Saturday, January 31, 2015

Real Men Wear Pink

From Supremacy and Survival:
My husband went with me last year to the Josephine exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg.

One painting that caught my eye was the Portrait de Gian Girolamo Grumelli dit “le Chevalier en rose”, 1561 by Giovan Battista Moroni. It is now included in an exhibition of Moroni's portraits at the Royal Academy in London. Piers Baker-Bates reviews the exhibition for History Today:
Moroni excelled above all as a portrait painter and the psychologically acute works on display at the Royal Academy should cement his reputation, although, arguably, the few religious works shown here are qualitatively on a par with the portraits. The exhibition takes us chronologically through Moroni’s career and illustrates clearly how his artistic trajectory developed. Particular attention has been paid to the background and hang, which superbly set off the paintings displayed. 
He mentions le Chevalier en rose:
For example, take the portrait of Giovanni Gerolamo Grumelli, the so-called Man in Pink (pictured above). Grumelli’s salmon pink, elaborately trimmed, costume dominates the room in which his portrait hangs. At the same time the cryptic motto of the sitter in the bottom right corner of the painting is not written in his native Italian, but in Spanish: Mas el çaguero que el primero (‘Better the latter than the former’). It is the dramatic realism of such portraits that struck the Victorians and that still impresses us today, as does Moroni’s ability to depict fabrics and textures. (Read more.)

Two Ways of Dying

From Tom Piatak in Chronicles:
The same day Maynard died, a man was buried in my hometown of Cleveland whose way of dying and way of living were different from Maynard’s.  I knew this man, though I did not know him well.  His name was Jim Skerl.  He graduated from the high school I attended, St. Ignatius in Cleveland, in 1974, and began teaching theology there in 1978.  He remained at the school until October 3, 20 days before he died of pancreatic cancer.  According to the eulogy delivered by another member of the theology department, Marty Dybicz, Skerl, on his last day as a teacher, “spontaneously quoted the Apostles Creed and said, ‘I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.’  Then he added, ‘Go with God.  Love one another.’”

Skerl’s life showed how much he believed what he said on his last day as a teacher.  For ten years, each Sunday night saw Skerl gather with students at the school’s chapel, where they prayed before the Blessed Sacrament.  They then would go to places where the homeless could be found, bringing them a meal and companionship.  Each month, Skerl would lead students to Cleveland’s L’Arche community, where they would also bring a meal and companionship to the disabled adults who lived there.  Skerl became friends with the homeless and disabled persons he met, some of whom came as guests to his wedding. (Read more.)

Tolkien and the Courage to Face Evil

From the American Thinker:
J.R.R. Tolkien’s two famous novels – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – reveal more and more layers of meaning on each reading.  Critics like to argue about Tolkien’s real meaning, but he was perfectly clear about that: his allegories of war and peace are about our time, his and ours.
Tolkien’s generation saw the rise and fall of the Kaiser, Hitler, and Stalin, grim enemies about as close to Mordor and Sauron as we can imagine.  And Tolkien clearly identified the first hobbits he was acquainted with – it was the small-town people of Worcestershire, where he had lived.  These were the ordinary people who went to war and put their lives on the line when Dark Riders came to invade their peaceful Shire.

The famous Tolkien novels speak to us because they evoke our deepest dilemmas – most of all, the never-ending puzzle of ordinary people faced with unspeakable evil.  If your parents and grandparents had to come to that moment of decision in their lives, you probably know all about it.  They did not choose war; war chose them. (Read more.)

Friday, January 30, 2015


"Girl with the Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer
From the Metropolitan Gallery of Art:
With Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Vermeer ranks among the most admired of all Dutch artists, but he was much less well known in his own day and remained relatively obscure until the end of the nineteenth century. The main reason for this is that he produced a small number of pictures, perhaps about forty-five (of which thirty-six are known today), primarily for a small circle of patrons in Delft. Indeed, as much as half of Vermeer's output was acquired by the local collector Pieter van Ruijven. Although Vermeer's work was known to other connoisseurs in Delft and the neighboring court city of The Hague, and a few of his paintings sold to individuals farther afield (Antwerp and Amsterdam), most Dutch painters turned out hundreds of pictures for a much broader market. Adding to his image as an isolated figure are the fact that Vermeer's teacher is unknown, and that he evidently had no pupils. However, the artist was a respected member of the painters' guild in Delft, and he exchanged pictorial ideas with painters active in that city (especially Pieter de Hooch in the 1650s) and in the region (for example, Frans van Mieris in Leiden).

Vermeer's father trained as a weaver of fine material but by about 1630 had become an innkeeper and art dealer. The latter business may have helped Vermeer develop his remarkable ability to assimilate formal conventions from past and current masters. On the other hand, his father's debts and death in 1652 probably explain why Vermeer had to essentially train himself rather than study with an important master. In 1653, Vermeer married the daughter of a wealthy Catholic divorcée; the painter converted to their religion and moved into their house in the heart of Delft. During most of his short career—he died at forty-three, leaving his wife with eleven children—Vermeer's paintings commanded high prices and he was able to support his large family, but the dismal Dutch economy of the early 1670s made his last few years miserable.

In his earliest paintings, Vermeer surveyed the styles of various seventeenth-century artists. For example, in Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (ca. 1655; Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland), he achieved an unlikely mixture of Anthony van Dyck and Hendrick ter Brugghen. The Procuress (1656; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie) recalls Caravaggesque works by the court painter Gerrit van Honthorst, except for the apparent self-portrait which in its handling of light and soft focus resembles a moment caught in a mirror. Similar effects had been achieved in Delft by the short-lived Rembrandt disciple Carel Fabritius (1622–1654), who is often credited with encouraging Vermeer's later perspective skills. However, Vermeer's mature interest in naturalistic effects, his carefully balanced compositions, and his domestic subjects derive from numerous sources in Delft and the south Holland area. As the painter worked on a picture, the world of art was constantly tested against direct observation. Vermeer was intensely preoccupied with the behavior of light and other optical effects such as sudden recessions and changes of focus. These qualities in Vermeer's work may have been inspired by an interest in the camera obscura (which projects actual images), but its importance to the artist has been greatly exaggerated. His compositions are mostly invented and exhibit the most discriminating formal relationships, including those of color. In addition, Vermeer's application of paint reveals extraordinary technical ability and time-consuming care.

In his best works, these qualities suit the subject matter exceedingly well. Vermeer idealized a domestic world occupied (if not animated) mostly by women, whose postures, behavior, and in some cases expressions suggest close study and sympathy (in this the artist resembles Gerard ter Borch, the Younger, whose work he knew). He often suggests some connection between a figure and the viewer, subtly casting the latter in the role of a spellbound voyeur. (Read more.)

A Feminist Against Abortion

From CNN:
Polls taken since the Roe v Wade decision routinely show women in favor of abortion restrictions, and in slightly greater numbers than men. But how can this be? How can any woman want to scale back on the abortion license given them by the U.S. Supreme Court 42 years ago?
As a one-time abortion rights supporter, I well know the temptation to see the right to abortion as a representation of women's equality. After all, bearing an unexpected child would seem to interrupt a woman's ability to design her own future according to her own goals and ambitions. More poignantly, bearing a child while in poverty or while already overwhelmed by caregiving for other children, or perhaps while experiencing health risks, reeks of an injustice known to women alone. 

Abortion would seem to provide women with a practical response to the disproportionate responsibility sexual intercourse can lay at our feet. 

