Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Visitation


For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land....Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come....Show me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet.... (Canticle of Canticles 2:11-12, 13-14)
How appropriate that the month of May is crowned with the joyful feast of the Visitation. At the voice of Mary greeting her cousin Elizabeth, the infant St. John the Baptist received sanctifying grace and was cleansed of original sin. As St. Alphonsus Liquori wrote in The Glories of Mary those blessings were "the first graces which to our knowledge the Eternal Word granted on earth after His incarnation...thenceforward God made Mary the universal channel...through which all the other graces which which Our Lord is dispensed to us should pass." She whom the angel hailed as "full of grace" would be for all ages to come the "Mediatrix of Grace." "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth." (Ecclesiasticus 24:25)

We, too, are visited by Our Lady. Her prayers obtain for us many moments of actual grace. In the words of St. Francis de Sales in his Sermons on Our Lady: "Our Lady wants to visit us very often but we do not really want to receive her." Responding to grace means renunciation. To quote St. Francis de Sales again:
Transformation is the true mark of divine visitation. We would like to have revelations, but as a form of recreation...because they are sweet and pleasing. Now, God does not give them for that; always they must cost us something....We must then be firmly determined to suffer. And what? Dryness, aridity, disgust. It sometimes seems to us that we have been abandoned by God. You must endure all that if you wish to share in these visits, for to think we can be devout without suffering is a delusion. Where there is more difficulty, there is more virtue. ( Sermons on Our Lady)
When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Miriam, the sister of Moses, led the women in song: "Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously magnified." (Exodus 15:20-21) At the Visitation, Mary carries the Hidden God within her. She is the new Ark of the Covenant. As the Ark of the Lord led the ancient armies of Israel to victory, so the Blessed Mother goes before the pilgrim church to the Promised Land of Heaven. At evening prayer, the Church daily recites the Canticle of Mary: "My soul doth magnify the Lord." (Luke 1:46) Her song of praise has become our own, even in the land of exile.


It is also the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Share

The Immaculate Heart of Mary



"My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God." (Psalm 83:4)

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has grown along side of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, for the heart of the Mother can never be separated from that of her Son. According to the visionary St. Bridget of Sweden (14th century), Our Lady said: "As Adam and Eve sold the world for one apple, so my son and I redeemed the world, as it were, with one Heart." (Sign of Her Heart by John Haffert)

St. John Eudes, who in the 17th century promoted devotion to the Two Hearts, reported to have heard Our Lord saying: "I have given you this admirable heart of My dearest Mother which is but one with Mine, to be truly your heart also, in order that the children may have but one heart with their Mother...." (Ibid.)

The Belgian mystic Berthe Petit (1870-1943) experienced several revelations concerning the "Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary." She recorded Jesus as saying:
This devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of My Mother will restore faith and hope to broken hearts and to ruined families...it will sweeten sorrow. It will be a new strength for My Church, bringing souls not only to confidence in My Heart, but also to abandonment to the Sorrowful Heart of my Mother. (Prayers and Heavenly Promises by Joan Carroll Cruz)
The 1917 apparitions of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal led to Pope Pius XII instituting the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Originally kept on August 22, the memorial of the Immaculate Heart is presently kept on the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.

The mystery of the Immaculate Heart is the mystery of the Mercy of God; the mercy He showed to Mary by preserving her from all stain of original sin; the mercy He bestows on us through the prayers of the Mother of Mercy, the Mediatrix of all Graces, on our behalf. It is a mystery of compassion, for Mary's heart was pierced with sorrow at the foot of the cross. The brown scapular of Carmel is a sign of one's personal consecration to Our Lady, as well as of the compassionate intercession we hope to receive from her at the hour of death.

Sr. Lucy of Fatima said: "Our Lady wants all to wear the scapular." (Haffert) The scapular is an exterior sign of interior abandonment to the Heart of Mary. The Carmelite Venerable Michael of St. Augustine wrote:
We can live in Mary if we strive, in all our deeds and omissions, in our penances and trials and afflictions, to preserve and promote within ourselves a filial, tender inclination of soul towards Mary....Our love will then flow, as it were, from God to Mary and from Mary back to God. (Life with Mary by Ven. Michael of St. Augustine)
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Let's Cut the Hypocrisy

Dr. Thomas Fleming analyzes the FCLDS fiasco in the context of our society as a whole.
Here is what the real issue is. State governments routinely promote teenage promiscuous sex in the sex education programs in government schools and in government-funded counseling centers. In many states, condoms are routinely provided to children on the pretext of preventing the spread of STD’s, when everyone knows or ought to know that the purpose, as much as the result, is to encourage teenage sex. And yet, here we have a state agency seizing a large group of children on the grounds that teenage girls are having sex with a man they regard as their husband and to whom they have promised fidelity.

I
f you want to talk about weird, what is weirder than the counselors, child-savers, and feminist prosecutors who want to rescue young women from polygamy only to turn them into unpaid strumpets.

Meanwhile, the children are suffering in the care of the government.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

St. Joan and the Royal House of France



Most Catholics, I have concluded, do not have trouble accepting the fact that St. Joan of Arc donned male apparel and led armies to victory. What seems to disturb many people, however, is that she gave her help to a king, and worse yet, to a King of France. Many Americans seem to be convinced that monarchy is an intrinsically evil institution. They are not able to see beyond their own time and their own political process. I recently read a comment in which someone said that St. Louis of France was a saint "in spite of being a king." May I be so bold as to suggest that St. Louis saw his kingship as a vocation in which he served God and man. What is more, he saw it as a calling to share in the Kingship of Christ, from Whom he held his authority and to Whom he had to render an account. St. Joan, in her simple piety, viewed kingship in a similar manner. She honored her King Charles VII, although he was far from being a saint, because in doing so she gave honor to Christ the King. The office was deserving of respect, even if the man was not. On her banner she bore an image of Christ the King surrounded by the fleur de lys, the lilies of royal France.

