With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the Sea”: Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).Share
Friday, November 30, 2007
Etiquette was unknown. The emperor and empress liked to live in the midst of their subjects kind and friendly toward all but restraining familiarity by respect. Unfortunately they were so absorbed by the care of the policy and administration of their vast empire that they had little leisure to superintend the education of their numerous children. They confided them to tutors and governesses whom they chose with care and to whom it appears they gave their instructions without, however, seeing that they were carried out. (Rocheterie, p 2)As is well-known, her own family's casualness about etiquette would make living at Versailles quite a challenge for the teenage Marie-Antoinette.
In such a loving if rather haphazard environment, the little archduchess blossomed into a lively and attractive child. While she was not outstandingly pious or studious, she learned her prayers and was carefully catechized. She very much enjoyed her music instructions (Gluck was her teacher), her dancing lessons, and anything to do with pets, especially dogs and horses. She did well at languages, including Latin and Italian, and showed an interest in history. Theater was her passion, especially comedy. When preparing to go to France to be married, two actors helped to improve her French diction, which Louis XV thought to be inappropriate when he heard of it. (The French king sent the priest Abbé Vermond to take over the future queen's studies.) Nevertheless, the princess learned to speak, walk and move with beauty and grace, as if on stage.
Marie-Antoinette's mother taught her to play cards. Knowing the French court, Empress Maria Teresa probably feared that if her daughter did not learn how to win certain games of chance, she would lose all her money. Gambling was rife at all the courts of Europe; the Viennese actually played for much higher stakes than the French, which did not help Marie-Antoinette when she started having all night card parties as a twenty-year old Queen of France. However, her mother also instilled in her a great concern for the poor and a sense of duty towards all who were unfortunate; there are many accounts of the young archduchess' charity.
The word most often used to describe the youthful Marie-Antoinette by those in charge of her was dissipation. Now in French, dissipation has a slightly different meaning from our English version of the word. As Nesta Webster explains in Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette Before the Revolution (p.12):
The gravest reproach brought against [Marie-Antoinette]...is her tendency to "dissipation," a word which must not...be translated by the English word dissipation signifying wild gaiety, even dissoluteness, but simply a love of distraction and a disinclination to give fixed attention to any subject.I wonder if today she would have been diagnosed as genuinely having an attention deficit disorder. Sadly, the wandering mind of a young girl would cause her to be forever labeled as "dissipated" by those who misunderstood or mistranslated the original meaning.
Before sending Marie-Antoinette to France, it is reported that the Empress consulted Dr. Gassner the "thaumaturgus" in regard to the fourteen year old girl's future. Dr. Gassner regarded the princess with a serious expression before replying: "There are crosses for all shoulders." Share
Andrew, having been brought to the place of execution, seeing the cross at some distance, began to cry out: O good cross, made beautiful by the body of my Lord! so long desired, so anxiously loved, so unceasingly sought after, and now at last ready for my soul to enjoy! take me from amidst men, and restore me to my Master; that by thee He may receive me, Who by thee redeemed me. He was therefore fastened to the cross, on which he hung alive two days, preaching without cessation the faith of Christ....Share
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Thanks to Laudem Gloriae for such a great post. The picture above is of a masonic pamphlet celebrating the death of Louis XVI. Yes, I realize that it is stylish in very sophisticated circles to make fun of all conspiracy theories. Of course, there has been a tendency of some authors in the past to make everything that happened in the Revolution a result of masonic conspiracies. Considering the various vying factions of the Revolution, who frequently turned on each other like devils in hell, such a view is an oversimplification of events. Also, it must be taken into consideration that several relatives of the royal family, including the queen's father, brother and sister, as well as Madame de Lamballe, were high-ranking freemasons. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were favorably disposed towards the masons in the beginning. Nevertheless, it should be recalled that the masons themselves bragged about their role in the on-going series of revolutions which have led to the breakdown of Christendom. To quote:
The triumph of the Galilean has lasted twenty centuries. But now he dies in his turn. The mysterious voice, announcing (to Julian the Apostate) the death of Pan, today announces the death of the impostor God who promised an era of justice and peace to those who believe in him. The illusion has lasted a long time. The mendacious God is now disappearing in his turn; he passes away to join in the dust of ages the divinities of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, who saw so many creatures prostrate before their altars. Bro. Masons, we rejoice to state that we are not without our share in this overthrow of the false prophets. The Romish Church, founded on the Galilean myth, began to decay rapidly from the very day on which the Masonic Association was established.Share
--President of the Grand Orient Masonic Lodge, Senator Delpech, 20 September, 1902
Drawing close to Our Lady in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception is one of the best ways I can think of to spiritually ready the soul for the great feasts that are to come. The novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, begins today. And here is an excerpt from the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, much of which is based on Sacred Scripture:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, I firmly believe in thy Immaculate Conception. I bless God for having granted thee this glorious privilege. I thank Him a thousand times for having taught it to me by the infallible voice of the Church. Receive my heart, O Immaculate Virgin; I give it to thee without reserve; purify it; guard it; never give it back to me, preserve it in thy love and in the love of Jesus during time and eternity. AMEN.Share
V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.
Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, did prepare a worthy habitation for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as in view of the death of that Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain of sin, so Thou wouldst enable us, being made pure by her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
November 29th marks the anniversary of the passing of Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic Worker Movement. Mark the date on your calendar, because this radical pacifist who had been a member of the I.W.W., met Leon Trotsky, had an abortion, and raised a daughter as a divorced single mother may be the next American canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.
