Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Great Club Revolution

Some historical clubs.
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Louis XVI-style secretary


It was created by Riesener for Marie-Antoinette. (Via Versailles and More) Share

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Know I Am But Summer to Your Heart....



I know I am but summer to your heart,
And not the full four seasons of the year;
And you must welcome from another part

Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.

No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell

Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;

And I have loved you all too long and well

To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.
Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,

I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,

That you may hail anew the bird and rose

When I come back to you, as summer comes.

Else will you seek, at some not distant time,

Even your summer in another clime
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by Edna St. Vincent Millay

(Painting "Echo and Narcissus" by John William Waterhouse) Share

Old Byzantine Churches

In Pennsylvania. Share

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Coffee is Good for You

I always thought so. Now there's proof. (Via Lew Rockwell.) Share

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Pierced Heart



Today on the Carmelite calendar it is the feast of the Transverberation of the Heart of St. Teresa of Avila. Although the Holy Mother claimed the experience was purely mystical, it was found after her death that her heart had indeed been physically pierced. A priest once told me that such a phenomenon was a stigmata, although not the same stigmata that saints like St. Pio and St Francis of Assisi experienced. Those saints bore the five wounds of Christ; St Teresa bore a single wound in her heart. In this she resembled the Sorrowful Mother, transpierced at the foot of the Cross. St. Teresa, and those her wish to follow her in the Carmelite way, are to model the Blessed Virgin Mary, faithful in the greatest moment of darkness which was the crucifixion. It was also the moment of redemption, in which Mary became the Mother of the Church. Through our own sufferings and heartaches, we can participate in the redemption of the world. Share

Monday, August 25, 2008

"God, France, and Marguerite"



Saint Louis IX, King of France, whose feast we celebrate today, is the epitome of the Christian knight, king and crusader. He is the patron saint of Franciscan tertiaries. In addition to his administrative duties as king, he prayed the daily Mass and Divine Office. His strong interior life aided him in being a competent ruler and a father to his people.

While still a teenager, St. Louis married a beautiful princess from the south of France, Marguerite de Provence. She was also pious, although not as devout as Louis. Inside his wedding ring, he had three words inscribed: "God, France, and Marguerite." They had eleven children. King Louis had a secret staircase built from his study to his wife's parlor above so that he could visit her during the day without his mother knowing it. Louis' mother, Queen Blanche, thought that Louis should concentrate solely upon his work. She also may have feared that Marguerite might gain too much political influence over Louis, and so tried to keep the young lovers/spouses apart as much as possible.

Blanche went to extremes by making young Louis leave Marguerite when she was suffering after a particularly difficult childbirth and wanted her husband to hold her hand. Blanche told Louis that it was not his place to be in the birthing room and Louis obeyed his mother. Marguerite was quite distressed although she forgave Louis.

Louis and Marguerite lost children to sickness and had their share of domestic misunderstandings. At one point, Louis thought Marguerite focused too much on her clothes, and later on Marguerite complained that Louis would not look at her. To his friend Jean de Joinville, Louis confided, "A man should not behold that which he can never fully possess." I assume it was soon before he left on his second crusade on which he would die; perhaps he was trying to detach himself from everything he loved in this world, especially his adored wife.

Marguerite shared her husband's sorrows and joys. When his mother died, she wept copiously. Joinville asked her in amazement how she could weep over someone who had caused her so much suffering. Marguerite replied that it was because her husband was so deeply grieved and she shared his grief.

Greatly devoted to Our Lady, St. Louis was responsible for bringing the Carmelite Order to France. While on a crusade in the Holy Land, King Louis’ ship ran into a violent storm within view of Mt. Carmel. The sound of the bells from the chapel of Our Lady on Mt. Carmel pierced the roar of the wind and the waves. The king, kneeling in prayer, begged Our Lady to save his ship, promising in return a pilgrimage to Carmel. The ship was saved. King Louis climbed the slopes of Carmel to visit the holy hermits who lived near the chapel. Greatly edified by their life of prayer and solitude, he asked several of them to come to France, where he established a monastery for them. This was a great help to the Carmelites, who were finding life in Palestine very difficult due to the hostility of the Moslems.

St. Louis of France had a busy schedule and a multitude of duties. Through the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and devotion to Our Lady, he attained a life of union with God. Power and riches had no hold on his heart. Let us seek his intercession in this often disorienting time we live in. Share

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St. Teresa of Avila and Our Lady



The French Carmelite Père Joseph de Saint Marie, OCD, in some of his conferences on St. Teresa and in his book Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel remarks about the fact that many of the significant events in St. Teresa's life happened on or around the feast of the Assumption. Her vision of hell, which inspired her to begin the monastic reform, occurred in the month of August, as did the foundation of St. Joseph's monastery in Avila. Two magnificent visions of Our Lady took place, in different years, on August 15. In her Life, St. Teresa describes the visions. Of the first one she writes:
...In a rapture there was pictured to me [Our Lady's] ascent into Heaven and the joy and solemnity with which she was received in the place where she now is. To explain how this happened would be impossible for me. Exceeding great was the glory which filled my spirit when it saw such glory. The fruits of the vision were wonderful and I was left with a great desire to serve Our Lady, because of her surpassing merits....
In the second apparition, which occurred on August 15, 1561, St. Teresa found herself transfigured, with Our Lady on her right and St. Joseph on her left. They clothed her in a mantle of great "whiteness and brightness," which meant she was "cleansed of [her] sins." According to St. Teresa's autobiography: "Our Lady suddenly took me by the hands and told me that I was giving her great pleasure by serving St. Joseph and that I might be sure that all I was trying to do about the convent would be accomplished and that both the Lord and they would be greatly served in it." Our Lady gave her a jeweled cross on a golden chain (similar to that of an abbess) signifying the saint's authority as a mother foundress. The vision left St. Teresa feeling "greatly comforted and full of peace." In such mystical experiences the strong Marian aspect of the Carmelite charism was once again emphasized, as a witness for those who would come after.

(All quotations from Msgr. Doheny's Selected Writings of St. Teresa) Share

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mary the Queen



Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth....Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men...for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God. And all the people said: So be it, so be it.~ Judith 13:23-26
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Confessions of a Traditional Catholic

Yes, I was indeed trying to take a blog break. But this is a particularly good article, which explores the struggles and misunderstandings faced by those Catholics who love the traditional liturgy. It is amazing how many young people have fallen in love with the Latin Mass. How wise of Pope Benedict to make the Gregorian (Tridentine) rite more accessible to all. I grew up in the charismatic movement, with guitar and folk Masses, and so the beauty of the old Mass was a wonder to me, truly an amazing grace. When we lived in Pittsburgh, we went to the Latin Mass every Sunday. I look forward to the day when the traditional Latin Mass becomes more available where we live now. To quote from the article:
Just because I have a profound love and respect for -- and even a belief in the superiority of -- older liturgical and sacramental forms does not mean that I am an unreasonable malcontent oozing acid from every pore. I am first and foremost a Catholic, and I detest even needing to wear a label to distinguish myself. Unfortunately, I must, for it is still an uncommon thing among Catholics to venerate many of the traditions that I hold dear.

