Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Old Mass...

...is New! To most people, anyway. And many are interested interested in learning about it. (Via Spirit Daily) Share

The Mass of the Council

Rorate Caeli reminds us that the Mass said during the Second Vatican Council was the traditional Latin Mass, which was never officially abrogated (although the impression that it had been abolished was certainly given.) Share


Don Marco has a post on modern idols. We all have our idols, although they might be small. Television is a formidable idol for many. Share

Sobran and Pope Benedict

The Western Confucian discusses the one and only Joe Sobran. Mr. Sobran says:

The Pope has also reaffirmed the supremacy of the Catholic Church, a doctrine never denied, but certainly soft-pedaled since the disastrous Council. For some reason this has irritated many Protestants, who seem to think their sects can thrive without the strong presence of Catholicism. Incredibly, one Protestant editor has referred to Catholicism as a “denomination,” rather like Mormonism. Does he know what the word means? He might as well speak of the sun and moon as “planets.” Share

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pius Parsch

Don Marco has an excellent post on the great liturgist, Fr. Pius Parsch. Fr. Parsch certainly helped to form my understanding of the sacred liturgy through his writings. Share

The Marks of a Vocation

Here is an excellent article on the formation for the priesthood by Michael S. Rose. Prayer is everything. To quote:

Without prayer, the ordained priest cannot even hope to partake properly in the source and summit of the Catholic priesthood, the Holy Mass. "It's the most important part of the day. Every intention I have for each day goes into that Mass. If you're going to represent the Lord in persona Christi, you've got to be able to talk to Him, and you have to want to talk to Him. For the priest, preaching, teaching, and sanctifying is rooted in the Catholic Mass." Prayer is the absolute bare minimum prerequisite.

And more from the New Oxford Review:

~The Pope laments the chaos that followed the Second Vatican Council.

~Paul Weyrich predicts that Hilary will win. I pray he is wrong.

~Are too many people on psychiatric drugs?


The nightmare goes on. (Via LRC) Our poor soldiers need all our prayers. We are not praying for them nearly enough. Share

Sunday, July 29, 2007

On Pilgrimage

Some beautiful reflections on the grace of pilgrimage from an Irish archbishop.

"We live in the age of the instant, where there is no joy in the anticipation and no time to value the achievement. We have forgotten about the sacredness of now or, as some put it, 'the sacrament of the present moment.' " Share

Mary's Girlhood

This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect

God's Virgin. Gone is a great while, and she

Dwelt young in Nazareth of Galilee.
Unto God's will she brought devout respect,

Profound simplicity of intellect,

And supreme patience.
From her mother's knee

Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;

Strong in grave peace; in pity circumspect.

So held she through her girlhood; as it were
An angel-water'd lily, that near
Grows and is quiet.
Till, one dawn at home,

She woke in her white bed, and had no fear

At all,--yet wept till sunshine, and felt aw'd:
Because the fullness of the time was come.

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


The Present Moment

Meanwhile, the present alone is ours, and we let it slip through our fingers. The past is gone, whether for evil or for good, to be stored up in better hands than ours. The future still belongs to God alone; and it is not the least of His wonderful mercies that He keeps it entirely to Himself. It is what I am now, not what I have been or shall be, it is what I do now, not what I have done or shall do, that here and now matters most, to me, to God and to all the world besides.

Those who face what is actually before them, unburdened by the past, undistracted by the future, are they who live, who make the best use of their lives. These are those who have found the secret of contentment. For such, there is no day that cannot be lived through, no matter what it may bring. There is no circumstance that cannot be put to the best advantage, no matter how contrary and galling.

~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier Share

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and Freemasonry

In 1738, Pope Clement XII prohibited Catholics from becoming Freemasons, on the grounds that the order required secret oaths, involved paganistic rituals, and encouraged religious indifferentism. But like papal decrees before and after, many Catholics blithely decided to ignore the prohibition and joined the masons, anyway. They thought that those who took such bans seriously were being stuffy and getting in the way of progress. Lawyers, doctors, merchants, artists, writers, ladies, aristocrats, kings and emperors, who were otherwise practicing Catholics, were initiated into various lodges, lodges which often rivaled each other with different goals and endeavors.

In the family of Marie-Antoinette there were some members who were masons, including her father Emperor Francis I. Her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, was vehemently against masonry. The Empress sent the police to raid one of the lodges while her husband the Emperor was at a meeting, and he had to escape by a back staircase.

While there is no evidence that Marie-Antoinette was herself ever initiated into a lodge, she went through a time when she was favorable to freemasonry. Her close friend, the virtuous Madame de Lamballe, presided over the Lodge of the Social Contract, one of the ladies' lodges or loges d'adoption. In 1781, Madame de Lamballe became Grand Mistress of all of the Lodges of Adoption in France. That same year, Marie-Antoinette wrote to a friend, praising the good works of the masonic sisterhood, and how they provided dowries for poor girls and were very pious. She also praised them in a letter to her sister Marie-Christine, saying: "It is only a society of benevolence and pleasure." (see Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette Before the Revolution, p. 237-238) She and Louis XVI both saw the masons as a means of charitable works to benefit society, and they both may have at one point visited certain lodges, so that to this day, some masonic groups claim them as their own.

There is also evidence that Marie-Antoinette's best friend Madame de Polignac was a member of a ladies' lodge, although not to the extent that Madame de Lamballe was involved; it was considered the fashionable thing to do. Nesta Webster, who blames the masons for practically everything, said that the Lodges of Adoption were harmless enough ladies' clubs. They were probably one step away from the Mopses, but still, in my opinion, Catholics should not have joined, since masonry was forbidden by the Church.

As for Louis XVI, there has long been a debate as to if he was ever formally initiated into a lodge as his brothers probably were. When he ascended the throne, Louis XVI was quite liberal and progressive; like all young progressives at the time he saw the masons not only as harmless, but as a group who would benefit society by active good works. Some of this explains his initial acquiescence to certain measures in the beginning of the Revolution which were damaging to the Church, especially the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. He admits as much in the Vow to the Sacred Heart which he made under house arrest in the Tuileries in 1791.

It is true that many monarchists were masons and many revolutionaries were not masons. However, in the years preceding the Revolution of 1789, masonic lodges formed a network that fomented discord, spread propaganda against the King and especially against the Queen. The lodges were used by a core of aristocrats and politicians who wanted to secularize society, and destroy the Church, or at least enervate it, by destroying or by seizing the crown.

