Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Widow Capet

Above is a posthumous portrait depicting Marie-Antoinette in the Temple prison after the murder of her husband. A bit idealized (I doubt that she had a bust of Louis XVI at hand) it is nevertheless based upon a Vigee-Lebrun portrait. The queen did have her missal with her, because it is recorded that the Revolutionaries later took it away when she was sent to the Conciergerie. Antonia Fraser mentions in Marie-Antoinette: The Journey that the queen would ask her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth to read the words of the Mass to her from the missal. (In the Temple prison they were forbidden to receive the sacraments.)

Here are the statements of Louis XVI concerning his wife from his Last Will and Testament:
I commend my children to my wife; I have never doubted her maternal tenderness for them. I enjoin her above all to make them good Christians and honest individuals; to make them view the grandeurs of this world (if they are condemned to experience them) as very dangerous and transient goods, and turn their attention towards the one solid and enduring glory, eternity. I beseech my sister to kindly continue her tenderness for my children and to take the place of a mother, should they have the misfortune of losing theirs.

I beg my wife to forgive all the pain which she suffered for me, and the sorrows which I may have caused her in the course of our union; and she may feel sure that I hold nothing against her, if she has anything with which to reproach herself.



"If we do not become saints, it is not because the Holy Spirit does not will it-- He was sent to us and comes to us for this very purpose-- but it is because we do not give full liberty to His action." ( Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p.563)

O Lux beatissima Reple cordis intima! "O Most Blessed Light, fill the inmost hearts of Thy faithful!" (The Golden Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus) Share

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Holiness of the Maid

St. Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. She was not canonized until 1920. Why did it take over 400 years to canonize such a marvelous saint? Joan of Arc scholar Allen Williamson answers this question in a fine article. Mr. Williamson points out that, although not formally canonized for several hundred years, Joan was regarded almost universally as being a saint soon after her death. Other holy persons, including St. Thomas More, St. Agnes of Prague, St. Nicholas Owen, St. Agnes of Montepulciano, St. Norbert, St. Agnes of Assisi, St. John Southworth, St. Hermann Joseph, St. Thomas Garnet were all canonized centuries after their deaths. The Church does not rush, even if the world does.

At Joan's posthumous Trial of Nullification of 1456, in which the verdict which condemned her was overturned by the Holy See, many of those who had known Joan were able to testify about her personal holiness. The Duke d'
Alençon stated:
So far as I could judge, I always held her for an excellent Catholic, and a modest woman. She communicated often, and, at sight of the Body of Christ, shed many tears. In all she did, except in affairs of war, she was a very simple young girl; but for warlike things bearing the lance, assembling an army, ordering military operations, directing artillery-she was most skillful. Every one wondered that she could act with as much wisdom and foresight as a captain who had fought for twenty or thirty years. It was above all in making use of artillery that she was so wonderful.
Her page Louis de Contes testified:
She was a good and modest woman, living as a Catholic, very pious, and, when she could, never failing to be present at the Mass. To hear blasphemies upon the Name of Our Lord vexed her. Many times when the Duke d'Alençon swore (Jeanne's hatred of swearing is noticed by many of her followers, and in her hearing they endeavored to abstain from it. La Hire, whose language was apparently the most violent, was permitted by her to employ the mild expletive 'Par mon martin,' 'By my baton,' an expression she herself is constantly reported to have used.) or blasphemed before her, I heard her reprove him. As a rule, no one in the army dared swear or blaspheme before her, for fear of being reprimanded.

She would have no women in her army. One day, near Chateau-Thierry, seeing the mistress of one of her followers riding on horseback, she pursued her with her sword, without striking her at all; but with gentleness and charity she told her she must no longer be found amongst the soldiers, otherwise she would suffer for it.

Joan's confessor Father Jean Pasquerel asserted the following:

I acted as her Chaplain, confessed her, and sang Mass for her. She was, indeed, very pious towards God and the Blessed Mary, confessing nearly every day and communicating frequently. When she was in a neighborhood where there was a Convent of Mendicant Friars, she told me to remind her of the day when the children of the poor received the Eucharist, so that she might receive it with them; and this she did often: when she confessed herself she wept.

Here is another outstanding article discussing the sanctity of the Maid. Share

The Stoning of Soraya M.

From The Los Angeles Times. Share

Friday, May 29, 2009

La Rondine

Giacomo Puccini's opera La Rondine is not one of his most popular ones, but I like it. I have for a long time. It was one of the operas I listened to while working for my Master's degree; it seemed to fit in with the bohemian lifestyle of graduate students. Not that I was by any means bohemian; there are limits to how wild one can get while living in a flat with one's grandmother in Schenectady. But part of the scene of university life is that while it seems like it will go on depressingly forever, the future is often uncertain, which can create a malaise. And meanwhile, in most university towns, there are bars and nightclubs where people fall in love, and hearts are broken, just like in La Rondine.

Chi il bel sogno di Doretta is one of the most exquisite arias ever composed; it was featured in the Merchant-Ivory film A Room With A View. "What do riches matter when happiness has blossomed at last?" is the theme of the song, and of the opera. Basically, the story of La Rondine ("The Swallow") is along the lines of Verdi's La Traviata and its film version, Camille, both based on the Dumas novel. A sad but good-hearted courtesan finds true love at last, but because the love is sincere, she must leave the man she loves for his own good. La Rondine is different because the heroine does not die of tuberculosis; she only goes away.

Yes, the characters are decadent; yet, they are able at some point to acknowledge their immoral behavior, or at least lament it. Because it was frowned upon by society that men and women live together without being married, there was more hope that the relationships be broken off, especially if marriage was out of the question. Guilt is not healthy if nourished but it can and does lead to repentance.

We live now in a shameless time. Parents no longer intervene as the fathers do in both La Traviata and La Rondine. In those old operas, there was sin, there was great passion, but there was also great love and the willingness to make sacrifices for the beloved. There is now little shame, little love and few willing to sacrifice. And sometimes I wonder if people are really happy. Share

The Valiant Woman

A book review by Colleen Hammond. Share

Spring Market

My friend Karen has a lovely shop in Virginia called Fleurish where this month the theme is Marie-Antoinette. Stop by and see her treasures!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

What is Puritanism?

Amid the controversy over "theology of the body" I have been perturbed to see a beloved Catholic author such as Dr. Alice von Hildebrand vilified all over the internet as a "puritan." I have seen Dr. von Hildebrand and other respected Catholics labeled as "puritanical" or "prudish" for daring to utter a charitable critique of certain methods of teaching about marital intimacy.

