Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, "As this year has gone, so our life will go, and soon we shall say 'it is gone.' Let us not waste our time; soon eternity will shine for us." Share


Let's listen to the late Debbie Reynolds sing "Tammy" as the old year dies and a new year is born. Share

When to Hyphenate

From Writing Explained:
When should you hyphenate the phrase years old? Is someone 18 years old or 18-years-old? In this post, I want to give you some advice on dealing with age in your writing. How should you write ages? When should you hyphenate? Should you spell out the numbers or use numerals? After reading this post, you won’t ever have to wonder again. (Read more.)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Pre-Raphaelite Princess of Star Wars

From Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood:
When Time magazine asked George Lucas about the unusual hairstyle he created for Star Wars character Princess Leia, he answered:
In the 1977 film, I was working very hard to create something different that wasn’t fashion, so I went with a kind of Southwestern Pancho Villa woman revolutionary look, which is what that is. The buns are basically from turn-of-the-century Mexico. Then it took such hits and became such a thing. looks at the possible inspirations of Leia’s iconic buns in this post: The Curious Case of Leia’s Rolls.  Unable to find similar buns among photos of Mexican revolutionaries, Kitbashed author Michael Heilemann did find a 1906 photograph called ‘A Hopiland Beauty’ that bears more resemblance to Padme Amidala in Episode II.  It seems that the roots of Leia’s buns lie not from a single source, but an amalgam of several influences –Batgirl wears the double buns as Dr. Barbara Gordon, as does Queen Fria from  the Flash Gordon comics.

The twin-side-buns hairstyle exists in Pre-Raphaelite inspired art.  In John William Waterhouse’s The Crystal Ball, the hairstyle is seen in profile.  We cannot see the other side but the part down the middle of her head is visible, indicating a similar bun on the other side. (Read more.)

The Most Persecuted

From Church Militant:
Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with around 90,000 killed for their faith in 2016, the director of a leading religious study group has said. Massimo Introvigne, Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (Cesnur), told Vatican Radio that around half a billion Christians in the world are unable to express their faith completely freely, while around 90,000 — one every six minutes — died for their faith in the past year alone. Referring to statistics from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Mr. Introvigne said around 70 percent of Christians murdered in 2016 died in tribal conflicts in Africa. These deaths were included, he said, because very often they involved Christians who refuse to take up arms for reasons of conscience. "The other 30 percent, or 27,000, were killed in terror attacks, the destruction of Christian villages, or government persecution," he added. (Read more.)

Katherine Howard: A Victim of Child Abuse?

I have always thought so. From The Telegraph:
It’s all very well to describe her “easy charm”, and her “abundant store of good nature”, but it is questionable to do so about a girl who, from the age of 11 or 12 onwards, had older men coming into her bedroom. Especially when Manox was placed in a position of responsibility towards Katherine as her music teacher.

Regardless, you might argue, there’s still the damning ‘love letter’ that she wrote to Thomas Culpepper after her marriage: surely to take such a risk as queen is evidence, if not of adultery, of stupidity?  

But when you consider the personal politics of abusive relationships, you have to suspect that all is not as it seems. Thomas Culpepper, a favourite of Henry’s, was a thoroughly unpleasant character. He’d been accused of raping a woman, although the king had excused him. He too was associated with Katherine’s grandmother’s household, and knew what had gone on here.

Imagine, then, Culpepper using his knowledge of Katherine’s past against her. It is quite understandable that a woman in her position would say or do anything at all to try to placate or mollify such a dangerous blackmailer. We know today that’s not impossible for a ‘love letter’ to be motivated entirely by fear.

With this in mind, think again of Katherine’s last journey by boat to the Tower of London. Think again of her asking, the night before her execution, as we know that she did, if she could please practise the laying of her head upon the block in order to do it properly. Her final requests were that the king spare her family vengeance, and that he should give gifts to her attendants. (Read more.)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Hidden History of Carols

It seems that in the Middle Ages caroling parties could be a bit wild. Most people do not realize that carols were not just for Christmas but every feast day had its carols, and some were more bawdy than religious. To quote:
 The story of Christmas caroling is full of unexpected surprises. The practice itself has gone through many changes over the centuries, and our perception of caroling today is based only on the very recent history. We think of Christmas caroling as a wholesome, and even religious, activity. Caroling seems to speak of the beauty, innocence, and magic of the Christmas season. However, in researching this practice, I have discovered that caroling was not as innocent as we might think. In fact, the act of caroling was actively combatted by the Church for hundreds of years.

Uncovering the origins of caroling has proven difficult. Some sources give the 14th or 15th centuries as the earliest date for caroling. I believe the reason for this is because this is the period when caroling began to be adopted by the church, and this is when carols first began to be written down. However, there is much evidence that caroling was around long before that. We don’t have written carols from the early periods, but what we do have are edicts from the Church and recorded sermons which make reference to caroling. (Read more.)

Tobolsk: Museum of the Imperial Family

From Royal Russia News:
The Tobolsk Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve have announced that the Museum of the Imperial Family will open in Tobolsk in August 2017. The date marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II and his family in Tobolsk.
In 1996, the former Study of Emperor Nicholas II was opened as a museum. The new museum will offer visitors additional rooms, and exhibits based on the life of Nicholas II and his family during their stay and held under house arrest for 8 months between August 1917 to April 1918.

The museum which is housed in the former residence of the Governor of Siberia, is currently undergoing restoration and construction work. The restored memorial rooms will be recreated from surviving documents, and photographs. According to the museum director Svetlana Sidorova, the museum is dedicated to "preserving the authenticity of the building’s façade, and the historical ambience of the interiors". Visitors to the museum will get a sense of how the imperial family lived during their captivity in Siberia. Sidorov noted that restorers “had spent a great deal of time and effort to remove all the original elements and to refurbish them, and not substitute any of them for modern elements.” (Read more.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Faith, Reason and the Virgin Birth

It is the ancient and constant teaching of the Church that Our Lady gave birth without loss of her virginity. In the words of Father Angelo:
In the Catholic view of things, faith and reason are mutually compatible, although through faith we are able to know things that we could not know by reason alone.  Hence, faith is both reasonable and transcends reason, just as grace builds on nature but also transcends it.  Reason shows us that what God has revealed is compatible with nature.  In other words, God is not arbitrary.  The natural law written in our hearts is confirmed by supernatural revelation not contradicted by it....