I totally agree.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

An Intermission

Blogging will be infrequent during the next ten days or so. Sometimes preparing for school can be a busier time than the actual school year itself. There are always lots of phone calls to make, schedules to coordinate, materials to acquire. Also, there are several books I need to read first before I can write the reviews. Come September, Tea at Trianon will be back on track. Share

Thoughts on the Assumption

Some jewels from Rorate Caeli. Share

Horror

Let us pray for the children of Afghanistan. (Via Coffee Catholic) Share

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Affair of the Necklace

The diamond necklace was commissioned by Louis XV for his mistress, Madame du Barry, from the crown jewellers, Boehmer and Bassenge. With the death of the King, the necklace was not paid for, almost bankrupting the jewellers and leading to various unsuccessful schemes to secure a sale to Queen Marie-Antoinette.

On August 15, 1785, the "Affair of the Necklace" broke upon France, just as Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were about to assist at the Mass of the Assumption, the patronal solemnity of the realm. Cardinal Louis de Rohan, who was supposed to offer the Mass, was publicly arrested in his pontifical robes for his part in the debacle. The Diamond Necklace scandal was one of the events which precipitated the French Revolution of 1789 and the fall of the monarchy. After perusing the internet I think it becomes necessary to affirm once again that Marie-Antoinette, according to several major biographers, was an innocent victim in one of the most sordid intrigues in history. She never sought to possess the necklace. For one thing, the necklace was not to her liking; she preferred light, aerial creations. A few scholars even doubt that Madame du Barry, whom the jewelers had in mind when they originally designed the huge, garish necklace, would have cared for it, her taste being not quite so grotesque as is generally assumed. Also, by 1785 Marie-Antoinette had cultivated simpler tastes; she was very much under the influence of Madame de Polignac, who never wore diamonds. It is known that when Boehmer tried to sell her the necklace, she remarked that France needed ships, not diamonds.

The fault of the King and Queen was in attempting to be too above board in the handling of the proceedings. Instead of trying to settle the disaster quietly, there was a public trial of the Cardinal, for whom Marie-Antoinette harbored resentments. Not only had Cardinal de Rohan rudely infiltrated one of her garden parties, but he had told ribald jokes about Marie-Antoinette's mother. He had many mistresses (including Bonnie Prince Charlie's daughter). He symbolized the worst decadence of the French nobility and the corrupt higher clergy. He was grand almoner of Versailles due to his ancestral prerogatives, but neither the king nor the queen had any use for him. The scandal rid them of him, but at a very high price. They could never have known at the onset the cast of bizarre characters with whom the Cardinal was involved, who were brought into the light of day. The Queen's name was dragged through the mud by being associated with such people in the gazettes, people who were complete strangers to her. Biographer Maxime de la Rocheterie believed that even if the king and queen had tried to suppress the scandal, the results would have been disastrous nevertheless.

How did it all come about? Through a woman who lied. Each lie told by Madame de la Motte was more outrageous than the last, yet individuals motivated by lust or ambition or greed believed her tales. She told people that she was an intimate friend of the Queen, who had never even heard of her. The swindle was tragic for all involved, especially for the innocent Marie-Antoinette, for it confirmed in the popular imagination all the salacious gossip which portrayed her as a loose, extravagant woman.

Here is a review from Salon of the film which came out a few years ago starring Hilary Swank as Jeanne de la Motte. I thought it an awful film, except for Joely Richardson, who was good as Marie-Antoinette.
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St. Helena the Empress



My patron saint. She discovered the True Cross. Don Marco says:
Saint Helena was not merely collecting relics for posterity. Her discovery of the True Cross saved the Orthodox Catholic faith from being submerged in a sea of speculative philosophies that denied the true Flesh and Blood of Christ. Saint Helena’s discovery points to the God who became man and suffered death on a real cross in a particular place at a precise moment in history. Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles was the herald of Christ’s resurrection; Saint Helena became the herald of the mystery of the Cross.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Lake Isle of Innisfree



I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
by William Butler Yeats
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Veils, Hats, and Symbols

Some engaging reflections on head-coverings.
To be sure, believers wear their faith not only in their clothing, but their countenance and bearing. This observation has only rarely been used among professing Christians as an argument that they might, under certain conditions, and for reasons of modesty, remove their clothing in public--but that is the track such arguers place us upon--that there is really no fixed ground in matters like this, for we are dealing with “mere symbols.” Only, however, when we agree that no Christian symbol is "mere," can we move on to discuss what obedience to the apostolic directive should look like in our own day.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Can Charity Prevail?

Rudeness on the internet. Share

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumption of Mary



"And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars...." (Apocalypse 12:1)

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII in the bull Munificentissimus Deus defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teaching that the Immaculate Mother of God was taken body and soul into heaven at the close of her earthly existence has been the constant belief of the universal Church, as ancient liturgical manuscripts bear witness. "Everything tends to indicate that the privilege of the Assumption was explicitly revealed to the Apostles...and that it was transmitted subsequently by the oral tradition of the Liturgy," wrote Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in The Mother of the Saviour and Interior Life.

It was not until the middle of the twentieth century, a century so traumatized by genocide, mass murders, world wars, the breakdown of modesty, morality, and family life; the spread of false ideologies such as communism, socialism, and feminism, which promise to liberate but in reality only enslave and destroy, that the pope was moved to declare the dogma. "The political, social, and religious atmosphere in the middle of the twentieth century influenced greatly the decision of the Pope" so that "mindful of the human misery caused by war, of the ever present threat of materialism and the decline of moral life, and of the internal problems that disturbed the Church, [he] turned to Mary, confident of her intercession." Pope Pius XII "believed...that calling attention to the bodily Assumption of Mary would remind all men and women that the human body is sacred, that the whole person is holy and destined to live forever." (Fr. Kilian Healy, O.Carm. The Assumption of Mary)