Yes, people love to throw around the word "puritan," but do they even know what it really means? Puritanism is an extreme Calvinist theology which sees the created world as evil, very similar to the Manichean approach of the medieval Cathars. In fact, the terms "Puritan" and "Cathar" both mean "pure one." Puritanism was brought to New England in the seventeenth century and has tinged the American view of reality ever since. According to an article by the National Humanities Center:
Puritans in both Britain and British North America sought to cleanse the culture of what they regarded as corrupt, sinful practices. They believed that the civil government should strictly enforce public morality by prohibiting vices like drunkenness, gambling, ostentatious dress, swearing, and Sabbath-breaking. They also wished to purge churches of every vestige of Roman Catholic ritual and practice—the ruling hierarchies of bishops and cardinals, the elaborate ceremonies in which the clergy wore ornate vestments and repeated prayers from a prescribed liturgy....But both Congregationalist and Presbyterian worship services were simple, even austere, and dominated by long, learned sermons in which their clergy expounded passages from the Bible. Perhaps most important, membership in both churches was limited to the “visibly godly,” meaning those men and women who lead sober and upright lives.
Because of the belief in predestination, of material and earthly prosperity being a sign that one is saved, Puritanism had an emphasis on looking good for the neighbors. The flip side of everything being bad and forbidden is the other extreme of nothing being bad or forbidden, so that under the facade of righteousness there is a lot of hidden corruption that is never brought into the light of repentance.

Having read many of Dr. von Hildebrand's books and articles and listened to her programs on EWTN over the years, I have never detected even a glimmer of Calvinism. For one thing, Dr. von Hildebrand is a Belgian and Belgium has never exactly been known as a hotbed of puritanism. In fact, I know of very few Europeans whom I would describe as "prudish." Dr. von Hildebrand is, however, a person of refinement and culture. She is a lady. It does not speak well for the state of American Catholicism when ladies and gentlemen cannot express their opinions about basic decency without being called "puritans" and "prudes." There is a difference, a big difference, between the puritanical view of the body as dirty, and the view which approaches the body with modesty and reverence. The fact that people are unable to discern such distinctions makes for a pathetic combination of circumstances.

NOTE: Comments closed. Share

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My New Blog

When I was in Lourdes several years ago, I was struck by all the votive offerings on the walls of the various chapels and basilicas, thanking the Blessed Mother for her intercession. I am unable to go to Lourdes right now and set up a plaque so instead I have created a blog to be a votive offering. It is called Fountain of Elias and will be about Carmelite spirituality. It is a way in which to thank God and Our Lady for answering my petitions and granting many blessings. I am grateful for the family I now have, for the books that have been published, and for the success of this blog. Laus Deo Virginique Matri!

Since at some point in the future the new blog may be used as a formation tool for the Secular Carmelite community to which I belong there will be, for the time being, sidebar links only to sites by other Carmelites or by priests or religious. However, anyone is welcome to visit and comment, in an appropriate manner, of course. I hope to have some guest posts by some of my blogging friends who are familiar with the Carmelite saints. At any rate, I am keeping it simple, and will be avoiding political controversy, trying to make the site a refuge from the world, a place for prayer and meditation, a sort of virtual Carmel. Share

Coronation of Nicholas II

The Sword and the Sea remembers the day. Share

Musical Gnosticism

Power without authority, up-to-date and easy to implement.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Catholic Writers Conference in August

Registration is in full swing for the Catholic Writers Conference Live!, as described below:
The Catholic Writers Conference Live!, taking place August 5-7, 2009, in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Trade Show and sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild, provides a unique opportunity for Catholic writers of non-fiction and fiction to learn about improving their craft, sharing their faith in their writing and marketing their work. Panel discussions and presentations covering many topics essential for the professional (or professional-to-be!) writer will be offered along with opportunities to ask questions of major Catholic publishers.

Some of our featured presenters are:

Regina Doman, author/Sophia Press submissions editor (Angel in the Waters)

Sister Maria Grace, Editor, Pauline Books and Media

Mark Brumley , CEO of Ignatius Press (How Not to Share Your Faith),

Susan Brinkmann, Editor, Canticle Magazine

Lisa Wheeler, Executive Vice President of the Maximus Group (PR and marketing firm for The Passion of the Christ)

Matthew Pinto, author/Ascension Press publisher (Do Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?)

Claudia Volkman, General Manager, Circle Press Publishing

Tom Hoopes, executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine

John Desjarlais, mystery author, (Relics, Bleeder)

Arthur Powers , and award-winning short story author

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beautiful Blogging

Toronto artist Gabriela Delworth has some reflections on blogging with which I am in complete agreement. Share

Reverence for the Mystery of Love

I have been following the various discussions around the internet about "theology of the body" and have wanted to stay out of the hullabaloo. Those involved have good intentions, no doubt. However, Dr. Alice von Hildebrand is absolutely correct in questioning the prudence of certain approaches to teaching and discussing marital intimacy. A crass and bombastic approach to a delicate subject does nothing but break down the already deteriorating veil of modesty and reticence which should exist between people who are not married to each other, especially between young men and young women.

The beauty of intimacy exists because it is private, to be shared only with the beloved. When the sense of privacy is destroyed, then the intimacy is destroyed. Is there then any hope for romance, when the mystery of physical love is constantly examined under a microscope, on television, on podcasts, everywhere? It is especially damaging, I think, when this occurs under the pretext of learning about chastity, under the cloak of religion. The fruit of the breakdown of modesty will ultimately be adultery, which Dr. von Hildebrand alludes to in her remarks.

Dr. von Hildebrand writes beautifully of the reverence with which married love should be approached, saying:
The tragedy of original sin is that all the beautiful male qualities of strength, courage, objectivity, nobility, a chivalrous attitude towards women, degenerated. The danger created by original sin is that many men use their strength and become brutal and abuse women or look at women as mere objects of pleasure....To my mind the conflict between man and woman can only be healed by striving for holiness.
Dr. Schindler's analysis is also quite profound (via Terry and Donna) as he makes it clear how a disordered outlook towards physical love easily spills over into what at best can be called silly and at worst can be called blasphemous. If individuals come from families where the body was seen as dirty, and intimacy could only be spoken of in terms of smutty jokes, then I suppose a frank discussion feels liberating for them. I only hope that the cure is not worse than the disease.

My husband is right when he says that *some* chastity programs can be characterized as "Catholic porn" because they may become an excuse to talk about sex under the guise of lamenting the evils of fornication. It is as if a bunch of alcoholics at an AA meeting talked about their favorite cocktails the whole time, all the while saying how terrible it is to drink.

People have been making love and having babies since time began. Why suddenly everyone needs to run and listen to a sex therapist in order to understand what love is should tell us that something has gone terribly awry.

