Friday, November 30, 2007

A Magnificent New Encyclical

Today Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI released a new encyclical, Spe Salvi "Saved by Hope." Here is an excerpt:
With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the Sea”: Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).

Marie-Antoinette's Childhood

Marie-Antoinette, born in 1755, was the fifteenth child in a family of sixteen. In the picture above the future queen of France is the small girl with a doll. Although her parents were the Holy Roman Emperor and Empress, they were very informal as royals go. "The Imperial family," said Goethe, as quoted by Maxime de La Rocheterie, "is nothing more than a large German bourgeoisie." Rocheterie, in his classic biography of Marie-Antoinette, describes the household in which Marie-Antoinette was raised:
Etiquette was unknown. The emperor and empress liked to live in the midst of their subjects kind and friendly toward all but restraining familiarity by respect. Unfortunately they were so absorbed by the care of the policy and administration of their vast empire that they had little leisure to superintend the education of their numerous children. They confided them to tutors and governesses whom they chose with care and to whom it appears they gave their instructions without, however, seeing that they were carried out. (Rocheterie, p 2)
As is well-known, her own family's casualness about etiquette would make living at Versailles quite a challenge for the teenage Marie-Antoinette.

In such a loving if rather haphazard environment, the little archduchess blossomed into a lively and attractive child. While she was not outstandingly pious or studious, she learned her prayers and was carefully catechized. She very much enjoyed her music instructions (Gluck was her teacher), her dancing lessons, and anything to do with pets, especially dogs and horses. She did well at languages, including Latin and Italian, and showed an interest in history. Theater was her passion, especially comedy. When preparing to go to France to be married, two actors helped to improve her French diction, which Louis XV thought to be inappropriate when he heard of it. (The French king sent the priest Abbé Vermond to take over the future queen's studies.) Nevertheless, the princess learned to speak, walk and move with beauty and grace, as if on stage.

Marie-Antoinette's mother taught her to play cards. Knowing the French court, Empress Maria Teresa probably feared that if her daughter did not learn how to win certain games of chance, she would lose all her money. Gambling was rife at all the courts of Europe; the Viennese actually played for much higher stakes than the French, which did not help Marie-Antoinette when she started having all night card parties as a twenty-year old Queen of France. However, her mother also instilled in her a great concern for the poor and a sense of duty towards all who were unfortunate; there are many accounts of the young archduchess' charity.

The word most often used to describe the youthful Marie-Antoinette by those in charge of her was dissipation. Now in French, dissipation has a slightly different meaning from our English version of the word. As Nesta Webster explains in Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette Before the Revolution (p.12):
The gravest reproach brought against [Marie-Antoinette] her tendency to "dissipation," a word which must translated by the English word dissipation signifying wild gaiety, even dissoluteness, but simply a love of distraction and a disinclination to give fixed attention to any subject.
I wonder if today she would have been diagnosed as genuinely having an attention deficit disorder. Sadly, the wandering mind of a young girl would cause her to be forever labeled as "dissipated" by those who misunderstood or mistranslated the original meaning.

Before sending Marie-Antoinette to France, it is reported that the Empress consulted Dr. Gassner the "thaumaturgus" in regard to the fourteen year old girl's future. Dr. Gassner regarded the princess with a serious expression before replying: "There are crosses for all shoulders." Share

O Bona Crux

On this day, Andrew the poor fisherman from Galilee, patron saint of Scotland, of Greece, and of Russia, passed into eternal glory after many ordeals. Here is an excerpt from the old Martyrology for November 30, Feast of St Andrew the Apostle, as quoted in Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol XV :
Andrew, having been brought to the place of execution, seeing the cross at some distance, began to cry out: O good cross, made beautiful by the body of my Lord! so long desired, so anxiously loved, so unceasingly sought after, and now at last ready for my soul to enjoy! take me from amidst men, and restore me to my Master; that by thee He may receive me, Who by thee redeemed me. He was therefore fastened to the cross, on which he hung alive two days, preaching without cessation the faith of Christ....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Freemasonry and the Revolution

Thanks to Laudem Gloriae for such a great post. The picture above is of a masonic pamphlet celebrating the death of Louis XVI. Yes, I realize that it is stylish in very sophisticated circles to make fun of all conspiracy theories. Of course, there has been a tendency of some authors in the past to make everything that happened in the Revolution a result of masonic conspiracies. Considering the various vying factions of the Revolution, who frequently turned on each other like devils in hell, such a view is an oversimplification of events. Also, it must be taken into consideration that several relatives of the royal family, including the queen's father, brother and sister, as well as Madame de Lamballe, were high-ranking freemasons. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were favorably disposed towards the masons in the beginning. Nevertheless, it should be recalled that the masons themselves bragged about their role in the on-going series of revolutions which have led to the breakdown of Christendom. To quote:
The triumph of the Galilean has lasted twenty centuries. But now he dies in his turn. The mysterious voice, announcing (to Julian the Apostate) the death of Pan, today announces the death of the impostor God who promised an era of justice and peace to those who believe in him. The illusion has lasted a long time. The mendacious God is now disappearing in his turn; he passes away to join in the dust of ages the divinities of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, who saw so many creatures prostrate before their altars. Bro. Masons, we rejoice to state that we are not without our share in this overthrow of the false prophets. The Romish Church, founded on the Galilean myth, began to decay rapidly from the very day on which the Masonic Association was established.
--President of the Grand Orient Masonic Lodge, Senator Delpech, 20 September, 1902

Advent is Near

Catholic Exchange offers some fine reflections on Advent by Br. John Chrysostom Kozlowski, O.P. Brother Kozlowski quotes Pope John Paul II, who said: "Advent is a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come, and who continuously comes." We forget the Church still recommends violet vestments for Advent; it is a penitential season, in spite of the fact that most of us are going to one Christmas party after another. My husband and I usually have our Christmas party after Christmas, when the season for rejoicing is in full liturgical swing. In fact, for many years we have had an "Epiphany party" around January 6, since that magnificent feast is overlooked by the secular world. Not that the mood of Advent is equivalent to the somber tone of Lent; but it should be a time for reflection and on-going conversion rather than constant partying, as if Christmas began at the beginning of December rather than at the end of the month.

