Friday, July 31, 2009

Jus Prima Noctis

One of my favorite films is Braveheart, which I am able to enjoy in spite of the many historical distortions, one of the worst being the presence of Isabelle of France in Britain in 1305, when she was only ten years old and had not yet left France to marry the Prince of Wales. In spite of such absurd incongruities, the scene which is one of the most disturbing to me is when the English soldiers crash the Scottish wedding feast to claim the bride for the bed of the lord of the manor, allegedly due to a law passed by Edward I "Longshanks." Many scholars claim that there was no such law, called droit de seigneur or jus primae noctis, passed at any time in the Middle Ages. According to a review on Suite 101.com:
Prima Nocte (First Night) is a myth that during the Middle Ages, local lords could force a new bride to have sex with them on her wedding night. Quite aside from the potential for justifiable revolt every time a lord did this, it was flagrantly adulterous in the eyes of the Church and a good way to die in a state of mortal sin with your angry wife's knife in your back. In other words, it never happened. While rape, murder and all sorts of pillaging certainly occurred during the English invasion of Scotland, Prima Nocte did not. That Braveheart prettifies the chaotic brutality of medieval warfare with a 19th century power fantasy is a little disturbing.
The legend of the jus prima noctis began to flower when eighteenth century writers such as Voltaire and Beaumarchais used it to show the imagined tyranny of the old regime. Many of the romantics of the nineteenth century took up the theme as a great backdrop for novels, plays and operas. However, it seems to be nothing nore than a bizarre and overindulged male fantasy. Although the practice may have once existed in early pagan times and in some pagan cultures, there is scant evidence that feudal people of the medieval era made jus prima noctis a part of their lives.

Cecil Adams traces the origins of the myth, as follows:

The story is pretty much the same all over. If you believe the popular tales, the droit du seigneur prevailed throughout much of Europe for centuries. Yet detailed examinations of the available records by reputable historians have found "no evidence of its existence in law books, charters, decretals, trials, or glossaries," one scholar notes. No woman ever commented on the practice, unfavorably or otherwise, and no account ever identifies any female victim by name.

It's true that in some feudal jurisdictions there was something known as the culagium, the requirement that a peasant get permission from his lord to marry. Often this required the payment of a fee. Some say the fee was a vestige of an earlier custom of buying off the lord so he wouldn't get physical with the bride....

The more likely interpretation is that the culagium was an attempt by the nobles to make sure they didn't lose their serfs by marriage to some neighboring lord. The clerical marriage fee, meanwhile, was apparently paid by newlyweds to get out of a church requirement for a three-day precoital waiting period....

Did the droit du seigneur exist elsewhere in the world? Possibly in some primitive societies. But most of the evidence for this is pathetically lame--unreliable travelers' accounts and so on.

A few holdouts claim we don't have any definite evidence that the right of the first night didn't exist. But I'd say most reputable historians today would agree that the jus primae noctis, in Europe anyway, was strictly a male fantasy.

None of this is to suggest that men in power didn't or don't use their positions to extort sex from women. But since when did some creep with a sword (gun, fancy office, drill sergeant's stripes) figure he needed a law to justify rape?

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New Film about Child Soldiers

There is a new film starring Uma Thurman as a nun who rescues some little kidnapped girls in Africa. It is a story which is truly horrific but it needs to be told. (Via Spirit Daily) Share

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review of Duffy's New Book

Author Stephanie Mann just returned from a week at “The Oxford Experience” studying The Oxford Movement while residing at Christ Church. The Oxford Experience is a non-academic residence program (no papers or grades) held every summer. While there she had the opportunity to shop at Blackwell’s and purchase Eamon Duffy’s new book on Catholicism under Mary I, which will not be available in the U.S. until September 15, according to Amazon.com. She has written us an exclusive review! Stephanie’s website includes pictures from her trip in Picasa, linked on the Contact/Events tab. She had the opportunity to visit the Oxford Oratory, one of Newman’s goals finally fulfilled in 1993, both the Anglican church and the Catholic College he founded in Littlemore, and other Oxford Movement related sites.

Here is Mrs. Mann's review of Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor by Eamon Duffy:
The brief reign of Mary I has hitherto been regarded as an anomaly in the steady progress of England in the Whig mythology of British history. It’s considered a throwback to the Middle Ages, a dark time of superstition and tyranny, illuminated only by the fires of Smithfield and Oxford. Eamon Duffy sets out to revise this view, dealing with at least five major misconceptions about Catholic England under Mary I:

1). Reginald Pole was not that involved with the restoration of Catholicism, he did not agree with the policy of burnings, and did not encourage preaching enough.

Often this is held because Pole refused the assistance of the Jesuits in England. As Duffy notes, Pole had a different program of renewal planned from the Jesuit program. John Foxe actually minimized Pole’s culpability in the heresy trials, but Pole was in charge of them. As Legate and Archbishop, Duffy demonstrates, Pole certainly encouraged preaching, preaching himself or preparing sermons for publication.

2). Pole and Mary ignored opportunities for propaganda against protestants, especially missing out on preaching or controlling the situation at the burning of heretics.

Duffy answers this charge by emphasizing how the new regime took advantage of Northumberland’s speech on the scaffold before his execution. He admitted his errors in continuing the protestant reformation under Edward VI and repented, having reverted to Catholicism. Duffy also notes that Pole was very much concerned with guiding popular opinion at the burnings, with preachers there to admonish both the heretics and any in the crowd who might share their errors.

3). The campaign of burnings did not work; the crowds shared the protestant cause of the victims in part because of their revulsion against the cruelty of the judges and the executions.

The judges did all they could to avoid condemning most laymen and women to the stake. The regime had to deal with the leaders of protestantism directly, although Duffy absolutely regrets the execution of Cranmer, surely an act of revenge by Mary for the sufferings he caused her and her mother. John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is the culprit here; a biased and untrustworthy volume, it is usually accepted on face value. For instance, Duffy notes that Latimer never told Ridley to “play the man”—Foxe is paraphrasing Polycarp, martyr of the early Church.

Duffy contends that the campaign to extirpate the protestant heresy from England was working. It only ended because Mary and Pole died. Our 21st century moral standards aside (based on a marvelous record of genocide, world wars, communist and totalitarian tyranny, abortion, etc), Duffy reminds us that the purpose of history is to understand that other country, the past, not to impose our standards upon it. If the purpose of history is the latter, Elizabeth I should be called “Bloody Bess” because torture, hanging, drawing and quartering are not humane ways of dealing with recusancy and dissent either.