Marie-Antoinette came to see this quite clearly. In August of 179o she wrote to her brother Emperor Leopold of Austria: "Be well on your guard where you are with regard to all associations of Freemasons. You must already have been warned that it is by this means that all monsters here count on attaining the same end in every country. Oh, God, preserve my Fatherland and you from such misfortunes." ( Lettres de Marie-Antoinette, edited by Maxime de la Rocheterie, 2 vol., 1895) For Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, the warnings had not been heeded, until it was too late. Share

Life in the Gulag

A reader sent me this link to pictures of one of the many prison camps used by the Communists to torment thousands of people. It reminds me of the biography I read about the Lithuanian nun Nijole Sadunaite called A Radiance in the Gulag. Sr. Nijole was interned in a concentration camp for being a "dissident." Amid the horror she nourished a vibrant faith. We really have no concept what many have suffered during our own life times. Share

Modern Art

Do people really like it, or are they just pretending? One article explores the question.

"For those who like that sort of thing, as Abraham Lincoln once said, it is just the sort of thing they would like." Share

Monarchy and Democracy

J. K. Baltzersen has an interesting article on Lew Rockwell. He says:

Often it is argued that monarchy belongs in the past. Some are sickly obsessed with monarchy being a symbol of tyranny. It might then be fitting to ask who is stuck in the past; those who are obsessed with the excesses of monarchs of old and with monarchy being a symbol of past "lording it over the people" or those who are concerned with modern tyranny. Share

My Third Novel

When I was in Lourdes in 1994, I visited the castle on the hill overlooking the town, and was fascinated to discover that it had once been a Cathar fortress. I went to the Lourdes public library to do more research. (The library is in the former rectory, where St. Bernadette visited Fr. Peyramale.) I became inspired to write a novel about a young Catholic girl having to live surrounded by Cathars. I had studied the Cathars a bit in graduate school and so already had a list of sources to consult. Eventually, I came up with a story which took the form of a short novel for young adults, called Soon Will Come the Dawn. Those who have read the entire manuscript have really enjoyed it. However, it has given me no end of trouble and I am in the process of editing it again. I will post portions of it here as I go along. Share

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Prophecy about the Popes

Terry Nelson recently had an interesting post about the St John Bosco prophecy concerning the popes.

The saint wrote concerning his vision of the future:"Very grave trials await the Church. What we have suffered so far is almost nothing compared to what is going to happen. The enemies of the Church are symbolised by the ships which strive their utmost to sink the flagship. Only two things can save us in such a grave hour: devotion to Mary and frequent Communion. Let us do our very best to use these two means and have others use them everywhere."

Terry also reminds us that last week was the anniversary of the apparitions at the Rue de Bac in 1830, which is described in the novel Madame Royale, in context of the political and social situation in France. On July 18, 1830, St. Catherine had a vision of Our Lady, who told her:

“The times are evil. Sorrows will come upon France; the throne will be overthrown. The Cross will be thrown down and trampled. The Archbishop will be stripped of his clothes. Blood will flow in the streets. The side of Our Lord will be pierced anew. The whole world will be afflicted with tribulations.”

Bl.Titus Brandsma

Here he is in his prison uniform. Bl. Titus was a towering intellect as well as a man of humor, wit and sanctity. He stood up to the Nazis; they put him in Dachau and performed experiments upon him. Before he died, he handed his rosary to the prison nurse and she was converted. He is a saint for our time.

"Although neo-paganism no longer wants love, history teaches us that, in spite of everything, we will conquer this neo-paganism with love. We shall not give up on love. Love will gain back for us the hearts of these pagans."

~ Bl. Titus Brandsma, from the Carmelite Proper of the Liturgy of the Hours Share

F.D.R. and Pearl Harbor

I thought it was common knowledge that F.D.R. knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor ahead of time. My grandmother, who was in the Philippines when it happened, always told me that the people there were expecting the Japanese to first bomb Manila. They all realized that there was going to be an a attack but they were not certain where it would be. Now there is a new book which details what was going on politically behind the scenes. Share


...And pathetic. What a bunch of sillies. (Via the NOR) Share

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Elmer Gantry (1960)

Americans are basically a mercantile people and can make a business of anything, even religion, as numerous examples bear witness. Elmer Gantry, a character in the novel by Sinclair Lewis, has become the archetype of self-appointed evangelists who peddle the Gospel for a living. His methods of sensationalism and cult of personality are in stark contrast to the poverty and humility Our Lord asked of His disciples in the Gospels. As one literary critic writes:
The novel is an unabashed, unashamed, and unforgiving look at a man whose actions contradict everything he says. The book was banned in Boston, and other cities, for its depiction of the morally corrupt evangelist, Elmer Gantry. Several years later, it was even banned in Ireland. The opening and closing lines of the novel say it all: "Elmer Gantry was drunk... And we shall yet make these United States a moral nation."
What is more, Gantry is a seducer in addition to being a charismatic preacher; he has a way with women as well as a way with words. His romance with the revivalist Sharon Falconer is only a brief part of the book, but it forms the main plot of the 1960 film starring Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons. Lancaster brings his usual magnetism to the role of Gantry but it is Simmons who gives depth to the film by her portrayal of Sister Falconer, the sincerely devout but flawed heroine, whose passions lead her astray.

One reviewer offers the following synopsis of the film as well as some insights into the transformations wrought in the wayward characters in spite of themselves.
Adapted from Sinclair Lewis's book by the same title, director Richard Brooks created a classic indictment of those revivalists who manipulate the masses for their own ends by using the Jesus's message of love as a shield and subterfuge....

Elmer Gantry (played with considerable fire and brimstone by Burt Lancaster) starts his journey as a big time loser, a traveling appliance salesman in the 20s who is more successful at cracking up his drinking buddies with lewd jokes and seducing young women for one night stands than anything else. Always broke, always moving from one town to another, but endowed by the obvious gift of bombastic rhetoric, he finds his calling under the tent of the revivalist Sharon Falconer (played by the incredibly beautiful Jean Simmons).

Despite Falconer's initial reluctance, the fast-talking fast-moving Gantry manages to win her trust to deliver his first sermon as a guest preacher which ends up as a resounding success.

Many other such sermons follow: “Sin. Sin, Sin. You're all sinners. You're all doomed to perdition. You're all goin' to the painful, stinkin', scaldin', everlastin' tortures of a fiery hell, created by God for sinners, unless, unless, unless you repent” is one example to the type of delivery unleashed by Gantry in lethal dozes.

