Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Anglo-Saxon Gold

Decorated with the sign of the Cross. Share

Princes in the Tower: The French Version

Julianne Douglas reports.
Those familiar with English history know the story of the Princes in the Tower--Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, the young sons of King Edward IV, who, after the death of their father in 1483, were imprisoned in the Tower of London and never seen again. The same history buffs might not, however, realize that France had its own version of imprisoned princes--François and Henri, the two young sons of François I, who were handed over to Charles V as ransom for their father and spent four years in miserable captivity in Spain.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Atheists Kill People

Fr. Blake offers some gruesome facts. Share

Monday, September 28, 2009

Louis d'Elbée

Louis d'Elbée was one of the great heroes of the counter-revolution.
The French Revolution is often portrayed as a popular uprising by the common people against corrupt aristocrats and yet the army d'Elbée and his troops joined was led by a peddler (Jacques Cathelineau) and a gamekeeper (Jean-Nicolas Stofflet).

Louis d'Elbée showed his skill and valor for the start in the great struggle for religion and monarchy. Soon, he was the top subordinate to Jacques Cathelineau, commander of the 'Catholic and Royal Army'. When Cathelineau was shot down in Nantes it was Louis d'Elbée who was chosen to succeed him as generalissimo of the counterrevolutionary forces. Once in charge d'Elbée led his gallant forces to victory at Coron and Beaulieu but was then defeated at Lucon. However, though it was a terrible defeat, d'Elbée displayed cool leadership and was able to withdraw his troops in good order, avoiding a route and the total destruction of his army. Sadly, the Catholic and Royal Army was hopelessly outmatched by the revolutionaries who used the most cruel and vicious methods to stamp out resistance. On October 17, 1793 d'Elbée and his forces were defeated at the battle of Cholet.

It was the end for d'Elbée but he went down like a lion, being badly wounded in combat before being overrun and taken prisoner. He was given a show trial three months later for daring to oppose the revolution and was put to death at Noirmoutier on January 6, 1794 still so badly suffering from his wounds that he had to face the republican firing squad sitting in a chair. Louis d'Elbée had not finally been victorious, but he displayed great moral courage in opposing the satanic Jacobins in the first place, showed great skill in winning a number of victories against the revolutionary forces and he went down in noble defeat for a righteous cause and earned the right to be included among the pantheon of great monarchist heroes of the French counterrevolution.

The Malthusian Myth

And the man who overthrew it. Share

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Karl von Habsburg

"What happened to that Archduke who courted you in Vienna? Do not tell me he also is married."

"Yes, he is." Thérèse's voice was cold, but her tears had ceased.
The thought of the blue eyes and rugged face of Karl von Habsburg froze her, so painful was the memory....Her great love for Karl, coming on the heels of tragedy, died a slow, violent death; part of herself died and was buried with it.

~from Madame Royale, Chapter Five: "Secrets"

The Archduke Karl has always fascinated me, not only because he was one of Bonaparte's bravest adversaries, but because he may have been the great lost love of Madame Royale, as is portrayed in the novel. According to The Mad Monarchist:
Although not quite as well known as Wellington or Bluecher, Archduke Charles was one of Napoleon's most capable adversaries. Although he suffered from epilepsy he showed great promise as a young officer while serving in Belgium. He gained fame as one of the greatest generals in Europe for his campaign in Germany in 1796 in which he defeated the French revolutionary armies of Jourdan and Moreau in turn. In 1799 he defeated Jourdan again in Germany, invaded Switzerland to defeat another French army and then succeeded in driving the French across the Rhine.

He refused the honors offered to him by the Austrian government and in 1806 was made commander-in-chief of the Imperial Austrian Army as he was the only figure to have defeated French Napoleonic forces which had seemed so unstoppable. However, he did meet his share of defeats when he went up against the French again, commanded by Napoleon, who had a much better army than in the past and who had him considerably outnumbered. Some criticized him as being overly cautious, too attached to defensive fighting and Clausewitz was dismissive of his attachment to the importance of strategic positions rather than the total destruction of an enemy force. Nonetheless, he was considered one of the preeminent soldiers of his time, possibly the greatest continental foe Napoleon had and later generations have judged his 1796 campaign in particular as practically flawless.

Archduke Charles retired from active duty in 1812 and in 1815 married Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg by whom he had five children, the oldest of whom went on to become Queen of the Two Sicilies. He died in Vienna in 1847 at the age of 75, one of the most admired and respected Austrian heroes of the Napoleonic Wars.

Loneliness in America

Brian Caulfield of Fathers for Good has an excellent four part series on loneliness. Part I, Part II, Part III, Final Reflection. To quote:

I don’t mean to sound glib about such a personal issue. But in this third blog on the topic, I think it’s important to keep in mind that all of us go through periods of loneliness due to unavoidable circumstances in our lives. Relatives or friends move away. We are traveling on business. We have an argument and our lunch partner avoids us. We’re so busy at work we have no time to talk. Or, more profoundly, a spouse passes away. Loneliness and grief can be a strong double punch.

These are normal occurrences and should not cause us to feel anxiety over feeling lonely. That would be self-defeating. The real problems come not when we lose a friend, but when we no longer have a friend to lose. Today, it seems, many people are in that situation in our nation, with 25% percent of survey respondents saying that they have no one close with whom they can talk about personal matters.

I think it is fair to say that the high divorce rate has much to do with this fact. When a family breaks up, so do the lines of communication. Spouses no longer talk and may become suspicious of new commitments. Children close in on themselves and grow wary of love and trust. True feelings are suppressed.

With up to half of marriages ending in divorce, and almost everyone being touched by the breakups in some way, a swath of separation has cut through our nation, and the seeming silence about it comes from the fact that we are not supposed to notice broken marriages for fear of offending. Or else we are prone to think that divorce is normal or at least acceptable.

Another cause of loneliness may be our culture’s focus on sexual relationships. How’s your love life? The message is that if you’re not sexually gratified with one or more partners, you are not really living. But there are many other forms of gratifying and satisfying relationships that don’t involve sex or thoughts of sex, even between men and women, even between spouses. With all attention on one area, the wholesomeness of everyday friendships and the joys of simple laughter can be missed.

Then there’s the hyper-sexualization of popular media and the internet, through which anyone can receive a physical thrill in the solitude of his or her living room, and wind up feeling even lonelier by bedtime.

This is not meant to be a self-help or advice column, but the Catholic Church does offer some insights on the issue. After all, as the Second Vatican Council declared, the Church is “an expert in humanity."


