Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Blog

Recently I found another former high school classmate on the internet. Karen, who owns an elegant shop in northern Virginia called Fleurish, also has a popular blog in which she offers vintage clip art. Karen's newest site features beautiful and free backgrounds for Blogger blogs and other media projects, with easy directions on how to install. Drop in for a visit! Share

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Queen of France

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 Madame Royale 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)

Our Noble Work

A Mother's Journal shares some quotes from the children's novel Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink which I remember enjoying long ago. Caddie's father passes along to her some quaint words of truth:
What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task, too, Caddie–harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve roads through the wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well.
(Thanks to Under the Gables.) Share

Monday, December 29, 2008

Genocide in the Vendée

Here is an article sent to me by reader and blogger Wendy Haught, via Lew Rockwell. The descendants of those Catholics who were massacred during the French Revolution are striving for the mass murders to be recognized as genocide. The article does not mention the word "Catholic" although it acknowledges that the Vendéeans were slaughtered for their religion. There are some scholars who take issue with the use of the word "genocide." I personally cannot think of a more adequate term, especially since General Westermann bragged about the fact that he had "exterminated" everyone in the Vendée. As the article says:

In early 1794 – at the height of the Reign of Terror – French soldiers marched to the Atlantic Vendée, where peasants had risen up against the Revolutionary government in Paris.

Twelve "infernal columns" commanded by General Louis-Marie Turreau were ordered to kill everyone and everything they saw. Thousands of people – including women and children – were massacred in cold blood, and farms and villages torched.

In the city of Nantes, the Revolutionary commander Jean-Baptiste Carrier disposed of Vendéean prisoners-of-war in a horrifically efficient form of mass execution. In the so-called "noyades" –mass drownings – naked men, women, and children were tied together in specially constructed boats, towed out to the middle of the river Loire and then sunk.

Now Vendée, a coastal department in western France, is calling for the incident to be remembered as the first genocide in modern history.

Residents claim the massacre has been downplayed so as not to sully the story of the French Revolution.

Historians believe that around 170,000 Vendéeans were killed in the peasant war and the subsequent massacres – and around 5,000 in the noyades.

When it was over, French General Francois Joseph Westermann penned a letter to the Committee of Public Safety stating: "There is no more Vendée... According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all."


Noël! Noël!

We remember 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.


Mere Comments offers some profound reflections on the diabolical aspects of scoffing.
Faith in God is attributed to mental disease or deficiency, or viewed as an anodyne for misery, when examination of the lives of the most devout would show abounding mental health and unusual levels of happiness and stability. The morbidly or insanely religious are identified as the True Believers, while in fact Christianity regards the loss of sound mind and sober judgment (and probably also the capacity for humor) as a sign of the loss of faith rather than its perfection. Likewise unbelief is associated with talent, learning, urbanity, and good sense, when in fact, whatever the gifts of the unbeliever may be, it is still only--unbelief. Mockery is the energy that puts this illusion on display, and scoffing the display itself, declaring the Christian faith to be the province of the ignorant, ignoble, and maladapted, using the appearance of evidentiary reasoning while keeping its reality at bay.
Unbelievers scoff at Christians, yes, but what I have witnessed in the last few years in Catholic circles is believers mocking and ridiculing other sincere believers. This trend is not of God. It reminds me of St. Thomas Becket, who was killed by his own. Share

Sunday, December 28, 2008

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.

