sweep across Europe, breaking down the structures what was left of Christendom. Once again, France was the site chosen by heaven for messages of supreme importance for the world. Taking God's name in vain and violating the Lord's day were not regarded as small matters by the Mother of Jesus. The Blessed Virgin spoke to two peasant children in the Dauphiné province in terms that they could understand, as the following shows:
"If my people do not obey, I shall be compelled to loose my Son's arm. It is so heavy I can no longer restrain it. How long have I suffered for you! If my Son is not to abandon you, I am obliged to entreat Him without ceasing. But you take no heed of that. No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured on your behalf. I have given you six days to work. The seventh I have reserved for myself, yet no one will give it to me. This is what causes the weight of my Son's arm to be so crushing. The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son's name. These are the two things which make my Son's arm so heavy."

The Lady then went on to speak about the coming punishments for these sins of Sabbath breaking and blasphemy, including crop blights and famine, at one point switching from French, which the children did not understand perfectly, to the local patois. Then she spoke to Maximin alone, imparting a secret to him which Mélanie could not hear, before turning to her to give a secret that Maximin likewise could not hear. Presently she again spoke to both saying that if the people were to be converted then the fields would produce self-sown potatoes and the stones become wheat.

She then asked a significant question: "Do you say your prayers well, my children?" They replied that they hardly prayed, and she told them they should say at least their morning and night prayers, before continuing: "Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the summer. Everyone else works every Sunday all summer long. And in the winter, when they don't know what else to do, they go to Mass only to scoff at religion. During Lent, they go to the butcher shops like dogs."

She then asked the children if they had ever seen spoiled wheat and when both replied that they had not, the Lady reminded Maximin that he had once seen it when on a visit to a nearby hamlet with his father; he then remembered that what she had said was true. Finally the Lady spoke to them in French: "Well, my children, you will make this known to all my people," before moving forward between them. She went on a few yards and then re-emphasized her message to them without turning around: "Now, my children, be sure to make this known to all my people."

Sources: Jaouen, A Grace called La Salette; Beevers, The Sun Her Mantle.

Here is an interesting site discussing the controversy surrounding the secrets of La Salette. (It is taken from a magazine article originally published in 1996 and so precedes the making public of the third part of the secret of Fatima.) Louis XVII is mentioned since one of the pretenders approached Maximin, hoping for validation.



Here is an article by Michael Brown about the importance of having blessed objects around one's house. He quotes extensively from Fr. Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist at the Vatican. I highly recommend Fr. Amorth's books. Brown says:

Just as a good spirit, and a blessing, can be attached to a holy object, so can a dark force arrive with something that has attracted the wrong kinds of spirits. Such is not superstition. Exorcists -- including leading ones -- will tell you this.

We see in Scripture how blessings could be transferred to a handkerchief (Acts 19:12) and the opposite occurs when something has been the object of obsession.

Often, we have problems in our homes or at work or in our lives and we grow frustrated because we don't recognize where it is coming from -- we never consider the true source. Most often, when there is such a roadblock, it is a spirit in or around a person or place, or around our own beings, but there are times when it is something that has come into our midst and needs to be purified.

"Objects can transmit negativity as well," noted Father Gabriele Amorth, a famous exorcist in Rome (in a book called An Exorcist: More Stories). "When we discover the source objects, it is easy to avoid contact with them or to destroy them."


St. Francis de Sales on Meekness

"Let us be very meek toward everyone and take care that our heart does not escape from our hands; therefore, let us place it every morning in an attitude of humility, meekness and tranquility. Perfect equanimity, meekness and unalterable graciousness are virtues more rare than perfect chastity and are most desirable."

~ St. Francis de Sales Share

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

St Joseph of Cupertino

Terry Nelson has a beautiful post on St. Joseph of Cupertino, a saint surrounded by mystical phenomena. Terry says:

How does one imitate a saint like Joseph of Cupertino? Or any other saint for that matter. It is true that we ought to imitate, or follow Christ alone, while the saints are presented to us as intercessors, helps and models for us who strive to live a Christian life. Though separated from us by the thin veil of our mortality, in their perfect union with God in heaven, they are more near to us - for the asking - than our closest friends. While their earthly lives may be emulated, although not necessarily in outward conduct, it seems to me that we do best to try to live according to their spirit. Share

Youthful Brides

Reading the Past is Sarah Johnson's blog about historical fiction. Sarah discusses current trends in mainstream literature as well as novels from decades ago. It is always an interesting blog to visit. Authors of good historical novels not only have to be able to write well enough to tell a story, but have to be familiar with historical details in order to make the work authentic.

Here is a post about young brides. As anyone who reads history at all should know, in the past women were married in adolescence, sometimes at age fourteen or fifteen. Some people find this terribly shocking, but in other times and other cultures girls were carefully prepared for the duties of marriage at an earlier age.