4). All the regime had was this negative campaign to impose Catholicism on the people.

Duffy here answers with a culmination of facts: the regime did mount a preaching campaign, a catechetical campaign, a publishing program, and a reforming plan. This judgment is usually based on the hindsight that the reign lasted only five years. But Duffy reminds us that Mary and Pole did not know that they only had five years! They lived life as we do, in the present, ignorant of the future. They had a plan; death and Elizabeth cut its accomplishment short.

5). The restoration of Catholicism under Mary I was out-of-date, ignoring Counter-Reformation guidance of the Council of Trent.

This is backwards, contends Duffy: The restoration of Catholicism in England under Mary I set Counter-Reformation standards of the Council of Trent. Pole’s efforts were models for Charles Borromeo, the great reforming Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. Marian England set the standards of seminary training, bishops in residence, the catechism of the Council of Trent, the use of tabernacles in churches, etc.

Pole turned around the failure of the bishops under Henry VIII to uphold the unity of the Church and the primacy of the pope. Remember that only bishop, John Fisher, stood up against Henry’s power grab. When Mary and Pole died and Elizabeth I succeeded, only one bishop submitted to her religious settlement. The rest declared their belief in transubstantiation, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the primacy of the pope and the unity of the Church—therefore they were removed from office and either went into exile or died in prison.

In summary: Mary and Reginald Pole left a legacy of brave men and women who remained true to their faith, setting up seminaries abroad and returning missionary priests to serve the recusant laity. The campaign of heresy was working in Marian England; the reform efforts of Pole and his bishops were following his plan of renewal. Duffy marshals documentary evidence and clear reasoning to establish their success and true legacy, contra the received opinion of Whiggish historians.
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The Attraction Bug

And the death of scandal. Does falling in love make everything alright? Share

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Winner!

The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman has inspired an award-winning drama, HERE. According to the press release from Chesterton Press:
Based on the book by Regina Doman, The Shadow of the Bear audio drama has won the Sonic Society’s 2009 Uni Award for Best Audio Drama Show.
The Sonic Society (www.sonicsociety.org) is a Broadcast/Podcast out of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada. It showcases the very best of Modern Audio Drama from around the world. On their show during November 2008 the Sonic Society featured the entire 4-hour audio drama of The Shadow of the Bear, produced by Andrew Schmiedicke and written and directed by Regina Doman of Chesterton Productions (www.chestertonproductions.com).

At the end of May 2009, the Sonic Society invited its 50,000 listeners world wide to nominate their favorite show for its 2nd Annual Uni Awards. The finalists in seven different categories were chosen by popular vote and announced on the Sonic Society’s blog on June 9. The listeners then voted on the finalists. After all the votes were in, Jack Ward of the Sonic Society said, The Shadow of the Bear won by a clear majority the "Best Audio Drama Show".

“I couldn’t be more delighted,” said Regina.

“So many people helped to make this happen,” said Andrew. "It was like God brought all these people together so it could happen."

Joe Miller
donated the production studio and sound equipment. Most of the cast came from Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia; but there were also some from Canada, and Leonardo Defilippis of St. Luke Productions (www.stlukeproductions.com) played both the villain and the victim in the show. The band Scythian (www.scythianmusic.com) gave permission for their performance of the “Drums of Belfast” to be used as the opening and closing music for the drama, and Johnny Doman (www.johnnydoman.com) and Francis Fast wrote and performed most of the music used within the drama.

Ken Fast
of Northern Rain Studio in Canada (www.northernrainstudio.com) handled all the post-production. After receiving the digitized recordings of the actors and actresses, Ken and his team edited and mixed the performance with music and sound effects. “I think it’s a great example of how we can all work together no matter where we are,” Ken said. “Through the power of the internet we can transfer it, and way up here in Alberta, we can do the sound track.”
And the result of this cooperative work is fantastic. Not only did The Shadow of the Bear win the “Best Audio Drama Show”, it was also a finalist in 4 other categories:
  1. Best Sound and Editing by Northern Rain Studio
  2. Best Script by Regina Doman (www.ReginaDoman.com)
  3. Best Actress for Theresa Ford Fisher’s performance of Blanche Brier
  4. Best Actor for Alex Fedoryka’s performance of Bear
The Shadow of the Bear is about a mysterious young man, who lands on Blanche and Rose Brier's doorstep in New York City. The two sisters have conflicting opinions on whether or not he is dangerous. Even as Blanche learns to trust him, her fears that Bear's friendship threatens their family prove terrifyingly true. A modern retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale, “Snow White and Rose Red”. For more information about this story and its sequels, visit www.FairyTaleNovels.com.
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Gentleness

It is active good will towards others. To quote:
Gentleness enables us to accept all the laws of our human condition, and in so doing, to rise superior to them. He who revolts against these laws shows how deeply he resents them and is their slave, but he who accepts them in a spirit of gentleness penetrates through them and fills them with light. Of these laws also it must be said that their yoke is easy and their burden light...

True gentleness is so considerate, so tactful and so active that, when we meet it, we are always astonished that it can do us so much good, while at the same time apparently giving us nothing.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Maria Fitzherbert's House

I have posted on her before. She lived in Brighton and the house still exists. To quote Fr. Blake:
The Prince Regent gentrified Brighton but it was really to live with, or rather close to Maria Fitzherbert, who was known as the Prince's mistress. However, there is pretty good evidence that they were actually married, the marriage was secret, she was a good Catholic girl, but the appearance was that he was his mistress. This "appearance" of unconventionality in their relationship gave rise to a loosening of morality amongst the Regency Court. Contact with Brighton leads Jane Austen's Lydia to downfall.
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School Can Be Hell

One family's experience at a government school. (Via Serge) Share

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vatel (2000)

Vatel is based upon the tragedy of the great French chef François Vatel (1631-1671), the steward of the Prince de Condé. Vatel was a renowned pastry chef at the palace of Chantilly where he created what is known as "Chantilly cream." According to legend, Vatel took his own life when, after two days of entertaining the court of Louis XIV at Chantilly, he realized that there were not enough fish for the Friday banquet. Madame de Sévigné later gave an account which she heard from eye witnesses:
The King arrived Thursday evening; hunting, lanterns, moonlight, a promenade, the meal in a place carpeted with jonquils, everything that one could wish. Supper was served; there were some tables at which there was no roast, because there were several more guests than were expected. This affected Vatel; he said several times: "I have lost honor; this is a disgrace which I can't bear." He said to Gourville: "My head is spinning, I haven't slept for twelve nights; help me give orders." Gourville help him as best he could. The roast which had been lacking, not at the King's table, but at the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth, kept coming back to his mind. The Prince went to his room and said to him, "Vatel, everything is going fine, nothing was ever as lovely as the King's supper." Vatel answered, "Sir, your goodness is too much for me; I know that there was no roast at two tables." "That's nothing at all," said the prince, "don't fret about it, everything is going fine."