For those who struggle to offer to God hearts free from all stain of actual sin, who strive to experience even in this life the joys of union with God through contemplation, the mystery of the Assumption is one which characterizes a way of life. According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. in his classic work Divine Intimacy:
Mary's Assumption shows us the route we must follow in our spiritual ascent: detachment from earth, flight towards God and union with God....It is not enough to purify our heart from sin and attachment to creatures, we must at the same time to direct it towards God, tending toward Him with all our strength...Mary's Assumption thus confirms in us this great and beautiful truth: we are created for and called to union with God. Mary herself stretches out her maternal hand to guide us to the attainment of this high ideal.
On our journey to Heaven, we confidently grasp the hand of our merciful Mother, the Mediatrix of all Grace. As St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote a few months before her death: "It is true that no human life is exempt from faults; only the Immaculate Virgin presents herself pure before the Divine Majesty. Since she loves us and knows our weakness, what have we to fear?" (Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol II, trans. by Fr John Clarke, O.C.D.) How fitting that the acclamation from the Book of Judith is so often applied to Our Lady: "Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel, thou art the honor of our people." (Judith 15:10) Share

When Art and Science Meet

Here is yet another interesting article about art from Catherine Delors. Share

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Royal Hunt


The painting above shows Marie-Antoinette riding in the royal hunt, with her husband Louis XVI in the background. In practically every and any book, article or blog post about Louis XVI, it is usually pointed out that hunting was his passion. This is quite true. However, a love of the chase was not something unique to Louis. Hunting is what the nobility did, all nobles, unless some kind of physical handicap prevented them. It had, of course, originated as a way of procuring food to feed large households and families. Even in the most decadent of times before the Revolution of 1789, the game was killed not for mere sport, but to be eaten.

That the Bourbon kings of France would devote themselves to such sport should not come as a great surprise, since Versailles was originally built to be a hunting lodge. From the days of Louis XIV, hunting was almost a daily activity. The post of Grand Huntsman was among the highest in the realm. Some of the other royal residences, Rambouillet, Compiègne,and La Muette were hunting lodges as well.

According to the PBS site Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution:
All of Versailles was initially an immense hunting area, with the original chateau grounds being ten times larger than they are today. In the area now called the Grand Park, the royal family and the court continued this hunting tradition, both on horseback and on foot....

Hunting on horseback was an activity reserved to the nobility in prerevolutionary France, truly the sport of kings. Gifts of fresh game were one way in which nobles showed their generosity to those who did not share their privileges. Such gifts reminded the recipient of his lower place in the social order while demonstrating the nobility of the giver.

For the king and his retinue, the Royal Hunt was a noble pursuit. Invitations to the Royal Hunt were greatly coveted, and the King used these invitations to show favor and gain support.

Hunts were generally followed by elaborate dinners, sometimes with guest lists in the hundreds....
It was at a hunt that the English lady Mrs. Thrale observed the young Queen Marie-Antoinette on horseback, saying:

20 Octr 1775 begins. This Morning we drove into the Forest as they call it to see the Queen ride on Horseback. We were early enough to see her mount, which was not done as in England by a Man’s hand, but the right foot is fixed in the Stirrup first & then drawn out again when the Lady is on her Saddle. The Horse on which the Queen rode was neither handsome nor gentle, he was however confined with Martingales &c. & richly caparison’d with blue Velvet & Silver Embroidery : the Saddle was ill contrived—sloping off behind—& a Pommel so awkward that no Joyner could have executed it worse,—there was a Handle by the Side I saw. While we were examining the Furniture and Formation of the Horse, the Queen came to ride him, attended by the Duchess de Luignes, who wore Boots & Breeches like a Man with a single Petticoat over them, her Hair tyed & her Hat cocked exactly like those of a Man, Her Majesty's Habit was Puce Colour as they call it her Hat filled with Feathers and her Figure perfectly pleasing. She offered her Arm to the King's Aunts who followed her to the Rendezvous in a Coach, as they were getting out, but they respectfully refus'd her Assistance.
Marie-Antoinette as a young princess had been banned by her mother from joining the hunt on horseback. The Empress feared that she would have a miscarriage, or at least ruin her complexion. The Dauphine, being married and technically no longer subject to her mother, eventually insisted on riding with her husband, finding it a way to capture his attention. (Gaining Louis' regard was, of course, vital for conceiving a child.) Antoinette was said to be a fine and fearless rider, often donning male apparel. She won much public acclaim for taking care not to destroy the gardens and crops of the peasants when hunting. Such common courtesy was rare. According to Charles Duke Young:
The latter part of the year 1771 was marked by no very striking occurrences. Marie Antoinette had carried her point, and had begun to ride on horseback without either her figure or her complexion suffering from the exercise. On the contrary, she was admitted to have improved in beauty. She sent her measure to Vienna, to show Maria Teresa how much she had grown, adding that her husband had grown as much, and had become stronger and more healthy-looking, and that she had made use of her saddle-horses to accompany him in his hunting and shooting excursions. Like a true wife, she boasted to her mother of his skill as a shot: the very day that she wrote he had killed forty head of game. (She did not mention that a French sportsman's bag was not confined to the larger game, but that thrushes, blackbirds, and even, red-breasts, were admitted to swell the list.) And the increased facilities for companionship with him that her riding afforded increased his tenderness for her, so that she was happier than ever. Except that as yet she saw no prospect of presenting the empress with a grandchild, she had hardly a wish ungratified.

Her taste for open-air exercise of this kind added also to the attachment felt for her by the lower classes, from the opportunities which arose out of it for showing her unvarying and considerate kindness. The contrast which her conduct afforded to that of previous princes, and indeed to that of all the present race except her husband, caused her actions of this sort to be estimated rather above their real importance. But how great was the impression which they did make on those who witnessed them may be seen in the unanimity with which the chroniclers of the time record her forbidding her postilions to drive over a field of corn which lay between her and the stag, because she would rather miss the sight of the chase than injure the farmer; and relate how, on one occasion, she gave up riding for a week or two, and sent her horses back from Compiegne to Versailles, because the wife of her head-groom was on the point of her confinement, and she wished her to have her husband near her at such a moment; and on another, when the horse of one of her attendants kicked her, and inflicted a severe bruise on her foot, she abstained from mentioning the hurt, lest it should bring the rider into disgrace by being attributed to his awkward management….
Madame Campan records another incident of Marie-Antoinette's compassion for the poor, as follows:

A circumstance which happened in hunting, near the village of Acheres, in the forest of Fontainebleau, afforded the young Princess an opportunity of displaying her respect for old age, and her compassion for misfortune. An aged peasant was wounded by the stag; the Dauphiness jumped out of her calash, placed the peasant, with his wife and children, in it, had the family taken back to their cottage, and bestowed upon them every attention and every necessary assistance. Her heart was always open to the feelings of compassion, and the recollection of her rank never restrained her sensibility. Several persons in her service entered her room one evening, expecting to find nobody there but the officer in waiting; they perceived the young Princess seated by the side of this man, who was advanced in years; she had placed near him a bowl full of water, was stanching the blood which issued from a wound he had received in his hand with her handkerchief, which she had torn up to bind it, and was fulfilling towards him all the duties of a pious sister of charity.
It was at the hunting lodge of La Muette that in 1774 the young Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette broke with protocol by strolling arm in arm, like "man and wife," before crowds of people who cheered them deliriously. It was considered contrary to etiquette for royal spouses to display affection in public. The new King and Queen wanted to break with such stiff and antiquated customs. By the way, when Louis XVI recorded "nothing" in his journal on July 14, 1789, it meant that he had caught nothing while hunting. It did not mean that he was indifferent or oblivious to the violence in Paris, since it is obvious from his actions that he was quite concerned. It is just one more ridiculous canard which even educated people continually spout about Louis XVI.
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Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Question