In the novel I am working on about my great-great grandparents, the bride was fifteen and the groom was thirty-four when they were married, which was common in the 1830's. Men could not marry until they were able to support a family, and sometimes that did not happen until they were past thirty, unless they were independently wealthy. As for the bride, the sooner as she was established in a secure home after reaching a certain age, the better off she was considered to be. Also, getting married young assured more children, which most people then thought was a good thing. My great-great grandmother had nine children, the first when she was sixteen and the last when she was forty-five. By the standards of the time, they were considered highly blessed.

Considering the kinds of things our young girls are exposed to now, we should not be horrified at the people in the past who sought honorable wedlock and a stable home life for their daughters, even when they were still teenagers. Perhaps for many it was too young, but times were different then, and life was simpler. Share

A Severe Mercy: The Movie

There is discussion of a new film project on the Church of the Masses blog. A Severe Mercy is based on Sheldon Vanauken's book about love, loss, and redemption. Here is the official website. It sounds like it has a lot of potential to be a powerful film about real life struggles with faith and human passions. I am looking forward to seeing it. Share

Monday, September 17, 2007

St. Albert of Jerusalem, Law-giver of Carmel

"Albert, by the grace of God, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to his beloved sons, Brocard and the other religious hermits who live under his obedience, near the fountain of Elias, on Mt. Carmel, health in the Lord, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit."

Thus opens the primitive Rule of St. Albert, one of the four great Rules of the Roman Church. It is the shortest of all the Rules, because minimal attention is placed on material things and the affairs of the world. The heavenly strivings of the Hermit Brothers of Our Lady are thereby emphasized. St Albert's exhortations on solitude, silence, poverty, obedience, fasting, and manual labor are all well-supported by his thorough knowledge of Sacred Scripture. Although the Rule was written for the hermits, its charism can be lived by all Carmelites. The heart of the Rule is that the Carmelite should be "meditating day and night on the Law of the Lord, and watching in prayer." Is not our striving for interior recollection an attempt to mirror this precept?

St. Albert of Vercelli, an Italian by birth, was sent to Palestine by Pope Innocent III because his wisdom and diplomacy were needed in that turbulent region. As the Latin Patriarch, St. Albert gained the respect of the eastern Christians and even of the Moslems. As an Augustinian Canon of the Holy Cross, St. Albert knew the religious life first hand. Between 1206 and 1210 he composed the Rule for the Carmelite hermits. On September 14, 1214, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, St. Albert was stabbed to death by a disgruntled, immoral cleric whom he had deposed. St. Albert's feast is September 17. Share

The Old Maids of the Great War

World War I killed a generation of young men, leaving a generation of young women without spouses. (Via LRC)

World War I deprived Britain of three-quarters-of-a-million soldiers, leaving as many more incapacitated.

In 1919 a generation of women who unquestioningly believed marriage to be their birthright discovered there were simply not enough men to go around.

The make-up of British society had changed irrevocably....


Adam and Eve

The New Oxford Review offers some insights.

One cannot overestimate the importance of finding the proper "line of demarcation" between subhuman primates and true man in the quest for Adam and Eve. On the assumption that the current human-evolution theory is essentially correct, such a demarcation line must exist, since we know philosophically that (1) human intellective powers are irreducibly superior to animal sense powers, and (2) the human spiritual soul cannot emerge gradually. Either a given primate is true man or not. Either a spiritual soul is present or not. Some primate must be the first true man, wholly and completely, all at once -- even if the fossil and paleological record fails to reveal that critical point of occurrence in time and place.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#390) tells us how to read Genesis: "The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man." As a rigorous standard against which to test the Homo erectus hypothesis proposed above, Origin of the Human Species uses the decisions of the 1909 Biblical Commission. Some of those findings, such as the original happiness of Adam and Eve in a state of justice, integrity, and immortality, the command of obedience, the sin and fall from the state of innocence, and the promise of the Redeemer are not such as to be verifiable in the fossil record or testable against evolution theory. More problematic are the teachings about the special creation of the man, the formation of the first woman from the man, and the unity of the human race.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Stranger in the Garden

It is recorded in biographies of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France that the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette was at times was approached by men claiming to be her brother Louis XVII. The little king had allegedly died in prison in great misery at the age of ten in June of 1795. His sister the Duchesse d'Angoulême was haunted by the rumors that he had somehow survived, as is described in the novel Madame Royale. One such incident occurred in 1816 when the princess was walking in the gardens of Versailles with her brother-in-law the Duc de Berry. The following excerpt re-creates the encounter.
At that moment, footsteps crunched on the gravel behind them. Thérèse assumed it was a member of one of their retinues coming to assure their safety. She turned and beheld a gentleman in his thirties with fair hair. His suit was so worn, it almost could be described as ragged; the innate dignity of the wearer put to flight the notion that he might be a beggar. He was a stranger, yet vaguely familiar. Of medium height, he had a full mouth, with pouting lower lip; large, deep-set blue eyes, an aquiline nose, arched eyebrows, and a high forehead. Rooted to the ground, she felt her hair stand on end. Was he another phantom of her mind? He held out his hand to her.

"Sister, my sister!" he pleaded gently.