But abortion, which is often the assumed solution to unexpected pregnancy in our culture, attempts to cure that sexual asymmetry: the biological fact that women get pregnant and men don't. It does this by putting the responsibility to care for — or dispense with — the life of a nascent, developing human being on women alone. 

Abortion expects nothing more of men, nothing more of medicine, and nothing more of society at large. Abortion betrays women by having us believe that we must become like men — that is, not pregnant — to achieve parity with them, professionally, socially, educationally. And if we are poor, overwhelmed or abandoned by the child's father, or if medical expenses would be too great for us or for our child, social "responsibility" requires us to rid ourselves of our own offspring.

Today's feminists cheer us on. Is this really the equality we were looking for 42 years ago?

I think most women want to see a culture that respects and honors women not only for the myriad talents we bring as individuals to our professions, our communities and our country. Women also want to live in a society that, at the very same time, cherishes our shared, and indeed, wondrous capacity to bear new human life. We want to be respected for the work we do as mothers.

What about a culture where women's childbearing capacity is recognized not as an impediment to our social status and certainly not as the be-all and end-all of women's capacities as it once was, but as that which calls upon all persons in society to show a bit of gratitude? Rather than structure society around the wombless, unencumbered male, ought not society be structured around those who, in addition to being able to do all that men can do, can also bear new human life? 

Such a cultural restructuring in support of caregiving — one that pro-life feminists seek — would benefit this generation's fathers as well. Many men today would prefer to dedicate far more time and attention to their children than fathers of prior generations did, or could. Pro-woman, pro-child, pro-family policies would enable just that.

Not all women become mothers, but those who do so depend upon a cultural esteeming of both pregnancy and motherhood for their social and professional support. When we belittle the developing child in the womb, a scientific reality that most pro-choice advocates have come to admit, we belittle and distort that child's mother. We make her out to be one with property rights over her developing unborn child (much as husbands once had property rights over their wives). 

We give her the inhumane (but for 42 years, constitutionally protected) right to decide the fate of another human being, of a vulnerable child — her child — to whom she properly owes an affirmative duty of care. We do all this rather than offering her the myriad familial and social supports she needs, whatever her situation, and cherishing her role in the miracle of human life. 

But we live in a time when to speak of that miracle or of the biological differences between the sexes seems quaint, as though we have now gotten beyond sex in the brave new world of "gender fluidity." It seems an effort to erase the notion of moms and dads --as though to do so would be a boon to progress, as though society would finally be free of those old, deterministic categories of male and female. 

But here's the rub: We can pretend sex differences do not exist, but it is women who bear the burden when we do so. Both men and women have sex but it is the woman who becomes pregnant, the woman who must either find ways to courageously and sacrificially care and nurture the developing child in her womb, or who must do the unthinkable and end her own child's life. Men can have sex and walk away, and with the right Roe gave them, they increasingly do. 

It is time to admit the truth about sexual difference — this beautiful, wondrous truth — and shape society to prioritize care for those who care for the most vulnerable. And it is time to demand more, far more, of men. (Read more.)

Bad for the Brain

From The Guardian:
Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.

Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens. The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: the very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted. We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks.

In the old days, if the phone rang and we were busy, we either didn’t answer or we turned the ringer off. When all phones were wired to a wall, there was no expectation of being able to reach us at all times – one might have gone out for a walk or been between places – and so if someone couldn’t reach you (or you didn’t feel like being reached), it was considered normal. Now more people have mobile phones than have toilets. This has created an implicit expectation that you should be able to reach someone when it is convenient for you, regardless of whether it is convenient for them. This expectation is so ingrained that people in meetings routinely answer their mobile phones to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk now, I’m in a meeting.” Just a decade or two ago, those same people would have let a landline on their desk go unanswered during a meeting, so different were the expectations for reachability. (Read more.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tea Dress, 1920's

A cream, lace tea dress from the 1920's. Via Tiny-Librarian. I remember my grandmother describing a similar dress that she wore as a young girl in the Philippines. Share

Murder in Mississippi

From PBS:
On June 21, 1964, three young men disappeared near the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael (Mickey) Schwerner and James Chaney worked for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in nearby Meridian; Andrew Goodman was one of the hundreds of college students from across the country who volunteered to work on voter registration, education, and Civil Rights as part of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. The three men believed their work was necessary, but also dangerous: Ku Klux Klan membership in Mississippi was soaring in 1964 -- with membership reaching more than 10,000.

The Klan was prepared to use violence to fight the Civil Rights movement; on April 24 the group offered a demonstration of its power, staging 61 simultaneous cross burnings throughout the state. (Read more.)

Hope in a Tragic World

From A.K. Frailey:
Though I do not shy away from the reality of grief and tragedy – it is all to real to ignore – I do carry hope with me where ever I go.  I am not in a state of despair.  When I read or even look at the covers of some of the popular books out today, despair seems to be a current theme.  That is why I write about men and women who, though faced with tremendous challenges, do not despair.  You can pretty much count on the fact that though not everything turns out happily for everyone in my novels – there is some breathing room for hope.  There must be or why are we here?

In my estimation, good literature has a duty not to sell itself to the most profitable market place but to reflect some element of human truth.  Not necessarily to judge it or define it, but to reflect it.  As I write, I cannot help but reflect the forces which molded me from my youth and though my life has not been sheltered from tragedy – I must also reflect the heroic, the strong, the valiant, the beautiful, and the good that lives in our world.  All is not evil and the bad in my life will not rule me in the end. That is a choice I make and a creed I live by. (Read more.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen

Here lieth the fresh flower of Plantagenet,
Here lieth the white rose in the red set...
God grant her now Heaven to increase
And our own King Harry long life and peace.
― Epitaph for Elizabeth of York, Queen of England
 Elizabeth of York is a biography which moved me deeply on three levels: intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Firstly, let me say that author Alison Weir offers the results of her research, gives her opinion, but ultimately leaves it to the readers to draw their own conclusions, which is what every good biographer should do. Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and wife of Henry VII, is a difficult subject because there are meager extant primary source materials which deal directly with her. It is from the royal account books, a scant number of letters, some royal decrees and a few volumes of prayer and poetry, that Weir built a portrait of a queen who was immensely loved by the English people from her birth until her untimely demise at age 37. Greatly beloved as well by her husband, children, siblings, and attendants, she had few enemies in life and was profoundly mourned in death. She was considered by her generation and the generations that immediately followed to be a model queen: pious, fruitful, chaste, faithful, and generous.Yet I doubt that it was for those qualities alone that she was loved. The fact that she was adored by the common people tells me that she possessed something of her father's immense charm, humor and common touch, plus she helped them in their hour of need whenever she was able. The fact that she was loved by her stingy and paranoid husband, who did everything he could to neutralize the political threat that she presented as being true heir to the throne, shows that she was not only a merry companion but a prudent spouse and helpmate. Not to mention her almost legendary beauty, inherited from both sides of the family, but most especially from her mother, the ravishing Elizabeth Woodville.

On an intellectual level I learned a great deal about the era from Weir's book. I suggest reading the biography of Elizabeth in conjunction with Thomas Penn's masterful biography of Henry VII, The Winter King. Penn's work covers more of the political side of the first Tudor reign, especially Henry VII's methods of squeezing taxes out of his people, making himself one of the richest kings in Christendom. Henry's henchmen were especially venal, falsely accusing innocent people of ghastly crimes and then forcing them to pay exorbitant sums to avoid prosecution. Neither rich nor poor, not noble or peasant or merchant, could escape the system of spies and lackeys who made up Henry's network of oppression. Weir hints at Henry's dark side but otherwise avoids the topic, focusing on Elizabeth, whom Henry tried to keep out of politics as much as possible. 

