Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

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

The Queen's Maid

Here is an article about what it is like to serve Queen Elizabeth II.
Last week - after seeking permission from the Queen and Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, whom she looks upon as a mentor - Miss Kelly spoke for the first time about her role and her unwavering affection for her boss.

"I love the Queen and everything about her," she says. "I adore her - but then, so does everyone else. She is not 'my' Queen, she is everyone's and so I have to share her. Once she has chosen something to wear, I just want her to look good in it. I love seeing the faces of the public when they meet the Queen, and when she gives them that special smile. It makes me feel so proud of her.


What will the New Year bring?

Pat Buchanan reflects. 2008 should be a doozy of a year. Share

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Noël! Noël!

Laudem Gloriae reminds us of the foundation of the French state on Christmas Day in 496 when King Clovis was baptized. To quote Yves-Marie Adeline, President of the Royal Alliance in France:
Et vu sous l’angle politique, “Noël” est le cri que les Français poussaient aux sacres et aux entrées des rois dans leurs villes: “Noël! Noël!”. Car l’Etat français est né un jour de noël 496, avec le baptême de Clovis qui lui ouvrit la confiance des Gaules en espérance d’unité.
(And seen under the political angle, "Noël" is the cry of the French in the holy places and at the entrance of kings into their cities: "Noël! Noël!" For the French state was born one day on Christmas 496, with the baptism of Clovis who won the trust of the Gauls in the hope of unity.)
According to New Advent:
In 492 or 493 Clovis, who was master of Gaul from the Loire to the frontiers of the Rhenish Kingdom of Cologne, married Clotilda, the niece of Gondebad, King of the Burgundians. The popular epic of the Franks has transformed the story of this marriage into a veritable nuptial poem the analysis of which will be found in the article on Clotilda. Clotilda, who was a Catholic, and very pious, won the consent of Clovis to the baptism of their son, and then urged that he himself embrace the Catholic Faith. He deliberated for a long time. Finally, during a battle against the Alemanni--which without apparent reason has been called the battle of Tolbiac (Zulpich)--seeing his troops on the point of yielding, he invoked the aid of Clotilda's God, promised to become a Christian if only victory should be granted him. He conquered and, true to his word was baptized at Reims by St. Remigius, bishop of that city, his sister Albofledis and three thousand of his warriors at the same time embracing Christianity. Gregory of Tours, in his ecclesiastical history of the Franks has described this event, which took place amid great pomp at Christmas, 496. "Bow thy head, O Sicambrian", said St. Remigius to the royal convert "Adore what thou hast burned and burn what thou hast adored." According to a ninth-century legend found in the life of St. Remigius, written by the celebrated Hincmar himself Archbishop of Reims, the chrism for the baptismal ceremony was missing and was brought from heaven in a vase (ampulla) borne by a dove. This is what is known as the Sainte Ampoule of Reims, preserved in the treasury of the cathedral of that city and used for the coronation of the kings of France from Philip Augustus down to Charles X.

Modesty without Frump

Some thoughts from Ladies Against Feminism.
A woman can be stylish and modest at the same time. In fact, I would even say that women who decide to dress modestly out of a personal conviction about their intrinsic value as a woman created by God have an even more sacred duty to dress themselves in a way that allows their beauty to shine.....

God made me a woman; He shaped me like one. I don't need to prove that by "bringing my melons to the market," as we say in Dutch, but I also don't need to hide the fact. That would be telling God he made a mistake.


Feast of the Holy Family

St. Joseph most obedient.
Look closely at the obedience of Saint Joseph, his obedience in the dark night of faith. Joseph’s obedience allows the whole mystery of Israel — the going down into Egypt and the back up — to be revealed and completed in Christ. In some way the “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19) of the Last Supper is made possible by Joseph’s obedience to the commandments delivered to him in the night.

And here is a post on the example of a good family man.

From Heidi at Catholic Exchange.
The Holy Family, whose feast we celebrate this weekend, reflected this "unity of two" in a special way. Mary entrusted herself and her Child into the protective love of St. Joseph, following him unquestioningly far away from those most dear to her as they took flight into Egypt. Joseph set aside his "manly pride" and resisted any bitterness he might have felt at taking a pregnant teenager as his wife, or raising a child he knew was not his own. From the beginning, they understood that the road ahead of them would not be easy, and yet they were equally confident that it was the way God had prepared for them.

The same can be said for those who choose to enter into the vocation of marriage today. We follow a pathway that is full of breathtaking vistas and heartbreaking shadows. It is a pathway that, of necessity, requires that we attain the same "unity of two" that Mary and Joseph achieved by virtue of their obedience ... and Adam and Eve lost through their disobedience.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Murder in the Cathedral

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Becket. Share

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holy Innocents

Terry Nelson reflects.

Kimberly has a beautiful post on the Holy Innocents as well.

Hail, martyr flowers!
On the very threshold of your life
Christ's persecutor destroyed you,
as a whirlwind does the budding roses.

The Café Society of Ferenc Molnár

Andrew Cusack has a delightful post. Share

Gnosticism Today

The gnostic view of reality is very much with us.
Gnostics justified themselves by seeing themselves as Christians, and they allowed for the existence of the exterior, traditional form, which they said was a true help to the general populace, but was only worthy for the masses, not the elite. Gnostic leaders and their followers were seen as being superior to the normal Christian because they were given greater teachings which the ordinary Christian could not handle, teachings which could and would only be given to those select few who were found worthy of them. Indeed, they were greater than the Apostles because of this special knowledge – this gnosis- which God had given to them, although some of the Apostles also were given them and taught them to those they found were capable of following them. People are often able to be led by the nose by this tactic, today as much as ever, because we want to feel we are special, and this is one way that this desire can be met. Indeed, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We like to feel superior to everyone else, and we think our personal beliefs must likewise be superior. Many people, if questioned about their faith, will not know any specific answers, but will nonetheless feel that this questioning from outsiders is proof positive of the truth of one’s belief, because they believe it and if others just cannot get themselves to the level where they too can believe, that just shows how inferior they really are. This is so, not just in religious things, but in all areas of knowledge and social interaction, from the sciences to politics.