Thérèse was surrounded by memory as by a whirlwind. She saw the distant moment when a little blond boy with blood-shot eyes had held out his hand to her, saying "Sister" in the council room of the Temple tower, surrounded by drunken guards and leering officials, where minutes before she had heard him accuse his mother of incest. The pity, horror, confusion, rage and disgust she had known in that hour of darkness returned in a flash, as if the hour were one and the same.

"Go away!" she shouted convulsively to the stranger. "Go away! It is you who are the cause of the misfortunes of my family!"

Berry's eyes widened in consternation and horror as his hand flew to his sword, but the stranger had already run into the wood. He soon vanished among the rows of trees. Berry put his arm around Thérèse, who was bent over as if from nausea, and they hurriedly departed from the gardens of Versailles.

~ from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter 18 "The Stranger"

Copyright 2000 by Elena Maria Vidal

Climate Changes

I remember studying the "little ice age," an era roughly from the 13th to the 19th century when temperatures were noticeably chillier. Old monastic records are a way scientists are able to study climate changes, as one article shows. (via Spirit Daily)

"We know from Josef Dietrich that the extremes were very big during his time. There were very cold winters and very mild winters, very wet summers and very dry summers," he says, adding that the range of weather extremes has been smaller in the 40 years he has recorded data for the Swiss national weather service.

"That's why I'm always cautious when people say the weather extremes now are at their greatest. Without historical context you lose control and you rush to proclaim every latest weather phenomenon as extreme or unprecedented," Hinder says.


The Once and Future Christendom

Guard Duty links to an article from The American Conservative which analyzes Western civilization in the light of Tolkien's trilogy, saying:

If this Muslimization befalls Europe, the consequences would be catastrophic for Americans as well. Although some neoconservatives, bitter at Old European “surrender monkeys,” might be quietly pleased at the prospect, the fact is that a Salafist Surge into the heart of Europe—destroying the civilization that bequeathed to us Aesop and Aristotle, Voltaire and the Victorians—would be a psychic wound that would never heal, not across the great sward of America, not even in the carpeted think-warrens of the American Enterprise Institute. A dolorous bell would toll for all of us, scattered as we might be in the European Diaspora.

So for better ideas, we might turn to J.R.R. Tolkien. The medievalist-turned-novelist, best-known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has been admired by readers and moviegoers alike for his fantastic flights. Yet we might make special note of his underlying political, even strategic, perspective. Amid all his swords and sorcery, we perhaps have neglected Tolkien’s ultimate point: some things are worth fighting for—and other things are not worth fighting for; indeed, it is a tragic mistake even to try.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Question of Clerical Celibacy

It is the discipline of the Roman Church, and yet I keep running across discussions among people, whom I assume are Roman Catholics, saying that they would not mind having "married priests," because it works so well for the Eastern rites. Perhaps the reason for this ancient discipline is beyond the trite attitude of "Well, I think it is a good idea," that is so prevalent on the Catholic blogosphere. Perhaps there is a very good reason that the popes and bishops of the Western Church long ago decided that celibacy was the best policy for the secular clergy. Until the Pope and bishops change the rule, if they ever do so, practicing Roman Catholics should accept the discipline of their Church with serenity and peace. And I am tired of having the Byzantines and Orthodox lifted up as an example of all that is perfect, when they have had their scandals, too, in spite of having married clergy. According to a beautiful article on the Vatican website, the reason so many of us have a problem with clerical celibacy and think our priests should all be married, is that we have lost a sense of the supernatural. The entire article merits a careful reading. To quote:

So, if we are to understand the problem of the relevance of priestly celibacy, we must study it within its true dimension: that of the supernatural. To say that priestly celibacy per se is not a dogmatic datum must not be taken as meaning that it can be relegated to some ‘cultural context’ or other. For we have to bear in mind that neither the doctrine nor the life of the Church can be reduced to formally revealed truths and everything else be regarded as arbitrary. On the contrary, these things are to be regarded as the fruit of the guidance and assistance of the Holy Spirit, and part of the Church’s two-thousand-year-old tradition.

In the question of celibacy, as in many others concerning the practical life of the Church, we have therefore to avoid minimalism, on the basis of which the only truly legitimate institutions and doctrines would be those of proven apostolic origin or otherwise infallibly defined. Seen aright, it is clear that the Latin discipline of ecclesiastical celibacy is neither arbitrary nor in conflict with the natural right to marriage, even though it cannot be affirmed that it can be deduced from revelation by an irrefutable syllogism. It belongs — indeed, very much so — to the sphere of ‘congruity’, in the sense that the basis for it lies in the very nature of priesthood.


A Gentle Witness

Here is an article of mine originally published in the May/June 2007 Canticle Magazine.

"A Gentle Witness"

Some of the greatest souls are those unknown to the world, whose loving influence has, nevertheless, far-reaching effects. There is a painting of the Visitation showing Saint Elizabeth with arms open wide to welcome the Blessed Virgin. The representation of Elizabeth always reminded me of a Visitandine nun, Mother Mary Paula, a petite, slightly bent frame, shrouded with a veil, vibrant with the Holy Spirit.