Night falls. The fireworks fail, because of a fog over everything; they had cost sixteen thousand francs. At 4:00 AM Vatel was everywhere, but he found everyone asleep; he ran into a small purveyor who brought him only two loads of fish; Vatel asked him, "Is that all?" He answered, "Yes, sir." He didn't know that Vatel had sent to all the ports. Vatel waited a while; the other purveyors didn't come; his head felt hot, he thought that he would have no other fish; he found Gourville, and said to him: "Sir, I will not survive this disgrace; I have honor and a reputation to lose." Gourville laughed at him. Vatel went up to his room, stood his sword against the door, and passed it through his heart; but that was only at the third stab, for the first two weren't fatal: He fell dead. However, the fish started coming from all sides; they looked for Vatel to distribute it; they went to his room, they started banging, they broke down the door; they found him drowned in his blood; they ran to the Prince, who was in despair.
The film adds complexity to the motives underlying Vatel's despair, imagining that the chef, played by Gérard Depardieu, had fallen in love with the newest mistress of the king, Anne de Montausier (Uma Thurman). In addition to seeing the woman he loves made into a whore, Vatel is being commissioned by the king to come and work permanently at the royal palace, meaning the stress of entertaining the court would become a daily occurrence. According to the LA Times review:
Vatel is middle-aged and stout, but it is wholly understandable that Anne would be attracted to him as a man of strength and character. As staunch as the relationship between Conde and Vatel is, both nobleman and his steward live in a world as precarious as that of Anne, who realistically remarks that she has no way of knowing whether she is merely a momentary diversion from the king's renowned favorite Athenais de Montespan (Marine Delterme) or whether she'll end up a duchess....

In production design (by Jean Rabasse) and costume design (by Yvonne de Lassinot de Nesle) "Vatel" is a landmark in world cinema not merely for sheer grandeur but also attention to dense authenticity. As superb as the settings are, Joffe and Tom Stoppard, in adapting Jeanne Labrune's original screenplay, do not let them overwhelm their people--although the scenery may crush them literally as well as symbolically.

Depardieu is perfectly cast as Vatel, an actual historic figure, at once a man of the people, a patriot and a true artist as well as an artisan of varied and highly developed skill. Thurman is equally fine as the gallant Anne, with Roth suitably nasty, Glover appropriately noble as Conde and Sands a delight as Louis, whom he plays as the shrewdest of fops. (On his best day Louis was never as handsome as Sands, but the actor hits just the right note of witty hauteur.) Arielle Dombasle is the lovely, fearless Princess de Conde. The evocative score is by none other than Ennio Morricone....

Boldly distinctive in its depiction of individuals caught up in a veritable infernal machine designed solely to give pleasure to a monarch, "Vatel" is a timeless tale of love and sacrifice in a world as opulent as it is cruel.

The heartlessness of Louis XIV is perhaps overemphasized in the film, for as Madame de Sévigné wrote in the account which had been passed on to her, the King was sympathetic to Vatel and horrified to hear that the royal visit had precipitated the chef's suicide. "The King said that he hadn't been to Chantilly for five years because he knew how much strain his visits caused," recorded Madame. Later it became easier on everyone for Louis XIV to keep all the nobles at Versailles, where he could keep them under his eye without sending them into bankruptcy, as often happened when they tried to entertain him independently.

Vatel is a sumptuous film for anyone who is interested in French history and culture. The kitchens of chefs such as Vatel can be likened unto the most creative art studios on earth. How music, art, food, dance, and intrigue all came together at a court banquet was a mesmerizing yet agonizing process which the viewer is permitted to glimpse.

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Rules of Civility

By George Washington. Share

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Anastasia

She was the imp of the family, with a mercurial temperament, always an enigma. There are samples of her childhood artwork and handwriting, HERE and HERE. With the rest of her family she has been given the title of "Passion Bearer" by her Church. Nevertheless, the legend of Anastasia Nikolaevna haunted the twentieth century, in books, on stage, and on the silver screen. Author Peter Kurth's discussion of the German forensic tests and 1994 DNA tests is fascinating reading, HERE. (Comments closed.) Share

Pride and Prejudice Economics

Or Why a Single Man with a Fortune of £4,000 Per Year is a Desirable Husband. More HERE.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Godfrey of Bouillon

The Kingdom of Jerusalem. (Via Et Lux in Tenebris Lucet!)
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was the dream, prize and crown jewel of the Crusades. It existed from 1099 until 1291 though the Holy City of Jerusalem fell to the Muslims earlier in 1187. There were roughly 23 monarchs over Jerusalem in that time and the claims to the kingdom and the dream it represented continued for much longer. In fact, the claim nominally continues to this day as King Juan Carlos of Spain still includes among his long list of titles that of "King of Jerusalem". Today it has become rather fashionable to emphasize the failures and shortcomings of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Crusades as a whole, but it should not be forgotten that there were many great, heroic and upright figures associated with that long lost kingdom and the vision of those who founded it still shines in the mind all these centuries later. For a time the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was a beacon of light; a cosmopolitan kingdom, a crossroads of the world, a hub of trade and a place where Christian, Jew and Muslim lived and worked side by side in peace. One of those admirable figures was surely Godfrey de Bouillon.

