Monday, April 30, 2007

The Rituals of Grief

Under the Gables has a thought-provoking article on the rituals of grief. Our society has pared down the external manifestations of mourning which were psychologically healing ways of dealing with pain. For all of our license, we are such a repressed society. People seem to use violence and sexuality as outlets of emotions that were once given an expression by religious ritual, customs and even by great art, music, and drama. My sister was told on the day of our father's funeral that she should not wear black because she was "celebrating" his life. My sister said, "I want to wear black because I am sad." Political correctness is callous and inhuman. Share

The Departed (2006)

Last night we finally got to watch Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006). Here is a review from Godspy by Catholic writer Matthew Lickona. I must say that we almost turned it off because of the filthy language and overwhelming cruelty and violence. I cannot focus too intently on such films; I watched it while blogging and cleaning the kitchen, letting my husband filled me in on the action. With powerful acting and an incredibly suspenseful plot, The Departed, by showing the spiraling depths of evil, emphasized the courage and determination of the few heroic characters. However, the constant use of the "F" word became ridiculous after awhile. The ending was like a Shakespeare tragedy, and as one deeply-flawed but brave character was laid to rest, all I could think of was "here is the noblest Roman of them all." Share

Leah Ward Sears Defends Marriage

Here is a superb article by Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, via Maggie Gallagher. Justice Sears says:

I am not a law professor. But from where I sit as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, a family law that fails to encourage marriage ignores the fact that marriage has long been associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike. Experts who contend that we need to move "beyond marriage" say they are only responding to the facts. But here is one major fact: High rates of family fragmentation hurt children. Share

Fall of Saigon

Stony Creek Digest reminds us that today is the anniversary of the fall of Saigon to the Communists, with some moving commentary. Share

Another soldier

Feminine Genius has a post about a young woman soldier who was just killed. The reality of women in combat has so many awful implications that anyone would think that just from the point of view of morale it would not be encouraged. But political correctness overcomes reason and logic everytime. As Genevieve of Feminine Genius says:

I have no problem with the military, and was a Navy wife for years. I'm not even opposed to the mission in Iraq, leaving the controversy about it to those who know more facts about it than I do. But what I have always disliked about women in combat is reinforced by a book I'm reading at present (review to come) about Mao's plan for China, and one key part of communism was to undermine beauty, family, and motherhood as bourgeois, each to be rooted out. Thus women were to be drafted and treated with no distinction because in the proletariat dream, femininity was the enemy.

When children are removed from life....

Coffee Wife in the Orkney Isles tells it like it is...again. I remember reading how one of the goals of the original Communists was to get both the father and the mother out of the home and children into daycare. Whittaker Chambers, the former Communist spy, discusses this in his memoir Witness. The Party back in the thirties discouraged marriage, encouraged "living together," as well as masculine dress for women. Chambers records his pure joy when his girlfriend returned from the abortionist, telling him that she had changed her mind; she wanted to keep the baby. They got married and had a family. It was the love and awe inspired by Chambers' children that eventually led to his belief in God and pulled him out of Communism.

Author Helen Andelin said back in the seventies that many women were leaving home and going to work then because they chose to do so, but the day would come when they would have no choice. That day has come. Many women who work now do so out of economic necessity, not from choice. It can require great sacrifice and courage to raise a family on one income. There are many material things and pleasures that one must learn to do without. It is worth it in the long run, however. Share

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Madame Campan

I who for fifteen years saw [Queen Marie-Antoinette] attached to her august consort and her children, kind to her servitors, unfortunately too polite, too simple, too much on an equality with the people of the Court, I cannot bear to see her character reviled. I wish I had a hundred mouths, I wish I had wings and could inspire the same confidence in the truth which is so readily accorded to lies.
~Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie-Antoinette

Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan was the femme de chambre, the chamber maid, of Queen Marie-Antoinette. She was author of the famous memoirs, detailing life at Versailles. Madame Campan was a highly educated lady from a bourgeois family who began her career at Versailles as the Reader to the daughters of Louis XV, from whom she had an earful of gossip. As the Queen's maid, she attended to the details of the running of the queen's household. Madame Campan has often been accused of exaggerating her role, especially where the diamond necklace scandal is concerned. That may very well be; it is easy to picture Madame Campan as an old lady at the finishing school she ran for the daughters of revolutionaries, carried away by memories of a glittering past. I do not, however, think she deliberately softened her portrayal of Marie-Antoinette, in order to get back into the good graces of Madame Royale. In that case, she would not have been so critical of Louis XVI, since it was well-known that the princess idolized her dead father. As far as her politics go, Madame Campan was perhaps a bit liberal and so she interprets some events in that light. As far as her descriptions of the various personalities, her insights are balanced; her observations, shrewd and detailed.


Favorite Shakespeare Quotes

Here are some of my favorite Shakespeare quotes (feel free to share yours):

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet. ACT I Sc. 5.

"Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love." Hamlet. ACT II Sc. 2.

"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments: love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds." Sonnet CXVI

"O, how this spring of love resembleth the uncertain glory
of an April day." Two G of V, ACT I Sc.3

"Good night, good night ! parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow." Rom & Jul, ACT 2, Sc.2

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath.
It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes." Merchant of Venice, ACT IV, 1

"Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife." Romeo and Juliet, ACT I, Prologue

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me." Julius Caesar, ACT III, sc. 2 Share

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Archbishop Chaput on History

I promised my husband that I would try to be more restrained in my quantity of posting but this speech by Archbishop Chaput on the "Common Good" is so incredible, I am compelled to share it.