And an interesting reflection on how everyone needs Christianity, even on a purely natural level, whether they want to admit it or not. Share

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coronation of Charlemagne

On Christmas Day, 800, Charles the Great, King of the Franks, was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III at St. Peter's Basilica. According to one account:
On the day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ all [who had been present at the council] came together again in the same basilica of blessed Peter the apostle. And then the venerable and holy pontiff, with his own hands, crowned [Charles] with a most precious crown. Then all the faithful Romans, seeing how he loved the holy Roman church and its vicar and how he defended them, cried out with one voice by the will of God and of St. Peter, the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven, "To Charles, most pious Augustus, crowned by God, great and peace-loving emperor, life and victory."(Salus et victoria) This was said three times before the sacred tomb of blessed Peter the apostle, with the invocation of many saints, and he was instituted by all as emperor of the Romans. Thereupon, on that same day of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most holy bishop and pontiff anointed his most excellent son Charles as king with holy oil.


The Blue Angel (1930)

Last night while attending to various household tasks I thought it would be fun to watch a video someone gave me of the 1930 German film Der Blaue Engel, starring Marlene Dietrich. I had not seen it since college days but remembered how hauntingly Marlene sings "Falling in love again" in German. I was struck more than ever of the profound tragedy of what is essentially a morality play set in the decadent Weimar Republic of the 1920's. Marlene plays "Lola Lola," a nightclub entertainer with a sordid past, who seduces a naive professor, a pillar of morality and respectability in his village. Professor Rath's fleeting fall from grace leads to the loss of respect of his students, and he carries his destruction further when he decides to marry Lola. In conquering the professor, Lola loses him, because the scholarly gentleman to whom she had felt drawn almost immediately disappears into buffoonery. The scene in which the professor is made to perform as a clown in front of his former pupils and colleagues, while Lola entertains her new lover in the next room, is one of the most tragic ever captured on celluloid. It shows the destruction sudden passion wreaks upon an essentially innocent person who, in spite of an upright past is not forgiven, by the world, for a single fatal transgression. Marlene, as usual, incarnates both sensuality and extreme callousness; how typical the Lola Lola character has become in our society, for what once only haunted cheap cabarets is now everywhere. Share

St. John's Day

The love of things invisible. (from Vultus Christi)
The Johannine chorus speaks with the unmistakable authority of those who have gone into the wine-cellar and rested beneath the banner of love (cf. Ct 2:4-5). Their breath is fragrant with honey and with the honeycomb, of wine and of milk: that is with the imperishable sweetness of the Holy Spirit, with the Blood of the Lamb and with the pure milk of the living Word of God. These are the ones who have eaten and drunk, drunk deeply (cf. Ct 5:1) of the streams of living water that flow ever fresh from the pierced Heart of the Bridegroom (cf. Jn 7:37-38). These are the descendants of Saint John the Beloved, those to whom the Father has given the eagle’s vision, those who are little enough and poor enough to be borne aloft and carried away into the “love of things invisible,” as the Christmas Preface puts it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Marriage of Madame Royale

Louis XVIII is the one generally blamed for the unhappy marriage of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France to her cousin Angouleme. It is known that while the orphaned princess was in Vienna, she was receiving "love letters" from her future husband that were not written by him at all but by their scheming old uncle. Louis XVIII needed Madame Royale, the daughter of the slain Louis XVI, at his side for political gain. He would have done anything to get her to marry the rather grotesque Angouleme, which would then make her a permanent member of his household.

However, it needs to be kept in mind that Madame Royale probably would have married Angouleme in the normal course of events, simply because from childhood her parents had planned on it. People like to say that Marie-Antoinette hated France and the French. It is not true. Marie-Antoinette saw being Queen of France, in spite of the many inconveniences and burdens attached to the role, as being the apex of earthly existence. She preferred for her daughter to remain in France as a princess of France, married to a French-born prince, rather than arrange a marriage for her with a king of another country. Also, Marie-Antoinette did not want to be separated from her daughter as she herself had been divided from her family at such a tender age. Madame Campan attests to these facts in her Memoirs, while relating some events that occurred in 1787.
I had an opportunity on this occasion, as indeed on many others, of judging to what extent the Queen valued and loved France and the dignity of our Court. She then told me that Madame, in marrying her cousin, the Duc d’Angouleme, would not lose her rank as daughter of the Queen; and that her situation would be far preferable to that of queen of any other country; and that there was nothing in Europe to be compared to the Court of France; and that it would be necessary, in order to avoid exposing a French Princess to feelings of deep regret, in case she should be married to a foreign prince, to take her from the palace of Versailles at seven years of age, and send her immediately to the Court in which she was to dwell; and that at twelve would be too late; for recollections and comparisons would ruin the happiness of all the rest of her life. The Queen looked upon the destiny of her sisters as far beneath her own..... (Madame Campan's Memoirs)

The Bourbons at Home- A Pictorial Essay

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

The Royal family in 1781 at the birth of the Dauphin Louis-Joseph. From left to right, the three Artois children, the Comtesse d'Artois, Artois, Louis XVI, Madame Royale, the Dauphin on Marie-Antoinette's lap, Madame Elisabeth, the Provences. Provence looks none too happy and his wife Madame was quite put out by the baby's birth. As Nesta Webster says in Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette before the Revolution:
The truth is that it was the fact of [Marie-Antoinette] having children that increased the malignity of her enemies. Until that moment, they were not obliged to take her very seriously; as a mother, and above all as the mother of the Dauphin, she became at once a formidable obstacle to their plans.