This is not Iran

Pittsburgh PoIice vs. unarmed, peaceable demonstrators chanting "USA, USA" and "This is not lran." Share

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marie-Antoinette as Erato

Here is the 1788 painting by Ludwig Guttenbrunn of Queen Marie-Antoinette as the Muse of Music. The Queen had a great love of music and was a patroness of the opera. She also paid for the music lessons of poor children. Share

Married Priests: The Practicalities

Fr. Hunwicke explores the question with some compelling answers, HERE and HERE. (Via Serge)

I acknowledge and accept that it has long been a practice of our Eastern Christian brethren to ordain married men to the priesthood. However, those in the Latin rite who think that having a married priesthood is going to automatically solve all of our problems should read what Fr. Hunwicke has to say. Share

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Lady and the Duke (2001)

The Lady and the Duke is a film for hard-core lovers of art and history, as it could be rather slow-moving for people who might not be up on the various intrigues that went on behind the scenes during the French Revolution. It deals with the Scottish courtesan Grace Elliot, who was not nearly as pretty as Lucy Russell, who portrays Grace in the film. Grace, however, may not have been a beauty by our standards, but in her day many men found her to be irresistible. According to The Period Movie Review:
The film is based on the true story of Grace Elliott, [a] courtesan living Paris and the once mistress of both the future British King George IV and the French Duc D'Orleans (cousin of King Louis XVI). Grace is a foreigner (a Scot, no less) and a stanch Royalist. Unwilling to leave her adoptive country at the start of the revolution, she finds herself trapped as France is plunged into the Reign of Terror and paranoia engulfs the nation. Labeled a foreign conspirator and an enemy of the people, she is eventually hauled before the Comité for her royalist sympathies.

The film is beautiful to watch, chiefly because all external shots feature actors digitally inserted into period paintings. However, these are not the vibrant oils of Jacque-Louis-David (a Revolutionary Painter); instead they are pale water-colours....which quite frankly is very surreal and eerie, especially when juxtaposed against the slaughter of the Revolution. For all this though, the film is very subdued. Some would call it dull.
To me, to brings to mind the great old BBC series of the 70's ('Elizabeth R' for example). It feels very theatrical and stage-like. The camera almost never moves, and shots are sometimes strangely composed (a diner scene, for example, were the camera is positioned behind one of the speakers, so that you seldom see their face....even if they are the chief speaker).
The following is from an article about Grace Elliot's life:

Grace was not born to a high society position and was in fact the daughter of a lawyer in Edinburgh. She was born in 1754 and her parents split up when she was young and as a result she was sent away to a convent in France to be educated, where (rather like Rose de Beauharnais in Penthémont and Anne Boleyn even earlier on) she observed the style and manners of the aristocratic French ladies that surrounded her and strived to emulate them with dazzling effects. Like Rose and Anne Boleyn, she was one of those very elegant, sophisticated women who manage to convince everyone around them that they are amazing beauties when in fact the reality probably fell very short.

The lovely, willowy Grace returned to Edinburgh in 1771 and was immediately hailed as a great beauty. To no one’s surprise she didn’t waste much time before getting married to an immensely wealthy but rather elderly doctor, John Elliott and it didn’t take long before the young Mrs Elliott was setting the town alight with rumours about her wanton ways and secret lovers. This culminated with her scandalous departure from Edinburgh in 1774 in the company of Lord Valentia, her latest paramour.

After a lengthy and shocking divorce trial, Grace was finally freed from her marriage and given £12,000 in damages, which was an enormous amount for the time. Her reputation was in tatters however as divorced women were regarded as outside decent society and her own family, disgusted by her behaviour had her kidnapped and immured in a French convent until the dashing Lord Cholmondeley managed to rescue her and bring her back to London.

Grace was officially ‘kept’ by Lord Cholmondeley but had many other lovers in England, including the Prince of Wales in 1782. She gave birth to a daughter Georgina Frederica Augusta Elliott later that year and declared her to be the Prince’s child, even having her baptised as such. It is not known who fathered Georgina but the Prince of Wales, Lord Cholmondeley, George Selwyn and Charles Wyndham all took an interest in the girl and could all conceivably have been her father. Lord Cholmondeley however raised the girl as his own and seems the most likely candidate.

Grace’s best known affair, with Philippe Duc d’Orléans began in 1784 and she eventually moved to Paris to be nearer to him, where she remained throughout the revolution despite great personal danger to herself when she made no secret of her allegiance to the royal family, even undertaking secret missions on their behalf.

Or so she would have us believe. Grace’s story is known to us as a result of her highly coloured and dramatic Journal of my life during the French Revolution, which is probably not entirely true. In fact it is probably mostly a fabrication. I don’t think I care though – Grace’s writing is superlative and it is a cracking story.

One of the best known tales about Grace is her story about hiding the Marquis de Champcenetz underneath the pillows of her bed while a mob of blood thirsty Jacobins searched her bedroom, even stabbing her mattress in their zeal to find hiding aristocratic fugitives. It is not known if Grace’s account of what happened is precisely true but it is a good tale.

As a result of her relationship with the Duc d’Orléans and her well known royalist sympathies, Grace was imprisoned from December 1793 until October 1794. She claims to have shared a cell with the doomed Madame du Barry, but that is probably not true. It is also said that she was kept with Rose de Beauharnais and was with her when she learned of Robespierre’s fall, this too is uncertain.

Although Grace Eliot is not one of my favorite historical characters, she is without doubt an interesting one. While her memoirs should be viewed as bordering on historical fiction, her account is colorful and entertaining. I enjoyed the film in that every scene looked like a painting, with authentic sets and lovely costumes. The film also shows how Grace tried to become the conscience of Orléans, guiding him to a more noble path than the one upon which he was set. Unfortunately, he was determined upon the destruction of his cousin the king, and it would have taken a woman of stronger character than Grace to dissuade him from his play for power.


Female Altar Servers

According to Zenit:

ROME, SEPT. 8, 2009 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Is there any definitive answer available regarding the use of female servers at celebrations of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite? -- A.J., Pontypridd, Wales

A: Although a clarifying instruction on several such questions was frequently described as "imminent," a long time has passed and it would seem that it is still in the pipeline.

All the same, it is important to remember that, even in the ordinary form, the use of female altar servers is in virtue of a specific permission and is not automatic. As the Holy See has explained on several occasions, the local bishop may permit the use of female servers but may not oblige the pastor to use them.

Also, the Holy Father's motu proprio granting permission for the celebrations of the extraordinary form was for the Roman Missal according to the edition issued under Pope John XXIII. Since the rubrics of this missal in no way contemplate the possibility of female servers, then it must be surmised that only altar boys or adult men are allowed as servers in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.

To help us to understand the underlying logic behind this we can reflect on a particular situation.

It appears there was at least one case in which women were allowed some functions habitually carried out by the servers. In the preface to the 1936 first edition of H.E. Calnan's guide for altar servers, he mentions the following circumstance: "In most parishes, a dozen influences combine to restrict the supply of efficient Mass servers. Layfolk must be asked to serve at short notice, or without warning. A woman with knowledge of Latin may venture, because she has only to answer and not to move about."

The case foreseen here is when there were no assigned altar servers present. In such a plight a woman with knowledge of Latin could do the responses.

A woman could carry out this role because it was properly speaking a role of the assembly. In making the Latin responses the altar boys in a way represented and substituted the assembly, who frequently did not know the liturgical language. One of the challenges of being an altar boy (and a source of legitimate pride to his parents) was memorizing the Latin texts to be recited.

However, years before the conciliar reform there was already a liturgical movement that encouraged the whole assembly's recitation of these parts, and not just the server. This practice is relatively common today among communities that habitually celebrate the extraordinary form.

Father Calnan's mention that the woman "has only to answer and not move about" makes it clear that she did not carry out any of the other functions of the altar boy in serving the Mass. Since in these roles the altar servers substituted some of the functions of those who had received minor orders (and who were thus canonically numbered among the clergy), only males could carry out these functions.

