Thursday, May 31, 2007

Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin, the long dramatic poem by Pushkin is the inspiration behind Tchaikovsky's romantic opera. (There was a colorful post about Pushkin this morning on Taki's blog, which is quite a coincidence since I had been planning to write about Eugene Onegin today.) There is also the wonderful 1999 film starring Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler. As for the opera, it is Tchaikovsky's most famous, and was a favorite of Tsar Nicholas II, who interestingly gave his two oldest daughters the same names as the Larina sisters in Eugene Onegin, Olga and Tatiana. Although the background behind the writing of the opera is a bit on the lurid side, the story itself is highly edifying, about a wife who resists temptation and remains faithful to her aging husband. It also shows how even a dissolute character such as Eugene Onegin possesses a certain code of honor, for he returns Tatiana's love letter to her so that she will not be compromised. The lively waltz from Eugene Onegin is truly one of the most tremendous tunes for dancing ever written. I also love the polonaise, once played at the court of the last Tsar. Share

Father Abram Ryan, Priest and Poet

Monsieur de Brantigny has informed me of another wonderful Irish priest, Fr. Ryan, who assisted the Catholic soldiers of the Confederacy. He was also a poet and lecturer of note. Share

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me -
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud one night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we -
Of many far wiser than we -
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling -my darling -my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea -
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

by Edgar Allan Poe Share

Father William Corby, Civil War Chaplain

Here is an article about Fr. William Corby, a brave Catholic priest who ministered to injured and dying soldiers in the midst of battle.

The Roman Catholic Church took no official stand on the war. Seeing itself as the church of persecuted outsiders in Protestant America, the Church found itself in a "no win" situation: If it chose a side in the conflict, it would be branded as a traitor by the other side; if it remained neutral, it would be attacked as disloyal by both sides. At Notre Dame, both faculty and students were prohibited from discussions favoring either the Union or Confederate side. Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame in 1843, sympathized with the North but was able to maintain a neutral stance on campus, with the result that many Southerners continued to attend Notre Dame along side northern sympathizers, including the children of William Tecumsah Sherman. Father Sorin did send seven C.S.C. priests to serve as chaplains in Union regiments and more than eighty Sisters of the Holy Cross to nurse the sick and wounded in Union hospitals. Father Corby joined the chaplains’ corps in 1861 and was assigned as chaplain to the 88th New York Volunteer Infantry in the famed Irish Brigade of Thomas Francis Meagher. The Irish Brigade was constituted primarily of Irish Catholic soldiers.

Father Corby volunteered his services as a chaplain in the Union Army at the request of Father Sorin, now the Superior-General of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Corby resigned his professorship at Notre Dame, and, with a song on his lips, boarded the train from Chicago:

I'll hang my harp on a willow tree.
I'll off to the wars again:
A peaceful home has no charm for me.
The battlefield no pain

For nearly three years, Father Corby ministered to the needs of Catholic soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. The editor of Corby's memoirs, L. F. Kohl, says about Corby, "Chaplains, like officers, won the common soldiers' respect with their bravery under fire. Father Corby's willingness to share the hardships of the men with a light-hearted attitude and his calm heroism in bringing spiritual and physical comfort to men in the thick of the fighting won him the esteem and the friendship of the men he served. Frequently under fire, Corby moved among casualties on the field, giving assistance to the wounded and absolution to the dying. For days after the battles, he inhabited the field hospitals to bring comfort to men in pain." Share

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Visitation, May 31

"For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flower have appeared in our land....Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come....Show me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet...." (Canticle of Canticles 2:11-12, 13-14)

How appropriate that this most beautiful of months is crowned with the joyful feast of the Visitation. At the voice of Mary greeting her cousin Elizabeth, the infant St. John the Baptist received sanctifying grace and was cleansed of original sin. As St. Alphonsus Liquori wrote in The Glories of Mary those blessings were "the first graces which to our knowledge the Eternal Word granted on earth after His incarnation...thenceforward God made Mary the universal channel...through which all the other graces which which Our Lord is dispensed to us should pass." She whom the angel hailed as "full of grace" would be for all ages to come the "Mediatrix of Grace." "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth." (Ecclesiasticus 24:25)

We, too, are visited by Our Lady. Her prayers obtain for us many moments of actual grace. In the words of St. Francis de Sales in his Sermons on Our Lady: "Our Lady wants to visit us very often but we do not really want to receive her." Responding to grace means renunciation. To quote St. Francis de Sales again:

Transformation is the true mark of divine visitation. We would like to have revelations, but as a form of recreation...because they are sweet and pleasing. Now, God does not give them for that; always they must cost us something...We must then be firmly determined to suffer. And what? Dryness, aridity, disgust. It sometimes seems to us that we have been abandoned by God. You must endure all that if you wish to share in these visits, for to think we can be devout without suffering is a delusion. Where there is more difficulty, there is more virtue.

When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Miriam, the sister of Moses, led the women in song: "Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously magnified." (Exodus 15:20-21) At the Visitation, Mary carries the Hidden God within her. She is the new Ark of the Covenant. As the Ark of the Lord led the ancient armies of Israel to victory, so the Blessed Mother goes before the pilgrim church to the Promised Land of Heaven. At evening prayer, the Church daily recites the Canticle of Mary: "My soul doth magnify the Lord." (Luke 1:46) Her song of praise has become our own, even in the land of exile. Share

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
Win in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

by William Shakespeare Share

Love Song

Had I concealed my love
And you so loved me longer,
Since all the wise reprove
Confession of that hunger
In any human creature,
It had not been my nature.