The founding of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was the crowning achievement of the Christian victory in the First Crusade, summoned by Pope Urban II when Muslim forces invaded and threatened to overrun the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. The retaking of the Holy City by Christian forces was an event which gave no indication of the tolerance to follow. After miraculously snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the Crusaders stormed into the city and in their pent up rage carried out a massacre horrific by all accounts. However, not all the crusaders took part in this shameful act, one being Godfrey of Bouillon, a great knight, who was offered the throne of the newly proclaimed Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. He had not set out as the leader of the Crusade but during the course of events his courage, skill and chivalric behavior earned him the admiration of his troops and so was about the only man who commanded enough respect and trust to be offered the crown of Jerusalem.

Godfrey, however, was a humble man and refused to, as he put it, wear a crown of gold where Christ had worn a crown of thorns. Rather than the title of king he was called the Advocate of the Holy Sepulcher and was installed into that office in a solemn ceremony in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Arnulf of Chocques was elected first Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, thus fulfilling the balance in leadership between the lay and the clerical that existed in the Middle Ages throughout Christendom and was one of the hallmarks of the era. There was some doubt, at the outset, as to whether or not the Kingdom of Jerusalem would ever have a monarch at all; some wanted to see the establishment of a Christian theocracy under the guidance of the Pope, and whether or not the new country would be able to maintain its independence. That matter was settled when Godfrey of Bouillon marched out with the True Cross before him and defeated a Muslim army at Ascalon in August, securing the immediate independence of Jerusalem.
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Catholic Classrooms

What's going on? Share

Friday, July 24, 2009

Maria

A rose can be crushed and destroyed but the fragrance will remain. Share

A Day at the Links

Ladies Golf Course

Golf in Edwardian England.
Golf’s overwhelming popularity was sparked by the obsession of the Anglo-Scots politician, Arthur Balfour. Though he came to the game late in life and was actually never a very good player, he nonetheless destroyed the image of golf as being an old man’s game and replaced it with the image of a sport suitable for relaxation for a busy man. The other influence for the avid playing of golf was the sheer skill shown by Scottish players in the 1880s and 1890s, whose methods were then adopted by American and English golf players. Fittingly in Scotland all classes of people continued to play golf, whereas in England and especially America, it became aligned with the idle rich. By the turn of the century, there were hundreds of golf links dotting the British and American landscapes, and in the latter country, the rise of golf coincided with the development of the country club.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Andreas Hofer

The Counter-Revolution is often overlooked, and heroes such as Hofer forgotten in history books. Andreas Hofer should be counted among the bravest of the brave among those who took a stand against the oppresion of the modern totalitarian state. According to the Mad Monarchist:
One of the greatest though somewhat lesser-known figures to come out of the Napoleonic Wars was the Austrian innkeeper Andreas Hofer. He set such an example of religious devotion and monarchist loyalty that his memory was still being invoked in the Hapsburg Empire during World War I. Born in 1767 in the Tyrol region he seemed quite ordinary for much of his life. He ran and inn, worked as a merchant and served in government on the local level. When the War of the Third Coalition broke out with Napoleonic France he joined the Austrain militia, first as a sharpshooter but later rising to the rank of captain. When the Tyrol was handed over to the French ally Bavaria in 1805 as a spoil of war he joined the anti-Bavarian underground. Four years later he led a delegation to Vienna to ask the Emperor Francis II for his support. The devout mountain man was not impressed by the morals of the great city and famously said that, "my Anne Gertrude would not approve of this". However, he met with the Emperor and Francis assured his loyal subject of his support.

Hofer went back to the Tyrol and raised a rebellion against the French and Bavarians, fighting for "God, Emperor and Fatherland". He and his troops quickly overran the local Bavarian garrisons and defeated a number of French troops in the area. Things seemed to be going well until the great Austrian Archduke Charles was defeated by Napoleon and Austrian forces retreated from the area. Napoleon was then able to help the Bavarians regain control. However, Hofer was nothing if not persistent and as soon as the French left he renewed his attacks. In time the loyal peasants, Austrian soldiers and even some clerics under Hofer's command numbered nearly 20,000. A respectable army for an innkeeper. Again his forces drove the Bavarians out of the Tyrol and captured Innsbruck. Only the day before his forces entered the city he had been given a letter from Emperor Francis II vowing not to sign any treaty that would renounce the Tyrol.

Andreas Hofer, thinking his work was at an end, returned home to his wife and family but the fortunes of war would soon turn again. By mid-summer another armistice had been signed that gave the Tyrol to Bavaria and French troops marched back into Innsbruck. Reluctantly but with the determination of a true monarchist patriot Andreas Hofer rallied his forces yet again and led a fearsome charge against the French forces of Marshal Lefebvre. After 12 hours of vicious fighting the French were defeated and Andreas Hofer again marched triumphantly into Innsbruck. This time Hofer took charge of the administration himself in the name of Emperor Francis II. He saw to the government and even some diplomacy when he sent emissaries to Great Britain for help. The Emperor decorated him for his victory and again promised not to abandon the Tyrol.

It is to the credit of Andreas Hofer that he forever kept faith with a monarch who could not always keep faith with him. By October the Tyrol had again been handed over to the Franco-Bavarians in another peace treaty and Hofer was forced to retreat into the mountains. The French put a huge price on his head and in January 1810 he was betrayed by a neighbor and captured by a troop of French-allied Italians. Andreas Hofer was taken to Mantua and executed by firing squad, some said on orders from Napoleon though the French Emperor later claimed that he had never ordered it. In any event he died a hero for the Austrian Empire and the Hapsburg Emperor raised his family to the nobility. His brave death only increased his fame and across Austria and southern Germany the memory of Andreas Hofer became a rallying cry for the forces that united in the final defeat of the French. A large monument topped by a statue of Andreas Hofer stands near Innsbruck bearing the words, "For God, Emperor and Fatherland".
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Of Titans and Hobbits

Rand vs. Tolkien: two world views. (Via Joshua Snyder.)
The better novel is the one that "conveys an extremely important and optimistic message, namely that a plurality of many different cultures, languages, societies and visions, all existing together, yet separate and independent of each other, is still viable."
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tatiana

A rose plucked on the verge of blooming. Share

Lace-making

A history of the craft in France. Share

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Newman 101

Author Stephanie Mann offers another guest review about English Catholic history, time about a new introduction to the life of the soon-to-be beatified Cardinal Newman by Roderick Strange. According to Mrs. Mann:
Over the years I have read many books about Newman: biographies, studies, monographs. I have read Newman's major works and many of his sermons. I have taught classes on Cardinal Newman. When I picked up this book to read as a review before attending a seminar at Christ Church at the University of Oxford, I really did not expect to learn anything new.