Some thoughts from John Laughland. Share

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Queen of Fashion

Here is an interesting take on the book about Marie-Antoinette's clothes that came out a few years ago. To quote:
What the author does not convey, because she does not understand them, are Marie Antoinette’s more serious and abiding character traits: her faithful love for her husband at a debauched court; her emotional closeness to her children; her love for France; her bravery in captivity and at her trial; above all, her dignity in facing a deliberately humiliating death at the hands of the revolutionaries. Essentially the book peters out in 1789, when the royal family was forced to return to Paris from Versailles and to live in gilded captivity in the Tuileries palace. Though these final years, from 1789 to 1793, show the Queen at her noblest, they are the least interesting for Weber because the lavish court costume drama is over for ever. Indeed, her treatment of Marie Antoinette’s time in the Temple, where she lived before being taken to the prison of the Conciergerie after her husband’s death, is almost perfunctory.

The Queen’s last letter, written to her sister-in-law, Madame Elizabeth, in the early hours of 16 October 1793, the day of her execution, is referred to without comment, yet it is easily the source of our keenest insight into the mind and personality of this tragic woman. In it Marie Antoinette declared her love for her family, to whom she was forbidden to say goodbye; she humbly asked "God’s pardon for all the mistakes I have made"; desired forgiveness for her enemies (who had mercilessly slandered her moral reputation); finally, every inch a monarch and the daughter of an emperor, she expressed the hope that she would be able to die with courage.

The last glimpse posterity has of her is the quick sketch made by the revolutionary artist, David, as she was taken by tumbrel to the scaffold. The graceful and charming woman is shown prematurely aged by suffering, her hair white, dressed in a plain white smock and bonnet, with her hands tied behind her back. Yet her posture is erect and she sits with an aura of pathetic dignity and calm. She was much more than a "queen of fashion".

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Tipping

A gentleman's guide...but helpful for ladies, too.
A gentleman knows when and how to tip those who serve him. The unmannered and uncouth do not. Tipping an individual, while not mandatory, should always be done. The only occasion you should not leave a tip is if the service was completely horrendous and the person providing the service made no attempt to remedy the situation. When tipping, you should do so discreetly. Showing off how much you tip does not impress people, but only shows you are a shallow cad. Nonetheless, gray areas in regards to tipping often exist.
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The Brendan Voyage

Author and scientist Carla Nayland reviews Tim Severin's account of his spectacular voyage in search of St. Brendan. I read it many years ago and concur that it is a fascinating read. Share

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Queen and Modesty

Marie-Antoinette was known in her inner circle for her intense modesty, which contradicts the usual public image of her. As Madame Campan relates:
As soon as the Queen rose, the wardrobe woman was admitted to take away the pillows and prepare the bed to be made by some of the valets de chambre. She undrew the curtains, and the bed was not generally made until the Queen was gone to mass. Generally, excepting at St. Cloud, where the Queen bathed in an apartment below her own, a slipper bath was rolled into her room, and her bathers brought everything that was necessary for the bath. The Queen bathed in a large gown of English flannel buttoned down to the bottom; its sleeves throughout, as well as the collar, were lined with linen. When she came out of the bath the first woman held up a cloth to conceal her entirely from the sight of her women, and then threw it over her shoulders. The bathers wrapped her in it and dried her completely. She then put on a long and wide open chemise, entirely trimmed with lace, and afterwards a white taffeta bed-gown. The wardrobe woman warmed the bed; the slippers were of dimity, trimmed with lace. Thus dressed, the Queen went to bed again, and the bathers and servants of the chamber took away the bathing apparatus. The Queen, replaced in bed, took a book or her tapestry work. On her bathing mornings she breakfasted in the bath. The tray was placed on the cover of the bath. These minute details are given here only to do justice to the Queen’s scrupulous modesty. Her temperance was equally remarkable; she breakfasted on coffee or chocolate; at dinner ate nothing but white meat, drank water only, and supped on broth, a wing of a fowl, and small biscuits, which she soaked in a glass of water.
~Madame Campan's Memoirs
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The Romanov Bride

Feminine Genius offers some interesting reflections on the new novel about "Ella," the sainted Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Share

Monday, August 11, 2008

Massacre of the Swiss Guards

August 10, 1792 saw the fall of the French monarchy. The Brunswick Manifesto, published earlier that month, issued a warning to the citizens of Paris that if the royal family were injured, the city would be invaded. The Manifesto only added to the unrest of the city, already agitated by Jacobin propaganda and the war against Austria. Hearing that the Tuileries palace was about to be attacked, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their family escaped across the gardens to the National Assembly, where they took refuge in the stenographer's box. Louis sent an order for the Swiss Guards to lay down their arms and retreat in order to save their lives. As British historian Nesta Webster says in her book Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution: "Could [Louis XVI] imagine...that the mob, not content with venting their fury on the Chateau, would massacre not only the Swiss Guard, men of the people who had remained at their posts, but even the luckless servants in the kitchens of the Palace? The horrors committed on this 10th of August were such as no human mind could possibly have conceived."

900 Swiss guards were brutally killed, many tortured, some roasted, mutilated, decapitated, with their limbs distributed throughout Paris. Children played ball in the streets with the heads of the brave Swiss, and the steps of the Tuileries ran with blood, like some gruesome altar of human sacrifice. People dipped bread into the blood of the victims. The massacre was only the beginning of the mass murder which already characterized the French Revolution; in September 1792, 2000 more people would be horribly killed, including priests, religious, small children, and the Queen's friend Princess de Lamballe. The statue of the Lion of Lucerne commemorates the fallen Swiss. Share

Decent Clothes

Being sloppy usually has little to do with poverty; it has a lot to do with decadence. (Via Colleen Hammond) Share

Mary Ward

Mary Ward (1585-1645) founded one of the first teaching orders of nuns, experiencing persecution from within and without the Church. She was one of the brave English Catholics who persevered in the faith in spite of the penal laws. Here is an account of her life from the website of the order she founded, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Mary Ward: Pioneer for Women in the Church

Over 400 years ago, Mary Ward was born into a world not unlike ours in difficulties, except that now the world’s disasters come to us instantly via satellite communications. Mary spent her life following God’s guidance in seeking something new. How contemporary with us was her foresight in championing women’s role in spreading God’s compassion: how many today struggle as she did for the triumph of truth and justice. For us, and we hope for you, she continues to share her zealous vitality.