In the ordinary form the clerical minor orders have been replaced by the lay ministries of lector and acolyte. However, even though they are lay ministries, only males may be instituted as lectors and acolytes. Since instituted lectors and acolytes are uncommon in most parishes, other lay readers and servers may be delegated. At this stage the rubrics allow either men or women to be chosen as readers and, were permitted, as servers.

In the extraordinary form, though, the minor orders and the liturgical logic behind them still exist. For this reason I would say that in this form the rule reserving altar service to boys or men remains in force.

(Thanks to Elena) Share

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The "Best Room"

How traditions have changed about receiving company. According to Under the Gables:
Indeed, in southern central Pennsylvania, it is common to see older homes with two front doors, a tradition among the German families of the area, although not one brought from their original homeland. One door leads to the kitchen and "family room"--where the family conducts its business. The other door leads to the parlor--or best room--which is reserved for guests. This offers two ways of honoring those who are not members of the immediate family: the guest is honored, as in The Country of Pointed Firs, by being ushered into the "best room" but the closeness of the friendship may be honored by bringing the guest eventually into the kitchen and family area.

A Redefining Moment

The New York Times on changes in the high fashion industry. To quote:

In the 40 years since modern ready-to-wear came into existence in Europe and America, and made household names of Ralph, Calvin and Donna, designers have enjoyed enormous respect and prosperity. However, in the past few years, they have lost some face with consumers. Their clothes became exotically pricey as they courted celebrities and did quick-and-dirty deals with makers of fast fashion.

This week the situation reached a nadir of sorts when the Paris house Emanuel Ungaro — once the pride and joy of the Upper East Side — announced that it had hired Lindsay Lohan as its artistic adviser.

Another impact of recession-driven designing is a retreat to more predictable styles, a repetition of the safe looks that sold well in previous seasons. The designer Elie Tahari, whose labels generate about $500 million in sales, is focusing on dresses, animal prints and leggings and slim pants worn with tunics.

“Fashion has to be new and wearable and there has to be a need to it,” he said. Mr. Tahari has cut prices by 30 percent and closed a handbag factory he had in Italy to move that production to China.

Even Oscar de la Renta, the very emblem of high-end New York design, known for $4,000 and $5,000 dresses and suits, plans to offer a $1,500 dress in his spring line to meet retailers’ demands.

And although he recently bought a local garment factory that had planned to close, to help maintain his label’s craft standards, he has also sought out less expensive suppliers in Asia and Eastern Europe.

In his Seventh Avenue studio, Mr. de la Renta pointed to a sleeveless black dress with two knitted, frilly panels. The panels, done in Romania and combined with an Italian wool, will help keep the price of the dress down to $2,500. And Mr. de la Renta likes a silk faille that he gets from a mill in South Korea. Aside from the price — it costs a third of what Italian faille does — he likes the look.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Golden Lilies of France

A lovely post about the history of the fleur de lys
, greatly loved by the daughter of Louis XVI, as is told in Madame Royale. To quote:
The entry of the fleur de lis on the arms of France is miraculous. Legend says that the lily was the emblem of the Virgin who sent her flower by an angel to Clovis, the Frankish king, at his conversion in 493. The golden lilies on an azure ground came to symbolise the all the Christian Frankish Kings, most famously Charlemagne.


A Woman's Face (1941)

Here is a wonderful review of one of my favorite Joan Crawford movies. Share

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

La Sainte Baume

La Saint Baume of St. Mary Magdalen is a shrine in France which I have longed to see but never quite made it down there. How delighted I am to see that Christine has a post with pictures of the the ancient place of pilgrimage, frequented by popes, saints and kings. It is yet another sacred spot alluded to in my upcoming medieval novel.

As Christine writes: "The Chemin des Roys: an hour-long journey up this "path of kings" ends at the Grotto. Eighteen kings made pilgrimages to the Holy Grotto via this path, some in penance on their knees." Share

Gramsci's Ghost

The Western Confucian reports on cultural Bolshevism. To quote:
After Communist parties’ failure to establish political dominance in Western Europe after World War II, Gramsci’s path of “cultural Bolshevikism” became attractive to many West European leftists. It gathered apace after the 1968 student rebellions. Reflecting on this period as one who lived through it, then-Professor Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) spoke of the violence and intellectual intimidation used by left-wing students against anyone disagreeing with them. Marxist ideology, he wrote, shook his university “to its very foundations.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

John Adams: The Biography

David McCullough's John Adams is a must-read for those who have seen the acclaimed HBO miniseries. For that matter, anyone interested in American history and how the groundwork was laid for both the strengths and weaknesses of our nation and our government will find it of immense interest. According to a review by Pauline Maier:
David McCullough set out initially to write a joint biography of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. But he worried, as he explained to lecture audiences over the past few years, that Adams could not hold his own with Jefferson. Once he started doing research, his concern shifted. Could Jefferson stand up to Adams? McCullough's biography of Adams inevitably has a lot to say about Jefferson, but on virtually all points of comparison between the two men, Jefferson comes in second....

The descendant of farmers from Braintree, Mass., Adams loved to talk and always said exactly what he thought....Adams remained true to his origins: his hands, McCullough says, were those of a man ''accustomed to pruning his own trees, cutting his own hay and splitting his own firewood.'' Similarly, throughout a long life, his wife, Abigail, did her own sewing and baking, fed her own ducks and chickens and churned her own butter. Abigail read widely but spoke like a Yankee: she said ''Canady'' for Canada, ''set'' for sit, ''aya'' for yes. So did John, though McCullough doesn't say so. In the 1850's, the first editor of Adams's writings, his grandson Charles Francis Adams, carefully corrected his language, excising expressions like ''he eat strawberries'' or ''she ain't obliged'' in an effort to fit John Adams into a heroic mode. It was hopeless; Adams was too obstreperously real to be idealized.

Yet few men, McCullough argues, contributed more to the early history of the United States. In 1776, Adams was, in Jefferson's words, ''the colossus of independence,'' the delegate most responsible for the Continental Congress's adopting independence. As a diplomat in Europe during the 1780's, he secured a loan from the Dutch without which, McCullough suggests, the Revolution might have failed. He served as vice president ''with unfailing loyalty to Washington,'' whose administration he supported by casting a still unmatched 31 tie-breaking votes in the Senate. In his own presidency, McCullough says, Adams ''achieved a rare level of statesmanship'' by beginning peace negotiations with the French Republic, an act of reconciliation that alienated many Federalist supporters and jeopardized his chance of re-election in 1800. On one contested issue after another over the course of his career -- his insistence as an American emissary that France could stop British resistance to American independence by deploying its navy along the coast of North America; his early suspicion of the French Revolution; his hearty support for an American Navy -- Adams proved right in the end.

Above all, however, McCullough's appreciation for Adams...depends on an adherence to certain old-fashioned moral guidelines, which is to say on strength of character. All contemporary observers affirm Adams's scrupulous honesty: he was, as the Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush testified, ''a stranger to dissimulation.'' Adams also shared with his wife a powerful sense of public duty, which they fulfilled despite great financial and emotional sacrifice.