Contemporary worship certainly has been stripped of mystery yet the human soul continues to thirst for the transcendent. When the mysteries of the supernatural are downplayed and denigrated then there is hardly anything else but the mystery that binds man and woman together, the mystery of sexuality. It is easy and very human to lose oneself in passion. Nevertheless, once sexuality loses its mystery by being debased and misused then there lies right beyond it the mystery of death. To tear down the veil of reverence for the mystery of human intimacy is to open a dangerous door.

UPDATES: Here and Here. Share

Sunday, May 24, 2009

God: Fact or Fiction?

In a time when we are so often confronted with the arrogant dogmas of militant atheism it is refreshing to come across a book which unabashedly shows the reasonableness of faith in the light of science. God: Fact or Fiction? shines with candor and thoroughness, demonstrating how faith and science are not in opposition to each other, rather they are complementary, for learning about the complexity of God's creation gives glory to Him. Brendan Roberts is a young New Zealand author who can discuss the intricacies of theories of evolution as easily as he can explain the catechism. Roberts explores how the theory of macro-evolution put forth by Charles Darwin came to influence several generations of scientists, as well as attitudes in society. While Darwin's theories of natural selection and survival of the fittest have many holes in them, they are regarded as dogmas carved in stone, in spite of the fact that many contemporary scientists have challenged the claims.

Roberts shows how when the supernatural is excluded from scientific inquiry, then nothing is left but dehumanizing materialism, saying:
The philosophy of materialism permeates the theory of macro-evolution when it excludes God’s involvement. The more we delve into the materialistic philosophy the more we are reminded of some evil characters of history, and consequently of some still existing. While naturalism is something based on natural desires or instinct. Dr. Neil Broom, Biochemist at the University of Auckland,and author, elaborates on how these two philosophies have influenced science and society:
The philosophy of materialism or naturalism very largely dominates the modern, scientific understanding of the natural world. This conceptual model has profoundly influenced the way we view ourselves as human beings within nature…Scientific materialism views humanity as a mere artifact, a fluke biological by-product of the vast, impersonal flow of a wholly natural set of processes. We are ‘caused’ by the cosmos, not the reason for it. Modern man is finally not anything unique or special.13
As you read in the previous chapter in the section entitled, Human Origins, Darwin brought how people view humans down to the same level as animals, saying both had different levels of morality. Once again we see this view echoed through the philosophies of materialism and naturalism.(p.33)
The results of naked materialism are evident in the last century as well as in our own.
The culmination of this philosophy of materialism bears its ugly fruit as a result of Darwin placing humans and animals on the same moral plain. It seems to have an eerie ring about it, one that brings to mind images of the holocaust and World War II as Hitler invaded and raped so many countries, and treated humans as worthless and expendable.

Darwin warned that future progress would be hindered by sentimental policies that protect weaker individuals. Hence, he set the stage for Hitler to seek the elimination of the sick, maimed, lower classes or races, or anyone who got in his way. This conjures up images of the 20th and 21st Century with the amounts of wars, abortions (the most defenseless humans in our world), and also what is now trying to take a foothold in Western countries, euthanasia. Euthanasia has opened up the door for the handicapped and elderly to end their lives, or in some cases for someone to end it for them. (pp. 35-36)
One of the highlights of God: Fact or Fiction? is that Roberts points out how too often Christians allow themselves to be put on the defensive by atheists, which is unproductive to say the least.
...Often good-meaning Christians act as if Genesis is a scientific document. They... feel that all of Sacred Scripture is threatened by the theory of evolution. Therefore they seek to defend Genesis trying to justify every single word. It is understandable that they feel that the Word of God is threatened, and yet it is unfortunate that they seek to justify every single world, rather than focusing on the overall message. The complete message they could take is, for example, that God created the universe, and man was the pinnacle of God’s creation. (p.55)
Roberts gives examples of how Scripture and science are not in opposite realms but often merge in ways that demand an accounting, as well as being a source of wisdom. According to Roberts:
Geisler and Brooks reveal a fascinating revelation from Sacred Scripture with the event of “God resting on the seventh day” still happening now. This is not so far fetched, with God being outside of time, then we could still be in the 7th day:
Now God’s work was all finished at the beginning of the world; as one text says, referring to the seventh day. And God rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. And, again, the passage above says: They will never reach my place of rest. Hebrews 4:3-5
Furthermore, St. Augustine, in Confessions says that Genesis does not mention an evening and morning for the seventh day, as is mentioned on all the preceding days, this is a change of pattern from every preceding day, and so it appears to signify that the seventh day may not have ended. This is not to say that God has retired, but that he has ceased creating new species. God still creates but as Co-Creator as the Catholic Catechism beautifully describes16:
Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which “is on the side of life” teaches that “each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life.” Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize Intelligent Design that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters…. (pp.56-57)
The wonders of the primordial world have never ceased, since they are renewed in every new baby. It should be clear just from cursory observation that the elaborate design of the cosmos has its origin in a superior Intellect, for the odds of such complexity coming together spontaneously all by itself would defy all reason and logic. Roberts discusses the odds quite deftly, in a way that might be particularly engaging for teenagers, especially those with lots of questions. Roberts' book not only encourages inquiry but stimulates it, making one want to learn more about the wonders of the universe and the God who made them. Share

Pondering Puce

Glass of Fashion explores the color popularized by Marie-Antoinette. (Via Versailles and More) Share

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baudouin I of Belgium

Part 1 in a series about a modern Catholic monarch.
Baudouin I (1930-1993) was the fifth King of the Belgians. He possessed the patriotism and high principles of his predecessors, Albert I and Leopold III, yet his reign, tragically, saw Belgium's political and moral decline.

Born Baudouin Albert Charles Leopold Axel Marie Gustave at Stuyvenberg Castle, near Brussels, on September 7, 1930, he was the eldest son of Prince Leopold and Princess Astrid of Belgium. His sister, Josephine-Charlotte, had been born in 1927; his brother, Albert, would follow in 1934. The year of Baudouin's birth coincided with the centenary of Belgian independence. The arrival of the long-awaited royal heir was a joyful event for his family and people. Princess Astrid wrote to a friend proudly announcing the birth, underlining the words "our son" several times. "You understand how happy we are that it is a boy," she wrote,"it is a joy not only for us, but for everyone here in Belgium..."(Sparre, p. 130)
Part 2, HERE.

On December 15, 1960, 9 years after his accession, King Baudouin married the Spanish noblewoman, Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragon. The wedding was magnificent and the mood in Belgium was enthusiastic. Since the tragic death of Baudouin's mother, Astrid, in 1935, the Belgians had lacked a Queen Consort and they were delighted to welcome one again. Fabiola's personal modesty and charm won her great popularity. By all accounts, the marriage was a collaborative and devoted one. Sadly, however, the royal couple remained childless. As she recalled in a recent interview, the Queen suffered five miscarriages. At one point, rumors circulated that the King was seeking an annulment from the Vatican. This, of course, was nonsense, but it surely added to the royal couple's distress.