Christianity and Judaism see life very differently [from atheism.] For both of them, history is a place of human decision. At every moment of our lives, we're asked to choose for good or for evil. Therefore, time has weight. It has meaning. The present is vitally important as the instant that will never come again; the moment where we are not determined by outside forces but self-determined by our free will. Our past actions make us who we are today. But each "today" also offers us another chance to change our developing history. The future is the fruit of our past and present choices, but it's always unknown, because each successive moment presents us with a new possibility. Share

Modest Designs are Back

Ladies Against Feminism is linked to an article about how ladies are demanding, and receiving, attractive but modest clothes. I think too many Christian ladies think that they have to be frumpy or androgynous in order to be modest. Many devout women in our town wear loose baggy jeans and shapeless tops with sneakers everyday, so that I have almost come to see such attire as a badge of piety. It is most likely more a question of comfort than of modesty for them, I am assuming. I am just afraid that the little girls will get the impression that staying home with children means that one cannot wear pretty clothes on a daily basis. The career women wear bright, stylish clothes. Now what does that say to our daughters? It says that being a housewife is dreary while having a career is fun. Not that it is preferable or possible for a mother to be glamorous all the time, especially with gardening, cooking and heavy housework to do, not to speak of vomiting babies. But it is always possible to be feminine. Share

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tolkien as Prophet

A recent publication of Tolkien's The Children of Húrin is hailed as prophetic. I personally think that all of his books are prophetic and mystical on some levels. According to Zenit:

With the release of a new edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Children of Húrin," fans of this deeply Catholic author may be surprised by its biblical tone, says a Tolkien expert.

Jef Murray, artist-in-residence at the St. Austin Review, speaking with ZENIT, said, "'The Children of Húrin' has a more biblical tone than 'The Lord of the Rings.' It is a story of human fallibility and sin and may be prophetic for our times."

Painstakingly reconstructed by Christopher Tolkien from his father's manuscripts, the new publication released by HarperCollins last week is close to two versions previously published. The elder Tolkien died in 1973.

Christopher Tolkien corrected some contradictory elements, updated the chronology, and made the writing tone more accessible.

The book is illustrated by Alan Lee, one of the two conceptual artists for "The Lord of the Rings" movies.

Hollywood studios are already interested in the film rights.

The tale

"The tale itself has much to say of the nature of evil; how it manifests itself in the actions of angelic/demonic beings and, more importantly, in the foibles and sin of fallen man," said Murray.

The Narn i Chîn Húrin, as it is known in Tolkien's "Unfinished Tales," is an almost Job-like story of one family's struggles in Beleriand long before the tales of "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings."

Tolkien's satanic figure, Morgoth, curses the family of Húrin. And, just as with the story of Job, Húrin's wife, son and daughter all bear the brunt of that curse.

But unlike Job, the protagonist of the tale, Túrin, does not humble himself and seek God's grace and redemption.

Rather, Túrin attempts to flee his doom, but pride coupled with an attitude of self-righteousness drives him to commit greater and greater acts of sin and folly.

Murray explained, "The tale ends badly, but, as with all great tragedies, there are lessons here for our own times."

"We, too, often trust in ourselves rather than in God," says Murray, "and like Túrin, the world believes itself invincible and capable of meeting all challenges."

Murray concluded, "But sin taints all things, and without humility and trust in the grace of God, we are all in grave danger of following Túrin's path." Share

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette's children

Since many readers find their way to this site while searching for information on the children of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, I thought I would do a post just about them. Above is their oldest daughter, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, known as "Madame Royale," born in front of the entire court on December 19, 1778.

Here is Madame Royale with the first Dauphin, Louis-Joseph, born in 1781.

Madame Royale as a small child. She was called "Mousseline la Sérieuse" because of her serious expression.

Madame Royale at about the age of twelve.

Madame Royale, the "Orphan of the Temple" at seventeen years old, dressed in mourning for her family.

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the Duchesse d'Angouleme, in her late thirties.

This picture is almost always said to be Louis-Charles, the second son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Others, including myself, believe it to be the Dauphin Louis-Joseph, who died in June 1789 at the age of seven of tuberculosis. Louis-Joseph was slender, frail and delicate, with chestnut hair and ethereal blue eyes, like his mother's. Louis-Charles was robust and husky, like his papa; a "peasant child," his mother described him. He had blonde hair and was very mischievous.
A portrait of Louis-Charles, the "peasant child," later Louis XVII, who was so tormented in the Temple prison, after being torn from his mother's arms.

Louis-Charles, the second dauphin, born on Easter Sunday in 1785. Marie-Antoinette called him her "chou d'amour." History records that he died of neglect and tuberculosis in the Temple prison in June of 1795. His parents had been killed. His sister Madame Royale was in the room upstairs but not allowed to see him or even sit near him when he was sick and dying. She was not permitted to view his corpse or pray by his body. Very bizarre, to say the least.

The Dauphin Louis-Charles, Louis XVII. One can see the fear and confusion in the once cheerful little countenance, having witnessed the mob screaming for his mother's entrails. He was one of many, many French children who would suffer unspeakably during the Revolution.

Below is the baby Madame Sophie, who was born in 1786 and lived for not quite a year. Share

The Vanishing Trousseau

The trousseau is another feminine custom that has practically fallen into disuse. While the trousseau presently seems to be limited to the apparel of a bridal party and the collecting of lingerie, it once consisted not only of clothes but of everything a young lady would take with her into her new life as a matron. Often it would take years to gather together the treasures meant for adorning a future home, as well as embroidering linens and making quilts. There would be special heirlooms passed down from grandmothers and usually it would all be stored in a cedar chest until the bride set up her new residence with her spouse. According to Mildred Fenwick in the 1969 Vogue's Book of Etiquette:

Traditionally, the bride has not only a clothes trousseau, but one for her new house as well. This includes her good china, silver, glass; bed, bath, and table linens; and the necessary pots and other cooking utensils for her kitchen. Like many traditions, however, this one is observed or not, depending on individual circumstances. Most brides try to acquire at least a minimum of these appointments, for three reasons. First, a minimum, regardless of quality, is essential for even the simplest way of life unless one lives in a hotel. Second, handsome household appointments tend to become a luxury after marriage, and if a woman does not start out with them she often finds that she never gets around to buying them later. Third and last, quality endures and quality shows. It is true that fine china can get broken, but not as easily as pottery.