This is her story.

Born in 1585 into a devoted Catholic family in Yorkshire, from childhood Mary Ward knew religious persecution, not unlike trouble spots in today’s world: raids, imprisonment, torture, execution. Frequently separated from her family for her own protection, Mary was inspired by their steadfast heroism. At age fifteen, she felt called to become a religious. Since religious communities had been dispersed decades previously in England and on the continent, cloistered life was the only option for women at that time. She left England to become a Poor Clare. Through special graced insights, God showed her that she was to do something different and would manifest God’s glory. Leaving the Poor Clares, she worked in disguise to preserve the Catholic Faith in England before founding a community of active sisters in 1609 at St. Omer in present-day Belgium. Without cloister, she and her companions educated young women, helped persecuted and imprisoned Catholics, and spread the word of God in places priests could not go. The Sisters lived and worked openly on the continent, but secretly in England to nurture the faith.

At one time, she was imprisoned in England for her work with outlawed Catholics. Many who knew her, from bishops and monarchs to simple people, admired her courage and generosity. In days before Boeing 747’s or even Amtrak, she traveled Europe on foot, in dire poverty and frequently ill, founding schools in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Austria, and in today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia. Criticized and maligned for her efforts to expand the role of women in spreading the faith, she was imprisoned by Church officials who called her a dangerous heretic. Her work was destroyed, her community suppressed, and her sisters scattered. Never abandoning her trust in God’s guidance, she died in York, England, in 1645 during the Cromwellian Civil War. To the end, she trusted totally that what God had asked of her would be accomplished in the future.

Mary Ward taught by example and words. Act “without fear… in quiet confidence that God will do his will in the confusion.” Her unwavering fidelity to “that which God would” was nourished by deep contemplative prayer. To Mary, God was the “Friend of all friends.” She lived her fidelity with cheerfulness and a passion for truth. What may seem to us ordinary was startling in her time: she had no pattern to follow when she established her community for women, except the life and work followed by the Jesuit men. She sought to empower women to fulfill whatever part God called them to play, as did the women in the Acts of the Apostles, as women concerned for the poor. Mary and her companions established free schools, nursed the sick and visited prisoners. Even her Protestant neighbors attested to her love for the poor and her perseverance in helping them. Her concept of freedom for her community, externally from cloister, choir, habit, and rule by men, and internally in the ability to “refer all to God,” enabled her to live undeterred by adversity, never deviating from the way God called her. She invited her followers to “become lovers of truth and workers of justice.”

Not until 1909 did the Church finally recognize Mary Ward as founder of the IBVM. She was a pioneer for women’s role in Church ministry and a woman ahead of her time in shaping apostolic religious life as we know it today. Mary Ward expected much and believed with all her heart that, “Women in time to come will do much.”
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Twinings

I always loved Twinings tea. Here is a bit of history. Share

Saturday, August 9, 2008

St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein)



On October 11, 1998, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a Discalced Carmelite nun known in the world as Dr. Edith Stein. Edith Stein was born to a German Jewish family on October 12, 1891, the Day of Atonement on the Hebrew calendar. She grew up to become a brilliant philosopher and university professor, as well as a feminist. Her purely secular lifestyle eventually brought her to a state of melancholy. She began to search for a deeper meaning of life.

One evening, while at the home of some Catholic friends, Edith read the Life of St. Teresa of Avila, and when she finished it she said: "This is truth." Edith was baptized in 1922, and for the next decade was a dedicated teacher in Catholic schools, as well as a lecturer on women's issues. The confusion of today concerning the role of women in the home, in the Church, and in public life was also rampant in the Europe of the 1920's and 30's. Dr. Stein gave a series of lectures on such topics as "Ethos of Women's Professions" and "Vocations of Man and Woman," in which she discussed the controversy in the light of Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

At a convention of Catholic Academics in 1930, Dr. Stein said:
Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life-- or often simply of gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?...To have divine love as its inner form, a woman's life must be a Eucharistic life. Only in daily confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one's wishes and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs of others. ( The Collected works of Edith Stein, Vol 2, ICS Publications, 1987)
Edith presented the Blessed Virgin Mary as being the role model for all women.
Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be the handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God been in all the circumstances of her life....Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a Spouse of Christ, an apostle of the Divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived in and what worldly activity absorbed her life. (Collected Works, Vol 2)
At the age of forty-two, Edith Stein entered the Carmel of Cologne, where she made her first profession on Easter Sunday, 1935 and her final vows in April of 1938. Due to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, as she was known in the cloister, was transferred to the Dutch Carmel of Echt on December 31, 1938. On Passion Sunday, 1939, she asked her superior for permission to "offer herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for the peace of the world" and the conversion of the Jewish people. (J. Fabrerues, "The Science of the Cross," Carmelite Digest, 1994)

Soon afterwards, Holland ceased to be a refuge; it was invaded by the Germans. In July of 1942, the Dutch bishops protested the Nazi mistreatment and deportation of the Jews. The Nazis retaliated. On August 2, all Catholics of Jewish descent were arrested, including Sr. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa Stein. Beaten and half-starved, the sisters were deported first to Westerbork prison prison camp in Northern Holland. Sr. Teresa was able to send a message to her superior that she was still wearing her Carmelite habit, and planned to keep wearing it as long as she could. (Fabrerues)

At the camp, St. Teresa Benedicta comforted and cared for frightened mothers and their little children. Before her arrival in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, she managed to smuggle one last message to her mother prioress: "I am content now. One can only learn the Scientia Crucis if one truly suffers under the weight of the Cross. I was entirely convinced of this from the very first and I have said with all my heart: Hail, Cross, our only hope." (Fabrerues)

After disappearing into the hell of the death camp, it is assumed that the brave Carmelites were gassed almost immediately, but the exact date and hour of the death of St. Teresa Benedicta has never been known for certain. She was beatified as a martyr of the Catholic faith on May 1, 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Don Marco has some beautiful meditations as well. Share

Balcony Scene

Here is a scene from the 1989 television film The French Revolution, starring Jane Seymour as Marie-Antoinette. It depicts the moment when the Queen stood on the balcony and faced the mob on the night of October 6, 1789 at Versailles. It is much more accurate than the manner in which the incident was handled in the Coppola film. (Via Trianon de la Reina) Share