I could not so insult
The beauty of that spirit
Who like a thunderbolt
Has broken me, or near it;
To love I have been candid,
Honest, and open-handed.

Although I love you well
And shall for ever love you,
I set that archangel
The depths of heaven above you;
And I shall lose you, keeping
His word, and no more weeping.

by Elinor Wiley

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Trial of St. Joan

Here is link to the first interrogation of St. Joan's trial, with the other sessions following. She was tormented and betrayed by those who should have been her spiritual fathers. She answered firmly and boldly, even as had her beloved St. Catherine of Alexandria before her. As another excellent article says:

The story of her prison life is a record of shame to her goalers. Chained, mocked at, threatened, and insulted, her serenity never failed. She was in God's hand, and she bowed to His will.

Months of suffering and anxiety passed over her before her captors made up their minds as to the course they would take to bring about her death under the semblance of legal execution. If she could be convicted by an ecclesiastical court of crimes against the faith, her condemnation would redound to the fair fame of England and of the pious House of Lancaster, while covering the French and their sovereign with confusion as the allies and associates of a minister of hell. (3).... ( The House of Lancaster was fervently orthodox. Persecution of heretics begins with Henry IV. The "Cardinal of England" (Beaufort Bishop of Winchester) was the malicious attacker of heretics at home and abroad. He spoke against the Hussites at the Council of Basle, and he planned Crusades against both heretics and "Saracens.")

Pliant churchmen were at hand to give countenance and help in this undertaking bishops full of zeal and loyalty for our sovereign lord Henry VI, by the grace of God King of France and England.

The worst of these servile churchmen was the wretched Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon. Many other prelates were Caesar's friends, but he sits exalted in solitary infamy. He came to the Burgundian camp and claimed his victim in the name of Bedford, Regent of France for the English King. Had Jeanne been detained by the Burgundians, it is impossible to believe that Charles VII would not have procured her release. Had she been held as a prisoner of war by the English, it is very likely that the shame of holding a woman captive in their hands would have made it possible to arrange for her ransom. But once charged with heresy and taken out of the hands of the Burgundians such hopes and chances were closed. Still, as an ecclesiastical prisoner she would have been entitled to counsel and guidance by religious persons, the Church offering admonition before preferring grave charges of rebellion against any of her children. But this would render her punishment uncertain. Grave doctors of the law and eminent churchmen had at Poitiers, after long inquiry, declared her worthy of trust and they might do so again.

Therefore it was determined that she should be held in a lay prison though charged with an ecclesiastical offense. Cut off in this way from all spiritual help and instruction, she was to be brought, when the process was ripe, before a well-chosen court bent on her destruction, and ready to entangle her in questions which might entrap her into erroneous or heretical statements.

And once more we are confronted, if we try to rationalize her life and put away all belief in inspiration, with the amazing problem as to where and how this untutored girl drew her stores of logic, law, and theology.

Hallowed Ground has some rare images of St. Joan and her beatification.

Novena prayer in honor of St. Joan. Let us pray for all priests and bishops. Share

Father Faber on True Devotion

Don Marco had a couple of posts about St. Louis Grignion de Montfort's True Devotion and Father Faber's translation. Fr. Faber says in the introduction:

Jesus is obscured because Mary is kept in the background. Thousands of souls perish because Mary is withheld from them. It is the miserable, unworthy shadow which we call our devotion to the Blessed Virgin that is the cause of all these wants and blights, these evils and omissions and declines. Yet, if we are to believe the revelations of the saints, God is pressing for a greater, a wider, a stronger, quite another devotion to His Blessed Mother. I cannot think of a higher work or a broader vocation for anyone than the simple spreading of this peculiar devotion of the Venerable Grignion De Montfort. Share

Longfellow's Hiawatha

Poetry is back in style. Via the LRC.

Here is the epic poem. And here is an excerpt:

Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,

Love the shadow of the forest,

Love the wind among the branches,

And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,

And the rushing of great rivers

Through their palisades of pine-trees,

And the thunder in the mountains,

Whose innumerable echoes

Flap like eagles in their eyries;-

Listen to these wild traditions,

To this Song of Hiawatha!

The Queen is not pleased...

...with Tony Blair. Via The Monarchist. Share

Monday, May 28, 2007

St. Joan and St.Thérèse

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus had great devotion to St. Jeanne d'Arc. Here are the verses which she wrote and dramatized in honor of the Maid of Lorraine, with herself dressed as Jeanne. St.Thérèse wrote:

Thy Church, O conquering God! through all the earth,

Begs Thee to crown with the saint's royal crown,

A virgin, martyr, warrior, whose true worth

In heaven's high courts e'en now hath won renown.

Our tumults calm;

Her cause advance!

The halo and the palm

Give unto Jeanne of France!

Novena prayer in honor of St. Joan

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
by William Butler Yeats

(photo courtesy of Ted Kaiser) Share


O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,

Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;

And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,

He rode all unarm'd, and he rode all alone.