(Via The Western Confucian)
"I will have mercy and not sacrifice. I come not to call the just but sinners." (Matthew 9: 13) Share
By the way, many people seem to think that Ron Paul is some kind of an independent candidate. He is not. Dr. Paul is a Republican and a sitting United States congressman.
UPDATE HERE. Share
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Winter is almost upon us. The liturgical year is dying, to be reborn amid Advent hopefulness in a few more days. I finally received my first copy of Victoria Magazine, which has also experienced a resurrection. The ladies who have revived the cherished periodical have really tried to make it as it was in its early nineties heyday. There are many articles helpful to creating a home environment of cheer and inspiration, including some pictures of a winter garden. We forget that even in the cold and bleakness of the season there can be a serene beauty. Share
Today is the feast of the Miraculous Medal. The apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré at the convent of the Daughters of Charity on the Rue de Bac in Paris are quite famous. Many people are unaware that the novice from Burgundy also experienced a vision of Christ the King, which foretold to her the July Revolution of 1830, and the final fall of the House of Bourbon. The July Revolution sent the Duchesse d'Angoulême and her family into exile for the rest of their lives, as is told in the novel Madame Royale.
Fr. Joseph Dirvin describes the vision of June 6, 1830 in detail in his biography of St. Catherine.
On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1830, Sister Laboure was given a special vision of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or more specifically of Christ as King. This time she is precise as to the moment of the vision. Our Lord appeared to her, robed as a king, with a cross at His breast, during the Gospel of the Mass. Suddenly, all His kingly ornaments fell from Him to the ground—even the cross, which tumbled beneath His feet. Immediately her thoughts and her heart fell, too, and were plunged into that chasm of gloom that she had known before, gloom that portended a change in government. This time, however, she understood clearly that the change in government involved the person of the King, and that, just as Christ was divested of His royal trappings before her, so would Charles X be divested of his throne.Share
It is a startling thing, this sacred vision of God Himself coming in majesty to foretell the fall of an earthly monarch, and the vision of Christ the King to Catherine Laboure seems to have had no other purpose than to foretell the fall of Charles X of France. The mystery of it will never be fully solved; yet here and there the mind may mull over certain clues.
The greatest of these clues is the nature of the French monarchy itself, which, as Hilaire Belloc understood so well, was a holy thing, wedded to the people it ruled, and the prototype of all the monarchies of Europe. This ancient royalty had its roots in Rome and had received its Christian mandate in the crowning of Charlemagne by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800 A.D. It had lived for more than a thousand years in one line of men. No matter how great the goodness or wickedness of these royal men—and there was an ample supply of both—the sanctity of the monarchy itself and its mystical espousal to the French people is not to be questioned. In its institutions, its duties, its relationship to those it governed, its elaborate ritual, it was an imitation on a much lower plane of the Church of God. The French, kings and subjects alike, knew this well. Jeanne d'Arc was in an agony until the Dauphin should be crowned at Rheims and his body anointed and consecrated in the sacred rite which was so essential to this kingly religion; in a sense, it was her sole mission, and it is significant that her fortunes declined afterward. Louis XI had the Ampulla of holy oil brought from Rheims that his dying eyes might rest on it. Napoleon III sought to sanctify his usurpation by having himself anointed with the small, hard lump that was all that remained of the holy oil in 1853. The Kings of France, no matter how absolute their rule, had to be born and to die, had to eat and drink, take their recreation, and pray in the sight of the people. At the birth of her ill-fated Dauphin, Marie Antoinette almost died of suffocation, because of the press of the common people in her chamber, witnessing her lying-in; only the quick-witted action of a bystander, breaking a window to let in the fresh air, saved her.
The double religious family to which Catherine belonged had had official relationships with the French monarchy. Louis XIII had died in the arms of Vincent de Paul. The Founder continued to serve his widow, Anne of Austria, during the early part of her Regency, both as her confessor and as an important member of the royal Council of Conscience, a body established for the reform of the Church. Under Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Vincentian Fathers had been royal chaplains at Versailles, and, after the restoration, had been privileged to form a guard of honor about the bier of Louis XVIII.
That the vision of Christ the King had some intimate relationship with the end of the Bourbon dynasty seems evident, for Charles X was the last of the royal Bourbons; his cousin Louis Philippe, who succeeded him, belonged to a lateral line. Again we are confronted with the astonishing preoccupation of Heaven with the fortunes of France.
Before leaving this vision, we must point out the noteworthy fact that Catherine Laboure was the first saint in modern times to be vouchsafed a vision of Christ as King. In the light of the great present-day devotion to the Kingship of Christ, we would seem justified in questioning whether the vision might not have a mystical meaning. In announcing the end of the oldest of monarchies, might not Christ have meant to point up the passing quality of all earthly authority, and to foretell present-day devotion to His Kingship as the index of the eternal quality of His own Reign?
Certainly, however, Sister Laboure did not ponder thus in her heart. She knew only, as the common people know, that there was to be "a change in government," and that, as inevitably came to pass, "many miseries would follow." She knew only, as the common people know, that there had been too many changes of government in France over the last forty years, too many miseries following, and, with this instinctive knowledge of the people, she grew sad and feared.