In a small volume entitled Joan of Arc In Her Own Words there are many quotations of St. Joan which make explicit reference to the fact that she was called to serve God by assisting the French monarch. She said: "[St. Michael] told me the pitiful state of the Kingdom of France. And he told me that I must succor the King of France." To Robert de Baudricourt she insisted: "The Kingdom of France is not the Dauphin's but my Lord's. But my Lord wills that the Dauphin shall be made King and have the Kingdom in custody. The Dauphin shall be King in spite of his enemies, and I shall lead him to his anointing." She welcomed the Duc d'Alençon by saying: "The more there are gathered together of the blood of the King of France, the better it will be." In her letter to the English lords, Joan dictated: "Do justice to the King of Heaven; surrender to the Maid, who is sent here from God to uphold the blood royal."

Joan placed great store upon the mystical aspects of the coronation ceremony, telling the royal council: "When once the King is crowned and anointed, his enemies' strength will steadily grow less, and finally they will have no power to harm him or the Kingdom." At her trial she announced:
As for the good work I have done...I must needs leave that with the King of Heaven, who sent me to Charles, son of Charles King of France, who shall be King. And you shall see that the French will very soon achieve a great task which God will send to the French, and such that almost the whole Kingdom of France will tremble. And I say it, so that when it comes to pass it will be remembered that I said it.
The Maid believed her country had a mission from God, a task to fulfill.

There are also some odd connections between St. Joan and Queen Marie-Antoinette. At first glance no two people appear to be as different from each other as the Habsburg archduchess and the peasant girl from Domrémy, other than a shared love for children and needlework. Joan has often been referred to as the "Maid of Lorraine" or even as "Joan of Lorraine." Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux, in building a case for the martyrdom of Marie-Antoinette in his book Louis XVII: La Mère et l'Enfant martyrs, points out that the queen's full name was Marie-Antoinette-Josèphe-Jeanne de Lorraine, even as the Maid was Jeanne de Lorraine. Both women were called to their "mission" at age thirteen. At thirteen, Joan began to hear her voices; at thirteen, Marie-Antoinette was told she was to marry the heir to the French throne. Both were known for their personal modesty, and yet both were branded by enemies with the epithet of "whore." Both the queen and the peasant have had their reputations shredded beyond recognition. Both suffered the ordeal of a long imprisonment in which they suffered humiliating outrages. Both were forced to defend themselves against calumnies and half-truths amid the scrutiny of a public trial. Both persisted in their loyalty to the Holy See. Both were condemned to an ignominious death and each were taken to the scaffold in a cart. Unlike St. Joan, Marie-Antoinette never had a posthumous retrial. She was never officially vindicated and her name continues to be slandered in books and movies to this day. May the prayers of St. Joan bring the truth to light.

Catherine Delors' post about Jeanne la Pucelle is not to be missed.
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Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus



"I have come to cast a fire on the earth: what will I, but that it be kindled?" (Luke 12:49)

During the first millennium of Christianity, many saints wrote with unction of the pierced side of Our Lord, from which flowed "blood and water" (John 19:34), symbolizing the sacraments of the Church. It was not until the later ages, "when the charity of many [had] grown cold" (Matthew 24:12), that Our Lord chose to reveal the hidden treasures of His Sacred Heart. The gnostic excesses of the Manicheans, the upheavals of the Protestant revolt, and the chilling exaggerations of Jansenism required as an antidote the gradual but compelling manifestations of the love and mercy of the Heart of God.

It was in the thirteenth century that mystic souls such as St. Bonaventure, St. Mechtilde, and St. Gertrude began to write explicitly about devotion to the Sacred Heart, focusing on the infinite love which pursues and surrounds us.

St. Gertrude the Great relates that in one of her many visions St. John the Evangelist said to her:
To these latter times was reserved the grace of hearing the eloquent voice of the Heart of Jesus. At this voice the time-worn world will renew its youth, be roused from its lethargy, and again be inflamed with the warmth of Divine Love. ( Love, Peace and Joy by the Reverend André Prévot)
Our Lord told St. Mechtilde:
In this wound of love, so great that it embraces Heaven and earth, unite thy love to My Divine Love, that it may be perfect; and even as iron glowing with fire becomes, as it were, one with it, so let your love be transformed and absorbed into Mine. (Ibid.)
In the early 1600's, St John Eudes and St Francis de Sales, among others, promoted the cult of the Sacred Heart. However, it was the famous apparitions of Jesus Christ to St. Margaret Mary in the 1670's and 80's that led to the widespread, public homage of the Savior's heart. Our Lord revealed to St. Margaret Mary His desire for the establishment of a feast in honor of His Heart, to be held on the Friday after the Corpus Christi octave, as a day of reparation. He promised special graces to those who receive Holy Communion in a spirit of reparation and penitence on the First Friday of nine consecutive months.

Jesus further requested that France, the eldest daughter of the Church, be consecrated by her king to the Sacred Heart, in order to spare the kingdom from future cataclysmic events. For several reasons, the consecration was not performed until France was in the throes of a bloody and anti-Christian revolution. In 1791, the imprisoned King Louis XVI secretly made the consecration. However, it seems the formal, public consecration of France has never taken place.

In 1856, Pope Pius IX placed the feast of the Sacred Heart on the universal calendar. Meanwhile, the storm of modernism, communism, socialism, and secular humanism broke upon the Church and the world. Our Lord said to St. Margaret Mary in 1689: "It will take time, but I will reign despite Satan and his supporters." (The Sign of Her Heart by John Haffert)

While we prayerfully await the public acknowledgment of Christ the King by the nations, let us imitate the Carmelite saints in making Jesus the King of our hearts, immersing ourselves into the unfathomable mystery of His love. In the words of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus:
If I to see Thy glory would aspire
Then I must know Thy crucible of flame

Thy burning love, Heart of my God, I claim.

Then when my soul wings upward like a dove,

Called from the earth to heaven's home of light,

May it go forth in one pure act of love,

Plunge to Thy Heart in one unswerving flight.