So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,

There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He staid not for brake, and he stopp'd not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he enter'd the Netherby Hall,
Among bride's-men, and kinsmen, and brothers and all:
Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword,
(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,)
"O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?"

"I long woo'd your daughter, my suit you denied; --
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide --
And now I am come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar."

The bride kiss'd the goblet: the knight took it up,
He quaff'd off the wine, and he threw down the cup.
She look'd down to blush, and she look'd up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar, --
"Now tread we a measure!" said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a gailiard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride-maidens whisper'd, "'twere better by far
To have match'd our fair cousin with young Lochinvar."

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,
When they reach'd the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
"She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They'll have fleet steeds that follow," quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting 'mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

by Sir Walter Scott Share

Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole, Martyr for the Sanctity of Marriage

Today is the feast of Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole, last princess of the royal house of Plantagenet, martyr for the Catholic faith under Henry VIII. She was born in 1474 into a highly dysfunctional family (to say that they were a bunch of cutthroats is probably more accurate.) Her father, George, Duke of Clarence, was an alcoholic, and was found drowned in a barrel of wine (he was probably murdered, but such was his proclivity that no one could prove it for sure.) Her mother, Isabelle Neville, was a conniving, not very nice lady (daughter of Warwick, the "Kingmaker.") Her uncle, King Edward IV, was a notorious womanizer. Her other uncle, King Richard III, certainly did not kill as many people as Shakespeare said he did in his brilliant but inaccurate play, and was more than likely the best one in the family.

Unfortunately for Blessed Margaret, King Richard III was betrayed and killed after putting up a brave fight on Bosworth Field in 1485. The family was ruined, their property confiscated, and Margaret was given as a prize of war to one Sir Richard Pole, a relative of the new king, Henry Tudor, styling himself Henry VII. Now in spite of her family, Margaret had grown to be a devout and virtuous maiden. She was also lovely; very tall, like most of the Plantagenets, with their famous red-gold hair. She bore her husband five children, and was a model wife and mother. When her cousin Henry VIII came to power, he called her the "holiest woman in England." He restored the family lands, making Margaret the Countess of Salisbury in her own right. When Henry had a daughter, Princess Mary, he made Margaret her governess, for she was wise and learned and a great friend of the Queen's.

Troubles came again when Henry VIII, who had once been a pious man, going to Mass three times a day, and to confession every day (at least during one phase of his life) began to act like a megalomaniac, as if rules did not apply to him. The king, whom the Pope had honored with the title Defender of the Faith, who had discussed theology with St Thomas More and Erasmus, went into open rebellion against the Holy Father. It was all because of one woman named Anne, whom Henry wanted to marry (although he had many, many pious excuses.) Blessed Margaret would not accept Henry's illegal annulment of his first wife, good Queen Katherine. She could not accept his invalid and illicit marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Then came the break with Rome. When Blessed Margaret's son Reginald was made a Cardinal by the Pope, Henry had her other two sons killed. Then he arrested Margaret. In 1541, at the age of seventy, she was beheaded without trial and after a long, difficult imprisonment. The executioner was clumsy and it took eleven strokes of the axe to kill Margaret.

It would have been so easy to have gone with the crowd. Let us invoke her protection upon marriage in our own country; what we have to deal with is as bad or worse, although we have not yet had to resist "unto the shedding of blood." (Hebrews 12:4)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Veil: A Mystical Symbol

As it often happens, when we are looking for one thing we tend to find another. I was searching through my paper files for an article about Marie-Antoinette by Father Charles-Roux. The article remained elusive, which is not surprising considering the state of my office; however, I found some notes for an essay I intended to write about fifteen years ago on head-coverings for women.

Most people are familiar with the injunction of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 5,6, 13 for women to wear veils in church. It is interesting, however, to reflect upon other scriptural passages in which persons or things are covered out of reverence for God, beginning in the Old Testament. In ancient times, covering oneself, and especially hiding the face, was a sign of respect and obeisance. In Genesis 24:65 Rebecca covers herself at the approach of her bridegroom. In Exodus 34:33 Moses veils himself after beholding the glory of God. Exodus 36 describes in detail the curtains which were to veil the Holy of Holies. What was sacred was generally veiled. When I was a child, the tabernacles of Catholic churches were always veiled.

In II Kings 15:30 King David ascended the Mount of Olives weeping for his sins, barefoot like one in mourning, with his head covered so that no one could see him. In III Kings 19:13 Elias covers his face with his mantle at the manifestation of the power of God. Isaiah (6:2) describes the seraphim covering their faces with their wings before the Divine Majesty. Ezekiel 16:8 describes the spouse covering the bride with his garment.

The Navarre Bible footnotes present an interesting commentary on 1 Corinthians 11: 5-13. Women are to cover their heads as a sign that they have an important role in the Church, but one distinct from men. "Christian practice and profane custom show women's dress to be not unimportant.... Customs are a way of thinking. External comportment is important because it reflects people's inner dispositions." In our society, what is feminine is replaced by what is immodest and yet modesty and chastity are the greatest ornament of women. Head-coverings for women at Mass are part of an ancient tradition which the Apostle St. Paul encouraged in the new dispensation as a continuation of a sacred sign of bridal holiness and reverence. All women are to be brides at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Share

To a Young Lady

WEET stream, that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid --
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.

by William Cowper Share

Joan of Arc (1948)

Joan of Arc (1948) starring Ingrid Bergman is in my opinion the best and most historically accurate of all the films about the Maid of Lorraine. Ingrid Bergman was not a believer but as an accomplished actress she was able to project the radiant faith of Joan. In fact, Ingrid had great devotion to the saint and herself helped to finance the film. Directed by Victor Fleming and based upon the play by Maxwell Anderson, the movie captures the season of miracles which was Joan's life. Unfortunately, many key scenes were edited from the version usually shown on television. The complete, unedited version has been restored and was released on DVD in 2004. I am dying to see it. Here is an article with several stills from the film, including those from scenes which did not make the final cut.