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Faith of Madame Royale


Sainte-Beuve describes the quiet religious fervor of the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette:
I have questioned, in regard to her, men who approached her constantly, and this is what they tell me. Each day was alike to her, except the funereal days of her sorrowful anniversaries. She rose very early, at half-past five o'clock for example; she heard mass for herself alone between six and seven. It is conjectured that she took the communion often, but she was never seen to do so, except on the great days occasionally. No solemnity, no formal preparations; she was only a humble Christian doing a religious act; she did discreetly and secretly saintly things.
In the early morning she attended to the care of her room, in the Tuileries almost as she did in the Temple.
She never spoke of the painful and bleeding things of her youth, unless to a very few persons in her intimacy. The 21st of January and the 16th of October, the death days of her father and mother, she shut herself up alone, sometimes sending, to help her in passing the cruel hours, for some person with whom she was in harmony of mourning and piety–the late Mme. de Pastoret, for example.
She was charitable to a degree that no one knows, and which it is hard to fathom; those who were best informed as to her alms and other deeds were constantly discovering others, which came up, it were, as from underground, and of which they knew nothing. In that she was of the true and direct lineage of Saint Louis.
Her life was very regular and very simple, whether in the Tuileries or elsewhere in exile. The conversation around her was always very natural. At moments, when misfortune [Page 308] made truce for a while, it was noticed that she had in her mind or in her nature a certain gaiety, of which, alas! she could make too little usage. Still, on her best days and in privacy she would let herself go, if not to saying, at least to hearing, things that were gay. When she felt herself in safe and friendly regions a certain pleasantry did not frighten her, and when on festivals she was expected to order plays for her theatre she did not choose the most serious.
Even amid the habit of pain there rose to the surface a sort of joy, such as comes to tried and austere souls, whom religion has guided and consoled throughout all time.

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An American Newman

Don Marco discusses the story of the priest and convert James Kent Stone, Fr. Fidelis of the Cross. Share

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Marie-Antoinette's Adopted Children


Marie-Antoinette had a great love for children. Many biographies, including the most recent by Lady Antonia Fraser, while diverging on other points, do agree that Marie-Antoinette was truly fond of the company of small boys and girls. As a young girl, she asked her ladies and servants to bring their children with them when in attendance; hence the scene in her apartments was a bit chaotic with all the little ones running about, not to mention all the dogs. Later, she adopted the peasant child, Armand. The biography Marie-Antoinette by Marguerite Jallut and Philippe Huisman, (Viking Press, 1971) gives a great deal of information about Armand as well as the other children the queen adopted. She raised Armand as her own son, and provided for his entire family, including music lessons for one of his brothers. She showed concern and interest for them always and gave what aid she could until her imprisonment, when she could no longer help them.

It was difficult for Armand when the queen had her own children, as well as adopting others, since he was no longer the center of all her attention. As a teenager, he rebelled, joined the Revolution and was killed in the wars. Meanwhile, around 1787, Marie-Antoinette adopted the daughter of servants named Ernestine to be a companion for her daughter Madame Royale. She dressed her as a princess and gave her all the same toys as her own daughter.

Around 1790, she adopted three orphan girls. The two oldest were sent to a Visitation convent to be educated but the youngest, Zoé, who was the same age as the little dauphin, lived in the royal apartments at the Tuileries. Marie-Antoinette would have adopted many more children had she been able. Those whom she could not actually bring to live in the palace, she provided for generously.

At the time of the royal family's disastrous flight to Montmédy in June 1791, Marie Antoinette sent Ernestine and Zoé to safety. Ernestine was entrusted to her birth father. Zoé joined her blood sisters at the Visitation Monastery, where she eventually became a nun and died at the time of the restoration.

In the Temple prison, Marie Antoinette was anxious for news about her adopted children and tried to discover where they were. She managed to find out that
Zoé and her two sisters had been taken to their relatives in the country. Of Ernestine, she could could discover nothing, except that her father had been guillotined. Ernestine had actually been whisked out of France by an emigré family and died in exile. Share

Royal Marriages

There have been some really dismal failures. (Via Royal World.) Share

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Transfiguration


Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the Creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.
~Anastasius of Sinai, from The Liturgy of the Hours according to The Roman Rite, 1975
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Prayer of Madame Elisabeth


Here is a prayer of Madame Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Adorable heart of Jesus, sanctuary of the love that led God to make himself man, to sacrifice his life for our salvation, and to make of his body the food of our souls: in gratitude for that infinite charity I give you my heart, and with it all that I possess in this world, all that I am, all that I shall do, all that I shall suffer. But, my God, may this heart, I implore you, be no longer unworthy of you; make it like unto yourself; surround it with your thorns and close its entrance to all ill-regulated affections; set there your cross, make it feel its worth, make it willing to love it. Kindle it with your divine flame. May it burn for your glory; may it be all yours, when you have done what you will with it. You are its consolation in its troubles, the remedy of its ills, its strength and refuge in temptation, its hope during life, its haven in death. I ask you, O heart so loving, the same favour for my companions. So be it.

O divine heart of Jesus! I love you, I adore you, I invoke you, with my companions, for all the days of my life, but especially for the hour of my death.


O vere adorator et unice amator Dei, miserere nobis. Amen.

It is in interesting contrast to her earlier spiritual struggles and darkness, some of which she expresses in this snippet from a letter to a priest. In the long run, her trials made her stronger and more serene. Share

Death of the Necktie?

Business dress for gentlemen has become increasingly more casual. Ties are in decline. To quote:

It's ironic that, when tie wearing first declined in the '60s, the argument was that they're oppressive – an argument that persists today. The truth is the opposite: they're not only expressive, they're probably the most expressive things a man can wear that still fall within the bounds of good taste (in other words, not counting loud, ugly, and often vulgar t-shirts).

In fact, there are probably thousands of ways to personalize the "oppressive," classic male outfit of suit and tie, even allowing for the fact that suits generally must be navy blue or medium-to-dark gray to be tasteful (there are exceptions to almost everything, and brown or black may be appropriate in some situations, and tan or even white may work in the summer, but navy or gray are always right): a suit can be single-breasted (with two or three buttons) or double-breasted (with a six-to-one, four-to-one, or six-to-two button stance); solid or with a pattern like stripes of various kinds, plaid, or checks; a shirt can be French- or barrel-cuffed and can have a straight, spread, club, tab, or button-down collar; some collar styles can be worn pinned, or not; and shirts can be solid, striped, have a bolder pattern like tattersall, or even have a collar and cuffs that contrast the rest of the shirt. Add the possibilities for tie, pocket-square, and suspender colors and designs, not to mention patterned sport jackets for more casual wear, and the possibilities are mind-boggling.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Our Lady of the Snow



The legend, the feast and the basilica.