(Carmelite Proper of the Liturgy of the Hours)
And let us pray for priests.

(Artwork courtesy of Vultus Christi) Share

May '68

What is the legacy of the revolution of May 1968? (Via Frank Palmer Purcell on Facebook)
The real legacy of May ’68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit — in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin’s, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cornelia Connelly


Among the many converts to Catholicism who have illumined the Church, there is the occasional bad apple. Pierce Connelly, Cornelia's husband, comes to mind. It is one thing to grasp the basic tenets of the Faith and be able to speak wittily about them. It is another to take up the Cross and be ready to die with Christ. Pierce was intellectually fascinated with Catholicism in a way that proved to be transitory and superficial. To Cornelia, however, her new faith was the blood of her heart.

Cornelia Peacock Connelly was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family in 1809. She married Pierce Connelly in 1831, a brilliant and charismatic young Episcopalian minister. They had five children, one of whom died in a horrific accident. In 1835, the family converted to Catholicism. They went to Rome where they were warmly welcomed and became very popular in society. Then in 1840, Pierce announced that he wanted to become a priest. It was odd that he prepared to embrace a celibate life by continuing to beget children with his wife; Cornelia was five months pregnant when he decided to answer the call. In order for Pierce to be ordained, Cornelia had to agree to make a solemn vow of chastity. After profound struggle and heartbreak, she acquiesced, and Pierce was ordained in Rome in 1845. Cornelia, who was already living in a convent with the youngest children, decided to become a nun. At the request of the pope, she went to England and founded a congregation of sisters, dedicated to teaching girls. Cornelia proved herself to be a creative and innovative teacher.

However, Pierce was not happy with his new vocation. He probably thought that as a priest he would dazzle everyone with his brilliant oratory skills and become a celebrity, maybe even a bishop. Instead, he was made an obscure chaplain in a private chapel. He rebelled, rejected his priesthood, and started to harass Cornelia at her convent. He took the children away from her to raise as Protestants, and sued Cornelia for denying him his conjugal rights. There was no small scandal but ultimately Cornelia prevailed. Her Society of the Holy Child flourished although she never saw her children again. Cornelia Connelly, through her vows of both marriage and of religion, entered deeply into the sacrificial mystery of the Lamb. Share

The Life of Joy

A life of joy is the most delightful fruit of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.... "We only do that well which we do with joy" (St. Thomas). If, then, we wish to serve God and love our neighbor well, we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and to them--"servite in laetitia." Oh, let us do this, and not change the nature of things--God is joy; true devotion is joy; love is joy; sacrifice is the source of joy; the Cross itself is the condition of solid joy. Let us, then, open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward, and fear nothing. Let us always rejoice and ever advance in love and in joy.

~ Love, Peace and Joy by the Reverend André Prévot Share

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole, Martyr for the Sanctity of Marriage



Today is the feast of Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole, last princess of the royal house of Plantagenet, martyr for the Catholic faith under Henry VIII. She was born in 1474 into a highly dysfunctional family (to say that they were a bunch of cutthroats is probably more accurate.) Her father, George, Duke of Clarence, was an alcoholic, and was found drowned in a barrel of wine (he was probably murdered, but such was his proclivity that no one could prove it for sure.) Her mother, Isabelle Neville, was a conniving, not very nice lady (daughter of Warwick, the "Kingmaker.") Her uncle, King Edward IV, was a notorious womanizer. Her other uncle, King Richard III, certainly did not kill as many people as Shakespeare said he did in his brilliant but inaccurate play, and was more than likely the best one in the family.

Unfortunately for Blessed Margaret, King Richard III was betrayed and killed after putting up a brave fight on Bosworth Field in 1485. The family was ruined, their property confiscated, and Margaret was given as a prize of war to one Sir Richard Pole, a relative of the new king, Henry Tudor, styling himself Henry VII. Now in spite of her family, Margaret had grown to be a devout and virtuous maiden. She was also lovely; very tall, like most of the Plantagenets, with their famous red-gold hair. She bore her husband five children, and was a model wife and mother. When her cousin Henry VIII came to power, he called her the "holiest woman in England." He restored the family lands, making Margaret the Countess of Salisbury in her own right. When Henry had a daughter, Princess Mary, he made Margaret her governess, for she was wise and learned and a great friend of the Queen's.

Troubles came again when Henry VIII, who had once been a pious man, going to Mass three times a day, and to confession every day (at least during one phase of his life) began to act like a megalomaniac, as if rules did not apply to him. The king, whom the Pope had honored with the title Defender of the Faith, who had discussed theology with St Thomas More and Erasmus, went into open rebellion against the Holy Father. It was all because of one woman named Anne, whom Henry wanted to marry (although he had many, many pious excuses.) Blessed Margaret would not accept Henry's illegal annulment of his first wife, good Queen Katherine. She could not accept his invalid and illicit marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Then came the break with Rome. When Blessed Margaret's son Reginald was made a Cardinal by the Pope, Henry had her other two sons killed. Then he arrested Margaret. In 1541, at the age of seventy, she was beheaded without trial and after a long, difficult imprisonment. The executioner was clumsy and it took eleven strokes of the axe to kill Margaret.