The statesmen and politicians of the land would have laughed at the long, prophetic thoughts of the little Sister, for national order seemed well established and peace reigned. Indeed, the government was enjoying the flush of esteem that had come with the brilliant victory of the French troops in Algiers, a victory which the nation had asked through the intercession of St. Vincent. In certain coffee houses and wine shops of Paris, however, there would have been no laughter. The brutal men assembled there would merely have smiled with grim satisfaction at this forecast of success for the revolution they were plotting.(~from St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal by Fr. Joseph Dirvin)
(Artwork from Abbey Roads 2)
Monday, November 26, 2007
On November 14/26, 1896 Tsar Nicholas II married his cousin Alix of Hesse, just one week after Alexander III's funeral. According to one account:
On the morning of the wedding, the Dowager Empress Marie took her future daughter-in-law to the Winter Palace where the ceremony was to take place.Share
As troops and crowds lined the streets outside, Nicholas, wearing a Hussar's uniform, arrived at the Winter Palace. The ceremony was straightforward and simple and, out of respect for the late Tsar, no festivities were allowed. "One day in deepest mourning, lamenting a loved one, the next, in smartest clothes being married," was how Alexandra described it.
Immediately after the ceremony, the young couple drove to the Anichkov Palace, enthusiastically cheered by huge crowds. As the marriage had been arranged so hastily, no proper preparations had been made for the couple and they agreed to stay as the guests of Nicholas's mother. The rooms they shared at the Anichkov Palace with Marie were cramped and lacking in privacy.
In these small rooms, Alexandra sat all day, moving into her bedroom when her husband had to receive official visitors in the sitting room. But she was entirely happy; her husband was always near her.
We were entertained on Thanksgiving Day by some friends in Maryland. They have a grand old house in the country that has been in their family for generations. Such houses are like people, with a unique character and personality that come from all the events that have transpired therein. It was a warm, mild day, although later the wind came up, and it rained.
Family and friends of all ages partook of the feast. There were about thirty of us who sat down to dinner, at three tables, amid lots of laughter and story-telling. It was a wonderful day.
If the photographs in Les communautés traditionnelles en France are anything to go by, then just across the Channel there lies a whole rich seam of Catholic religious life that is young, vibrant and growing.
In addition to youthfulness and success, there are two other common features that unite the communities featured in this book. One is that they all have the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy – the “traditional” rites liberated by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent Motu Proprio – as the heart and foundation of their spirituality. The other is that many of them long enjoyed the steadfast, if unofficial support, of a certain well-placed cardinal in Rome. His name was Joseph Ratzinger.
There is no gain without pain and most of these 18 communities have at some stage suffered from misunderstanding and prejudice. Before the Motu Proprio there was often intense pressure from unsympathetic ecclesiastical authorities to abandon all adherence to the “old rite”. But when the going was particularly rough, the abbots, prioresses and rectors of these institutes were sustained by the knowledge that they had an influential friend in Rome – a friend who is now reigning as Pope Benedict XVI.
THIS is interesting. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace) Share
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Anyone who nourishes the delusion that worldly success is the key to happiness has only to watch La Vie en Rose (2007) about French singer Edith Piaf. The story line is difficult to follow, unless someone is already familiar with the life of La Môme Piaf. I was not familiar with it and so had to do quite a bit of googling so I could understand what was happening in the film. Nevertheless, enough of Edith's vivid existence is captured with all the dirt and glamor so that the weight of mystery and tragedy is poignantly conveyed.
Her life was a blending of the profane and the sacred, from her childhood spent in a brothel to the extraordinary intervention of St Thérèse of Lisieux. The prostitutes who were raising Edith took her to the saint's grave in Lisieux and prevailed upon the Carmelite nun's intercession, so that the little girl was healed from blindness. She never forgot it, and neither did St. Thérèse, who will not let go of someone once she decides to fight for their soul.
The way the Little Flower haunted Edith's life with her usual tenacity reminded me of other stories of the saint, including some of my own. As a young person, I never felt drawn to St. Thérèse; she seemed too saccharine, her family was nothing like mine; I was not sure that I liked her at all. However, she kept boldly making herself known in the events of my youth, so that she became impossible to ignore. Now she is my friend; I hope she keeps her hand on me, as she does on many whom she adopts as spiritual siblings.
Poor Edith, she went through just about every terrible thing. The lurid brothel scenes of the film show prostitution to be the slavery that it is; the women could not seem to escape the lifestyle once they fell into it, in spite of their disgust and the horrific abuse they endured. Yet, the kindness with which they cared for Edith surpassed the treatment of many respectable people in her regard. Edith saw enough misery in the brothel so that she chose to sing for her supper rather than sell her body. She had to sing in order to live and in the end she could not live without singing.
Needless to say, the demons of her childhood would not release her; Edith was enslaved by drugs, alcoholism, while constantly seeking a love that could not be found in many lovers. And yet she always wore a cross; when she collapsed on stage, old before her time, she called upon Jesus and St. Thérèse. The words of the Gospel come to mind: "I will have mercy and not sacrifice. I come not to call the just but sinners." (Matthew 9: 13) Watching La Vie en Rose gives one the hope that, in the end, Edith found the mercy that we all hope to receive. Share
It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.Share
Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ." Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved." He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?" If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."