Drawing close to Our Lady in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception is one of the best ways I can think of to spiritually ready the soul for the great feasts that are to come. The novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, begins today. And here is an excerpt from the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, much of which is based on Sacred Scripture:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, I firmly believe in thy Immaculate Conception. I bless God for having granted thee this glorious privilege. I thank Him a thousand times for having taught it to me by the infallible voice of the Church. Receive my heart, O Immaculate Virgin; I give it to thee without reserve; purify it; guard it; never give it back to me, preserve it in thy love and in the love of Jesus during time and eternity. AMEN.

V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.

Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, did prepare a worthy habitation for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as in view of the death of that Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain of sin, so Thou wouldst enable us, being made pure by her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN.


Ana Braga-Henebry has a helpful review of Bella. Share

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dorothy Day

Joshua Snyder tells her story.
November 29th marks the anniversary of the passing of Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic Worker Movement. Mark the date on your calendar, because this radical pacifist who had been a member of the I.W.W., met Leon Trotsky, had an abortion, and raised a daughter as a divorced single mother may be the next American canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.

(Via The Western Confucian)

"I will have mercy and not sacrifice. I come not to call the just but sinners." (Matthew 9: 13) Share

An Evaluation of Presidential Candidates

When viewed in the light of Catholic social teaching, Ron Paul wins. (Thanks to Georgette for the link.)

By the way, many people seem to think that Ron Paul is some kind of an independent candidate. He is not. Dr. Paul is a Republican and a sitting United States congressman.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Winter Garden

Winter is almost upon us. The liturgical year is dying, to be reborn amid Advent hopefulness in a few more days. I finally received my first copy of Victoria Magazine, which has also experienced a resurrection. The ladies who have revived the cherished periodical have really tried to make it as it was in its early nineties heyday. There are many articles helpful to creating a home environment of cheer and inspiration, including some pictures of a winter garden. We forget that even in the cold and bleakness of the season there can be a serene beauty. Share

The Miraculous Medal

Today is the feast of the Miraculous Medal. The apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Catherine Labouré at the convent of the Daughters of Charity on the Rue de Bac in Paris are quite famous. Many people are unaware that the novice from Burgundy also experienced a vision of Christ the King, which foretold to her the July Revolution of 1830, and the final fall of the House of Bourbon. The July Revolution sent the Duchesse d'Angoulême and her family into exile for the rest of their lives, as is told in the novel Madame Royale.

Fr. Joseph Dirvin describes the vision of June 6, 1830 in detail in his biography of St. Catherine.
On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1830, Sister Laboure was given a special vision of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or more specifically of Christ as King. This time she is precise as to the moment of the vision. Our Lord appeared to her, robed as a king, with a cross at His breast, during the Gospel of the Mass. Suddenly, all His kingly ornaments fell from Him to the ground—even the cross, which tumbled beneath His feet. Immediately her thoughts and her heart fell, too, and were plunged into that chasm of gloom that she had known before, gloom that portended a change in government. This time, however, she understood clearly that the change in government involved the person of the King, and that, just as Christ was divested of His royal trappings before her, so would Charles X be divested of his throne.

It is a startling thing, this sacred vision of God Himself coming in majesty to foretell the fall of an earthly monarch, and the vision of Christ the King to Catherine Laboure seems to have had no other purpose than to foretell the fall of Charles X of France. The mystery of it will never be fully solved; yet here and there the mind may mull over certain clues.

The greatest of these clues is the nature of the French monarchy itself, which, as Hilaire Belloc understood so well, was a holy thing, wedded to the people it ruled, and the prototype of all the monarchies of Europe. This ancient royalty had its roots in Rome and had received its Christian mandate in the crowning of Charlemagne by the Pope on Christmas Day, 800 A.D. It had lived for more than a thousand years in one line of men. No matter how great the goodness or wickedness of these royal men—and there was an ample supply of both—the sanctity of the monarchy itself and its mystical espousal to the French people is not to be questioned. In its institutions, its duties, its relationship to those it governed, its elaborate ritual, it was an imitation on a much lower plane of the Church of God. The French, kings and subjects alike, knew this well. Jeanne d'Arc was in an agony until the Dauphin should be crowned at Rheims and his body anointed and consecrated in the sacred rite which was so essential to this kingly religion; in a sense, it was her sole mission, and it is significant that her fortunes declined afterward. Louis XI had the Ampulla of holy oil brought from Rheims that his dying eyes might rest on it. Napoleon III sought to sanctify his usurpation by having himself anointed with the small, hard lump that was all that remained of the holy oil in 1853. The Kings of France, no matter how absolute their rule, had to be born and to die, had to eat and drink, take their recreation, and pray in the sight of the people. At the birth of her ill-fated Dauphin, Marie Antoinette almost died of suffocation, because of the press of the common people in her chamber, witnessing her lying-in; only the quick-witted action of a bystander, breaking a window to let in the fresh air, saved her.

The double religious family to which Catherine belonged had had official relationships with the French monarchy. Louis XIII had died in the arms of Vincent de Paul. The Founder continued to serve his widow, Anne of Austria, during the early part of her Regency, both as her confessor and as an important member of the royal Council of Conscience, a body established for the reform of the Church. Under Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Vincentian Fathers had been royal chaplains at Versailles, and, after the restoration, had been privileged to form a guard of honor about the bier of Louis XVIII.

That the vision of Christ the King had some intimate relationship with the end of the Bourbon dynasty seems evident, for Charles X was the last of the royal Bourbons; his cousin Louis Philippe, who succeeded him, belonged to a lateral line. Again we are confronted with the astonishing preoccupation of Heaven with the fortunes of France.

Before leaving this vision, we must point out the noteworthy fact that Catherine Laboure was the first saint in modern times to be vouchsafed a vision of Christ as King. In the light of the great present-day devotion to the Kingship of Christ, we would seem justified in questioning whether the vision might not have a mystical meaning. In announcing the end of the oldest of monarchies, might not Christ have meant to point up the passing quality of all earthly authority, and to foretell present-day devotion to His Kingship as the index of the eternal quality of His own Reign?

Certainly, however, Sister Laboure did not ponder thus in her heart. She knew only, as the common people know, that there was to be "a change in government," and that, as inevitably came to pass, "many miseries would follow." She knew only, as the common people know, that there had been too many changes of government in France over the last forty years, too many miseries following, and, with this instinctive knowledge of the people, she grew sad and feared.

The statesmen and politicians of the land would have laughed at the long, prophetic thoughts of the little Sister, for national order seemed well established and peace reigned. Indeed, the government was enjoying the flush of esteem that had come with the brilliant victory of the French troops in Algiers, a victory which the nation had asked through the intercession of St. Vincent. In certain coffee houses and wine shops of Paris, however, there would have been no laughter. The brutal men assembled there would merely have smiled with grim satisfaction at this forecast of success for the revolution they were plotting.