My first teaching job was at the Visitation Academy in Frederick, Maryland. I would come to regard Mother as a spiritual mentor, from the simple truths she imparted in her words and by her life. I learned by example the power of gentleness, as promoted by the teaching of Saint Frances de Sales, founder of the Visitation Order, who said: “Honey catches more flies than vinegar.”

The Frederick Visitation had been educating young ladies since 1846; it was a boarding school, and in the mid-1980’s still functioned as such. Most of the boarders were Mexican girls; there would be about twenty of them and the other hundred or so girls were day students, grades pre-K to 8. The school adjoined the cloister and both were surrounded by a high wall, so the academy was essentially in a monastery garden under the shelter of ancient trees. There were about five sisters left in the monastery; three were actively teaching. When advised to close the Academy, Mother Mary Paula would reply with the words Saint Joan of Arc uttered in another equally desperate situation: “You have taken your counsel, and I have taken mine….” The sisters ran the school for another twenty years, a decade after Mother’s death.

Mother Mary Paula was a steel magnolia. From a Baltimore family of Irish descent, she had a soft face and a gentle lilting voice. To see her sparkling eyes at Mass behind the choir grate at the Elevation of the Host was to share for a moment with her a glimpse beyond the veil of time. Her practicality in dealing with the children never failed to amaze me. She told me once, “The world is a frightening place for little ones. I want this school to be one place where they can feel safe and happy.” And she succeeded in her task. To a pouting child she would say, “If the devil can’t make you bad, then he will try to make you sad.” If a girl was crying she would say, “Let’s go to Mother Mary’s house.” Mother Paula would put her arm around the student and they would stand in front of a statue of the Virgin, and explain the problem, whatever it was. Blessed Mother always helped.

Mother Mary Paula was the soul of truth, and yet there were times I knew she was using mental reservation in dealing with certain willful young ladies. One late November there was a light, slushy snow, mostly ice, but the Mexican boarders, who had never seen any kind of frozen precipitation, wanted to romp in it. Mother was afraid they would get wet, cold, and sick, and so she said, “Girls, this isn’t real snow. It just looks like snow.” The girls crept outside anyway, slid joyfully through the slush, and yes, many were feverish and sneezing the following day.

Then there was the case of the girl I will call “Sage.” Sage was one of the most notorious mischief makers in the history of the Academy. She was not malicious, only constantly disruptive in class. At the end of the year, the sisters would distribute awards, usually some homemade stuffed animals. Every single child received a prize, the Visitation being the Visitation. As Mother Mary Paula distributed the gifts, she would say, “Now so-and-so has been very obedient this year….” She described each girl along the same lines, obedient and polite. Then it was Sage’s turn to receive her gift. Now even the naughtiest of the boarders had had moments of obedience and politeness, but everyone held their breath over Sage. They all knew that Sage had been completely recalcitrant. Was Mother Mary Paula about to tell a lie?

“Well, Sage, we made it through this year, and we’ll make it through next year.” An audible tension lifted from the room. Mother’s integrity was saved.

In her last years, Mother saw the Visitation flourish with an increase of students, while growing numbers of lay people and seminarians used the chapel for First Friday devotions and daily Mass. The Academy became a thriving center of genuine Catholic spirituality. Once, I was with Mother in the chapel, a masterpiece of grandeur and simplicity, with the stained glass windows, carved wooden columns and marble high altar.

“Do you see this chapel, Mary?” she asked. “The sisters who built this chapel did not even have money for food. But they had faith, great faith. All we have to do is pay a few bills; out of nothing they built this masterpiece which gives glory to God.”

With the burden of age and pressures of running the school weighing upon her, Mother’s health eventually gave way. She bore her last illness with serenity and had to be hospitalized, but towards the end they brought her home. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was in progress and as they brought her through the chapel; she turned and gazed upon Our Lord in the monstrance with the most radiant expression. She died on the feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, 1996. To be the Bride of Christ is to be a spiritual mother; the little nun had been a true mother to so many.

I often recite Mother Mary Paula’s prayer with the girls whom I teach. She prayed it before every class.

Dear Jesus, please help us with our lessons. Help us to use our lessons for you, and everything else we do. And make us grow in wisdom, age, and grace like you. And make our hearts like yours. And make us good housekeepers like Our Blessed Mother, and grant us your peace. Amen.


Scars We Bear for Life

Heidi has a beautiful article about how some wounds never fully heal, but they can be redemptive. She says:

Whether our wounds are physical, emotional, or spiritual, the principle remains the same: God uses the painful consequences of our actions to draw us into deeper relationship with Himself. As we endure the pain and the scars begin to form, those marks can become a source of bitterness ... or thankfulness.

If in our pain we choose to pull away from God (either because we think He's abandoned us, or because we are trying to punish ourselves), our scars become a constant reminder of our own failings and weaknesses. However, if we let ourselves draw close to God — in prayer and through the sacraments — He tends to our wounds and teaches us important lessons that we could not learn any other way.