~Pope Pius XI "Quas Primas"
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Let us consider again the inscription placed above Christ: “This is the King of the Jews.” The onlookers challenged him to manifest his royalty openly and many, even among his friends, expected a spectacular demonstration of his kingship. But he chose only to show his kingship in his solicitousness for one man, who was, in fact, a criminal: “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.'"Share
Friday, November 23, 2007
Yet, beyond the exigencies of politics, Philip, the most powerful man in the world, remained an extraordinarily humble monarch. “They need to see that I am mortal,” he insisted, “like everyone else.” He showed scant interest in pomp and finery, altering royal protocol to ensure that he should be addressed in official documents not as “Majesty” but simply as “Sir”. He even recognised a certain value in tolerating political dissent. “The Prince of whom subjects complain the least,” he observed, “is he who gives them most freedom to complain.” With this humility went a real concern for the poor and unfortunate. It was typical of him that, when the remnants of the defeated Armada returned to Spain, he immediately gave orders that the wounded should be properly treated and receive a pension. As to the disaster itself, he disdained to express any complaint. “It is impiety, and almost blasphemy,” he considered, “to presume to know the will of God.”
Laudem Gloriae discusses Queen Isabel.
Under the pink and white of her skin pulsed the blood of crusaders and conquerors, the blood of Alfred the Great, of William the Conqueror, of the iron Plantagenet Henry II and the fiery Eleanor of Aquitaine, of Edward I and Edward III of England, of Philip the Bold of France, of Alfonso the Wise of Castile. She was descended on both sides from Louis IX of France and his cousin Fernando III of Castile, both kings, both crusaders and both canonized saints. She derived Lancastrian blood through both parents from John of Gaunt, brother of the Black Prince. --William Thomas WalshShare
At the age of six months, most babies have barely learnt to sit up, let alone crawl, walk or talk.
But, according to new research, they can already assess someone's intentions towards them, deciding who is a likely friend or enemy.
US scientists believe babies acquire the ability to make social evaluations in the first few months of life.
The most valuable objects are usually the most fragile; costly things require the most careful handling. Particularly fragile is that which is lost by wanton talk and destroyed by the slightest injury to a brother. Men like nothing better than minding or discussing the business of others, passing superfluous comments at random and criticizing people behind their backs. So those who cannot say: The Lord has given me a discerning tongue, that I may with a word support him who is weary should keep silent, or if they do say anything it should promote peace. (The Roman Breviary)Share
Thursday, November 22, 2007
1 quart brandy
1-1/2 pounds sugar
1 quart green tea
1 pint heavy rum
1 quart peach brandy
1 gallon champagne
2 quarts carbonated water
Slice lemons thin and cover with brandy. Allow to steep for 24 hours. Several hours before ready to serve, slice the pineapple into the bowl with the lemon slices, then add the sugar, tea, rum, and peach brandy. Stir well. When ready to serve, add the champagne and water. 80-90 servings.
While in Rome, my mother bought me a small statue of Saint Cecilia, the Roman martyr from the turn of the early third century. It is based on the life-size one in her basilica, sculpted after her incorrupt body was exhumed in the sixteenth century. She is lying on her side in her dressing gown with her neck half-severed. Cecilia was killed in her bathroom, and the executioner who hacked at her neck was put off by her calm dignity. It took her three days to die. The prelude to her ordeal was an attempt to scald her, which was why she was found near the bath - one of those huge Roman baths. For Cecilia belonged to one of the ancient Roman families and possessed great wealth. She was young, beautiful, and desired, but she died because she refused to renounce her Savior.
While journeying through life it is easy to understand why so many of the martyrs were very young. When people are young they do not understand what it is to lose life. Sacrifices are easier when you do not fully grasp what is being renounced. There is a special valor, a reckless courage, possessed by young soldiers which old soldiers do not always have. And yet Christians of every age are called to be soldiers of Christ and martyrs in spirit if not in body. The fortitude that seemed so effortless in my grandparents in their old age I see now was no small thing.
As Abbot Gueranger wrote in The Liturgical Year, Vol XV : "The lesson will not be lost if we come to understand this much: had the first Christians feared, they would have betrayed us, and the word of life would never have come down to us; if we fear, we shall betray future generations, for we are expected to transmit to them the deposit we have received from our fathers." Those who had faith and courage, whether it was Saint Cecilia in her agony, or my grandmothers in their nursing homes, where they spent many years before they died, have passed on to me a priceless gift. Share
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
In the sixth century, St. Brendan, an Irish monk who was widely reputed as a skilled seafarer, is said to have undertaken an ambitious voyage. Brendan, along with a crew of fellow monks, sailed looking for Paradise, the Land of Promise of the Saints. After seven years exploring mysterious lands, he came upon what he believed to be the fabled paradise. It was an island so vast that he and his crew failed to reach the far shore after 40 days of walking. It contained a river that was too wide to be crossed. It was a wooded land, filled with lush fruits. He and his men filled their boats with gems they found there and returned home to tell of the news.Share
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly -- the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honour feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
On the same blog is an intriguing post about Jefferson Davis, Pope Pius IX, and the condemnation of slavery.
The Church had long ago condemned slavery and the slave trade and that most conservative and supposedly “reactionary” of popes, Pope Gregory XVI, had issued an Apostolic Constitution roundly condemning the slave trade....Share
Black slavery in America began in the North and was first legalised there, in Massachusetts, in 1625. Northern liberals and Protestants were as likely to be slavers and segregationists as anyone in the world.
Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has spoken and written a great deal about the worship of God in His Church, which is the new Temple of the Lord. Interesting articles HERE, HERE and HERE. Share
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
• Limit drink intake: Drinking too much is a recipe for disaster; you won’t erase the bad impression from others’ minds afterwards.
• Talk with a variety of people: Sticking with the familiar (your own department, peers or spouse) limits you.