(~from St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal by Fr. Joseph Dirvin)

(Artwork from Abbey Roads 2)

Manners at School

Old-fashioned manners have made a comeback at a school in England. (Via LRC)

And we know that there will be manners at a certain new school in Northern Virginia. Teaching sisters are returning to Catholic schools, slowly but surely. Share

Monday, November 26, 2007

Marriage of Nicholas and Alexandra

On November 14/26, 1896 Tsar Nicholas II married his cousin Alix of Hesse, just one week after Alexander III's funeral. According to one account:
On the morning of the wedding, the Dowager Empress Marie took her future daughter-in-law to the Winter Palace where the ceremony was to take place.

As troops and crowds lined the streets outside, Nicholas, wearing a Hussar's uniform, arrived at the Winter Palace. The ceremony was straightforward and simple and, out of respect for the late Tsar, no festivities were allowed. "One day in deepest mourning, lamenting a loved one, the next, in smartest clothes being married," was how Alexandra described it.

Immediately after the ceremony, the young couple drove to the Anichkov Palace, enthusiastically cheered by huge crowds. As the marriage had been arranged so hastily, no proper preparations had been made for the couple and they agreed to stay as the guests of Nicholas's mother. The rooms they shared at the Anichkov Palace with Marie were cramped and lacking in privacy.

In these small rooms, Alexandra sat all day, moving into her bedroom when her husband had to receive official visitors in the sitting room. But she was entirely happy; her husband was always near her.


Trial of Louis XVI

Here is an excerpt from the trial of Louis XVI in December of 1792. It is interesting to note the brevity and acuity of the king's answers, which once again give lie to the myth that he was a weak-minded idiot. Share

Our Thanksgiving

We were entertained on Thanksgiving Day by some friends in Maryland. They have a grand old house in the country that has been in their family for generations. Such houses are like people, with a unique character and personality that come from all the events that have transpired therein. It was a warm, mild day, although later the wind came up, and it rained.

Family and friends of all ages partook of the feast. There were about thirty of us who sat down to dinner, at three tables, amid lots of laughter and story-telling. It was a wonderful day.


The Return of Latin and Tradition

We can thank Our Holy Father the Pope, of course. But also the young people, who want the genuine traditions of the Church. According to Princess Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis in The Catholic Herald (via Fr. Blake):
If the photographs in Les communautés traditionnelles en France are anything to go by, then just across the Channel there lies a whole rich seam of Catholic religious life that is young, vibrant and growing.

In addition to youthfulness and success, there are two other common features that unite the communities featured in this book. One is that they all have the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy – the “traditional” rites liberated by Pope Benedict XVI’s recent Motu Proprio – as the heart and foundation of their spirituality. The other is that many of them long enjoyed the steadfast, if unofficial support, of a certain well-placed cardinal in Rome. His name was Joseph Ratzinger.

There is no gain without pain and most of these 18 communities have at some stage suffered from misunderstanding and prejudice. Before the Motu Proprio there was often intense pressure from unsympathetic ecclesiastical authorities to abandon all adherence to the “old rite”. But when the going was particularly rough, the abbots, prioresses and rectors of these institutes were sustained by the knowledge that they had an influential friend in Rome – a friend who is now reigning as Pope Benedict XVI.

THIS is interesting. (Via A Conservative Blog for Peace) Share

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Life of Edith Piaf

Anyone who nourishes the delusion that worldly success is the key to happiness has only to watch La Vie en Rose (2007) about French singer Edith Piaf. The story line is difficult to follow, unless someone is already familiar with the life of La Môme Piaf. I was not familiar with it and so had to do quite a bit of googling so I could understand what was happening in the film. Nevertheless, enough of Edith's vivid existence is captured with all the dirt and glamor so that the weight of mystery and tragedy is poignantly conveyed.

Her life was a blending of the profane and the sacred, from her childhood spent in a brothel to the extraordinary intervention of St Thérèse of Lisieux. The prostitutes who were raising Edith took her to the saint's grave in Lisieux and prevailed upon the Carmelite nun's intercession, so that the little girl was healed from blindness. She never forgot it, and neither did St. Thérèse, who will not let go of someone once she decides to fight for their soul.

The way the Little Flower haunted Edith's life with her usual tenacity reminded me of other stories of the saint, including some of my own. As a young person, I never felt drawn to St. Thérèse; she seemed too saccharine, her family was nothing like mine; I was not sure that I liked her at all. However, she kept boldly making herself known in the events of my youth, so that she became impossible to ignore. Now she is my friend; I hope she keeps her hand on me, as she does on many whom she adopts as spiritual siblings.

Poor Edith, she went through just about every terrible thing. The lurid brothel scenes of the film show prostitution to be the slavery that it is; the women could not seem to escape the lifestyle once they fell into it, in spite of their disgust and the horrific abuse they endured. Yet, the kindness with which they cared for Edith surpassed the treatment of many respectable people in her regard. Edith saw enough misery in the brothel so that she chose to sing for her supper rather than sell her body. She had to sing in order to live and in the end she could not live without singing.

Needless to say, the demons of her childhood would not release her; Edith was enslaved by drugs, alcoholism, while constantly seeking a love that could not be found in many lovers. And yet she always wore a cross; when she collapsed on stage, old before her time, she called upon Jesus and St. Thérèse. The words of the Gospel come to mind: "I will have mercy and not sacrifice. I come not to call the just but sinners." (Matthew 9: 13) Watching La Vie en Rose gives one the hope that, in the end, Edith found the mercy that we all hope to receive. Share

Christ the King

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.[27]

Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ."[28] Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."[29] He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?"[30] If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."[31]
~Pope Pius XI "Quas Primas"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

God Reigns

Tomorrow is the feast of Christ the King. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher, has some beautiful words.
Let us consider again the inscription placed above Christ: “This is the King of the Jews.” The onlookers challenged him to manifest his royalty openly and many, even among his friends, expected a spectacular demonstration of his kingship. But he chose only to show his kingship in his solicitousness for one man, who was, in fact, a criminal: “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.'"