Among Catholics there is much confusion as to the precise meaning of the Virgin Birth.  It is not to be confused with the Virginal Conception of Our Lord.   The Church, from the earliest times, has articulated the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady as pertaining to three distinct moments:  before the birth of Jesus (ante partum), during the birth of Jesus (in partu), and after birth of Jesus (post partum).  Virtually every time the magisterium has spoken on the subject, this threefold distinction is made.  This teaching is derived from the early fathers of the Church, who maintained, defended and made the teaching a universally held truth of the Catholic Church.

Crawling to the Manger

From Catholic Exchange:
It is quite true that a great many depression sufferers have all the material and familial comforts they could ever desire. I will use myself as an example. I have a wonderful husband, amazing daughter, I am a graduate student in a great theology program, I have begun a writing career, I have never slept in the cold or rain, and I have never starved. From the outside my life is one of abundant blessings, but as I said before, Crosses are different for each person. I get to live knowing that I have everything, but battle despair, soul shattering anxiety, and darkness all while crawling to the Manger in which the Christ child waits for me. (Read more.)

The First Holy Cards

From The National Catholic Register:
The first holy cards were sold during the Middle Ages to pilgrims as keepsakes of their visit to a shrine. The oldest surviving holy card is a black-and-white woodcut image of St. Christopher dating from 1423. These cards were not really cards; they were pictures printed on inexpensive paper. Since they were easily lost, or torn, or destroyed, very few medieval holy cards have survived. But in 2005 one turned up unexpectedly at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the art history faculty was mounting an exhibit of artifacts and relics from the period of anti-Catholic persecution in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Among the treasures on display was a Book of Hours that had belonged to an English family who remained faithful Catholics after Henry VIII broke with Rome. As the curators examined the prayerbook they found, pasted on the last page, a holy card from the early 1500s, hand-colored, from the shrine of the Holy Rood in Bromholm, Norfolk. Only one other Bromholm holy card has survived the iconoclasm of the English Reformation, so this discovery created a sensation among the curators and among art historians and historians of the Church during the age of the Tudors.
Almost as rare as holy cards from Catholic England are the cards that were produced by cloistered nuns in 17th century France. The sisters would mount a holy picture on a piece of plain white paper large enough to create a frame. Then, using the finest razors and penknives available, they cut out bits of the white paper to create elaborate lacy patterns around the holy picture. Such intricate handwork could take months for one nun to complete. Given the fragility of these lace paper cards and the exquisite workmanship involved in creating them, when one appears on the market collectors have been known to bid $1000 or more to acquire such a prize. (Read more.)

Via Stephanie Mann. Share

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How Jimmy Stewart Became George Bailey

From the WSJ:
Every year around Christmas, Americans stop to pay homage to what is perhaps our most beloved motion picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The 1946 film may flicker in black and white, but it still manages to feel fresh in affirming the human spirit as we head into each new year. Fans of the movie might assume that making such an uplifting tale was a joy for cast and crew. In truth, this story of redeeming angels was born in the devastating wake of World War II, and it starred an actor swatting away his own demons.

The first time that Jimmy Stewart appears on screen as George Bailey, the image freezes in close-up as two angelic figures discuss the character in voice-over. One says to the other, “I want you to take a good look at that face.” It’s something that all of us should do as we watch the film. Stewart is supposed to be playing a young man in his early 20s, but the once-boyish 38-year-old had just returned the year before from fighting in Europe, and only makeup and careful lighting could give him a semblance of youth. More seriously, as we know from the testimony of those who worked with him in the military and in Hollywood in those years, Stewart was suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder.

After two years of subsisting largely on ice cream and peanut butter, he had only just begun to eat real food and keep it down. He had the shakes and at times flew into rages, and his sleep was interrupted by images of bombers burning in the sky and men tumbling to earth.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” was Stewart’s first picture after almost five years away, including 20 months on the front lines. As a squadron commander of B-24 heavy bombers, he flew his first combat mission to Germany on Dec. 13, 1943. He commanded 12 missions in his first two months and was almost shot down twice. The experience unnerved him enough that he spent time at the “flak farm,” where fliers went to decompress after seeing too much combat.

It wasn’t fear of losing his own life that had gotten to Stewart. It was his deeply ingrained perfectionism, which made him fear making the wrong split-second decision in German airspace while leading dozens of planes and hundreds of men in combat.

Filming “It’s a Wonderful Life” found him back in Hollywood after surviving too many crash landings and close calls. In sunny Southern California, the land of make-believe, this suddenly middle-aged man faced other problems. A new crop of youthful leading men had emerged in his absence. He also faced a crisis of conscience, wondering if acting was a worthwhile profession after the gravity of his daily life in the military.

This back story may help to explain the remarkable emotional energy of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Stewart’s bordering-on-frantic performance was not just virtuoso acting. Co-star Donna Reed reported that both Stewart and the picture’s director, Frank Capra, made the production difficult at times as they second-guessed how scenes were done.

And why not? Both men were desperate to re-establish themselves in a Hollywood that, they feared, had passed them by while they served in the military. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is considered the picture that relaunched Stewart as a more serious, seasoned actor. But for him, making it was just one more trial by combat.

It was the veteran actor Lionel Barrymore—the movie’s villain, Old Man Potter—who helped Stewart to claw his way back. When Stewart wondered aloud during production if acting was worth his time, Barrymore looked him in the eye and asked: Isn’t entertaining people better than dropping bombs on them?

Stewart seems to have gotten the message. He was able to convey great joy and passion in the movie’s closing scenes, shouting “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!” as he runs through the streets and saying with a wink to his guardian angel, as he turns heavenward, “Atta boy, Clarence.” (Read more.)

The War on Children

From Life Site:
Just consider this. The city of New York has 31 legally protected genders. Facebook has gone further by giving account holders 58 genders in the United States and 71 in the United Kingdom. In Ontario, the new sex curriculum will teach children at least six genders. There is no science to back these new words. It's being pushed by the politics of power, sex and correctness. And those that control language shape thought and behaviour. Laws are in place to make that one disagrees, otherwise the person can be charged with hate speech, fined or even go to jail.

These newly constructed words, acronyms and expressions about human sexuality are very confusing to young people in schools. They confuse adults. Can you define gander, sexual orientation and the difference between gender identity and expression? There you go, not so easy. That's the whole purpose, to confuse. Just imagine how a teacher can misuse this new language of gender to shape what children think about themselves and their sexuality. A teacher could say to a class: "Boys and girls you may not be a boy or a girl but any one of these 31 genders." (Read more.)