Here is a Caraud painting of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette at the hameau. The king is talking to a lady (Madame Elisabeth, I presume), and the queen receives flowers from a maid. Behind her is the Princesse de Lamballe.
If the King had not inspired the Queen with a lively feeling of love, it is quite certain that she yielded him respect and affection for the goodness of his disposition and the equity of which he gave so many proofs throughout his reign. (Madame Campan's Memoirs)

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

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

After Berry's assassination. From left to right are the Duchesse d'Angouleme, the Duc d'Angouleme, Henri de Chambord in the arms of his grandfather Monsieur (Artois), Louis XVIII, Louise d'Artois, and the Duchesse de Berry. In the words of the royal governess Madame de Gontaut:
Monsieur used to come to Saint-Cloud nearly every morning to see his little grandchildren. He came alone, in a little carriage....The children would catch sight of him along way off, and run eagerly to meet him. The Duchesse de Berry often spent the mornings at Saint-Cloud. (Memoirs of the Duchesse de Gontaut)

Last Will and Testament of Louis XVI

The last Will and Testament of Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre, given on Christmas day, 1792.
In the name of the Very holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
To-day, the 25th day of December, 1792, I, Louis XVI King of France, being for more than four months imprisoned with my family in the tower of the Temple at Paris, by those who were my subjects, and deprived of all communication whatsoever, even with my family, since the eleventh instant; moreover, involved in a trial the end of which it is impossible to foresee, on account of the passions of men, and for which one can find neither pretext nor means in any existing law, and having no other witnesses, for my thoughts than God to whom I can address myself, I hereby declare, in His presence, my last wishes and feelings.
I leave my soul to God, my creator; I pray Him to receive it in His mercy, not to judge it according to its merits but according to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ who has offered Himself as a sacrifice to God His Father for us other men, no matter how hardened, and for me first.
I die in communion with our Holy Mother, the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, which holds authority by an uninterrupted succession, from St. Peter, to whom Jesus Christ entrusted it; I believe firmly and I confess all that is contained in the creed and the commandments of God and the Church, the sacraments and the mysteries, those which the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught. I never pretend to set myself up as a judge of the various way of expounding the dogma which rend the church of Jesus Christ, but I agree and will always agree, if God grant me life the decisions which the ecclesiastical superiors of the Holy Catholic Church give and will always give, in conformity with the disciplines which the Church has followed since Jesus Christ. (Read entire Will)

Here is a prayer in honor of the Martyr King Louis XVI.

O Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Louis to an earthly Throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and, when his throne was violently overturned, didst give him boldness to confess the name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may in ready obedience accept both prosperity and adversity at thy hand, and that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr Louis Triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Burning Babe

The poem by St. Robert Southwell.

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

Merry Christmas!

The Word is made flesh.

In his homily at Midnight Mass, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the kingship of the Christ Child. From Zenit:
In some Christmas scenes from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, the stable is depicted as a crumbling palace. It is still possible to recognize its former splendour, but now it has become a ruin, the walls are falling down - in fact, it has become a stable. Although it lacks any historical basis, this metaphorical interpretation nevertheless expresses something of the truth that is hidden in the mystery of Christmas. David's throne, which had been promised to last for ever, stands empty. Others rule over the Holy Land. Joseph, the descendant of David, is a simple artisan; the palace, in fact, has become a hovel. David himself had begun life as a shepherd. When Samuel sought him out in order to anoint him, it seemed impossible and absurd that a shepherd-boy such as he could become the bearer of the promise of Israel. In the stable of Bethlehem, the very town where it had all begun, the Davidic kingship started again in a new way - in that child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The new throne from which this David will draw the world to himself is the Cross. The new throne - the Cross - corresponds to the new beginning in the stable. Yet this is exactly how the true Davidic palace, the true kingship is being built. This new palace is so different from what people imagine a palace and royal power ought to be like. It is the community of those who allow themselves to be drawn by Christ's love and so become one body with him, a new humanity. The power that comes from the Cross, the power of self-giving goodness - this is the true kingship. The stable becomes a palace - and setting out from this starting-point, Jesus builds the great new community, whose key-word the angels sing at the hour of his birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves" - those who place their will in his, in this way becoming men of God, new men, a new world.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

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

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

Christmas Hope

Here is an excerpt from the homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher.
In this moment in which we feel the need for hope so strongly, the feast of Christmas can be the occasion for us to change our tendencies. Let us recall what Jesus said one day: "He who welcomes a child in my name welcomes me." This also holds for whoever welcomes a poor and abandoned child, for whoever adopts and feeds a child of the Third World; but it holds above all for two Christian parents who, loving each other, in faith and hope, open themselves to a new life. Many couples who are lost in joy at the moment the pregnancy announces itself are certain to then make their own the words of Isaiah's Christmas prophecy: "You have spread joy, you have made happiness increase, because a child is born for us, a son is given us!"

And an article about hope and healing through repentance and counseling for fathers who have suffered trauma due to abortion. (Via Pewsitter) Share

Bethlehem Today

The Christians are leaving. (Via Joshua Snyder) Share

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Three Masses of Christmas

When speaking of Holy Communion in the Way of Perfection (Ch. 34), St. Teresa of Avila said: "This is something that is happening now." In the Christmas liturgy, the Church teaches us that the birth of Jesus is not just something that happened two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. Our Lord's nativity is something that is happening now, especially through participation in the Mass, and in the liturgy of the hours which radiate from it. In The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch explains that this is why the word hodie or "today" is repeated again and again in the Christmas Masses and offices. The Invitatory for December 24 proclaims: "Today you will know the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see His glory." We are called to Midnight Mass with this antiphon: "The Lord said to me: You are my Son. Today I have begotten you." At Morning Prayer (Lauds) we say: "Today the Savior of the world is born for you." The antiphon for the Canticle of Mary closes the most joyful of feasts with the words: "Christ the Lord is born today; today the Savior has appeared...."

Dom Gueranger comments: "...This today is the Day of eternity, a Day which has neither morning nor evening, neither rising nor setting." (The Liturgical Year, Vol. II) Through the sacraments, especially through the Eucharistic sacrifice, we already belong to that Day of eternity. At Christmas Mass, we truly and mystically assist at His birth.