Blessed Miguel Pro

Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Pro. Terry Nelson has a moving post as well. Share

Friday, November 23, 2007

Spanish Monarchs

Fr. Blake has a post about the much-maligned Philip II.
Yet, beyond the exigencies of politics, Philip, the most powerful man in the world, remained an extraordinarily humble monarch. “They need to see that I am mortal,” he insisted, “like everyone else.” He showed scant interest in pomp and finery, altering royal protocol to ensure that he should be addressed in official documents not as “Majesty” but simply as “Sir”. He even recognised a certain value in tolerating political dissent. “The Prince of whom subjects complain the least,” he observed, “is he who gives them most freedom to complain.” With this humility went a real concern for the poor and unfortunate. It was typical of him that, when the remnants of the defeated Armada returned to Spain, he immediately gave orders that the wounded should be properly treated and receive a pension. As to the disaster itself, he disdained to express any complaint. “It is impiety, and almost blasphemy,” he considered, “to presume to know the will of God.”

Laudem Gloriae discusses Queen Isabel.
Under the pink and white of her skin pulsed the blood of crusaders and conquerors, the blood of Alfred the Great, of William the Conqueror, of the iron Plantagenet Henry II and the fiery Eleanor of Aquitaine, of Edward I and Edward III of England, of Philip the Bold of France, of Alfonso the Wise of Castile. She was descended on both sides from Louis IX of France and his cousin Fernando III of Castile, both kings, both crusaders and both canonized saints. She derived Lancastrian blood through both parents from John of Gaunt, brother of the Black Prince. --William Thomas Walsh


Research confirms what most mothers have known all along. (Via Lew Rockwell)
At the age of six months, most babies have barely learnt to sit up, let alone crawl, walk or talk.

But, according to new research, they can already assess someone's intentions towards them, deciding who is a likely friend or enemy.

US scientists believe babies acquire the ability to make social evaluations in the first few months of life.


St Columban

From an instruction by St. Columban, abbot:
The most valuable objects are usually the most fragile; costly things require the most careful handling. Particularly fragile is that which is lost by wanton talk and destroyed by the slightest injury to a brother. Men like nothing better than minding or discussing the business of others, passing superfluous comments at random and criticizing people behind their backs. So those who cannot say: The Lord has given me a discerning tongue, that I may with a word support him who is weary should keep silent, or if they do say anything it should promote peace. (The Roman Breviary)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

St. Cecilia's Punch

At our parties we have often served Saint Cecilia's Punch. It is delightful, but please don't drink and drive!
6 lemons
1 quart brandy
1 pineapple
1-1/2 pounds sugar
1 quart green tea
1 pint heavy rum
1 quart peach brandy
1 gallon champagne
2 quarts carbonated water

Slice lemons thin and cover with brandy. Allow to steep for 24 hours. Several hours before ready to serve, slice the pineapple into the bowl with the lemon slices, then add the sugar, tea, rum, and peach brandy. Stir well. When ready to serve, add the champagne and water. 80-90 servings.


St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

While in Rome, my mother bought me a small statue of Saint Cecilia, the Roman martyr from the turn of the early third century. It is based on the life-size one in her basilica, sculpted after her incorrupt body was exhumed in the sixteenth century. She is lying on her side in her dressing gown with her neck half-severed. Cecilia was killed in her bathroom, and the executioner who hacked at her neck was put off by her calm dignity. It took her three days to die. The prelude to her ordeal was an attempt to scald her, which was why she was found near the bath - one of those huge Roman baths. For Cecilia belonged to one of the ancient Roman families and possessed great wealth. She was young, beautiful, and desired, but she died because she refused to renounce her Savior.

While journeying through life it is easy to understand why so many of the martyrs were very young. When people are young they do not understand what it is to lose life. Sacrifices are easier when you do not fully grasp what is being renounced. There is a special valor, a reckless courage, possessed by young soldiers which old soldiers do not always have. And yet Christians of every age are called to be soldiers of Christ and martyrs in spirit if not in body. The fortitude that seemed so effortless in my grandparents in their old age I see now was no small thing.

As Abbot Gueranger wrote in The Liturgical Year, Vol XV : "The lesson will not be lost if we come to understand this much: had the first Christians feared, they would have betrayed us, and the word of life would never have come down to us; if we fear, we shall betray future generations, for we are expected to transmit to them the deposit we have received from our fathers." Those who had faith and courage, whether it was Saint Cecilia in her agony, or my grandmothers in their nursing homes, where they spent many years before they died, have passed on to me a priceless gift. Share

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How the Irish discovered America

Did St. Brendan find his way to North America long before Columbus?
In the sixth century, St. Brendan, an Irish monk who was widely reputed as a skilled seafarer, is said to have undertaken an ambitious voyage. Brendan, along with a crew of fellow monks, sailed looking for Paradise, the Land of Promise of the Saints. After seven years exploring mysterious lands, he came upon what he believed to be the fabled paradise. It was an island so vast that he and his crew failed to reach the far shore after 40 days of walking. It contained a river that was too wide to be crossed. It was a wooded land, filled with lush fruits. He and his men filled their boats with gems they found there and returned home to tell of the news.

On Being a Gentleman

In the words of General Robert E. Lee:
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly -- the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honour feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.

On the same blog is an intriguing post about Jefferson Davis, Pope Pius IX, and the condemnation of slavery.
The Church had long ago condemned slavery and the slave trade and that most conservative and supposedly “reactionary” of popes, Pope Gregory XVI, had issued an Apostolic Constitution roundly condemning the slave trade....

Black slavery in America began in the North and was first legalised there, in Massachusetts, in 1625. Northern liberals and Protestants were as likely to be slavers and segregationists as anyone in the world.

The Presentation of Mary

Today is the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, where according to tradition she was brought at the age of three by her parents, Saints Anne and Joachim to be raised among the daughters of Jerusalem. "Mary, led to the Temple in order to prepare in retirement, humility, and love for her incomparable destiny, had also the mission of perfecting at the foot of the figurative altar the prayer of the human race, of itself ineffectual to draw down the savior from heaven." (From Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol XV ) This feast is a wonderful prelude to Advent.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has spoken and written a great deal about the worship of God in His Church, which is the new Temple of the Lord. Interesting articles HERE, HERE and HERE. Share

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A New Series

For the many parents who are always looking for good books for their children to read, I would not hesitate to recommend a new series in junior fiction written by my cousin, Jennifer Lanthier. Published by Harper-Collins, the "Hazel Frump" mysteries are delightful, witty and entertaining. Of course, I would not expect anything less from a relative who from childhood has been as brilliant, lively and fun as she is beautiful. I spent one summer in the mid-seventies with Jennifer, her sister Kate and their family at their house in Kingston, Ontario. I will never forget the good times we had. Jennifer and I absconded with a toy castle with figurines belonging to her little brother. Combining our vivid imaginations we wove a medieval saga about a highly dysfunctional royal family, replete with characters who made the Plantagenets seem like "The Brady Bunch." When I saw Jennifer at a family gathering a few years ago, we laughed about our castle and so many other memories. Recently, I ran into Jennifer on Facebook; I did not even know she was writing novels, but am not at all surprised. I am so proud of her. May she be blessed with success! Share

Holiday Parties

Most of the on-line tips deal with office parties, but many of the same standards can be applied to any festivity. I would only add that if you see someone sitting alone at a party, it is a kind gesture to go over and chat with them. Some excellent advice HERE:
• Limit drink intake: Drinking too much is a recipe for disaster; you won’t erase the bad impression from others’ minds afterwards.