5 Ways to Live Like a Monk in the World

From Roman Catholic Man:
Numerous parts of the Rule of St. Benedict highlight the importance of humility, most notably in Chapter 7 where St. Benedict depicts humility as a ladder with twelve rungs which the monk is to ascend. The first step is that a monk keeps the “fear of God” always before his eyes (RB 7:10). When you fear God or are in “awe” of God, you maintain a right relationship, realizing that you are a creature and not God. Humility is a virtue that needs to be developed, and it entails being down to earth, honest, and truthful, both in prayer, at work, and in everyday matters. St. Benedict wrote, “Place your hope in God alone. If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge” (RB 4:41-43). Being a humble person means being grateful for the blessings and opportunities that God gives you and recognizing that your gifts and talents have God as their source. Allow daily struggles, and even falling into sin, to be an invitation to humility, where you admit without hesitation that you must depend entirely on God’s grace, and not on your strength. (Read more.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Charities of Marie-Antoinette

During Christmastide it is helpful to see the example of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who made the needs of the poor a priority, especially in the cold of winter. For Marie-Antoinette, this was nothing extraordinary, but the basic duty of a Christian. While surfing the internet, it is all too common to see Marie-Antoinette characterized as someone who ignored the plight of the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Her charities were quite extensive and are a matter of public record. She also took great care to instill a love of the needy in her children. At Christmastime, during a particularly brutal winter, the queen had them renounce their Christmas gifts in order to buy food and blankets for the destitute. As Maxime de La Rocheterie relates:
One year, on the approach of the 1st of January, she had the most beautiful playthings brought from Paris to Versailles; she showed them to her children, and when they had looked at them and admired them, said to them that they were without doubt very beautiful, but that it was still more beautiful to distribute alms; and the price of these presents was sent to the poor.
(The Life of Marie Antoinette by Maxime de La Rocheterie, 1893)
 Another biographer Charles Duke Yonge discusses how the queen's generosity was well-known by her contemporaries, in spite of her efforts to be discreet, and the efforts of her enemies to portray her as a decadent spendthrift. 
By the beginning of December the Seine was frozen over, and the whole adjacent country was buried in deep snow. Wolves from the neighboring forests, desperate with hunger, were said to have made their way into the suburbs, and to have attacked people in the streets. Food of every kind became scarce, and of the poorer classes many were believed to have died of actual starvation....

Not only were Louis and Marie Antoinette conspicuous for the unstinting liberality with which they devoted their own funds to to supply of the necessities of the destitute, but the queen, in many cases of unusual or pressing suffering that were reported to her in Versailles and the neighboring villages, sent trustworthy persons to investigate them, and in numerous instances went herself to the cottages, making personal inquiries into the condition of the occupants, and showing not
only a feeling heart, but a considerate and active kindness, which doubled the value of her benefactions by the gracious, thoughtful manner in which they were bestowed.

She would willingly have done the good she did in secret, partly from her constant feeling that charity was not charity if it were boasted of, partly from a fear that those ready to misconstrue all her acts would find pretexts for evil and calumny even in her bounty. One of her good deeds struck Necker as of so remarkable a character that he pressed her to allow him to make it known. "Be sure, on the contrary," she replied, "that you never mention it. What good could it do? they would not believe you;" but in this she was mistaken. Her charities were too widely spread to escape the knowledge even of those who did not profit by them; and they had their reward, though it was but a short-lived one.

Though the majority of her acts of personal kindness were performed in Versailles rather than in Paris, the Parisians were as vehement in their gratitude as the Versaillese; and it found a somewhat fantastic vent in the erection of pyramids and obelisks of snow in different quarters of the city, all bearing inscriptions testifying the citizens' sense of her benevolence. One, which far exceeded all its fellows in size--the chief beauty of works of that sort--since it was fifteen feet high, and each of the four faces was twelve feet wide at the base, was decorated with a medallion of the royal pair, and bore a poetical inscription commemorating the cause of its erection:

"Reine, dont la beaute surpasse les appas

Pres d'un roi bienfaisant occupe ici la place.

Si ce monument frele est de neige et de glace,

Nos coeurs pour toi ne le sont pas.

De ce monument sans exemple,

Couple auguste, l'aspect bien doux pur votre coeur

Sans doute vous plaira plus qu'un palais, qu'un temple

Que vous eleverait un peuple adulateur.[10]"

(Life of Marie-Antoinette
by Charles Duke Yonge, 1876)


"The Burning Babe"

The poem by St. Robert Southwell, priest and martyr.

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow ;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear ;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callëd unto mind that it was Christmas day.
(Artwork from Holy Cards)

The Coventry Carol

Christmas is tinged with sorrow. From A Clerk at Oxford:
Lullay, lullay, thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, lullay, thou little tiny child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and may,
For thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
The Coventry Carol is among the medieval carols most often heard today, and I find the popularity of this profoundly sad song at Christmastime intriguing. As John of Grimestone's lullaby suggests, there are actually a considerable number of medieval lullabies which share the mood of the Coventry Carol: somewhere between lullaby and lament, full of melancholy and pity for the child being comforted, whether it's Herod's victims, the Christ-child, or any human baby born into a weeping world. (Here's another beautiful example.) I wonder if the popularity of the Coventry Carol today indicates that it expresses something people don't find in the usual run of joyful Christmas carols - this song of grief, of innocence cruelly destroyed. Holy Innocents is not an easy feast for a modern audience to understand, and I'll confess I find the medieval manuscript images of children impaled on spears just horrible - but then, they are meant to be, and they're horrible because they're all too close to the reality of the world we live in. The idea that this is incongruous with the Christmas season (as you often hear people say) is largely a modern scruple, I think. It's our modern idea that Christmas is primarily a cheery festival for happy children and families - our images of Christmas joy, both secular and sacred, are all childlike wonder and picture-perfect families gathered round the tree. This is very nice, of course, for those who have (or are) children, or happy families, but for those who don't - those who have lost children or parents, who face loneliness or exclusion, who want but don't have children, family, or home - it can be deeply painful. (Read more.)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

The Birth of Christ, Federico Barocci, 1597
And a Happy New Year! Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog in 2016~ I will pray for you all at Mass this Christmas Day. Please pray for me.
Welcome, all wonders in one sight!

       Eternity shut in a span;

Summer in winter; day in night;

       Heaven in earth, and God in man.