Today is the anniversary of my grandmother's death. Please pray for the repose of her soul. Share

The Passing of a Great Man

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008. Share

The Walls of the Playground

Jeff Culbreath continues to explore the extent to which Catholics should "engage the culture." Here are some interesting reflections based upon the following quote from Chesterton:
Those countries in Europe which are still influenced by priests, are exactly the countries where there is still singing and dancing and coloured dresses and art in the open-air. Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.

- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 9
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Monday, August 4, 2008

The Map Thief



Mara laughed. "So what does this committee really do?"

"They hop on their private jets and meet from time to time to fix little things like presidential elections. Just this past week they all flew out to Amelia Island, Florida, where they probably axed a few senators over martinis." His voice grew serious. "It's a secretive club of extreme Christian conservatives and their political allies."

Thus the "conspiracy of extreme Christian conservatives" is revealed in The Map Thief, a historical mystery novel by Heather Terrell, released last month. For those of you who might consider yourself to be "extreme Christians," I will bet you had no idea that the next presidential election is being arranged by your own. As anyone who has ever sat on a parish committee well knows, it is a challenge to get Christians of the same denomination to stop squabbling and agree on practicalities; the prospect of those belonging to different sects all conspiring together to dominate the world in a "Committee for National Policy" is mind-boggling.

Along with the nefarious "Committee for National Policy" the novel features the medieval "Order of Christ," who seem to be united in the same deceptive purposes. The Order, based upon a genuine confraternity, is a group of Portuguese noblemen who do not want it to be known that it was the pagan Chinese, not the Portuguese sailors, who first discovered the sea route around Africa, opening up the Age of Discovery and the voyages to the New World.

Undaunted by the agenda of such shadowy organizations is Mara Coyne, a young American attorney of Irish Catholic descent. Mara, who specializes in recovering lost or stolen works of art, is a spunky girl with a great deal of integrity. She has been hired by a Republican power broker to find a stolen fifteenth century Chinese map of "All Under Heaven," said to be the first ever map of the whole world.

Other than the hokey aspect of the dark conspiratorial groups, The Map Thief is a fun read, highly suited to the tastes of "extreme Christians." Instead of graphic sex and violence there is subtle romance and page-turning suspense. Mara's travels take her from the lairs of Chinese bandits to elegant receptions in Portuguese palaces. She also dines in a great many five star restaurants. The companion of her search is an archaeologist from the University of Pennsylvania, Ben Coleman, a scruffy eccentric with his own brand of chivalry. The descriptions of Lisbon bring the old city to life.

There are historical flashbacks to the lives of the Chinese eunuch who made the stolen map, and the Portuguese navigator who uses it to find the way to the Indies. The struggles of both men, united only by the map, are presented with poignancy and historical accuracy, as far as I could tell. Figuring prominently in the novel is a famous polyptych, known as the "Adoration of St. Vincent," linked in the story to the mysterious map. While I enjoyed the combination of history, art and suspense of The Map Thief, I was disappointed at the fact that groups of Christians are portrayed as criminal, which damaged the integrity of an otherwise entertaining tale.

(*The Map Thief was sent to me as a gift be the author's publicist.) Share

St. John Vianney

He is the patron saint of parish priests. Don Marco has a beautiful post about St John Vianney and his incendiary preaching. I will never forget our brief visit to Ars in September 1999, when my husband and I decided to rent a car in Toulouse and drive up the east side of France to Paris. We motored along winding and precipitous roads through the mountains of Auvergne to Le Puy- en-Velay, the site of the shrine of Our Lady of France, popular in the Middle Ages. I could not imagine the rigors of reaching the shrine via horse or mule when it was difficult enough to reach it by car. We stayed the night there after an eventful meal at the hotel restaurant. (Long story. But the word "faim" can sound like "femme" if you do not pronounce it properly.)

The next morning we drove up to Lyon and then made our way on the back roads to Ars. It was noon; most of the pilgrims were at dinner so we had the church pretty much to ourselves. They were repairing the roof but other than that it was a stunningly beautiful church. I wandered around, lighting candles for those with grave needs. I turned a corner and almost jumped, because there he was-- the Curé d'Ars in his glass coffin, incorrupt, looking as if he were asleep. It was like being at a wake rather than visiting the tomb of someone long dead. His expression was so peaceful and serene, communicating both the shortness of life and the joy of final victory. Even in death, the holy Curé preaches to us. Share

Was St. Joan a feminist?



Some people try to brand Jeanne d'Arc as a proto-feminist, but nothing could be farther from the truth. First, let me clarify that her last name was not really "d'Arc" but "Darc." The apostrophe between the "d" and the "a" was later added to give Joan a "noble" name, especially since she had been ennobled by Charles VII of France. It remains a fact, however, that her father was Jacques Darc, a peasant from Domremy in Lorraine. She learned spinning and needlework and all the domestic tasks girls in her state of life had to learn. Joan was a very feminine woman and only wore male attire when with the soldiers, for the sake of her chastity. Otherwise, in private and at home, she wore a dress. When in prison, she insisted upon keeping on her masculine clothing so that the English would not rape her, because that is what the guards tried to do when she did put on a dress. Also, although she carried a sword, she never actually fought in any of the battles, as she made clear at her trial. Share

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Carmen



L'amour est enfant de Bohême,
il n'a jamais, jamais connu de loi,

si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime,
si je t'aime, prends garde à toi!

Love is a gypsy child,
it has never, ever, known law;
if you love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you'd best beware!
~from the "Habanera" of Bizet's Carmen

One of most popular operas of all time, Carmen by Georges Bizet is practically a cliché, so deeply have its tunes permeated the general culture. Based upon the novella of Prosper Mérimée, Carmen debuted in 1875 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. It was considered highly scandalous at the time and was met with a less than than favorable response. However, Carmen slowly gained in popularity following Bizet's death. According to Daniel Pardo of Opera Today:

Bizet's Carmen paved the way for the "verismo" movement in opera.1 In Carmen, Bizet was the first to strip the sugarcoated varnish off the story and expose people's emotions at their most basic level. Disregarding convention and the effect on the public, Bizet took people from the lower echelons of society and made them the protagonists.2

The story of the opera is well-known, as is the music, running the full gamut of human emotion. Carmen the Gypsy seduces the young officer Don José away from his career and his intended bride, Micaela. She leads him into a life of crime and then abandons him for the matador, Escamillo. Don José, a broken man, stalks and murders Carmen.

Many now would probably celebrate Carmen as a liberated woman, in charge of her own destiny and sexuality. Indeed, Carmen's passionate and wild behavior makes sweet and pious Micaela seem boring and pallid. There is never any doubt in anyone's mind which woman José will choose. Yet Carmen is the kind of person who thoughtlessly wreaks havoc with other people's lives; she is a destructive force, a natural disaster.