Christmas is celebrated with three Masses. At Midnight Mass, the angels marvel at the Word made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. The Dawn Mass sees the shepherds hurrying to the stable to adore the newborn King. The third Mass celebrates the Eternal Word, Who is the Son begotten of the Father from all eternity.
Jesus, Who is born tonight, is born thrice. He is born of the Blessed Virgin, in the stable of Bethlehem; he is born by grace, in the hearts of the shepherds, who are the first fruits of the Christian Church; and He is born from all eternity in the bosom of the Father, in the brightness of the saints: to this triple birth, therefore, let there be the homage of a triple Sacrifice! (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol. II)

Madame Louise of France

Madame Louise of France, also known as Blessed Thérèse of Saint Augustine was the youngest daughter of King Louis XV and Polish princess Queen Marie Leszczynska. The descendant of Saint Louis, she became the spiritual daughter of Saint Teresa of Avila. Before becoming a nun, she tried to assist the Jesuits who had been abolished from France because of the liberal element at court led by her father's mistress Madame de Pompadour. In 1770 Louise chose the poorest and most rigorous Carmelite monastery in France, that of Saint Denis, where she begged to be treated the same as the rest of the sisters. She was given the veil by the papal nuncio, assisted by the young Dauphine Marie-Antoinette, her nephew's bride. According to Madame Campan, Marie-Antoinette would call Madame Louise "the most intriguing little Carmelite in the kingdom" because of the role she played behind the scenes in advising the king on church affairs. She often petitioned the queen for dowries for impoverished young ladies who wanted to become nuns. One young girl, Mademoiselle Lidoine, to whom the Queen gave a dowry at Madame Louise's plea, became the prioress who led the Blessed Martyrs of Compiegne to the scaffold on July 17, 1794.

Madame Louise, Blessed Thérèse, died on December 23, 1787. Her last words were: "Full gallop, into heaven!"

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Savior of the nations! come and save us, O Lord our God!

Now all is fulfilled....Ecce completa sunt omnia....(Lauds of December 23) Share

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O Rex Gentium

O King of nations, and their desired One, and the cornerstone that makes both one; come and save man whom thou formed out of earth. Share

The Romanovs at Christmas

Terry Nelson has a post about the family of the last Tsar. Share

Friday, December 21, 2007

O Oriens

O Orient! Splendor of eternal light, and the Sun of justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

There is no need to be afraid, in five more days Our Lord will come to us. (Benedictus Antiphon for December 21)

And here is the reason why the Mass was traditionally said facing east, ad orientem. (The reason for facing east is not "because that's where Rome is" as a local woman very authoritatively informed a friend of mine.)
From the earliest times, Christians at prayer have turned towards the East. Christ is the Dayspring, the rising sun who dawns upon us from high “to give light to those in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:9). The eastward orientation of churches and altars is a way of expressing the great cry of every Eucharist: “Let our hearts be lifted high. We hold them towards the Lord.” When, in the celebration of the liturgy, the priest faces east, he is “guiding the people in pilgrimage towards the Kingdom” and with them, keeping watch for the return of the Lord. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

The Eastern Churches follow to this day (and the Western Church is in the process of recovering) the apostolic tradition of celebrating the Eucharist towards the East in anticipation of the return of the Lord in glory. A powerful witness is given in the prayer of a priest and people who stand together facing eastward and giving voice to the same hope. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come’” (Ap 22:17).


Thoroughly Modern Jane

Why the contemporary fascination with Jane Austen? One journalist explores the mystery.
Why now? What powers the onrush of Jane Austen sequels and clones? At the root of this popularity surge seems to lie the contrast between those smart, elegant and quietly reserved sisters, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, and the female idols of our own hour such as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. The latter shed their garments and invite us into their private moments. They quarrel over child custody rather than genealogy, choose rehab over a carriage drive. Why wouldn't we be wistful for the rules of conduct that shaped Austen and her characters? Our unpredictable, aggressive world makes the drawing rooms of Austen's era a refuge.

Learning to Love the French

Charles A. Coulombe has an engaging article about his French ancestry.
The France whose language and religion I hold died in stages between 1789 and 1905. Just as Quebec is no longer the land of the voyageurs and Frontenac, Montcalm and Mgr. Laval, so too with la belle France et douce. She is not today the nation founded by the crowning and baptism of Clovis, the realm of Saints and Kings, the land where Ss. Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Lazarus arrived by boat; where Charlemagne and St. Louis ruled, and St. Joan of Arc fought; where the Knights of the Table Round prowled Breton forests, and the country was consecrated to Our Lady of the Assumption and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is not even the land of the Sun King or the heroes of the Vendee.

Were one to be honest, even that France made some real howlers, from which we all suffer today (in my humble opinion, though most, perhaps all, will differ). Certainly, the siding of Francis I with the Turks and Louis XIII with the Protestants against the Habsburgs was a huge error. Not backing a Stuart restoration wholeheartedly led to future woes. Backing the American Revolutionaries was a huge blunder, both in the immediate and later (the bankruptcy that victory cost the Crown directly led to the guillotine). Napoleon III’s reluctance to recognize the Confederacy and break the blockade led directly to the failure of Maximilian’s Mexico. Even so, until the breaking of the Concordat, it was still possible to speak, at least in some sense, of the gesta Dei per Francorum. One cannot now.


Madame Royale and the Substitution Theory

There is a new biography about Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte coming out in 2008. It is called Marie-Thérèse, Child of the Terror: The Fate of Marie-Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel. According to Harper Collins:

Susan Nagel is the author of a critically acclaimed book on the novels of Jean Giraudoux. She has written for the stage, the screen, scholarly journals, the Gannett newspaper chain, and Town & Country. She is also the author of "Mistress of the Elgin Marbles", a biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin. A professor in the humanities department of Marymount Manhattan College, she lives in New York City.
I have long been hoping for a new biography of Madame Royale, the Duchesse d' Angouleme, based on solid sch
olarship. I hope this will be the one. Dr. Nagel sounds like a reputable scholar.