When this happens, He does not remove the scars entirely; the pain may stay with us for a lifetime. However, these marks no longer accuse us, no longer have any power to determine our future course. They have been transformed into reminders of God's providence and mercy. And with these scars, we are turned a little more perfectly into the image of the One who was wounded for our sins, and the sins of the whole world.

Such faith is in stark and powerful contrast to those who are turning away from God and embracing militant atheism, as The Washington Post discusses today. (Thanks, Elisa!) Share

At the Foot of the Cross

"Holy Mother, pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour, crucified."
~ Stabat Mater

How well do the words of the Stabat Mater reflect the words of Simeon to Our Lady: "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce." (Luke 2:35) According to many saints, the Blessed Virgin suffered throughout her life, knowing that her Son was to undergo a cruel death. Her sufferings reached their climax at the foot of the Cross. As Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote: "O Queen of Virgins, you are also the Queen of Martyrs; but it was written within your heart that the sword transpierced you, for with you everything took place within your soul."

Few are called to physical martyrdom, but all Christians are called to compassionate the Saviour at the foot of the Cross. Like the heart of Mary, the heart of the Holy Mother St. Teresa was also mystically pierced. We can apply to her, in a much lesser degree, of course, the Responsory from the Vespers of Our Lady of Sorrows: "Happy is she who without dying has won the martyr's crown." (Roman Breviary)

(Art courtesy of Vultus Christi) Share

Friday, September 14, 2007

Our Lady of Sorrows

Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Our good friend John Boyden in Rome has a beautiful article about the Pieta of Michelangelo.

Speaking of art, art historian Elizabeth Lev writes about the struggle between Rome and revolutionary France, and how the political and spiritual turmoils were manifested in architecture. Share

The McGann Mystery

There are thousands of stolen and missing children all over the world; one shudders to think of all the children on the African continent alone who are missing and about whom no one will ever hear. One of the reasons that everyone knows about Madeleine McGann's disappearance is that her parents have raised the roof from day one in an effort to find her. They have the means to do so, whereas so many poor parents do not have any resources when their children are taken.

I always thought of Portugal as being relatively safe as far as foreign countries were concerned, and certainly as being safer than most parts of the USA, but that illusion has been shattered. Nevertheless, it is easy to forget how in August 1917 Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco were thrown into prison by local authorities with adult male criminals in an effort to make them recant their story about the Lady from heaven. The little ones were threatened with torture. They were not harmed but the threats were indeed made; the terrifying hours in jail did happen.

It has been claimed for several months that Madeleine's mother Kate is being framed for Madeleine's murder. It coincidentally happens that the chief of police investigating the case was also involved in another incident of a missing little girl, a child whose body was never found. There are also allegations that the mother in the previous case was framed, and tortured by police into confessing that she had killed her own daughter. That may not be true. Perhaps there is no connection at all, but it should be taken into account before everyone starts accusing Kate McGann.

I think that the parents made a big mistake to leave three toddlers alone in an apartment while they went to dinner. They themselves will never again have a moment of peace in their lives knowing what a mistake it was. But to accuse the McGanns of murdering their own child is both ludicrous and horrific. Especially with such bizarre evidence as hair and blood in a car that was rented almost a month after Madeline disappeared. It is all very strange. We need to pray. Share

The Latin Mass Today

We just finished watching the live broadcast of the traditional Latin Mass on EWTN. The plumber was here at 7:30 am fixing our clogged kitchen sink, and so we assisted at Mass with a great deal of racket in the background. In spite of the noise and the fact that we were watching it from afar, I was overwhelmed by the peace and serenity of the old rite. The years we lived in Pittsburgh, we went to the indult Mass every Sunday, but that was almost ten years ago. I had not realized how starved I was for the beauty of tradition until I heard the nuns chanting the Introit for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; tears streamed down my face.

People often say that the old rite is more complicated; perhaps for the priest the rubrics are more involved. I find it very easy to follow, however, and much more conducive to entering into the mystery of the day. I always have found that my mind wanders less during a Latin Mass, for it engages the powers of concentration on a deeper level. Also, one is not tensed for surprises as with the new Mass, where sometimes people like to indulge their creative impulses instead of following the rubrics laid down by the Church.

Once one figures out the missal the traditional Mass is quite easy to follow. I used an old missal that I have had for years; my father's Aunt Sheila gave it to me. Aunt Sheila found the missal in a trash can in England during World War II, when she was serving as a nurse with the Canadian military. It has many feasts of the various English martyrs which is another reason I treasure it.

During the Consecration, the broadcast suffered technical difficulties for a few minutes. At the same time, the plumber announced that he could not fix our sink and could not figure out what the problem was; he claimed he had never seen a drain so mysteriously clogged except in a hotel. (I told him we would pray over it and he said that was a good idea.) The Mass resumed; the entire spectacle of the magnificent Shrine in Hanceville, the chants, the incense, the reverence, the crowded nave, the ladies in mantillas, was incredibly moving and beautiful.

As in the past, I came away from the Latin Mass uplifted and inspired. I look forward to the future. May God bless Pope Benedict XVI!