At the end it is clear that Micaela's gentle but encompassing love was an actual grace for José, one which he chose to ignore. For Carmen, love is mere sport, which she enjoys almost as much as watching a bullfight. It is a game for her, like cards. However, Bizet makes it startlingly evident that playing with other people's minds and hearts can have dire and brutal consequences. Micaela's genuine love bathes the other characters with hope of redemption, without which Carmen would be one long dance into hell.

Music with Ease gives the following summary:

Such, then, is "Carmen" -- a work containing a world of beauties; marked by brilliant orchestration, by a unique use of Spanish rhythms, by finished musicianship displayed on every page of the score. The plot gave the composer strong situations, effective contrasts, excellent chances for local colouring, and he took full advantage of his opportunities. "I consider 'Carmen' a chef-d'oeuvre in the fullest sense of the word," wrote Tschaikowsky -- "one of those rare compositions which seems to reflect most strongly in itself the musical tendencies of a whole generation... I am convinced that ten years hence (he was writing in 1880) it will be the most popular opera in the world." The prophecy has come quite nearly, if not actually true.

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Louis XVII in Prison



The boy-king Louis XVII was forcibly removed from his mother Marie-Antoinette in the summer of 1793. He was eight years old. He was beaten and abused, especially when he refused to deny God. He was forced to sing obscene songs and curse and swear. He was shown pornography. The soldiers poured alcohol down his throat so that he became drunk. It was in an intoxicated state that he was forced to sign the testimony that his own mother had committed incest with him. One can see from his handwriting that he was not himself, especially when comparing it with his schoolwork.

Why did the builders of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" feel compelled to torment a small child? Because they knew that children are the future. To manipulate and enslave a child's mind, to weaken his free will through alcohol, pornography and sexualization, is to make him a creature of the state, an automaton, a drone. The horror of the Temple prison has been replicated, in some degree at least, by every totalitarian dictatorship, by the communist and fascist regimes who wished to enslave the Church and make a god of the nation-state. When the state becomes a god, it is insatiable, for every false god is a demon. (Sources: The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution by Nesta Webster, Louis and Antoinette by Vincent Cronin)


Handwriting of the Dauphin Louis-Charles, from his exercise books, with corrections from his father, Louis XVI.

The drunken scrawl of the eight year old Louis XVII in prison.

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Snobbery

Veritas discusses the universal weed of snobbery, part 1 and part 2. Share

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Veil: A Mystical Symbol

As it often happens, when we are looking for one thing we tend to find another. I was searching through my paper files for an article about Marie-Antoinette by Father Charles-Roux. The article remained elusive, which is not surprising considering the state of my office; however, I found some notes for an essay I intended to write about fifteen years ago on head-coverings for women.

Most people are familiar with the injunction of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 5,6, 13 for women to wear veils in church. It is interesting, however, to reflect upon other scriptural passages in which persons or things are covered out of reverence for God, beginning in the Old Testament. In ancient times, covering oneself, and especially hiding the face, was a sign of respect and obeisance. In Genesis 24:65 Rebecca covers herself at the approach of her bridegroom. In Exodus 34:33 Moses veils himself after beholding the glory of God. Exodus 36 describes in detail the curtains which were to veil the Holy of Holies. What was sacred was generally veiled. When I was a child, the tabernacles of Catholic churches were always veiled.

In II Kings 15:30 King David ascended the Mount of Olives weeping for his sins, barefoot like one in mourning, with his head covered so that no one could see him. In III Kings 19:13 Elias covers his face with his mantle at the manifestation of the power of God. Isaiah (6:2) describes the seraphim covering their faces with their wings before the Divine Majesty. Ezekiel 16:8 describes the spouse covering the bride with his garment.

The Navarre Bible footnotes present an interesting commentary on 1 Corinthians 11: 5-13. Women were to cover their heads as a sign that they have an important role in the Church, but one distinct from men. "Christian practice and profane custom show women's dress to be not unimportant.... Customs are a way of thinking. External comportment is important because it reflects people's inner dispositions." In our society, what is feminine is replaced by what is immodest and yet modesty and chastity are the greatest ornament of women. Head-coverings for women at Mass are part of an ancient tradition which the Apostle St. Paul encouraged in the new dispensation as a continuation of a sacred sign of bridal holiness and reverence. All women are to be brides at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Share

Our Lady of the Angels



Today we mystically kneel at the Portiuncula, to gain the triple indulgence of Rome, Compostela, and Jerusalem. Thanks to Terry Nelson for a wonderful post. Share

Friday, August 1, 2008

Portrait of a Queen



As readers of Trianon may recall, the novel opens with a scene of Madame Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun painting what became the portrait (above) of Marie-Antoinette and her children. Catherine Delors relates how, according to Madame Campan, it is one of the most accurate portrayals of the Queen, the other being the 1788 portrait by Wertmüller (below). To quote Madame Delors:
This portrait shows Marie-Antoinette in 1788, when she was 33. It was painted by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller, a Swede who was a member of the Royal Academy in Paris.

Indeed, according to Madame Campan's Memoirs, this is, along with the more famous portrait of the Queen with her children by Madame Vigee-Lebrun, the best likeness of Marie-Antoinette.

Madame Campan, as the Queen's Premiere Femme de Chambre, or First Chambermaid, saw Marie-Antoinette on a daily basis. I trust her judgment on the matter of the likeness.

You can see a shift in the manner in which Marie-Antoinette chose to be depicted, one short year before the Revolution. For one thing, the emphasis is no longer on ornate dresses, giant paniers or shimmering fabrics. Neither is the Queen dressed "en gaulle," in a simple white linen gown. That portrait, beautiful as it is, was the subject of much derision. People remarked jokingly that the Queen had been painted in her chemise.

Here Marie-Antoinette seems to be wearing a simple riding habit. No accusations of immodesty can be made because her kerchief comes up to her chin.

The sobriety and dark colors of the clothing shift the attention to the Queen's face. The features are also different from earlier images. The nose is less small and straight, the lips are thicker, the eyes more prominent than in Madame Lebrun's idealized portraits.

But I read a lot of energy and determination in these eyes, no longer dreamy, in the manner in which the head is proudly held backwards. This is the Queen who will assume a foremost political role during the Revolution. I believe that Madame Campan is right. Here at last we get a glimpse of the real Marie-Antoinette.
As much as I love the work of Madame Lebrun, it is true that in many of her portraits of Marie-Antoinette she was aiming for the misty, dreamy look, rather than an accurate likeness. While the en gaulle portrait (on the sidebar of this blog) is definitely an idealized representation, it embodies the life of simplicity and innocence which the Queen tried to create at Petit Trianon.

Coraje! Coraje no se necesita para morir, coraje se necesita para vivir Share