In Elizabeth of York we are treated to detailed descriptions of pageants, tournaments, glorious religious ceremonies, lavish banquets, magnificent architecture in the form of chapels, shrines and palaces and, most of all, acres and acres of luxurious cloth for Elizabeth's gowns, decor, and sundry domestic uses. Some readers may find the detailed statistics of Elizabeth and Henry's household accounts boring but I was fascinated by the glimpse into the ordinary aspects of their daily life. I loved becoming acquainted with the various castles where the royal family stayed and, most of all, I enjoyed getting to know Elizabeth's family a bit better, her parents, her brothers and sisters, her children, her cousins and in-laws and even Henry.

On an emotional level the story is heartrending, for amid the pageantry and glamor, Elizabeth's life was fraught with tragedy. Even her fairy tale upbringing as the beloved eldest daughter of Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, in which she was betrothed to the French Dauphin and reared to be Queen of France, was riddled with insecurities due to the Wars of the Roses. Her father's premature death in 1483 left her family exposed and vulnerable, leading to the accession of her uncle as Richard III, and the disappearance of her two younger brothers within the confines of the Tower of London. What followed was the most bizarre episode of Elizabeth's life. After she and her siblings had been declared illegitimate, and her brothers Edward V and young Richard Duke of York had vanished, she was invited to Richard III's court. It seems Richard behaved in such a way towards Elizabeth that people thought he meant to marry her. After the death of his wife Anne Neville, Weir maintains that Elizabeth was hoping to marry Richard as well, even though she had been sent away from court to avoid scandal. In a mysterious letter from Elizabeth to the Duke of Norfolk she describes Richard III as her "only joy and maker in the world" as she begs the Duke to help her to marry the king. (p.137) 

People have condemned Elizabeth for scheming to marry the murderer of her brothers but perhaps she had reason to believe Richard had not killed them. She also had to save her sisters' futures since they had all been disinherited. Furthermore, she may have nourished a desperate teenage infatuation for him. At any rate, it was found in a book of romances which Richard III had given her, that under his name she wrote her own, along with the motto Sans removyr, "without changing." (p.138) Whatever her true feelings for Richard might have been, he died at Bosworth on August 22, 1485. Elizabeth went on to marry Henry Tudor, the victor.

Henry appeared to punish Elizabeth by not marrying her right away but leaving her in limbo for months. When he did wed her, he did not crown her until after she had borne a prince. He wanted to impress upon everyone that he was king in his own right, not because he had married King Edward's daughter. Elizabeth was forced to cooperate; she had her mother, grandmother and sisters to think of and if she went down, they all went down with her. Not to mention her first cousins, the Clarence children, Margaret and George. As it was, little George was slapped into prison by Henry where he was later killed. Margaret survived, was married off, only to be martyred as an old woman by Henry VIII.

Henry and Elizabeth appeared to be a fond and united pair in public, where he demanded that she be regally garbed to fit her role. Elizabeth was exceedingly generous to the poor and the number of her charities and grants are impressive. Privately, however, Weir points out that the account books show that Henry did not give Elizabeth enough funds to run her household. Although careful with money, she was often in debt and had to borrow money from her sisters and her servants. In order to fund Elizabeth, Henry stripped her widowed mother, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, of all of her property and banished her to dreary Bermondsey Abbey, where she died. At her own request, the late queen was merely wrapped in a shroud and dumped without ceremony next to her husband Edward IV in his tomb at Windsor. Some speculate that Henry mistreated Elizabeth Woodville because she was intriguing with the pretender Lambert Simnel, but I think he was just mean, and wanted to punish his wife by punishing her mother. Being a self-made man, he was probably jealous of Elizabeth's previous life of privilege and wanted to hurt her. Weir repeatedly emphasizes that Henry and Elizabeth came to genuinely love each other, which may be true, but there were obviously many unresolved issues that haunted them as a couple.

Elizabeth and Henry had seven children, four of whom died young. The death of the Arthur, Prince of Wales, five months after his marriage to the Infanta Katherine of Aragon, was a blow from which neither Henry nor Elizabeth ever recovered. Henry had also killed Elizabeth's cousin George and had one of her brothers-in-law thrown in prison. I think it all contributed to Elizabeth's inner suffering and stress, weakening her health.

I found the biography to be inspiring on a spiritual level as well. From earliest child hood, Elizabeth was carefully taught and trained in the practice of her Catholic Faith, being taken to Mass every day and learning to pray the Divine Office. As a little girl she was instilled with a great devotion to Mary which she nourished throughout her life by private devotions and by frequenting the many Marian shrines throughout the kingdom. Elizabeth saw being a queen as participating in the Queenship of the Mother of God. Her accounts show that she was constantly giving gifts to people of every estate, especially those who petitioned her. On the other hand, she was a recipient of gifts from the people, who would send her fruits and preserves (she appeared to have a fondness for cherries), game, wine, cloth, crafts, works of art, books, and anything else that they thought she could use. It seems Elizabeth made herself accessible to the people; she seriously considered their petitions and took the role of intercessor on the behalf of the multitudes. As a young woman she was referred to in a ballad as "Lady Bessy" which shows a certain fond familiarity. (p.145) Many tolerated Henry only because of Elizabeth, and loved her children because they were hers. She was Queen of Hearts, and it is claimed that the playing card is based upon Elizabeth of York.

After the sudden death of her eldest son Prince Arthur, Elizabeth's health began to fail. In spite of her poor health and her last pregnancy, Elizabeth spent the final months of her life traveling around England, praying at  various shrines, as well as visiting her Plantagenet sisters and cousins. Weir thinks it might have been because she had finally had a falling out with Henry. (p. 389) It might also be supposed that she was unsettled by the recent confession of James Tyrell, under torture, that he had murdered her brothers at Richard III's command. (p.389) Even though an astrologer had prophesied that she would live to be ninety, it could be that she had a premonition of her own imminent passing. Elizabeth died on her 37th birthday, February 11, 1503, from complications due to childbirth. Her baby Katherine followed her in death. Henry VII had a complete collapse and became a near recluse, so in a way her surviving children, Henry, Margaret and Mary, lost both parents. The future Henry VIII never recovered from losing his beloved mother. Upon the hearing of the death of Elizabeth, Queen Isabel of Castile, who had corresponded with her, wrote to the the Spanish ambassador in England that he was to offer consolation to King Henry, who was "suffering the loss of the Queen his wife, who is in glory." (p.417)

The most tragic and bitter theme that occurs repeatedly throughout the book are in the descriptions of the beautiful shrines and chapels so loved by Elizabeth and endowed by either herself or her husband. Within the next fifty years  they were to be destroyed by her son Henry VIII. One can almost be relieved that Elizabeth did not live to be ninety so she did not have to see the destruction of the symbols of her Faith, a Faith which carried her through a tumultuous era and which she valued more than life itself.


Pope Francis and the Liberal Media

From Crisis:
In the Philippines last week, Francis stated unequivocally that the family is being threatened by relativistic “powerful forces” that are looking to “disfigure God’s plan for creation” and to “redefine the very institution of marriage.” He denounced what he called the “ideological colonization of the family.” To cite the larger quotation reported by Catholic News Agency, the pope warned against increasing efforts “to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” and against “powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”

Bear in mind, when this particular pope speaks of “powerful forces,” he is very likely including what he considers satanic ones.

