Thursday, December 31, 2015
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854, Wilde was baptized as an infant in an Anglican church. His mother, Jane, however, was drawn to Catholicism and would often visit Mass. When Oscar was a young child, she asked her local priest to instruct her children in the Catholic faith, though it’s unclear if she herself ever joined the Church officially.Share
Wilde, though he received some Catholic instruction, did not consider himself a Catholic growing up. While at Oxford for university studies, he started to seriously consider becoming Catholic, even becoming a priest. But he also joined the Free Masons around the same time, and commented he “would be awfully sorry to give it up if I secede from the Protestant Heresy.”
In 1877, at the age of 23, he traveled to Rome and had a meeting with Pope Pius IX that left him “speechless,” and he started reading the books of Bl. John Cardinal Newman. He is quoted as having said, the Catholic Church is “for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.” In 1878, he befriended a priest and scheduled a date on which he would be received officially into the Church. But his family was against it: his father threatened to cut off his hands if he joined. At the last minute, Wilde decided against joining.
Years later in 1895, after having achieved literary fame, he was accused of sodomy, or of having committed homosexual acts, which was illegal in England at the time. After a lengthy public trial, he was convicted and sentenced to two years of hard labor. (Read more.)
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Most westerners assume that all religions are basically alike, not just in being oriented to the divine but in what they think that divine requires. (See here for more on this.) We take Christianity, and to a great extent Judaism, as the template. As Pope Benedict told Muslims in Cameroon in 2009, “genuine religion”Share
widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason’s full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith.This describes Christianity, the religion we know, but whether it describes other religions is a question. We believe in this idea of genuine religion because we believe that God has told us certain truths through his Scriptures and his Church. Those who believe he has said other things through other sources—Muhammad would be one—may wind up with very different beliefs. They may reject the idea that reason purifies and structures religion, for example. One legitimate response to Benedict’s definition is that if this is genuine religion, Islam is not a genuine religion.
A religion might assert dogmas that lead to violence, oppression, hatred, or an unjust social order. A religion may be a crazy religion. That Islam is a religion does not mean that it is a faith and life that recognizes human dignity and leads to human flourishing. It may do so imperfectly, partly, or not at all. If it does so, it may do so for some but not everyone, for the insiders but not the outsiders.
The Second Vatican Council gave us in Nostra Aetate an optimistic description of Islam that does not answer concretely the question of what it believes and where those beliefs go. Indeed that section of the declaration begins “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems,” not Islam. “They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself,” it says, but someone might adore the one God and mishear most of what he’s said. (Read more.)
In a study published last month in the journal Sleep, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that individuals forced to awaken multiple times during the night showed a greater decline in positive mood than those forced to go to bed later. They also had less slow-wave or deep sleep, the third stage of non-rapid eye (NREM) movement sleep.Share
Research from the University of Pittsburgh has shown that the cognitive performance of elderly individuals was impaired when their sleep was disrupted, but not when they slept a shorter amount of time straight through. And a study done in Israel published last year found that a fragmented night of sleep for a full eight-hours impacted mood and attention as much as sleeping just four hours a night.
The recent Sleep study included healthy individuals without any diagnosed sleep problems. The 62 subjects were brought into the lab and randomized into three groups: a group whose sleep was repeatedly disrupted; a group whose bedtime was delayed; and a control group, said Patrick H. Finan, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study. (Read more.)
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
And here is her husband, the Duc d’Angoulême. To quote:
A tender and respectful son, an irreproachable husband, a brave soldier, he was lacking in both brilliant and solid qualities. His awkward air, his bashfulness, his myopia, his manners rather bourgeois than princely, were against him. He had nothing of the charm and grace of his father. But when one knew him, it was easy to see that he had unquestioned virtues and real worth. To Charles X. he was a most faithful subject and the best of sons. In contrast with so many heirs apparent, who openly or secretly combat the political ideas of their fathers, he was always the humble and docile supporter of the throne. The Spanish expedition brought him credit. In it he showed courage and zeal. The army esteemed him, and he gave serious attention to military matters. A man of good sense and good faith, he held himself aloof from all exaggerations. At the time of the reaction of the White Terror, he had repudiated the fury of the ultras, and distinguished himself by a praiseworthy moderation. He had great piety, with out hypocrisy, bigotry, or fanaticism. ~Imbert de Saint-Amand
Alexis Carrel was born into a Catholic family in a small town in France in 1873. He attended Mass regularly and went to Catholic schools run by Jesuits. Unfortunately, by the time he went to college he was an agnostic. He completely rejected the Catholic faith and wasn’t even sure if there was a God. However, he wouldn’t stay that way. And an extraordinary miracle from Lourdes helped lead him back.Share
As an agnostic, Carrel studied biology and medicine and went on to become a world famous scientist. He developed a way to allow organs to live outside the body, a huge step toward organ transplants, and he developed new techniques for cleaning wounds. Most importantly, though, he invented techniques for suturing large blood vessels, which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1912. This is why his opinion about alleged miracles at Lourdes mattered so much.
Although the original apparitions at Lourdes had occurred in 1858, people in the early 20th century (as they are today) were still claiming to be cured by the water there. Despite the large number of alleged cures, the French medical establishment was firmly against the possibility that anything supernatural was happening.