Shooting up the success graph with alarming ease, Gantry moves the whole tent-based rural operation to Zenith, Kansas, an urban setting that scares Falconer's cautious business manager. But when the town guarantees to pay the Falconer operation $30,000 upfront, the deed is done and the troupe moves into Zenith with a marching band, clowns and great fanfare.

Falconer, Gantry and their team promise to revive the fire of devotion in the souls of Zenith's citizens and fill the empty pews of the local churches with new parishioners. In return, the local churches promise not to hold any meetings while the Falconer is in town to maximize the proceeds. Falconer and Gantry deliver precisely that and in the process their relationship moves from a professional to a very personal level.

One of the key roles in this movie is that of the Pulitzer-prize winner veteran journalist Jim Lefferts (played with great reserve and credibility by Arthur Kennedy) who is the ace reporter for the local Zenith daily.

Lefferts provides the skeptical, secular, pro-scientific counterpoint to Gantry's high-flying Bible-thumping hellfire and brimstone rhetoric. Even when Gantry is down and vulnerable to attacks, Lefferts sticks to his own professional principles and refuses to exploit scandalous stories that may or may not be true, regardless of their impact on the circulation numbers.

As such, the Lefferts character stands as a symbol of objectivity whose vision is not clouded by the dust of fickle emotions easily kicked up by revivalism. He successfully portrays the counterpoint view that unbridled religious fervor is perhaps not the only source of morality in civic life.

Another important part belongs to Lulu Bains (played by the angelic Shirley Jones who truly gives her soul to this supporting role) who is the girl that Gantry, back in his early days when no one knew him, had a one night stand with and ceremoniously dumped the next morning without even saying goodbye, except for a cynical “Merry Xmas” he scribbles on the bedroom mirror with her lipstick while she is still sleeping .

Now years later Lulu meets Gantry again in Zenith, this time working as a girl in a house of ill repute against which Gantry launches a public clean-up campaign. As the citizens of Zenith follow Gantry's lead in media-covered nightly raids on the speak-easy hideouts and brothels, Lulu exacts her revenge with devastating effectiveness.

Gantry's hypocrisy bites him in the rear, but not for long. Repenting how she framed an unsuspecting Gantry in her apartment with the aid of her pimp and a photographer for hire, she recants her accusations and admits the frame up, thus restoring a reviled Gantry back to his burning pulpit. Again, Brooks allows us to have a peek into unconventional sources of common virtue.

The film ends with a spectacular scene in which total devastation visits the newly opened tabernacle that Falconer has dreamed of for so long. The end both reveals the weakness in the way in which Falconer approached her faith, as well as the way the same faith has transformed an ordinary girl from the boondocks into a truly spiritual being with healing powers.

Gantry, on the other hand although he is offered everything he ever dreamed of on a golden plate, refuses to take over Falconer's mantle and moves on for the next thing in his life.

He turns his back to true power and even more riches and simply walks away because for the first time in his life he has discovered something in his soul that is more true and more precious than all the external power he managed to grab through a life of deception and manipulation.

The movie ends with that great note that sometimes divine love will visit us at exactly those times when we have the courage to walk away from that relentless desire to acquire the same love by force, through our own efforts and conniving.


The Obesity Epidemic

Why we are all getting fat.

Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a virus or a fad, researchers reported yesterday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain -- and could help fight -- one of the nation's biggest public health problems.

The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual's chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.

(from The Washington Post)


The Great Solzhenitsyn

An interview not to be missed. (Thanks again to Lew Rockwell.) To quote the iconic Russian author:

If we could all take a sober look at our history, then we would no longer see this nostalgic attitude to the Soviet past that predominates now among the less affected part of our society. Nor would the Eastern European countries and former USSR republics feel the need to see in historical Russia the source of their misfortunes. One should not ascribe the evil deeds of individual leaders or political regimes to an innate fault of the Russian people and their country. One should not attribute this to the "sick psychology" of the Russians, as is often done in the West. All these regimes in Russia could only survive by imposing a bloody terror. We should clearly understand that only the voluntary and conscientious acceptance by a people of its guilt can ensure the healing of a nation. Unremitting reproaches from outside, on the other hand, are counterproductive. Share


It saved civilization. Or at least, some people think so. (Via LRC) Share

Sorry, Harry Potter is not my cup of tea....

Not that I have a deep grudge against Rowling's books or anything. Some of my younger siblings have read and enjoyed them very much. The Potter series just never appealed to me, but seemed a bit shallow, although I could not quite put my finger on what bored me about the whole thing. Finally, I found an article (via the NOR) that describes pretty much my own take on Harry Potter. As far as the occult element, I can see how the stories could become substitutes for genuine mysticism, especially for unchurched young people who are raised without religion or spirituality. The Christian parents I know, whose children are into Harry Potter, read and discuss the books with their children, which is as it should be with any book or movie. Share

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

St. James the Greater

This is the day for all Catholics to make a mystical pilgrimage to Compostela, to kneel at the tomb of the son of Zebedee, the tomb of "Santiago," whose name was the battle cry of Spain. Share

Gnostic Families

Gnosticism triumphs over common sense in modern households, but hopefully the tide is turning. As one article says:

Two prevalent threads in Gnostic systems are (1) that matter is evil, and so the biological facts of male and female are inconsequential, and (2) that secret knowledge is required for salvation.

If I am right in thinking that the verb "parent" signifies a belief that the technology of child-rearing is paramount and the biological facts are almost inconsequential, then this is consonant with the Gnostic attitude toward matter. Technology, considered as secret wisdom forming the pathway to "salvation" (happiness), is also contained here. The idea that one can become happy (successful, effective, etc.) in the child-rearing process by gaining knowledge through classes, books, and magazine articles fits right in. Like the elusive techniques for successful weight loss, the techniques for successful "parenting" are constantly changing, always in dispute, and ultimately chimerical. Nonetheless, the belief in the secret knowledge, that it is out there somewhere, remains pervasive.

Using "parent" as a verb reflects a Gnostic confusion and another component of the ideologically motivated attempt to engineer society by means of an Orwellian distortion of language. The neologism kidnaps the title of dignity that belongs to a real person, a real mother and real father, and transfers it to an abstraction, a function, to the set of techniques used by anyone who happens to perform the external procedures of child-rearing.

Native Americans...