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! Share

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Marie-Antoinette and Friendship

In her last letter, Marie-Antoinette wrote to her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth: "Happiness is doubled when shared with a friend...." In those words are contained the value she placed on friendship as being intrinsic to her happiness. Indeed, the queen had a great capacity for friendship, although she was not always prudent in her choice of companions.

In some cases, especially in regard to Madame de Polignac, the friendship spilled over into girlish infatuation. Her enemies seized upon such weaknesses and perceived faults to feed the false rumors that Marie-Antoinette had lovers of both genders. No serious biographer of the queen gives the least credence to the scandalous stories; even Lady Antonia Fraser insists in her recent biography that there is not the slightest indication that Marie-Antoinette ever participated in homosexual acts.

However, people with promiscuous backgrounds tend to judge others according to their own behavior. The French court, being the French court, was the kind of setting that shadowed the most innocent relationships with tawdry connotations. Marie-Antoinette, with her beauty, naivet
é and sentimentality, was the perfect target for every sort of calumny.

In an age famous for florid and exaggerated expressions, the queen was especially gushing and emotional when revealing her feelings. In my opinion, it speaks of the deep loneliness and sense of isolation that she experienced as a young girl, sent away from home at the age of fourteen to a hostile court. To some extent, her emotions remained fixed at that age, with all the intensity of early adolescence, as can be seen in the lyrics she wrote for a song, "Portrait Charmant:"

Portait charmant, portait de mon amie
Gage d'amour par l'amour obtenu
Ah viens m'offrir le bien que j'ai perdu
Te voir encore me rappelle à la vie.

Oui les voilà ses traits, ses traits que j'aime
Son doux regard, son maintien, sa candeur
Lorsque ma main te presse sur mon coeur
Je crois encore la presser elle-même

Non tu n'as pas pour moi les mêmes charmes
Muet témoin de nos tendres soupirs
En retraçant nos fugitifs plaisirs
Cruel portrait, tu fais couler mes larmes

Pardonne-moi mon injuste langage
Pardonne aux cris de ma vive douleur
Portait charmant, tu n'es pas le bonheur
Mais bien souvent tu m'en offres l'image

Translation :

Charming portrait, portrait of my friend
Token of love, by love obtained
Ah come and give me back the good I have lost
To see you again brings me back to life

Yes here they are, her features, her features I love
Her sweet looks, her bearing, her ingenuousness
When I press you to my heart
I think I still embrace her herself.

No you don't have to me the same charms
Silent witness of our tender sighs
By recounting our fleeting pleasures
Cruel portrait, you make my tears fall.

Forgive me for my unfair language
Forgive the cries of my bitter woe
Charming portrait, you are not happiness
But so often you give me the image of it.

"Portrait Charmant" was written for one of the queen's close friends, perhaps Madame de Lamballe. It would be unwise to interpret the lines in terms of our contemporary American culture, so colored by Calvinism and yet ready to sexualize everything. In the lifestyle the queen tried to design at Petit Trianon, life was beautiful, love was pure, everything was rustic, pristine, and natural, a place for small children to play in innocence. In her letters she was always covering everyone with kisses, completely unaware of any double entendres, of any sordid misinterpretation.

Why did Marie-Antoinette have such a need for close friendships? In the vast palaces where she was born and raised, amid a many-peopled court, where she often went for ten days at a time without seeing her busy mother, the Archduchess Antonia's closest family member was her sister, Maria Carolina, three years her senior. Maria Carolina was bossy but very motherly and extremely protective of her little sister. When Antonia was about twelve, Carolina married and the two sisters never saw each other again. Later, Marie-Antoinette, far away in France, separated from her mother, who was always highly critical of her anyway, tried to find a friend, a "big sister" to take Carolina's place. Both of her closest friends, Madame de Lamballe and Madame de Polignac, were a few years older than herself and, especially Madame de Polignac, were highly maternal. The queen seemed to grow in emotional maturity and balance after she herself became a mother and had to fight for the survival of her family.

The fact that her marriage had so many difficulties getting started, and that her husband Louis XVI, although a worthy man, was known to be moody, the queen gravitated to her girlfriends for emotional support. Louis XVI had high regard for Madame de Polignac and encouraged his wife to befriend her, seeing her as someone who could guide Antoinette into being a good wife and mother.

Throughout her life, Marie-Antoinette had many friends from all walks of life, including artists, musicians, and theater people, so that her maid Madame Campan in her Memoirs described the queen as being "too democratic." In the last few years, she grew closer to her pious sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth; it was to Elisabeth that the queen, about to die, expressed her last thoughts and her restrained agony. "
I had friends," she wrote. "The idea of being forever separated from them and from all their troubles is one of the greatest sorrows that I suffer in dying. Let them at least know that to my latest moment I thought of them." Share

Martha at Macy's

On a lighter note...I don't always like Martha Stewart, but I really like her stuff, now on sale at Macy's. Share

Holy Cross Day

Tomorrow (September 14) we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. In many places, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be offered in the "extraordinary form" of the Latin rite, including the Shrine in Hanceville. EWTN will broadcast it live in the morning. (Thanks, Joshua!)