Novena prayer to St. Joan Share

Days of Fire and Light

Don Marco has a fascinating post about how the suppression of the Octave of Pentecost in 1969 made Pope Paul VI weep. I love the octaves of the great solemnities. Certain feasts are too wonderful to be confined to one day. It takes an octave to absorb the joy and mystery which even in a lifetime we can never fully comprehend. Share

Saturday, May 26, 2007


"For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29

The fiftieth day after the Pasch is Pentecost. In the old dispensation Pentecost commemorated the fiery theophany on Mt. Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commenadments, establishing the Law for the Chosen People. (Exodus 19, 20) For Christians, the solemnity celebrates the birth of the New Israel, the Church, on the day when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, accompanied by tongues of flame, upon the Apostles. The frightened, ordinary men were given the fortitude and courage to preach the Gospel in unknown tongues and to endure suffering and death for the name of Jesus. (Acts 2) "The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of fire because He consumes the dross of our sins, drives the darkness of ignorance out of our souls, melts the icy coldness of our hearts, and inflames us with the love of God and love of our neighbor...." (Fr. Spirago The Catechism Explained, p.220) The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity has never ceased to be poured out upon the Church; He is the soul of the Church, guiding her throughout the ages.

The Holy Spirit comes to each of us at our baptism and later at our Confirmation, which is our own personal Pentecost. There is much discussion today of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of prophecy, of discernment of spirits, of visions, etc. but they are extraordinary gifts given in special circumstances to benefit the Church and souls. The "ordinary" gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to each of us through the sacraments and it is for us to use and develop them. The seven gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord; it is these gifts which will make us into saints. They increase in proportion to the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. In the words of St. John of the Cross: "For the purer and the more refined in faith is the soul, the more it has of the infused charity of God; and the more charity it has, the more it is illumined and the more gifts of the Holy Spirit are communicated to it, for charity is the cause and means whereby they are communicated to it." (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book II, Ch. 29)

It is through prayer, the sacraments, and good works that we nourish the precious gifts of the Holy Spirit, invoking the Divine Paraclete Himself to inflame us with the fire of perfect charity. "If we do not become saints, it is not because the Holy Spirit does not will it-- He was sent to us and comes to us for this very purpose-- but it is because we do not give full liberty to His action." ( Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p.563) The Holy Spirit will Himself remove all obstacles to His work from our souls if we ask Him with perseverance and confidence. "Thus you, O Holy Spirit, when You come down from Heaven with the fiery dart of your divine love, You do not repose in proud hearts or in arrogant spirits, but You make Your abode in souls that are their own eyes." (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi, quoted in Divine Intimacy, p.559)

O Lux beatissima Reple cordis intima! "O Most Blessed Light, fill the inmost hearts of Thy faithful!" (The Golden Sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritus)

(Picture courtesy of Idle Speculations) Share

The Holiness of St. Joan

St. Joan was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. She was not canonized until 1920. Why did it take over 400 years to canonize such a marvelous saint? Joan of Arc scholar Allen Williamson answers this question in a fine article. Mr. Williamson points out that, although not formally canonized for several hundred years, Joan was regarded almost universally as being a saint soon after her death. Other holy persons, including St. Thomas More, St. Agnes of Prague, St. Nicholas Owen, St. Agnes of Montepulciano, St. Norbert, St. Agnes of Assisi, St. John Southworth, St. Hermann Joseph, St. Thomas Garnet were all canonized centuries after their deaths. The Church does not rush, even if the world does.

At Joan's posthumous Trial of Nullification of 1456, in which the verdict which condemned her was overturned by the Holy See, many of those who had known Joan were able to testify about her personal holiness.

The Duke d'Alencon stated:

So far as I could judge, I always held her for an excellent Catholic, and a modest woman. She communicated often, and, at sight of the Body of Christ, shed many tears. In all she did, except in affairs of war, she was a very simple young girl; but for warlike things bearing the lance, assembling an army, ordering military operations, directing artillery-she was most skillful. Every one wondered that she could act with as much wisdom and foresight as a captain who had fought for twenty or thirty years. It was above all in making use of artillery that she was so wonderful.

Her page Louis de Contes testified:

She was a good and modest woman, living as a Catholic, very pious, and, when she could, never failing to be present at the Mass. To hear blasphemies upon the Name of Our Lord vexed her. Many times when the Duke d'Alencon swore (Jeanne's hatred of swearing is noticed by many of her followers, and in her hearing they endeavored to abstain from it. La Hire, whose language was apparently the most violent, was permitted by her to employ the mild expletive 'Par mon martin,' 'By my baton,' an expression she herself is constantly reported to have used.) or blasphemed before her, I heard her reprove him. As a rule, no one in the army dared swear or blaspheme before her, for fear of being reprimanded.