Holy Innocents

Hail, martyr flowers!
On the very threshold of your life
Christ's persecutor destroyed you,
As a whirlwind does the budding roses.
Salvete flores martyrum
According to Butler's Lives:
Our Divine Redeemer was persecuted by the world as soon as he made his appearance in it. For he was no sooner born than it declared war against him. Herod, in persecuting Christ, was an emblem of Satan and of the world. That ambitious and jealous prince had already sacrificed to his fears and suspicions the most illustrious part of his council, his virtuous wife Mariamne, with her mother Alexandra, the two sons he had by her, and the heirs to his crown, and all his best friends. Hearing from the magians who were come from distant countries to find and adore Christ that the Messias, or spiritual king of the Jews, foretold by the prophets, was born among them, he trembled lest he was come to take his temporal kingdom from him. So far are the thoughts of carnal and worldly men from the ways of God, and so strangely do violent passions blind and alarm them. The tyrant was disturbed beyond measure and resolved to take away the life of this child, as if he could have defeated the decrees of heaven. He had recourse to his usual arts of policy and dissimulation, and hoped to receive intelligence of the child by feigning a desire himself to adore him. But God laughed at the folly of his short-sighted prudence, and admonished the magians not to return to him. St. Joseph was likewise ordered by an angel to take the child and his mother, and to fly into Egypt. Is our Blessed Redeemer, the Lord of the universe, to be banished as soon as born....

The Case for Marriage

It certainly has its benefits.
Lately, marriage has gotten a bad rap. It seems like many people these days feel marriage is some archaic arrangement that holds people back from realizing their full potential. Even if people aren’t particularly anti-marriage, they will avoid getting hitched for as long as they can.

Many men delay marriage because they believe that dating and co-habitating offer all of the benefits (particularly sex) of marriage without the commitment and responsibility. They are fooling themselves. Nearly all of the true advantages of marriage (yes, even sex) apply only to actual married couples, not those couples living together, and certainly not to those simply dating.

Here at the Art of Manliness, we haven’t been shy about the fact that we’re big proponents of marriage. We certainly don’t advocate that men rush into marriage willy nilly, whether they’re ready or not. That would be seriously unwise. But once your find your true love and you’re sure she’s the one, there’s no reason to delay your nuptials. Why? Marriage offers truly significant benefits that cannot be found outside of it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

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.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Greatest Story Never Told

Martyrs of our own time. Share

Thursday, December 25, 2008

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)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas, American Style

Jeff Culbreath reflects upon how God can use even the secular aspects of Christmas to open hearts to His grace, saying:
I have to confess that I love many things about our American-style Christmas. While growing up, my mother always made Christmas seem magical. Christmas, in fact, helped lead me from teenage agnosticism/atheism back to faith in Christ. The sentimental Christmas songs on the radio helped force me to confront the unsentimental claims of historic Christianity. From Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”, from Clement Clarke Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” (the song, not the film), many American traditions of the season are dear to me.

The Huron Carol

Here is a carol composed by St. Jean de Brebeuf for his converts.
'Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,

Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;

A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round

But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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)

(Artwork courtesy of Micki) Share

Blessed Thérèse of Saint Augustine

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!" Share

Dreaming of Trains

A superb piece by Scott Richert.
Advent is about waiting. It is about longing. It is about dying to self, in the expectation of living life more fully. It is perhaps the one time of the year in which we can truly come to understand that the final object of all of our desires is He who humbled Himself to take on our humanity. It is a precious gift of the Church that we, busy with our Christmas shopping and our final push to wrap up the year's work, too often squander or observe perfunctorily.
And then, when Christmas comes, we have a nagging sense that something is missing. And we're right, because our expectations cannot be fulfilled if they are not first cultivated. And they will never be cultivated unless we turn toward Bethlehem, toward the true object of our hearts' desire.

Monday, December 22, 2008

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.

(Artwork courtesy of Holy Cards)

Christmas Puddings

The history of different foods can usually be quite interesting. Plum pudding, incidentally, has nothing to do with plums. Puddings were originally a way of preserving meat and fruit through the winter. According to Wikipedia:
Although it took its final form in Victorian England, the pudding's origins can be traced all the way back to the 1420s, to two sources. It emerged not as a confection or a dessert at all, but as a way of preserving meat at the end of the season. Because of shortages of fodder, all surplus livestock was slaughtered in the autumn. The meat was then kept in a pastry case along with dried fruits acting as a preservative. The resultant large "mince pies" could then be used to feed hosts of people, particularly at the festive season. The chief ancestor of the modern pudding, however, was the pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction originating in Roman times. This was prepared in a large cauldron, the ingredients being slow cooked, with dried fruits, sugar and spices added.