We are marked by the sign of the cross at our baptism. For the Christian, there is no escaping the cross. We elude one cross only to find another. And yet with God's help we can bear it with joy, for the cross is the ladder to paradise.

If we have been given a few "light" crosses, than it is so that we have the strength to pray for those whose crosses are unbearable, such as the exploited children. And for those suffering very close to home, such as Dr. William Petit, whose family were so horribly murdered, not quite two months ago.

Here is the Litany of the True Cross.

Prayer for a Happy Death

From Father Jim Tucker.

OH, my Lord and Saviour, support me in that hour in the strong arms of Thy Sacraments, and by the fresh fragrance of Thy consolations. Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me, and Thy own Body be my food, and Thy Blood my sprinkling; and let my sweet Mother, Mary, breathe on me, and my Angel whisper peace to me, and my glorious Saints ... smile upon me; that in them all, and through them all, I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die, as I desire to live, in Thy faith, in Thy Church, in Thy service, and in Thy love. Amen. Share

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Irish Soldiers of Mexico

A moving article from The Lion and the Cardinal. I had never heard of St. Patrick's battalion; now, I will never forget them. Share

Canadian film about Marie-Antoinette

Last year there premiered a television mini-series about Marie-Antoinette in French Canada, starring Karine Vanasse. From what I hear, it is immensely more accurate than the Coppola debacle, with the French scholar Chantal Thomas as an advisor. I have not seen it yet but would like to sometime. Here are some stills from the film. (Thanks, M. de Brantigny!)


Antietam Remembered

One of the bloodiest battles in American history occurred in a Maryland field. A journalist from The Washington Post writes of a recent visit to Antietam:

It was here on Sept. 17, 1862, in the rolling hills of Western Maryland near the town of Sharpsburg, that more than 23,000 Americans became casualties in 12 hours of savage fighting, a single day of loss unsurpassed in U.S. history. In these fields 145 years ago, the Federal army stopped cold a seemingly inexorable Confederate offensive under Robert E. Lee. It gave President Abraham Lincoln the political power to issue a proclamation that started the downfall of slavery.


For the next seven hours, I tramped the battlefield, seeing it from myriad perspectives, and unearthed some of the lesser-known tales of this great battle. Here's what I discovered.


At the Gates of Vienna

On September 12, the fifth day within the octave of the Nativity of the Virgin, in 1683, the army of the Turkish Sultan, 300,000 strong, was miraculously defeated at the gates of Vienna after an attempt to sweep across Europe. The King of Poland, Jan Sobieski, had come to the aid of the Habsburg Emperor Leopold, and they attributed the victory to the fact that they had put the name of Mary on their banners, thus invoking the aid of the Mother of God. The triumph, won against overwhelming odds, saved Europe from becoming a Moslem colony, and September 12 became the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.

"Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, as terrible as an army set in array?" Canticle of Canticles 6:9

"And the virgin's name was Mary...." St. Luke 1:27

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Abortion Fraud

Catholics for Ron Paul has an article about how abortion is the ultimate state tyranny. To quote:

Planned Parenthood taking over $300 million of your tax dollars to perpetuate fraud, protect rapists, violate parental authority over their children, and make money off of the murder of pre-born Americans.

"Abortion is the ultimate State Tyranny!" - Ron Paul

Which Founding Father advocated a philosophy of government that says the State has an interest in funding abortions with public funds? None.

Which Founding Fathers advocated a philosophy of government that says the State is limited, most especially when compared to the inalienable right to life? All.

This is why our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are perhaps two of the most important legal documents for the Culture of Life.

Vote for Ron Paul to restore the Constitution and return America to a Culture of Life.


Mrs. Coniker's Cause for Beatification

Gwen Coniker, a mother of twelve who died a few years ago, is being considered for canonization by the Vatican at the suggestion of her husband. (Via Spirit Daily) Share

Madeleine L'Engle

An enlightening article on the late children's author. I found the Wrinkle in Time series to be very engaging and inspiring. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who identified with "Meg Murry" as a teenager. Share


...The horror of that day. May all who perished rest in peace, and may God protect our country. Share

Monday, September 10, 2007

"C'est Mon Ami"

Although it is fairly well-known that Marie-Antoinette loved music (she studied under the famous Chevalier de Saint-Georges), many people are surprised to learn that she composed her own tunes. This is at odds with the typical image of the queen as being a thoughtless playgirl. (She also wrote poetry and spoke Italian. She was not an intellectual, but she was very bright, contrary to the myths.) She composed several songs, the most famous being "C'est mon ami" ("My Friend") with lyrics by Florian. In "Portrait Charmant," however, both words and lyrics were her own. Mayuko Karasawa sings several of the queen's songs. Share

Living Together

It is rampant. Even some religious people live together before being married. Society imposes no sense of shame, except upon those who dare to speak out against such arrangements, by calling them "judgmental." I would not dare to judge anyone, but I reserve my right to refrain from showing approval for those living illicitly. If I were to ever fall into such a situation, I would hope someone would reprimand me or, at least, not cheer me on.