People always ask me why I chose to write novels instead of biographies, since to write a good historical novel demands about as much research as a biography. I chose to write novels about Marie-Antoinette and
Marie-Thérèse because I wanted to explore the deeper themes of suffering, martyrdom, perseverance, and the mystical role of women, which is easier to do in a novel. One can study the psychological complexities of the various characters and come to an understanding of their issues in art based on true historical events.

The historical novelist has a serious obligation to be faithful to the integrity of the characters and events. Some artistic license and creative interpretation may be necessary for the flow of the story. However, to make the personages do and say things that in reality they would never have done or said is to make an unjust and irresponsible portrayal. For instance, for Carrolly Erickson in her Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette to show the queen having a long term liaison with Count Fersen contradicts what we know about her regular practice of her religion. As biographer Jean Chalon points out, if the queen had been having an affair with Fersen, a confessor would have made her send him away. As it was, he kept coming around and was a friend of her husband's as well. There was nothing to hide. (Erickson also has the queen traveling to Sweden with the count, which makes her novel one of fantasy rather than historical fiction.)

What I have less patience for than novels which take untoward liberties, are biographies which, while purporting to be based on facts and a careful sifting of research, reduce themselves to novelization by indulging in sheer romanticism. One such biography is the highly popular Marie-Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, which I reviewed last spring. It is well-written and highly readable, like most of Lady Fraser's extensive body of work. Therefore, I was appalled to see Fraser make the claim that the queen and Fersen slept together because "the idea of a great pure love, which is never consummated...does not seem to fit the facts of human nature." (Fraser, The Journey, p.203) Oh, really? I read on the Lew Rockwell report about the love letters of Ernest Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich. Apparently, the two were in love with each other for many years but had a platonic relationship. So you see, dear Lady Antonia, such restraint is possible, even among the morally lax.

Anyway, I heard through the Marie-Antoinette grapevine that Susan Nagel's biography of Madame Royale includes an exploration of the old "substitution" theory. The substitution theory, which keeps flaring up like wild fire on internet discussion forums, claims that Louis XVI had an "operation" and was encouraged by his wicked brother Provence to test his prowess upon a serving maid. The maid, who was a married woman, gave birth to a daughter named Marie-Philippine Lambriquet
. Marie-Antoinette eventually adopted the girl and renamed her "Ernestine" after a character in one of her favorite novels. Ernestine and Madame Royale were educated together.

Later, the legend claims, while Madame Royale was in prison, she was raped and impregnated. She was sent off to Germany to a small town where she was made to wear a green veil and given the name of "Sophie Batta," also known as "The Dark Countess." Meanwhile, her wicked uncle Louis XVIII replaced her with her alleged "half-sister" Ernestine, who became the Duchesse d' Angouleme. The "Dark Countess" rumor was perpetuated by
Marie-Thérèse's moroseness and lack of beauty. How could she be the daughter of the beautiful lively Marie-Antoinette? So they assumed that she was someone else.

Here are some glaring points as to why this story is untenable:

1) Louis XVI had no illegitimate children. There is no proof that he had an operation. He was known for his devotion to his wife, fidelity to his marriage vows and his religious scrupulosity. He did not have an affair with a chambermaid and beget Ernestine. There was an Ernestine, a child of servants, whom Marie-Antoinette adopted. (She adopted two other children as well. The queen came from a large family and liked having lots of children around.) There is no evidence that Ernestine was the secret daughter of Louis XVI or of any of the other princes.

2) Louis XVIII would have had to pay off a huge amount of people to buy their silence, and he really did not have all that much money - not enough for that kind of blackmail. He had been an impoverished exile for over 20 years. When he did get hold of some cash, he immediately deposited it in an English bank. The Bourbon family lived on his savings the next time they were all exiled.

3)Louis XVIII may have been clever and devious enough to carry off that kind of a hoax, but the other members of the family were not. His brother Artois (Charles X) was notorious for his lack of discretion. His nephew the Duc d'Angouleme, Madame Royale's husband and cousin, was deeply pious and scrupulously honest, in spite of other innumerable short-comings. He would never have been able to live that kind of a lie - the lie he had to live, that of having a marriage in name only, was difficult enough. The other nephew, the Duc de Berry, was like his father Artois, completely unable to be devious, no matter how hard he tried.

4) Many faithful retainers and childhood friends of Madame Royale, such as Pauline de Bearn and her mother the royal governess Madame de Tourzel, were close to
Marie-Thérèse before and after the Revolution. Both mother and daughter were known as women of honor and to insinuate that they would participate in such a hoax is outrageous to say the least. There were many, many others, who had lost fortunes through being faithful to the royal family and were not the type to sacrifice their principles over such a charade that really served no purpose.

I do hope that the forthcoming biography does not subscribe to this wild theory, or it will cease to be non-fiction. It is a shame that so many people cannot accept the broken woman that Madame Royale became after all she endured, and instead have to pretend that she was an imposter.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

O Clavis David

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel! who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; come, lead the captive from prison, sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death. Share

The Sufferings of the Infant Jesus

Anyone who has ever visited our house knows that we have a special devotion to the Child Jesus. The Infant of Prague statue by the door is a dead give away, I guess. Once a business associate of my husband's was coming by and a friend suggested that we temporarily move the statue so as not to appear to be fanatics. My mother, however, said: "Never be ashamed of Jesus," and so the statue stayed. It turns out the associate was a gentleman of Italian descent and the Infant reminded him of his home and his beloved mama. "The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you," as Little Jesus told the Carmelite Father Cyril.