• Keep one hand free: If you’ve got a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other, you won’t be able to shake hands or mingle with the crowd easily.
• Be cheerful: Keep a smile on your face, approach people you don’t know well, and be friendly and cordial.
• Keep complaints to yourself: You never know who’s behind you in the buffet line or at the next table who might overhear your negative comments.
And more HERE.
Monday, November 19, 2007
For Carmelite friars and nuns, it is of capital importance to honor the Most Blessed Virgin. And we love her if we endeavor to imitate her virtue, especially humility and recollection in prayer. Our gaze ought to be constantly turned to her, our affections directed to her, ever keeping in mind the remembrance of her benefits and trying always to be faithful to her.Share
Citing various scientific studies, critics of vaccines linked the use of vaccines to everything from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and autism to leukemia. They particularly complained about the lack of testing of the long-term effects of vaccines, as well as the ethical policies of the companies who manufacture vaccines, regulated only by themselves and their far-from-adequate testing procedures. Lastly, opponents of vaccines protested the simultaneous administration of many vaccines, and they questioned the risk of using vaccines with such dangerous side effects for the prevention of diseases that have all but completely disappeared from this part of the world. All of these arguments led me to reconsider my opinion on vaccines and to question, for example, why my tiny two-month-old baby needed to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, a sexually transmitted disease. Even more, why should my newborn baby, only a few hours old, have her eyes doused with antibiotic just in case she caught gonorrhea from me during labor -- another sexually transmitted disease which I have no reason to think that I carry? This surely seemed to be overdoing it. But where should I draw the line? Could all the claims of vaccine critics be believed?Share
Sunday, November 18, 2007
In their desire to complete the Reformation and purify religion of popish trumperies, the Puritans broke from the Anglican Church, rejected the Book of Common Prayer, and preferred the anti-royalist Geneva Bible to the King James version. They instituted an independent congregationalist ideal that upheld the notion of the common priesthood of all believers, and thus granted an equal say among congregants in the election of the minister (some claim the roots of American democracy lie here).Share
Law, Crime, Punishment and Policing were very different in the Regency than they are today. Often in our books our not so bad characters can end up in the hoosegow for debt. In other words if you could not pay your debts the merchant to whom you owed money could request the court to throw you in prison until you paid them. To us that seems a little bit of an oxymoron, since it would be difficult to earn money while in prison. The idea was, I think, that your family and friends would raise money to get you out, however often a man's whole family would be incarcerated with him, as per the next picture, because they would have no money and nowhere else to live.Share
Saturday, November 17, 2007
No classic movie explores the depths of dysfunction quite like the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights. It is perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever captured on film, great because it is more than just a love story; it is a portrait of the long term results of alcoholism and child abuse. Based, of course, upon the novel of the same name, the film stops after the first few chapters. The book, however, goes on to show with immense psychological detail how the abused Heathcliff himself becomes an abuser and replicates, to the best of his ability, the circumstances in which he was mistreated. The film captures in a short but intense manner the brilliance of the original story-telling.
In spite of the all the melodrama, the 1939 Wuthering Heights is a subtle film compared to the remakes. There are no sex or rape scenes, little bloodshed, just phenomenal acting and a stirring score. When Hindley places his muddy boot on Heathcliff's hands, one feels the humiliation, the degradation. And no R-rated love scene can compare to the passion with which Catherine rips off her fine frock so she can don her usual shabby attire and dash off to join Heathcliff on the moors.
The obsessive love between Catherine and Heathcliff is the result of the bonding which occurred when they were children in a brutal situation, with no one but each other to turn to for help. Although Catherine loves Heathcliff, her desperation to escape from her alcoholic brother dominates all other emotions. She marries wealthy Edgar for material security and seems to be happy, until Heathcliff comes back. The division in her soul destroys her; in the book she dies giving birth, so tormented that not even the love for her child gives her any peace or hope.
Throughout both the book and the movie are the recurring mentions of the devil, of hell, of witchcraft and curses, so that one has the distinct impression that the religion of the characters is more Manichean than Christian. The evil spirals into consuming jealousy and hatred. No sins of the flesh are committed, that anyone is aware of, although suppressed passion simmers in every chapter. The tempestuous climate of the moors reflects the inner tumults. The core of the evil is not in the wildness of the elements but in the addictive behaviors of the Earnshaw family. Heathcliff is as addicted to his anger and hatred for all who have injured him as much as Hindley is addicted to his drink. Heathcliff's inability to forgive, more than his thwarted love for Catherine, is what destroys most of the main characters. The film provides a searing study of the evil that is unleashed when people cling to the past. It also shows, in the final ethereal shot, how love can transcend time and space. Share
On November 17 the Church gives us the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) who in her twenty-four years on earth embodied virtues which in today's world have almost ceased to exist: honesty, modesty, courage, chastity, self-denial and fidelity. She was not queen of Hungary, as many people think, but a princess. Her parents were the king and queen. Being
royal in those days meant that your life was not your own. Marriages between two ruling families would form an alliance between countries and keep two countries from going to war. So from her infancy, Elizabeth was a living pledge of peace, since she was promised in marriage to the heir of Thuringia.