The earliest reference to the "standing pottage" dates to 1420, a dish of preserved veal, mutton or chicken, thickened with bread, reddened with sandalwood and full of currants. By the time of Elizabeth I, prunes were added to this basic concoction. This became so popular that the dish was known from this point forward as Plum Pottage.

By the eighteenth century, as techniques for meat preserving improved, the savoury element of both the mince pie and the plum pottage diminished as the sweet content increased. The mince pie kept its name though the pottage was increasingly referred to as plum pudding. Although the latter was always a celebratory dish it was originally eaten at the Harvest Festival, not Christmas. It is not until the 1830s that the cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, makes a definite appearance, more and more associated with Christmas. It appears that Eliza Acton was the first to refer to it as "Christmas Pudding" in her cookbook.

HERE is a recipe, and HERE. Plum pudding is something that needs to be made days in advance, so planning ahead is good. Share

Sunday, December 21, 2008

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.
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).

(Thanks to Micki for the picture) Share

Saturday, December 20, 2008

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 darkness and the shadow of death.

(Artwork courtesy of Holy Cards for your Inspiration)

Portrait of Jennie (1948)

Miss Spinney: For those were the years when there was a hunger in you for more than food. There was a suffering in you that was worse than anything a winter, or poverty, could do. It was a winter of your mind when the life of your genius seemed frozen and motionless -- and how did you know if spring would ever come again to set it free? ~ from Portrait of Jennie (1948)
In the film Portrait of Jennie mystery and fantasy overlap even as they do in the wonderful novel by Robert Nathan. I read Nathan's book one particularly bleak December while at university and found it entrancing. The movie did not do well in the box office when it debuted but it has since become a classic. Dimitri Tiomkin wove together themes of Claude Debussy, creating a score which gives a magical quality to what might otherwise be a rather eerie tale.

Joseph Cotten plays the starving artist, Eben Adams, who finds himself trapped in the winter of the soul known as discouragement. He is alone in the big city, unable to find anyone who believes in his work and unable to believe in it himself. At the park one day he meets an ethereal young girl whose quaint manner touches his heart. With each successive meeting with Jennie, as the girl is called, his art becomes more inspired; it begins to speak to others.

According to Slant Magazine:
Portrait of Jennie is a haunting evocation of one man's pained artistic process, and the genius of the film is how Dieterle [the director] delicately equates the creative impulse to an ever-evolving spiritual crisis.....Eben's relationship to Jennie becomes an addiction of sorts and, therefore, an obstacle he must conquer. This is all part of Dieterle's god-like master plan: Eben is repeatedly tested until he can create without the temptation that Jenny comes to represent.
Jennie, of course, is portrayed by Jennifer Jones, who easily makes the transformation from a girl into the young woman whom Eben paints, even as he is falling in love. The portrait of Jennie marks the beginning of his fame and success. Eben, however, is only concerned with Jennie, who keeps disappearing from his life. His search for her brings him to the convent school where she was educated, and where the nuns remember her fondly. As Sister Mary of Mercy (Lillian Gish) listens to his story the mystery deepens, since the Jennie who was Sister's pupil has been dead for many years. Eben must face the fact that the woman who has become his muse of inspiration is someone who is lost to him in this world. Sister Mary's words to him sum up the heart of the drama:
Don't doubt the ways of providence, Mr. Adams. What vision has been vouchsafed you, I can't say. But be sure it is for a reason beyond ours to know. You must have faith that there is a greater design -- a greater plan to the universe than we are able to comprehend.

Friday, December 19, 2008

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)

(Artwork from Holy Cards) Share

"They do not love Jesus."

The wounded face of this little Indian girl, attacked for her Christian Faith, conveys more than any words. How sobering to those of us who hope to share the same Heaven with this child.


Lisa Hendey discusses the series and the film. Share

Thursday, December 18, 2008

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.

(Artwork courtesy of Micki)


Madame Adélaïde de France

Catherine Delors continues her series on the daughters of Louis XV
. Here is an excerpt:
So after the twins Madame Elisabeth and Madame Henriette, Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska had another daughter, Marie-Louise, and two sons, Louis-Ferdinand and Philippe. Marie-Louise and Philippe both died in childhood, an all too commonplace tragedy at the time. Louis-Ferdinand, the eagerly awaited Dauphin, would be the father of the future Louis XVI.