No one, and certainly not John Adams, made a fortune serving the United States in the late 18th century: ''All my emoluments as a member of Congress for four years,'' Adams observed in 1777, were ''not . . . sufficient to pay a laboring man on a farm.'' The Adamses' financial welfare depended on their Massachusetts farm, which Abigail managed even in trying circumstances with great skill. As a result, for all but a few exceptional years during Adams's long public career, he and Abigail lived dutifully but miserably apart.

In fact, McCullough is able to tell the extraordinary love story that threads through ''John Adams'' because the couple had so often to communicate through letters, which they saved. Abigail was John's partner in every sense: she not only managed the family's finances but was his greatest supporter, his most trusted political adviser and a source and object of immense affection. She pushed women's traditional domestic role to its outermost limits without questioning it: ''I believe nature has assigned each sex its particular duties and sphere of action,'' she once wrote, ''and to act well your part, 'there all the honor lies.' ''

In my review of the HBO production I expressed my disappointment at the portrayal of Louis XVI. As I suspected, the King did not laugh at Adams at their first meeting, although he mumbled "Pas un mot!" "Not a word!" out of surprise that Mr. Adams did not yet speak French, the language of diplomacy. (p.202) Adams and King Louis came to have respect for each other; Adams described the young King as having "goodness and innocence" in his face (p.202) As for Louis XVI's opinion of Adams, McCullough writes: "Vergennes, speaking for the King, offered praise [to Adams] for 'the wise conduct that you have held throughout the tenure of your commission,' as well as 'the zeal with which you have furthered the cause of your nation, while strengthening the alliance that ties it to His Majesty.'" (p.213)

John Adams described Marie-Antoinette thus:
She was an object too sublime and beautiful for my dull pen to describe...Her dress was everything that art and wealth could make it....She had a fine complexion indicating her perfect health, and was a handsome woman in her face and figure....not a feature of her face, nor a motion of any part of her person, especially her arm and her hand, could be criticized as being out of order. (p.203)
All in all, John Adams loved the France of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, in spite of his homesickness. To quote from the book:
As ardently as he longed for home, he hated to leave Paris, hated to leave France, and expected he would never return. 'The climate is more favorable to my constitution than ours,' he acknowledged to Abigail. He loved the food, the civility of everyday life. The French were 'the happiest people in the world...and have the best disposition to make others so. There is such a choice of elegant entertainments in the theatric way, of good company and excellent books that nothing would be wanting for me in this country but my family and peace to my country to make me one of the happiest of men.' (pp.212-213)
Adams was to later return to Paris in the service of his country, as well as serve in Holland and England. His real challenges were during his terms as Vice-President of the United States and eventually as President. He had to deal with many betrayals from false friends, including Thomas Jefferson. In 1805, after retiring to his farm, Adams wrote the following of American politics to his friend Benjamin Rush:
Is the present state of the national republic enough? Is virtue the principal of our government? Is honor? Or is it ambition and avarice, adulation, baseness, covetousness, the thirst for riches, indifference concerning the means of rising and enriching, the contempt of principle, the spirit of party and of faction the motive and principle that governs? (p.588)
John Adams could see many flaws in the new sysytem that would eventually lead to problems, neverthless he believed in the potential of the American people and had high hopes for the future. He lived to see his oldest son became President, but when people praised John Quincy Adams, John attributed his son's success to Abigail, saying: "He had a mother." Share

From Citizen to Serf

In 200 years. Share

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marguerite de Provence

Queen of France and wife of St. Louis IX. In her youth she was reputed to be a beauty and her husband was deeply in love with her, although they had their ups and downs, just like everyone else. Share

Whittaker Chambers in Books

Please visit the new blog of David Chambers, with reviews of books that mention his grandfather, Whittaker Chambers. David points out both the truths and errors in how various books represent a vital chapter of American history, based upon his fascinating archives. Share

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Marie-Antoinette and Court Dress

Catherine Delors offers a thorough discussion of the etiquette governing formal attire to be worn by the Queens of France, and how Marie-Antoinette dealt with it all. To quote Madame Delors:
The shape of the 18th century court costume, for men and women, originated at Versailles during the last decades of the reign of Louis XIV, and remained unchanged until the Revolution. It does not mean that court attire was immune to the dictates of fashion: fabrics, colors, ribbons and other decorative elements varied over time. But the cut of the garments was immutable.

Court costume was highly codified. Wearing a court gown was a privilege reserved for the Queen, the princesses of the royal blood and "presented" ladies. I have written prior posts on the preparations of dressing for Court (here) and the ritual of the presentation to the Queen (here.) Wearing a court gown was mandatory for all ladies entitled to it, even for the Queen herself, on every formal occasion. The only acceptable excuse was an advanced pregnancy, obviously incompatible with the close-fitting shape of the bodice and the underlying grand corps (a special corset) that covered the entire abdomen.

Marie-Antoinette once apologized to the Venetian ambassador, who had come to Versailles to present his letters of accreditation, for not wearing a court gown on account of her pregnancy. If she had not done so, her wearing "regular" clothes on such an occasion would have been construed as a grave slight, and created a diplomatic incident. Court dress was no simple fashion matter.

The male court costume may have been more comfortable, but it was no less elaborate than its female counterpart. The King, princes of the royal blood and courtiers wore a three-part costume (breeches, waistcoat, coat) of embroidered fabrics, enriched with diamond buttons, decorations and trim.

Anglo-Saxon Timber Architecture

Scientist and acclaimed historical novelist Carla Nayland has an article about Anglo-Saxon architecture, which appears to have been more elaborate than once thought.
“What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs?”
--JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers (Book III, Chapter 10).

Thus spoke Saruman the wizard, after King Theoden had seen through his lies and told him to take a running jump, neatly articulating some of the more snobbish views of early English (‘Anglo-Saxon’)* culture in general and architecture in particular. Does timber architecture deserve this image?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eucharistic Adoration and Père Augustin-Marie du Très Saint Sacrement

Amid some recent controversy over Eucharistic Adoration, Pentimento recalls Father Hermann Cohen, a.k.a. Père Augustin-Marie du Très Saint Sacrement, a Carmelite priest of Jewish descent. Venerable Augustin-Marie promulgated Adoration of Our Lord's Real Presence in France during the late nineteenth century.

Pentimento offers a fascinating article about Hermann Cohen's life, from his days as a pianist in the company of Liszt to his dramatic conversion to Christianity. The following is an excerpt:
In May, 1847, Prince Moscowa asked Hermann to substitute as choral director for a service at the church of S. Valère (now demolished). At the close of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, (le Salut), when the priest raised the monstrance in blessing Hermann experienced a deep motion, sweet and powerful. Overwhelmed, he felt like the Prodigal Son, totally unworthy and in need to return home. Liszt had once given him a bible when they were in Geneva. In it the Master had inscribed, "Blessed are the pure of heart." Hermann knew he did not qualify.

The same phenomenon occurred the following week and, even when he was off to Germany for a concert at Ems, Hermann burst into a flood of tears as he attended services in a little country church. Hermann had never known any priest except the Abbé Lamennais and was apprehensive about approaching one. A series of positive experiences, however, eventually led him to Father Theodore Ratisbonne, also a Jew, who would become his confidant and confessor.