I encourage all the young brides who come to me for a wedding consultation to have a bridal registry, even if it is at Target. Stores like Target may not carry fine china and silver, but they have bed linens and pillows and towels and so many things for the kitchen. Before the wedding is the time to try to foresee what you might need later and suggest it in the registry to those who want to buy gifts. So many young couples have set up housekeeping together, long before marriage is even discussed, so that planning the trousseau and registry is not quite what it used to be. Share

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fair as the garden of the Lord....

An article about Frederick County, Maryland, where I grew up, was in the Washington Post today. It is getting a bit congested now, but in my childhood it was a beautiful farming community, set in a lush countryside. John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Barbara Frietchie" describes it:

Up from the meadows rich with corn,
Clear in the cool September morn,
The clustered spires of Frederick stand
Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.
Round about them orchards sweep,
Apple and peach trees fruited deep,
Fair as the garden of the Lord
to the eyes of the famished rebel horde,
On that pleasant morn of the early fall
When Lee marched over the mountain-wall;
Over the mountains winding down,
Horse and foot, into Frederick town.

(Read entire poem HERE) Share


All the talk about hats made me think about gloves, from a purely historical and anthropological point of view, of course. Unlike head-coverings, there was never anything in canon law about ladies having their hands covered in church, although there were some ecclesiastical traditions for certain clerics. Nevertheless, in the old etiquette books, hats and gloves usually went together, although hats were never worn with evening gowns. Many ladies and little girls still wear gloves at weddings, First Communions and other formal events, but until the early 1960's they were always worn in church and even while shopping. Here is what Emily Post says about gloves in her 1952 Etiquette:

Always wear gloves as well as a hat in church, and also on the street in a city. Always wear gloves in a restaurant, in a theater, when you go to lunch, or to a formal dinner, or to a dance. Always take them off when you eat. The question of length and color is one of transient fashion and personal taste.... A lady never takes off her gloves to shake hands, no matter when or where, and never apologizes for wearing gloves when shaking hands. On formal occasions she should put gloves on to shake hands with her guests when when she is hostess--and keeps them on when she is in turn a guest. Always wear gloves when standing in a receiving line. The one time she does not shake hands when wearing gloves is when they are are riding gloves or earth-stained gardening gloves, which might smudge the fresh gloves of a friend.

Gentlemen, of course, would always remove their gloves when shaking hands with a lady, according to the old rule. It is interesting how things change. I wonder why everyone stopped wearing gloves? For those who may be interested in the "dos and don'ts" of glove-wearing, there is a lot of colorful information available concerning glove etiquette and history.

Our Lady of Good Counsel

Thank you, Our Lady of Good Counsel, for many favors received. Don Marco and Terry have beautiful meditations on this miraculous picture of the Holy Mother of God. Share

John Boyden and Archduke Otto

Here is a picture of our good friend John Boyden with HIRH Archduke Otto. John has been working and studying canon law in Rome. Courtesy of A Conservative Blog for Peace, which offers some compelling political reflections as well. Share

Homeschool for survival

Here is an article from the NOR about the unmitigated horrors of public school. It is disturbing, so you might want to skip it, since we have all heard it before. I confess to a strong prejudice against public school, having myself endured its inhumanities. We went to a small school in the Maryland countryside but there were some mean "hillbilly" types, for lack of a better word. In fifth grade I would rise an hour early and read the Sermon on the Mount in order to gain the strength to face my tormentors. No child should be subjected to daily fear and dread while they are trying to open their mind to knowledge. I had a pocket New Testament with psalter and would read psalms on the playground, hoping to avert the bullies. Finally, in sixth grade, I punched a girl twice my size when she was trying to intimidate me. They were all so shocked, they left me alone. Share

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Marie-Antoinette receives Holy Communion in prison

The Queen was bone tired. She was led across the courtyard of the Palais de Justice to the Conciergerie and her damp, moldy cell. Yet in that hopeless place she had received much spiritual consolation. Two of her guards were devout Catholics, and earlier in the fall had permitted the holy, non-juring priest Abbé Magnin to twice hear her confession, and even once say Mass in her cell. She had been able to receive Holy Communion for the first time in more than a year. "Now you will have the strength to endure your torments," the Abbé said to her. The guards assisted at Mass with her. Two nights before the trial began, another non-juring priest secretly brought her Holy Communion. She knew it was her Viaticum....
from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter Seven "The Sacrifice"

Spring Cleaning

I have been rearranging my blogroll, adding and subtracting. I removed a few links to blogs that I do not visit all that often and I did not have the impression that they were visiting here much, if at all. I have scruples about linking to people who may not want to be associated with what may be regarded as too controversial. I added some people who have linked to this site and/or visit often. If anyone wants to link to this blog please do so and I will add a reciprocal link. If I removed anyone who wanted a mention here, just let me know, I will put you back. Meanwhile, I am trying to keep things from getting cluttered.... Share

Veils and Hats in Church

"A thorn in the pew" has an interesting discussion about wearing hats and veils in church, with some compelling links. I always have my head covered at Mass. It is a practice deeply rooted in Scripture and Tradition. Many people seem to have some scruple about veiling themselves when the other women in the church are bare-headed. To me, it is important to follow one's conscience, not what the people around one are doing or not doing. I do not judge the women who choose to go bare-headed and I hope they are not judging me, but if they are, that is their affair. As for imitating those around me, if I did that, I would not be living a Catholic life.