Great little one, whose all-embracing birth

Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.
 ~  from "In the Holy Nativity of Our Lord" by Richard Crashaw


Last Will and Testament of Louis XVI

The last Will and Testament of Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre, given on Christmas day, 1792.
In the name of the Very holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
To-day, the 25th day of December, 1792, I, Louis XVI King of France, being for more than four months imprisoned with my family in the tower of the Temple at Paris, by those who were my subjects, and deprived of all communication whatsoever, even with my family, since the eleventh instant; moreover, involved in a trial the end of which it is impossible to foresee, on account of the passions of men, and for which one can find neither pretext nor means in any existing law, and having no other witnesses, for my thoughts than God to whom I can address myself, I hereby declare, in His presence, my last wishes and feelings.
I leave my soul to God, my creator; I pray Him to receive it in His mercy, not to judge it according to its merits but according to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ who has offered Himself as a sacrifice to God His Father for us other men, no matter how hardened, and for me first.
I die in communion with our Holy Mother, the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, which holds authority by an uninterrupted succession, from St. Peter, to whom Jesus Christ entrusted it; I believe firmly and I confess all that is contained in the creed and the commandments of God and the Church, the sacraments and the mysteries, those which the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught. I never pretend to set myself up as a judge of the various way of expounding the dogma which rend the church of Jesus Christ, but I agree and will always agree, if God grant me life the decisions which the ecclesiastical superiors of the Holy Catholic Church give and will always give, in conformity with the disciplines which the Church has followed since Jesus Christ.
I pity with all my heart our brothers who may be in error but I do not claim to judge them, and I do not love them less in Christ, as our Christian charity teaches us, and I pray to God to pardon all my sins. I have sought scrupulously to know them, to detest them and to humiliate myself in His presence. Not being able to obtain the ministration of a Catholic priest, I pray God to receive the confession which I feel in having put my name (although this was against my will) to acts which might be contrary to the discipline and the belief of the Catholic church, to which I have always remained sincerely attached. I pray God to receive my firm resolution, if He grants me life, to have the ministrations of a Catholic priest, as soon as I can, in order to confess my sins and to receive the sacrament of penance.

I beg all those whom I might have offended inadvertently (for I do not recall having knowingly offended any one), or those whom I may have given bad examples or scandals, to pardon the evil which they believe I could have done them.

I beseech those who have the kindness to join their prayers to mine, to obtain pardon from God for my sins.
I pardon with all my heart those who made themselves my enemies, without my have given them any cause, and I pray God to pardon them, as well as those who, through false or misunderstood zeal, did me much harm.

I commend to God my wife and my children, my sister, my aunts, my brothers, and all those who are attached to me by ties of blood or by whatever other means. I pray God particularly to cast eyes of compassion upon my wife, my children, and my sister, who suffered with me for so long a time, to sustain them with His mercy if they shall lose me, and as long as they remain in his mortal world.
I commend my children to my wife; I have never doubted her maternal tenderness for them. I enjoin her above all to make them good Christians and honest individuals; to make them view the grandeurs of this world (if they are condemned to experience them) as very dangerous and transient goods, and turn their attention towards the one solid and enduring glory, eternity. I beseech my sister to kindly continue her tenderness for my children and to take the place of a mother, should they have the misfortune of losing theirs.

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

I most warmly enjoin my children that, after what they owe to God, which should come first, they should remain forever united among themselves, submissive and obedient to their mother, and grateful for all the care and trouble which she has taken with them, as well as in memory of me. I beg them to regard my sister as their second mother.

I exhort my son, should he have the misfortune of becoming king, to remember he owes himself wholly to the happiness of his fellow citizens; that he should forget all hates and all grudges, particularly those connected with the misfortunes and sorrows which I am experiencing; that he can make the people happy only by ruling according to laws: but at the same time to remember that a king cannot make himself respected and do the good that is in his heart unless he has the necessary authority, and that otherwise, being tangled up in his activities and not inspiring respect, he is more harmful than useful.

I exhort my son to care for all the persons who are attached to me, as much as his circumstances will allow, to remember that it is a sacred debt which I have contracted towards the children and relatives of those who have perished for me and also those who are wretched for my sake. I know that there are many persons, among those who were near me, who did not conduct themselves towards me as they should have and who have even shown ingratitude, but I pardon them (often in moments of trouble and turmoil one is not master of oneself), and I beg my son that, if he finds an occasion, he should think only of their misfortunes.

I should have wanted here to show my gratitude to those who have given me a true and disinterested affection; if, on the one hand, I was keenly hurt by the ingratitude and disloyalty of those to whom I have always shown kindness, as well as to their relatives and friends, on the other hand I have had the consolation of seeing the affection and voluntary interest which many persons have shown me. I beg them to receive my thanks.

In the situation in which matters still are, I fear to compromise them if I should speak more explicitly, but I especially enjoin my son to seek occasion to recognize them.

I should, nevertheless, consider it a calumny on the nation if I did not openly recommend to my son MM. De Chamilly and Hue, whose genuine attachment for me led them to imprison themselves with me in this sad abode. I also recommend Clery, for whose attentiveness I have nothing but praise ever since he has been with me. Since it is he who has remained with me until the end, I beg the gentlemen of the commune to hand over to him my clothes, my books, my watch, my purse, and all other small effects which have been deposited with the council of the commune.

I pardon again very readily those who guard me, the ill treatment and the vexations which they thought it necessary to impose upon me. I found a few sensitive and compassionate souls among them – may they in their hearts enjoy the tranquillity which their way of thinking gives them.

I beg MM. De Malesherbes, Tronchet and De Seze to receive all my thanks and the expressions of my feelings for all the cares and troubles they took for me.

I finish by declaring before God, and ready to appear before Him, that I do not reproach myself with any of the crimes with which I am charged.

Made in duplicate in the Tower of the Temple, the 25th of December 1792.


The Origin of the Christmas Tree

From Catholic Straight Answers:
With his band of faithful followers, St. Boniface was traveling through the woods along an old Roman road one Christmas Eve.  Snow covered the ground, muffling their footsteps.  Their breath could be seen in the crisp, cold air.  Although several suggested that they camp for the night, St. Boniface encouraged them to push forward, saying, “Courage, brothers, and forward yet a little.  God’s moon will light us presently, and the path is plain.  Well know I that you are weary; and my own heart wearies also for the home in England, where those I love so dearly are keeping feast this Christmas Eve.  Oh, that I might escape from this wild, storm-tossed sea of Germany into the peaceful haven of my fatherland!  But we have work to do before we feast tonight.  For this is the Yule-tide, and the heathen people of the forest have gathered at the Oak of Geismar to worship their god, Thor; and strange things will be seen there, and deeds which make the soul black.  But we are sent to lighten their darkness; and we will teach our kinsmen to keep a Christmas with us such as the woodland has never known.  Forward, then, in God’s name!”