She would have no women in her army. One day, near Chateau-Thierry, seeing the mistress of one of her followers riding on horseback, she pursued her with her sword, without striking her at all; but with gentleness and charity she told her she must no longer be found amongst the soldiers, otherwise she would suffer for it.

Joan's confessor Father Jean Pasquerel asserted the following:

I acted as her Chaplain, confessed her, and sang Mass for her. She was, indeed, very pious towards God and the Blessed Mary, confessing nearly every day and communicating frequently. When she was in a neighborhood where there was a Convent of Mendicant Friars, she told me to remind her of the day when the children of the poor received the Eucharist, so that she might receive it with them; and this she did often: when she confessed herself she wept.

Here is another outstanding article discussing the sanctity of the Maid.

Novena Prayer in honor of St. Joan


Last Letter of Marie-Antoinette

The following is the original French text of the October 16, 1793 letter written by Marie-Antoinette Queen of France a few hours before her execution to her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth. An English translation is included below, as well as images of the original letter. The sweetness and innocence of Marie-Antoinette's soul are captured in the lines in which she expresses her steadfast adherence to the Catholic religion and her concern for her friends and family. Note the delicate manner in which she refers to her little son's accusation of incest, wrested from him by his tormentors, showing more concern for Elisabeth's feelings than for her own agony. Although it is known that she had previously received the ministrations of a priest faithful to the Holy See while in prison, in order to protect him she wonders aloud if there are any Catholic priests left in France. Also, in the last sentence she states her refusal to "speak," that is, to confess, to a juring priest, one who had denied the Pope by swearing an oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Robespierre kept the letter; it never reached Elisabeth.
Ce 16 octobre, à quatre heures et demie du matin.

C’est à vous, ma soeur, que j’écris pour la dernière fois. Je viens d’être condamnée, non pas à une mort honteuse – elle ne l’est que pour les criminels, mais à aller rejoindre votre frère. Comme lui innocente j’espère montrer la même fermeté que lui dans ses derniers moments. Je suis calme comme on l’est quand la conscience ne reproche rien. J’ai un profond regret d’abandonner mes pauvres enfants. Vous save
z que je n’existais que pour eux et vous, ma bonne et tendre soeur, vous qui avez par votre amitié tout sacrifié pour être avec nous, dans quelle position je vous laisse ! J’ai appris par le plaidoyer même du procès que ma fille était séparée de vous. Hélas ! la pauvre enfant, je n’ose pas lui écrire, elle ne recevrait pas ma lettre, je ne sais pas même si celle-ci vous parviendra. Recevez pour eux deux ici ma bénédiction ; j’espère qu’un jour, lorsqu’ils seront plus grands, ils pourront se réunir avec vous et jouir en entier de vos tendres soins. Qu’ils pensent tous deux à ce que je n’ai cessé de leur inspirer : que les principes et l’exécution exacte de ses devoirs sont la première base de la vie, que leur amitié et leur confiance mutuelle en fera le bonheur. Que ma fille sente qu’à l’âge qu’elle a, elle doit toujours aider son frère par les conseils que l’expérience qu’elle aura de plus que lui et son amitié pourront lui inspirer ; que mon fils, à son tour, rende à sa soeur tous les soins, les services que l'amitié peuvent inspirer ; qu’ils sentent enfin tous deux que dans quelque position où ils pourront se trouver ils ne seront vraiment heureux que par leur union ; qu’ils prennent exemple de nous. Combien, dans nos malheurs, notre amitié nous a donné de consolation ! Et dans le bonheur on jouit doublement quand on peut le partager avec un ami, et où en trouver de plus tendre, de plus uni que dans sa propre famille ? Que mon fils n’oublie jamais les derniers mots de son père que je lui répète expressément : qu’il ne cherche jamais à venger notre mort.

J’ai à vous parler d’une chose bien pénible à
mon coeur. Je sais combien cet enfant doit vous avoir fait de la peine. Pardonnez-lui, ma chère soeur, pensez à l’âge qu’il a et combien il est facile de faire dire à un enfant ce qu’on veut et même ce qu’il ne comprend pas. Un jour viendra, j’espère, où il ne sentira que mieux le prix de vos bontés et de votre tendresse pour tous deux. Il me reste à vous confier encore mes dernières pensées. J’aurais voulu les écrire dès le commencement du procès, mais, outre qu’on ne me laissait pas écrire, la marche a été si rapide que je n’en aurais réellement pas eu le temps.

Je meurs dans la religion catholique, apostolique et romaine, dans celle de mes pères, dans celle où j’ai été élevée et que j’ai toujours professée, n’ayant aucune consolation spirituelle à attendre, ne sachant pas s’il existe encore ici des prêtres de cette religion, et même le lieu où je suis les exposerait trop s’ils y entraient une fois. Je demande sincèrement pardon à Dieu de toutes les fautes que j’ai pu commettre depuis que j’existe ; j’espère que, dans sa bonté, il voudra bien recevoir mes derniers voeux, ainsi que ceux que je fais depuis longtemps pour qu’il veuille bien recevoir mon âme dans sa miséricorde et sa bonté. Je demande pardon à tous ceux que je connais et à vous, ma soeur, en particulier, de toutes les peines que, sans le vouloir, j’aurais pu leur causer. Je pardonne à tous mes ennemis le mal qu’ils m’ont fait. Je dis ici adieu à mes tantes et à tous mes frères et soeurs. J’avais des amis, l’idée d’en être séparée pour jamais et leurs peines sont un des plus grands regrets que j’emporte en mourant ; qu’ils sachent du moins que, jusqu’à mon dernier moment, j’ai pensé à eux.