Saints and mystics who have pondered the Divine Infancy tell us that it was not all sweetness and light. From the first moment of His earthly existence, the Incarnate God began atoning for the sins of the world. The Child Jesus had to suffer from poverty, cold, and exile. According to the English Oratorian priest Father Frederick Faber in his book Bethlehem, Our Lord's awareness of the sins of the world caused Him a "spiritual agony," in addition to the foreknowledge of His coming Passion.
As He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, so, in the eyes of the Father and in the terrible realities of His own heart, He was the Crucified Jesus even from the days of Bethlehem. His sufferings exceeded all martyrdoms, even in each single hour of His infant life. (Father Faber)

Wrapping Gifts

For those who have not yet wrapped any presents, Martha Stuart has some great ideas. Share

Latin for Everybody

Far from being outdated, studying Latin is becoming popular. (Via LRC)
...Culture is never independent of language. If you want to understand ancient Greece and Rome in more depth than you can get from 300, you need, ideally, to learn Latin and Greek. Although these languages are hard to learn well, it's fairly easy to get a smattering of Latin, especially if you already know Spanish or Italian. And to know even a little bit of Latin helps you understand how European vernacular languages emerged from the language of the Romans—and hence, how the societies of modern Europe and America emerged from antiquity. Linguistics specialist Nicholas Ostler, author of Empires of the Word, provides an impressively detailed account of how Latin has dominated later cultures and languages. His book, called Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin, does not aim to teach Latin, as Mount's does, but instead traces the whole history of Latin from its origins down to the present day—imparting some vocabulary along the way.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Nutcracker

In the hundred years or so since its debut, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker has become a delightful aspect of modern Christmas celebrations. Composed during the "Silver Age" of Russian ballet, The Nutcracker is based upon a fairy tale by the German romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffman, whose stories also inspired Delibes' Coppelia and Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman. It is one of the few ballets that is not a love story, although later stagings have tried to make it into one.

The music, however, is powerful enough for any story of a great romance. In college, I helped my sister Andrea, who was still in high school, with a project; we were listening to the "Pas de Deux" of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier. Andrea said, "That must be from a really great love story."

"No, it's just from The Nutcracker," I replied.

It is a simple story, full of childhood's innocent, but very real, hopes and fears. To watch or listen to The Nutcracker is to enter into a dream, a dream which comes to life even after so many years, and all wars and revolutions which have tormented the world. Share

Food Bank Shortage

America's food bank supplies are dwindling. Not good. How easy it is for us, when caught up in so many other things, to forget the poor. Share

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, who stands as the ensign of the people; before whom kings shall fall silent; to whom the nations shall pray: come and deliver us, do not delay.

Here is a quote from the ancient Ambrosian liturgy:
Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the invisible God.
There did he deign to dwell, whom seven thrones cannot hold
And she bore him as a light weight in her womb.

(from Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol I)
Yesterday was the feast of the Expectation of the Virgin. To quote from Vultus Christi:
Even in the minds of many of the faithful, enfeebled by a forty year dearth of popular orthodox catechesis, a tragic confusion holds sway concerning the privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, in particular, her virginity before, during, and after childbirth. There are many, alas, who, affected by various mutations of creeping Nestorianism and Arianism, have no grasp of what it means to call the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Those who do not confess the privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary, honouring them and celebrating them, fall inevitably into one or another of the classic Christological heresies.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Louis XVI's Brother-in-Law

Fr. Nicholas has an interesting post on King Charles Emanuel IV of Sardinia, who in 1775 married Louis XVI's sister Clothilde. (Charles Emanuel's sisters were married to Louis' brothers.)
Charles Emanuel was raised in a very religious - almost ascetic - household. His principal tutors were Count Roberto Giuseppe Malines de Bruino and the Barnabite priest (later cardinal) Don Giacinto Sigismondo Gerdil. He studied military science under the noted engineer Alessandro Vittorio Papacino d'Antoni. Charles Emanuel had a weak constitution and was frequently ill. He suffered from violent nervous convulsions; it is possible that he had epilepsy.

For the first part of his life Charles Emanuel's main residence was at the Palazzo Reale in Turin. In the summer his family retired to the castle at Moncalieri on the outskirts of Turin or to La Veneria near the town of Bra some thirty kilometres south of Turin.

In 1773 Charles Emanuel's father succeeded to the throne of Sardinia. From this point serious consideration began to be given to Charles Emanuel's marriage which would be arranged for political reasons. Two of Charles Emanuel's sisters were married to the younger brothers of King Louis XVI of France (Giuseppina to the Comte de Provence, later King Louis XVIII, and Maria Teresa to the Comte d'Artois, later King Charles X). Charles Emanuel's sister Giuseppina suggested a match with her sister-in-law Princess Marie-Clothilde of France, daughter of the late Dauphin Louis and of his wife, Princess Maria Josefa of Saxony. After two years of negotiations Charles Emanuel (represented by the Comte de Provence) was married to Marie-Clothilde by proxy on August 21, 1775 at the Palace of Versailles.

Charles Emanuel and his new wife met for the first time on September 6, 1775, when they renewed their marriage vows in the Chapel Royal at Les Echelles, Savoy. In spite of the political reasons for the union, the couple were well-matched; they shared a profound attachment to the Catholic faith. The fact that they were not blessed with children was treated by them as the will of God to which they should resign themselves. After seven years of married life, they chose to live together as brother and sister.

Charles Emanuel was deeply troubled by the French Revolution whose effects were being felt throughout western Europe. In 1793 his brother-in-law King Louis XVI was executed. The following year his sister-in-law Queen Marie Antoinette met the same fate and the armies of the French Republic stormed into his father's dominions. Charles Emanuel took solace in his faith. In 1794 he became a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic, taking the name Charles Emanuel of St. Hyacinth. (Read entire article)


O Adonai

O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gave him the law on Sinai, come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Sacred Art

Some of the greatest masterpieces by Catholic artists sometimes include nudity. Is this appropriate? Christine of Laudem Gloriae explores the issue; here is an excerpt from her beautiful article:
There were four types of nudity recognized in sacred art, each type used to explain various Catholic teachings:
Nuditas naturalis: The natural state of man as he is born into the world. ‘ For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out’ (1 Timothy 6:7). Man’s recognition of this fact should lead him to’...follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness’ (1 Timothy 6: 11).