Carrel himself was also a strong skeptic. That is, until he met a girl named Marie Bailly. He was on a train to Lourdes with a doctor friend to see the hysteria for himself in 1902 when he came across Bailly, who apparently had something called tuberculous peritonitis. It was a fatal disease. She was only half-conscious and had a swelled belly. Trying to help, Carrel gave her morphine, but said he didn’t think she’d even survive the rest of the trip to Lourdes. Other doctors on the train came to the same conclusion.
When they arrived, her friends carried her to the grotto, and three pitchers of water from Lourdes was poured on her. With each pour, she said felt a searing pain throughout her body. To the amazement of the doctors present, her belly started to flatten back to a normal size almost immediately and her pulse returned to a normal rate. By that evening, she was well enough to eat a normal dinner. (Read more.)
The first thing that went wrong was that we started deserting our villages. Back in the early ’60s when the feminist Second Wave was new, leading feminists defamed domesticity in an effort to jolt women out of homes. They assumed that the post-war technology advances that had made housework a less time-consuming job wouldn’t prove motivating enough. Women would be too complacent about professional life unless they equated the job of a housewife with something horrible, like slavery. (This would be not the last time feminists demeaned real suffering by equating the plight of educated white women to atrocities, nor the last time they took such a condescending view of their own.)
Professionally, the defamation gambit worked. Inspired and energized, women surged back to school and took to professional life with vigor. Of course, these original Second Wave feminists could use their mothers, aunts, older children, and older housewives not caught up in the movement as their village to care for their young children. The problem didn’t present until that village passed on.
When that happened, women of the ’80s tried to be the do-it-all Enjoli power woman. Enjoli was a perfume with a catchy and cheesy commercial, in which a woman changed from business suit to apron to sexy nightgown while crooning, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let you forget you’re a man.” The actress in the commercial looked well rested. The actual women who attempted this stunt at home were not.
By the ’90s, new advice greeted the college-bound women of Generation X. We could still have it all, just not all at once. But our mothers still worried about women’s professional resolve in the face of motherhood. As a result, the new advice replaced the Feminine Mystique, the old assumption that a woman must fulfill wife and mother duties before all else, with the Career Mystique, the new assumption that we must establish our careers first. Dutiful and optimistic daughters, we embarked on fabulous careers, which were plentiful and well paid in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
And that’s when we razed the village.
ShareIt was a slow burn. Over the next 20 years, the “career first” advice brought fewer children to become older siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles—essential members of the childcare village of old. Our career pursuits often led us far from family, anyway. The career building single doesn’t need a village. We didn’t need it, and didn’t miss it until we started a family. (Read more.)
Monday, December 28, 2015
Despite the packed pews at Gaza’s Church of St. Porphyrius just weeks before Christmas, Christianity is not booming here. Rather, the worshipers at the 1,600-year-old shrine believe they may be the last group of Christians in Gaza, where they have lived and prayed since the birth of Jesus.Share
The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the highest unemployment rate in the world are prompting Christians to leave the besieged area in droves, some using the holiday season to their advantage.
Although Israel rarely grants permits to leave the Palestinian territory, dozens of Christians are allowed to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem during Easter and Christmas, and some take the opportunity to never return home so they can start a new life elsewhere.
Today, the population that once spanned 3,000 Christians in Gaza just a few years ago has been reduced to 1,200, and worshipers say the area could be entirely devoid of the religious denomination within two decades.
“People might think we’re leaving because of Hamas, but no it’s because of ... (Israeli) policies on Gaza,” Jaber Jilder, an official with the Greek Orthodox Church said, referring to the militant group that governs Gaza and is labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and others.
Israeli sanctions on Gaza have made freedom of movement and goods almost non-existent, and have contributed to an economy that the World Bank said is on the "verge of collapse." A United Nations report this year said the 2014 Israeli-Hamas war and the current blockade will make the Palestinian territory "unlivable" by 2020. (Read more.)
Sunday, December 27, 2015
These beautiful pictures of Christmas prayers and glowing nativity scenes hide a much darker reality. Hundreds of Iraqi Christians, who now occupy these makeshift tents in Erbil, were forced to abandon their homes to escape the wrath of Islamic State fighters. They are safe from immediate danger in this camp built around the Mazar Mar Eillia Catholic Church in Ankawa. But dropping temperatures pose a serious threat to those who hurriedly left their homes without their possessions or winter clothes.Over 250,000 Syrian refugees had already settled in the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq when Islamic State extremist began to advance further into Iraq in June. Since then, another one and a half million displaced refugees have flocked to the area. Purpose-built camps have been built for many but the sheer number of evacuees means thousands of families have to settle in unfinished buildings which offer little or no warmth, and no realistic prospect of returning home. (Read more.)
What separates Christ from all men is that first He was expected; even the Gentiles had a longing for a deliverer, or redeemer. This fact alone distinguishes Him from all other religious leaders.
A second distinguishing fact is that once He appeared, He struck history with such impact that He split it in two, dividing it into two periods: one before His coming, the other after it. Buddha did not do this, nor any of the great Indian philosophers. Even those who deny God must date their attacks upon Him, A.D. so and so, or so many years after His coming.
A third fact separating Him from all the others is this: every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die. Death was a stumbling block to Socrates – it interrupted his teaching. But to Christ, death was the goal and fulfillment of His life, the gold that He was seeking. Few of His words or actions are intelligible without reference to His Cross. (Read more.)