• Talk with a variety of people: Sticking with the familiar (your own department, peers or spouse) limits you.

• Keep one hand free: If you’ve got a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other, you won’t be able to shake hands or mingle with the crowd easily.

• Be cheerful: Keep a smile on your face, approach people you don’t know well, and be friendly and cordial.

• Keep complaints to yourself: You never know who’s behind you in the buffet line or at the next table who might overhear your negative comments.

And more HERE.


A Royal Anniversary

Sixty years ago today....

The Monarchist reports....

Today is also the ninety-fifth birthday of Archduke Otto. Share

Blogging Anniversary

It has been exactly a year since the first post on "Tea at Trianon." Thanks be to God for the many blessings He has wrought through this extraordinary medium. I thank Georgette and my husband for encouraging me to begin, and for all of the cyberfriends who have visited and commented regularly. A special thanks to those who have kindly linked this blog to their own wonderful sites. May God bless and reward you. Share

Monday, November 19, 2007

St Raphael Kalinowski

Today on the Carmelite calendar is commemorated a saint who worked for true ecumenism, without compromising his convictions. His motto was: "Mary, always and in everything." St Raphael said:
For Carmelite friars and nuns, it is of capital importance to honor the Most Blessed Virgin. And we love her if we endeavor to imitate her virtue, especially humility and recollection in prayer. Our gaze ought to be constantly turned to her, our affections directed to her, ever keeping in mind the remembrance of her benefits and trying always to be faithful to her.

The Vaccine Debate

Whom to believe? A mother writes:
Citing various scientific studies, critics of vaccines linked the use of vaccines to everything from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and autism to leukemia. They particularly complained about the lack of testing of the long-term effects of vaccines, as well as the ethical policies of the companies who manufacture vaccines, regulated only by themselves and their far-from-adequate testing procedures. Lastly, opponents of vaccines protested the simultaneous administration of many vaccines, and they questioned the risk of using vaccines with such dangerous side effects for the prevention of diseases that have all but completely disappeared from this part of the world. All of these arguments led me to reconsider my opinion on vaccines and to question, for example, why my tiny two-month-old baby needed to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, a sexually transmitted disease. Even more, why should my newborn baby, only a few hours old, have her eyes doused with antibiotic just in case she caught gonorrhea from me during labor -- another sexually transmitted disease which I have no reason to think that I carry? This surely seemed to be overdoing it. But where should I draw the line? Could all the claims of vaccine critics be believed?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Latin in the Seminaries

Will the Latin Mass be taught in the seminaries? According to Rorate Caeli, the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" will soon publish an order addressed to seminaries "in which it is required that the celebration of the Latin Mass be taught to future priests." Share

The Pilgrims and Democracy

Laudem Gloriae has a brief history.
In their desire to complete the Reformation and purify religion of popish trumperies, the Puritans broke from the Anglican Church, rejected the Book of Common Prayer, and preferred the anti-royalist Geneva Bible to the King James version. They instituted an independent congregationalist ideal that upheld the notion of the common priesthood of all believers, and thus granted an equal say among congregants in the election of the minister (some claim the roots of American democracy lie here).

Debtors' Prisons

Regency Ramble has an interesting post about prisons in early nineteenth century England.
Law, Crime, Punishment and Policing were very different in the Regency than they are today. Often in our books our not so bad characters can end up in the hoosegow for debt. In other words if you could not pay your debts the merchant to whom you owed money could request the court to throw you in prison until you paid them. To us that seems a little bit of an oxymoron, since it would be difficult to earn money while in prison. The idea was, I think, that your family and friends would raise money to get you out, however often a man's whole family would be incarcerated with him, as per the next picture, because they would have no money and nowhere else to live.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wuthering Heights (1939)

No classic movie explores the depths of dysfunction quite like the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights. It is perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever captured on film, great because it is more than just a love story; it is a portrait of the long term results of alcoholism and child abuse. Based, of course, upon the novel of the same name, the film stops after the first few chapters. The book, however, goes on to show with immense psychological detail how the abused Heathcliff himself becomes an abuser and replicates, to the best of his ability, the circumstances in which he was mistreated. The film captures in a short but intense manner the brilliance of the original story-telling.

In spite of the all the melodrama, the 1939 Wuthering Heights is a subtle film compared to the remakes. There are no sex or rape scenes, little bloodshed, just phenomenal acting and a stirring score. When Hindley places his muddy boot on Heathcliff's hands, one feels the humiliation, the degradation. And no R-rated love scene can compare to the passion with which Catherine rips off her fine frock so she can don her usual shabby attire and dash off to join Heathcliff on the moors.

The obsessive love between Catherine and Heathcliff is the result of the bonding which occurred when they were children in a brutal situation, with no one but each other to turn to for help. Although Catherine loves Heathcliff, her desperation to escape from her alcoholic brother dominates all other emotions. She marries wealthy Edgar for material security and seems to be happy, until Heathcliff comes back. The division in her soul destroys her; in the book she dies giving birth, so tormented that not even the love for her child gives her any peace or hope.