In short, Francis was clearly referring to the most obvious attempt to redefine marriage: same-sex “marriage.” This was understood even by the liberal, secular, mainstream media. Here are just a few examples:

MSNBC ran the headline, “Pope Francis suggests gay marriage threatens traditional families.” Its opening line stated: “In a reference to gay marriage, Pope Francis on Friday warned against an ideological colonization of the family.”

Reuters opened with this: “Pope Francis on Friday warned against an ‘ideological colonization of the family,’ a reference to gay marriage around the world.”

The UK’s left-leaning Independent likewise had no trouble interpreting the pontiff’s words, running the headline, “Pope Francis warns that same-sex marriage ‘threatens the family’ and ‘disfigures God’s plan for creation.’” Of course, Francis never used the words “same-sex marriage,” but there’s no question what he meant, and the Independent knew it.

Reporter Ben Smith at The Daily Signal wrote that “the pope reaffirmed his commitment to traditional marriage, speaking to the crowd about his concern for the ‘ideological colonization of the family,’ which many took as a swipe at gay marriage. The Vatican later confirmed that marriage was on the pope’s mind.” Smith concluded his piece: “Last October, during the Synod of bishops, many progressive church-watchers were hopeful for a more liberal church. They believed Francis would support friendlier language toward gays.”

Of course, it’s typical of liberalism that one cannot be seen as “friendly” toward gays unless accepting the entire gay agenda on marriage, and thereby rejecting one’s Church’s sacred teachings. Such is the binary, simple universe of the liberal mind, never as nuanced and sophisticated as prideful liberals insist. (Read more.)

Six Books in One

A sixteenth century masterpiece. To quote:
Sure, the Amazon Kindle might have dynamic font adjustments, and it can hold thousands of books, but can it do this? Printed in the late 16th century this small book from the National Library of Sweden is an example of sixfold dos-à-dos binding, where six books are conjoined into a single publication but can be read individually with the help of six perfectly placed clasps. This particular book was printed in Germany and like almost all books at the time is a religious devotional text. The National Library of Sweden has a fantastic photo collection of historical and rare books where you can find many more gems like this, and this, and this. (Read more.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Cashmere Gown, 1811

"Coiffure without Headdress adorned with Pearls. Cashmere Gown." - Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1811
Via Vive la Reine. Share

The Perils of Hypochondria

From Jonah Goldberg in The National Review:
What drives me crazy is when rich liberal single parents think they have legs to stand on when speaking on behalf of low-income single parents. I certainly understand the defensiveness, and no doubt they have some shared experiences. But the most infuriating problem with elite culture is its refusal to understand that it can afford its sins — or if you prefer something more secular, its mistakes.
People with lots of financial and social capital can afford to make bad choices that would be devastating for others. Rich single parents can afford nannies and tutors and play groups and summer camps. And parenting is only one aspect of it. The elite can afford rehab. If they get a DUI, they can afford a good lawyer. If they lose their license, they can take Uber. In terms of social capital, they get second and third chances from judges, schools, employers, landlords, et al.

When Hillary Clinton & Co. talk about how “it takes a village to raise a child” they’re invoking wisdom from what P. J. O’Rourke called the “ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia” to make the case for vast new federal bureaucracies, taxes, programs, regulations, etc. But the phrase itself contains a lot of truth. Unlike bureaucrats in Washington, neighbors, teachers, pastors, coaches, coworkers, and friends can help raise your kids, in ways large and small. Real communities involve extended networks of trust and goodwill. Fake communities have regulations, fees, subsidies, and checklists.

It is perhaps liberalism’s most grating rhetorical trick: deliberately conflating small and important truths about local community and family with large new federal initiatives. This bait-and-switch is the very heart of Obamaism. Obama talks about unity and community as if they have anything — and everything! — to do with initiatives from Washington. Remember when he explained why we need to raise taxes? Because it would be “neighborly.” The “Life of Julia” was nothing more than an argument for the federal government to replace the functions once performed by family and community. His most recent push to make community college “free” while raising taxes on college-savings plans perfectly illustrates his hostility to the idea that other institutions should take the lead instead of the federal government. (Read more.)

The Real Thomas Cromwell

The portrayal of Cromwell in Wolf Hall is pure fantasy. In real life he was a fanatical vandal of religious art. As for the portrayal of St. Thomas More, it is an anathema. From The Telegraph:
The UK's current primetime TV fantasy blockbuster du jour is Wolf Hall. Everyone loves a costume drama, but there is a world of difference between fictional history and historical fiction. One dramatizes real people and events. The other is an entirely made-up story set in the past. The current tendency is to blur the two, which Wolf Hall does spectacularly. 
Thomas Cromwell, whose life it chronicles, comes across as a plucky, self-made Englishman, whose quiet reserve suggests inner strength and personal nobility. Back in the real world, Cromwell was a “ruffian” (in his own words) turned sectarian extremist, whose religious vandalism bears striking comparison with the iconoclasm of Islamic State or the Afghani Taliban.
Thanks to Wolf Hall, more people have now heard of Thomas Cromwell, and this is a good thing. But underneath its fictionalized portrayal of Henry VIII’s chief enforcer, there is a historical man, and he is one whose record for murder, looting, and destruction ought to have us apoplectic with rage, not reaching for the popcorn.
Historians rarely agree on details, so a lot about Cromwell’s inner life is still up for debate. But it is a truly tough job finding anything heroic in the man’s legacy of brutality and naked ambition.

Against a backdrop of Henry VIII’s marital strife, the pathologically ambitious Cromwell single-handedly masterminded the break with Rome in order to hand Henry the Church, with its all-important control of divorce and marriage. There were, to be sure, small pockets of Protestantism in England at the time, but any attempt to cast Cromwell’s despotic actions as sincere theological reform are hopeless. Cromwell himself had minimal truck with religious belief. He loved politics, money, and power, and the reformers could give them to him.

Flushed with the success of engineering Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, Cromwell moved on to confiscating the Church’s money. Before long, he was dissolving monasteries as fast as he could, which meant seizing anything that was not nailed down and keeping it for himself, for Henry, and for their circle of friends. It was the biggest land-grab and asset-strip in English history, and Cromwell sat at the centre of the operation, at the heart of a widely-loathed, absolutist, and tyrannical regime. When Anne Boleyn pointed out that the money should be going to charity or good works, he fitted her up on charges of adultery, and watched as she was beheaded.

As an adviser to Henry, Cromwell could have attempted to guide the hot-headed king, to tame his wilder ambitions, counsel him in patience, uphold the many freedoms enjoyed by his subjects. But Cromwell had no interest in moderation. He made all Henry’s dreams come true, riding roughshod over the law of the land and whoever got in his way. For instance, we are hearing a lot about Magna Carta this year, but Cromwell had no time for tedious trials and judgement by peers. With lazy strokes of his pen, he condemned royalty, nobles, peasants, nuns, and monks to horrific summary executions. We are not talking half a dozen. He dispatched hundreds under his highly politicised “treason” laws. (When his own time came and the tables had turned, he pleaded to Henry: “Most gracyous prynce I crye for mercye mercye mercye.” But he was given all the mercy he had shown others.)