Some theologians are trying to make living together before marriage morally justifiable by invoking the medieval custom of betrothal. But the medieval betrothal was a very different thing from the modern way of shacking up after casually declaring an "engagement," as explained in an article from the New Oxford Review. Share

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Going to Mass on Sunday

It is not just a rule; it is an "inner necessity," according to Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his homily today in Vienna's Cathedral of St. Stephen. The Pope said:

"Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish. Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the week-end, into leisure time. Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus -- the encounter with him who is our origin and goal. My great predecessor in the see of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber, once put it like this: Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul. Share

Nitanny Antique Machinery Show

Yesterday, in an effort to enjoy what is left of the waning summer days, we decided to go to the Nittany Antique Machinery Show at Penn's Cave outside of Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. The site is fascinating in itself for both the legend and the history, as is related here:

A historic landmark centuries ago, the Seneca Indians discovered this natural landmark in the Valley of Karoondinha (Penn's Valley). The famous legend of the Indian Maiden, Nitanee, from whom the famous Penn State Nittany Lion is named, and her French trapper lover, Malachi Boyer, has been told around campfires for generations. Unable to marry because of Indian custom, they ran away and were captured, and Malachi was thrown into Penn's Cave to die. Local history also tells of Indians and early explorers using the dry rooms for shelter. The cavern was opened to the public in 1885 when the former hotel was built, and today Penn's Cave and the Penn's Cave House have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There was every kind of tractor in the world on display on the meadow at the foot of the mountain.

Many Amish and Mennonites were there. The Amish women always strike me as being very much at peace with themselves and with the world. They laugh a lot, although not uproariously, and do not seem to worry about getting fat.

Lots of old steam engines could be seen.

There were many craftsmen at the show, including a blacksmith. All in all, it was a taste of America, past and present.

(Photos courtesy of Michael J. Russell) Share

Centennial of "Pascendi"

Yesterday was the one hundredth anniversary of the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis of Pope St. Pius X, condemning modernism. The holy pope called modernism the "synthesis of all heresies." Every Catholic should read what he had to say. St. Pius X was a prophet as well as a pope, as can be seen in the following words when he describes Catholic modernists who deceive as wolves in sheep's clothing:

And here we have already some of the artifices employed by Modernists to exploit their wares. What efforts do they not make to win new recruits! They seize upon professorships in the seminaries and universities, and gradually make of them chairs of pestilence. In sermons from the pulpit they disseminate their doctrines, although possibly in utterances which are veiled. In congresses they express their teachings more openly. In their social gatherings they introduce them and commend them to others. Under their own names and under pseudonyms they publish numbers of books, newspapers, reviews, and sometimes one and the same writer adopts a variety of pseudonyms to trap the incautious reader into believing in a multitude of Modernist writers. In short, with feverish activity they leave nothing untried in act, speech, and writing. And with what result? We have to deplore the spectacle of many young men, once full of promise and capable of rendering great services to the Church, now gone astray. It is also a subject of grief to Us that many others who, while they certainly do not go so far as the former, have yet been so infected by breathing a poisoned atmosphere, as to think, speak, and write with a degree of laxity which ill becomes a Catholic. They are to be found among the laity, and in the ranks of the clergy, and they are not wanting even in the last place where one might expect to meet them, in religious communities If they treat of biblical questions, it is upon Modernist principles; if they write history, they carefully, and with ill-concealed satisfaction, drag into the light, on the plea of telling the whole truth, everything that appears to cast a stain upon the Church. Under the sway of certain a priori conceptions they destroy as far as they can the pious traditions of the people, and bring into disrespect certain relics highly venerable from their antiquity. They are possessed by the empty desire of having their names upon the lips of the public, and they know they would never succeed in this were they to say only what has always been said by all men. Meanwhile it may be that they have persuaded themselves that in all this they are really serving God and the Church. In reality they only offend both, less perhaps by their works in themselves than by the spirit in which they write, and by the encouragement they thus give to the aims of the Modernists.

In the Motu proprio, Sacrorum Antistitum of September, 1910 Pope St. Pius mentions the conspiracies of "secret associations." Many very sophisticated Catholics ridicule any mention of secret societies and conspiracy theories. However, any one with more than a cursory knowledge of history knows that there have been conspiracies which changed the course of history. The Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence had quite a conspiracy going, as King George III was to discover to his dismay. To quote from an article about Pascendi:

In dealing with historical conspiracies, there are two errors. One is the simplistic error of reducing everything to mere conspiracies. The second is to also deny,
a priori, the possibility of any conspiracies. By his very nature, man tends to associate with those who think like him or share the same interests or goals, as the old Latin adage says, similis simili gaudet (like rejoices in like). This natural tendency often gives rise to groups, organizations or movements of people who gather not only to discuss their interests but to coordinate their efforts for victory. History has seen all kinds of conspiracies, cabals, political machinations, military plots, theologians’ factions, and so forth. Thus, speaking of a modernist conspiracy whose goal is to change the Church is hardly absurd. Saint Pius X himself speaks of a “secret society.” Share