Elizabeth was sent to Germany at the age of four to be raised in the household of her betrothed, Louis of Thuringia, as was the practice of the time. It was heartbreaking for her parents' to separate from their lively, dark-haired little girl, but they commended her to God and Our Lady. Louis' family disliked her, as was often the case with foreign royal brides, but he always cherished and protected his little fiancée. Elizabeth, although far from home, was a Magyar princess, and there was an intensity in her commitment to God and her husband which was repugnant to the placid Thuringians. They were married when Elisabeth was fourteen and Louis was about seventeen; he had inherited the dukedom of Thuringia from his father by then. Thuringia is roughly where Hesse-Darmstadt is now. In the thirteenth century it was a prosperous and powerful territory, although Louis was a duke, not a king.
Elizabeth had always shown a strong inclination toward piety as well as a great love of helping the needy and downtrodden. She opened a hospital for the poor in one of her castles and ran a soup kitchen. She was passionately in love with her husband, which is one of her most appealing aspects - she was a saint but she was also very much a woman. Louis truly loved his wife and sought for a fervent priest to guide her spiritual life. Unfortunately, her later confessor, the overzealous Conrad of Marburg, was excessively harsh with Elizabeth.
As Duchess, she established the Franciscan order in Thuringia and became herself a tertiary (with St Louis of France, she is the patroness of tertiaries.) . Louis and Elizabeth had three children.
When Elizabeth was twenty, her husband died while on crusade. She ran shrieking through the castle, as if she had lost her mind. Her brother-in-law coveted the inheritance; he evicted Elizabeth and her three small children from their home. He forbade everyone in Thuringia to give them shelter. The little family had to hide in a pig pen from the rain. Poverty, loss and persecution did not embitter Elizabeth, as it would have embittered others, especially when it involved the suffering of her small children. She accepted everything from the hand of God.
Finally, someone got word to Elizabeth's father the King of Hungary, and he prevailed upon the Holy Roman Emperor to intervene. Elizabeth's lands were restored to her but she voluntarily chose holy poverty. After securing her children's welfare, she lived in a small room in the hospital she had founded and cared for the sick and the lepers. That would be like someone
going to live with AIDS patients today.
Emperor Frederick begged for Elizabeth's hand in marriage but she refused. She died at the age of twenty-four and as she passed from this world a great light filled the room. Many miraculous cures were reported at her grave site. She was buried wearing the imperial crown which she had refused in life.
Thinking of St Elizabeth can help us when ever we feel afraid of poverty, or of being alone. Her spirit of humility and the renunciation of worldly honors can be imitated by all. Share
Friday, November 16, 2007
Marie-Antoinette of Austria married the Dauphin in the same year that Madame Louise entered the monastery. The young princess offered to represent Louis XV at the ceremony at which his daughter Louise received the habit of Carmel, since it was too painful for the king and the rest of his family to be present. So it was the teenage Marie-Antoinette who veiled the new "Soeur Thérèse de Saint-Augustin."
In the years the followed, Marie-Antoinette would visit her husband's aunt three times year at the Carmel, of which she was a benefactress. As the Queen's maid Madame Campan relates in her Memoirs:
The Court went to visit her about three times a year, and I recollect that the Queen, intending to take her daughter there, ordered me to get a doll dressed like a Carmelite for her, that the young Princess might be accustomed, before she went into the convent, to the habit of her aunt, the nun.According to Madame Campan, Madame Louise as a nun was deeply involved in church affairs; she was always petitioning her nephew's wife, so that Marie-Antoinette called her: "the most intriguing little Carmelite in the kingdom." It was at the request of Madame Louise, however, that Marie-Antoinette granted a dowry to a poor, pious girl named Mademoiselle Lidoine, so that she could enter the Carmel of Compiègne. Mademoiselle Lidoine became the Mother Prioress of the heroic Martyrs of Compiègne, who like Marie-Antoinette, died on the guillotine during the French Revolution. Share
St. Margaret (1045-1092) was a royal Saxon princess. From a dethroned and exiled family, riches and power meant nothing to her, for she saw how quickly such things can pass away. Consequently, she was deeply drawn to the monastic life. However, the Scottish King Malcolm Canmore sought her hand in marriage, so attracted was he by her beauty and virtue. They were married. Malcolm was on the wild side, but he and Margaret loved each other completely, and died three days apart from each other.
As Queen of Scots, St. Margaret bore eight children, was devoted to the poor, and helped to reform the liturgy. As one article states:
Under Queen Margaret's leadership Church councils promoted Easter communion and, much to joy of the working-class, abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels and established the Royal Mausoleum at Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She was especially fond of Scottish saints and instigated the Queen's Ferry over the Forth so that pilgrims could more easily reach the Shrine of St. Andrew.
Mass was changed from the many dialects of Gaelic spoken throughout Scotland to the unifying Latin. By adopting Latin to celebrate the Mass she believed that all Scots could worship together in unity, along with the other Christians of Western Europe. Many people believe that in doing this, it was not only Queen Margaret's goals to unite the Scots, but also Scotland and England in an attempt to end the bloody warfare between the two countries.
In setting the agenda for the church in Scotland Queen Margaret also ensured the dominance of the Roman Church over the native Celtic Church in the north of the country.