...Were they REALLY environmentalists? Well, it is a bit more complicated than politically correct historians would have us believe. (Via LRC) Share

The Power of a Name

Heidi has an interesting article about adoption. She says:

In the end, however, it's not about the sacrifice of the parent, but the needs of the child. No matter what the circumstances are that a child is brought into the world, the moment his life begins the paramount question is not, "What do I want?" but, "What does this child need?" Not "What is convenient?" but "What is in my child's best interest?" Share

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Blessed Martyrs of Guadalajara

There were many atrocities perpetrated upon priests and religious in Spain during the bloody Civil War of the 1930's. In 1936, three Carmelite nuns were shot. Today is their feast, and here is their story. Share

"Queen" Camilla??

The rationalizations of the Church of England are beyond me, and always have been. But it looks like the charming Camilla is winning hearts. So is she his mistress or is she his morganatic wife? Did her Catholic husband ever get a decree of nullity? Royal marriage debacles can be so confusing..... Share

Saint Sharbel

Don Marco discusses St. Sharbel. I did not know this amazing story:

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a Trappist monk was emerging from a long period of spiritual depression. Thomas Merton had been in the Abbey of Gethsemani for nine years. He wrote in his journal, “Sharbel lived as a hermit in Lebanon — he was a Maronite. He died. Everyone forgot about him. Fifty years later, his body was discovered incorrupt and in short time he worked over 600 miracles. He is my new companion. My road has taken a new turning. It seems to me that I have been asleep for 9 years — and before that I was dead.” Sharbel, the 19th century hermit of Lebanon, pulled America’s most famous 20th century monk out of a spiritual crisis. That is the communion of the saints! Share

Monday, July 23, 2007

Manners, Customs and Observances

Fr. Jim Tucker came across a fascinating old book. I think I may have run across it before once myself; it looks vaguely familiar. Anyway, it is full of detailed descriptions of old customs that have fallen by the wayside and are now of historical interest. Share

Our Lady of Grace

Today is the Carmelite feast of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Grace. Actually, I found out only yesterday that the feast has recently been transferred to July 19. Oh, well....

Several people have asked me about my spiritual journey and how I got involved in Carmel. In 1986 I had just received my Master's degree when I visited the cloistered Carmelite nuns in Schenectady, NY. I was fascinated with their austere, radical way of living the Gospel. I began reading the works of the Carmelite saints and going to daily Mass. However, there was also someone I wanted to marry, but I was not sure about him. So I prayed for guidance.

Every day after 8 am Mass at St. John's in Frederick, Maryland I would stay after and pray and I noticed one other lady who did the same. One day, the lady came up to me and introduced herself. Her name was Mrs. Quinn and she had eight children. I told her about my interest in Carmel and my discernment struggles. She told me that she and her husband were both "Third Order Carmelites" and she invited me to attend a meeting with them in Baltimore some Sunday. I loved the community and joined it.

The Third Order or Secular Discalced Carmelites are composed of lay people who make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience according to their state in life. They can be married but try to live the Carmelite charism of prayer in the world, in the spirit of the Holy Mother St. Teresa of Jesus. They commit themselves to saying parts of the Divine Office, including Morning and Evening prayer, as well as spiritual reading and at least a half an hour of mental prayer a day. Daily Mass is also encouraged, and devotion to Our Lady. Monthly meetings are required and an intensive formation period, too. There are certain days of fast, such as the vigils of some Carmelite feasts. The "habit" of Teresian Carmelites is the small brown scapular which symbolizes consecration to the Mother of God. Carmel is "Mary's order."

Being a tertiary has been a great mercy to me, for it has given a discipline and compass to my spiritual life. I have received much help, guidance and support over the years from my brothers and sisters in Carmel. It is a challenging but joyful vocation, of which no one is worthy, for like any vocation it is a gift from God. Share

Managing Money

The September/October issue of Canticle Magazine will feature a helpful article about good stewardship. Here are the "Ten Commandments" of managing money:

1. Set clear financial goals
2. Quit overspending
3. Create and use a budget
4. Save for a rainy day
5. Share your wealth with others
6. Eliminate debt
7. Plan for retirement
8. Teach the next generation about good stewardship
9. Avoid having a hoarding mentality
10. Live within your means

Can't Wait to Read It.....

Thomas Woods' latest book, reviewed here. To quote:

Tom Woods’ new best-seller, 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask, is a blockbuster. Here, the author of such works as The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History underscores his burgeoning status as the cleanup hitter of popular libertarian writing.

For those familiar with Woods’ work, the encyclopedic knowledge and rapier wit on display here will come as no surprise. How fresh, invigorating, and just plain fun it is, however, to see him turn his gifts to some of the reigning misconceptions, distortions, and just plain idiocies pock-marking popular (and, in many cases, scholarly) understanding of the past.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Pope on War

The Holy Father pleads for peace. He said today in his Angelus address:

The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been placed here by God to "cultivate and keep" this "garden" that is the earth (cf. Genesis 2:8-17).

If men lived in peace with God and with each other, the earth would truly resemble a "paradise." Unfortunately, sin ruined this divine project, generating divisions and bringing death into the world. This is why men cede to the temptations of the evil one and make war against each other. The result is that in this stupendous "garden" that is the world, there open up circles of hell.

War, with the mourning and destruction it brings, has always been rightly considered a calamity that contrasts with God's plan. He created everything for existence and, in particular, wants to make a family of the human race. In this moment it is not possible for me to not return to a significant date in history: August 1, 1917 -- almost exactly 90 years ago -- my venerable predecessor, Benedict XV, published his celebrated "Nota Alle Potenze Belligeranti" (Note to the Warring Powers), asking them to put an end to the First World War (cf. ASS 9 [1917], 417-420).

As that huge conflict raged, the Pope had the courage to affirm that it was a "useless bloodbath." This expression of his left a mark on history. It was a justified remark given the concrete situation in that summer of 1917, especially on the front here in this part of northern Italy. But those words, "useless bloodbath," have a larger, prophetic application to other conflicts that have destroyed countless human lives.

Precisely these very lands in which we presently find ourselves, which in themselves speak of peace and harmony, have been a theatre in the First World War, as many testimonies and some moving songs of the Alps still recall. These are events not to be forgotten! Share


Life is a stream
On which we strew
Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
The end lost in dream,
They float past our view,
We only watch their glad, early start.