The next royal daughter to survive to adulthood was Marie-Adélaïde, born in 1732, five years after her elder twin sisters. She was Queen Marie Leszczynska's sixth child in five years...

I have noted earlier that the atmosphere at Versailles, long before Marie-Antoinette ever set foot there, was particularly poisonous. Madame Adélaïde's beauty did not go unnoticed, and rumor accused her of an incestuous liaison with Louis XV, her own father, by whom she was supposed to have given birth to the Comte Louis de Narbonne. All serious historians now discount this story as vicious, unsubstantiated slander. Louis de Narbonne was simply the much-pampered son of Madame Adélaïde's favorite lady-in-waiting. He would become a diplomat and general during the Revolution and the Empire, and also one of Madame de Staël's many lovers, but that's another story.

Louis XV liked to give his daughters humorous nicknames. Adélaïde, for some reason, was Loque ("Rags.") Madame Campan, who was reader to the princesses, and sounds more than a little afraid of Madame Adélaïde, notes in her Memoirs that the princess had an abrupt, domineering manner and a choleric temper, that she had "an immoderate thirst for knowledge: she played all sorts of musical instruments, from the French horn to the Jew's harp." In addition to music, Madame Adélaïde occupied herself with the study of Italian, English, calculus, painting, the potter's wheel and watchmaking. A well-rounded mind, to say the least, if not an easy character.

How to Give Gifts Unconditionally

Thinking beyond the "stuff."

And for those last minute shoppers, some ideas for children from...Spela! Share

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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.

“O Wisdom coming forth from the mouth of the Most High God, Your lordship is over all that is, stretching from the beginning to the end, You who order all things with might and with sweetness, come teach us the path of prudence."

(Artwork courtesy of Micki) Share

Civility Towards the Aged

“Despise not a man in his old age; for we also shall become old.” (Ecclus. 8:7)

We shall all grow old, we and those whom we love, unless, of course, God in His wisdom chooses to take us earlier. Perhaps a little reflection on age is not out of place from time to time. The elderly tend to be excluded and marginalized in our culture instead of being treated with the dignity due their life experience. Old age can be an uncertain time for many, fraught with difficulties and fears. Many of our elderly brothers and sisters are isolated, either in their homes or in institutions, unable to care for themselves. Just getting through the day, performing the simplest tasks, can be a challenge for those with chronic health problems. Even minor aches and pains can make cooking, cleaning, and shopping extremely difficult. The cost of health care and prescription medicines can deplete the resources of some older people. Feelings of vulnerability and loneliness can open the door to depression in them at the very time when they most need their courage to face their final trials and last end.

Caring for the aged is a task often taken on by women, requiring all the sensitivity, common sense, and tenderness one can muster. It can be a means of learning patience; it can also be a way to glean wisdom and cultivate a sense of humor. Most of all, older people should be treated with respect, especially by children and teenagers. It is of the highest importance that our children learn to revere the older members of the family and community.

There are many little courtesies that can and should surround the elderly. It goes without saying that every family situation is different, with unique customs and habits. What counts most, I think, is an attitude of love and respect. Manners are a wonderful way to express such respectful love. Even if a story is being told for the thousandth time, the young can learn to listen patiently, or at least, not to interrupt. An older person should never be isolated at a party or dinner; the young should be encouraged to sit with them, get them refreshments, talk to them, listen to their stories, asking pertinent questions. An older person should be served first at dinner. Boys and girls can easily learn to hold a door open for grandma or grandpa, letting them go first. If necessary, an older child or teenager can readily give up his or her seat for an older person, if chairs are limited. For that matter, although it may seem quaint, it is respectful for children and young people to rise when an elderly friend or member of the family enters the room, if this can be done without causing embarrassment and inconvenience.