Alger Hiss and the Battle for History

Susan Jacoby has written a new book about Alger Hiss. David Chambers, grandson of Whittaker Chambers, sets the record straight (once again) in a review of Jacoby's book, saying:
This book could never serve as a review of the Hiss case or its impact because its sloppiness undermines the credibility of the author's arguments. At least when it comes to errors, however, Ms. Jacoby finally achieves some semblance of balance - she errs almost equally about Alger Hiss.

Perhaps strangest is this book's omission of new findings by another recent Yale publication. Spies (May 2009) opens with the bold chapter title, "Alger Hiss: Case Closed." It claims to seal the coffin (if not bury the grave plot) on Mr. Hiss' guilt. Nothing from "Spies" appears in Ms. Jacoby's book. According to "Spies" co-author Harvey Klehr, Yale's editor Jonathan Brent offered her access to the book's new findings. Apparently, Ms. Jacoby took a pass. Overall, it is distressing to read this book. Clearly, Ms. Jacoby prizes secular, liberal intellectualism. Yet her book is compromised by the very type of bias she claims to despise in her intellectual opposites.

Ms. Jacoby finds no middle-ground audience, either. As a point of reference, Mr. Hiss defines her political spectrum. He is "a bogeyman for the right." He is a "delusion for the extreme left." "Right" and "extreme left" leave Ms. Jacoby's middle decidedly left of center.

In today's America, right reads not left, nor left read right. Who then will talk to the masses between extremes? I will, claims Ms. Jacoby at the beginning of her book, aiming at "people in their thirties, forties, and fifties." Swiftly did her own memory eclipse in this volume. Quickly she winds up preaching to one half of the choir - left only, please.

"What each side truly hates is the other's version of history," she notes. Sad to say, she is as guilty as the rest.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Young Mary Tudor

It is forgotten, in the light of everything that followed, that the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was in her golden youth the most sought after princess in Europe. At one point her father betrothed her to the future Henri II of France, which would have had interesting implications had the marriage ever taken place. But when Mary fell from grace at the time of her parents' separation, she was no longer considered eligible, and Henri married Catherine de Medici instead. The blog Mary Tudor: Renaissance Queen discusses what might have been. Share

Pentecost Novena

The Pentecost novena begins today, even for those who did not get to celebrate the Ascension yesterday. Scott Richert provides the prayers here. The Golden Sequence makes a superb novena prayer as well. (Please pray for a young girl who has just been diagnosed with cancer.)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,        Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium. radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum, Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum come giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium. come, light of the heart.

Consolator optime, Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae, sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium. sweet consolation.

In labore requies, In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium. in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima, O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium. of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine, Without your divine will,
nihil est in homine, there is nothing in man,
nihil est innoxium. nothing is harmless.

Lava quod est sordidum, Wash that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum, water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium. heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum, Bend that which is inflexible,
fove quod est frigidum, warm that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium. make right that which is wrong.

Da tuis fidelibus, Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus, who rely on you,
sacrum septenarium. the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum, Give reward to virtue,
da salutis exitum, give salvation at our passing on,
da perenne gaudium, give eternal joy.
Amen, Alleluia. Amen, Alleluia.

Yesterday is Tomorrow

Revisiting Little Orphan Annie. (Via Serge) To quote:
The strip, launched in 1924, quickly became a huge success and a pop culture landmark. It was also one of the few popular voices raised in opposition to the New Deal.

The treacly 1977 Broadway musical Annie and the film adaptation that followed five years later glorified a lovable Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Annie creator Harold Gray (1894–1968) would have been appalled.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anatomy of Abuse

Fr. Blake opens a discussion on the Irish scandal. There are some excellent points made in the comments. As one person says:
Fr Ray,
I am an Irish reader and I read your blog regularly. This litany of abuse is truly shocking and I myself think it was perpetuated because of our history and culture of secrecy. Ireland has a very difficult and painful history and sensitivity to pain and abuse was not high as the Ireland I grew up in was a cold and poverty stricken place where surviving and keeping things to yourself was the way to go. I think many people entered the church then because it was a job. The other options were emigration. Obviously a lot of people were in religious institutions that should have never been accepted. I think the most damming thing is the secrecy and culture of cover up. Its devastating for the many good catholic clergy and laity. There is untold damage done to the faith particularly of the young. We are on the floor.

Further perspective on the scandal, HERE.

UPDATE: More reflections from Fr. Blake, HERE. Share

Ascension Day

(Icon of the Ascension by Andrei Rublev)

Let us look towards Heaven.
Our desires, on this Day, should be, that we may follow our Jesus to life everlasting, and overcome all the hindrances that we may have to encounter on the way thither....

A tradition, handed down from the early ages, and confirmed by the revelations of the Saints, tells us that the Ascension of our Lord took place at the hour of Noon. The Carmelites of St. Teresa's Reform honour this pious tradition by assembling in the Choir, at the hour of mid-day on the Ascension; and spend it in the contemplation of this last of Jesus' mysteries, following him, in thought and desire, to the throne of his glory.

Let us, also, follow him ; but before looking on the bright Noon which smiles on his triumph, let us go back in thought to his first coming among us. It was at mid-night, in the stable of Bethlehem. That dark and silent hour was an appropriate commencement to the three and thirty years of his life on earth. He had come to accomplish a great mission: year by year, and day by day, he laboured in its fulfillment. It was nigh to its fulfillment, when men laid their sacrilegious hands upon him, and nailed him to a Cross. It was mid-day, when he was thus raised up in the air; but the Eternal Father would not permit the sun to shine on Jesus' humiliation. Darkness covered the face of the earth ; and that Day had no Noon. Three hours after, the sun re-appeared. Three days after, the Crucified rose again from the Tomb, and it was at the early dawn of light.

On this day, yea at this very hour, his work is completed. He has redeemed us, by his Blood, from our sins ; he has conquered death by his "Resurrection to life :—had he not a right to choose, for his Ascension, the hour when the sun is pouring forth his warmest and brightest beams...

~Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year

The Work of God

The priesthood is a life, not a profession. As Fr. Mark says:

When, in fact, the trend of Mass "facing the people" came to be perceived as normative, a loss of awareness of the latreutic character of the Mass ensued. While addressing the Father in the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest found himself facing the people and, in some instances, was even led to believe that he should actively look at them. In most instances, this contributed, at least subjectively, to a loss of recollection, focus, and singlehearted devotion on the part of the priest. The physical change of direction led insidiously and almost imperceptibly to to a theological change of direction. Even without formulating it consciously, a question began to hang in the very air of the sanctuary: "Is the Mass a sacrifice offered to God or a service offered to the people?" A flashback to the Protestant Reformation.