Freighted with hope,
Crimsoned with joy,
We scatter the leaves of our opening rose;
Their widening scope,
Their distant employ,
We never shall know. And the stream as it flows
Sweeps them away,
Each one is gone
Ever beyond into infinite ways.
We alone stay
While years hurry on,

The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.

by Amy Lowell

(Artwork by John William Waterhouse)


Madame Royale in Old Age

In 1851, the year she died, the Duchesse d'Angoulême was visited at her villa in Frohsdorf, Austria by the Comte de Falloux. The Comte described the aged daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as follows:
Madame la Dauphine was, if I may express it, pathos in person. Sadness was imprinted on her features and revealed in her attitude; but, in the same degree, there shone about her an unalterable resignation, an unalterable gentleness. Even when the tones of her voice were brusque, which often happened, the kindness of her intention remained transparent. She liked to pass in review the Frenchmen she had known; she kept herself closely informed about their family events; she remembered the slightest details with rare fidelity: 'How Madame loves France!' I said to her one day. 'That is not surprising,' she replied. 'I take it from my parents.' At Frohsdorf she was seated nearly the whole day in the embrasure of a certain window. She had chosen this window because of its outlook on copses which reminded her a little of the garden of the Tuileries; and if a visitor wished to be agreeable to her, he remarked upon the resemblance.

Icons and Plainchant

Don Marco makes a remarkable connection between icons, plainchant and the spiritual life in general. To quote:

Dom Gregory suggests too that there is an analogy between plainchant and the icon. The icon is to the eyes what plainchant is to the ears. In a monastery one expects to find — what shall I call it? — the ear purified and refined through a kind of fasting so as to hear the “still, small voice” that Elijah recognized on Horeb. “And when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with a mantle, and coming forth stood in the entering in of the cave” (3 K 19:13). The austerity of the traditional chant of the Church — its poverty, its chastity, its uncompromising obedience to the Word — makes it increasingly foreign to our culture and, paradoxically, increasingly attractive to young people challenged by the radicality of life for God alone. Share

Loneliness of Soul

There are three schools of suffering, each with its own special blessing to bestow: physical, mental, and the inner school which lies behind them both: loneliness of soul. Physical suffering makes for tenderness of heart and a patient judgment. Mental suffering gives a deepened sympathy, an active influence that, when "lifted up, draws all things to itself."

But loneliness of soul does more than this; it gives independence and strength. Even in the natural plane, it secures liberty of spirit, it develops clearness of judgment, and it enforces power of will. But this is by no means all....Loneliness of soul gives wisdom-- that breadth of vision that belongs to him who sees the entire valley from the hilltop. Loneliness of soul gives understanding-- that further power of seeing beneath the surfaces of life. Loneliness of soul gives counsel to sustain another, and fortitude to endure its own burden. All the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit come through and are fostered by loneliness of soul.

~ from Spiritual Excellence by Alban Goodier Share

Can't Wait to See It.....

Fr. Nicholas has a review of La Vie en Rose, about the French singer Edith Piaf. Father recommends it, saying:

Rather unexpectyedly, St Therese of Lisieux has a constant and unseen presence in the film. As a child Piaf suffered from blindness (a result, it seems,of keratitis). The kindly prostitutes who cared for her arranged for Piaf to visit the saint's tomb to pray for a recovery. Shortly afterwards she could see again. The saint's influence continued in Piaf's life until the very end, making La Vie en Rose a powerful essay on the efficacy of prayer. Share

Saturday, July 21, 2007

In Defense of the Magdalen

On tomorrow's feast of St. Mary Magdalen, I am pained when I think of the numerous blasphemies which have recently circulated in her regard. Such flagrant absurdities are easily refuted from an historical point of view; a number of books have recently done so.

Not that it is anything new. The lies about St. Mary Magdalen were previously spread by the medieval Cathars, a Manichean sect who held the gnostic belief in two gods, a good one and a bad one, denying the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. They could hardly be regarded as Christians in any sense of the word. But I do not intend to go into any of that here; I merely want to share a personal reflection about the great and holy Magdalen.

Penitent Magdalen kissing the feet of Christ; detail of 14th century panel, Siena Pinacoteca

In the materialistic, oversexualized society in which we must work out our salvation, we have forgotten, if we ever knew at all, what it is to really fall in love with God. The woman of Magdala, the courtesan of the Roman resort, knew the unhappiness and degradation of being exploited and used. The love of the Son of God, restoring her human dignity with His words and glance, caused her to throw herself at His feet, even as she shattered the jar of alabaster. With the precious ointment she gave her entire self in a complete oblation.

...And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. (John 12:4) The fragrance of her repentant love continues to emanate throughout the entire Church, the house of God, especially in the person of the consecrated religious, and all those who kneel in awe before the Blessed Sacrament.

The ancient tradition of the church tells of how the Magdalen, after Our Lord's Ascension into Heaven, went to the South of France and lived in solitude and contemplation in a cave on a mountain. It is that region in which was born the culture of chivalry and courtly love. St. Mary Magdalen was named the patroness of lovers, not of unsanctified love but of chaste love, of the love that requires sacrifice, unselfishness and renunciation in which to thrive. She represents the spiritual love which enhances the beauty of the union of bride and groom, that union which foreshadows nothing less than the union of Christ with His Bride the Church in the Paradise of eternity.

Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross

Mary Magdalen
at the foot of the cross

In the Litany of the Saints, the Magdalen's name appears before the list of all the virgins, so highly prized is her humility and repentance by the Church. May she pray for all woman and girls who are being exploited and for our society, enslaved by its worship of license, a license which is opposed to true freedom. May she pray for my ongoing conversion, and accept this small virtual votive light for all the intentions we offer her on today.


Happy Birthday, Mom!

Actually, her birthday was yesterday, the feast of Elias the prophet. (Almost every member of my family was born on a Carmelite feast day. It is uncanny.) It is hard to believe that my feisty and beautiful mother is two years short of seventy. The descendant of Spanish conquistadors, Chinese pirates, and Alabama Confederates is more energetic than ever, still driving like a bat out of hell. I will never forget clutching my rosary while riding with her on the Baltimore beltway during a driving rain storm, as the "Love-Death" from Tristan and Isolde resounded from the stereo. The Four Last Things flashed before me as she speedily but deftly wove in and out of traffic.