You can’t buy community, and you can’t fake it, either. An absent father can’t randomly gather his family around the fireplace and expect everyone suddenly to be cozy. Real koselig takes more than warm bodies in close proximity and sheepskin slippers. Like anything worth doing, authentic coziness takes work: prior investment in relationships, domestic chores, food-prep, caring—in a word, housekeeping. But it’s worth it. In the doldrums of a dark winter, family nights, social gatherings, and dinner parties are a reminder that we’re all in this together.Share
I want to suggest that koselig reminds us of what we live for—friends, to be sure, but primarily the home. It reminds us that homelessness is a tragedy. And home reminds us of the priority of the family. We’re not just “social creatures.” Society does not conceive us, and nurse us, and love us. We’re not like baby sharks, either. We don’t just swim away from our mothers after we’re born. We are family creatures, and we were made for more than homelessness. Like koselig, you can’t buy a family, and running a home takes work. But it’s worth it. The secret to enjoying life, then, is to see it as something to be enjoyed—at times even endured—with others, ideally with family. Home makes all the difference. (Read more.)
Saturday, December 26, 2015
You've heard of the Puritan ban on Christmas in England and the British Colonies: but the Reformation in Scotland, led by John Knox, led to a long, long ban on the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus (starting in 1640), according to this article in The Catholic Herald:Share
Unlike the recent “wars on Christmas”, the four centuries-long Scottish indifference to the birthday of Jesus was rooted in the Reformation and John Knox’s rejection of many forms of Catholic worship. Until then Yule had happily been celebrated with “games and feasting”.
The present minister at Canongate, the Rev Neil Gardner, explains that “Knox took a dim view on this, and associated Christmas with excessive frivolity”. Knox, having abandoned the grandeur of St Andrew’s Cathedral, also rejected celibacy for priests and nuns, bishoprics, belief in purgatory, the Virgin Mary, rosary beads, saints, the Pope, holy water and incense. The fiery preacher did not stop there. He set his face resolutely against the observance of the Christian year and all its festivals, including Christmas, on the grounds that the Lord’s Day alone could claim scriptural authority.
In 1640, an Act of the Parliament of Scotland abolished the “Yule vacation and all observation thereof in time coming … the kirke within this kingdome is now purged of all superstitious observatione of dayes…” (Read more.)
Vitamin D’s best-known role is to keep bones healthy by increasing the intestinal absorption of calcium. Without enough vitamin D, the body can only absorb 10% to 15% of dietary calcium, but 30% to 40% absorption is the rule when vitamin reserves are normal. A lack of vitamin D in children causes rickets; in adults, it causes osteomalacia. Both bone diseases are now rare in the United States, but another is on the rise — osteoporosis, the “thin bone” disease that leads to fractures and spinal deformities.Share
Low levels of vitamin D lead to low bone calcium stores, increasing the risk of fractures. If vitamin D did nothing more than protect bones, it would still be essential. But researchers have begun to accumulate evidence that it may do much more. In fact, many of the body’s tissues contain vitamin D receptors, proteins that bind to vitamin D. In the intestines, the receptors capture vitamin D, enabling efficient calcium absorption. But similar receptors are also present in many other organs, from the prostate to the heart, blood vessels, muscles, and endocrine glands. And work in progress suggests that good things happen when vitamin D binds to these receptors. The main requirement is to have enough vitamin D — but many Americans don’t. (Read more.)
Thursday, December 24, 2015
ShareChristmas trees became popular in Britain after the German husband and Consort of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, introduced them in 1841. And where the Royal Family led, fashionable society was sure to follow. Soon Christmas trees became an essential part of the British Christmas. Interestingly however, Prince Albert was in fact completing a circle in the real story of the Christmas Tree. For it was an Englishman who once upon a time gave the German people the gift of the Christmas Tree. (Read more.)
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Few foods can trace their history back through multiple centuries. Plum pudding stands out as one of those few. It began in Roman times as a pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction prepared in a large cauldron. Dried fruits, sugar and spices might be added to the mix as well.Share
Another ancestor to the plum pudding, porridge or frumenty appeared in the fourteenth century. A soup-like fasting dish containing meats, raisins, currants, prunes, wine and spices, it was eaten before the Christmas celebrations began. By the fifteenth century, plum pottage a soupy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit was served to start a meal.
As the seventeenth century opened, frumenty evolved into a plum pudding. Thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, and dried fruit, the addition of beer and spirits gave it more flavor and increased its shelf life. Variants were made with white meat, though gradually the meat was omitted and replaced by suet. The root vegetables also disappeared. By 1650, the plum pudding had transformed from a main dish to a dessert, the customary one served at Christmas. Not long afterward though, plum pudding was banned by Oliver Cromwell because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding harked back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.
George I, sometime called the Pudding King revived the dish in 1714 when he requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast to celebrate his first Christmas in England. Subsequently it became entrenched as part of traditional holiday celebrations, taking its final form of cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly in the 1830’s. In 1858 it was first dubbed the Christmas Pudding, recorded as such in Anthony Trollope's Doctore Thorne. (Read entire post.)
“If you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.”Share
So said Rand Paul, looking directly at Gov. Chris Christie, who had just responded to a question from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as to whether he would shoot down a Russian plane that violated his no-fly zone in Syria.
“Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it,” blurted Christie: “I would talk to Vladimir Putin … I’d say to him, ‘Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.’
“Yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling … we have in the Oval Office … right now.”
Ex-Gov. George Pataki and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum would also impose a no-fly zone and shoot down Russian planes that violated it. Said Gov. John Kasich, “It’s time we punched the Russians in the nose.”