I would argue, then, that the habit of celebrating "versus populum" has contributed significantly to the disaffection of many priests for the so-called "private Mass," or celebration of Holy Mass without an assembly. This is not the only factor to be considered. Although the Ordo Missae of Pope Paul VI specifically provides for celebration without an assembly, certain elements in it de-emphasize the theocentric direction of the Mass, actual communion with the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints, and the benefits derived from the Holy Sacrifice for both the living and the dead.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"The Empress kissed me"

Perhaps the story of the childhood meeting of Mozart with Marie-Antoinette and her family is partly apocryphal, but it has some elements worth reflecting upon. In the picture above, the little Archduchess Maria Antonia is leaning against her mother Empress Maria Theresa as the young prodigy is introduced. It is said that Mozart slipped and fell at one point; when Antonia ran forward to help him get up, he asked her to marry him. Mozart then ensconced himself upon the Empress' lap, and Maria Theresa kissed him. According to Mozart biographer Otto Jahn:
He was particularly proud of the Empress's notice. When they were encouraging him to play at a small German court, where there were to be some persons of high rank, he answered that he had played before the Empress, and was not at all afraid.
 Later, when the boy Mozart was taken to Versailles, he tried to kiss Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV, but La Pompadour pushed him away. He asked, "Who is this that does not want to kiss me ?—the Empress kissed me." The French royal family were much more welcoming than the courtesan, however. Queen Marie fed Mozart with her own hands, speaking to him in German, while her daughters kissed him and visited with his family in the royal apartments. He was obviously a very engaging little boy, to everyone but Madame de Pompadour, that is. Share

In Praise of McDonald's

Jeffrey Tucker on the merits of the McCafe lattes. Share

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Queen's Boudoir

Paris Atelier has a descriptive post of Marie-Antoinette's boudoir turc at Fontainebleau, like the inside of a pearl. Share

Setting the Table

Edwardian Promenade offers a history of fine dining, with an emphasis on the Victorian era.
Color was important to the early- and mid-Victorians, and colored table runners, color glasses such as green hock glasses or ruby-colored wine glasses, added a deep splash of color against the already crowded table. Added to this were mirrors, which generally reflected peaceful scenes if a mirrored plateau with figures was not being used. The Edwardian era saw a streamlined of the table setting, and the table was cleared of the masses of flowers and other accouterments in favor of a simple arrangement of candelabra, bowls of fruit and flower arrangements set one after the other along the length of the table. Now, instead of candles, small lamps, shaded by delicate lampshades, cast an intimate glow across the dining table and its diners.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The Last Divine Office

Here is another guest post by author Stephanie Mann, who has written a review of The Last Divine Office by Geoffrey Moorhouse about the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
This book serves as a companion to Geoffrey Moorhouse's history of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the northern reaction to the Dissolution. There is much to admire in this narrative of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, told through the story of Durham Cathedral and its Benedictine Priory. At the very end of the book, however, Moorhouse adopts a strange attitude about the changes that took place at Durham Cathedral because of the English Reformation, as though they really don't matter. I still give the book four stars, because he provides such an excellent overview of the monastic life, the dissolution of the monasteries, and the Henrician reformation.

The first chapter is evocative, describing the Last Divine Office chanted by the monks of Durham before their way of life is drastically changed, their number reduced, and their monastery surrendered to Henry VIII.

Moorhouse continues, examining the importance of St. Cuthbert, the honor paid to the Venerable Bede, and the beauty and order of the Benedictine Rule. Moorhouse introduces the last Roman Catholic Prince Bishop of Durham, Cuthbert Tunstall, and the last Roman Catholic Lord Prior of the Monastery, Hugh Whitehead, and describes their respective roles.

Moorhouse also very effectively describes how Henry VIII became the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England, displacing the Pope from that role by bullying the Convocation of Bishops with fines and other punishments. He describes how Henry's conservative approach, maintaining Catholicism without the Pope, conflicted with Thomas Cromwell's and Thomas Cranmer's Lutheran reforming tendencies (guess who won?). He also demonstrates Henry's demand that his subjects obey him absolutely in the matters of his marriage to Anne Boleyn and his sovereignty over the Church, recounting the executions of the Holy Maid of Kent, the Observant Franciscans, the Carthusians of the Charterhouse in London, Richard Reynolds, and of course, Bishop John Fisher of Rochester and Sir Thomas More.

When discussing the process of the Visitation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Moorhouse is certainly willing to point out the duplicity of Henry and Cromwell, and the self-serving efforts of the visitors, all of whom soon saw the financial benefits of closing down the monasteries, selling the land and keeping the riches, to themselves and the Crown.

He also explains why the government closed down the friaries of the mendicant Dominicans and Franciscans--there was no money there because the friars were indeed living in poverty according to their rules--since the friars were preachers and teachers, urging the people to devotion and tradition. They had to go, whether or not Henry made any money in the process.

Turning to how Visitation and plans for Dissolution affected Durham, Moorhouse notes that Tunstall and Whitehead did all they could to stay on the good side of Henry and Cromwell. The inevitable finally occurred, however, and the Benedictines at Durham surrendered their monastery to the Crown in 1540. The Lord Prior became Dean of the Cathedral, and several of the former monks took up new roles, but a tremendous cycle of change had only begun.

The shrines of St. Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede were desecrated and further iconoclasm would take place during the reign of Edward VI. Mary I restored some aspects of the old order, but her short reign did not have time to address the restoration of the monasteries. With the accession of Elizabeth I, new changes in religious worship, practice, and doctrine were legislated in Parliament. During another Northern rebellion in 1569, however, Catholics briefly took over the Cathedral, destroyed the Lord's Table, erected a stone Altar, and the erstwhile priests of the Abbey celebrated Catholic High Mass, with Latin chant and traditional vestments.

Moorhouse commends Tunstall and Whitehead for their acquiescence to the Tudor demands for religious conformity and uniformity. Their flexibility saved their lives and the Cathedral. They still struggled with the cycle of changes; Tunstall died under house arrest by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Whitehead died facing charges of not conforming completely to government commands. As Thomas More noted to one who remonstrated with him for risking his life to obey his conscience, the other's death was just as certain as his--his was just coming sooner and would be on an official schedule!

At the end, Moorhouse is just happy that Durham Cathedral survived (and I am too!), but he almost seems just as happy with the grounds of the compromise that saved the Norman monument--that men were willing to change not just their allegiance to a church hierarchy, but their very way of worshiping God. They didn't just pray the Last Divine Office; they also offered the Last Catholic Mass. The peace and the majesty of Durham have been preserved, but at what cost?