With that preface out of the way--this book truly impressed me. Father Strange reveals Newman's influence and impact on his life and vocation as a priest in so many wonderful ways, so that the book has a very appropriate "heart speaks to heart" quality (Cor ad cor loquitor/Heart Speaks to Heart was Newman's motto as Cardinal).

He provides an excellent overview of Cardinal Newman's life and his major efforts and works. The chapter on Marian Doctrine and Devotion, not always a theme expected in an introductory study of Newman, was truly revelatory. Newman's apologetic for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, like his explanation of the First Vatican Council's declaration on Papal Infallibility, provides a clear defense of the Church's teachings while placing them in their proper context of the Divine Economy of Salvation.

Father Strange also enlightens when describing Newman's understanding of God's providence in his life (and in the lives of all Christians), the course of Newman's sermons at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin during the Oxford Movement, his efforts to help the laity, and to advance Christian unity.

The last two chapters are perhaps the most extraordinary: a comparison of St. Thomas More and Venerable John Henry Newman as a meditation on sanctity and canonization and an analysis of Newman's epic poem, "The Dream of Gerontius".

The title may indicate that this book is on an introductory level, it's true (in the U.K. the title was "John Henry Newman: A Mind Alive" which does not have such a college course catalog flavor about it). The writing is clear and accessible, but the richness of Father Strange's introduction goes far beyond just an acquaintance or chance meeting--it reveals friendship and understanding. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to know more about Venerable (soon to be Beatified) John Henry Newman.
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The Captive King

The misadventures of King François.
If François and his mother had hoped that Charles would quickly release him for a cash ransom, they were mistaken. Charles presented a long list of demands that included paying Charles's debts to Henry VIII, abandoning French claims to Milan and Genoa, and most importantly, ceding the duchy of Burgundy. The emperor planned to seal the settlement through the marriage of his niece, Mary of Portugal, to the Dauphin. Although François appeared amenable to some of the terms, he refused to negotiate as long as he continued to be held prisoner. He forwarded Charles's terms to Louise, who rejected them outright.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Depictions of Sin in the Bible and in Literature

Here is an analysis of how it is not necessary to be graphic in order to get the point across. We don't need all the details of a decadent or perverse act, which in the long run may only serve to glorify evil. Share

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Winslow Boy (1999)


Sir Robert Morton: Oh, you still pursue your feminist activities?
Catherine Winslow: Oh yes.
Sir Robert Morton: Pity. It's a lost cause.
Catherine Winslow: Oh, do you really think so, Sir Robert? How little you know about women. Good-bye. I doubt that we shall meet again.
Sir Robert Morton: Oh, do you really think so, Miss Winslow? How little you know about men.
~from David Mamet's The Winslow Boy (1999)
The Winslow Boy is a film which I have watched repeatedly with delight over the subtly nuanced dialog which surrounds the growing romance between Miss Catherine Winslow (Rebecca Pidgeon) and Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam). What is amusing is that for all of Catherine's suffragette beliefs it is her femininity and fidelity to her family, including sacrifices at great cost to herself, that makes Sir Robert determined to champion the Winslow cause. He is obviously quite taken with her from the moment he glimpses her peering down at him from the ladies' gallery the House of Commons. Of course, the love story is merely a backdrop for the legal drama in which a young cadet is accused of stealing and is expelled from school. The Winslows are convinced of their boy's innocence and are ready to dedicate all of their resources to clearing his name.

According to Filmcritic:
Call me a fool. Winslow Boy ranks among Mamet’s best and is a refreshing change of pace. A period peace set in 1911 London, this is the story of 13-year old Ronnie Winslow, a naval prep school student who is expelled for stealing and cashing a five-shilling note. When Ronnie proclaims his innocence to the very end, the case becomes a cause celebre among the citizens of Britain – something of a former-day O.J. Simpson case, though, this time, the people side with the accused.

Mamet has layered this film, based on the stage play, with myriad levels of nuance, enriching the role of each member of the Winslow family to heights that Hollywood has never dreamed of. As Ronnie’s ultimate lawyer, Jeremy Northam does his best work ever, by far. Nigel Hawthorne is similarly fantastic as Ronnie’s dad, and as Ronnie himself, Edwards proves there are still a few young faces who can act.
I recently came across an article in Roman Christendom which tells the true story upon which the film was based. The real name of the family was Archer-Shee and they were Catholic, which I did not pick up in the film at all. So perhaps there was an element of religious prejudice in the accusation of the young cadet for a crime of which he was eventually cleared. Share

A Thorn in the Flesh

How a headache can throw the whole day off course. Share

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New Book about Mother Teresa


Donna-Marie Cooper-O'Boyle is now taking pre-orders on her new book about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. I was privileged to read the manuscript. Donna has composed a loving distillation of Blessed Teresa's thought based upon a decade of correspondence with the saint of the ghettos. It is A Tale of Two Mothers, of how a chance meeting of the small, dynamic Albanian nun with a young American housewife became a conduit of grace for many. One comes away convinced that the greatest power under heaven is not wealth or political influence but the loving spirit of a mother, for spiritual motherhood is especially efficacious in bringing a healing touch into the many and intangible Calcuttas of the modern world.

There will be a full review coming soon.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Health and Excercise

Another approach, and one that I like. Share

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Remembering the Romanovs



It is the anniversary of the massacre of the Russian Imperial family which occurred on the night of July 16-17, as Serge reminds us. Share