Carly Fiorina would impose a no-fly zone and not even talk to Putin until we’ve conducted “military exercises in the Baltic States” on Russia’s border. Jeb Bush, too, would impose a no-fly zone.
These warhawks apparently assume that President Putin is a coward who, if you shoot down his warplanes, will back away from a fight.
Are we sure? After the Turks shot down that Sukhoi SU-24, Moscow sent fighter planes to Syria to escort its bombers and has reportedly deployed its lethal S-300 antiaircraft system there.
A U.S. Marine Corps aviator describes the S-300: “A complete game changer for all fourth-gen aircraft [like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18]. That thing is a beast and you don’t want to get near it.” There are press reports that an angry Putin has ordered the even more advanced S-400 system moved into Syria.
Is Putin bluffing? Are we prepared to ride the up-escalator, at the top of which is nuclear war, if Putin, who has been boasting of his modernized nuclear forces, is also willing to ride it rather than back down? (Read more.)
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
|Bringing Home the Yule Log|
The last piece I have for you brings us back to Olde Yorkshire. This is an excerpt from an article called “Folklore from Yorkshire” by J. B. Partridge. It was published in the journal Folklore in 1914, and it discusses some of the old traditions that still survived at the time it was written.Share
Christmas Observances in Yorkshire -
Furmety is still eaten on Christmas Eve in Swaledale. The corn with which it is made is a present from the grocer.
Sword dancers still go round on Christmas Eve, dancing and singing a song about "Poor old horse."
The Yule log is generally given. It is brought into the house after dusk on Christmas Eve, and is at once put on the hearth. It is unlucky to have to light it again after it has once been started, and it ought not to go out until it has burned away. To sit round the Yule log and tell ghost stories is a great thing to do on this night, also card-playing.
Two large coloured candles are a Christmas present from the grocer. Just before supper on Christmas Eve (when furmety is eaten), while the Yule log is burning, all other lights are put out,and the candles are lighted from the Yule log by the youngest person present. While they are being lighted, all are silent and wish. The wish must not be told, but you see if you get it during the year. As soon as the candles are on the table, silence may be broken. They must be allowed to burn themselves out, and no other lights may be lighted that night. (Read more.)
As far as a gentleman is concerned, all women and girls should be treated as ladies. Opening a door is not a gesture of condescension, but rather courtesy and deference. As far as revolving doors go, modern manners dictate that a gentleman allow the woman to enter first. Car doors are no exception, regardless of who is driving. If a third party is driving, open the curbside door and ensure that she is safely in before closing it. (Read more.)Share
Let’s stop torturing mothers. Let’s stop ignoring the problem of expecting new mums to get back to normal. They are not normal, they are super important, and we need to value them and treat them with the greatest respect, if we don’t want them to break into a million pieces, shattering the lives of all those around them. The NHS needs to prioritise maternal mental health, not just with adequate treatment facilities once the damage is done, but also with prevention in the first place. Proper paternity leave, decent postnatal wards with midwives who have time to care, regular home visits, continuity of care. Change needs to happen in attitudes as well. (Read more.)Share
Monday, December 21, 2015
The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
- Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
- The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.
- The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower,
- And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our sweet saviour
- The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
- And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
- The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn,
- And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
- The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall,
- And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.
So where does the ivy come into play in the song, "The Holly and the Ivy?" Except for its appearance alongside holly in the opening stanza, it isn't even mentioned in the song. If this one, insignificant reference to ivy were struck from the lyrics, in what way would the song suffer? And if your answer is, "Not at all," then the next logical question to ask is: Why is the carol not titled simply, "The Holly," instead of, "The Holly and the Ivy?"
....The answer may lie in the fact that "The Holly and the Ivy" is based on older songs, such as "The Contest of the Holly and the Ivy" ....
In "The Contest of the Holly and the Ivy," ivy plays a role equally important to that of holly. The mention of ivy in the first stanza (and the last stanza, which merely repeats the first) in "The Holly and the Ivy" is therefore a hold-over, a remnant from an earlier era, a fragment pointing to music with a very different meaning. The influence of the earlier songs about the holly and the ivy was apparently so strong that the ivy was given a cameo appearance in this one, too -- despite the fact that only the holly has any major role to play in it.
What we see played out in "The Contest of the Holly and the Ivy" and similar songs (perhaps dating back to medieval times) is the rivalry between men and women, thinly disguised as a contest between the holly and ivy. Holly was conceived of as being masculine in the plant symbology of the time, probably because it is more rigid and prickly; while the softer ivy is associated with the feminine in this tradition.According to an article at Dave's Garden:
Using ivy as decoration also dates back to the time of the Romans, who associated it with Bacchus (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Dionysus, god of wine and intoxication). Ivy was a symbol of fidelity and marriage, and was often wound into a crown, wreath or garland. It also served as a symbol of prosperity and charity, and thus it was adopted by the early Christians, for whom it was a reminder to help the less fortunate. In early England, it was considered bad luck to use ivy alone in decorating for Christmas, and would give the woman of the house the upper hand.The same site explains the symbolism of holly:
The practice of ornamenting the home with holly began with the Romans, who regarded it as an omen of good fortune and a symbol of immortality. They sent congratulatory wreaths of holly to newlyweds, and also used it as a gift during the festival of Saturnalia (a celebration which itself is based partly on Greek and Egyptian solstice observances). As early Christians adopted the practice of decorating with the plant, holly took on religious associations--namely, that the spiky leaves represented Christ’s crown of thorns, and the red berries his blood....