The Governess

Jane Austen's World describes the most tenuous of professions.
Working as a governess meant a life of limbo for the poor gentlewoman who was forced to support herself due to reduced financial cirdumstances. Jane Fairfax had every reason to fear her future employment. Governesses were a threat to both their employers and the servants of the house, reminding their female employers of how close they were to finding themselves in a similar predicament. Because of their genteel upbringing governesses lived a life of isolation, not fitting in with the servants belowstairs, not even the housekeeper, butler, or nanny, who, while they belonged to the upper ranks of servants, came from humble origins. Governesses seldom earned enough to save for their old age, and their services were often exploited and undervalued.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

La Mystérieuse prophétie

*Note: This post is a continuation of a previous discussion about Fr. Thibaut and St. Malachy, HERE.

I promised to share more about the fascinating book by Fr. René Thibaut, S.J., La Mystérieuse prophétie des papes (Namur: Bibliothèque de la Faculté de philosophie et lettres,1951, Imprimatur: June 28, 1945, Et. Jos. Carton de Wiart). Fr. Thibaut was a Belgian Jesuit who taught at the University of Namur. Fr. Thibaut's analysis of the titles given to the various popes is worth reflecting upon since so much of the history of the Church is captured therein. The last forty titles of the prophecy attributed to St. Malachy, which escaped the tampering of Renaissance forgers, are carefully scrutinized. Fr. Thibaut discerns that among the complex patterns woven into the Prophecy are thirteen couplets or binaries, as seen on p. 85:
77. Crux Romulea, Aquila rapax 97. Clement VIII, Pie VII.
78.Undosus vir, Peregrinus apostolicus 96. Leon XI, Pie VI.
79. Gens perversa, Ursus velox 95. Paul V, Clement XIV.
80. In tribulatione pacis, Rosa Umbriae 94. Gregoire XV, Clement XIII.
81. Lilium et rosa, Canis et coluber 98. Urbain VIII, Leon XII.
82. Jucunditas crucis, Lumen in caelo 102. Innocent X, Leon XIII.
83. Montium custos, Crux de cruce 101. Alexandre VII, Pie IX.
84. Sidus olorum, De balneis Etruriae 100. Clement IX, Gregoire XVI.
85. De flumine magno, Vir religiosus 99. Clement X, Pie VIII.
86.Bellua insatiabilis, Animal rurale 93. Innocent XI, Benoit XIV.
87· Paenitentia gloriosa, Columna excelsa 92. Alexandre VIII, Clement XII.
88. Rastrum in porta, Miles in bello 91. Innocent X II, Benoit XIII.
89. Flores circumdati, De bona religione 90. Clement XI, Innocent XIII.
I will share Fr. Thibaut's explanations of some of the binaries and how they connect with historical events. Crux Romulea (Clement VIII, 1592-1605) and Aquila rapax (Pius VII, 1800-1823) signify the confrontation between two Romes, of Christian Rome symbolized by the Cross with pagan Rome symbolized by the Eagle. Under Clement VIII the Protestant advance was halted while under Pius VII Napoleon, "the rapacious eagle," tried to make Europe and the Church his own in a new Roman Empire. (p.86)

The titles Lilium et rosa (Urban VIII, 1623-1644)) embraces the latter period of the counter Reformation of seventeenth century. (p.86) The "Lily and the Rose" symbolize the virtues of purity and chastity preached and lived by such extraordinary saints as St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jeanne de Chantal, and St. Louise de Marillac, as well as the religious orders founded at the time, such as the Visitation, the Daughters of Charity, the Lazarists, the Eudists, the Oratorians, and the Sulpicians. (p.87) Canis et coluber (Leo XII, 1823-1829)) or the "Dog and the Serpent" signifies the age of Revolution, of the liberalism which encouraged unrestrained license (p.87) and the class hatred and envy that would eventually give rise to socialism.

Bellua insatiabilis (Innocent XI, 1676-1689) or "Insatiable Beast" represents Louis XIV whom Innocent excommunicated. In his insistence on controlling the Church in France, Louis emulated Philip le Bel, as well as becoming a precursor of Napoleon, the "Rapacious Eagle." Gallicanism opened the way for the overt paganism of the reign of Louis XV, manifested in art, in literature and in lifestyles. Animal rurale (Benedict XIV, 1740-1758) symbolizes the preoccupation with naturalism that characterized the era, being that in prophetic language the words "animal" and "rural" symbolize paganism. (p.88) Such elements opened the way to the Revolution.

Towards the end of the list, Fr. Thibaut explores the individual meaning of the titles in chronological order, often in strophes of three. I will mention those I found especially compelling. Rosa Umbriae is Clement XIII, reigning from 1758 to 1769. In 1765 Pope Clement authorized the feast of the Sacred Heart; the "Rose" symbolizes the feast of love. (p. 90)

There follows a triptych of popes, numbers 95, 96 and 97 which are Ursus velox (Clement XIV, 1769-1774), Peregrinus apostolicus (Pius VI, 1775-1799) and Aquila rapax (Pius VII, 1800-1823). Clement XIV's reign saw the prelude to the Revolution, ideas and forces which swept Europe like a "charging bear" during the years which also saw the suppression of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits were among the few who had the ability to debate and confound the new ideas put forward by the philosophes; the order was disbanded at the moment it was most needed.

As an anagram "PeregrInUS aPostolIcUS" or "Apostolic pilgrim" signifies both Pius VI and VII who were forced into exile. Fr. Thibaut says that the repetition of the name "Pius" is a refrain. "Pius! Pius!" is similar to the sailors' cry of "Land! Land!" upon catching sight of a distant shore. (p.91) The difference between the two popes is that Pius VI had to contend with the Revolution, and Pius VII with the Aquila rapax, Napoleon Bonaparte, as has been said before.

Another triptych of popes includes Crux de cruce (Blessed Pius IX, 1846-1878), Lumen in caelo (Leo XIII, 1878-1903), and Ignis Ardens (St. Pius X, 1903-1914) There is an exhaustive analysis of the mysterious connections between the three popes and the historical circumstances which they each faced which would take five blog posts to explain. For one thing, they each received at baptism a name of one of the three saints closest to the Blessed Mother: John, Joachim, and Joseph. (p.95) The "Cross from the Cross" refers to the persecution of the papacy at the hands of the House of Savoy, whose coat-of-arms bore a cross. On a deeper level, it signifies Christ Crucified, with Mary the Coredemptrix at the foot of the cross. "Cross from the Cross" is an echo of "flesh of my flesh" of Genesis 2:23, when Eve was brought forth. The new Eve, Mary Immaculate, received the privilege of her Immaculate Conception, defined by Blessed Pius IX in 1854, because of the future merits of her Son. (p.94) "The Light in the Sky" of Leo XIII is an allusion the the Eternal Father who dwells in light inaccessible. (1 Tim. 6:16). It also alludes to Apocalypse 12: 1: "And a great sign appeared in the sky." (p.94) The encyclicals of Leo XIII challenged the modern world as it grew closer to the cataclysms of the twentieth century. "The Ardent Fire" of St. Pius X signifies the persecution of the Church (p. 93), about to be intensified in many places, and already in full force in France, where many religious communities were expelled.