Throughout both the book and the movie are the recurring mentions of the devil, of hell, of witchcraft and curses, so that one has the distinct impression that the religion of the characters is more Manichean than Christian. The evil spirals into consuming jealousy and hatred. No sins of the flesh are committed, that anyone is aware of, although suppressed passion simmers in every chapter. The tempestuous climate of the moors reflects the inner tumults. The core of the evil is not in the wildness of the elements but in the addictive behaviors of the Earnshaw family. Heathcliff is as addicted to his anger and hatred for all who have injured him as much as Hindley is addicted to his drink. Heathcliff's inability to forgive, more than his thwarted love for Catherine, is what destroys most of the main characters. The film provides a searing study of the evil that is unleashed when people cling to the past. It also shows, in the final ethereal shot, how love can transcend time and space. Share

On Mourning the Dead

There is nothing like a sad song for making a person feel better when they are grieving. The Irish discovered this long ago. So did the monks who wrote some of the classic dirges, once an integral part of the Roman liturgy. In the seventies it became the vogue at funeral masses to focus on the Resurrection and on the hope that the deceased was enjoying the bliss of heaven. This in itself is a good and very Christian approach to death. However, to ignore all sad feelings is not healthy. It is not the realm of the sacred liturgy to annihilate or repress our feelings but to refocus them in the light of faith. The Second Vatican council did not abolish the Dies Irae, the traditional dirge for the deceased; it remains in the Roman breviary, even in the ICEL translation, and is recommended for the Office for the Dead. Share

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

On November 17 the Church gives us the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) who in her twenty-four years on earth embodied virtues which in today's world have almost ceased to exist: honesty, modesty, courage, chastity, self-denial and fidelity. She was not queen of Hungary, as many people think, but a princess. Her parents were the king and queen. Being
royal in those days meant that your life was not your own. Marriages between two ruling families would form an alliance between countries and keep two countries from going to war. So from her infancy, Elizabeth was a living pledge of peace, since she was promised in marriage to the heir of Thuringia.

Elizabeth was sent to Germany at the age of four to be raised in the household of her betrothed, Louis of Thuringia, as was the practice of the time. It was heartbreaking for her parents' to separate from their lively, dark-haired little girl, but they commended her to God and Our Lady. Louis' family disliked her, as was often the case with foreign royal brides, but he always cherished and protected his little fiancée. Elizabeth, although far from home, was a Magyar princess, and there was an intensity in her commitment to God and her husband which was repugnant to the placid Thuringians. They were married when Elisabeth was fourteen and Louis was about seventeen; he had inherited the dukedom of Thuringia from his father by then. Thuringia is roughly where Hesse-Darmstadt is now. In the thirteenth century it was a prosperous and powerful territory, although Louis was a duke, not a king.

Elizabeth had always shown a strong inclination toward piety as well as a great love of helping the needy and downtrodden. She opened a hospital for the poor in one of her castles and ran a soup kitchen. She was passionately in love with her husband, which is one of her most appealing aspects - she was a saint but she was also very much a woman. Louis truly loved his wife and sought for a fervent priest to guide her spiritual life. Unfortunately, her later confessor, the overzealous Conrad of Marburg, was excessively harsh with Elizabeth.

As Duchess, she established the Franciscan order in Thuringia and became herself a tertiary (with St Louis of France, she is the patroness of tertiaries.) . Louis and Elizabeth had three children.

When Elizabeth was twenty, her husband died while on crusade. She ran shrieking through the castle, as if she had lost her mind. Her brother-in-law coveted the inheritance; he evicted Elizabeth and her three small children from their home. He forbade everyone in Thuringia to give them shelter. The little family had to hide in a pig pen from the rain. Poverty, loss and persecution did not embitter Elizabeth, as it would have embittered others, especially when it involved the suffering of her small children. She accepted everything from the hand of God.

Finally, someone got word to Elizabeth's father the King of Hungary, and he prevailed upon the Holy Roman Emperor to intervene. Elizabeth's lands were restored to her but she voluntarily chose holy poverty. After securing her children's welfare, she lived in a small room in the hospital she had founded and cared for the sick and the lepers. That would be like someone
going to live with AIDS patients today.

Emperor Frederick begged for Elizabeth's hand in marriage but she refused. She died at the age of twenty-four and as she passed from this world a great light filled the room. Many miraculous cures were reported at her grave site. She was buried wearing the imperial crown which she had refused in life.

Thinking of St Elizabeth can help us when ever we feel afraid of poverty, or of being alone. Her spirit of humility and the renunciation of worldly honors can be imitated by all. Share

Friday, November 16, 2007

Marie-Antoinette and the Carmelite Order

The connection between the Carmelite Order and the Royal House of France originated in the Middle Ages, when St. Louis IX encountered the hermits on Mt. Carmel and brought them to France. When the Discalced Reform came to France from Spain in the early seventeenth century, the royal family assisted the nuns with their patronage. The French court was shaken in 1674 when Louise de la Vallière, the former mistress of Louis XIV, publicly begged the queen's forgiveness and entered a Carmelite monastery. In his book To Quell the Terror, William Bush details the many connections of the later Bourbons with Carmel, particularly the patronage of Queen Marie Lesczynska and her daughter Madame Louise. When Louise herself chose to become a Carmelite nun in 1770, it cemented the spiritual ties between those in the worldliness of Versailles and those in the austerity of the cloister.

Marie-Antoinette of Austria married the Dauphin in the same year that Madame Louise entered the monastery. The young princess offered to represent Louis XV at the ceremony at which his daughter Louise received the habit of Carmel, since it was too painful for the king and the rest of his family to be present. So it was the teenage Marie-Antoinette who veiled the new "Soeur Thérèse de Saint-Augustin."

In the years the followed, Marie-Antoinette would visit her husband's aunt three times year at the Carmel, of which she was a benefactress. As the Queen's maid Madame Campan relates in her Memoirs:

The Court went to visit her about three times a year, and I recollect that the Queen, intending to take her daughter there, ordered me to get a doll dressed like a Carmelite for her, that the young Princess might be accustomed, before she went into the convent, to the habit of her aunt, the nun.
According to Madame Campan, Madame Louise as a nun was deeply involved in church affairs; she was always petitioning her nephew's wife, so that Marie-Antoinette called her: "t
he most intriguing little Carmelite in the kingdom." It was at the request of Madame Louise, however, that Marie-Antoinette granted a dowry to a poor, pious girl named Mademoiselle Lidoine, so that she could enter the Carmel of Compiègne. Mademoiselle Lidoine became the Mother Prioress of the heroic Martyrs of Compiègne, who like Marie-Antoinette, died on the guillotine during the French Revolution. Share

St. Margaret of Scotland

St. Margaret (1045-1092) was a royal Saxon princess. From a dethroned and exiled family, riches and power meant nothing to her, for she saw how quickly such things can pass away. Consequently, she was deeply drawn to the monastic life. However, the Scottish King Malcolm Canmore sought her hand in marriage, so attracted was he by her beauty and virtue. They were married. Malcolm was on the wild side, but he and Margaret loved each other completely, and died three days apart from each other.