The Christmas carol “The Holly and The Ivy” is an example of how ancient beliefs were absorbed by the Christian church. The song we sing today was recorded by a folk song collector named Cecil Sharp, who heard it sung in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, in 1909:
The holly and the ivy,
When both are full well grown.
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
Oh, the rising of the sun,
The running of the deer.
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.Subsequent verses transform the carol into a Christian song. Dr. Ian Bradley, of the St. Andrews University School of Divinity in Scotland, writes that the although the lyrics focus on the holly as a symbol of Christ, ivy is also mentioned because of the carol’s basis on an older medieval song in which the plants personify men and women. In the earlier song, holly and ivy were equals, with holly representing goodness and masculinity; ivy standing for evil (or at least weakness) and femininity.To the medieval mind, the male was considered the dominant sex, and a support for the weaker and more delicate female, thus the rigid holly shrub and the twining ivy vine must have seemed like natural embodiments of those traits. The original meaning of “The Holly and the Ivy” is a reminder that there has always been a subtle and humorous (sometimes not so subtle and humorous) competition between men and women for dominance. These two tough plants may represent the struggle between the sexes, but they can also be seen as a celebration of male and female cooperation and interdependence. (Read more.)
(Artwork from Karen) Share
When both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had died in 1536, Henry was freed of all marital impediments, so his marriage to Jane Seymour and the successful delivery of a baby boy (Henry must have been so relieved when Edward survived the first few months and then a full year!), led to those hopes that he might return to the Catholic fold, give up his spiritual authority in England, and stop his dalliance with Reformed theology and religious practice. After Jane's death, Henry's marital prospects included some Catholic princesses, so there was again some hope. But then the destruction of shrines, the suppression of monasteries and friaries, and Henry's obduracy must have convinced Pope Paul III that the time was right to publish the excommunication. (Read more.)Share
The ideal is no longer the forefather but rather the lone innovator. Although living entirely as an individual, his place is expendable within the greater structure of society. There is no room for the heroic, any other person can consume as well as the other. He has ultimately lost his ability to identify himself when placed outside of the ancestral order and only fills the empty moulds destined for him by the market.Share
Society lies to him with promises of fulfilment that only serve to neutralize his potential. Even things that would benefit his wellbeing are repurposed towards vain pursuits. He no longer exercises to realize the full potential of his body but to accumulate false social attention. He only builds so he can sell. He is told to pursue knowledge for the sake of employment. And yet the world wonders why young European men drift astray; only to point blame on every other institution but itself.
To live in this society is to live by the rule of the Demiurge — it sets no God before itself and remains ignorant to the higher nature that fashioned it. Such is the young European male and his higher nature. He is taught only to confront his baseness and to stare into that abyss without ever looking up and seeing the evening sky — the sky that constantly calls upon him and pulls him up to reach it.
Society sets before him a phantasmagoria of delusions and tells him that they are worth striving for. The antihero is set as the ideal, the psychopath is to be admired and the effeminate is now the brave. The current way is schizophrenic in its deconstruction of an ordered system, evident in the postmodern manifestation of the arts. Combinations are made outside of their natural consequence and the multitude of meanings abstracted from meaningless forms send the interpreter on a neurotic quest towards nihilism and self-destruction. (Read more.)
Sunday, December 20, 2015
|Medal of Marie-Antoinette|
|Empress Maria Theresa|
Not every book we read has an element of overt Christian faith. In fact, many do not. Just as the beauty of creation points to God without a specific word, so can a beautiful book point to God without explicit references to faith. We would miss out on many great books if we limited ourselves only to those that directly mention Christianity. However, in keeping with Saint Paul, I look for books that do not endanger the faith of our children. And when faith is woven into a story lovingly, without sounding forced or preachy, it is a great blessing.Share
On Christmas morning, the March sisters reach under their pillows to find that Marmee has left them each a copy of “that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived.” The older two treasure their books, put their cheeks together and begin to read, and the younger two follow the example of their sisters.
“I’ll help you with the hard words,” Beth tells Amy.
After they come downstairs, Marmee asks her daughters if they will give up their Christmas breakfast for their cold and hungry neighbors. The girls joyfully agree, pack the meal, and bring it to the family.
“I think,” the narrator says, “there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.”
That December 25 in the March home could have been an occasion for self-pity: Father was away at war, and in the hard winter the family didn’t even fill stockings. Yet they found contentment and joy in reading Scripture and doing a corporal work of mercy together.
When I look for books, I am grateful to find ones in which the characters’ faith is strong and inspiring, and readers can’t help but feel the peace of that faith in their own hearts. (Read more.)
Saturday, December 19, 2015
But this disappointment was now to pass away. From the moment that it was publicly announced that the queen was in the way to become a mother, one general desire seemed to prevail to show how deep an interest the whole nation felt in the event. In cathedrals, monasteries, abbeys, universities, and parish churches, masses were celebrated and prayers offered for her safe delivery. In many instances, private individuals even gave extraordinary alms to bring down the blessing of Heaven on the nation, so interested in the expected event. And on the 19th of December, 1778, the prayers were answered, and the hopes of the country in great measure realized by the birth of a princess, who was instantly christened Maria Thérèse Charlotte, in compliment to the empress, her godmother.Share
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France - Charles Duke Yonge
According to Clement Clark Moore, sugar-plums are so special that of all the possible delights a child might dream of, they top the list.Share
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,So what exactly are these “sugar-plums” dancing in dreamland? At first glance the “sugar” and “plum” seem obvious. Sweetened fruit, right?