Ladies often say to me: "I wish I were brave enough to wear a mantilla." Dear Ladies, it requires courage to face death and to shed one's blood for the Gospel. It does not require courage to wear a piece of lace or a beret on one's head. For some, it may be a matter of overcoming human respect. If you are drawn to head coverings, then WEAR one and do not worry about what other people think.

Dymphna also had a post on this topic recently.

HERE is a post of mine about mantillas from a few months ago. And another article. Share

Ron Paul on Freedom

From the LRC:

Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a false government security blanket beckons.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another Victim

A young man from our parish, St. John's in Bellefonte, PA, was also murdered at VA Tech. He was Jeremy Herbstritt and his funeral is tomorrow at St. John's. May he rest in peace. We, the living, mourn and pray. Share

Portrait of Madame Royale

Thérèse slowly lifted her veil, revealing her penetrating gaze, which flickered from sapphire to agate according to the light, deep set in classic features like a stern Athena. It was a face in which energy strove with sorrow, like fire with rain. With the weather-beaten complexion of one who spends hours a day in the open air, her countenance was more noble than beautiful. The bitter droop of the mouth, set in the stubborn Hapsburg jaw, seemed to have put every hint of beauty to flight, yet one felt compelled to search for it in fascinated futility when gazing upon her.
from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France, the Duchesse d'Angouleme, around 1815. Share

Homeschooler back at home

Melissa Busekros, the German teenager who was taken away from her family because they were homeschooling her, has returned home. Praise God! Share

Masculine Genius

Professor Anthony Esolen is interviewed about finding the "masculine genius:"

Men are lonely -- and they are also not universally fooled by the androgyny that is preached to them every day, in school, at church, in the workplace and in the media.

Unfortunately, I don't think they are finding "new" ways of looking at their manhood. They are finding very old ways of looking at it, or rather, they are finding a strange and finally unsatisfying version of those old ways.

Really, the human race has not changed since the days of Homer and Moses; men and women have not changed. And the mysteries of manhood and womanhood have been probed in literature for thousands of years. So we need to step back a little, take a look at that literature, or take a look at what men within our own lifetimes used to do.

For instance, though men are certainly wilder creatures than women -- the source of both their dynamism and their destructiveness -- it is men, not women, who create the civil order, as it is women, not men, who create the domestic order.

Our inability to distinguish between these orders, and our neglect of both of them in the pursuit of individual "dreams," has left us with a poor and thin domestic life, while in most places in America and probably Europe a vibrant civic life is hardly a memory. Share

Monday, April 23, 2007

Religious Illiteracy

Religious illiteracy is rampant in today's world. I was always told that one's knowledge of the faith should at least correspond to one's level of secular education. Share


Here is the beautiful young Indonesian man who saved Cousin Gil at VA Tech. He was a Christian who had endured persecution in his homeland. In your charity, please pray for the repose of his soul, and especially for his poor family. I weep for them. Share

Origins of Meal Time

A delicious offering from LRC. Share

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Bourbons at Home- A Pictorial Essay

Here are some "domestic" scenes of the Bourbon dynasty over the years.

The Royal family in 1781 at the birth of the Dauphin Louis-Joseph. From left to right, the three Artois children, the Comtesse d'Artois, Artois, Louis XVI, Madame Royale, the Dauphin on Marie-Antoinette's lap, Madame Elisabeth, the Provences. Provence looks none too happy and his wife Madame was quite put out by the baby's birth. As Nesta Webster says in Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before the Revolution:

The truth is that it was the fact of [Marie-Antoinette] having children that increased the malignity of her enemies. Until that moment, they were not obliged to take her very seriously; as a mother, and above all as the mother of the Dauphin, she became at once a formidable obstacle to their plans.

Here is a Caraud painting of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette at the hameau. The king is talking to a lady (Madame Elisabeth, I presume), and the queen receives flowers from a maid. Behind her is the Princesse de Lamballe.

If the King had not inspired the Queen with a lively feeling of love, it is quite certain that she yielded him respect and affection for the goodness of his disposition and the equity of which he gave so many proofs throughout his reign. (Madame Campan's Memoirs)

Marie-Antoinette and her children in the gardens of Trianon.

The Restoration: Artois, Louis XVIII, the Duchesse de Berry (Caroline of Naples), the Duchesse d'Angouleme (Madame Royale), the Duc d'Angouleme, the Duc de Berry.

After Berry's assassination. From left to right are the Duchesse d'Angouleme, the Duc d'Angouleme, Henri de Chambord in the arms of his grandfather Monsieur (Artois), Louis XVIII, Louise d'Artois, and the Duchesse de Berry. In the words of the royal governess Madame de Gontaut:

Monsieur used to come to Saint-Cloud nearly every morning to see his little grandchildren. He came alone, in a little carriage....The children would catch sight of him along way off, and run eagerly to meet him. The Duchesse de Berry often spent the mornings at Saint-Cloud. (Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut) Share

Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson

Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson was a great writer and historical novelist extraordinaire. My favorites of his novels are The King's Achievement about Henry VIII's sack of the monasteries and its sequel By What Authority, about the recusant priests. According to one site which discusses his many works of fiction:

Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) was a Catholic priest, a convert from the Anglican Church, who wrote a series of popular short story collections and novels at the beginning of the 20th century.

Monsignor Benson wrote from an explicitly Catholic point of view. However, his works can be appreciated by believers from all religious and ethical systems as exploring man’s relationship to the eternal, and our individual response to it.

Consequently, any reader can find in Benson’s fiction an exploration of the ultimate questions: Why am I here? What does this all mean? Through fiction, Benson explored these questions for himself, in a way calculated to inform others but not coerce.