As Queen of Scots, St. Margaret bore eight children, was devoted to the poor, and helped to reform the liturgy. As one article states:
Under Queen Margaret's leadership Church councils promoted Easter communion and, much to joy of the working-class, abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels and established the Royal Mausoleum at Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She was especially fond of Scottish saints and instigated the Queen's Ferry over the Forth so that pilgrims could more easily reach the Shrine of St. Andrew.

Mass was changed from the many dialects of Gaelic spoken throughout Scotland to the unifying Latin. By adopting Latin to celebrate the Mass she believed that all Scots could worship together in unity, along with the other Christians of Western Europe. Many people believe that in doing this, it was not only Queen Margaret's goals to unite the Scots, but also Scotland and England in an attempt to end the bloody warfare between the two countries.

In setting the agenda for the church in Scotland Queen Margaret also ensured the dominance of the Roman Church over the native Celtic Church in the north of the country.

It is interesting how St Margaret championed the practices of the Roman rite over the Celtic traditions, although I have no doubt that the Celtic liturgy and devotions were quite beautiful. St. Margaret, however, saw the importance of harmony of worship for the people of her country, especially after the upheavals of their century. Share

More on "The Golden Compass"

Two articles that every Christian parent should read: HERE and HERE. Share

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Verdi's Aïda is the heart-breaking story of an Ethiopian princess in ancient times, enslaved by the Egyptians, who must choose between her country and the man she loves. It embodies the crowning glory of Italian opera, with it's capacity for superlatively stunning sets and melodramatic scenarios. Yet the scene when the thwarted lovers are buried alive together is truly poignant. Here is a brief synopsis:
Aïda, an Ethiopian princess, is torn between love of her homeland, family and the man who loves her. Radames, is the man Aïda loves. He is appointed Commander of the Egyptian Army and sent off to fight the Ethiopian invasion. Amneris senses the feelings between Aïda and Radames which angers her for she is also in love with Radames. Radames returns to Egypt victorious along with a group of Ethiopian prisoners. Included in the group is Amonasro, Aïda's father. Amonasro manipulates Aïda into discovering the battle plan of the Egyptian Army from Radames. He is discovered giving the details to Aïda and Amonasro by Amneris and is sentenced to be buried alive. Aïda is an opera in which emotions run wild and you can probably identify with at least one of the characters.
According to Music With Ease:
In "Aida" we find a true wedding of text and music -- sustained dramatic power, noble orchestration; in short, "everything that distinguishes the great Verdi of the third period from the the palty Verdi of the first period." The work is powerful in characterisation, pathetic in sentiment, pure and elevated in style, dignified, solemn, and beautiful. Verdi’s sense of orchestral colour, always acute, had a fine opportunity of asserting itself in the Oriental subject, so remote from the usual operatic groove, and he used it to remarkable effect. Local colour is often a dangerous stumbling-block to composers, but in "Aida" Verdi triumphed most where most had failed....

In the scene of the consecration of Radames, Verdi employs two genuine Oriental tunes with such consummate art that this scene is not only one the few instances in the history of opera in which Oriental colour has been successfully employed, but, in the opinion of many, the most beautiful part of the opera. Another splendid scene is the judgment of Radames, already referred to, in the fourth Act, where an extraordinary effect is gained by the contrast of the solemn voices of the priests within the chamber with the passionate grief of Amneris on the threshold. The love scene in the third Act shows the lyrical side of Verdi’s genius in its most voluptuous aspect. The picture of the palm-clad island of Philae and the dreaming bosom of the Nile is almost divinely mirrored in the score. The music seems to be steeped in the odorous charm of the warm southern night.
My favorite recording of the opera starred the great American singer Leontyne Price as
Aïda. Miss Price really explored the depth of tragedy as well as heroic and sacrificial love as embodied in Verdi's Aïda. Share

Zinc Cafés

This delightful article on the zinc cafés of Paris reminds me of the little place my husband discovered in 1999, around the corner from our hotel near the Luxembourg gardens. In one of the greatest cities of the world, there was a quaint and small-town friendliness to be found in the zinc. The old gentleman who owned the café was a colorful character who made wonderful soups. One evening, when I was not feeling well, he wrapped up some soup in a beautiful earthenware bowl for my husband to bring back to the hotel for me. A zinc café is the heart of the neighborhood, as the article describes:
A subset of cafés and bistros, zincs are named for a piece of furniture: the bars that are also their nerve centers. Technically the bar should be of galvanized steel, but they also show up in Formica, stainless steel, stone, copper, brass, and wood. Imperious and clannish, zincs are those places whose windows you’ve peered through a million times without, despite desperately wanting to, ever quite making it through the door. Hesitations usually have to do with the patrons looking too scary, the proprietor too crabby, the cigarette smoke too thick, the housekeeping too marginal. But be brave. Take a seat. No one can pretend to know and love Paris and not its zincs.

Zincs are the keys to their neighborhoods. (Apparently they’re a lot like pubs, but I can’t bear pubs and refuse the comparison.) Habitués treat them like home, coming and going, reading and slandering, daydreaming and grumbling. Zincs were originally defined by their limitations, serving coffee, wine, and beer. Hard-boiled eggs, dried sausage, cheese, and ham on a buttered baguette were an afterthought. All the following places uphold the spirit, if not the letter, of this model.


History of the Crusades

There is a new book about the crusades which is supposed to be the most thorough and balanced one yet. According to a review by Philip Blosser:
The Crusades were clearly attempts to meet the challenge of the Muslim conquests of Christian lands in the East. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that Crusading, far from being a lucrative undertaking, was notoriously bad as an economic investment. Many wealthy noblemen were practically bankrupted by mounting a Crusading expedition. Rather, as Peters shows, a spiritual purpose animated Crusaders: While killing was normally wrong, avenging the deaths of fellow Christians as instruments of God's justice came to be seen as a positively redemptive undertaking. Crusading, as Riley-Smith has argued, was understood in this light as "an act of love" -- articulated as a self-sacrificial ideal in Christ's words, "Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). In Madden's view, the two primary goals of the Crusades were, first, to rescue Christians of the East who had been conquered by Muslim invaders and, second, to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land, which had been made holy by the Incarnation and earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