They pushed ahead, reinvigorated by St. Boniface’s plea.  After a while, the road opened to a clearing.  They could see houses, but dark and seemingly vacant.  No human was in sight.  Only the noise of hounds and horses broke the quiet.  Continuing on, they came to a glade in the forest, and there appeared the sacred Thunder Oak of Geismar.  “Here,” St. Boniface proclaimed as he held is bishop’s crozier high with its cross on top, “here is the Thunder-oak; and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the false god Thor.”

In front of the tree was a huge bonfire.  Sparks danced in the air.  The townspeople surrounded the fire facing the sacred oak.  St. Boniface interrupted their meeting, “Hail, sons of the forest!  A stranger claims the warmth of your fire in the winter night.”  As St. Boniface and his companions approached the fire, the eyes of the townspeople were on these strangers.  St. Boniface continued, “Your kinsman am I, of the German brotherhood and from Wessex, beyond the sea, have I come to bring you a greeting from that land, and a message from the All-Father, whose servant I am.” (Read more.)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Today you will know the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see His glory. (Invitatory Antiphon for December 24.)

The Christmas Martyrology.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

The Guadalupe Mysteries

From Church Pop:
New and evolving technological developments pertaining to Our Lady of Guadalupe are discussed in detail in Guadalupe Mysteries: Deciphering the Code. For example, it wasn’t until 1929 when the official Basilica photographer Alfonso Marcue Gonzales first discovered an image in the eyes of the Blessed Mother of Guadalupe. As technology improved, several studies were conducted into these images. In 1979, a Peruvian engineer, Jose Aste Tonsmann, discovered a group of 13 people in Mary’s eyes, a discovery that was confirmed in 2006 by another engineer using the most up-to-date technology. It is believed that these people represent those who were present at the very moment when Juan Diego presented the image of Our Lady to Bishop Zurmarraga who didn’t seem to believe him at first.

It’s confounding because the image’s iris measures only 5/16 of an inch, and easy to believe the author’s contention that no human could have painted “such a precise image on such a small surface, observing virtually 100 percent conformance with the laws of optics, which were not known until the nineteenth century.”

Another fascinating fact has to do with the material on which the image is presented. The tilma was constructed of agave thread. This type of material isn’t durable; it’s expected to wear out within 20-40 years. But the material on which appears the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is virtually unscathed after nearly 500 years, which is miraculous, especially since no real effort at preservation has been made. In fact, it didn’t even have the protection of a glass encasement during the first 100 years of its existence. Instead, it was exposed to incense, candle smoke and other unfavorable elements.

There was a time when pilgrims were able to directly touch, kiss and even place their faces directly against the tilma, yet no marks were left on the material. The image famously survived at least two episodes that should surely have been destructive. One includes dynamite that exploded after being placed by the altar where the image hung. Not even a scratch was left on the protective glass while windows were shattered in nearby houses.

In 1791 nitric acid was accidentally spilled on part of the image while the frame was being cleaned. This accident should have instantly put a hole in the fabric. Instead, only minor damage was done in the form of stains, and even those eventually faded. (Read more.)


From Victoria:
Practiced hands measure flour, eggs, spices, and the most important component—honey—to form the dough for the traditional cookies, Ivana Smulikova has made since her childhood in Slovakia. Eleven years ago, her family of four moved to British Columbia with only eight suitcases among them. Much was left behind, but tucked in her heart was the recipe for her homeland’s classic confection. Known under different names in other European countries (lebkuchen in Germany, taai-taai in Belgium), the cookies, called medovniky in Slovakia, look similar to gingerbread, but rather than molasses and brown sugar, they rely on honey as the sweetener. This natural ingredient also acts as a preservative, keeping the treats edible for several months. (Read more.)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas at the Trapp Family Lodge

From Victoria:
When Maria von Trapp first gazed at the snow-blanketed hills and valleys of Vermont’s Green Mountains after she and her family fled Nazi-occupied Austria, the area looked much like home—a sister scene to her beloved Alps. In 1943, the famous Sound of Music singing troupe bought a farm on Luce Hill, near Stowe, and welcomed guests to their farmhouse. Four decades later, fire destroyed the original house, but within three years, the family rebuilt and created a ninety-six-room inn that embraces Austrian style and outdoor vigor. Comprising 2,500 acres, the property includes villas and chalets, as well as a restaurant, garden, brewery, and bakery. The resort continues to thrive in the hands of third-generation von Trapps. Although the singing tours ceased in 1955, hospitality is now the high note they strive to achieve. (Read more.)

The Marian Solution

From Vultus Christi:
In all the discussions surrounding the controversy stirred up by Amoris Laetitia, I am struck by how little one speaks of grace, and of Our Lady, and of prayer. There is but one solution to difficult pastoral situations, and that one solution is grace. Grace is obtained by prayer, and prayer is within the reach of every soul. There are souls who choke on the words of the Act of Contrition but who can murmur a Hail Mary. Let such souls do this much.  Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces, will not refuse the grace of contrition to one who, incapable of anything more, simply calls upon her name. It is, I think, a great pity that the magnificent text of Saint Bernard, Respice Stellam, Voca Mariam, is not more often cited by those ministering to souls in difficult pastoral situations. At the end of the day, The Marian Solution may be not only the best solution, but the only solution. (Read more.)

Of Popes and Heresy

From In the Light of the Law:
No one in a position of ecclesial responsibility—not the Four Cardinals posing dubia, not Grisez & Finnis cautioning about misuses, and not the 45 Catholics appealing to the College, among others—has, despite the bizarre accusations made about some of them, accused Pope Francis of being a heretic or of teaching heresy. While many are concerned for the clarity of various Church teachings in the wake of some of Francis’ writings and comments, and while some of these concerns do involve matters of faith and morals, no responsible voice in the Church has, I repeat, accused Pope Francis of holding or teaching heresy. 