We can learn so much from older people, so much about history, faith, and sufferings endured. I treasure the hours spent with my own grandmother as she shared many family anecdotes. It builds a sense not only of identity but of continuity with the past. Spending time with an older person is a great gift to the younger person. We are faced with our own mortality; an encounter with age can be humbling and a source of wisdom.

(Reprinted from the January-February 2009 edition of Canticle Magazine) Share

Marie-Antoinette? No....

There is an award being passed around among some Catholic bloggers called the"Marie-Antoinette award." I am curious as to why they are using a portrait of the courtesan Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV, for this award. I know the intentions are honorable, but the two ladies were quite different people. I am a bit perplexed. There are many lovely paintings of Marie-Antoinette that could be used instead, such as this one:


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Enchanted Cottage (1945)

Mrs. Abigail Minnett: Do you know what loneliness is, real loneliness?
Laura Pennington: [Heavy with sadness] Yes.
Mrs. Abigail Minnett: I thought you would.
~from The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
The Enchanted Cottage debuted towards the end of World War II, when men often came home to their families with severe injuries. It is one of the best films I have seen about the mystery of the sacrament of matrimony, and how authentic love overwhelms the transience of surface things. The wind that blows around the cottage, the crashing of the waves on the beach blend with the score to create a sense of the timelessness. According to Turner Classic Movies:
Robert Young plays a disfigured WWII veteran who is unable to cope with an ugliness that repels everyone. Seeking to retreat from the world, he travels to a New England cottage which he once visited with his fiancee at the time - before he was sent to war and disfigured. The cottage is all that remains of a vast estate on the Atlantic coast. The rest burned down long ago, and the owner of the cottage (Mildred Natwick), recognizing the magic spell the cottage seems to cast on young lovers, rents it out to couples on their honeymoons. She lets Young stay there, and he isolates himself from his family and friends. The only person he can talk to is Dorothy McGuire, a homely girl who helps Natwick run the place.

Young and McGuire marry, more out of convenience than love, but on their honeymoon night, a "miracle" occurs. They now look beautiful to each other. His disfigurement vanishes, and her dowdiness dissolves. Overjoyed at their newfound happiness, they explain what has happened to their blind neighbor Herbert Marshall, who encourages them to believe the miracle and to treasure it. But when Young's superficial parents come to visit and still see the two as they really are, the spell is broken - until the couple come to realize that it was their love, not the cottage, that made them see each other as beautiful in the first place.
Herbert Marshall plays the blind composer who, as he narrates the story, conveys to the viewer aspects of his own life, in which he has been able to draw immense benefits out of crushing losses. As it says on Classic Movie Review:
The two unfortunates are joined by Herbert Marshall as blind composer and piano player Major John Hillgrove. It’s through his metaphorical eyes that we’re given clues on how to view the film, and maybe even life itself. When his character explains how he only truly learned to see after he lost his actual sight, you begin to understand the depth of the story.

Hillgrove’s blindness isn’t the only reference to sight in the movie. In fact, the idea that sight is relative is at the heart of the story. Although they retain their physical sight, Oliver and Laura begin to see each other through new eyes, which is a revelation for both of them. This new vision — created by love — is then challenged by the outside world. Oliver and Laura almost succumb to other people’s vision of them, but in the end, they decide that the only view of life that matters to them is their own.

Anyone who enjoys romantic movies will relish The Enchanted Cottage. If I could design a dream house it would be just like the cottage in the film, complete with diamond-paned windows and an orchard garden, not far from the sea. Unlike many modern films, it is able to explore the essence of human passion through the music, screenplay and fine acting, without indulging in any gratuitous sensuality. The following commentary from Another Old Movie Blog sums it up:

We live in a world, several decades after this film was made, where being different is not so damning as it once was, but still comes at a cost. Perhaps this is what today’s old movie buffs see in this film, when it is taken as an allegory for all the outcasts among us. The possibility of being loved for who you are remains as irresistible as ever.


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.