It would have been so easy to have gone with the crowd. Let us invoke her protection upon marriage in our own country; what we have to deal with is as bad or worse, although we have not yet had to resist "unto the shedding of blood." (Hebrews 12:4)
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Voyage of the Damned

I just finished watching the 1976 film Voyage of the Damned. While I was not able to focus on it because of other things going on around here, the magnitude of the injustice is horrifying. I had heard of the tragedy of the S.S. St. Louis, in which a ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi death camps was turned away from the ports of free nations. It is incomprehensible that no one would give sanctuary to those helpless people. What cruelty to turn them away from freedom and send them back to death. Our own country turned them away. Unbelievable. More HERE. Share

Homeschooling and Socialization

Dr. Laura on how homeschooling does not hamper socialization. Share

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Bride of Lammermoor


Let me begin by saying that I do not care for Donizetti's opera. I am just not a big Donizetti fan. However, I am a Sir Walter Scott fan and I love his tale of The Bride of Lammermoor, taken from an actual incident. According to one article:
The Bride of Lammermoor is based on a real-life family tragedy that Scott had heard as a boy from his maternal great-aunt Margaret Swinton and which became one of his mother's favourite fireside tales. Scott's heroine Lucy Ashton, derives from Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the great jurist James Dalrymple, first Viscount Stair. The Stairs were a landowning family sympathetic to the Covenanters, but Janet become secretly engaged to the Royalist third Lord Rutherford. She was compelled to confess the engagement when presented with a suitor approved by her parents and forced by a despotic mother to retract her vow. On the night of her marriage to her parent's approved choice, she seriously wounded her bridegroom in a fit of insanity and died a fortnight later without recovering her senses. Besides oral sources, Scott would have been familiar with written accounts of the episode in Robert Law's Memorialls and Sir William Hamilton of Whitelaw's 'Satyre on the Familie of Stairs', both of which add a supernatural element to the story.
Scott transfers an event which took place in 1669 to the years immediately preceding the Union of Scotland and England in 1707. The tragedy of Lucy Ashton unfolds against the persistent threat of a French-backed Jacobite uprising and the absence of effective government in Scotland. The geographical setting is transferred from the West of Scotland to the Eastern Borders. Various Berwickshire locations have been proposed as settings for the novel but none convincingly.
Here is a synopsis of Scott's version:
The novel's hero, Edgar, the Master of Ravenswood, inherits his father's hatred of Sir William Ashton, whom both blame for their family's ruin. The Ravenswoods have been stripped of their title following the Glorious Revolution and have subsequently lost their estate to Sir William, as a result of legal machinations, retaining only the dismal tower of Wolf's Crag. Inadvertently, however, Edgar saves the life of Sir William's daughter Lucy, and both fall deeply in love. A changing political climate leads Sir William to make his peace with Edgar. He looks favorably upon his attachment to Lucy, and the couple become secretly engaged. But when Lucy's despotic mother, Lady Ashton, arrives on the scene, she forbids all correspondence between the youngsters, and favors the suit of the Laird of Bucklaw, a political and personal enemy of Ravenswood. Put under severe pressure, Lucy agrees to marry Bucklaw but insists on writing to Edgar asking him to release her from her pledge. Lady Ashton intercepts the letter, and Lucy, assuming that Ravenswood is now indifferent to her, despairingly fixes the wedding day. Barely has the ceremony been performed, however, that Ravenswood appears and challenges Lucy's brother and new husband to combat. In that same night Lucy stabs and seriously wounds Bucklaw. She is found in convulsions and dies shortly afterwards without recovering her sanity. Further tragedy occurs when Ravenswood perishes in quicksand (in fulfillment of a prophecy) while riding to meet his antagonists.
Once again, two young lovers are parted, against their will, by circumstances beyond their control. In this case, the insanity and murder which result reveal the psychological turmoil inflicted upon Lucy by the pressure of her family, who care more about political gain than about her happiness or mental equilibrium. Scott skillfully builds up to the moment when Lucy snaps. We may think that such parental conniving and manipulation belonged only to the "old days" but even now there are many parents who care more about their children being materially successful than about their virtue or spiritual well-being. Share

Presentation at Court

Catherine Delors describes how one was formally presented to the queen at Versailles, with an excerpt from her novel, Mistress of the Revolution.

Style Court has a post on a new book called Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles. Great photos! Share

Tomb of Cleopatra

The tomb of the enigmatic last queen of Egypt has allegedly been discovered. (Via Lew Rockwell) Share

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice





In March of 1966
, my great grandfather Dr. Fergus O’Connor received the medal of the Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from Pope Paul VI in recognition of his contributions to medicine for over sixty years. The papal nuncio came to the house at 193 Earl Street in Kingston, Ontario to bestow the medal, due to the advanced age of the recipient, celebrating Mass there as well. Last March, when my late Aunt Mary's belongings were being distributed among the relatives, I happened to come across the certificate that accompanied the medal from the pope. (See photo above.) According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice was instituted by Pope Leo XIII (17 July, 1888, "Quod Singulari") in memory of his golden sacerdotal jubilee, and bestowed on those women and men who had merited well by aiding and promoting, and by other excellent ways and means assisted in making the jubilee and the Vatican Exposition successful. This decoration was made a permanent distinction only in October, 1898 (Giobbio, see below). Its object is to reward those who in a general way deserve well of the pope on account of services done for the Church and its head. The medal is of gold, silver or bronze. The decoration is not subject to chancery fees. The medal is a cross made octangular in form by fleurs-de-lis fixed in the angles of the cross in a special manner. The extremities of the cross are of a slightly patonce form. In the centre of the cross is a small medal with an image of its founder, and encircling the image are the words LEO XIII P. M. ANNO X (tenth year of his pontificate). On the obverse side are the papal emblems in the centre, and in the circle surrounding the emblems the motto PRO DEO ET PONTIFICE is stamped. On the obverse surface of the branches of the cross are comets — which with the fleurs-de-lis form the coat of arms of the Pecci family. On the reverse side are stamped the words, PRIDIE (left branch); KAL. (top branch); JANUAR. (right branch); 1888 (at the foot). The ribbon is purple, with delicate lines of white and yellow on each border. The decoration is worn on the right side of breast.
Fergus Joseph O'Connor was the son of Charles and Emily O'Connor of Long Point Farm, born on April 1, 1879, Easter Sunday. As Fergus' second son and namesake wrote of him: "It's hard to describe a man with such integrity of character. He was the perfect son to his parents -- the brother to his only sister and complete support to his family." (Dr. Fergus James O'Connor, Because You asked For It)

Fergus loved horses and wanted to become a jockey, for which he was suited due to his stocky stature. His mother, however, encouraged him to seek as much education as possible. He went to high school in Athens, Ontario, and then went to the “Normal School” for teachers' training in Ottawa. It was around that time that he decided to study medicine. His father had wanted Fergus to help him maintain the homestead, but accepted his decision to become a doctor. He taught school to earn his tuition for medical school at Queen's University in Kingston. In his third year, he missed classes the first term because his funds had run out and he had to teach school again to make more money, but his roommate took notes for him, so he was able to pass anyway. He did not have much recreation, and only went to one football game all the time he was at Queen's.