Next Fr. Thibaut analyzes the three popes who faced the upheavals of the early twentieth century, Religio Depopulata (Benedict XV, 1914-1922), Fides Intrepida (Pius XI, 1922-1939), and Pastor Angelicus (Pius XII, 1939-1958). "Religion Depopulated" refers to the World War I which Fr. Thibaut says was the natural effect of the great apostasy of the European nations. The apostasy, however, was not universal, and the "Intrepid Faith" of Pius XI symbolizes the martyrs in Spain and Mexico at the time. (p.96) The fall of Russia into Communism and the resultant persecution of believers needs also to be remembered. "The Angelic Shepherd" was Pius XII, who would lead the sheep through many catastrophes, namely World War II and the spread of Communism.

Pius XII was still reigning when Fr. Thibaut published his book, so his historical insights end with that pope, although he guesses at what the future would hold. He surmises that Pastor et nauta, the "Pastor and Mariner" whom we know as John XXIII (1958-1963), signifies that the Church's mission to the world would come into into stormy seas. (p.97) Fr. Thibaut predicted that the persecution of the Church by the world would be redoubled during that reign. He saw Flos florum, "The Flower of Flowers" of Paul VI as a consoling symbol (p.97) Others have connected the lilies of purity with Humane Vitae.

De medietate lunae "Of the half moon" is (John Paul I, August 26-September 28, 1978) and De labore solis "The Eclipse of the Sun" is (John Paul II, 1978-2005). Fr. Thibaut says that in prophetic language the sun and moon herald the coming of the judgment of God as well as calamitous times of great schism in the Church. Changes in the moon signify civil anarchy and changes in the sun suggest religious anarchy. (p.97) It also comes to mind, remembering how Pope John Paul II canonized more saints than any pope in history, the verse from Matthew: "Then shall the saints shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43)

It is then, as Fr. Thibaut interprets, that the kingdom of God will be manifested in an extraordinary manner. Benedict XVI is De gloria olivae. "The Glory of the Olive" means that the people of God, represented by the olive tree, will be glorified in an unprecedented way. Fr. Thibaut claims that many factors point to 2012 as being the pivotal year for the culmination of events but, as he makes clear, exactly what the future holds remains to be seen. (p.97) He makes it clear, however, that this does not indicate the end of the world but the end of an era. As for myself, I have found Fr. Thibaut's book to be inspiring, in that he reflects upon all that has already transpired, upon the many calamities through which the Church has journeyed. It is cause for hope rather than trepidation, hope which inspires reverence, prayer and vigilance.

"But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone." Matthew 24:26 Share

Angels and Demons

Modern fantasies about Catholicism.

Elizabeth Lev discusses the real Rome compared to the fantasy Rome.

Terry Nelson saw it, too. Share

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marie-Antoinette's Wedding

He had not seen her for more than a total of six hours, but he promised to be faithful to her until death, and she promised the same to him.

~from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal

On May 16, 1770 the Dauphin Louis-Auguste of France married Marie-Antoinette Archduchess of Austria. Here is a detailed description of the ceremony from the biography by Maxime de la Rocheterie:

On Wednesday, the l6th of May, at nine o'clock, Marie Antoinette left La Muette for Versailles, where her toilette was to take place. The king and the dauphin had preceded her the evening before. When she arrived at the chateau, the king received her on the ground-floor, discoursed for some time with her, and presented to her Madame Elisabeth, the Comtesse de Clermont, and the Princesse de Conti. At one o'clock she went to the apartment of the king, whence the cortege started for the chapel.

The dauphin and the dauphiness, followed by the old monarch, advanced toward the altar and knelt on a cushion placed on the steps of the sanctuary. The archbishop of Rheims, Monseigneur de la Roche-Aymon, grand almoner, offered them the holy water, then after having exhorted the young couple, blessed the thirteen pieces of gold and the ring. The dauphin took the ring and placed it on the fourth ringer of the dauphiness, and gave her the gold-pieces. The archbishop pronounced the nuptial benediction, and as soon as the king had returned to his prie-Dieu, opened the mass. The royal choir sang a motet by the Abbe de Ganzargue; after the offertory the dauphin and dauphiness went to make their offering. At the Pater a canopy of silver brocade was spread above their heads, — the bishop of Senlis, Monseigneur de Roquelaure, grand almoner to the king, holding it on the side of the dauphin, and the bishop of Chartres, grand almoner to the dauphiness, holding it on the side of that princess.

At the end of the mass the grand almoner approached the prie-Dieu of the king and presented to him the marriage register of the royal parish, which the cure had carried. Then the cortege returned to the king's apartment in the same order, and the dauphiness, alter going to her own apartment, received the officers of her household and the foreign ambassadors.

An immense crowd filled the royal city. Paris was deserted: the shops were closed; the entire population had betaken itself to Versailles to assist at the celebrations and fireworks which were to finish the day.

But at three o'clock the sky became overcast; a violent storm burst; the fireworks could not be set off; the illuminations were drowned by the rain; and the crowd of curious people who filled the gardens and streets were obliged to flee in disorder before the peals of thunder and torrents of rain.

In the chateau, however, the day ended brilliantly. The courtiers, in sumptuous attire, eager to see and above all to be seen, crowded the apartments; a magnificent supper was served in the theatre, transformed into a banqueting-hall and lighted by a prodigious number of candles. All the ladies in full dress in the front of the boxes presented a sight as surprising as it was magnificent. The court had never seemed so brilliant.

At six o'clock a drawing-room was held, games of lansquenet, and a state dinner. In the evening the king conducted the newly married couple to their room. The archbishop of Rheims blessed the bed. The king gave the chemise to the dauphin, the Duchesse de Chartres to the dauphiness. But despite the splendour of the celebrations and the promising aspect of the future at that moment, certain obstinate pessimists could not help regarding the rumbling of the storm as a menace from Heaven ; and the superstitious recalled that the young wife, in signing the marriage register, had let fall a blot of ink which had effaced half her name.