It is interesting how St Margaret championed the practices of the Roman rite over the Celtic traditions, although I have no doubt that the Celtic liturgy and devotions were quite beautiful. St. Margaret, however, saw the importance of harmony of worship for the people of her country, especially after the upheavals of their century. Share
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Verdi's Aïda is the heart-breaking story of an Ethiopian princess in ancient times, enslaved by the Egyptians, who must choose between her country and the man she loves. It embodies the crowning glory of Italian opera, with it's capacity for superlatively stunning sets and melodramatic scenarios. Yet the scene when the thwarted lovers are buried alive together is truly poignant. Here is a brief synopsis:
Aïda, an Ethiopian princess, is torn between love of her homeland, family and the man who loves her. Radames, is the man Aïda loves. He is appointed Commander of the Egyptian Army and sent off to fight the Ethiopian invasion. Amneris senses the feelings between Aïda and Radames which angers her for she is also in love with Radames. Radames returns to Egypt victorious along with a group of Ethiopian prisoners. Included in the group is Amonasro, Aïda's father. Amonasro manipulates Aïda into discovering the battle plan of the Egyptian Army from Radames. He is discovered giving the details to Aïda and Amonasro by Amneris and is sentenced to be buried alive. Aïda is an opera in which emotions run wild and you can probably identify with at least one of the characters.According to Music With Ease:
In "Aida" we find a true wedding of text and music -- sustained dramatic power, noble orchestration; in short, "everything that distinguishes the great Verdi of the third period from the the palty Verdi of the first period." The work is powerful in characterisation, pathetic in sentiment, pure and elevated in style, dignified, solemn, and beautiful. Verdi’s sense of orchestral colour, always acute, had a fine opportunity of asserting itself in the Oriental subject, so remote from the usual operatic groove, and he used it to remarkable effect. Local colour is often a dangerous stumbling-block to composers, but in "Aida" Verdi triumphed most where most had failed....My favorite recording of the opera starred the great American singer Leontyne Price as Aïda. Miss Price really explored the depth of tragedy as well as heroic and sacrificial love as embodied in Verdi's Aïda. Share
In the scene of the consecration of Radames, Verdi employs two genuine Oriental tunes with such consummate art that this scene is not only one the few instances in the history of opera in which Oriental colour has been successfully employed, but, in the opinion of many, the most beautiful part of the opera. Another splendid scene is the judgment of Radames, already referred to, in the fourth Act, where an extraordinary effect is gained by the contrast of the solemn voices of the priests within the chamber with the passionate grief of Amneris on the threshold. The love scene in the third Act shows the lyrical side of Verdi’s genius in its most voluptuous aspect. The picture of the palm-clad island of Philae and the dreaming bosom of the Nile is almost divinely mirrored in the score. The music seems to be steeped in the odorous charm of the warm southern night.
A subset of cafés and bistros, zincs are named for a piece of furniture: the bars that are also their nerve centers. Technically the bar should be of galvanized steel, but they also show up in Formica, stainless steel, stone, copper, brass, and wood. Imperious and clannish, zincs are those places whose windows you’ve peered through a million times without, despite desperately wanting to, ever quite making it through the door. Hesitations usually have to do with the patrons looking too scary, the proprietor too crabby, the cigarette smoke too thick, the housekeeping too marginal. But be brave. Take a seat. No one can pretend to know and love Paris and not its zincs.
Zincs are the keys to their neighborhoods. (Apparently they’re a lot like pubs, but I can’t bear pubs and refuse the comparison.) Habitués treat them like home, coming and going, reading and slandering, daydreaming and grumbling. Zincs were originally defined by their limitations, serving coffee, wine, and beer. Hard-boiled eggs, dried sausage, cheese, and ham on a buttered baguette were an afterthought. All the following places uphold the spirit, if not the letter, of this model.
The Crusades were clearly attempts to meet the challenge of the Muslim conquests of Christian lands in the East. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that Crusading, far from being a lucrative undertaking, was notoriously bad as an economic investment. Many wealthy noblemen were practically bankrupted by mounting a Crusading expedition. Rather, as Peters shows, a spiritual purpose animated Crusaders: While killing was normally wrong, avenging the deaths of fellow Christians as instruments of God's justice came to be seen as a positively redemptive undertaking. Crusading, as Riley-Smith has argued, was understood in this light as "an act of love" -- articulated as a self-sacrificial ideal in Christ's words, "Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). In Madden's view, the two primary goals of the Crusades were, first, to rescue Christians of the East who had been conquered by Muslim invaders and, second, to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which had been made holy by the Incarnation and earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ.Share
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The primary example of the saints and blessed of the Order has been Our Lady, the Queen and Beauty of Carmel, both in her hidden life at Nazareth and in her anguish at the foot of the Cross. St. Teresa enjoined her nuns to meditate on the lives of Christ's Mother, and His saints. "We need to cultivate and think upon and seek the companionship of those who, though living on earth like ourselves, have accomplished such great deeds for God." (The Interior Castle, p.172)
Speaking particularly of the hermits of old, the Holy Mother exhorts her daughters in The Way of Perfection:
Let us remember our holy fathers of the past, those hermits whose lives we aim to imitate. What sufferings they endured! What solitude, cold, hunger, and what sun and heat, without anyone to complain to but God! Do you think that they were made of steel? Well, they were as delicate as we. (The Way of Perfection, p.81)The Little Flower greatly relied upon the intercession of the saints. In her autobiography, St Thérèse wrote:
Remembering the prayer of Eliseus to his Father Elias when he dared to ask him for his double spirit, I presented myself before the angels and saints and I said to them: 'I am the smallest of creatures; I know my misery and feebleness, but I know also how much noble and generous hearts love to do good. I beg you then, O Blessed Inhabitants of Heaven, I beg you to adopt me as your child. To you alone will be the glory which you will make me merit, but deign to answer my prayer. It is bold, I know; however, I dare to ask you to obtain for me your twofold spirit.' (The Story of a Soul, pp.195-196)Shortly before her death, St. Thérèse had a dream in which the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, one of the foundresses of the Carmelite reform in the sixteenth century, assured her that she would soon possess eternal beatitude. The saint of Lisieux was surprised because, as she penned:
I was, up until then, absolutely indifferent to Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus. I never invoked her in prayer and the thought of her never came to mind....And when I understood to what a degree she loved me, how indifferent I had been towards her, my heart was filled with love and gratitude, not only for the saint who visited me, but for all the blessed inhabitants of heaven. (The Story of a Soul, pp.191-192)We will never know in this life how individual saints, perhaps ones we have never heard of, have interceded for us. Through prayer and the Eucharist, we can draw upon the merits of our brothers and sisters in Paradise. Such richness is ours in the Communion of Saints, for all belong to Christ. Share
Many women indicated [that]... having a child had saved them from a lifestyle of drugs, partying, alcohol abuse, and promiscuity. Many said that if it were not for their child or children, they would be dead or in jail.Share
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Les Tricoteuses were the women who sat around the guillotine, keeping track of the number of executions with their knitting. They embodied the Terror of the French Revolution, for they seemed to be drawn to the blood and the violence, so consumed were they by hatred. When women are out for blood, they can be more ruthless than men, and far more cruel. Most of les tricoteuses, "the knitters," were simple and ignorant women, manipulated both by their own passions and by the leaders of the various factions. The manipulation was facilitated by famine, war and social chaos, all of which spiraled out of control amid the violence of the Revolution.