In the summer of 1902, when Fergus first registered at Queen’s he rode his bicycle the 32 miles into Kingston. After finishing his business at the university, he became lost. He drove past three young ladies playing croquet on the front lawn and asked them for directions. One of them was Frances Keating. Frances Margaret Keating was of Norman-Irish stock on her father’s side; her mother was an O’Neill.
Fergus and Frank were married at the dawn Mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston on September 3, 1907. The Mass was followed by a simple wedding breakfast. The new Dr. and Mrs. O’Connor moved to Gananoque in the Thousand Islands area where Fergus set up a practice and built a house.

Fergus' practice involved house calls, as was the custom in those days. He was often called out at night to deliver a baby, and often had to travel unlit roads into remote areas. It was vital for a country doctor to have a reliable horse so as to get him to his patients; my great grandfather had many stories about horse traders. After tending to a patient in the countryside, he could doze in the buggy or sleigh, since the horse knew the way home.

In December of 1916, Fergus was elected mayor of Gananoque. His election was a tribute to the respect generated by his professional dedication and personal integrity. It was remarkable given the local history of conflict between the few Irish Catholics settlers and the Protestant majority, especially the Irish Protestants, called “Orangeman.” Fergus, without compromising any of his beliefs and principles, was able to overcome a great deal of anti-Catholic prejudice, and became the popular “little mayor.”

In 1918, my great-grandparents moved to 193 Earl Street in Kingston, Ontario, with seven of their soon-to-be eight children. They decided to move into Kingston so that their children could go to the Catholic schools available there. A white rose bush from the original that old Daniel had brought over from Ireland was planted outside the front door. Fergus slowly built up a new practice. He taught medicine at Queen’s University, and continued on the faculty for forty years. His close friend, Monsignor J.G. Hanley said of him:
His concern for his students was not limited to their professional development. Working in an area fraught with deep moral implications, he instilled in future obstetricians sound ethical principles to guide them in making crucial decisions which would crucially affect the lives of their patients. Moreover, he was not merely a professor to his students; they all regarded him as a personal friend, and so he was.
By the late 1930’s he was delivering one third of all the babies in Kingston. He had many poor patients who could not pay, but to Fergus being a doctor was a vocation, not a career. However, he would gratefully accept an offering such as a bag of potatoes in the place of money, so that he could feed his family. He eventually became Chief of Obstetrics at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston and remained so for almost half a century. He delivered his last baby at age eighty-four.


Fergus was also active in the community and the church. He was o
n the Separate School Board for many year
s, as well as being a city alderman. He belonged to the Knights of Columbus and in 1945 founded the Queen’s chapter of the Newman Club.

Fergus died on April 21, 1971. I am grateful for the few memories I have of this wonderful man, a true patriarch. I recall how approachable he was, how kindly and gentle with small children. A Kingston newspaper article described him in his nineties as being “still active and spry…his eyes twinkling….with short quick steps“ and that is exactly as he appears in my memory.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Catherine of Braganza



I cannot help but being filled with pity when I think of Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705), the young Portuguese princess who became the bride of the profligate Charles II. She was a stranger in a strange land where she could barely speak the language and where her religion was outlawed. Raised in a convent and in a pious, loving family, Catherine suddenly found herself in the midst of a bawdy and dissolute court, where she was the target for anti-Catholic bigotry. Her greatest misfortune was that she fell in love with her husband during the first halcyon weeks of their marriage. He appeared to be drawn to her as well. After Charles met Catherine he wrote to his sister Minette:
Her face is not so exactly as to be called a beauty, though her eyes are excellent good, and nothing in her face that in the least degree can disgust one. On the contrary, she hath as much agreeableness in her looks as I ever saw, and if I have any skill in physiognomy, which I think I have, she must be as good a woman as ever was born. You will wonder to see how well we are acquainted already; in a word, I think myself very happy, for I am confident our two humours will agree very well together.
How extremely painful it must have been for Catherine to discover that there were other women in her husband's life. How difficult to have to see Charles with Barbara Castlemaine, with whom the king was besotted, and who was carrying his child when he married Catherine. She could not go home, or to a convent or anywhere. She had to stay and learn to live with it.

Catherine was also deprived of motherhood, with three miscarriages. She found consolation in her faith. Although Charles continued to be unfaithful, having children with other women, he respected Catherine's unwavering religious convictions, and defended her whenever she was attacked.