Adieu, ma bonne et tendre soeur ; puisse cette lettre vous arriver. Pensez toujours à moi ; je vous embrasse de tout mon coeur ainsi
que ces pauvres et chers enfants. Mon Dieu, qu’il est déchirant de les quitter pour toujours ! Adieu, adieu ! je ne vais plus m’occuper que de mes devoirs spirituels. Comme je ne suis pas libre dans mes actions, on m’amènera peut-être un prêtre ; mais je proteste ici que je ne lui dirai pas un mot et que je le traiterai comme un être absolument étranger.
Here are pictures of the queen's last letter, stained by her tears, followed by an English translation. When she speaks of her children the words themselves fall like tears.

16th October, 4.30 A.M.

It is to you, my sister, that I write for the last time. I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for cri
minals, but to go and rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments. I am calm, as one is when one's conscience reproaches one with nothing. I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister. You who out of love have sacrificed everything to be with us, in what a position do I leave you! I have learned from the proceedings at my trial that my daughter was separated from you. Alas! poor child; I do not venture to write to her; she would not receive my letter. I do not even know whether this will reach you. Do you receive my blessing for both of them. I hope that one day when they are older they may be able to rejoin you, and to enjoy to the full your tender care. Let them both think of the lesson which I have never ceased to impress upon them, that the principles and the exact performance of their duties are the chief foundation of life; and then mutual affection and confidence in one another will constitute its happiness. Let my daughter feel that at her age she ought always to aid her brother by the advice which her greater
experience and her affection may inspire her to give him. And let my son in his turn render to his sister all the care and all the services which affection can inspire. Let them, in short, both feel that, in whatever positions they may be placed, they will never be truly happy but through their union. Let
them follow our example. In our own misfortunes how much comfort has our affection for one another afforded us! And, in times of happiness, we have enjoyed that doubly from being able to share it with a friend; and where can one find friends more tender and more united than in one's own family? Let my son never forget the last words of his father, which I repeat emphatically; let him never seek to avenge our deaths.

I have to speak to you of one thing which is very painful to my heart, I know how much pain the child must have caused you. Forgive him, my dear sister; think of his age, and how easy it is to make a child say whatever one wishes, especially when he does not understand it. It will come to pass one day, I hope, that he will better feel the value of your kindness and of your tender affection for both of them. It remains to confide to you my last thoughts. I should have wished to write them at th
e beginning of my trial; but, besides that they did not leave me any means of writing, events have passed so rapidly that I really have not had time.

I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, that of my fathers, that in which I was brought up, and which I have always professed. Having no spiritual consolation to look for, not even knowing whether there are still in this place any priests of that religion (and indeed the place where I am would expose them to too much danger if they were to enter it but once), I sincerely implore pardon of God for all the faults which I may have committed during my life. I trust that, in His goodness, He will mercifully accept my last prayers, as well as those which I have for a long time addressed to Him, to receive my soul into His mercy. I beg pardon of all whom I know, and especially of you, my sister, for all the vexations which, without intending it, I may have caused you. I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me. I bid farewell to my aunts and to all my brothers and sisters. I had friends. The idea of being forever separated from them and from all their troubles is one of the greatest sorrows that I suffer in dying. Let them at least know that to my latest moment I thought of them.

Farewell, my good and tender sister. May this letter reach you. Think always of me; I embrace you with all my heart, as I do my poor dear children. My God, how heart-rending it is to leave them forever! Farewell! farewell! I must now occupy myself with my spiritual duties, as I am not free in my actions. Perhaps they will bring me a priest; but I here protest that I will not say a word to him, but that I will treat him as a total stranger.
(Translation by Charles Duke Yonge)

Friday, May 25, 2007

St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi

Today is her feast.

Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm, for love is as strong as death....Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it: if a man should give all the substance of his house for love, he shall despise it as nothing. ~Canticle of Canticles 8: 7-8 Share

The Return of Paganism

From the NOR:

Early Christians considered abortion to be worse than other murder. Not only was the baby deprived of life on earth, but without baptism he was thought to be deprived of Heaven. (Today the Church offers hope that through Our Lord's infinite mercy aborted babies, although deprived of baptism, may enter Heaven.) Consequently, in the early centuries of the Church, when penances were long and severe, lifetime penance was assigned to those guilty of abortion or infanticide. In fact, throughout the Middle Ages and up to the present time, absolution for abortion has been reserved under canon law to the bishop, though in recent times most bishops have extended that privilege to their priests.

A Sanctimonious Atheist

Joe Sobran discusses Christopher Hitchens.

Via A Conservative Blog for Peace Share

Mexican Martyrs

The Western Confucian has a moving post about about the martyrs of the Cristero War. Share

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Devotional Dürer

Art historian Elizabeth Lev discusses the Marian art of Dürer.