All Carmelite Saints

Today the Carmelite Order commemorates the "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1), both hidden and renowned, who have ascended the mountain of perfection to their heavenly home. They sought God alone, conversing with Him in the depths of their hearts. Our Lord once said to the Holy Mother St. Teresa: "I desire that you no longer hold conversation with men, but with angels," and in many ways those words can be applied to all who follow the Carmelite way. The habits of the interior life, of recollection and mortification, must be cultivated amid our daily duties in order to create an atmosphere conducive to contemplation. In the Rule of St. Albert, the medieval hermits were told: "In silence and hope shall your strength be." (Isaias 30:15) During the theophany on Mt. Horeb, Elias the prophet experienced the Lord God, not in the earthquake, or in the fire, but in a "whistling of gentle air." (3 Kings 19:12) It is in silence and solitude that generations of Carmelites have sought to live in imitation of Elias, "meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and watching in prayer." (Rule of St. Albert)

The primary example of the saints and blessed of the Order has been Our Lady, the Queen and Beauty of Carmel, both in her hidden life at Nazareth and in her anguish at the foot of the Cross. St. Teresa enjoined her nuns to meditate on the lives of Christ's Mother, and His saints. "We need to cultivate and think upon and seek the companionship of those who, though living on earth like ourselves, have accomplished such great deeds for God." (The Interior Castle, p.172)

Speaking particularly of the hermits of old, the Holy Mother exhorts her daughters in The Way of Perfection:
Let us remember our holy fathers of the past, those hermits whose lives we aim to imitate. What sufferings they endured! What solitude, cold, hunger, and what sun and heat, without anyone to complain to but God! Do you think that they were made of steel? Well, they were as delicate as we. (The Way of Perfection, p.81)
The Little Flower greatly relied upon the intercession of the saints. In her autobiography, St Thérèse wrote:
Remembering the prayer of Eliseus to his Father Elias when he dared to ask him for his double spirit, I presented myself before the angels and saints and I said to them: 'I am the smallest of creatures; I know my misery and feebleness, but I know also how much noble and generous hearts love to do good. I beg you then, O Blessed Inhabitants of Heaven, I beg you to adopt me as your child. To you alone will be the glory which you will make me merit, but deign to answer my prayer. It is bold, I know; however, I dare to ask you to obtain for me your twofold spirit.' (The Story of a Soul, pp.195-196)
Shortly before her death, St. Thérèse had a dream in which the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, one of the foundresses of the Carmelite reform in the sixteenth century, assured her that she would soon possess eternal beatitude. The saint of Lisieux was surprised because, as she penned:
I was, up until then, absolutely indifferent to Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus. I never invoked her in prayer and the thought of her never came to mind....And when I understood to what a degree she loved me, how indifferent I had been towards her, my heart was filled with love and gratitude, not only for the saint who visited me, but for all the blessed inhabitants of heaven. (The Story of a Soul, pp.191-192)
We will never know in this life how individual saints, perhaps ones we have never heard of, have interceded for us. Through prayer and the Eucharist, we can draw upon the merits of our brothers and sisters in Paradise. Such richness is ours in the Communion of Saints, for all belong to Christ. Share

Unwed Mothers

Under the Gables has a beautiful and compassionate post that challenges many myths about women who give birth out of wedlock. According to a recent study:
Many women indicated [that]... having a child had saved them from a lifestyle of drugs, partying, alcohol abuse, and promiscuity. Many said that if it were not for their child or children, they would be dead or in jail.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Slander and Detraction

A reader sent me a link to this excellent post about the dangers of slander and detraction, in the light of certain recent occurrences. It is worth pondering.

However, when a public announcement is made on television, giving details about a popular public figure, it is very difficult for people to refrain from discussing it, from sharing their distress and consternation with others. How did it happen? Why? How can such things be prevented? People were asking questions and wanted insights. Most of the commentary that I read was the result of pure shock. Sometimes people went overboard in their surmising. Passing judgment is something we all have to carefully avoid.

I do think that people have tried to be very charitable, for the most part. The reflections discussed here were not necessarily about Fr. Francis but about priests leaving in general. Is this something we are not allowed to discuss... at all?

Having been slandered myself by people who pretended to be friends, I certainly understand the direness of the situation. It is one thing to be slandered or suffer detraction because of an announcement one chose to have made on television. It is quite another to be slandered because of confidences shared with unscrupulous and superficially Catholic comrades. But God is the judge of all.

It should also be kept in mind that slander and detraction can have legal implications as well as moral ones. While some may not fear the judgment of Almighty God, they do fear a lawsuit. Share

An Adventure

Having a blog can be an adventure. It is fun to meet people from all over the world with shared interests and beliefs. The people who regularly comment on this blog are very polite, even those who sometimes comment anonymously. They are witty and appreciative; they come to learn, to discuss, and to share information. I do apologize to my regular readers for having to put the comments on such tight moderation. Not in the entire year of having this blog, after 119,705 hits, with visitors from all over the world, have I had to do this before yesterday. Sadly, certain people are not soldiers of Christ in open battle, discussing and debating in the light of day; they choose to be assassins in the dark, stabbing in the back. Such is the way of cowards. But Google analytics are amazing. I can know how many times someone visited and how long they stayed each time (even if they did not leave a comment.) It is fascinating. Share

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cocaine: The Long-Term Effects

I have come to the conclusion that people who use hard drugs are never really normal, especially people who abuse cocaine. They may have a religious conversion, they may settle into a veneer of respectability, but the damage is done. A religious conversion does not always take the place of the on-going psychiatric treatment that people who indulged in cocaine use should seek. Otherwise, the lying, irritability, depression and paranoia that characterize the cocaine abusers continue throughout life.

I have run across certain women who have had a conversion after a life of drugs and promiscuity. In spite of a wayward past, they have really tried to live a devout life. This is admirable. However, needless to say, often severe psychological problems linger, which may manifest themselves in various ways. Extremist religious attitudes and practices are so often the way such people overcompensate for their past. If such a person insults me, slanders me, tells me that I am "unstable," I take it with a grain of salt. It's the drugs talking. It's the past sordid life talking. All one can do is pity the person for their own instability and hope they seek the professional counseling that will help them overcome their low self-esteem.

There is a drug problem in our county. Of course, with a university, what can one expect? But there are many who abuse drugs who have no connection with the university. Luckily, we have a wonderful District Attorney, who has dedicated himself to ridding Happy Valley of the cocaine scourge. The former D.A. disappeared mysteriously and has never been found; maybe the coke addicts got him, I don't know...... Share