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…
All of these terms name a sweet made of sugar syrup hardened around a central seed or kernel in successive layers using a process called “panning” which is similar to how shelled candies like M&Ms, jawbreakers, and jelly beans are made. The candy pan is kept in motion over heat while successive layers of sugar are poured on and allowed to harden. Sugar-plums or comfits were most often made with caraway, fennel, coriander, or cardamom seeds at the center. Almonds were another classic base for sugar-plum — the candy then more like a modern-day Jordan almond — as well as walnuts, aniseed, and even teeny celery seeds. Strips of cinnamon bark, citrus peel, and ginger root were popular choices too.
In the centuries before mechanization, the process was one of the most time-consuming, labor intensive, and costly confectionary crafts. Specialized equipment called a “pearling funnel” or “cot” were needed to add the sugar, and the repeated “panning” to coat the hard center took hours up to days depending on the layers required for the size desired. Colored coatings were popular and created by staining the final layers of syrup with an edible pigment. Sanders, mulberry juice, and cochineal were used for red, indigo stone for blue, the juice of spinach for green, and saffron or gum gambodge for yellow. Only those with extreme skill could create a quality sugar-plum. Because of this, sugar-plums were a luxury snack for wealthy, aristocratic consumers. (Read more.)
As the shock of the Paris attacks died down, many reasonable and well-intentioned Christians followed in the steps of less reasonable and less well-intentioned secularists, declaring that it would be a mistake to lay responsibility for such acts of terrorism at the feet of all Muslims (a self-evidently true statement) or on Islam itself (far from self-evidently true). An ordained Christian minister whom I have known for years rightly pointed out that those who refuse to believe individual Muslims when they say that they do not support violent jihad are effectively calling them “liars or mere stooges.” Yet he and others who keep repeating that “ISIS doesn’t represent all of Islam” (a self-evidently true statement) all too often gently slide into implying something more: that ISIS is, in some essential way, not truly Islamic (far from self-evidently true).
The leaders of the Islamic State, needless to say, disagree with these well-meaning Christians. Here is how the former describe the jihadists of Paris:Share
This group of believers were youth who divorced the worldly life and advanced towards their enemy hoping to be killed for Allah’s sake, doing so in support of His religion, His Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him), and His allies. They did so in spite of His enemies. Thus, they were truthful with Allah—we consider them so—and Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.Those who do not take representatives of the Islamic State at their word when they claim that they are acting on behalf of Islam and in accordance with Islamic principles are calling them “liars” as well. At best, they are judging these Muslims’ self-understanding of their religion in the same way that the teenaged atheist does when he says to a Catholic or a Lutheran, “If you were really a Christian, you would . . . ” The problem becomes even worse when they refuse to believe seemingly nonradical Muslims who, say, express a desire to see sharia imposed in Western countries or are reluctant to condemn acts of terror committed by other Muslims because, as the president of the Muslim Association of Greater Rockford once told Aaron Wolf and me, Islam is a pendulum that can “swing to the extremes and come back to the middle, but you are still within the boundaries” of Islam, and thus “You can believe someone is a terrorist, and I don’t.” Claiming that a man who freely volunteers such statements “doesn’t really mean it” or “doesn’t understand what he is saying” isn’t giving him the benefit of the doubt; it is calling him either stupid or a liar. (Read more.)
Friday, December 18, 2015
If there were a Nobel Prize for enduring misery, Nabil Soliman would be an awfully compelling candidate. Two years ago, the 54-year-old Egyptian Christian was a security guard in his small Upper Egyptian village of Nazlet El Badraman, where his family had lived for generations. Though hardly rich, he and his wife Sabah, along with their six children and five grandchildren, were comfortable and proud of Nabil for being the lone Christian in town to hold such a position of trust. Then, the sky fell in. In November 2013, Islamic radicals in his village went on a violent rampage, angry over the removal of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi as the country’s president. Christians, who represent roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population, made convenient targets. Soliman’s was among the first homes to be torched. Rather than restraining the mob, town police instead arrested Soliman, and, as they hauled him away to the station house, invited bystanders to beat him. (Read more.)Share
Several years ago, I was living in New York and working for an airline, so I never got home to Alabama for Christmas – if, indeed, I got the day off. To a displaced southerner, Christmas in New York can be rather a melancholy occasion, not because the scene is strange to one far from home, but because it is familiar: New York shoppers evince the same singleness of purpose as slow-moving southerners; Salvation Army bands and Christmas carols are alike the world over; at that time of year, New York streets shine wet with the same gentle farmer’s rain that soaks Alabama’s winter fields.
I missed Christmas away from home, I thought. What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming Joy To The World.(Read more.)