At his baptism on August 28, 1847, Hermann experienced what he called an "apparition" of Christ, Mary, and the saints in a "brilliant light" and an "ecstasy of love." By November of that year he had already resolved to become a priest. Before he could undertake this whirlwind venture, however, it was necessary to wipe out the considerable gambling debts he had acquired. It took him two years of teaching at the Collège Stanislas and private lessons with young ladies who were not at all happy at his turn from the world. During this time he lived in modest quarters and spent hours in prayer with young men who shared his enthusiasm. Once during this period he chanced to meet George Sand who formerly had lavished such affection on him. She turned away in disgust, "Get lost! You’re nothing but a vile monk."

By 1848, he managed to pay off his debts. One final concert at the Saint Cecilia Hall bade his adieu to the world and helped square his accounts. He had had to practice from morning to night to prepare for it. According to one eyewitness, the concert was and "immense success" and the hall filled with "thunderous applause." Hermann wrote that in earlier days he would have been in the streets with a gun during the Revolution of 1848. Instead he was at his favorite devotion, spending the night in adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. This popular devotion was in great part pioneered by Hermann. Today visitors to the Basilica du Sacré Coeur in Paris will note that the Sacrament is continually exposed. Liszt himself wrote to Hermann’s first biographer, Abbé Sylvain, in 1882, that Hermann’s was a "life of burning and ecstatic perpetual adoration of the Bread of Angels."


Film Alert

Dorian Gray (2009). As usual with films that I REALLY want to see, the date of the American release is both uncertain and unspecified. Share

Thursday, September 17, 2009

At the Assembly Ball

With the focus so often being on the ladies' gowns, it is interesting to find an article about how the gentlemen were supposed to dress. I have long found the Regency period to be of interest since it coincides with some of the early chapters in the novel Madame Royale. Share

Eucharistic Convention Website

There is a new website for the Eucharistic Convention in Auckland, New Zealand, with a forum, photos, chat room and much more. The Convention convenes yearly on the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday and was one of the most inspirational events of my life when I went last spring. Many Americans have been invited to speak over the years, as well as inspirational speakers from all over the world. I am grateful to organizer John Porteous for starting a site where people who met at the convention can reconnect. Share

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Civility and Social Graces

Esther has a lovely post about manners, recommending a book on social graces that sounds quite good, saying:
It seems sometimes that good manners or social graces are dying out. It may be that because of computers and the internet communication prevalent in our daily lives, many people feel there is no longer a need to be polite.

If you are wondering why I am writing about the topic of good manners, social graces and civility, it is because I am currently reading an interesting little book entitled Town & Country Social Graces: Words of Wisdom on Civility in a Changing Society. Each chapter is giving me lots of food for thought.

So far, I have read about privacy, or lack of privacy, accountability, playing fair, etiquette by email, rekindling the holiday spirit, being an American in a foreign country, on being a gentleman, on keeping the marriage alive and well, dressing for dinner, respecting our elders, saying Thank You, etc. and this is just at the beginning of the book.

Each chapter deals with some aspect on how we treat others in our society or how others treat us.

Can those of us who have good manners and are considerate change those who lack social graces? I do not know but it has to begin with each one of us to continue showing good manners even went tempted to say "The heck with it".

It all boils down to what Jesus has been trying to teach us from the very start: "Love your neighbor as yourself".

It is the reason, we are to die to ourselves. In a society where "I" comes first, we need to remember it is our brother or sister who comes first, "I" come last.

Dream of a King

Catherine Delors reviews a recent BBC production about Versailles with some insightful reflections. To quote Madame Delors:
As for the scholarly quality of the commentary, it left somewhat to be desired. In particular, Lady Antonia Fraser remarked that Louis XIV's many affairs incarnated the country's sense of its own virility, something in which Louis XVI would, by contrast, have failed.

This was - rightly - contradicted some time later by another historian, Lisa Hilton, who noted that the very public and doubly adulterous liaison between the King and Madame de Montespan was considered scandalous by the vast majority of the contemporaries. Indeed one of the reasons why Louis XVI remained extremely popular well into the French Revolution was his faithfulness to Marie-Antoinette. French people always hated royal mistresses, and they appreciated their absence during his reign.

But I disagree with Ms. Hilton on many other points. She says, for instance, that Louis XIV was not interested in his wife because she was not attractive. In fact, Queen Marie-Therese...was blonde, fair and plump, with regular features, which conformed to the standards of female beauty of her time. But she was undeniably dull, and the Sun King did not enjoy dull people or things.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Daughter of Time

Here is an excellent book review of one of my all-time favorite controversial historical novels. (Via Matterhorn) To quote:
This was a fascinating read by Josephine Tey. It is the story of Alan Grant, a policeman with Scotland Yard, who is laid up in the hospital after being injured on the job. A friend brings in a portrait of Richard III and he has a hard time believing that the man in the picture is the horrible, nephew murdering hunchback that he is familiar with. This sparks his interest and to relieve his boredom he takes up the 400+ year old case of Richard III - did he or did he not murder his nephews in the Tower? He and an American researcher working in the British Museum sort through all the evidence they can get and look at the case through a policeman's perspective - considering motives, opportunities, written accounts from the times, looking for breaks in the normal routine of the main players, etc. Grant becomes convinced that, based on the evidence, that Richard did not murder his nephews. In fact, he had absolutely nothing to gain and quite a bit to lose if he did.

It should be mentioned that Tey is writing a work of fiction here so I'm sure some things that didn't fit into her story were most likely left out. But that aside, it is an intriguing look at a man who history has made out to be a horrible monster. One of the points Grant realizes (and probably the biggest) is that, basically, history is written by the victors. Anything that might make them, the victors, look bad is going to be changed and anything that can discredit the vanquished will be trumped up as much as possible.

Some of the evidence/points that Grant comes across:

1. The accepted history of Richard III was written by Thomas More who was about 8 when Richard was killed AND he was writing for a Tudor King. He certainly wasn't going to publish anything that would make Henry VIII's father look bad. Also, a lot of his information apparently came from a certain John Morton, who hated Richard. (It should be noted that Shakespeare used More's account of Richard's life when writing his play Richard III, which most people today base their idea of Richard on.)

2. Richard had declared all of Edward's children illegitimate but there were still several heirs in line ahead of him and they continued to live happy lives during his reign. No reason to do away with just two of the heirs between him and the throne and leave all the others.

3. When Henry VII was having all of Richard's crimes laid out never once was the murder of the Princes mentioned. He wasn't even accused of it.

4. After Richard took the throne, Elizabeth Woodville came out of sanctuary, her daughters went to Richard's court, and she wrote to one of her Grey sons in France to come home because Richard would be kind to him. Would she have done this if she thought Richard killed her sons?

5. Henry VII, to bolster his claim to the throne after killing Richard, married Elizabeth of York, the sister of the Princes in the Tower. To make her claim to the throne valid, he had to make her (and ALL her siblings) legitimate. Once he did that, her brother was the rightful King again.

These are just a few of the points Grant considers when he finally comes to his verdict at the end. Some of the information Tey puts into her story certainly will make you think about what you accept as history, especially in a case such as Richard's. I do wish the story had been longer and more detail given about some of the evidence presented but I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Richard III.