History of the Scapular

In the last forty years many of the sacramentals of the Church, such as the scapular, have been either forgotten or misinterpreted. I have seen some very sophisticated Catholics on the internet mock the scapular as being superstitious. It requires a certain child-like piety to understand such things; an understanding of the history of the devotion does not hurt either. Here is an explanation of the origins of the scapular:
This monastic scapular, like the whole monastic habit and indeed the liturgical vestments of the priest, developed from the ordinary clothing of the laity. And, just as the stole is the special sign of the priestly dignity and power, the scapular is now the sign of the monk. In the West, in the case of St. Benedict, the scapular was at first nothing else than a working garment or apron such as was then worn by agricultural labourers. Thus, in the Rule of St. Benedict, it was expressly termed "scapulare propter opera" (c. xxv in P.L. LXXVI, 771). From this developed the special monastic garment, to which a hood could be fastened at the back. In fact, the original scapular of the Dominican Order was so made that it acted also as a covering for the head, and thus as a hood. The scapular of the West corresponded to the analabus of the East.
Since many of the religious orders had a version of the monastic scapular, lay people who were affiliated with those orders wished to have a tangible sign of their dedication. In the beginning, tertiaries were permitted to don the habit of the order with which they were affiliated. Later, since a religious habit was not always conducive to the duties of secular life the small scapulars were worn instead, as the following relates:
Like the large scapulars the first and oldest small scapulars originated to a certain extent in the real monastic scapular. Pious lay persons of either sex attached themselves to the Servites for instance; many of those who were in a position to do so attached themselves to the third order with vows, but in the case of many others either this was impossible or the idea of doing so had as yet not occurred to them. In this manner developed, shortly after the foundation of the Servite Order, the Confraternity of the Servi B. Mariae Virginis. Similarly originated the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; that this existed in 1280 is proved by the still extant "Libro degli ordinamenti de la compagnia di Santa Maria del Carmine scritto nel 1280" (edited by Giulio Piccini at Bologna, 1867, in "Scelta di Curiosità letterarie"). The members of these confraternities were called the confratres and consores of the respective orders; they had special rules and participated in the spiritual goods of the order to which then belonged. It is probable also that many of those who could not be promoted to the third order or who were special benefactors of the first order received the habit of the order or a large scapular similar to that of the oblates, which they might wear when dying and in which they might be buried. It was only later and gradually that the idea developed of giving to everyone connected with the order the real scapular of the order in miniature as their badge to be always worn day and night over or under their ordinary clothing.
The scapulars, especially the brown scapular of the Carmelites, became so popular among the Christian people that even those who did belong to a religious order began to wear them. The brown scapular became the most highly indulgenced so that children were enrolled in the scapular confraternity around the time they made their first Holy Communion. Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, discusses the facts surrounding the Carmelite scapular:

If we look for the earliest references to the scapular, we find them in the Carmelite constitutions of 1281 in which it was prescribed that all Carmelite friars should wear their tunics and scapulars to bed under penalty of a serious fault. It was also prescribed that the white mantle be made in such a way that the scapular would not be hidden.

But the reason for these prescriptions was not a Marian one. At the time,the scapular was seen as signifying the "yoke of Christ." This yoke of Christ in turn pointed to obedience. And that explains the strictness of the legislation. Taking off the scapular was like taking off the yoke of Christ, or rebelling against authority.

Only gradually did the scapular take on a Marian tone and grow until it reached such a point that it became identified with Carmelite piety toward Our Lady. In fact the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel began to be called the scapular feast.

Devotion to Mary expressed by wearing the brown scapular seems to be resilient and resists the attempts made in various periods of history to diminish its value. The faithful keep coming back to it.

From the official teaching of the Church, we can gather that the scapular of Carmel is one of the most highly recommended Marian devotions. This is true through the centuries, and into our own times with popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

Fr. Kieran goes on to explore how sacramental aspects of the brown scapular developed:

One of the early Carmelites in his enthusiasm went so far as to call the scapular a "sacrament." Actually the category into which the scapular fits is that of a sacramental.

Sacramentals are sacred signs. The scapular is not a natural sign in the sense that smoke is the sign of fire. Smoke is intrinsically connected with fire. Where there's smoke there's fire, the saying goes.

The scapular is what is called a conventional sign. In the case of a conventional sign, the meaning is assigned to the object from outside. Thus a wedding ring is a sign or pledge of mutual love and enduring fidelity between two spouses. In this kind of sign, which is a conventional sign, there has to be an intervention from outside that establishes the connection between the object and what it represents. In the case of sacramentals, it is the Church that determines the connection.

Sacramentals also signify effects obtained through the intercession of theChurch, especially spiritual graces. The sacramentals -- as holy pictures or icons, statues, medals, holy water, blessed palm and the scapular -- are means that dispose one to receive the chief effect of the sacraments themselves, and this is closer union with Jesus.

St. Teresa of Avila for example speaks in her life about holy water and the power she experienced that this sacramental has against the devil. She mentions as well how this power comes not through the object in itself but through the prayer through the prayer of the Church.

Along with the sacraments, sacramentals sanctify almost every aspect of human life with divine grace. The passion, death, and resurrection of Christ is the source of the power of the sacramentals as it is of the sacraments themselves.

Such everyday things as water and words, oil and anointing, cloth and beeswax, paintings and songs are ingredients of the sacraments and sacramentals. The Son of God became the Son of Mary. What could be more down-to-earth, more human, indeed more unpretentious, plain, and simple?

Pope John Paul II, who was a Carmelite teriary, wrote profoundly of the brown scapular in March 2001:

Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary's role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church....

The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a "habit". Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church.... Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may "eat its fruits and its good things" (cf. Jer 2: 7), and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity....

Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life's journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a "habit", that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the "covenant" and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.

...A splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly molds individuals and conforms them to Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, is the witness to holiness and wisdom given by so many Carmelite saints, all of whom grew up in the shadow and under the protection of their Mother.

I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time!
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Poustinia

A review of Catherine Doherty's book about encountering God in silence, solitude, and prayer. To quote:
A ‘poustinia’, for those who may not be familiar with the term is a Russian word, which literally translates, “desert”, but actually means many different things depending on how it is used. It can describe quiet, lonely places, set apart from the world where special people go to seek God and live out their lives in prayer and solitude. It is also the word used to refer to the Spartan-like hermit huts favored by those who venture into temporary “desert”, or retreat from the hustle of human society. At the very end of the book, the author, Catherine Doherty*, offered a third definition for her title term: ‘…not a place at all—and yet it is. It is a state, a vocation, belonging to all Christians by Baptism. It is the vocation to be a contemplative.’ (page 184)
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Please Remove Your Shoes

Miss Janice and her readers discuss the propriety of making guests remove their shoes at the door. Miss Janice was recently interviewed by Good Morning America in a segment claiming that since shoes are full of so many terrible microbes they should never be worn inside the house. But is it really healthy to have a totally sterile house? (Not that I will ever have that worry.) It is just that the people I know with sterile houses are always sick all winter long anyway. At any rate, I agree with Miss Janice that guests should not be required to take off their shoes when visiting, unless the hostess or host is prepared to provide pairs of sterile and comfortable slippers. Share

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 9: "Queen and Beauty of Carmel"

The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise: the glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel and Saron, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the beauty of our God. ~Isaias 35:1
The essence of the mystery of Carmel is the cultivation of the interior life, to find God in the Heaven of one's soul amid the vicissitudes of this earthly pilgrimage. As Our Lord said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21) The twin goals of the Carmelite order, according to medieval authors, were to offer to God a heart free from all stain of actual sin, and to experience, even in this world, the supernal joys of union with God. These goals, of course, are beyond human strength, and completely impossible to obtain on our own. God, therefore, has given us His Mother to be our guide up the mountain of perfection. While all are not called to the contemplative life, all the baptized are called to pray and strive for holiness.