And then there is his impact on this country’s artistic and intellectual heritage. No one can be sure of the exact figure, but it is estimated that the destruction started and legalised by Cromwell amounted to 97% of the English art then in existence. Statues were hacked down. Frescoes were smashed to bits. Mosaics were pulverized. Illuminated manuscripts were shredded. Wooden carvings were burned. Precious metalwork was melted down. Shrines were reduced to rubble. This vandalism went way beyond a religious reform. It was a frenzy, obliterating the artistic patrimony of centuries of indigenous craftsmanship with an intensity of hatred for imagery and depicting the divine that has strong and resonant parallels today. (Read more.)
Via Joshua Snyder. Share

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Wedding of Prince Alfred and the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna

Their wedding was referred to in a recent episode of Downton Abbey. They were the parents of Queen Marie of Romania and her sisters. Via Tiny-Librarian.

From teatimeatwinterpalace:
 January 23, 1874 – Wedding of Prince Alfred & Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna
Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred was determined to make the grand duchess his wife and serious negotiations began. However by then the only seventeen years old, the grand duchess wasn’t enthused about leaving Russia. Nor were her parents keen on seeing their daughter leave the family nest. When Prince Alfred met Tsar Alexander II in 1871 in Germany, the suitor found his father-in-law hesitant. In a letter to Queen Victoria, Alexander II wrote :
"Your praises for our daughter, flattered us a great deal, but [Alfred] has surely told you, Madam, that while not in any way opposing a union between our two families, we have made it a principle never to impose our will upon our children as regards their marriages. Although speaking to him of a term of one year before taking any definitive decision, we expressly declared that neither he nor we would consider ourselves bound in any way, neither before nor after, and he seemed to understand this perfectly. » Queen Victoria was also against the idea that the couple live in Russia. This was simply out of the question and something Victoria declared she could « never consent to."
Hence the projected marriage between the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia and Prince Alfred was delayed. However by the time Marie Alexandrovna was twenty, family life in Russia was no longer blissful. Her father’s acknowledged mistress bore him a son, which created a rift between Alexander II, his wife, and their children. With such a fractious family life in Russia, Marie began warming to the thought of making a future with Prince Alfred abroad.
And so by the beginning of 1873, negotiations were again underway for the marriage. In April 1873, Alfred visited the tsarina and Marie in Sorrento, Italy, to renew his appeal. This meeting was not a great success Alfred had hoped for, as his intended bride fell ill with fever. Even more disappointing, his official engagement did not materialize. Alfred’s sister Alice, who accompanied him, reported to Queen Victoria about « poor Alfred. He is very patient and hopeful. » 
With her parents’ marriage in tatters, Marie’s thoughts clung to a happy future as Prince Alfred’s wife. In June 1873, her dearest wish occurred with the announcement of the official engagement. The joyful prospective bride wrote to an aunt : « I know that you will be glad to know how much I love Alfred and how happy I am to belong to him. I feel that my love for him is growing daily; I have a feeling of peace and of inexpressible happiness, and a boundless impatience to be altogether his own.»

The wedding took place at St. Petersburg on January 23, 1874 and consisted of two religious ceremonies – Orthodox and Anglican. On her wedding day the grand duchess looked «very pale but sweet and earnest and calmly happy». Marie was dressed as was customary, in the regal finery of a Russian imperial bride, in a gown that trailed off a silver train with an ermine-trimmed purple mantle. On her head she wore a glimmering crown as well as a fabulous tiara embedded with a magnificent pink diamond. Alexander II was so overcome with emotion that at the end of the wedding ceremonies the bride’s father commented resignedly : « It is for her happiness, but the light of my life is gone (Read more.)

The Making of 'American Sniper'

From The Hollywood Reporter:
Jason Hall's first meeting with Chris Kyle didn't start out so well. The screenwriter flew from Los Angeles to Texas in 2010 to meet the ex-Navy SEAL at the Barefoot Ranch near Dallas, where Kyle was drinking with a bunch of Texas Rangers. "It was a rough room to walk into," recalls Hall, 41. "I don't drink, so I didn't fit in very well."

Hall did, however, wrestle — or at least had in college. And after a good-natured grappling in the dining-room bar that ended with one of the Rangers on the floor, the atmosphere grew noticeably warmer. It was, in fact, the beginning of a beautiful, if somewhat awkward, friendship, a partnership between a Hollywood actor turned screenwriter (Hall started his career with a recurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then went on to pen films such as Spread and Paranoia) and the U.S. military's most deadly sharpshooter, a hardened veteran of two Iraq wars with 160 confirmed kills. And it's a friendship made all the more poignant by Kyle's shocking murder two years ago, at age 38 — he was shot at a Texas gun range on Feb. 2, 2013, by a mentally ill Iraq War veteran whom Kyle had been trying to counsel ­— along with the Christmas Day release of American Sniper, the film about Kyle that Hall spent four years laboring to get in theaters. Hall's script, as filmed by Clint Eastwood with Bradley Cooper in the starring role, has become something of a cinematic Rorschach test. To some, it's a patriotic trumpet call. To others, a disturbing anti-war statement. But whatever else it may be, American Sniper is at least in part one friend's eulogy for another.

"I had come to love the guy," says Hall, his voice cracking with emotion as he recalls his last communication with Kyle, the day before his murder. "I was ready to turn in the first draft of the script on Feb. 1, so I texted him. He replied, 'Good luck. I hope you work again.' " (Read more.)

Mages of the Renaissance

Author Nancy Bilyeau discusses the Renaissance fascination with occult phenomena. To quote:
In 1555, the first of Nostradmus's collections of prophecies foretelling the history of the world were published. The Queen of France, Catherine de Medici, who has gone down in history as a conniver and a poisoner, was also a passionate supporter of the arts, particularly architecture, and like other Renaissance patrons, was intrigued by prophecy. Many 16th century seers studied the philosophy of the ancient Greeks (as well as the Kabbalah and Arabic texts). The Queen summoned Nostradamus to the French court, and he advised her, on and off, until his death in 1566. (Read more.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Seductress or Scholar?

Historian Leandra de Lisle discusses the real Anne Boleyn:
Who was the real Anne Boleyn? In the film Anne of a Thousand Days, she is the brave girl who loves a king. In the novel The Other Boleyn Girl she is the fallen woman, her brother’s lover. Now we are to meet the Anne Boleyn of the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Vindictive, calculating and political, this Anne sets out to marry Henry VIII and to destroy his heroic servant, Thomas Cromwell. 

The historical Anne was born the daughter of the prominent courtier, Sir Thomas Boleyn. But we don’t know exactly when, and much else about her is lost in myth. After Anne’s execution for treason, Henry VIII’s subjects didn’t keep pictures of the fallen queen, and the only contemporary image of her that survives is on a coin so damaged you cannot see the middle of her face.

The paintings of Anne we know – the most famous being that of her wearing a necklace adorned with a “B” – were painted after both Anne and Henry were dead. The woman in that particular picture may not even be Anne. In her lifetime she used “A”, for Anne, as a cipher – not “B” for Boleyn. It could equally be a picture of a Belinda or a Beryl.

The contemporary descriptions of what Anne looked like are, however, vivid. She was not beautiful. Her skin was sallow, as was that of her daughter Elizabeth, who made her face white with make-up. Anne’s nose was also rather large, but she was chic, with black eyes she used to great effect. It was said that they could “read the secrets of a man’s heart”. Educated in the courts of Burgundy and France, Anne was an expert in the art of courtly flirtation. But it is wrong to suggest that she set out to capture the king. When he fell in love with her in 1526, Henry had ended an affair with Anne’s sister Mary, who had been married off to a gentleman.

It was a pattern the king had followed with mistresses before. Anne, who had already attracted the attentions of many high-born suitors, was disinterested. She resisted Henry’s attentions in the hope that he would move on, but her behaviour appealed to his love of chivalric romances and their unobtainable heroines.