(Artwork by Margaret Tarrant, courtesy of Micki.) Share

An Immoveable Feast

Juliette Rossant of Super Chef reviews John Baxter's A Paris Christmas, saying:
This is a book to read for the pleasure of how well it is written, and how fun it would be to join the characters and explore their world - and eat the feast that John makes for Christmas. John is a marvelous writer who enchants with humor and passion. He delivers an inside outside look at the French and their cuisine in a terrific story. Immovable Feast is a book to give to a Foodie or non-Foodie – anyone who has lived in another land or longs to.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Marie-Antoinette à la Rose

From the time I first started to write about Queen Marie-Antoinette, I have received comments from devout people about the low-cut gowns that she wore. Let me explain once again that, in the decadent old world, it was etiquette in most of the courts of Europe for ladies' formal attire to include a plunging décolletage. It was considered perfectly correct as long as the proper corset was worn.

The gown which evoked some disapproval for Marie-Antoinette was not one of the low-cut court gowns (shown above) but the simple white linen dress which she favored for her leisure time at Petit Trianon. The portrait in which she is shown thus had to be withdrawn from the public gaze because people took offense at seeing their Queen painted in casual attire. Now to us, the white dress is perfectly modest, but to people of the eighteenth century, it looked as if she were in her chemise, without the stiff corset prescribed for ladies of the royal family. Furthermore, it was interpreted as being a pro-Austrian picture, since linen came from Flanders, one of the Habsburg territories, and the rose the Queen held was seen as a symbol of the House of Austria.

In order to quell the outrage, Madame Vigée-Lebrun had to quickly come up with another painting. In 1783 the artist completed the portrait above, called "Marie-Antoinette à la rose" showing the Queen appropriately garbed in a silk court gown and headdress, trimmed with lace, ribbons and plumes. She is wearing pearls, as befits a Queen, with hair powdered and face rouged, in accord with court etiquette. She looks as if she has just stepped into her garden on a summer evening, bathed in moonlight. The nocturnal quality of the portrait softens the formality of her attire, alluding to Marie-Antoinette's love of nature, and the fact that she was much more at ease in her gardens than she was in the Hall of Mirrors.

The Latin Mass in Ireland

St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association asked that I post about three pilgrimages in Ireland coming up in 2009 which will include the traditional Latin Mass. How I would love to go. Share

Sunday, December 14, 2008

St. John of the Cross

The feast of St John of the Cross is today. Here are some of his Counsels.

"Anyone who complains or grumbles is not perfect, nor is he even a good Christian."

"Anyone who trusts in himself is worse than the devil."

"Anyone who does not love his neighbor abhors God."

"Whoever flees prayer flees all that is good."

"Conquering the tongue is better than fasting on bread and water."

"Suffering for God is better than working miracles."

Terry Nelson has the "Precautions" of the Mystical Doctor.

More HERE and HERE.

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 13, 2008

Laura (1944)

Waldo Lydecker: She was quick to seize upon anything that would improve her mind or her appearance. Laura had innate breeding, but she deferred to my judgment and taste.... Her youth and beauty, her poise and charm of manner captivated them all. She had warmth, vitality. She had authentic magnetism. Wherever we went, she stood out. Men admired her; women envied her. She became as famous as Waldo Lydecker's walking stick and his white carnation. ~Laura (1944)
It is counted among the best of the noirs, and yet Laura, the 1944 film starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, it not considered to be a true film noir. According to one critic:
Although generally categorized as a noir film, Laura is more a mixture of romance and detective story in structure. Gene Tierney is heartbreakingly beautiful, but she is not the noir film's stereotypical bad girl who uses her lover, only to abandon him when he has fallen hopelessly in love. Nor is there the bleak vision of hopelessness so essential an element in the true noir film.
Laura is among my favorite detective films; the novel by Vera Caspary is also excellent, not hopelessly dated like many popular books written in the forties. The plot surrounds the brutal slaying of Laura Hunt, called a "bachelor girl" because she lived on her own after finding success as an advertising executive. New York police detective Mark McPherson, ruggedly played by Dana Andrews, embarks on a quest to find her murderer. As he pieces her life together from the accounts of her friends and by investigating her elegant Manhattan apartment, McPherson begins to fall in love with her. He becomes especially entranced by the Laura's portrait which hangs in her living room.