In the words of Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen in his book Divine Intimacy:
The Blessed Virgin is a Mother who clothes us with grace and takes our supernatural life under her protection, in order to bring it to its full flowering in eternal life....Devotion to Our Lady of Mt Carmel indicates a strong call to the interior life, which, in a very special way, is Mary's life....Only the soul that is wholly detached and in complete control of its passions can, like Mary, be a solitary, silent 'garden' where God will find His delights. This is the grace we ask of Our Lady today when we choose her to be the Queen and mistress of our interior life.
Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. A full, plenary indulgence is granted to all the faithful who visit a Carmelite church or chapel, recite the Apostle's Creed (or some other prayer) and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. If a Carmelite church is not close by, any Catholic church or chapel will suffice, as long as the usual conditions are fulfilled (reception of Holy Communion, confession eight days before or after, detachment from venial sin - - meaning one is TRYING to overcome all sinfulness.)

Here is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, one of the most ancient prayers to Our Lady, found scribbled in the catacombs during some lost moment of terror:

We fly to thy protection. O Holy Mother of God. Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.

Queen, Beauty of Carmel, pray for us!

Laus Deo Virginique Matris!

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel:
O most beautiful Flower of Mt Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this my necessity, there are none that can withstand your power.

O show me herein you are my Mother.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us that have recourse to thee. (3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (3 times) AMEN.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crimes Against Humanity

In France, 1794. (Warning: graphic content.)
When one thinks of genocide one thinks of Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz. Unfortunately this is not the case. In a country which dedicated itself to, tolerance, to liberty, to equality, and to brotherhood, committed an atrocity so great that the people of the area still call for justice. Yet,few know of it. That place is the area called by it's occupants the Vendee. That is the area immediately south of the Loire River in west central France.
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Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 8: "Mother of Mercy"



"Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid." Hebrews 4:16

"I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord." Ecclesiasticus 24: 45

In the Carmelite church in Vilnius in Lithuania is a magnificent and miraculous painting of Our Lady hailed as Mater Misericordiae, or "Mother of Mercy." The church is built into the wall near the old eastern gate of the city; therefore the image is also known as Our Lady of "Ostrabrama," of "the Dawn Gate." She is covered with votive offerings left by grateful clients over the centuries, for to her both the Slavic and Baltic peoples have turned in times of war, sickness, oppression, and indeed, every and any calamity. Many saints have knelt before her, including the Carmelite St Raphael Kalinowski, and St Faustina of the Divine Mercy revelations. Through the means of sacred art, Our Mother has manifested herself to her needy children of all times and places.

According to legend, in the early 14th century, Pope John XXII published the Sabbatine Bull, based upon an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary which he had allegedly received in 1316, before his elevation to the papacy. As the story goes, the pope quoted the words of Our Lady to her children who die wearing the brown scapular of Mt Carmel and go to Purgatory: "I, their Mother, will graciously go down to them on the Saturday after their death, and all whom I find in Purgatory I will deliver and will bring to the mountain of life eternal." While the original documentation is lost and disputed, the Sabbatine privilege was confirmed by later pontiffs. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia:
We reproduce here the whole passage dealing with the Sabbatine privilege, as it appears in the summary approved by the Congregation of Indulgences on 4 July, 1908. It is noteworthy that the Bull of John XXII, which was still mentioned in the previous summary approved on 1 December, 1866, is no longer referred to (cf. "Rescript. authent. S.C. Indulg.", Ratisbon, 1885, p. 475). Among the privileges, which are mentioned after the indulgences, the following occurs in the first place: "The privilege of Pope John XXII, commonly [vulgo] known as the Sabbatine, which was approved and confirmed by Clement VII ("Ex clementi", 12 August 1530), St. Pius V ("Superna dispositione", 18 Feb., 1566), Gregory XIII ("Ut laudes", 18 Sept., 1577), and others, and also by the Holy Roman General Inquisition under Paul V on 20 January, 1613, in a Decree to the following effect:

It is permitted to the Carmelite Fathers to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death -- especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin -- through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.

With this explanation and interpretation, the Sabbatine privilege no longer presents any difficulties, and Benedict XIV adds his desire that the faithful should rely on it (Opera omnia, IX, Venice, 1767, pp. 197 sqq.). Even apart from the Bull and the tradition or legend concerning the apparition and promise of the Mother of God the interpretation of the Decree cannot be contested.

What a consolation that Our Lady's help and mediation extends to us beyond the grave, especially when we wear the badge which St Simon Stock in the 13th century is said to have called a privilegium. By wearing the scapular, we mark ourselves as "vassals" of Our Queen, and she binds herself to protect us always.

From the ancient Carmelite hymn, Salve, Mater Misericordiae: "Hail, happy Mother...He Who sits at the right hand of the Father, and rules Heaven and earth forever, came in thy womb to dwell."

Mother of Mercy, pray for us!

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel:
O most beautiful Flower of Mt Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this my necessity, there are none that can withstand your power.

O show me herein you are my Mother.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us that have recourse to thee. (3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (3 times) AMEN.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Fashion Plates by Ingrid Mida

"18th Century Hat #2"

Toronto artist Ingrid Mida has created a unique revival of antique fashion plates using the toile de Jouy of the ancien régime. Ingrid has done detailed research on historical fashions, particularly those worn by Queen Marie-Antoinette, and shares her discoveries, as well as her creations, on her blog Fashion is My Muse. When I inquired about her work, Ingrid kindly shared with me a little about her creative journey, saying:
I spent three years developing the process to create these plates and wasted a lot of fabric and time. I used to be a painter but became allergic to the fumes in paint and had to find another form of expression. I started working with fabric and paper. The process I used to create these plates came together for me in the fall of 2008. I've slowly extended my range and incorporated more embroidery and beadwork into the plates.
I am always inspired by artists who find innovative ways of bringing the past into the present, so that the old becomes new again. While Ingrid's work is carried by exclusive shops such as La Pastorale in Owen Sound, Ontario, it is also readily available online through her Esty shop, and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Visit Ingrid at www.ingridmida.com.