Does the reader need to be a Catholic to enjoy Benson? Assuredly not, for his works have been popular with people of all faiths and from all walks of life. No one need toddle 'round to the nearest Vestry to be baptized in order to enjoy or even understand Benson’s writing. The reader only needs to bring an open mind and a willingness to be entertained.


Thank you, Camille....

If I hear one more person compare the Virginia Tech massacre to United 93, I will scream. On the doomed Flight 93, the terrorists did not have guns, but knives and box cutters. It is suicide to charge someone firing two pistols into your face. Feminine Genius pointed me to this article which quotes Camille Paglia (the entire article is worth reading):

“When someone opens the door of a classroom and begins firing with a semi-automatic weapon, there is no fighting back possible,” says Paglia. “All of this happened too fast for the young men or young women to rush the shooter and bring him down.”

Moral Responsibility

It is "not just a material world" says Father John Flynn as he discusses global poverty. According to Zenit:

The Pope has spoken out on a number of occasions on matters related to poverty and economic development. "Once again I invite the leaders of the wealthiest nations to take the necessary steps to ensure that poor countries, which often have a wealth of natural resources, are able to benefit from the fruits of goods that are rightfully theirs," he said Jan. 8 in his annual speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also speaks clearly on the matter: "Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility toward those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves or have been prevented from doing so by tragic historical events" (No. 2439).

For those who argue that the Church is meddling in affairs outside its competence, the Catechism points out that the Church leaves to the laity the work of directly intervening in these matters (No. 2442).

Moreover, the Church does not propose a specific program, as action in this area can legitimately take a variety of forms. What is important, the Catechism continues, is that the action taken be inspired by the message of the Gospel, the common good, and the teaching of the Church.

Benedict XVI developed in greater depth the Church's contribution in his 2006 message for Lent. The primary contribution of the Church does not consist in technical solutions, but in proclaiming the truth of Christ, he explained. It is Christ, the Pope added, "who educates consciences and teaches the authentic dignity of the person and of work."

The Catechism also states that the responsibility to help poorer nations is not just a question of justice, but is also a duty of charity (No. 2439). The Pope's 2006 Lent message spoke of the role of charity, noting that "no economic, social, or political project can replace that gift of self to another through which charity is expressed."

The worst poverty is not to know Christ, the Pope added, citing Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Therefore, he continued, "we must help others to find God in the merciful face of Christ. Without this perspective, civilization lacks a solid foundation."

In this moral dimension of development the family plays an important role, as the Pontiff explained in his speech given Oct. 16 to Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Addressing the question of rural development, the Pontiff argued that the family needed to be given priority. The moral principles and values which govern the family, the Pope explained, must be given priority. Matters such as relations between husband and wife and family solidarity need to be protected. "Investment in the agricultural sector has to allow the family to assume its proper place and function, avoiding the damaging consequences of hedonism and materialism that can place marriage and family life at risk," he urged.

The Pope also called for a renewed commitment to solidarity and cooperation between states. By so doing the spirit of justice, peace and harmony will be built up among peoples, he concluded. A timely message for a world in which many suffer from material and spiritual poverty. Share

A Lady's Education

Coffee Wife of the Walled Garden in the Orkney Islands has some delightful editorials about what it is to be a lady. She discusses in several posts how most modern higher education is useless in helping women to become intelligent, well-rounded ladies. I have long had my reservations about the overall benefits of college life for women. It seems too frequently to have a coarsening, rather than a refining, effect. I was blessed to have had some wonderful professors; I never lived on campus but with my family. Nevertheless, the general moral depravity of college life, even with the minimum exposure I had to it, is not something that was constructive either psychologically or spiritually.

Some of the most truly educated people I have ever known are those who did not go to college at all. A little French Canadian nun named Sister Bernadette who once befriended me has got to be one of the most cultured, classiest women I have ever known. She came from a Vermont farm family, entered religious life in her early twenties, and never went near a university. Sister was barely five feet tall and made me think of what Saint Bernadette would have been like if she had lived to be eighty-five. Sister Bernadette had a keen sense of beauty, order, and propriety. She constructed inlaid art nouveau altars for the oratories in her convent and cultivated gardens that were right out of Shangri-la. No, she was not a scholar but she had logic and an ability to think and interpret the world around her that seems to have been deadened in so many younger people.

I am not advocating doing away with higher education for women. I do think we need to rethink how and why we educate our young girls, teaching them to function as men in the rat race rather than forming them for what will bring them happiness and fulfillment as women. Share

Saturday, April 21, 2007

When Bad Things Happen....

Athanasius offers some excellent moral and theological reflections on the Va Tech massacre.

I am still reeling from the horror of it, especially since a family member was almost killed. When violence is done to a relative, the shock value is closer to home. An attack upon one's kindred is an attack upon oneself. We have had to force ourselves to think and talk and write about other things, or else we would be too overwhelmed to go about our daily business. Share

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Western Confucian reminds us that a couple days ago was the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. He also has a link to an organization whose fascinating newsletter my husband and I have received for many years. Share

Friday, April 20, 2007


When I was growing up in Maryland, there were few churches that had air conditioning, and in the summer they would be like walking into an oven. At our little country parish of Saint Ignatius Loyola in Urbana they distributed card board fans adorned with scenes of the Holy Family and the Last Supper. Later, my grandmother gave me an ornate one from Spain and when I went to Spain myself I bought another. Ladies in Spain and in the south of France still use fans a great deal, since bistros and cafés can get hot and stuffy when crowded. In past times, fans were a vital accessory. They often kept ladies from fainting due to their tight corsets and were indispensable in the art of coquetry. Sometimes the ornamentation got out of hand. As the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica says:

During the 18th century all the luxurious ornamentation of the day was bestowed on fans as far as they could display it. The sticks were made of mother-of-pearl or ivory, carved with extraordinary skill in France, Italy, England and other countries. They were painted from designs of Boucher, Watteau, Lancret and other "genre" painters; Hebert, Rau, Chevalier, Jean Boquet, Mme. Verite, are known as fan-painters. These fashions were followed in most countries of Europe, with certain national differences. Taffeta and silk, as well as fine parchment, were used for the mounts. Little circles of glass were let into the stick to be looked through, and small telescopic glasses were sometimes contrived at the pivot of the stick. They were occasionally mounted with the finest point lace. An interesting fan (belonging to Madame de Thiac in France), the work of Le Flamand, was presented by the municipality of Dieppe to Marie Antoinette on the birth of her son the dauphin. From the time of the Revolution the old luxury expended on fans died out. Fine examples ceased to be exported to England and other countries. The painting on them represented scenes or personages connected with political events. At a later period fan mounts were often prints coloured by hand. The events of the day mark the date of many examples found in modern collections. Among the fan-makers of modern days the names of Alexandre, Duvelleroy, Fayet, Vanier became well known in Paris; and the designs of Charles Conder (1868-1909) have brought his name to the front in this art. Painters of distinction often design and paint the mounts, the best designs being figure subjects. A great impulse was given to the manufacture and painting of fans in England after the exhibition which took place at South Kensington in 1870. Modern collections of fans take their date from the emigration of many noble families from France at the time of the Revolution. Such objects were given as souvenirs, and occasionally sold by families in straitened circumstances.

Fans are nice to have on a warm summer evening, sitting on the patio; they help you to create your own breeze while keeping the mosquitoes away.

Cardinal Wiseman and Fabiola

Beside a table, just outside the columns of Phrygian marble, sits a matron not beyond the middle of life, whose features, noble yet mild, show traces of having passed through sorrow at some earlier period. But a powerful influence has subdued the recollection of it, or blended it with a sweeter thought; and the two always come together, and have long dwelt united in her heart. The simplicity of her appearance strangely contrasts with the richness of all around her; her hair, streaked with silver, is left uncovered, and unconcealed by any artifice; her robes are of the plainest colour and texture, without embroidery, except the purple ribbon sewed on and called the segmentum, which denotes the state of widowhood, and not a jewel or precious ornament, of which the Roman ladies were so lavish, is to be seen upon her person. The only thing approaching to this is a slight gold cord or chain round her neck, from which apparently hangs some object, carefully concealed within the upper hem of her dress.

At the time that we discover her she is busily engaged over a piece of work, which evidently has no personal use. Upon a long rich strip of gold cloth she is embroidering with still richer gold thread; and occasionally she has recourse to one or another of several elegant caskets upon the table, from which she takes out a pearl or a gem set in in gold, and introduces it to the design. It looks as if the precious ornaments of earlier days were being devoted to some higher purpose.
~ from Cardinal Wiseman's Fabiola

Fabiola, Cardinal Wiseman's fine historical novel of the early Christian martyrs, paints a vivid portrait of the life of the early Church in Rome. A work of fiction, it should not be seen as a definitive account of the life of any particular martyr, although actual martyrs are characters in the story. It does capture the spirit of the age of the great Roman persecutions, of the dread and glory of Christian life in those times. According to New Advent:

It was during [a] visit to Rome that Wiseman projected, and commenced to execute, the writing of by far the most popular book that came from his versatile pen -- the beautiful romance of "Fabiola", which was meant to be the first of a series of tales illustrative of different periods of the Church's life. The book appeared at the end of 1854, and its success was immediate and phenomenal. Translations of it were published in almost every European language, and the most eminent scholars of the day were unanimous in its praise. All this greatly consoled the cardinal when troubled and harassed by many vexations, and a spirit of new cheerfulness and courage breathes from a sermon preached by him in May, 1855, dwelling in thankfulness and hope on the revival of Catholicism in England.

The plot involves several characters, but the protagonist is Fabiola:

The heroine of the book is Fabiola, a young beauty from a noble Roman family. She is spoiled by her father Fabius, who cannot deny her anything. Fabiola seems to have everything, including a superior education in the philosophers, yet under the surface, she is not content with her life. One day, in a fit of rage, she attacks and wounds her slave girl Syra, who is a secret Christian. The proud, spoiled Roman girl is humbled by Syra's humility, maturity and devotion to her in this situation, and a slow transformation begins, which finally culminates in her conversion to Christianity, brought on by Syra and of her own cousin Agnes, whom she adores and dotes on.

The novel includes accurate descriptions of the catacombs, of the ordeals of the arena, of Roman customs, both pagan and Christian, all of which make it a superb educational resource, as well as a thrilling, inspiring and heartbreaking story.

Tony Benkovic's funeral

Heidi Hess-Saxton, editor of Canticle Magazine, has a moving account of the funeral of Johnette Benkovic's husband Tony, who recently passed to his eternal reward. There is also a website comemmorating Mr. Benkovic's life. May he rest in peace.

I have been reading the latest Canticle and I encourage all women to subscribe to this wonderful, inspiring periodical. I am impressed with the quality of the writing, the depth of the spirituality, and the earthy wisdom in its pages as Catholic ladies minister to each other as true sisters in Christ. Share

Pius XII ordered the shelter of the Jews

I had heard this years ago and I am glad that it is finally being acknowledged. Via The Roving Medievalist. Share

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte confronts Widow Simon

After returning to France in 1814, after twenty years of exile, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, was contacted by the Sisters of Charity at the Hôpital des Incurables in Paris. One of their patients was Madame Simon, widow of the infamous Simon the cobbler who had brutalized the little Louis XVII in the Temple prison. Widow Simon claimed that the boy king had been smuggled out of the Temple in a basket of laundry, and that he had not died in 1795, but had been replaced by another boy who died in his place. The princess did not know what to make of such a wild story. In December of 1814 she went incognito to the hospital with two friends to personally interview the cobbler's widow. The following is a rendition of the confrontation from the novel Madame Royale:

....A frail old woman sat alone by the stove. She was in a wheelchair, a white linen cap on her head, a shawl around her shoulders and a blanket across her legs. She was tatting in the fading December light streaming through the window.