As one article says:
Of course life was not all bleakness and misery for Catherine. Although her difficulties with the language persisted, as time went on the once rigidly formal Portuguese Infanta mellowed and began to enjoy some of the more innocent pleasures of the court. She loved to play cards and shocked devout Protestants by playing on Sundays. She enjoyed dancing and took great delight in organising masques. She had a great love for the countryside and picnics, fishing and archery were also favourite pastimes. In a far cry from her convent-days the newly liberated Catherine displayed a fondness for the recent trend of court ladies wearing men's clothing, which we are told, 'showed off her pretty, neat legs and ankles'; and she was even reported to have considered leading the way in wearing shorter dresses, which would show off her feet. In 1670, on a trip to Audley End with her ladies-in-waiting, the once chronically shy Catherine attended a country fair disguised as a village maiden, but was soon discovered and, due to the large crowds, forced to make a hasty retreat. Although she was never to wield much influence at court the poet Edmund Waller credited her with making tea a fashionable drink amongst courtiers. And when in 1664 her favourite painter, Jacob Huysmans a Dutch Catholic, painted her as St Catherine, it promptly set a trend among court ladies.
Tea had already been introduced to England but Catherine helped to make it popular.
Although [Catherine] adopted English fashions, she continued to prefer the cuisine of her native Portugal - including tea. Soon her taste for tea had caused a fad at the royal court. This then spread to aristocratic circles and then to the wealthier classes. In 1663 the poet and politician Edmund Waller wrote a poem in honour of the queen for her birthday:
  • Venus her Myrtle, Phoebus has his bays;
  • Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise.
  • The best of Queens, the best of herbs, we owe
  • To that bold nation which the way did show
  • To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
  • Whose rich productions we so justly prize.
  • The Muse's friend, tea does our fancy aid,
  • Regress those vapours which the head invade,
  • And keep the palace of the soul serene,
  • Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.
Catherine had the consolation of seeing her husband become a Catholic on his deathbed. After the overthrow of her brother-in-law James II, she returned to Portugal in 1692. She was active in politics, becoming the regent for her brother Peter II in the years before her death in 1705.

She who was often overlooked in life continues to be neglected by historians. According to writer Heidi Murphy:
  • In contrast to Charles II's mistresses there are precious few biographies devoted to his wife. Little of her private correspondence remains but an examination of those letters that are available show her to have been, in contrast to her public image, a pragmatic and astute woman, keenly aware of the difficulties of her position. Her husband's mistresses caused her endless grief and humiliation, but as her friendship with Monmouth shows she bore no grudges against his numerous children, and to some she proved a kind and loving friend (up until the time of Catherine's death Nell Gwyn's son, the Duke of St Albans, is reported to have received an allowance from her own income).

  • It was on her return to Portugal amongst people who valued and supported her that she finally flourished. An exploration of her regency reveals her to have been a strong leader, capable and firm, a figure that her once dismissive courtiers would scarcely have recognised. In 1687, with the benefit of hindsight Catherine described her role as Queen of England, as being a sacrifice, 'solely for the advantage of Portugal'. It is fitting then that in contrast to England, where the Merry Monarch and his numerous mistresses continue to capture the imagination, in Portugal the name Catherine of Braganza 'is held in the highest veneration to the present day'.
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Marriage Proposals

Should a man still ask a woman's father for her hand in marriage?
One tradition that has been slowly fading away from Western society is asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage. Many argue that the whole idea smacks of sexism and chauvinism and harks back to times when women were treated like chattel.

Whatever. I think it’s just respectful to ask your future bride’s father for his blessing as you start down the path towards matrimony. It lets your girlfriend’s father know that you’re sincere in your intentions and a true gentleman. It’s an important tradition, a rite of passage, and a bonding experience between you and your future father-in-law. Plus, most women we asked think it’s a sweet gesture.

But it’s no easy task; the experience can make any man a nervous wreck. I remember when I had the talk with my father-in-law; I was sweating bullets. Hopefully, the guidelines that follow will help ease the stress and make the experience bearable if not enjoyable.

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Corpus Christi 2008



Here and here are pictures of the Holy Father celebrating Corpus Christi in Rome on Thursday. It appears that it was arranged for people to receive the Eucharist on their knees. This is a truly Catholic tradition which I hope is soon universally revived. Pope Benedict commented thus:
Adoring the God of Jesus Christ, made bread, broken for love, is the most valid and radical remedy against the idolatries of yesterday and of today. Kneeling in front of the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: who bends to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate before any earthly power, as strong as it may be. We, Christians, kneel only before God, before the Most Holy Sacrament, because we know and believe that in it is present the one true God, who has created the world and has so loved the world to give his only begotten Son.
From Zenit:
Meditating on the Eucharistic mystery, the Holy Father cited the phrase from St. Paul: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

"In these words," said the Pontiff, "is perceived the truth and the strength of the Christian revolution, the deepest revolution of human history, which is experienced precisely gathered around the Eucharist. Here people of different ages, sex, social condition and political ideas gather."

"The Eucharist can never be a private event, reserved to people chosen on the basis of affinity or friendship," he added. "The Eucharist is a public worship that has nothing of esotericism or exclusivity.

"We have not decided with whom we want to gather; we have come and found ourselves together with each other, gathered by faith and called to become one body, sharing the only Bread that is Christ.

"We are united beyond our differences of nationality, profession, social class, political ideas: We open ourselves to each other to become one in him."

In fact, Benedict XVI affirmed, "from the beginning, this has been the characteristic of Christianity, visibly fulfilled around the Eucharist. And it is necessary to keep watch always so that the temptations of particularism, even if with good intentions, do not head in the opposite direction."
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Our Lady, Help of Christians



It is the world day of prayer for China.

More on Our Lady, Help of Christians, here. Share

Unlawful Seizure

Mommy Life reports on the Texas court ruling regarding the seizure of the Mormon children. Share

Tacky Book Covers

Older is not necessarily better. Share

Post-Christian America

Pat Buchanan on the way things are now.


What's next?


Scott Richert discusses the intricacies of being Catholic and American.
Can a faithful Catholic be a good American? Can a good American be a faithful Catholic? While these questions may seem relics of the era of the Know-Nothings and “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion,” they are still around today. And, as some comments on recent posts on this website have shown, an increasing number of people—both non-Catholic and Catholic—are beginning to have doubts that either question can be answered with a Yes.
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Friday, May 23, 2008

Gardens of Trianon

They walked together to the Belvedere. To Madame Elisabeth, coming to Trianon was like entering another world. At Montreuil she had gardens which were quite beautiful, but there was something magical about Antoinette's arcadian retreat. One always had a sense of expectation, as if there were some hidden enchantment only waiting to be discovered. She experienced a repose in the solitude of its groves and winding paths, where one could easily and happily become lost.
~from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal
Shortly after her husband's succession to the throne of France in 1774, Marie-Antoinette was given the little Trianon as a refuge from the public life at the main palace of Versailles. Part of the reason for Louis XVI's generous gift was that he wanted to keep his Austrian born wife from meddling in politics. He also thought by secluding her, she would be safe from her enemies at court.