"18th Century Hat #1"

"18th Century Hat #3"

(The images here used with the permission of the artist.) Share

Mt. Carmel Novena, Day 7: "Fatima"

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

During her final apparition at Fatima in October 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary was dressed as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, holding the brown scapular; she was obviously encouraging everyone to wear the garment of grace, just as she urged everyone to pray the rosary on a daily basis. 750 years before, Our Lady had given the scapular to St Simon Stock, telling him: "Whosoever shall die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

On July 13, 1917, Our Lady at Fatima showed the three little children the Vision of Hell; it was the first part of the controversial "Secret of Fatima," and in some ways, the most terrible aspect of it, for hell is a place where anyone can go if they break God's law and do not repent. The children were so frightened by the vision that afterwards all earthly sufferings seemed like nothing. I think someone once said that Our Lord in the Gospels warns His disciples about hell "where the worm dieth not, and the flame is not extinguished" (Mark 9 :44) more often than He promises them Heaven, "for straight is the way and narrow is the gate that leads to life, and few there are that find it." (Matthew 7:14)

Along with the scapular and rosary, Our Lady asked that we perform the duties of our state in life; she knew that in future times how difficult it would become to fulfill one's most basic obligations to God and to other people, and yet the fulfillment of those duties often is the difference between heaven and hell. Yet, as the saints testify, many have been saved because they clung to some small token of devotion to Our Lady in spite of everything, and the Mother of Mercy interceded for them. As the angel at Fatima instructed the three children to pray:

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of thy mercy!

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel:
O most beautiful Flower of Mt Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein you are my Mother.

O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart, to succor me in this my necessity, there are none that can withstand your power.

O show me herein you are my Mother.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us that have recourse to thee. (3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in your hands. (3 times) AMEN.


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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Church Bells

Bells have long played a part in Christian liturgy and architecture; they have seeped into our very consciousness so that it is difficult to imagine any church without a bell tower. Before modern times, church bells were an intrinsic part of any community. Not only did they call people to prayer but they warned of dangers and helped to celebrate happy times. In Soviet Russia, when the Bolsheviks wished to take possession of the minds and hearts of a village, not only would they arrest the priest but they would also confiscate the bells.

Where did church bells originate? While there is evidence small bells were used in antiquity and are mentioned in the Old Testament, it seems that it was the Celtic monks who incorporated bells into Christian living. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, bells were introduced into Europe by the Irish and English monks:
The word clocca (Fr. cloche; Ger. Glocke; Eng. clock) is interesting because in this case it is definitely known what was meant by it. It was certainly Irish in origin and it occurs at an early date both in Latin and in the Irish form clog. Thus it is found in Book of Armagh and is used by Adamnan in his life of St. Columbkill written c. 685. The Irish and English missionaries no doubt imported it into Germany where it appears more than once in the Sacramentary of Gellone. It is plain that in primitive Celtic lands an extraordinary importance was attached to bells. A very large number of these ancient bells, more than sixty in all -- the immense majority being Irish -- are still in existence. Many of them are reputed to have belonged to Irish saints and partake of the character of relics. The most famous is that of St. Patrick....
The bell of St. Patrick exists to this day and is said to have been used by the saint to summon his converts to Mass. The ancient Irish bells are described as follows:
The Irish for a bell is cloc, clocc, or clog, akin to the English clock. The diminutive form cluccene is used to denote a small bell, called also lam-chlog, 'hand-bell. St. Patrick and his disciples constantly used consecrated bells in their ministrations. How numerous they were in Patrick's time we may understand from the fact, that whenever he left one of his disciples in charge of a church, he gave him a bell: and it is recorded that on the churches of one province alone - Connaught - he bestowed fifty. To supply these he had in his household three smiths, whose chief occupation was to make bells. The most ancient Irish bells were quadrangular in shape, with rounded corners, and made of iron: facts which we know both from the ecclesiastical literature, and from the specimens that are still preserved....
The Catholic Encyclopedia traces the development of the use of church bells:
The first ecclesiastical use of bells was to announce the hour of church services. It is plain that in the days before watches and clocks some such signal must have been a necessity, more especially in religious communities which assembled many times a day to sing the Divine praises. Among the Egyptian cenobites we read that a trumpet used for this purpose ; among the Greeks a wooden board or sheet of metal was struck with a hammer; in the West the use of bells eventually prevailed. In the Merovingian period there is no trustworthy evidence for the existence of large bells capable of being heard at a distance, but, as it became needful to call to church the inhabitants of a town or hamlet, bell turrets were built, and bells increased in size, and as early as the eighth century we hear of two or more bells in the same church.
Bells also came to be used during the liturgy itself, a practice which goes back to the Exodus, as explained in an article in the Adoremus Bulletin:

The use of bells is mentioned four times in the Old Testament of the Bible. Exodus 28:33-35 describes the vestments worn by the high priest Aaron as he approached the Arc of the Covenant in the Holiest of Holies:
On its skirts you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet stuff, around its skirts, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, round about on the skirts of the robe. And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord, and when he comes out, lest he die.
This description of Aaron's extremely ornate priestly vestments is repeated in Exodus 39:25-26 and again in Ecclesiastes 45:9:
And he encircled him with pomegranates, with very many golden bells round about, to send forth a sound as he walked, to make their ringing heard in the temple as a reminder to the sons of his people.
The bells were likely included as part of high-priest Aaron's vestments for two reasons. First, they created a joyful noise to God, which is something man should undertake as described in Psalm 98:4. Secondly, bells were long thought to possess apotropaic powers, or the power to ward off evil spirits. The bells were seen as tools to be used to avert dangers to Aaron before he entered the Holiest of Holies.
It is sad that in many Roman Catholic parishes today the sanctus bells are no longer rung during Mass, an inexplicable break in a long-standing tradition. Bells also used to be anointed with sacred chrism when they were blessed.
(Artwork by Edmund Dulac) Share