Laura's friend the writer Waldo Lydecker enjoys sharing with McPherson everything he knows about Laura, who managed to retain her integrity and femininity amid the rat race of the advertising industry. It is interesting to see from the flashbacks that Laura, in spite of her business success, has conducted herself as a lady, bringing to her work a distinctly feminine touch. Living a glamorous life did not make her look down on domesticity; she was always ready to help those in need, showing kindness towards all, even the undeserving. Everyone loved her and some people loved her too much.

Laura's fatal flaw was her abysmal choice in men. Vincent Price is unforgettable as Shelby Carpenter, Laura's playboy fiancé who turns out to be a gigolo. Shelby was two-timing Laura with her aunt Mrs. Treadwell (Judith Anderson), a wealthy socialite. Clifton Webb is Waldo, whose love for Laura dominates his life. Waldo mocks McPherson for coming so often to Laura's apartment and intending to buy her portrait. "McPherson, did it ever strike you that you're acting very strangely? It's a wonder you don't come here like a suitor with roses and a box of candy - drugstore candy, of course," he says. Finally, one rainy night, McPherson falls asleep in front of Laura's picture, drink in hand. It is then that the truth is revealed.


Our Best Holiday Manners

A reader asked for some posts on etiquette for the up-coming holidays and holy days. All the theology in the world, all the lovely traditions and the most ethereal spirituality, are nothing if not accompanied by charity towards our neighbor. Love is expressed in thoughtfulness and consideration, which are what good manners should be. It has occurred to me over the last few years that many people mistake gentleness and courtesy for weakness, just as they mistake brutality and rudeness for strength. No, it requires strength and discipline to be kind to everyone, to greet people who are obnoxious, to show love to everyone. Neither is it being obsequious or condescending to be polite to the rude, which does not, of course, mean being a doormat to bullies. They need to be handled, kindly but firmly.

Emily Post offers from excellent tips on being polite at Christmas.

(Artwork courtesy of Karen) Share

The Temple

Recreated. Share

Friday, December 12, 2008

Scandal and the Queen

The other day I ran across an article entitled "Top 5 Marie-Antoinette Scandals" which was filled with errors. What an incredibly misleading portrayal of the Queen! Marie-Antoinette, in spite of being from a generation known for its fast pace of living, did not live in a manner which gave public scandal. There is no evidence for an affair with Count Fersen. As for diamond necklace fiasco, she was the innocent victim, not the cause.

Marie-Antoinette did not, however, live as sedately as former Queens of France had done. Her excesses as a twenty year old, including her flamboyant attire, her late night card parties, and some of her escapades (such as sleigh-riding through the streets of Paris without an escort) were considered inappropriate behaviors for female members of the royal family. This was why her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, rebuked her so strongly in her letters for even slight infractions. As Lady Antonia Fraser notes in her biography of Marie-Antoinette: "Sins that would be venial in any other girl were far more consequential in the future Queen of France." (The Journey, p. 94)

The scandals which perhaps most affected Marie-Antoinette's life were situations which had been going on long before she set foot in France. The fact that the most powerful woman at the court of Louis XV was not his pious wife or daughters but his mistress set the stage for Marie-Antoinette's tragedy. For one thing, her marriage was arranged by a courtesan, Madame de Pompadour, who also was named "Antoinette." As a fourteen year old bride, Marie-Antoinette was quick to notice that the person with the most influence over her husband's grandfather the King was Madame du Barry, of whom the young Dauphine innocently exclaimed, "I want to be her rival!"

The Petit Trianon, so loved by Marie-Antoinette, had been built for La Pompadour and inhabited by La Barry. Early in their reign, the Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette held a costume ball where everyone came in dress from the era of le bon roi Henri, with Marie-Antoinette garbed as Henri's beloved mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées. It was part of the Queen's attempt to show that she was loved by her husband, and that she was his mistress as well as his wife. She wanted to be perceived as the person most influential with Louis XVI. Unfortunately, in an attempt to assert herself at a hostile court, she made it easier for her enemies to portray her as a loose woman.