The above picture is forty years old; she always read aloud to us. It is definitely from my mother that I received a love of books, poetry, opera, painting and traditional liturgy. Share


I do not care to talk to you although
Your speech evokes a thousand sympathies,
And all my being's silent harmonies
Wake trembling into music. When you go
It is as if some sudden, dreadful blow
Had severed all the strings with savage ease.
No, do not talk; but let us rather seize
This intimate gift of silence which we know.
Others may guess your thoughts from what you say,
As storms are guessed from clouds where darkness broods.
To me the very essence of the day
Reveals its inner purpose and its moods;
As poplars feel the rain and then straightway
Reverse their leaves and shimmer through the woods.

by Amy Lowell

(photo courtesy of Ted Kaiser) Share

Worse than Saddam

There are dictators in other lands who are as bad or worse than Saddam Hussein ever dreamed of being. Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is one such tyrant. Scott Richert wisely explores the "just war" teaching in regard to nations which need to be rescued from themselves. Share

Communism in China

It is about as bad as Communism can get, which is pretty bad. It is yet another case of a godless, totalitarian regime promising freedom in order to gain social control. According to Lew Rockwell:

How many died as a result of persecutions and the communist policies of Mao? Perhaps you care to guess? Many people over the years have attempted to guess. But they have always underestimated. As more data rolled in during the 1980s and 1990s, and specialists have devoted themselves to investigations and estimates, the figures have become ever more reliable. And yet they remain imprecise. What kind of error term are we talking about? It could be as low as 40 million. It could be as high as 100 million – or more. In the Great Leap Forward from 1959 to 1961 alone, figures range between 20 million to 75 million. In the period before, 20 million. In the period after, tens of millions more.

As scholars in the area of mass death point out, most of us can't imagine 100 dead or 1000. Above that, we are just talking about statistics: they have no conceptual meaning for us. And there is only so much ghastly information that our brains can absorb, only so much blood we can imagine. And yet there is more to why China's communist experiment remains a hidden fact: it makes a decisive case against government power, one even more compelling than the cases of Russia or Germany in the 20th century.


Friday, July 20, 2007

The Mantle of Elias

Prophet of fire
Prophet of rain
You depart
In the whirlwind
Of glory.
I clasp
Your mantle
As it falls behind.
With your double-spirit
I am possessed.
May I now perceive
The thunder and
Of silence divine;
The promise
Of a wisp of cloud
Out of the sea.

~a Carmelite tertiary Share

Confederates and Catholics

A superb article from Charles A. Coulombe, proving again that most of the politically correct history taught in public schools has no bearing on reality, especially where the American South is concerned. Very interesting, please read the whole article if you have time. Mr. Coulombe pulls together lots of things that I have heard and read about in various and sundry places. He makes the point of how the history of black Americans in the South has been neglected, which is unfortunate, since the culture of the South was deeply influenced by those of African descent. After all, in many southern families it was black women who raised all the children (of both colors), taught them their manners, as well as running the household. (Yes, the circumstances were terrible because of slavery but the profound influence of the blacks upon the whites cannot be ignored.)

Mr Coulombe also says:
As indicated earlier, in antebellum times, Catholics were a presence, if a small one, in various parts of the South. Because of their relatively high social standing, members of that Faith wielded an influence all out of proportion to their numbers—there was a Catholic in Davis ’s cabinet, as well as a Jew who later converted. The three arguably best known Southern war songs were all written by Catholics—“Dixie” by Daniel Decatur Emmet, “Maryland, My Maryland” by James Ryder Randall, and “The Bonnie Blue Flag” by Harry McCarthy (beautifully performed by Damon Kirsche in the extraordinary 2003 film Gods and Generals). Such verses as “The Conquered Banner” and “The Sword of Robert Lee” were written by Confederate Army chaplain, Rev. Abram Ryan, the “poet-priest of the Confederacy.” The soon to be canonized Pope Pius IX was the only foreign ruler to recognize Davis ’ presidency. After the war, while Davis languished in Fortress Monroe, Pope Pius sent Davis his portrait and a crown of thorns he had made with his own hands (this second class relic may be viewed at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans). Davis had himself attempted to convert to Catholicism at 14, but the Dominicans who taught him demurred on account of his age; nonetheless, his rosary and scapular were on display at Beauvoir.


An ancient flood...

...turned Britain into an island, claims a recent scientific discovery. (Via LRC) How different would history be, had Britain remained part of the continent. Share

Why do we need beautiful churches?

The need to worship in a place of beauty and transcendence is as old as humanity itself, according to an excellent article from the NOR. To quote:

The anthropologist Mircea Eliade, in his Patterns of Comparative Religions (1958), documents the fact that ancient peoples in many parts of the world deemed places to be holy where some manifestation of the "holy" or "divine power" transforms a place into a sacred place with transcendent meaning. The places, whether mountains, hills, caves, rocks, groves, etc., then become broadly speaking "sacramental," visible signs of invisible realities. That God made use of man's need for such signs in his revelation to the people of the Old Covenant is clear in his singling out Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai for his theophanies to Moses, or from the Oaks of Mambre being sacred to Abraham, or the holy stone at Bethel being sacred to Jacob. But it is the tabernacle (or tent), and the Temple as its successor, which is the sacred place par excellence for the Israelites. Wandering Semitic tribes had portable tent shrines, and so God commanded the people "to build me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). The tent sheltered the Ark of the Covenant, which was important not so much for what it contained (manna, tablets of the Law, and the Urim. and Thummin) as for the Shekinah, the presence of God which hovered over the decorative cherubim which crowned the Ark. Thus the presence of God manifested by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night was "incarnated" in the portable ark which was enthroned in its own tent shrine when the pilgrim people came to rest and pitched camp. However, when the Israelites were established in the Promised Land and the Kingdom was firmly established, there was a desire to have a permanent Temple. King David wished to build it, but God made his contrary will known (2 Sm. 7:1-7) and David, who was considered a man of war, was passed over for his son, Solomon, whose name means "the peaceful king." To him is given the task of building a temple of three sections: the vestibule, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies with the Shekinah, presence of God. It will be added to later, but the precise architectural plan is less important than the place it held in Israel's heart and devotional life. The Temple became the religious center of Israel, the object of cult and devotion to devout Hebrews. There were pilgrimages to visit the Temple, and as the pilgrims neared the great edifice they sang the Gradual Psalms (120-134) or Songs of Ascent as they ascended Mount Zion where the Temple was. Some theorize that the whole Psalter was a collection of songs accompanying feasts celebrated in the Temple liturgy. Share

Thursday, July 19, 2007

July 20, Feast of St. Elias the Prophet, Leader and Father of Carmelites

"Elias the prophet stood up, as a fire, and his word burnt like a torch....Blessed are they that saw thee, and were honored with thy friendship." (Ecclesiasticus 48: 1, 11)

"Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things." (Matthew 17:11)