In any case, at this stage in his life, Henry needed a wife, not a mistress. The queen, Katherine of Aragon, could not give him a son and heir, and Anne was a possible replacement. While Henry did not approve of divorce and was therefore reluctant to leave Katherine, he could argue that his marriage to her was invalid. She was his brother’s widow and this, he claimed, broke an inviolable biblical injunction against marrying your brother’s wife. The Pope disagreed. 

The arguments with Rome went on for years and Anne was stuck. No courtiers would take on the king as a romantic rival. She would either marry Henry soon, or end up barren and unwed. But Anne was fiercely intelligent and resourceful, and she looked for solutions in the movements for religious reform that were sweeping Europe at the time. Contrary to myth, Anne was never a Protestant. But she fed Henry with selected readings that supported the view that kings had rightful authority over the church. Henry already associated himself with King Arthur, whom, he believed, had wielded an imperial power over the English church, as well as the state. He became convinced the papacy had usurped this power.
In 1533, Henry finally broke with Rome and had his marriage to Katherine annulled. The already-pregnant Anne was now his queen. But Katherine remained much-loved, and women in particular resented Henry’s abandonment of his first queen. Anne acquired a new reputation as a “goggle-eyed whore”. (Read more.)

On the Fourth World War

An interview with Andrey Illarionov, former adviser to Vladimir Putin on TV Republika in Poland. From Smolensk Crash News Digest:
On December 1, 2014, Andrey Illarionov, former advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and one of the foremost experts on contemporary Russian politics, gave an interview to the Polish TV Republika network.

In his interview with TVR's Michal Rachon, Illarionov notes that the current political situation should not be viewed as a "[new] Cold War that we had sometime ago", nor "Cold War II", but rather, it is an extension of Russia's current new Imperial Policy, described by the Kremlin's insiders as "IV World War". (Read more.)

Giving Up on Marriage

From Life Site:
Fewer young men in the US want to get married than ever, while the desire for marriage is rising among young women, according to the Pew Research Center. Pew recently found that the number of women 18-34 saying that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things rose from 28 percent to 37 percent since 1997. The number of young adult men saying the same thing dropped from 35 percent to 29 percent in the same time. Pew’s findings have caught the attention of one US writer who maintains that feminism, deeply entrenched in every segment of the culture, has created an environment in which young men find it more beneficial to simply opt out of couple-dom entirely.

Suzanne Venker’s article, “The War on Men,” which appeared on the website of Fox News in late November, has become a lodestone for feminist writers who have attacked her position that the institution of marriage is threatened, not enhanced, by the supposed gains of the feminist movement over the last 50 years.
“Where have all the good (meaning marriageable) men gone?” is a question much talked about lately in the secular media, Venker says, but her answer, backed up by statistics, is not to the liking of mainstream commentators influenced by feminism.

She points out that for the first time in US history, the number of women in the workforce has surpassed the number of men, while more women than men are acquiring university degrees.

“The problem? This new phenomenon has changed the dance between men and women,” Venker wrote. With feminism pushing them out of their traditional role of breadwinner, protector and provider – and divorce laws increasingly creating a dangerously precarious financial prospect for the men cut loose from marriage – men are simply no longer finding any benefit in it.

As a writer and researcher into the trends of marriage and relationships, Venker said, she has “accidentally stumbled upon a subculture” of men who say “in no uncertain terms, that they’re never getting married.”

“When I ask them why, the answer is always the same: women aren’t women anymore.” Feminism, which teaches women to think of men as the enemy, has made women “angry” and “defensive, though often unknowingly.”

“Now the men have nowhere to go. It is precisely this dynamic – women good/men bad – that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes. Yet somehow, men are still to blame when love goes awry.”

“Men are tired,” Venker wrote. “Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.” (Read more.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Young Maria Theresa as Queen of Hungary

From Tiny-Librarian. To quote:
In this painting, we see Maria Theresa as the queen of Hungary, although not in the Hungarian attire typical in such a depiction. Instead, she wears a white silk, royal gown decorated with embroidery. Draped around her in large billows and folds is a gold brocade cloak with ermine fur lining. Only the Hungarian crown on the pillow and the other regalia indicate she is the ruler of Hungary. This unusual representation can be explained, however, by the outlines of the archducal crown and its more finally executed details discovered under the Hungarian crown during restoration and cleaning. The first version of the portrait was intended to show Maria Theresa as the heir to the throne, with the archducal crown, and may have been made in the years before the coronation in 1741. Her coronation as queen of Hungary provided an opportunity to repaint the work. This magnificent painting by an unknown Viennese painter from the circle of Johann Gottfired Auerbach is not only a superb representative of the art form, but awes us with its natural elegance. (Read more.)

The Secret to Successful Entertaining

From The Catholic Table:
Entertaining isn’t about us; it’s about the people we invite into our homes. Nor is entertaining about impressing people; rather, it’s about loving people.

In other words, the reason we invite friends and coworkers over for dinner isn’t to show off our immaculate baseboards and crystal wine glasses. It’s to laugh with them, tell stories with them, and get to know them better. It’s to strengthen old friendships and forge new ones. It is, ultimately, to show people that they matter, that they’re important, and that they’re worthy of being known and loved.

As Christians, doing that kind of entertaining isn’t optional. It’s called hospitality, and it’s something God expects all His children to do. He expects us to open the doors of our homes and invite people in so that through our love they can experience just a hint of His Love.

Doing that doesn’t demand throwing grand dinner parties in Pinterest inspired homes. In fact, it often demands just the opposite. It demands treating the people who come to us as if they’re part of our family—letting them see the mess, the chaos, and the reality of us.

Hospitality demands that because if we don’t let people see us—who we really are—there can be no real friendship. There can be no real intimacy. Intimacy requires knowledge. It flows from seeing the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. It goes part and parcel with the dust bunnies, the chipped dishes, and the toddler decorating the dining room with Macaroni & Cheese. (Read more.)

Men and Beauty

From Crisis:
A third reason for beauty’s importance in male formation is that it reveals and brings to life another level of existence beyond mere survival—this being the spiritual domain. Man is not a mere brute. Animals eat, drink, and sleep to live, and pretty much live to eat, drink, and sleep. The caveman of old, on the other hand, though having much of his time consumed with procuring the necessities of life, still found time to produce works of art, such as the stunning cave paintings found in Lascaux, France. It is partly because of this drive for a more fully human life that has led to the emergence of civilizations, economies, and the division of labor. The human person is simply not satisfied with a circular existence of seeking out and procuring the necessities of life in order to merely go on seeking out and procuring the necessities of life.

This being the case, men, as the traditional providers of the family, can easily get caught up in a careerist mindset and become over-immersed in the temporal necessities of life. In addition, modern education has shifted from an emphasis on the liberal arts (a traditional venue for introducing people to the beautiful) to an often exclusive focus on career-oriented education. We are rapidly becoming a society of animals, where serving our needs and our wants is the over-arching narrative of our existence.

It is the role of beauty to shake men out of this mundane existence (or, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis when he was referring to joy, to “administer the shock”) by making them confront a reality above and far more wonderful than a life of simply existing. Ultimately, beauty is a pointer directing us to the reality of the Beatific Vision. This vision will ultimately be an experience of simply taking in the beauty and wonder of the Triune God. In an analogous sense, it is an experience like a couple who from time to time simply want to sit and gaze at each other, taking in the being of the other. Such an experience does not really have a practical or survival purpose. Still, it is experiences like this that are arguably the most fully human, and which remind us that we, as human beings, do not live by bread alone.