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Pope Francis writes that mercy is “a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.” Sometimes in our world, merciful hearts are mocked. A merciful heart is seen as a weak heart. Rather, it is righteous anger that seems to be the preferred expression of courage. We trust righteous anger; we do not trust merciful hearts. For many of us, the first recourse before, during and after conflict is not to humbly seek the forgiveness of God and to forgive others. Rather, it is to blow our tops, to rage and rant, and to demand justice without a drop of mercy (which, as Aquinas would tell us, is not true justice). Why is this? Because mercy is much more difficult. Mercy is the path of the truly courageous. It is not a virtue that makes us a doormat, a weakling or a pansy. It is the virtue that heals our wounded hearts so that we can respond to others like Christ—with assertiveness, love, objectivity, and peace. Pope Francis writes: “In [the Gospel], mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon” (emphasis mine). Through forgiveness, mercy is the force that overcomes everything. (Read more.)Share
At universities around the world, students are claiming that reading books can unsettle them to the point of becoming depressed, traumatised or even suicidal. Some contend that Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway (1925), in which a suicide has taken place, could trigger suicidal thoughts among those disposed to self-harm. Others insist that F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925), with its undercurrent of spousal violence, might trigger painful memories of domestic abuse. Even ancient classical texts, students have argued, can be dangerous: at Columbia University in New York, student activists demanded that a warning be attached to Ovid’s Metamorphoses on grounds that its ‘vivid depictions of rape’ might trigger a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability among some undergraduates.Share
This is probably the first time in history that young readers themselves are demanding protection from the disturbing content of their course texts, yet reading has been seen as a threat to mental health for thousands of years. In accordance with the paternalistic ethos of ancient Greece, Socrates said that most people couldn’t handle written text on their own. He feared that for many – especially the uneducated – reading could trigger confusion and moral disorientation unless the reader was counselled by someone with wisdom. In Plato’s dialogue, the Phaedrus, written in 360 BCE, Socrates warned that reliance on the written word would weaken individuals’ memory, and remove from them the responsibility of remembering. Socrates used the Greek word pharmakon – ‘drug’ – as a metaphor for writing, conveying the paradox that reading could be a cure but most likely a poison. Scaremongers would repeat his warning that the text was analogous to a toxic substance for centuries to come.Many Greek and Roman thinkers shared Socrates’ concerns. Trigger warnings were issued in the third century BCE by the Greek dramatist Menander, who exclaimed that the very act of reading would have a damaging effect on women. Menander believed that women suffered from strong emotions and weak minds. Therefore he insisted that ‘teaching a woman to read and write’ was as bad as ‘feeding a vile snake on more poison’.In 65 CE, the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca advised that the ‘reading of many books is a distraction’ that leaves the reader ‘disoriented and weak’. For Seneca the problem was not the content of a specific text but the unpredictable psychological effects of unrestrained reading. ‘Be careful,’ he warned, ‘lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady.’ (Read more.)
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Thomas Moore was born in 16 Aungier Street in Dublin on May 28th 1779, eldest son of grocer and wine merchant John Moore, a native Irish speaker from Kerry, and Anastasia Codd from Wexford. By the standards of the times, the Moores were a well off family. As Catholics, they were reasonably well positioned to benefit from the relaxation of the so called Penal Laws which had for more than eighty years, excluded Catholics from many professions and civil rights. This allowed young Thomas to be given a relatively good education in Trinity College Dublin where he was befriended by Robert Emmett and Arthur O’Connor, both of whom espoused the principles inspiring the wave of liberalism washing across Europe. (Read more.)Share
It was a time when women were so repressed!”Share
“They lived in a man’s world!”“There was nothing for women back then!”These kind of statements drive me mad. I don’t know about other history lovers out there, but it gets on my nerves, intolerably. The 18th Century was such a changing, moving and evolving period that gave opportunities for not just men, but for women alike. I would like to say it is all relative to their class or financial situation, in which yes that is a great part of it. But it was not always the case as I will point out throughout this blog.But a woman of sure common sense and basic level of intelligence would be surely capable of doing well for herself, no matter what her background was. Like today, things never change, where some of the most accomplished and richest people in the world are women. Yes there was awful sexist attitudes towards the fairer sex from men in this period, but that kind of ignorant thinking hasn’t changed either today. In my opinion, it is futile and intolerant for men to think of themselves superior, when most women have many more attributes that deserve accomplishment than most men of the world.The 18th Century, of which mainly I speak about in England, was a fantastic era for evolution. The evolution of people’s thinking, ways of making money and basic sense of comfortable living was something that changed so radically. It is a topic not many people know of, which rather annoys me when people say ‘there was nothing for us women out there’. People nowadays like to talk about people who suffer, gritty upbringings and tragedy. But it is from this horror that women mainly could rise in the 1700’s to become so much more. This undoubtable need to have some level of intelligent capability, gave rise to strong and independent women who became icons. (Read more.)
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Many are the legends surrounding this curious but ancient ritual. The habit of eating seafood on Christmas Eve comes from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence from the consumption of meat or milk products on Wednesdays, Fridays and (in the Latin Church) Saturdays, as well as on the eve on any important religious feast. And there are more than just one hypothesis for what the number “7” means.Share
Did you know seven was the most repeated number in the Bible? Actually, it appears over 700 times. And one of the most accredited theories is the number represents completion: in the Genesis 2:2, you can read “By the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” and, in a way, during the feast of the seven fishes, Christians celebrate the completion of God’s promise of the Messiah through Jesus. But seven also represents the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church such as the Seven Hills of Rome that surround the city. (Read more.)
My outlook on religious art — and on everything, really — is traditionalist; that is to say, I believe that there is an objective content to religious art that is knowable from the way things were done in the past. The greatest merit of medieval art is that it honors this content.