Madame Campan, who was Reader to the daughters of Louis XV, recorded the occasion as follows:

The fetes which were given at Versailles on the marriage of the Dauphin were very splendid. The Dauphiness arrived there at the hour for her toilet, having slept at La Muette, where Louis XV had been to receive her; and where that Prince, blinded by a feeling unworthy of a sovereign and the father of a family, caused the young Princess, the royal family, and the ladies of the Court, to sit down to supper with Madame du Barry.

The Dauphiness was hurt at this conduct; she spoke of it openly enough to those with whom she was intimate, but she knew how to conceal her dissatisfaction in public, and her behaviour showed no signs of it.

She was received at Versailles in an apartment on the ground floor, under that of the late Queen, which was not ready for her until six months after her marriage.

The Dauphiness, then fifteen years of age, beaming with freshness, appeared to all eyes more than beautiful. Her walk partook at once of the dignity of the Princesses of her house, and of the grace of the French; her eyes were mild, her smile amiable. When she went to chapel, as soon as she had taken the first few steps in the long gallery, she discerned, all the way to its extremity, those persons whom she ought to salute with the consideration due to their rank; those on whom she should bestow an inclination of the head; and lastly, those who were to be satisfied with a smile, calculated to console them for not being entitled to greater honours.

Louis XV was enchanted with the young Dauphiness; all his conversation was about her graces, her vivacity, and the aptness of her repartees. She was yet more successful with the royal family when they beheld her shorn of the splendour of the diamonds with which she had been adorned during the first days of her marriage. When clothed in a light dress of gauze or taffety she was compared to the Venus dei Medici, and the Atalanta of the Marly Gardens. Poets sang her charms; painters attempted to copy her features. One artist’s fancy led him to place the portrait of Marie Antoinette in the heart of a full-blown rose. His ingenious idea was rewarded by Louis XV.


The Tyburn Tree

The infamous scaffold. (Via Immaculatae) Share

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Daughter's Love

Author Stephanie Mann reviews John Guy's study of the relationship between St. Thomas More and his daughter Meg. According to Mrs. Mann:
There have been attempts to besmirch the reputation of Sir (Saint) Thomas More--unsubstantiated and denied rumors of torture, inflated numbers of executions for heresy under this administration as Chancellor, and emphasis on the more colorful language in his polemics against Luther and Tyndale. All are cited as unworthy of a canonized saint, either reflecting confusion about historical accuracy or what it means to be a saint.

In this book, John Guy describes the relationship between Thomas More and his dearest daughter, Margaret Roper. It is a loving relationship, demonstrating the richness of character and integrity of both father and daughter. Guy highlights Thomas More's progressive educational program for all his children, including his daughters, uncommon at the time, with the highest standards of contemporary humanism. Erasmus of Rotterdam found in Margaret More Roper a critical and discerning reader who could appreciate his efforts and correct his Latin.

Crucially, John Guy emphasizes that Thomas More had completely integrated the sacred and the secular in his way of life and yet steadfastly kept the public and the private aspects of his life separate. When he was with his family, or when he wrote to them when he was away from them, he did not discuss the efforts, burdens or issues of his working life, as lawyer, member of Parliament, ambassador, or Chancellor. It was only when he knew that public life was going to intrude violently and with deadly force on his private life that he gave his family a sign of what was to come: a brutal knock at the door, interrupting the family gathered at meal and a preemptory summons to answer charges of treason.

Also crucially, Guy highlights the ferocious will to power of Henry VIII once he knew what he wanted and experienced the satisfaction of obtaining it. Henry was then insatiable and only those who bowed utterly to his desire could hope to survive, and even they faced the danger of his changing mood and will. Thomas More tried to warn Thomas Cromwell (as depicted in the film Anne of the Thousand Days) never to let the king focus on what he could do, but only on what he should do. More followed his own advice and was executed; Cromwell did not follow that advice and was still executed.

Margaret was one of the few who knew her father wore a hair shirt; she would thus be the only one who knew how to sustain him during his imprisonment in the Tower, engaging him with both intellectual diversion and prayer. She would be his champion after his execution, rescuing his head from its place in the row of traitors and preserving all his works, including the letters and treatises he wrote in the Tower, so that they could be published during the reign of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon's surviving child and the first Queen Regnant of England, Ireland and Wales.

A sad and final irony I gained from the story of this relationship was an inkling of what might have been: if Henry VIII could have had the same respect and love for his daughter Mary, he could have fulfilled his early promise as a Renaissance prince. If Henry had seen Mary as the gift she was, with her intellect, her musical talent, and the same desire that Margaret had to please her father, what might have been? But then, we might not have the works Thomas More wrote in the Tower, when he put polemics aside and contemplated Jesus in His Passion, the soul facing comfort and tribulation, and that loving last letter to Margaret, praising her for her demonstration of love as he returned to the Tower of London after his trial.

John Guy has given us the great gift of this book, clarifying many aspects of Thomas More's life, including his relationships with his second wife Alice and his great friend Erasmus, who both sadly abandoned him when he faced the trials of the Tower. The supporting materials (illustrations, family trees, and bibliography) are great.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The French Antigone

Ernest Daudet's biography of Madame Royale includes some prints from the early nineteenth century portraying the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette supporting her gouty uncle Louis XVIII during their exile in the Russian empire. She was nicknamed the "French Antigone." The same book includes a description which Louis XVIII wrote in 1799 of his niece to his brother Artois, calling her "our daughter" and comparing her to their sister Madame Elisabeth. As Daudet recorded:
As for the King, he despatched an official announcement of the marriage to every Court, and every member of the family.

"The portraits you have seen of our daughter," he said to his brother," cannot give you an accurate idea of her; they are not in the least like her. She so closely resembles both her father and her mother that she recalls them absolutely, together or separately, according to the point of view from which one looks at her. She is not pretty at first sight; but she becomes so as one looks at her, and especially as one talks to her, for there is not a movement of her face that is not pleasing. She is a little shorter than her mother, and a little taller than our poor sister. She is well made, holds herself well, carries her head perfectly, and walks with ease and grace. When she speaks of her misfortunes her tears do not flow readily, owing to her habit of restraining them, lest her gaolers should have the barbarous pleasure of seeing her shed them. It is no easy task, however, for her listeners to restrain theirs. But her natural gaiety is not quenched; draw her mind away from this tragic chapter of her life, and she laughs heartily and is quite charming. She is gentle, good-humoured, and affectionate; and there is no doubt that she has the mind of a mature woman. In private with me she behaves as our poor Elisabeth might have behaved with my father; in public she has the bearing of a princess accustomed to holding a Court. She not only says courteous things to everyone, but she says to each individual the most suitable thing that could be said. She is modest without being shy, at her ease without being familiar, and as innocent as on the day she was born. Of that I have been absolutely convinced by her manner with my nephew since Tuesday, the day of her arrival here. In fact, to put it briefly, I recognise in her the angel we have lost."