Les tricoteuses took part in the great massacres of the Revolution, such as when the mob attacked the Tuileries in August 1792, and during the slaughter of the following September. They were instrumental in storming the palaces and terrorizing the royal family. The were used by the new power elite. It is a sad but thought-provoking example of how low women can go when reduced by circumstances as well as by rage and hatred. The nastiness of les tricoteuses make those like Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Madame Elisabeth, and many others from all walks of life, who behaved with courage, dignity, and courtesy throughout every outrage, shine like lights in the darkness. Share
However, when a public announcement is made on television, giving details about a popular public figure, it is very difficult for people to refrain from discussing it, from sharing their distress and consternation with others. How did it happen? Why? How can such things be prevented? People were asking questions and wanted insights. Most of the commentary that I read was the result of pure shock. Sometimes people went overboard in their surmising. Passing judgment is something we all have to carefully avoid.
I do think that people have tried to be very charitable, for the most part. The reflections discussed here were not necessarily about Fr. Francis but about priests leaving in general. Is this something we are not allowed to discuss... at all?
Having been slandered myself by people who pretended to be friends, I certainly understand the direness of the situation. It is one thing to be slandered or suffer detraction because of an announcement one chose to have made on television. It is quite another to be slandered because of confidences shared with unscrupulous and superficially Catholic comrades. But God is the judge of all.
It should also be kept in mind that slander and detraction can have legal implications as well as moral ones. While some may not fear the judgment of Almighty God, they do fear a lawsuit. Share
Monday, November 12, 2007
I have run across certain women who have had a conversion after a life of drugs and promiscuity. In spite of a wayward past, they have really tried to live a devout life. This is admirable. However, needless to say, often severe psychological problems linger, which may manifest themselves in various ways. Extremist religious attitudes and practices are so often the way such people overcompensate for their past. If such a person insults me, slanders me, tells me that I am "unstable," I take it with a grain of salt. It's the drugs talking. It's the past sordid life talking. All one can do is pity the person for their own instability and hope they seek the professional counseling that will help them overcome their low self-esteem.
There is a drug problem in our county. Of course, with a university, what can one expect? But there are many who abuse drugs who have no connection with the university. Luckily, we have a wonderful District Attorney, who has dedicated himself to ridding Happy Valley of the cocaine scourge. The former D.A. disappeared mysteriously and has never been found; maybe the coke addicts got him, I don't know...... Share
Russia becoming Catholic would mean an end to Islamism, and the definitive triumph of the cross on the Bosphorus, without any danger to Europe; the Christian empire in the East restored with a glory and a power hitherto unknown; Asia evangelized, not by a few poor isolated priests, but with the help of an authority greater than Charlemagne; and lastly, the Slavonic race brought into unity of faith and aspirations, for its own greater glory. This transformation will be the greatest event of the century that shall see its accomplishment; it will change the face of the world.One might say the old monk was dreaming, but I thought it interesting in light of what followed. Share
According to this vision, matrimony does not entirely end with death but is transfigured, spiritualized -- it loses those limits that mark life on earth -- in the same way that the bonds between parents and children or between friends will not be forgotten. In the preface of the Mass for the dead, the liturgy says that with death "life is changed, not taken away"; the same must be said of marriage, which is an integral part of life.Share
But what about those who have had a negative experience of earthly marriage, an experience of misunderstanding and suffering? Should not this idea that the marital bond will not break at death be for them, rather than a consolation, a reason for fear? No, for in the passage from time to eternity the good remains and evil falls away. The love that united them, perhaps for only a brief time, remains; defects, misunderstandings, suffering that they inflicted on each other, will fall away. Many spouses will experience true love for each other only when they will be reunited "in God," and with this love there will be the joy and fullness of the union that they did not know on earth. This is also what happens to the love between Faust and Margaret in Goethe's story: "Only in heaven the unreachable -- that is, the total and pacific union between two creatures who love each other -- will become reality." In God all will be understood, all will be excused, all will be forgiven.