In the art called Gothic, the traditions are vigorously presented. The Gothic artists managed to be both faithful and creative. Patristic exegesis informs every composition, and the theological and liturgical order is obvious. But otherwise Gothic art doesn’t look like anything that came before it; its inventors didn’t imitate an ancient precedent. It’s astonishing how quickly they mastered new technologies and new media, such as monumental sculpture and stained glass, and how quickly their influence spread among the Catholic nations.Share
I don’t think of Gothic as a mere historic style characteristic of a certain time and place; that would make of it a very boring thing. Rather, I think of it as the best example of an art made according to Catholic principles — principles that are enduringly true. Paradoxically, because Gothic art is indigenous to Christendom, it can communicate with the art of other traditional cultures especially well; the essential religious content is protected and the style is defined by something other than a chronological or national boundary. (Read more.)
A feature of the Irish tontines was the large-scale involvement of investors from Geneva, who were learning how to “game” the system. In 1777, they tied their combined £50,000 investment to the life expectancies of 50 young girls, aged three to seven, from families known for longevity. The plan worked well. Forty years later, 64 per cent of the nominees were still alive, compared with 42 per cent of their age cohort in the rest of the tontine.Smaller investors in 1777 included the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, whose £100 share nominated the life of a younger nun, to whom she later bequeathed it. Another £100, from persons unknown (at least to me), was tied to the fate of Marie Antoinette. Aged 21 in 1777 (although it says 20 on the tontine list), she must have seemed a safe bet.In Reflections on the Revolution in France, a saddened Burke recalled his enchantment at having seen the future queen at Versailles in the mid-1770s. Her country was then “a nation of gallant men,” he said, in which he thought “ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult”. Alas, he now knew, “the age of chivalry is dead”.
ShareIn fact it wasn’t quite dead in Burke’s native Ireland, where in 1792 a plot was hatched to free the queen from prison and get her out of France on a wine-merchant’s ship. (Read more.)
Monday, December 14, 2015
The United States should formally recognize that a genocide of Christians in the Middle East is taking place, and take steps to protect the vulnerable population. That is the consensus of several witnesses who testified Wednesday before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.Share
The subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), held the hearing to bring attention to the plight of Christians in the region and grow congressional support possibly for a resolution calling the persecution of Christians genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group. Several witnesses alluded to a statement that is reportedly being drafted by the State Department that would recognize a genocide of Yazidis in the region, but which reportedly fails to consider the plight of Christians. (Read more.)
Independent publishing was the right direction to go for me. Had I waited, I’d probably be collecting rejection slips rather than sitting high on three separate bestseller lists. But independent publishing is a full time job in and of itself. I now work two jobs. During the day, I go to an office and develop software. Every other spare moment is spent marketing, networking, blogging, organizing, and planning to market/blog/organize. Somewhere in there I manage to squeeze in a little time for writing, but not as much as I used to.Share
It’s a trade off, and only you can know for sure which direction is the right direction. I’ll definitely say this: If you’re in this to replace your day job’s income and benefits, you’d better be prepared to settle in for the long haul. 1000 books doesn’t translate to much money. (Read more.)
Sunday, December 13, 2015
A High Wind in Jamaica was first published in England in 1929 as The Innocent Voyage, and retained that title in a number of American re-printings. For its second English edition, Hughes changed the title to the current one, without any other alteration of the text.
On the surface, and as any brief summary may suggest, A High Wind in Jamaica sounds like a traditional children’s adventure story. In the mid-nineteenth century, after an earthquake and a great hurricane have shaken Jamaica, Mr and Mrs Bas-Thornton decide to send their five children back to England for further upbringing. The children range in age from John (aged about 12) and Emily down through the “littlies”(or “Liddlies” as they are called) Rachel, Edward and Laura (who is 3). They embark on the good ship “Clorinda” under Captain Marpole. With them are two Creole children, Margaret and Henry Fernandez. Margaret is aged 13, which is important in some of what follows.Share
The “Clorinda” is attacked by pirates, who are under the command of the Danish Captain Jonsen and his Viennese mate Otto. All seven children are captured, and proceed to spend the rest of the novel travelling with the pirates, until the last chapter, which is set in England.
If you were a literate child reading this book, you could conceivably see it as a straight adventure story. It swarms with exotic animals – screeching parrots, wildcats, an octopus, a monkey which has lost its tail and is chased around and persecuted by the sailors, a baby crocodile which is cuddled by one of the little girls. It has vivid descriptions, bordering on the Conradian, of the sweltering Jamaican heat and the ferocity of earthquake and hurricane and the leaden sea. It has boisterous action as the children toboggan back and forth across the deck of a storm-tossed schooner and as young Edward plays at being a pirate captain.
In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow walked out of his family’s home on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and—unbeknownst to his family—boarded a train bound for Washington, DC., over 400 miles away, in order to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War.Share
Charles (b. June 9, 1844) was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet. Charles had five younger siblings: a brother (aged 17) and three sisters (ages 13, 10, 8—another one had died as an infant).
Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had died from a tragic accident when her dress caught on fire. Her husband, awoken from a nap, tried to extinguish the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but she had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning (July 10, 1861), and Henry Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.
When Charley (as he was called) arrived in Washington D.C. he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for written permission for Charley to become a soldier. HWL (as his son referred to him) granted the permission.
Longfellow later wrote to his friends Charles Sumner (senator from Massachusetts), John Andrew (governor of Massachusetts), and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. But Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”
After participating on the fringe of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (April 30-May 6, 1863), Charley fell ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover. He rejoined his unit on August 15, 1863, having missed the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863). (Read more.)