The practical question now arises as to how to integrate this exposure to beauty into the formation of men. This task falls partly on the men themselves, and also on those charged with the formation of boys and men (whether this formation be educational, spiritual, liturgical, or cultural). For those involved in education, this means giving the liberal arts a certain pride of place, even while also ensuring that students receive a practical, career-oriented education at the same time. Cultural formation, while acknowledging the importance of popular culture, will also entail exposure to the greatest works of the human spirt. Boys and men should also be encouraged to leave the computer, IPad, and video games behind and go out and experience the greater thrill of nature and the outdoor life. Finally, Catholic men who are preparing to be ordained to the priesthood will see it as their mission to celebrate mass in such a way as to give their congregation a glimpse of the transcendent beauty of God.

Exposure to beauty is a necessary component of the formation of men as men. As the boys and men of today are setting the stage for a disturbing future course of manhood through the proliferation violent video games and movies, pornography, consumerism, and materialism, the time has come to “administer the shock” of beauty by revealing to the world the radiance of truth and goodness. There is an element of truth to Dostoevsky’s famous line that “Beauty will save the world.” (Read more.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Habsburg Jaw

Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I
From Castles and Coffeehouses:
The Habsburgs of Austria ruled a vast empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for about 600 years.  They did not particularly care for fighting. Shrewdly, they built and maintained their empire mostly by judicious marriages.  Very often, a judicious marriage was marriage to a cousin in some other powerful part of Europe, like Spain.

As a result, the succeeding generations of the family very often displayed the famous “Habsburg jaw,” which is seen everywhere in Vienna. Did anyone consider this feature unattractive?  If they did, they may have wisely kept quiet about it. (Read more.)
King Charles II of Spain

The Death of Mrs. Wilde

From The Guardian:
The sudden death of the wife of Oscar Wilde at the tender age of 40 has long been a mystery. In the 116 years since she met her tragic end, speculative theories have ranged from spinal damage following a fall down stairs to syphilis caught from her husband. Now the mystery may have been solved.

Merlin Holland, grandson of the Irish wit and author of The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan, has unearthed medical evidence within private family letters, which has enabled a doctor to determine the likely cause of Constance’s demise.

The letters reveal symptoms nowadays associated with multiple sclerosis but apparently wrongly diagnosed by her two doctors. One resorted to dubious remedies and the other conducted a botched operation that days later claimed her life.

The letters detail symptoms that progressively robbed her of the ability to walk, riddling her body with pain and leaving her with excruciating headaches and extreme fatigue.

Although multiple sclerosis was by then certainly known within the medical profession, the seriousness of her condition went unrecognised. She turned to an unnamed German “nerve doctor”, whose eccentric treatments involved baths and electricity, and to an Italian, Luigi Maria Bossi, who believed that neurological and mental illness could be cured with gynaecological operations.

Days after Bossi undertook a gynaecological procedure – having previously conducted an operation which failed to improve her health – she lapsed into unconsciousness and died. Some 20 years after her death, he faced unrelated accusations of unethical behaviour and professional misconduct, only to be shot dead by a patient’s jealous husband.

Constance’s brother, Otho, contemplated legal action, but realised its futility. She had agreed to go under Bossi’s knife – against the advice of other doctors.

“It cost her her life,” Holland observed. “Ultimately, both Bossi and the hapless Constance met their ends tragically – he by the bullet of an assassin and she by the knife of an irresponsible surgeon.” (Read more.)
Here is an article about Oscar Wilde's conversion. To quote:
 Wilde was baptised into the Catholic Church shortly before he died. L'Osservatore Romano said that the "existential path" which the author trod "can also be seen as a long and difficult path toward that Promised Land which gives us the reason for existence, a path which led him to his conversion to Catholicism, a religion which, as he remarked in one of his more acute and paradoxical aphorisms, was 'for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do'." (Read more.)

The Future of the Church

From Vultus Christi:
“The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints” — Joseph Ratzinger, 1969.
Forty–six years ago, Father Joseph Ratzinger gave a series of conferences that were later published in book form under the title Faith and the Future (Ignatius Press). What was the future in 1969 has become the present. Joseph Ratzinger’s words are stunningly prophetic. Read them.
The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.
To put this more positively: The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality. Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial. By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened. He sees only to the extent that he has lived and suffered. If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!
How does all this affect the problem we are examining? It means that the big talk of those who prophesy a Church without God and without faith is all empty chatter. We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. Therefore, it will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. The kind of priest who is no more than a social worker can be replaced by the psychotherapist and other specialists; but but the priest who is no specialist; who does not stand on the sidelines, watching the game, giving official advice, but in the name of God places himself at the disposal of men, who is beside them in their sorrows, in their joys, in their hope and in their fear, such a priest will certainly be needed in the future.
Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge a Church that has lost much She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she loose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision . As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly she will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain — to the renewal of the nineteenth century. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. (Read more.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Captive Queen

The Captive Queen, an Elegiac Ode.
  Scarce had the night her shadowy curtain spread,
To hide the blush of eve;
Than gloomy Silence cast a solemn dread,
And Nature seem'd to grieve:
But Cynthia soon o'er half the globe
Display'd her star-bespangled robe,
Emitting forth her silver-ray
To cheer the trav'ller's lonely way,
And guide him to the social cot,
Where all his sorrows are forgot--
Oblivious slumber, with Lathaean-pow'r
Snatches the lapse of time, and rules the mid-night hour.

Mute is the warbling concert of the air--
Save the sad minstrel of the night;
Whose trilling-notes, responsive to despair,
Vibrate on Echo's rapid flight!
And, hark, what breathing groans transpierce
the solemn scene!
Ah! 'tis the mourning sorrows of a Captive-Queen!

Borne on Fancy's eagle-height,
I see her pictur'd to the sight
Immur'd within a dungeon's bloom,
Invoking Heav'n to change the doom--
Her rosy-cheeks, of crimson-hue,
Now moisten'd by Affliction's dew,
Fading, have wither'd, by a wintry blight,
And, in despair, the roses red--have chang'd to white.

Via Reading Treasure. Share

The Spirit of Antichrist

From Aleteia:
One of the fundamental principles at the heart of the Johannine Scriptures is that the Word became flesh. Jesus actually came in the flesh; we could touch our God. The true faith is incarnational. In Jesus Christ, God takes up the physical order, Justice … Truth springs up from the earth (cf Ps 85:12). God actually becomes man. The love of God and His salvation are tangible and real, not merely ideals, wishes, or hopes. Faith is about reality. This is John’s and the Holy Spirit’s insistence: that we not let this truth slip from our understanding even for a moment.

There are and have been many Gnostic and Neo-Gnostic tendencies through the centuries that seek to reduce faith to mere intellectualism, to ideas or opinions, and to remove things from the world of reality. Thus St. John and the Church have had to insist over and over again that Jesus is real, that faith is real and is about real, tangible, even material things.

When Jesus came among us, He was not content merely to speak of ideas. He did not simply advance ethical theories or set forth merely philosophical notions. He also addressed actual human behaviors, not merely by speaking of them, but by actually living them and modeling them in the flesh. Jesus demands from His followers not mere intellectual affirmations, but actually walking in His truth using our very bodies and living His teaching. We are to renounce unnecessary possessions, feed the poor, confess Him with our lips, reverence human sexuality through chaste living, accept (and even embrace) suffering—all for the sake of the kingdom.