My Sweet Rose

There is a garden in her face

Where roses and lillies grow;

A heav'nly paradise is that place

Wherein all pleasant fruits do flow.

There cherries grow which none may buy

Till "Cherry-ripe" themselves do cry.

Those cherries fairly do enclose
Of orient pearl a double row,
Which when her lovely laughter shows,
They look like rose-buds filled with snow;
Yet them nor peer nor prince can buy,
Till "Cherry-ripe" themselves do cry.

Her eyes like angels watch them still;
Her brows like bended bows do stand,

Threat'ning with piercing frowns to kill

All that attempt, with eye or hand
Those sacred cherries to come nigh

Till "Cherry-ripe" themselves do cry.

by Thomas Campion


Was St. Joan a feminist?

Some people try to brand Jeanne d'Arc as a proto-feminist, but nothing could be farther from the truth. First, let me clarify that her last name was not really "d'Arc" but "Darc." The apostrophe between the "d" and the "a" was later added to give Joan a "noble" name, especially since she had been ennobled by Charles VII of France. It remains a fact, however, that her father was Jacques Darc, a peasant from Domremy in Lorraine. She learned spinning and needlework and all the domestic tasks girls in her state of life had to learn. Joan was a very feminine woman and only wore male attire when with the soldiers, for the sake of her chastity. Otherwise, in private and at home, she wore a dress. When in prison, she insisted upon keeping on her masculine clothing so that the English would not rape her, because that is what the guards tried to do when she did put on a dress. Also, although she carried a sword, she never actually fought in any of the battles, as she made clear at her trial.

Novena Prayer to St. Joan Share

Louise d'Artois (1819-1864)

As readers of Madame Royale know, Louise d'Artois was the daughter of the Duc and Duchesse de Berry and the beloved niece of the Duchesse d'Angoulême. Louise's father was murdered in 1820 when she was an infant; her brother Henri the Comte de Chambord, born a few months after Berry's murder, was hailed "The Miracle Child." After the Revolution of 1830, Louise accompanied her old grandfather Charles X into exile. After her mother's failed attempt to regain the throne for Henri, Louise and Henri were raised by the Duc and Duchesse d'Angoulême. In 1845, she married Carlo III the Duke of Parma. After Carlo's assassination in 1854, Louise was regent until her son Robert I came of age. Robert had 24 children, one of who became the Empress Zita, wife of Blessed Charles of Austria. Louise was known for her piety and died a holy death in 1864. Share

Our Lady, Help of Christians

Terry reminds us that today is the day. Share

An Interview with Archduke Otto

The son of Blessed Charles of Austria and Empress Zita speaks out. His Imperial and Royal Highness is the great grandson of Louise d'Artois, Duchess of Parma, on his mother's side. Louise was the granddaughter of Charles X of France. Share

Earthly Fatherhood

It is a reflection of the Fatherhood of God. Share

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Weddings of Grace

Here is an amazing interview with a wedding dress designer who offers faith as well as beauty. As a sometime bridal consultant, I am so encouraged and heartened by the words of designer Justina McCaffrey, who says:

It is easy for people to get distracted about what a wedding actually is -- a man and woman giving themselves entirely to each other. And for a woman, this event is a new way to live out her femininity.

A woman's body is designed to be in relationship to others, seen most clearly in her ability to have children, but also in smaller details, like the way her arms are shaped.

If you look at a man's arms held out with palms up, they are straight, but a woman's arms have a curve to them at the elbow. This curve allows her to embrace others, particularly her husband and children. A wedding is the beginning of bringing feminine gifts into their fullness.

Isn't that beautiful? Please read the entire interview; it is wonderful.

The Call of St. Joan

Here is a fascinating article about Bastien-Lepage's painting of St. Joan's mystical call, with her saints peering through the fruit trees. I read somewhere once that St. Joan often heard her voices while the church bells were ringing. She loved for the bells to ring and asked that they be pealed during Compline. Share

The heroism of St. Jeanne d'Arc

In the following days, I will be posting some articles in honor of the Maid of Orleans, in preparation for her feast on May 30. So often her feast happens around Pentecost, which is very appropriate. Few persons have so completely incarnated in themselves what it means to be a soldier of Christ. Jeanne left everything behind to follow God's call, although she was very feminine and excelled at household tasks, such as spinning. For Jeanne to leave her orbit required superhuman fortitude and courage. She was called as a consecrated virgin to symbolize the Church and the direct intervention of God. The saint inspired heroism in those around her, and had many brave companions, including some Scottish knights. Here is an article about the Scots who fought for St. Joan.

Here is the novena prayer in honor of the peasant girl whose appearance on the stage of history confounded the wise and the great, and still does. Share

Monsignor Benson's House

Fr. Nicholas has a wonderful pictorial essay about the Catholic author Robert Hugh Benson and his home. Monsignor Benson was a sculptor as well as a writer. I had no idea. What a fascinating and holy man! Share

No Boundaries

Mandolyna Theodoracopulos writes about what is wrong with America today, tying it in with the Beatnik generation. I could not have said it better myself. I get so tired of repeatedly hearing the F-word every time I watch a contemporary film. People seem to be sadly lacking in a basic vocabulary with which to express their emotions. Share

Dame Mary Douglas

A reader sent me information about a British anthropologist who recently passed away. Dame Mary Douglas was a Catholic anthropologist who supported the concepts of hierarchy and institutional boundaries as being important for the development of complex thinking and symbolism. According to The Times, "she argued that the changes in Vatican II, affecting the Mass, abstinence and the habits worn by some religious orders weakened the social rituals and thereby the social boundaries of Catholicism."