Marie-Antoinette loved nature, gardening and solitude. She enjoyed gardening with her own hands and found it a healthful exercise, soothing for her nerves. She remodeled the Trianon gardens in the informal English-style and she started a farm. The farm was a working farm, not just a folly for her amusement. Horticultural and agricultural experiments were tried there, including the potato, introduced to France at Trianon in 1785, for the benefit of all the people. Occasionally, the gardens were used for entertaining foreign guests, in a simple manner which did not add overmuch to the national debt, such as the evening garden party for the King of Sweden, shown below. As Baroness Oberkirch remarked, "Other people spent a great deal more on their gardens." Most of the nobles had very extravagant gardens and unlike theirs, the queen's were not just for pleasure, but had a purpose.

(Sources: Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette, Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before the Revolution, Baroness Oberkirch's Memoirs and Antonia Fraser's Marie-Antoinette:The Journey)
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New Film about Mary Queen of Scots

A new film about Mary Queen of Scots is in production, starring Scarlett Johansson as the ill-fated monarch. (Via World of Royalty Blog) I hope it's good. There really has never been a decent film made about Mary. The one with Katherine Hepburn had its moments, but it took too many liberties. The film with Vanessa Redgrave was even worse, although it started out beautifully, with Redgrave as the perfect Mary. Once Bothwell came onto the scene, it went down hill, and was not even faithful to the biography by Antonia Fraser upon which it was loosely based. Mary and Elizabeth never met face-to-face. And Fraser makes it clear that Mary was kidnapped and raped by Bothwell, who probably drugged her. It is highly doubtful that he was her great love. It is interesting how some biographers, novelists and filmmakers always want to romanticize certain relationships which in reality were not romantic in the least. Share

Jeu de Paume



Writing the Renaissance links to an enlightening article on an early form of tennis. Share

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chemise à la reine



In the early 1780's, Marie-Antoinette abandoned the ostentatious styles which characterized her first few years as queen, substituting them with simple attire. Especially at Petit Trianon, the gowns of lawn or muslin were worn not only by the queen but by all the ladies present. As described in Rocheterie's biography:
At Trianon there was no ceremony, no etiquette, no household, only friends. When the queen entered the salon the ladies did not quit their work nor the men interrupt their game of billiards or of trictrac. It was the life of the chateau with all its agreeable liberty, such as Marie Antoinette had always dreamed, such as was practised in that patriarchal family of the Hapsburgs, which was as Goethe has said, "Only the first bourgeoise family of the empire." They all met together for breakfast which took the place of dinner afterward they played cards chatted or walked and assembled again for supper which was served early. No fine dressing no complicated head dresses whose exaggerated height had forced the architect to enlarge the dimensions of the doors and provoked the reprimands of Maria Theresa. A dress of white percale, a gauze fichu, a straw hat - such was the toilet at Trianon, a fresh and charming toilet which set off the supple figure and brilliant complexion of the goddess of place but whose extreme simplicity enraged the of silk at Lyons deserted for the linens of Alsace.
Indeed, Marie-Antoinette's simple tastes drew even more criticism upon her than her former opulence. With her unpowdered hair and linen dresses, she was accused not only of trying to put the French silk merchants out of business in favor of her brother's Belgian and Alsatian weavers, but she was blamed for lowering the prestige of the monarchy by being too casual. According to an article on the queen's hairstyles by scholar Desmond Hosford:

Marie-Antoinette's excesses during the 1770s had been criticized, but when the queen curtailed such luxury she was again found to be at fault. In 1778, Marie-Antoinette gave birth to a daughter, which did not solidify her political situation, but the birth of a dauphin in 1781 meant that she had finally fulfilled her duty to France. Unfortunately, according to Léonard, "At the end of the year 1781, that is to say, when the queen had given to France the first Dauphin, who died in 1789 . .. Her Majesty was in danger of losing the charming locks whose suave color had passed into fashion under the name cheveux de la reine."42

Léonard's solution to the queen's predicament was no less than to cut her hair and to abandon the imposing coiffures that he had created. Instead, he invented the coiffure à l'enfant, a simple style frisé with curls in the back, which characterized the second half of the reign (fig. 5). This simplification of the queen's hairstyle was also effected in her attire as she entered the age of maturity. However, the queen's new simplicity was as unpopular as her former extravagance. One fashion that Marie-Antoinette adopted, a loose-fitting simple gown of muslin, became known as the chemise à la reine. In 1783, Vigée-Lebrun painted the queen in such a gown, and the work was so severely criticized when it was exhibited at the Salon of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture that year that the painting had to be withdrawn (fig. 6).43 One of the fundamental problems with this portrait was that Marie-Antoinette had allowed herself to appear as an individual woman, rather than as the queen of France, in a work shown to the public. This transgressed the laws of royal representation in France, destabilizing the performative elements of the queen's station. Marie-Antoinette "en chemise" lacks any external manifestation of her status as queen, and this was unnerving, because already, as l'Autrichienne, Marie-Antoinette was perceived as dangerous. Previously, the rumor had been that the queen's profligacy, dragging all French women in its wake, would ruin the country, but now the silk industry attacked the queen's simple attire. Marie-Antoinette was accused of attempting to destroy a vital part of the French economy by wearing imported fabrics including muslin and cotton44 for a gown whose style had originated in England, another of France's traditional enemies. In this portrait, Marie-Antoinette was even accused of appearing in her undergarments,45 and one might observe that her hair, too, is almost entirely undressed. With such importance placed upon the performative aspects of the queen's toilette, it is not surprising that this portrait, of which the queen's hair is an important element, was readily perceived as a blatant act of disrespect for French propriety concerning the external manifestation of royal dignity, a subversive rejection of queenly representation, and a national degradation which one commentator labeled "France, in the guise of Austria, reduced to covering herself with straw."46 The responsibility for this portrait was placed squarely on Marie-Antoinette without whose authorization the work could never have been displayed.47 Marie-Antoinette's attempt to exercise agency over her own hair and dress had failed, and the new version of the portrait painted by Vigée-Lebrun that same year is clearly a retreat. In the second version of the portrait, the queen's blue silk gown, as characterized by the baron von Grimm, is "a garment more appropriate to her station,"48 and her hair is carefully dressed and powdered (fig. 5).