Daughter of Time available HERE. Share

Poland's Dark Days

Memories of seventy years ago. (Via Serge)
Sitting on the steps outside her family’s kitchen, 11-year-old Romualda Smolicz spotted soldiers on the horizon in the Polish village of Lozowicze as the sun rose on Sept. 17, 1939.

“I said to my family, ‘Oh, they are Polish soldiers.’ They had eagles on their hats. Five minutes later they came to our orchard and, oh, they were something different and life was not the same,” she remembered.

They were Soviet troops who would soon perpetuate in the east, atrocities that had begun a little more than two weeks earlier on Sept. 1 when Nazi troops invaded Poland from the north, south and west. The country was divided between Russia and Germany and World War II was effectively under way.

“It was like a flood and we were under,” said Smolicz who is now a nun living in Chester.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Margaret of Anjou

Author Susan Higginbotham is writing a novel about Margaret of Anjou, the queen of Henry VI of England. Susan's research is fascinating, leaving no stone unturned. To quote:
Much of Margaret’s bloody-minded reputation, of course, comes from the chronicles that describe the devastation inflicted by her troops following the Battle of Wakefield. B. M. Cron, however, has analyzed the evidence supporting these accounts and found it markedly lacking. Both she and John Gillingham cast doubts on the accounts of the Croyland Chronicler and Abbot John Whethamstede: Gillingham writes that Croyland’s account does not specify any places that were actually pillaged, but rather “is couched in the vague and emotional rhetoric of unsubstantiated atrocity stories.” Cron concludes that there would have certainly been “pillaging, petty theft, and unpaid foraging” by Margaret’s troops, marching in mid-winter, but that the army “did not indulge in systematic devastation of the countryside, either on its own account or at the behest of the queen.”

The American Work Ethic

What happened to it? (Via The American Conservative) To quote:

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville worried that free, capitalist societies might develop so great a “taste for physical gratification” that citizens would be “carried away, and lose all self-restraint.” Avidly seeking personal gain, they could “lose sight of the close connection which exists between the private fortune of each of them and the prosperity of all” and ultimately undermine both democracy and prosperity.

The genius of America in the early nineteenth century, Tocqueville thought, was that it pursued “productive industry” without a descent into lethal materialism. Behind America’s balancing act, the pioneering French social thinker noted, lay a common set of civic virtues that celebrated not merely hard work but also thrift, integrity, self-reliance, and modesty—virtues that grew out of the pervasiveness of religion, which Tocqueville called “the first of [America’s] political institutions, . . . imparting morality” to American democracy and free markets. Some 75 years later, sociologist Max Weber dubbed the qualities that Tocqueville observed the “Protestant ethic” and considered them the cornerstone of successful capitalism. Like Tocqueville, Weber saw that ethic most fully realized in America, where it pervaded the society. Preached by luminaries like Benjamin Franklin, taught in public schools, embodied in popular novels, repeated in self-improvement books, and transmitted to immigrants, that ethic undergirded and promoted America’s economic success.

What would Tocqueville or Weber think of America today? In place of thrift, they would find a nation of debtors, staggering beneath loans obtained under false pretenses. In place of a steady, patient accumulation of wealth, they would find bankers and financiers with such a short-term perspective that they never pause to consider the consequences or risks of selling securities they don’t understand. In place of a country where all a man asks of government is “not to be disturbed in his toil,” as Tocqueville put it, they would find a nation of rent-seekers demanding government subsidies to purchase homes, start new ventures, or bail out old ones. They would find what Tocqueville described as the “fatal circle” of materialism—the cycle of acquisition and gratification that drives people back to ever more frenetic acquisition and that ultimately undermines prosperous democracies.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eugène de Beauharnais

Napoleon's beloved stepson. Share

Campus Courtesy

An excellent article for all ages. Share

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Solitary Tree

Poetry, art, music and commentary from Pentimento.
If I were a little bird
and had two little wings,
I would fly to you.
But since it cannot be,
I must stay here.

Although I'm far from you,
in sleep I'm beside you,
speaking with you.
But when I awaken,
I am alone.

Not an hour of the night goes by
that my heart doesn't awaken
And think of you,
and imagine that, many thousands of times,
you give your heart to me.
Above: "Solitary Tree" by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), one of the greatest artists of German Romanticism. Share

The Horns of Moses

In medieval art. According to artist Daniel Mitsui:
It is commonly known that Moses, in mediaeval art, is depicted with horns on his head. The supposed reason for this is also commonly known; every art history teacher informs his students that the Vulgate Bible contains a mistranslation, which resulted in an absurd artistic convention. I myself am disinclined to think that St. Jerome and centuries of iconographers were all idiots.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering Jonas Panik

A fine young man whose family have been long time members of our parish in Bellefonte, PA is remembered today on the anniversary of his death, by the Washington Post. Share

King of Hungary

The last courageous attempts of Blessed Emperor Charles, King of Hungary, to rally his people amid the onslaught of the socialistic, atheistic New World Order. Share

How Facebook Can Ruin Friendships

Some people are bothered by hearing all the details. It is so easy to press the "hide" button or use the partial profile settings rather than shun someone completely over a trifle. Facebook should not become a way of hurting people but unfortunately it has. Discretion is called for, not pettiness. Share

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wedding Gowns

For those planning a wedding, here are some gowns which are exceptionally elegant. Share

Part III: Piety the Just Gift

A continuation of the discussion of the sometimes despised and often forgotten gift of piety.

Piety the Just Gift
by Mary Lanser
St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, teaches that the gift of piety perfects the virtue of justice. This synergistic relationship between piety and justice comes down to us through the ages from both classical ethics and Christian morality, although the interaction is distinctly different in each system respectively.

Socrates, in his dialogue with Euthyphro, turns his entire argument on the virtue of piety in itself. The discussion of piety in itself, as opposed to pious things, finally helps us to realize that there is indeed a middle ground between relativistic justice, and justice as a rigid universal moral virtue with respect to one's duty to the gods and family and state. [Plato] There is a natural balance in a good life that is pleasing to the gods and that keeps man, his family and his community from tearing apart from the stresses of polarized extremes.

So we can say that justice as an acquired or natural virtue often concerns keeping the passions in check so that we do not allow baser instincts to blind us to what is right and what is true in any situation requiring that we choose or discriminate among various thoughts, words or deeds. In this way piety, as a known duty to ones gods, family and country, encourages or promotes just words and deeds.

St. Peter of Damaskos cites St. Dionysios the Areopagite, in The Divine Names as saying that God is praised through justice. [The Divine Names VIII, 7, P.G.iii, 893D] And St. Peter says that this is indeed true because “...justice is sometimes called discrimination: it establishes the just mean in every undertaking, so that there will be no falling short...or excess.” [Philokalia, Vol. 3, p.258] In this understanding of justice, it also appears that balance is a desirous outcome for the two virtues of piety and justice.

However we must remember that Plato's gods warred among themselves, and visited evil upon mankind, and unjustly abused mankind, as often as they bestowed goodness. In Plato's world the gods were the source of both good and evil. In the world of classical Greek and Rome, a balanced life hopes to mark out a path between most unforgiving extremes of good and evil, justice and injustice, piety and impiety.