The greatest of the Old Testament prophets is Elias (Elijah.) The life of St. Elias can best be described by two phases which he often used: "As the Lord liveth, in Whose sight I stand" (3 Kings 17:1), and "With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts." (3 Kings 19:10) Whatever his exterior activities, the prophet remained aware of the constant presence of God. He possessed an unflagging desire to serve his Lord, even in moments of darkness and discouragement. (3 Kings 19: 4, 14)

Elias, called "the Thesbite," first manifested himself during the three year drought and famine by which the God of Israel punished His erring people, who had been led into idolatry by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. (3 Kings 17:1) Described as "a hairy man" (4 Kings 1:8), he usually could be found praying in remote desert and mountain retreats. It was in the solitude of Mt. Horeb that he experienced the majesty of God, not in fire or earthquake, but in the serenity of a "whistling of gentle air." (3 Kings 19:12) His usual haunt seems to have been Mt. Carmel, where he had the famous contest with the 450 prophets of Baal. (3 Kings 18:19) He defeated them by calling down fire from Heaven (3 Kings 18:38), setting the precedent for those who wish to follow in his footsteps as "Carmelites," whose role is to pray for the fire of graces, especially in times of crisis for the Church.

It was also on Mt. Carmel that Elias, deep in prayer, sent his servant to scan the horizon for rain. Finally, after looking seven times, the servant reported "a little cloud...like a man's foot arising out of the sea." (3 Kings 18: 43-44) Tradition holds that Elias knew the cloud to be a sign of the coming of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. "Henceforward, Carmel was sacred in the eyes of all who looked beyond this world." (Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. XIII)

St Elias came to have many disciples called the "sons of the prophets." (4 Kings 2:5) This group was seen as being the origin of the Carmelite order, since for generations to come, holy men and hermits would seek to live a life of solitude and prayer in imitation of Elias and the "sons of the prophets." Elias chose Eliseus (Elisha) to be his successor. (3 Kings 19:19) In a remarkable and moving scene, Elias is mysteriously assumed into heaven, riding in a fiery chariot. Before the dramatic departure, Eliseus begged Elias for a double portion of his spirit (4 Kings 2:9)

As Elias is carried away in the whirlwind, he bequeathes to Eliseus his mantle, along with his "double spirit." (4 Kings 2:13) Eliseus continued the work of fighting idolatry, working many miracles which surpassed those of his master. Can the mantle of Elias be seen as prefiguring the brown scapular, which symbolizes the spirit of prayer and penance, the spirit not only of Elias, but of Mary?

The history of Elias the prophet does not end with his assumption, for he makes an appearance in the New Testament as well. He and Moses converse with Jesus at His Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor (Matthew 17:3), as witnesses of the divinity of the Son of God. Afterwards, the Apostles question Our Lord about Elias. "Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first?" (Matthew 17:10) They refer to the prophecy of Malachias: "Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Malachias 4:5) Jesus assures them that Elias has preceded him in person of the John the Baptist (Matthew 17:12), who had the "spirit and power of Elias." (Luke 1:17)

However, Our Lord makes it clear that "Elias indeed shall come and restore all things." (Matthew 17:11) According to the scripture scholar Fr. Herman Kramer: "'John the Baptist did not usher in the great and dreadful day of the Lord,' as was foretold of Elias. That day will be the destruction of Antichrist...." (Fr Herman Kramer, The Book of Destiny, 1975)

Most of the early fathers of the Church identify Elias as one of the "two witnesses" in Chapter 11 of the Apocalypse, who do battle with the Antichrist. The two witnesses are martyred by the son of perdition, but their resurrection and ascension into Heaven ushers in the final defeat of "the beast." (see Apocalypse 11) The exact manner in which such cryptic prophecies will be fulfilled remains to be seen. It is interesting, however, that Carmelites have always used red vestments on July 20 in honor of the martyrdom of Elias that is to come. Share

The Education of Louis XVI

The Queen talked incessantly of the qualities which she admired in Louis XVI, and gladly attributed to herself the slightest favorable change in his manner; perhaps she displayed too unreservedly the joy she felt, and the share she appropriated in the improvement. One day Louis XVI saluted her ladies with more kindness than usual, and the Queen laughingly said to them, “Now confess, ladies, that for one so badly taught as a child, the King has saluted you with very good grace!”

....The features of Louis XVI were noble enough, though somewhat melancholy in expression; his walk was heavy and unmajestic; his person greatly neglected; his hair, whatever might be the skill of his hairdresser, was soon in disorder. His voice, without being harsh, was not agreeable; if he grew animated in speaking he often got above his natural pitch, and became shrill. The Abbe de Radonvilliers, his preceptor, one of the Forty of the French Academy, a learned and amiable man, had given him and Monsieur a taste for study. The King had continued to instruct himself; he knew the English language perfectly; I have often heard him translate some of the most difficult passages in Milton’s poems. He was a skillful geographer, and was fond of drawing and coloring maps; he was well versed in history, but had not perhaps sufficiently studied the spirit of it. He appreciated dramatic beauties, and judged them accurately. At Choisy, one day, several ladies expressed their dissatisfaction because the French actors were going to perform one of Moliere’s pieces. The King inquired why they disapproved of the choice. One of them answered that everybody must admit that Moliere had very bad taste; the King replied that many things might be found in Moliere contrary to fashion, but that it appeared to him difficult to point out any in bad taste?

....Austere and rigid with regard to himself alone, the King observed the laws of the Church with scrupulous exactness. He fasted and abstained throughout the whole of Lent. He thought it right that the queen should not observe these customs with the same strictness. Though sincerely pious, the spirit of the age had disposed his mind to toleration. Turgot, Malesherbes, and Necker judged that this Prince, modest and simple in his habits, would willingly sacrifice the royal prerogative to the solid greatness of his people. His heart, in truth, disposed him towards reforms; but his prejudices and fears, and the clamors of pious and privileged persons, intimidated him, and made him abandon plans which his love for the people had suggested.

~ from Madame Campan's Memoirs Share

High Moral Standards of Marie-Antoinette

It is known that Queen Marie-Antoinette recoiled from impurity of any kind, as biographer Vincent Cronin makes clear in Louis and Antoinette. She did not permit uncouth or off-color remarks in her presence, and would not allow the name of Empress Catherine of Russia to be mentioned since she thought the Empress to be morally depraved. She exercised a special vigilance over anyone in her care, especially the young ladies of her household. As Madame Campan relates in her Memoirs:
All who were acquainted with the Queen’s private qualities knew that she equally deserved attachment and esteem. Kind and patient to excess in her relations with her household, she indulgently considered all around her, and interested herself in their fortunes and in their pleasures. She had, among her women, young girls from the Maison de St. Cyr, all well born; the Queen forbade them the play when the performances were not suitable; sometimes, when old plays were to be represented, if she found she could not with certainty trust to her memory, she would take the trouble to read them in the morning, to enable her to decide whether the girls should or should not go to see them,–rightly considering herself bound to watch over their morals and conduct.