No matter what she did, there were those who would complain and criticize. Some criticism is par for the course when one is a public figure. In Marie-Antoinette's case, her Austrian birth made her an object of suspicion from the moment she stepped onto French soil, even among the royal family. For those who sought political power by undermining the royal regime, the queen of Louis XVI, with her beauty and youthful imprudences, was the perfect target. Share

Corpus Christi



In Pennsylvania we will be celebrating the Solemnity of the Lord's Body and Blood on Sunday, although traditionally it is kept today. Hallowed Ground has a wonderful post.

Sion, lift thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shepherd true:
Dare thy most to praise Him well;
For He doth all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.
(from Lauda Sion)


It is also the feast of St. Rita, patroness of the impossible. Share

Reparation

The following was written a hundred years ago:

It may be said that never was the life of reparation more wanted than it is in our days, for never was God so publicly outraged, so fearlessly blasphemed.

Never has the ruin of souls been so complete, for the faith of people is sapped to its foundations. Never has scandal been so widespread, for it has become national, nor so disastrous, for it attacks even childhood, our last hope. Now, more than ever, then, has Our Lord need of souls who seriously and generously make reparation, and aid Him in atoning for these outrages against God, in saving souls from ruin, and repairing these awful scandals.

Who will respond to the urgent need of the Heart of Jesus and of His Church? Without doubt all souls of goodwill who love God and their neighbor, but particularly all eucharistic souls. The life of reparation is their especial portion, for they live always with Jesus in the Tabernacle, and He is the first object, the model, and the means of reparations.

~ Love, Peace and Joy by the Reverend André Prévot

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mary of Modena



Mary Beatrice of Modena (1658-1718) was the only Italian queen of England. She wanted to become a Visitation nun but instead at the age of fifteen Mary was sent to a foreign country to marry a forty year old man. The Catholic religion was proscribed in England and the young princess, as bride of the Catholic Duke of York, brother and heir of Charles II, met with a great deal of prejudice. Mary and her husband James had six children but only two lived to adulthood; only one lived to old age, and he is known as the "Old Pretender."

As Duchess of York, Mary was a patroness of the arts and benefactress of the poor. The Catholic queen of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, did not care for her. Mary likewise had a tenuous relationship with James' daughters by his first marriage. She also had to deal with her husband's infidelities. However, she was blessed to have as her spiritual director Blessed Claude de la Colombière, who had been the confessor of St. Margaret Mary. Blessed Claude instilled in Mary a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion which would sustain her through the upheavals and exiles of her life. When her husband became James II, he did not reign for long, but was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 by his own daughters, Mary and Anne. James, Mary Beatrice and their infant son fled to France, where the king and queen lived out their days.

Her final years are described thus:
After resigning herself from any more political activity, Mary Beatrice became fully devoted to the Convent and the sisters. In 1712, Mary’s only surviving daughter, Louise Maria, died of small pox. Mary herself was suffering from breast cancer tumors and sought to lose herself in religious devotions. Mary Beatrice finally died of breast cancer at St. Germain-en-Laye, France on May 7, 1718. She was buried in the Convent of the Visitation at Chaillot, which was eventually destroyed during the French Revolution. One French courtier wrote:

“The good and pious Queen of England died yesterday…Surely she must be in heaven. She kept nothing for herself and gave all she had to the poor;…I am convinced…that she is more to be regarded as a saint than her husband.” (Hopkirk, 294)

Upon searching through her belongings, a prayer was found that Mary Beatrice wrote in her own hand:

“Lord, give me grace to drink the chalice Thou hast prepared for me.” (Hopkirk, 297)

This small note is illustrative of the immense dignity and elegance with which Mary Beatrice conducted herself throughout her tumultuous life.

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Novena to the Sacred Heart



Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus


I. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of...... (here name your request)
Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

II. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of.......(here name your request) Our Father...Hail Mary....Glory Be To the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away." Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of.....(here name your request) Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father...Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.

Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.


-- St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

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Hope in the Garden

Thanks to Jeff Culbreath for the link to a beautiful essay from The Deliberate Agrarian. To quote:
Freedom can be found in a garden. Great masses of modern men are shackled to the degrading work of our industrialized economy. We submit to the drudgery of efficiency, of specialized, repetitive, trivial tasks. We are, at the same time, active participants and victims of the exploitation. But when we work in our gardens, the chains fall off. We find escape. There is hope, and it is strongest in the springtime.

I have commenced to plant some seeds in my garden: lettuce, spinach, and parsley. To plant these properly, I must kneel in the soil. There are devices that allow one to plant while standing. But, no, I must kneel. And I will bow my head as I place the hard, lifeless specks in the furrow. Planting seeds in the garden is, after all, an act of faith. Faith and hope, seed-in-furrow, hand-in-hand, in the springtime.

The planting of seeds in my garden, by hand, on my knees, is a simple action of rebellion against the modern order. It is an act of wisdom and significance in the midst of a foolish and vacuous world. It is voluntary submission to an older, higher calling. There is hope in this doing, in this calling. And this hope is greatest in the springtime.

Stony Creek Digest also has Cardinal Newman's meditation on the Mystical Rose.
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The Last Acceptable Prejudice

Anti-Catholicism is alive and well. Share

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lapérouse Exhibition

There is currently an exhibition in Paris about the extraordinary sea voyage of the explorer, Lapérouse. Catherine Delors has more about it on her blog. Share