However, for St. Dionysios, as it is for all Christians, God is the source of all goodness. God is never seen as the source of evil at all, in any form or fashion. Balance is not at all the desired outcome of leading a virtuous life in Christian terms. The desired outcome for a Christian life quite simply put is the beatific vision. So that all that we do and all that we are must be directed toward that end, by faith, in the hope that we may be granted the grace of union with the divine and the beatific vision.

In The Divine Names, St. Dionysios said:
Again the title Righteousness is given to God because he assigns what is appropriate to all things; He distributes their due proportion, beauty, rank, arrangement, their proper and fitting place and order according to a most just and righteous determination. He is the cause of their individual activity. It is the righteousness of God which orders gives the appropriate and deserved qualities to everything and that it preserves the nature of each being in its due order and power. [The Divine Names, VIII, 7]
Rather than seeking a life in balance, the Christian seeks to discover the right order in Creation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the guidance of Scripture and life in the Body of Christ, the Church. It is the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives that makes it possible for us to be able to discern rightly, to comprehend revealed truth, and to live lives of self-discipline and self-control. It is in this way that the fathers and the tradition of the Church can teach that “piety perfects justice.” Without the divine grace to obtain perfect justice or what is also called infused justice, then we would never be able to even begin to see Creation as God see is. We would never begin to be able to have a creatures share in the divine life.

"God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal 4:6). "All who are led by the Spirit are children of God... It is that very Spirit bearing witness to our spirit that we are children of God" (Rm 8:14, 16). The words of the Apostle Paul remind us that the fundamental gift of the Spirit is sanctifying grace (gratia gratum faciens), with which we receive the theological virtues—faith, hope and charity—and all the infused virtues (virtutes infusae), which enable us to act under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the charisms, which are bestowed for the service of others, these gifts are offered to all, because they are intended to lead the person to sanctity and perfection. [JPII, "Letter to Priests, For Holy Thursday" 1998]

Piety does not merely influence or prompt justice or set a balanced path between two extremes. Piety perfects justice in that it divinely empowers us to discern what God intends as the right order of all Creation. The ability to turn our will to the rightly ordered divine will is the hoped for result of the perfection of justice. It is the purpose of the divine gift of piety or reverence that we have the necessary spiritual tools that will enable us to know the mind of God, for as we read in the book of the Prophet Isaiah 5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

To quote from Luke 18 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition):
2...There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God, nor regarded man. 3 And there was a certain widow in that city, and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary. 4 And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God, nor regard man,5 Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said: Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And will not God revenge his elect who cry to him day and night: and will he have patience in their regard? 8 I say to you, that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?
It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that it is possible for any of us at all to have faith. God, the Just Judge, has given us all that we need to attain the ultimate end of every soul in everlasting life, a share in the divine life in the presence of the beatific vision. Such a sublime justice!! Glory to God for all things!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Evangeline, Longfellow's epic poem of undying love and fidelity, made a deep impression upon me as a young person. I used to walk through the woods surrounding my parents' house thinking to myself, "This is the forest primeval," although it was far from being a "forest primeval" but an old cow pasture all overgrown. Nevertheless, Longfellow's poetry has a way of resonating in youthful minds and hearts, as well as with those who are not so young. Here is the Introduction:
THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,

Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.

Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean

Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it

Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?

Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers --

Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,

Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?

Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!

Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean.
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.

Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,

Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,

List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.

The Case for Charter Schools

Heidi Saxton shares some thoughts and experiences. Share

Baking Soda

Is it a forgotten remedy for influenza?
In today’s modern world of medicine the FDA just will not let companies that sell products make medical claims about them unless they have been tested at great expense, and approved as a drug. But this was not always the case.
In a 1924 booklet published by the Arm & Hammer Soda Company, the company starts off saying, “The proven value of Arm & Hammer Bicarbonate of Soda as a therapeutic agent is further evinced by the following evidence of a prominent physician named Dr. Volney S. Cheney, in a letter to the Church & Dwight Company:
“In 1918 and 1919 while fighting the ‘Flu’ with the U. S. Public Health Service it was brought to my attention that rarely any one who had been thoroughly alkalinized with bicarbonate of soda contracted the disease, and those who did contract it, if alkalinized early, would invariably have mild attacks.
Recommended dosages from the Arm and Hammer Company for colds and influenza back in 1925 were:
  • During the first day take six doses of half teaspoonful of Bicarbonate of Soda in glass of cool water, at about two hour intervals
  • During the second day take four doses of half teaspoonful of Bicarbonate of Soda in glass of cool water, at the same intervals
  • During the third day take two doses of half teaspoonful of Bicarbonate of Soda in glass of cool water morning and evening, and thereafter half teaspoonful in glass of cool water each morning until cold is cured.

Part II: Piety the Savory Gift

Here is a continuation of the article on piety by guest blogger Mary Lanser:
Piety the Savory Gift
by Mary Lanser

By the power of the Holy Spirit, in our sacramental initiation in Christ, we become savory citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, called to live and teach the Kingdom of God, here and now as we live in this life. In describing this reality for us, Jesus calls us “salt of the earth” and leaves us with a sacramental Church by which we are able to open our minds and will to the counsel and advocacy of the Holy Spirit.

According to Matthew 5:13-16:
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
So then how do we “let our light shine” so as to glorify the Father in heaven? Let us go back to Isaiah and point out that in the scriptural list of spirated gifts there are two mentions of fear: 1) Fear of the Lord, and 2) a quick understanding, or delight in the Fear of the Lord. In the RSV Catholic Version the pericope reads as follows: Isaiah 11:3 “And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”

So the question is in what sense do these two spirations, mentioned in Isaiah11:2-3, translate as piety and fear of the Lord in St. Thomas, with both piety and fear of the Lord having connotations of reverence, godliness, fear, joy or delight, quick understanding, and righteousness?

As we have noted the Beatitudes, from the Sermon on the Mount, hold clues for our understanding of piety and fear of the Lord from Matthew 5:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven....
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
St. Peter of Damaskos [Philokalia, vol III, p.216-217] tell us that there are two kinds of fear. He begins by telling us that “fear of God which is the first commandment” defeats all eight of the champions of evil,..."while without this fear one cannot possess any blessing...even he who has attained the state of love began with fear, even though he may not know how this initial fear passed from him.”

St. Peter expands on this progression from a servile fear to a filial fear and then notes that the two kinds of fear are introductory fear and perfect fear. Introductory fear is servile fear that moves in obedience toward the good in order to avoid punishment.

An intermediate step, purified fear, is still fear but rather than fearing punishment, we fear our own imperfections will cause us to offend God or lead others into sin. We stumble over bad habits, and cling to small attachments, hoping for the grace to put all aside so as to experience the joy of true union with the Bridegroom.

Perfect fear then, says St. Peter, is the fear of the poor man who keeps all the commandments in love, who has nothing to loose, and fears nothing, not even death. He desires nothing; he fears nothing; he offends no one.

And so we read in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” St. Peter reminds us that if we are still stumbling along then we may have the consolation of knowing our fear is pure but not yet perfect.