That’s good, because the stakes in regard to papal heresy are quite high. Those flirting with such suspicions or engaging in such ruminations should be very clear about what is at issue. First. Heresy is, and only is, “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth that must be believed by divine and catholic faith.” 1983 CIC 751. Heresy is not, therefore, say, the failure to defend effectively specific truths of Revelation (though that might be negligence per Canon 1389); moreover, privately-held heretical views, even if they are leading to certain observable actions, are not in themselves actionable under law (Canon 1330). 

Second. We can dismiss as impossible—indeed, as unthinkable thanks to the protection of the Holy Spirit—any scenario whereby a pope commits the Church to a heresy. See Ott, Fundamentals (1957) 287 or Catholic Answers tract “Papal Infallibility” (2004). However grave might be the consequences for a pope falling into heresy, the Church herself cannot fall into heresy at his hands or anyone else’s. Deo gratias.

Those two points being understood, the canonical tradition yet recognizes (and history suggests) that a given pope could fall into personal heresy and that he might even promote such heresy publicly, which brings us to some thoughts on those possibilities.

Setting aside a few who, relying on half-baked notions like “popes are not bound by canon law”, throw up their hands in despair at the prospect of a heretical pope and predict the End-of-the-World-as-We-Know-It, others, more reasonably, point to Canon 1404, which states “The First See is judged by no one”, and conclude that the only remedies in the face of a genuinely heretical pope are prayers and fasting. May I suggest, though, that canon law has somewhat more to offer than that. (Read more.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'Tis the Season

Some magical photos from Sanctuary. Share

Trauma-driven Sexuality

A psychologist speaks. From Crisis:
In the natural sex act, the human race is preserved, and the man lives on through future generations. But in the trauma-driven sex act that violates our bodily design, his generative power engenders death and annihilation. And so the wisdom of the body presents this contrast: new life vs. decay and death.
No wonder we see so much dissatisfaction in the gay world; not just because of society’s disapproval, but because the man who lives in that world, senses the futility of a gay identity. It represents the termination of that long line of his ancestors who were once linked together, through the ages, in natural marriage. (Read more.)

The Marriages of Margaret Beaufort

From Casting Light upon the Shadow:
It is believed that Henry’s birth caused such physical damage to Margaret that it was impossible for her to conceive another child. No further pregnancies are recorded, but this did not deter her from marrying twice more.  Her youthful marriage to Edmund Tudor is made more remarkable by the fact that this was not Margaret’s first experience of the married state. At six-years-old a marriage was arrange with the eight-year-old, John de la Pole; the eldest son of the Duke of Suffolk, a union that was quickly annulled when the duke fell into disfavour with the king. As a mark of favour toward Margaret, she was subsequently betrothed to the king’s brother, Edmund Tudor.
Both historians and fiction authors often assume Margaret’s marriage to Edmund Tudor was unhappy, yet there is no evidence for this. Although there was a disparity in age, and he took her straight from the nursery at her mother’s home at Bletsoe castle to the wilds of Wales, she never spoke ill of Edmund. Much later in life, despite remarrying, she made her wishes clear that she should be buried with Edmund at Carmarthen; a wish that was ignored. She was, instead, interred at Westminster Abbey close to Henry VII, while Edmund lies at St David’s, his body moved from Carmarthen during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Edmund died at Carmarthen in 1456, either from the plague or wounds received in battle, or possibly a mixture of both. Margaret was left a vulnerable widow, six months pregnant and far away from the court of her cousin, King Henry VI. She turned for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor, who took her to his fortress at Pembroke to await the birth. Shortly after she was churched, seeking security as the country descended into civil war, Jasper assisted her in forming an alliance with Henry Stafford, a younger son of the Duke of Buckingham. (Read more.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


From The Guardian:
Somehow the statue escaped the wholesale wrecking of religious artifacts in churches and cathedrals during the Protestant Reformation of the mid-1500s to travel across the Channel. De Beer and his colleagues speculated that it might have been bought by a wealthy foreigner long before the threat of destruction to religious icons that came with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Alternatively it could have been smuggled out later, as the danger to religious works became clear. Much of its early life was spent in seclusion at a monastery in St-Truiden, Belgium. There it avoided the violence of the French Revolution, when many religious icons were also destroyed. (Read more.)

Interview with Frances Mayes

From Victoria:
I’m no expert; I’ve written only two novels. Most of my books are nonfiction, which is so much easier for me. No plot necessary! You write what happens, as well as you can. I started both novels with a general idea, not an outline. I learned as I proceeded, letting myself go down discursive paths if they appeared. Unless you’ve written one, you can have no idea how deeply tracked in your psyche a story is. How to keep all the subterranean working aloft in the narrative is the skill you must learn. I enjoyed writing my second novel so much. By then, I let the characters have free reign. I liked them and was not going to let anything bad happen to them. They’d had their share of sorrow. In my pages, they could soar. Writing is a rich life, the life of the imagination, of possibility. To create something where there was nothing—well, that’s the joyous root of any artist’s life. (Read more.)

Women and the Protestant Reformation

From Catholic World Report:
For much of the past 500 years, to the extent that anyone bothered to think or talk about women and the Reformation, the assumption was that since the Reformation improved everyone’s lives, then women’s lives were made far better as well. Luther and other Reformers had profound, deep, and violence-inducing differences, but since they all seemed to prioritize the “freedom of the Christian” in opposition to the rules-and-works mentality of the prison of medieval Catholicism, that must mean that everyone was better off (because they were more “free”) after 1517—and “everyone” includes women, does it not? No longer forced into convents against their will, no longer told that marriage was an inferior state, and now encouraged to read the Bible in their own languages, the lot of the post-Reformation woman must have been an improvement over what her grandmothers had suffered.

The first problem we run up against in this scenario is the Reformers’ definition of “Christian freedom” and our contemporary understanding of their understanding. Whether their understanding was an accurate, truly biblically-based one is a matter for theologians. Whether their sense of it was anything even close to what we think “freedom” is, even interior freedom, is doubtful: ask Anabaptist Felix Manz, executed by drowning for his beliefs by order of the Reform-controlled Zurich council in 1527, barely a decade after the movement began and just a few years after Luther published his On the Freedom of the Christian

Setting that aside, we can turn to the question of women’s actual lives. The impact of the Protestant Reformation on women was profound. In some senses nothing changed: nothing Luther or the other reformers said questioned basic, traditional, medieval Catholic assumptions about human anthropology or the roles of men and women in marriage. What did change was something else, but something quite simple, and with profound implications: Luther and the other Reformers went to war against the evangelical counsels as ideals, and especially as the core of a vowed way of life. This type of life and spirituality was no longer an ideal; marriage and domesticity—might we call it the domestic church?—was. 