Nuditas temporalis: The lack of worldly goods and possessions. While this the natural state of man at his birth, it can also be the result of the trials and difficulties of life which cause a man to live in a condition of poverty. This lack of worldly goods can be voluntary, however , and assumed ‘ to the glory of God,’ as in the case of those who have willingly surrendered all temporal things in order to serve God completely.

Nuditas virtualis: This is the use of nudity as the symbol of purity and innocence. It represents those in this world who, though engaged in the activities of life, nevertheless are not overcome by the evil and temptation which surround them. It represents the high and the desirable quality of the virtuous life.

Nuditas criminalis: This use of nudity is the opposite of nuditas virtualis. It is symbolic of lust, vanity, and the absence of all virtues. The difference between these last two types of nudity might be explained as the quest for Eternal Bliss as opposed to the pursuit after Transient bliss.... In portraying truth as a virtue, it is usually represented by the figure of a naked woman.
(From Art Appreciation)

It was only during the onslaught of the Reformation that sacred art was scrutinized, criticized, and condemned by those who thought its nudity was (as were rich vestments, gilded vessels, objects of devotion, and ornate architecture) an expression of Catholic vice. This puritanical zeal led to the stripping of altars, whitewashing of walls, destruction of statues and vestments, pillaging of monasteries, all replaced with plain Protestant temples in which the faithful gathered around the "Table" of the Lord's Supper for purely "spiritual" worship free from Catholic excess. Theirs was a faith that imported Platonic dualism, with its heretical overemphasis on the spiritual and rejection of the corporeal and the created, whether it be food, drink, or the human body. It is this same Platonist, puritanical outlook that led to condemnation of tobacco, alcohol, and dancing for fear that such would lead to intemperance and sensuality. Whereas Belloc could write his Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine, heartily acclaiming the pleasures of that wonderful drink, and seeing in it the matter of the Most Precious Blood; whereas G.K. Chesterton could claim that the "Catholic Church is like a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar," himself drawn to the Faith because "the pipe, the pint, and the cross could all fit together" within the world view of Catholic sensibility, none of this would make any sense to the Puritan. It is this same puritanical narrowness that was carried towards nudity in art, with its assumption that it could only lead to sensuality and vice.
Some people might find sacred art which has nudity in it to be distracting. The way I see it is that if a work of sacred art does not help someone's devotion, than it is just not the art for that person. Similarly, I have met people who could not stand to read the Canticle of Canticles in the Old Testament because they found the sensual imagery to be distracting. (Well then, read Isaiah.) The Canticle, however, is the most sublime mystical poetry in the world. The great artists, such as Michelangelo, were giving glory to God and His creation when they showed unclothed people; their art had a strong moral lesson and was not intended to be lewd.

Many of our churches have been stripped of the great art which was intended to teach as well as inspire. Yet I will never forget how in one church during Mass, a severe-looking young couple got up and began to cheerfully explain the details of Natural Family Planning. They were so graphic about certain bodily functions that mothers had to cover their children's ears. It was such an intrusion, not only against modesty, but against innocence. I wonder if, when bereft of our great art, we are left with nothing but pornography, with the human person being reduced to a mechanism. Share

Russian Cowboys

Here is an article about how the old Soviets were infatuated with westerns, or the "wild, wild east." (Via LRC) Share

The Great Antiphons-- O Wisdom

Today the "O Antiphons" begin at Vespers. The antiphon for today is "O Sapientia." Don Marco has a beautiful meditation on the meaning of true wisdom. Share

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Louis XVIII: The Other Brother

Louis XVIII , known in his youth as the Comte de Provence, was the other brother of Louis XVI, and often his nemesis. He was not a bad looking man; his eyes radiate intelligence. Later he put on so much weight and had such a problem with gout, but then he was a gourmande, relishing the delights of the table. His chef at Versailles was equal to none.

As Comte de Provence, he was a consummate plotter. It is alleged that he had a private printing press at Versailles which produced pamphlets against Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Provence and his wife, Madame, were certainly responsible for circulating the gossip about Marie-Antoinette, slandering her virtue as much as possible. Provence thought that he was better qualified to rule than Louis XVI and so spent his life in a jockeying for power by trying to undermine his brother's rule. Also, Provence often intrigued against Louis XVI during the Revolution, corresponding with revolutionaries. How much his plotting contributed to the fall of the monarchy is explored in the novel Madame Royale.

Louis XVIII was a stickler for etiquette, unlike Louis XVI, who was more easy-going. Even at exile in Courland and England, when they had few resources, Louis XVIII insisted upon the full court etiquette as if they were all still at Versailles. This was beneficial in the long run, because they were able to function as a royal household when restored to the Tuileries. He was clever with money and made certain that all his family were well-provided for when he died. He was a brilliant Latin scholar and could have taught the classics at a university.

Napoleon at one point wrote to Louis XVIII in exile, begging him to renounce his claim to the throne. Louis responded with a "no" saying, "I may have lost my country, I may have lost my possessions, but I still have my honor, and with it I will die." On another occasion he said, "In this century, it is more glorious to merit a scepter than to wield it." In 1814 upon his return to France, the fat, gouty King was introduced to Napoleon's generals. They were so used to being shouted at by Napoleon that the charm and unctuous courtesy of Louis XVIII disarmed them, especially the fact that he knew their names and anecdotes of their exploits in battle. (That was the old-fashioned royal training.) He declared that whatever they had done for France on the field of battle, they had done for him. He won most of them over completely and they swore allegiance to him, although some later rejoined Napoleon during the Hundred Days.

Because of his liberal politics, Louis XVIII was known as "The Crowned Jacobin" and "King Voltaire." After Napoleon's defeat of Waterloo, it was only the intervention of Louis XVIII that kept the allies from totally ravaging France in revenge. The Prussians threatened to blow up the Iena bridge in Paris, until Louis threatened he would come over and sit on it. His favorite author was Horace, whom he quoted extensively. He did not actively practice his faith for over thirty years, which caused his niece Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte to have great anxiety over the state of his soul. The princess prevailed upon the old king's favorite, the attractive brunette Madame du Cayla, with whom Louis XVIII played backgammon, to get him to go to confession. (This was a hard thing for Thérèse since she despised Madame du Cayla.) At the moment he died in 1824, the courtiers ran from the room to greet the new king, leaving the faithful valet of Louis XVIII weeping alone by the corpse of his master.