"Mère Simon, some people are here to see you, " said Sister Lucie. She withdrew without curtsying, as Thérèse had asked her. Lifting her veil, Thérèse approached the cobbler's widow. Her eyes met the steel grey ones in the withered face. It was a hard visage, as hard as she had ever remembered it to be, but not evil. She stared keenly at Thérèse for several seconds before looking down again at her tatting.

"Sit down, Madame," said Widow Simon, gesturing to a chair. Thérèse sat down; Pauline and Mathieu rema
ined standing by the door. "You have heard, I suppose, that I was once the governess of the Dauphin. People talk of nothing but the Dauphin nowadays. Everyone wants to know about him; I tell them everything I can recall."

"Yes, Madame Simon," said Thérèse, trying to soften her grating voice. "I would like to hear about the Dauphin. They say he was a handsome child."

"Handsome!" exclaimed
Mère Simon. "Ah, mon Dieu, he was like an angel with his golden curls and thick eyelashes! Both of my little Bourbons were beautiful children. Yes, his sister was a lovely girl, too." She furtively glanced at Thérèse. "A proud lass, but lovely. Oh, la la, but my Charles was a naughty rascal."

"You took care of him, did you not?"

"Indeed, yes, Madame." The old woman stopped tatting and closed her eyes. "I made certain he ate all the food on his plate. I swept his chamber everyday and mended his clothes. I changed his bed linen often. Those tales about lice-- well, not while
I, Jeanne Simon, resided at the Temple. My Charles loved me and I loved him. He wanted to come with us when we left."

"Your husband," asked
Thérèse, hesitantly, "did he love Charles?"

Madame Simon's eyebrows arched defiantly."I do not care what stories you m
ay have heard, but Simon did not hit Charles all that often. Why, he only hit him when he was drunk, and then he would hit me, too, for that matter. And Charles was a rascal-- all those princely airs and graces, those fine manners and book-learning, why, it just made Simon as mad as can be. He had to beat it all out of him, and knock some sense into his head. He would have done the same to a boy of our own. But he never hit him with an iron poker, knocking him half-dead. That's an evil lie. And he never broke his toys, or killed his pet birds. Not Simon. As for the guards--well, that's another story altogether. They would wake the little fellow up every few hours a night, when they let him sleep at all, to make certain he was still there. 'Capet, are you awake? Show yourself, you whelp!' they would call. It angered me, I must say. Simon did no such thing. He even bought Charles a dog, which was given to the boy's sister after he left."

" said Thérèse, remembering little Coco. "So I have heard. But tell me, did you take the Dauphin away with you?"

"We did, indeed. Simon smuggled him out in a hamper of dirty linen. Hiding the likes of Monsieur Charles was no easy task, let me tell you. Then Simon took him to some place called Vitry. Afterwards, Simon was killed. I did not see the Dauphin again for many years."

Thérèse suppressed a small gasp. "You saw him, Madame? When?"

The old woman's eyes brightened and her face glowed. "My Charles came to see me in 1802. He stood right here in this room."

Thérèse felt her pulses pounding, as she hid her emotion. "From the tower of the Temple until 1802 is a long time," she said lightly. "How were you able to recognize him?"

"By the scar on his upper lip, where the rabbit scratched him." The hard mouth softened into a sly smile
. "Madame, I recognize you quite well, notwithstanding your disguise, although I have not seen you for very much longer....You are Madame Marie-Thérèse!"

Thérèse stood up and almost bolted from the room....

from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter 14, "The Hospital," copyright 2000 by E. M. Vidal Share

Marie-Adelaide, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (1894-1924)

In 1912, Marie-Adelaide of Nassau-Weilburg, ascended the grand-ducal throne of Luxembourg. She was not only the first ruling princess but a devout Catholic succeeding her Protestant father. She encountered many problems, including war and modernism. Like Blessed Charles of Austria, she tried to be a Catholic ruler in the twentieth century. She was forced to abdicate in 1919, and entered a Carmelite monastery. It did not work out for her there, either, and she had to leave. She tried medical school--another disaster. Her health deteriorated and she died in 1924 at the age of twenty-nine. She met every catastrophe with a spirit of humility and resignation to the will of God. In her failure, she achieved ultimate triumph.

Here is a short but deeply inspiring biography of Marie-Adelaide by Diane Moczar. Share

Pro-Life in Action

Finding Real Alternatives to Abortion in Pennsylvania.

Baroness Orczy and the Scarlet Pimpernel

When I first read Baroness Orczy's novel of the French Revolution The Scarlet Pimpernel as a college student, I thought it to be one of the most romantic love stories I have ever read. I still do. Emmuska Orczy (1865-1947) was a fascinating lady who had witnessed the destruction of an uprising first hand in her native Hungary. She loved painting but took up writing as an effort to ameliorate her family's genteel poverty, and she was quite successful. Here is a short description of her life:

When Baroness Orczy (pronounced "OR-see") created the gallant and beautiful aristocrats of The Scarlet Pimpernel, she was writing partly out of her own experience. Born in 1865, the only child of a Hungarian baron, she was herself an aristocrat. And although unrest in Hungary made her father give up the family's holding and leave the country when she was just a little girl, all her life she proudly used her title. When she began writing her novels, she signed them not "Emmuska" (or more properly, "Emma Magdalena Rosalia Maria Josefa Barbara Orczy"), but "Baroness Orczy".