The Reformation was, of course, a diverse and constantly evolving phenomenon. Common to the entire movement, however, was this conviction that vowed, celibate religious life as an ideal was non-scriptural, unnatural, harmful, led to sin and hypocrisy, and must be eliminated, supplanted by another model of ideal Christian life: the individual, saved by faith alone, dwelling productively in the community as believer, spouse, and parent. 

The strongest symbol of this non-biblical ideal of virginity was of course, the monastery, so in Reformed lands the closing of male and female religious houses was a top priority, and the Gospel of domesticity was preached and enforced in their stead. Every woman, it was assumed, was meant for marriage, children, and homemaking. Gone was that space—as the convent was—for women to pursue intellectual and artistic pursuits, to provide institutionalized charity, to interact with religious, political, and business interests as leaders of their communities, and—very importantly—to support the community and serve the living and the dead through their once highly valued, now “useless” prayers. 

And so, a survey of the large and continually growing body of research reveals wide agreement that is, in fact, 180 degrees away from the former view of the Reformation’s impact on women as beneficial. “The down side of the peculiarly Protestant ‘good news’ to women,” Lutheran historian Kirsi Stjerna notes, “was the exclusiveness of marriage as the basis for the holy vocation. No other options received a theological blessing. Thus, Reformation theology, generally speaking, enforced the domestication of women. … The domestication of women to the honorable callings of motherhood and marriage, advocated through theological argument, knitted with the Protestants’ valorization of family and marriage as the cornerstones of society, on the one hand, and their reiteration of the Pauline rejection of women teachers and ministers, on the other.” 

In other words, what we are left with in Reformation-dominated lands is a vision of a holy society in which worship is centered on preaching from a literally-interpreted Bible, from which female saints have disappeared, and in which women might no longer envision or live out their spiritual lives in ways unrelated to earthly marriage and family life. They must be connected to a human male in a legal, familial way in order to have social legitimacy, human worth, and a role in the spiritual landscape. (Read more.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Medieval Art Revealed

From the Daily Mail:
Incredible medieval church murals not seen since the 16th century have been restored as part of painstaking preservation project. The murals were covered after William Shakespeare's father was ordered to paint over them more than 450 years ago. The colourful murals, thought to be some of the finest in Europe, were covered with limewash in 1563 when John Shakespeare was bailiff of Stratford-Upon-Avon. He was acting on orders from Henry VIII as part of the Protestant Reformation which was a backlash against the Catholic Church. The 16th century Reformation, championed by reformers including the Tudor king and Augustinian monk Martin Luther, saw a huge upheaval in the religion, politics and culture of the day, triggering persecutions and conflicts. (Read more.)

The Wonder of Santa

From Victoria:
"Christmas was a magical time for our family and the small community I grew up in,” says entrepreneur Bethany Lowe. “Families went for horse-drawn carriage rides, ice-skated together on country ponds, went caroling door-to-door, and built snowmen to greet passers-by.” Lowe, a self-taught folk artist, weaves the spirit of these idyllic holiday memories into the realistic Santa figures that form the foundation for her company, Bethany Lowe Designs. Bethany’s somewhat unexpected career began in the 1980s when she and husband Curt were running a family farming operation and raising four children in their home state of Illinois. Her mother had always encouraged her creative pursuits, so when Midwestern farmers were hard-hit by the country’s economic woes, it was natural for Bethany to turn to art as a means to supplement the family’s income. She began making “country décor” items to sell at home parties, which soon led to juried folk art shows across the country and, eventually, the wholesale market. (Read more.)

Uther Pendragon

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
The Dark Ages of ancient Britain is an incredibly interesting period of time. We know so much about other times in history, but the Dark Ages is an era where we find few facts handed down to us. There are many stories, poems and myths, and many of these refer to the shadowy figures of Uther Pendragon and his far more infamous son Arthur. There are many people that would love to find proof of King Arthur’s existence; he is a figure that looms large in the imagination, and yet that proof continues to remain elusive. Uther, however, appears more often in the few written accounts that have survived as a man that actually lived, a man who may possibly have drawn the tribes of Britain together when it was needed most.

To set the scene for when the Pendragons may… or may not have existed, we have to take into account that the term Dark Ages refers to the long period of time which started several decades before the Western Roman Empire fell in AD 476 and lasted to the beginning of the Renaissance period, which was around AD1300.

These dark ages were a time of little or no law and order, when civilisation, the written word and record keeping were at a very low point. Britain and most of Europe was in turmoil as the rule of Rome dissolved, all of which leaves modern scholars somewhat ‘in the dark’ as they search for their solid facts. Many of these ‘almost’ facts, these stories and tales of battles, the struggles of leaders and kings, were handed down verbally through generations as people sat around their fires and entertained each other with tales during the cold British nights. As they repeated them they changed, so many facts turned into myths. (Read more.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Brilliant Spools

From Victoria:
After twenty-three years of flying, Paulette Knight translated her air miles into yards upon yards of ribbon that decorate her San Francisco shop, The Ribbonerie. A former flight attendant for American Airlines during the industry’s fabled golden era, she wandered the arrondissements of Paris between flights, repeatedly drawn to the enchanted trimmings that festoon the city’s candy stores.

“I was a real Francophile and went to France on all my vacations,” says Paulette. “I saw this extraordinary French wired ribbon hanging in the windows, but it was just decoration—you couldn’t get it even if you bought a box of bonbons.” Following successive trips, she happened upon a place that supplied the Paris confiseries and was able to purchase a few coveted satins and grosgrains to take back home. Eventually, her keen eye for embellishment (she was a student of fashion design prior to her jet-setting days) would shift the direction of her career and lead her to a new venture within the French marketplace. (Read more.)

The History of Early English

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
Two thirds of England’s rivers take their names from ‘Celtic’ words, for example, Avon. We have place names which are a mixture - in the case of Much Wenlock, Much is from Anglo-Saxon mycel, meaning great, Wenlock comes from Celtic wininicas, white area, and the Anglo-Saxon loca, (place.) We have Roman influence, too, with castra (fort), seen in places such as Chester, and Manchester. Of course, the Anglo-Saxons did build forts of their own - burhs, which give Britain all the burgh and borough place names. But the Anglo-Saxons didn’t just come to fight, and/or defend, they also came to stay. They cleared places, to make space for their settlements, and gave us word endings like ley, ly, leay and leigh, which all mean 'clearing'. The Scandinavians followed suit and also added place names - by, booth, and thwaite.