The Elusive RSVP

I thought that it was just me, but it's not. Many hostesses complain that people never give an RSVP anymore when invited to a dinner, a party, a wedding, whatever. Some say that it is because that the general public no longer knows the meaning of "RSVP." It simply means "please reply," or, in formal parlance, "the favor of a reply is requested." If you think that the majority of your guests are in the dark about the meaning of "RSVP," then it is better to just write "please reply." Hopefully, they will get the point.

Anyone who has planned a large party or reception is aware of how important it is to have a head count. It is particularly vital when arranging a formal, catered sit-down dinner, in which the caterer expects to be paid per head. And yet, I have friends and relatives who have been greatly inconvenienced by guests who did give an RSVP to a formal sit-down dinner and then never showed up. Why is there such a lack of courtesy? Such gestures are not a matter of having grand, formal manners but of showing basic consideration for others.

Here are a few points to remember:

1) When invited to a function always respond in the time frame designated by the RSVP. If a reply is asked for only if one plans to go, that is fine. (It is always courteous and acceptable to thank the hostess anyway, even if one cannot attend.)

2) If you do not know whether or not you can go to the party, it is better to decline. Otherwise, you give the strong impression that you will accept unless you get a *better* invitation somewhere else. Just say "no."

3)When invited to a party at someone's house, do not respond with "I don't know" and then go on to have your own party, on the same day, inviting the same circle of friends. That is the height of rudeness, to say the least.

4) If you have accepted the invitation, assuring the host and hostess of the pleasure of your company, but then at the last minute find that you are unable to be there, then at least call the host/hostess. Give them your most heartfelt apologies. This will give them time to rearrange the table.

5) After having enjoyed an event, be careful not to talk about it around those who were not invited. There may be reasons unknown to yourself why various persons were not invited to a certain function. It must always, however, be taken for granted that everyone has feelings and may be hurt at hearing about the good time at a party from which they were excluded. Share

Christmas Novena

The novena in honor of the Divine Infant begins today. Let us pray for the unborn, and for all the children in the world, especially those who are suffering abuse or neglect.

It is Gaudete Sunday. Let us rejoice, for the Lord is near. As Fr. Mark says :
Today’s Introit is one of the few drawn from Saint Paul. It is an exhortation to joy, but its mood is quiet and reflective. “Joy to you in the Lord at all times; once again I wish you joy. Give proof to all of your courtesy. The Lord is near. Nothing must make you anxious; in every need, make your requests known to God, praying and beseeching Him, and giving Him thanks as well” (Phil 4:4-6). What the Latin gives as, “gaudete,” and the English as “rejoice,” is astonishingly rich in Saint Paul’s Greek. Any one translation would be inadequate. Paul says, “chaírete.” It is the very same word used by the angel Gabriel to greet the Virgin of Nazareth. “Chaire, kecharitoménè!” “Joy to you, O full of grace!” (Lk 1:28). The word is untranslatable. Just when we think we have seized its meaning once and for all, another door opens inside it. “Chaírete” was the ordinary greeting of the Greeks. It embraces health, salvation, loveliness, grace, and joy, all at once. In the mouth and in the ear of Christians, the taste of the word is indescribable. “Grace to you, and loveliness, and joy in the Lord; again I wish you grace, and loveliness, and joy” (Phil 4:4). Paul’s greeting is not so much an imperative — a command to be joyful — as it is the imparting of a gift in the Lord. “What I wish for you, what I send you, what I give you in the Lord is grace, and loveliness, and joy.”

Saturday, December 15, 2007

At the Tuileries

Among the many out-of-print books that are now online is Imbert de Saint-Amand's Marie-Antoinette at the Tuileries (1893). In spite of the panegyrics, there are many quotes from original letters as well as day-by-day accounts of the life of the royal family during their life under virtual house arrest from October of 1789 until the end of 1791. The following passages describe the tightening of security around the family after their escape attempt in June 1791. The queen, especially, was closely guarded (as anyone can see, it would have been impossible for her to have entertained Count Fersen, as some authors claim.)
It had been resolved that [the queen] should have no personal attendant except the lady's maid who had acted as a spy before the journey to Varennes. A portrait of this person was placed at the foot of the staircase leading to the Queen's rooms so that the sentinel should permit no other woman to enter. Louis XVI was obliged to appeal to Lafayette in order to have this spy turned out of the palace where her presence was an outrage on Marie Antoinette. This espionage and inquisition pursued the unfortunate Queen even into her bedroom. The guards were instructed not to lose sight of her by night or day. They took note of her slightest gestures, listened to her slightest words. Stationed in the room adjoining hers they kept the communicating door always open so that they could see the august captive at all times. (pp223-224)
The family continued to assist at daily Mass, albeit with difficulty.
The precautions taken were so rigorous that it was forbidden to say Mass in the palace chapel because the distance between it and the apartments of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was thought too great. A corner of the Gallery of Diana, where a wooden altar was erected, bearing an ebony crucifix and a few vases of flowers became the only spot where the son of Saint Louis, the Most Christian King, could hear Mass. (pp.225-226)

However, their fortitude was admirable.
The royal family endured their captivity with admirable sweetness and resignation and concerned themselves less about their own fate than that of the persons compromised by the Varennes journey, who were now incarcerated....Louis XVI, instead of indulging in recriminations against men and things, offered his humiliations and sufferings to God. He prayed, he read, he meditated. Next to his prayer book his favorite reading was the life of Charles I either because he sought, in studying history, to find a way of escaping an end like that of the unfortunate monarch, or because an analogy of sorrows and disasters had established a profound and mysterious sympathy between the king who had been beheaded, and the king who was soon to be so. (pp. 226-227)