Here is another article about her as well. Share

The French invasion of Wales...

...was foiled by the ladies. What a drunken Irishman, some renegade Frenchmen, and an angry Welsh woman with a pitchfork.... Hilarious. Share

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


NOTHING is so beautiful as spring --
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning

In Eden garden. -- Have, get, before it cloy,

Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins Share

Good Housekeeping

Genevieve has an amusing but poignant post about how feminism has poisoned the pride women once took in their housekeeping skills. Now women want to be "sexy, sassy, high-end, high-maintenance, degree-earning, pants-wearing, dominating man-eaters" rather than good mothers and homemakers. Share

Head Coverings for Women

I found these remarks by one priest on head coverings for women to be interesting if incomplete. His commentary is based upon the following text :

1 Corinthians 11:4-16:
"Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God.
"Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering? But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God."
Father McNamara says:
A full treatment of this text is beyond the scope of this column [Very True. Emphasis added]. But we may say that this passage contains some elements that have perennial theological value and others which reflect transitory social mores which apply only to the specific time and place of the Corinthians.
I would like to add that many cultures other than the Corinthians have valued the veil as a sign of being a bride. Even our contemporary culture sees a veil as a bridal symbol. And are not all women called to symbolize the Church, the Bride of Christ?

Father goes on to say:
...During the course of history there were times when it was common for men, and even clerics, to wear their hair long; and none felt that St. Paul's words considering the practice a disgrace applied to them.
I thought it was not a matter of men's hair, but of women's hair being a distraction for men. That is why St. Paul specifically mentioned women being veiled, not men. Many men in St. Paul's time had long hair, but the men are not to be symbols of the Bride.

The best statement is here:
Sociological factors might also have been involved. The greater emphasis on the equality of man and woman tended to downplay elements that stressed their differences.
Very true. Women are no longer humble like Our Lady. Many women think it beneath them to take care of children and do menial household tasks. Women want to be on the altar next to the priest. So of course, the sign of humility, obedience, and bringing forth life, which is what head-coverings represented, falls by the wayside.

Novena Prayer in honor of Saint Joan of Arc

Here is a prayer to Saint Joan, whose feast day is May 30. Let us pray for our all of our soldiers who are in harm's way. Let us pray for peace.

O Joan, holy liberator of France, the powerful holy force in the days of old, as you yourself said, "Peace would be found only at the point of a lance," who used the weapons of war when no other means were able to obtain a just Peace, take care and help today those who do not want to do violence and patiently try to employ all possible peaceful means of resolution, but now allow the violence of war.

Heroine of Orleans, transmit to our leaders, your talent to inspire your soldiers to accomplish great deeds of valor, in order that our soldiers’ efforts will come to a rapid and successful end.

Triumphant One of Reims, prepare for us the just peace under the shield of a force that will be henceforth vigilant!

Martyr of Rouen, be near to all the soldiers who fall in battle, in order to support, console, and help them and those dear ones that they leave behind.

Saint of the Country, excite in all souls, in every home of the world, the zeal to contribute to the salvation of the world and the return of peace, works which you crave, the rediscovery of a more Christian life, through holy thoughts and actions, forgiveness and persistent prayer, that as you yourself once said, "God must be served first." Amen.


The Faith of Madame Royale

Sainte-Beuve describes the quiet religious fervor of the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette:

I have questioned, in regard to her, men who approached her constantly, and this is what they tell me. Each day was alike to her, except the funereal days of her sorrowful anniversaries. She rose very early, at half-past five o'clock for example; she heard mass for herself alone between six and seven. It is conjectured that she took the communion often, but she was never seen to do so, except on the great days occasionally. No solemnity, no formal preparations; she was only a humble Christian doing a religious act; she did discreetly and secretly saintly things.

In the early morning she attended to the care of her room, in the Tuileries almost as she did in the Temple.

She never spoke of the painful and bleeding things of her youth, unless to a very few persons in her intimacy. The 21st of January and the 16th of October, the death days of her father and mother, she shut herself up alone, sometimes sending, to help her in passing the cruel hours, for some person with whom she was in harmony of mourning and piety–the late Mme. de Pastoret, for example.

She was charitable to a degree that no one knows, and which it is hard to fathom; those who were best informed as to her alms and other deeds were constantly discovering others, which came up, it were, as from underground, and of which they knew nothing. In that she was of the true and direct lineage of Saint Louis.

Her life was very regular and very simple, whether in the Tuileries or elsewhere in exile. The conversation around her was always very natural. At moments, when misfortune [Page 308] made truce for a while, it was noticed that she had in her mind or in her nature a certain gaiety, of which, alas! she could make too little usage. Still, on her best days and in privacy she would let herself go, if not to saying, at least to hearing, things that were gay. When she felt herself in safe and friendly regions a certain pleasantry did not frighten her, and when on festivals she was expected to order plays for her theatre she did not choose the most serious.

Even amid the habit of pain there rose to the surface a sort of joy, such as comes to tried and austere souls, whom religion has guided and consoled throughout all time.