Yes, faith is about real things, about actual concrete behaviors that involve not only what we think but also how we physically move our body through the created order, how we interact with the physical order and with one another.

Jesus also took up and made use of the physical and created order in His saving mission. Obviously He took it up in the incarnation, but He also referenced creation in many of His parables. He pointed to the lilies of the field and to the sparrow. He made paste with saliva and mud, anointed with oil, changed water to wine, laid hands on the bodies of countless individuals in healing, and took bread and wine and changed it to the Body and Blood. He took up the wood of the cross, laid down His body in suffering and death, and raised it up again on the third day. Then He took His body—His physical body—with Him to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father.

Yet despite this radical physicality seen in the Gospel and in the work of God, there remains a persistent tendency on the part of many to reduce the faith by removing it from the physical and temporal order, rendering it a merely ethical notion, an intellectualism, a set of ideas, or even mere opinion. Faith rooted in daily reality and with measurable parameters is set aside and sophistry takes place. Never mind what a person does; all that seems to matter to many is what they think about it, or what their intentions are. (Read more.)

The Pope on Large Families

From Zenit:
Motherhood and fatherhood are a gift from God, but to receive the gift, to wonder at its beauty and to make it shine in society, that is your task. Each one of your children is a unique creature that will never be repeated again in the history of humanity. When this is understood, that each one has been willed by God, one is amazed at how a child is a great miracle! A child changes life! All of us – men and women – have seen how life changes when a child arrives, it is another thing. A child is a miracle that changes life. You, boys and girls, are precisely this: each one of you is a unique fruit of love, you come from love and grow in love. You are unique, but not alone! And the fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you: the sons and daughters of a large family are more capable of fellowship from early childhood. In a world often marked by selfishness, the large family is a school of solidarity and sharing; and this attitude then becomes a benefit for the whole society. (Read more.)
Terry Nelson has some commentary on some of the Holy Father's controversial remarks. To quote:
If many faithful Catholic couples are in uncomfortable positions because the 'world' doesn't understand what the pope meant or said - what is wrong with that? Isn't the Gospel uncomfortable any way? I hope so.
Did you ever feel funny saying grace in a restaurant? Did you ever get teased for not eating meat on Friday? Haven't people suggested you could skip Mass on Sunday and holy days? Haven't you ever been ridiculed for some Catholic teaching? It goes with the territory. 
I have traditional Catholic friends who are married with lots of kids and consider it a scandal that there is a childless couple who doesn't tell everyone at donuts and coffee that they are either unable to have children or they are practicing NFP - thus, the Inquisitors assume they are contracepting or the husband may be gay. Seriously - I worked with these religious busy bodies.  They can be worse than what we complain about as anti-Catholic bigotry from the world. (Read more.)
Here is the transcript of the Holy Father's interview with reporters on the plane from Manila. It is an amazing conversation. In the following passage they are talking about the third world and the challenges to poor families there. The Pope discusses Paul VI and Humane Vitae. To quote:
 Jan Cristoph Kitzler: I would like to return for a minute to the encounter you had with families. You have spoken of ideological colonization. Would you explain a bit more the concept? You also mentioned Paul VI, speaking of the "particular causes" that are important to the pastoral care for families. Can you give an example of these particular cases and maybe say also if there is need to open the way, to have a corridor, for these particular cases?

Pope Francis: Ideological colonization. I'll give just one example that I saw myself. Twenty years ago, in 1995, a minister of education asked for a large loan to build schools for the poor. They gave it to her on the condition that in the schools there would be a book for the children of a certain level, no? It was a school book, a book prepared well, didactically, in which gender theory was taught.

This woman needed the money but that was the condition. Clever woman, she said yes and did it again and again and it went ahead like this and that's how it was achieved. This is ideological colonization.
They introduce to the people an idea that has nothing nothing to do with the nation. Yes, with groups of people, but not with the nation. And they colonize the people with an idea which changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure.

During the synod, the African bishops complained about this. Which was the same story, certain loans in exchange for certain conditions -- I say only these things that I have seen.

Why do I say ideological colonization? Because they take, they really take, they take the need of a people to seize an opportunity to enter and grow strong -- with the children. But it is not new, this. The same was done by the dictatorships of the last century. They entered with their own doctrine -- think of the Balilla (Mussolini’s fascist youth organization -- editor’s note), think of the Hitler Youth.

They colonized the people, but they wanted to do it. But how much suffering -- peoples must not lose their freedom. Each people has its own culture, its own history. Every people has its own culture.
But when conditions come imposed by imperial colonizers, they seek to make these peoples lose their own identity and make a uniformity. This is the globalization of the sphere -- all the points are equidistant from the center. And the true globalization -- I like to say this -- is not the sphere. It is important to globalize, but not like the sphere; rather, like the polyhedron. Namely that each people, every part, conserves its own identity without being ideologically colonized. These are the ideological colonizations.

There is a book, excuse me but I'll make a commercial, there is a book that maybe is a bit heavy at the beginning because it was written in 1903 in London. It is a book that at that time, the writer had seen this drama of ideological colonization and wrote in that book. It is called "The Lord of the Earth," or "The Lord of the World." One of those. The author is Benson, written in 1903. I advise you to read it. Reading it, you'll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization.

This is the first response. The second: What I want to say about Paul VI is that it is true that openness to life is the condition of the sacrament of matrimony. A man cannot give the sacrament to the woman, and the woman give it to him, if they are not in agreement on this point to be open to life. To the point that it can be proven that this or the other did not get married with this intention of being open to life, the matrimony is null. It's a cause of the annulment of the marriage, no? Openness to life, no.

Paul VI studied this, with the commission, how to help the many cases, many problems. They are important problems, that are even about love in the family, right? The everyday problems -- so many of them.

But there was something more. The refusal of Paul VI was not only to the personal problems, for which he will tell the confessors to be merciful and understand the situation and pardon. Being understanding and merciful, no? But he was watching the universal Neo-Malthusianism that was in progress. And, how do you call this Neo-Malthusianism? There is less than one percent of birth rate growth in Italy. The same in Spain. That Neo-Malthusianism that sought to control humanity on the part of the powers.

This doesn't mean that the Christian must make children "in series."

I met a woman some months ago in a parish who was pregnant with her eighth child, who had had seven C-sections. But does she want to leave the seven as orphans? This is to tempt God. I speak of responsible paternity. This is the way, a responsible paternity.

But, what I wanted to say was that Paul VI was not more antiquated, closed minded. No, he was a prophet who with this said to watch out for the Neo-Malthusianism that is coming.
This is what I wanted to say.

Christoph Schmidt: Holy Father, first of all I would like to say: Thank you very much for all the impressive moments of this week. It is the first time I accompany you, and I would like to say thank you very much. My question: you have talked about the many children in the Philippines, about your joy because there are so many children, but according to some polls the majority of Filipinos think that the huge growth of Filipino population is one of the most important reasons for the enormous poverty in the country. A Filipino woman gives birth to an average of three children in her life, and the Catholic position concerning contraception seem to be one of the few question on which a big number of people in the Philippines do not agree with the Church. What do you think about that?

Pope Francis: I think the number of three children per family that you mentioned – it makes me suffer- I think it is the number experts say is important to keep the population going. Three per couple. When this decreases, the other extreme happens, like what is happening in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners because of the fall in population. Therefore, the key word, to give you an answer, and the one the Church uses all the time, and I do too, is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood.
That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility That woman might say 'no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that -- excuse the language -- that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this. You did well to ask me this.
Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say 'God knows how to help me' and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child. (Read more.)