Intense, witty, darkly attractive, she was a welcome guest at all the highest courts of Europe. She dressed in rich, low-cut gowns, in heirloom jewels and wondrous hats, at least one of which - broad brimmed, decorated with a huge curling ostrich feather - was just such a dashing hat as her heroine wore while making her grand entry in The Scarlet Pimpernel. It is quite possible that Baroness Orczy patterned her heroine after herself. This woman, Marguerite Blakeney, the French actress, the charming but independent woman with lovely face, sensitive nature, superior mind - this might have been the woman Baroness Orczy wanted to be. As much as she was born an aristocrat, Baroness Orczy was raised a cosmopolitan. She lived in Brussels, Budapest, London, Paris, and Monte Carlo. She studied music on the continent, art in Great Britain. "Before I reached my teens," she wrote, "I could already jabber in three languages without a trace of a foreign accent." This was before she knew English, which she began to learn at the age of fifteen! When she decided that she did not possess the "sacré feu" (sacred fire) necessary to make her a great painter, she started using her facility with language to create pictures with words. And despite her Hungarian birth and continental upbringing she chose English as the language in which to write. She married an artist and remained devoted to him all her life; by her own account, her marriage was blissfully happy. Also by her own account, some of the happiest days of all were the five weeks during which she wrote the novel by which she is still remembered, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Published in 1905, it became popular almost at once, and Baroness Orczy became somewhat of a celebrity.Though she lived a life of wealth, privilege, and fame, before the end she experienced herself that dark threat of what she had written, that shadowy side of being an aristocrat, that danger of capture and death. During World War II she and her husband were trapped in Monte Carlo when the Nazis invaded France. For the next five years they lived within a stone's throw of the German Gestapo headquarters, afraid to speak English in public. Her husband died in this exile. Her longtime maidservant was arrested by the Italians, and despite months of effort Baroness Orczy could not obtain the Englishwoman's release. She was left utterly alone in a "neutral" state overrun by all England's enemies. Her home was bombed by the R.A.F. just before Monte Carlo was liberated. An old woman, she died soon afterward, in London, in 1947.

Old, but not broken. Her passion, her verve, her romantic and indeed flamboyant love of life, stayed with her to the end, and live after her in The Scarlet Pimpernel.


Baroness Orczy also wrote a little known biography about Caroline of Naples, the Duchesse d'Angouleme's sister-in-law, entitled The Turbulent Duchess. It was a great help to me when writing Madame Royale.


Royal Tombs at Saint Denis

"Wanton Popery" has saved me a lot of work by putting together two wonderful articles about the burial place of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette at the Basilica of Saint Denis in Paris.

More HERE. Share

The Failure of Psychiatry

Terry offers some interesting reflections on our over-medicated society and the failure to really help persons afflicted with mental or emotional disorders. Share

Saved by the Blood

Here is an article about Cousin Gil, who was shot at Virginia Tech on Monday morning, and how he was saved from death by being covered with another student's blood. Share

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Count von Fersen and the Queen's Virtue

A dear Belgian friend, who has been a great help to me in my research, sent me a link to a fascinating website about the Swedish count, Axel von Fersen. Aside from his friendship with the French royal family, he was an intriguing character in his own right for his travels, his experiences in America and his diplomatic career. Fersen's master, King Gustav III of Sweden, was the lone European monarch willing to take action to save Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, and their family from certain death. Fersen was the instrument through which King Gustav's hopes were almost realized.

Fersen's correspondence with the queen must be seen first and foremost as a diplomatic one. Yet writers and filmmakers continue to build a romance around their friendship. People continue to speak of them as "lovers," but historical exegesis is not based upon rumor but upon substantiated evidence. There are many famous lovers in history: Antony and Cleopatra, John of Gaunt and Katharine Swynford, Napoleon and Josephine, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and for all of them abundant facts determine that they were, indeed, lovers. In the case of Marie-Antoinette and Fersen, innuendo is passed off as fact and supposition is accepted as truth. For instance, how can the phrase Tutto a te mi guida ("Everything leads me to thee") mean that the newly widowed queen wanted to be with Fersen, when around the same time, spring of 1793, she told the guard Toulan that: "her sole desire was to be reunited to her husband whenever Heaven should decide that her life was no longer necessary to her children." (Charles Duke Yonge's The Life of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France)

The accounts of those whose personal knowledge of the queen, or deep study of her life, reveal her virtue, as well as her fidelity and devotion to her husband, are continually ignored. Montjoie in his Histoire de Marie-Antoinette, Vol.i, p.107 (1797) quotes the words of her page, the Comte d'Hezecques:
If one wishes to discover the prime cause of the misfortunes of this princess, we must seek them in the passions of which the court was the hotbed and in the corruption of her century. If I had seen otherwise I would say so with sincerity, but I affirm that after having seen everything, heard everything, and read everything, I am convinced that the morals of Marie Antoinette were as pure as those of her virtuous husband.
But since so often the testimonials of French monarchists are seen as being an attempt to ingratiate themselves to the surviving Bourbons, here is what the Irish politician and author John Wilson Croker (1780-1857) wrote in his Essays on the French Revolution:
We have followed the history of Marie Antoinette with the greatest diligence and scrupulosity. We have lived in those times. We have talked with some of her friends and some of her enemies; we have read, certainly not all, but hundreds of the libels written against her; and we have, in short, examined her life with-- if we may be allowed to say so of ourselves-- something of the accuracy of contemporaries, the diligence of inquirers, and the impartiality of historians, all combined; and we feel it our duty to declare, in as a solemn a manner as literature admits of, our well-matured opinion that every reproach against the morals of the queen was a gross calumny-- that she was, as we have said, one of the purest of human beings. (Croker's Essays, p 562)