Medieval Courtly Love...

...was connected to the heresy of the Cathars. (see Rougemont's Love in the Western World) It glorified love outside of marriage as being superior to married love. Since most people, even peasants, had arranged marriages with spouses who had sometimes been chosen for them in childhood, it was not unheard of for them to later fall in love with someone other than their spouse. Divorce was out of the question; annulments happened but they were rare. Once you were married, you were married. Adulterous wives incurred severe penalties, if caught. Therefore, it should not be surprised that courtly love gained such a hold upon people, for it helped them to deal with difficult situations by romanticizing relationships that had no legitimate expression. The Christian way, of course, is to offer it up, and take up the cross. Share

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Moulin Rouge (1952)

I always have enjoyed films about Paris, especially the Paris of the past. A lot has happened in Paris; many events have unfolded there and many remarkable people, saints, kings, queens, soldiers, artists, writers, have lived in the ancient city on the Seine. Among the artists who made names for themselves in Paris are those whose lives were not above reproach, such as the tormented Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The scion of an old family of Languedoc, he was overwhelmed by alcohol and a bohemian lifestyle, just as his star was reaching its zenith. Before his death, he captured for posterity scenes of the Paris of the nineteenth century, unveiling the dark side of the brilliant, shining city, with all its tawdriness as well as its glamour and joie de vivre.

The John Huston 1952 film Moulin Rouge, starring José Ferrer, brings the paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec to life. As one reviewer says:

Hollywood biographies tended to be highly suspect, as writers frequently invent facts for the sake of drama, sanitizing the lives of everyone from politicians to scientists. There have been quite a few bios of composers, which were often pure fantasy, but few about painters. The Moon and Sixpence comes to mind. Huston wisely makes Moulin Rouge about the wild times in the Montmartre as much as it is about his painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Better yet, the film touches upon the artist's career but is not a series of triumphs. Henri suffers as his work becomes more widely known, and the film ends in a weird mix of bittersweet failure. Here the critics should have found the "Huston thread," for Moulin Rouge ends as many of the director's pictures do, with the hero's hopes foiled but his spirit unbroken.

Just looking at Moulin Rouge is reason enough to make special plans to see it. Oswald Morris' cinematography is overpowering. It's perhaps not as intoxicated with its own effects as Jack Cardiff's sometime is, but the images dazzle just the same. This is the first film where Huston used his weight to push some progressive ideas through Technicolor London. Moulin Rouge looks to have been shot with heavy diffusion and special lighting in the dance scenes to emulate Toulouse-Lautrec's canvasses. The experiment by and large is successful - the film has a unique "painterly" look that connects the artist to the audience in the same way as last year's Girl With a Pearl Earring. Huston's movie compares favorably with the more highly regarded Vincente Minnelli Vincent Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life, with its strained theatrics and overplaying by Kirk Douglas.

In a way Moulin Rouge is first a vehicle for José Ferrer, the kind of elitist toast-of-the-town actor that wide audiences tend to abandon after a while. He charmed everyone in Cyrano de Bergerac but later on had a hard time as a lead and eventually became sort of a permanent special guest star. This is his celebrated 'stunt' role, the one where the camera is carefully placed to give him the illusion of having tiny legs. The illusion isn't that impressive any more, and we accept Henri mainly because of Ferrer's acting. Ferrer is witty, droll, haughty and remote, all the while conveying a need for other people and for love. It's fine work and has more subtlety than one might think. Here's a fellow who allows one woman to abuse him and then callously rejects another to protect his feelings. Ferrer makes him into a tragic case with a massive talent. Henri never loses faith in his art. He is allowed the sweet satisfaction of hearing his father -- a remote man who earlier called his work pornographic -- read aloud the telegram that says his work is to hang in the Louvre. Ferrer plays the father as well; we're so distracted by the tricks to make Lautrec fils seem a cripple that we never notice the methods used to put Lautrec pere in the same frame with him.

Moulin Rouge
is among the better films about infamous artists, and I agree wholeheartedly with the following assessment:

This is the movie that started me on a life-long love affair with Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and once again, it was John Huston who ignited the affair, just as he had with Sam Spade and "The Maltese Falcon" on his very first assignment as a young director. "Moulin Rouge" was a nominee the year that Cecil B. De Mille's "The Greatest Show On Earth" won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1952, even though Huston's recreation of the Paris art scene of the 1890's is a far superior film. Jose Ferrer was also nominated for the physically painful role of the aristocratic Toulouse-Lautrec, who captured the gaiety of Montmartre night life, while moving through life with a sad, resigned dignity. Huston got a wonderful performance out of Colette Marchand, playing Marie Charlet, an actual young model who tormented Toulouse-Lautrec, more out of personal desperation than any real malice. However, Toulouse-Lautrec's friendship with Myriamme Hayem (Suzanne Flon) seems to owe more to Pierre la Mure's novel than it does to reality. Certainly, some of the other colorful characters here played far more authentic roles in the artist's life. There really was a La Goulue (Katherine Kath), of course: Her real name was Louise Weber (1870-1929) and Toulouse-Lautrec's posters of the dancer will long outlive them both. Jane Avril (1868-1943) survived a difficult childhood to become one of the great entertainers of her day. Zsa Zsa Gabor delivers one of her better performances as the charming dancer immortalised in Toulouse-Lautrec's posters. Toulouse-Lautrec's friend Maurice Joyant (1864-1930, played by Lee Montague) wrote one of the first biographies of the artist. Like Toulouse-Lautrec, Huston was well-born, and both artists shared a deep passion for the truth plus a strong determination to establish their own reputations quite separate and apart from the circumstances of their birth. Both succeeded, although Toulouse-Lautrec undoubtedly paid the higher price. Huston lovingly recreates the Moulin Rouge in all its garish splendor, paying meticulous attention to the Technicolor process, trying to get every detail just right. ("Moulin Rouge" did win the Oscar for art direction and set decoration that year.) It's a sad, exquisite film of an irretrievably vanished era that still has the power to lure us into its spell, if only in our dreams.