But, if we see too much good in ourselves in this middling state of purity, then we are, according to St. John Klimakos, in a state of “servile prudence,” still lacking in true humility. We can discern what needs to be done but have not yet yielded fully to those habits of mind and body that will allow us to get to where we know we must be.

It is in these middling stages that we are in the greatest need of the gifts of piety and fear of the Lord, for without them we could discern little or nothing of the divine will for us as individuals or in communion, and there would be no real incentive for doing the very difficult work of bringing the mind and body and will into accord with the divine will.

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. [Divine Intimacy, p.898] says: “When we cooperate with the action of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they produce in us fruits of virtue so exquisite that they give us a foretaste of the eternal beatitude...For each gift there is a corresponding beatitude [as in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5]; the beatitude that corresponds with fear is poverty of spirit....”

When referring to true piety, Blessed Diadochus wrote the following, using the didactic formulas of his day:
A brother asked: Who, father, can fulfill all the commandments, when there are so many of them? The elder answered: He who imitates the Lord and follows Him step by step. The brother said: And who can imitate the Lord? The Lord was God, although He also became man, while I am a sinful man, enslaved to innumerable passions. How, then, can I imitate the Lord? The Elder replied: Of those who are enslaved to the world and its vanities, no one can imitate the Lord; but those who can say, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee" (Matthew 19:27), receive the power to imitate the Lord and are directed by all His commandments.

The brother said: But, father, the Lord's commandments are many, and who can keep all of them in mind, in order to struggle for them all, especially I, a man of little mind? - Which is why I would like to hear a brief word, in order to further my own salvation by keeping it. The Elder replied: Although many are the commandments, nevertheless they all are combined in one saying: "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27). Those struggling to keep this saying perform all the commandments at once. But, whoever does not renounce every predilection for the material cannot love either God or his neighbor in a real way. “ Blessed Diadochus [see link for more information on Blessed Diadochus]
So you see here it is no small task to “offend no one” for in order to truly offend no one we must first cease in offending God by keeping his commandments, and we manage to do that in striving for absolute detachment from the material world, and also in the offering of our intellect and soul to the movements of the divine will.

Father Gabriel [Divine Intimacy, p. 899] is also instructive in reminding us of the fullest extent of our need from detachment to things of our own will, as well as from things of the world:
Poverty of spirit includes detachment not only from material goods, but also from moral and even spiritual goods. Whoever tries to assert his own personality,seeking the esteem and regard of creatures, who remains attached to his own will and ideas, or is too fond of his own independence, is not poor in spirit, but is rich in himself....
Again St. Peter of Damaskos [Philokalia, vol III, p.218-219] addresses piety directly and says: “In its Greek form, the term true piety comes from a word meaning to serve well.” This idea of piety as reverence and service to God implies that a sense of duty is inherent in the gift of piety.

We are bound by grace and reason, in the service of faith, to the fulfillment of our own apostolic evangelical charge to bring forth the Kingdom of God on earth. The inspired power of the gift of piety prepares us to do just that by thought, by word, by deed, and by the very fact of our being the adopted sons and daughters of God, as we are baptized into Christ.

In the east the newly initiated Christians are also referred to the "Newly Illuminated in Christ" and that is precisely because of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Very early in the life of the Church, in Book 3, Chapter 17 of Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus of Lyon affirms the movement of the Holy Spirit in Christ, and through Christ into the world, and particularly into the Church. His work here was to affirm the Incarnate Christ, true God, true Man, and to affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit, particularly in the Church. Here he too mentions the passage in Isaiah and the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit:
....but that the dew, which is the Spirit of God, who descended upon the Lord, should be diffused throughout all the earth, “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and piety, the spirit of the fear of God.” [ Isa. xi. 2]
This Spirit, again, He did confer upon the Church, sending throughout all the world the Comforter from heaven, from whence also the Lord tells us that the devil, like lightning, was cast down [Luke x. 18]. Wherefore we have need of the dew of God, that we be not consumed by fire, nor be rendered unfruitful, and that where we have an accuser there we may have also an Advocate, [ 1 John ii. 1] the Lord commending to the Holy Spirit His own man, Suum hominem, i.e., the human race, who had fallen among thieves, [Luke x. 35] whom He Himself compassionated, and bound up his wounds....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Le-Puy-en-Velay is the site of the shrine of Our Lady of France, one of the most ancient shrines in France, as well as being one of the starting points of the pilgrimage road to Compostela. The last time we visited France my husband and I drove there from Toulouse. Driving through the mountains of Auvergne was like being in heaven and hell at the same time; the scenery was spectacular beyond words while the drops off the sides of the cliffs upon which we were driving were enough to make me paralyzed with terror. As difficult as it was to get to Le-Puy-en-Velay in 1999, I could only imagine the perils of getting there in the Middle Ages. And yet many people have journeyed to the shrine over the centuries, including peasants like St. Joan of Arc's mother, Isabelle Romée.

According to France This Way:

Le Puy en Velay, in the heart of the Massif central, is in an impressive setting surrounded by high hills and the famous conical volcano forms of the region.

This does make Le Puy a bit difficult to reach, but it is a journey worth the trouble. The town is a major attraction with visitors, despite its relative isolation and receives more than 700,000 visitors each year.

Le Puy is above all famous for being the start point of one of the main pilgrimage paths in France that lead to Santiago de Compostella, and the religious monuments that are a result of this important historical role.

The origin of the shrine of Our Lady is describes as follows:
Legend traces the origin of the pilgrimage of Le Puy to an apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a sick widow whom St. Martial had converted. No French pilgrimage was more frequented in the Middle Ages. Charlemagne came twice, in 772 and 800; there is a legend that in 772 he established a foundation at the cathedral for ten poor canons (chanoines de paupérie), and he chose Le Puy, with Aachen and Saint-Gilles, as a centre for the collection of Peter's Pence. Charles the Bald visited Le Puy in 877, Eudes in 892, Robert in 1029, Philip Augustus in 1183. Louis IX met the King of Aragon there in 1245; and in 1254 passing through Le Puy on his return from the Holy Land, he gave to the cathedral an ebony image of the Blessed Virgin clothed in gold brocade. After him, Le Puy was visited by Philip the Bold in 1282, by Philip the Fair in 1285, by Charles VI in 1394, by Charles VII in 1420, and by the mother of Blessed Joan of Arc in 1429. Louis XI made the pilgrimage in 1436 and 1475, and in 1476 halted three leagues from the city and went to the cathedral barefooted. Charles VIII visited it in 1495, Francis I in 1533. Theodulph, Bishop of Orléans, brought to Our Lady of Le Puy, as an ex-voto for his deliverance, a magnificent Bible, the letters of which were made of plates of gold and silver, which he had himself put together, about 820, while in prison at Angers. St. Mayeul, St. Odilon, St. Robert, St. Hugh of Grenoble, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Dominic, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. John Francis Regis were pilgrims to Le Puy.
The statue of Our Lady of France and the ancient chapel of Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe are built of the top of two extinct volcanoes. I was so captivated by Le-Puy-en-Velay and Auvergne that I made the region the setting from which the heroine in my new novel sets forth on her adventures.
More phenomenal photos HERE, HERE and HERE. Share