The Normans did add a few of their own - Ashby was given to the de la Zuche family, (giving us Ashby de la Zouche) and Bewdley came from Beau Lieu (beautiful place).

But the Norman-French did not settle in with the same comfort as the Anglo-Saxons and the Scandinavians, nor in the same number. As we saw above, the commoners kept speaking English, which was still evolving, nevertheless, and came to add many French words. (Read more.)

The Jilted Princess

Joan of England was the oldest of daughter of King John and his 2nd wife, Isabella of Angouleme. Born 10th July 1210 she was the 3rd of 5 children; she had 2 older brothers and 2 younger sisters would join the family by 1215. Even before her birth, she was mooted as a possible bride for Alexander of Scotland, son of King William I of Scotland. A verbal agreement between the 2 kings in 1209 provided for John to arrange the marriages of William’s 2 daughters, with 1 marrying a son of John’s, and Alexander marrying one of John’s daughters. Following the death of William I a further treaty in 1212 agreed to the marriage of 14-year-old Alexander II to 2 year-old Joan. However, the agreement seems to have been made as a way of preventing Alexander from looking to the continent – and especially France – for a potential bride, and by extension allies.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Unmatched Discipline of the Prussian Army Under Frederick The Great

From War History Online:
This was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia under the direct command of her king, Frederick II, called Frederick the Great. Frederick was the consummate soldier-king, a great general with many victories – as well as some notable defeats – in his career. His soldiers were the product of a century of sustained and rapid training and development, paralleling the swift expansion of Prussian-controlled territory on the northern European landmass.

Including Frederick, three generations of Prussian kings had given their close attention to military affairs. By the time Frederick II the Great marched at Leuthen, the precision and discipline of his troops was without peer. Even Rome at the height of her ancient power, thought Frederick, could not show so well as this. He rode with his staff in the midst of his cavalry, a powerful figure physically, but dressed without ostentation, with practicality and speed in mind; just a cavalry officer. Messengers rode near him, ready to speed his orders to any point in his army at a moment’s notice.

He was a learned and practiced tactician and strategist. In 1757, Frederick was in his mid-forties, as was his opponent on this early day in December. Upon hearing news of Frederick’s arrival in Silesia Charles had arrayed his huge force in a line facing west. The line stretched fully four miles long from north to south with the hope of guarding against a fast flanking maneuver by the Prussians. Charles’ army outnumbered Frederick’s two-to-one, and they both knew it. (Read more.)

Florence Ebersole Smith

From War History Online:
Florence Ebersole was born in Santiago, Isabela province, in the Philippines, in 1915. Her mother was a native Filipino woman, and her father was a US Army veteran of the Spanish-American war. After graduating from high school, Florence began working with US Army intelligence in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Here she met her 1st husband, Chief Electricians Mate Charles Edward Smith, who also worked as a crewman on a PT Boat. They were married on August 19, 1941, only months before the United States and Japan were at war.

When the war was declared on December 8, 1941, Chief Smith reported for duty on board his PT Boat. They joined the fleet to defend the islands from the Japanese who attacked the same day. Their invasion of the Philippines had begun. On December 22, 1941, the main force attacked, quickly smashing through the ill-equipped and untrained American troops on the island. Florence Ebersole Smith was in Manila at the time, with two armies advancing from either side. On the 25th, all Military personnel were ordered to evacuate, and the whole of the Army Intelligence office packed up and left. They knew if they were captured they would likely be subjected to harsh interrogations, and their information was too valuable to lose. Florence, however, stayed. She had to care for her 16-year-old sister, who had no prospects and no protection. (Read more.)

The Secret of Human Identity

From Dr. Anthony Esolen at The Public Discourse:
When I was young, I wanted to know Dante partly because I wanted to know everything, but mainly because I was in love with poetry and wanted to learn the craft from the masters. I was hungry, and it never occurred to me to think that the grandson of coal miners in America could not lay claim to Dante, or Shakespeare, or Caravaggio, or Aristotle, or any artist or thinker or mystical seer, just because they lived long ago, came from another part of the world, spoke a different language, and were nourished in cultures that were so distant from mine. If they wrote in a different language, I might learn that language; if they came from another part of the world, I studied its geography; if other cultures nourished them, I tried to place myself in their midst—tried to walk with Dante along the streets of Florence, that city riven with partisan passions and all too often running with blood. I did not need these works to affirm my identity. I was not even aware I had an identity, other than that I was a certain young man, American by birth, and by the grace of God Roman Catholic and a fan of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

But I have come to see that many of my students now have no such grounding, no such matter-of-course assurance of who and what they are. If the self is nourished by culture, and culture implies deep roots and carefully tended soil, what happens to the self when the topsoil is stripped bare? And stripped bare it has been. Young people have been starved of beauty: the great majority of them do not even recognize the names of the greatest of English poets, of Milton and Wordsworth and Tennyson, let alone know their songs. They have been taught almost nothing of our nearly three-thousand-year-old heritage of art, no classical or sacred music, no folk music, and no popular music older than a generation. Even many of those who regularly attend Mass on Sunday show no deep familiarity with Scripture. For those who do not darken the church doors, the gospels themselves may as well have come from another planet. (Read more.)
The most significant find was the original leather cover that protected the psalter. It was found intact and provided an insight into the origins of the Irish church. The inside of the leather cover “is lined with papyrus, a writing material produced from reeds grown in the eastern Mediterranean, famously in Egypt. The papyrus was probably placed inside the cover to act as a stiffener.”
Some scholars believe the “discovery of Egyptian papyrus represents the first tangible connection between early Irish Christianity and the Middle-Eastern Coptic Church.”
Two pages of the Psalter are currently displayed at the National Museum of Ireland and because they are so sensitive to light, they can only be displayed three months at a time. It is regarded as one of the greatest finds in Ireland since the Ardagh Chalice.
- See more at:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Victoria": Exclusive First Look

From Veranda:
Do you miss "Downton Abbey" with every fiber of your period-piece-loving being? Fear not, Victoria is here to ease your suffering. The PBS drama tells the story of a young Queen Victoria as she finds her footing as England's unlikely regina and falls in love with Prince Albert, the most emo man of all time. The show can best be described as stunning, addictive, "why am I not an 18th century English royal?" inducing, and ridiculously romantic — i.e. exactly what you need to get you through this winter. (Read more.)