Most of all, Marie-Antoinette saw her mother, who never gave in to anybody, give in to Madame du Barry. This occurred, of course, when the Empress pleaded with her daughter to stop shunning the royal mistress, who had complained to Louis XV that the Dauphine was snubbing her. On one level, of course, Marie-Antoinette was being manipulated by the aunts to shun the mistress, for their own purposes. However, there are other reasons she did not want to speak to Madame du Barry, who had been insolent to her from the day she arrived at Versailles. As Marie-Antoinette wrote to Empress Maria Theresa on October 13, 1771:
..If you could see, as I do, everything that happens here, you would realize that that woman and her clique would never be satisfied with just a word, and that I would have to do it again and again. You may be sure that I need to be led by no one when it comes to politeness. (Secrets of Marie Antoinette: A Collection of Letters, edited by Olivier Bernier. New York: Fromm International, 1986, p. 79)
Marie-Antoinette not only wanted to keep the mistress in her place (that is, in what Marie-Antoinette thought her place should be), but she wanted to uphold morals and decency by not giving public approval to an illicit relationship. Upholding morality was something which her mother had impressed upon her as the duty of a Catholic princess. The excuse the Empress gave as the reason why Marie-Antoinette should be friendly to Madame du Barry was because Louis XV demanded it, and he was to be obeyed. As she wrote her daughter on September 30, 1771: "You have one goal only- it is to please the king, and obey him." (Secrets of Marie-Antoinette, p. 77) In the eyes of her elders a fifteen year old girl was bound to obey those in authority over her, but Marie-Antoinette thought the case demanded a different approach.

In the end, although Marie-Antoinette eventually obeyed the king and her mother and spoke to the mistress, the fact that she had made an issue of it made her someone whom Madame du Barry came to respect.
Ultimately, it was not Marie-Antoinette who gave scandal; it was she who had to resist being scandalized. It was she who had to take a stand, which she would continue to do when as Queen she sought to reform the morals of the court. Maxime de La Rocheterie has the following reflections on the matter:
This was the end and proper solution...of that long and scandalous wrangle which, in contempt of all order, natural and divine, a mistress, dragged from the mud, had held at bay a princess of the royal blood, the wife to the heir to the crown of France....For those who reason coldly, with that haughty indifference to the moral aspect of a question, and regard for material interest alone, which is one of the traditions of modern diplomacy, it is easy to understand the disquietude of the empress, her incessant recommendations...but it is more easy to comprehend- we would willingly say, to share- the virginal repugnance of Marie-Antoinette. Perhaps the motives of the empress were more prudent; but those of the dauphiness were incontestably finer....If politics condemn her, public honor absolves her. (Rocheterie, p.75)

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Don Marco has a beautiful post for this solemnity. Here are the words of the Mother of God to the Aztec, Blessed Juan Diego:
Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you: let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?

Here are the words of Pope John Paul II on the final struggle:
We are today before the greatest combat that mankind has ever seen. I do not believe that the Christian community has completely understood it. We are today before the final struggle between the Church and the Anti-Church, between the Gospel and the Anti-Gospel.

New Capitol Building Visitors Center

Is history being rewritten? According to Mommy Life:

Downplaying important historical events and rewriting history at taxpayer expense is now big business in Washington, D.C.

Those who do not live near our nation's Capitol may not be aware at how much 1984 Ministry of Truth-type censorship is going on in museums and monuments and new construction in Washington, DC.

It used to be that you could not visit the Nation's Capitol Building without many profound reminders of the Christian roots of our nation, but history is being rewritten more and more boldly - not just to eliminate all traces of God, but also core values of the Constitution.

The much-ballyhooed, over-budget, newly-opened 580,000 square foot Visitor Center at the U. S. Capitol is a case in point. For photos, see Capitol Visitors Center.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Empress Maria Theresa on Freedom

Royal World offers an intriguing quote from the Empress Maria Theresa:
Nothing is more pleasant, nothing more suitable to flatter our egos as a freedom without restrictions. "Freedom" is the word with which our enlightened century wants to replace religion. One condemns the whole past as a time of ignorance and prejudice, while knowing nothing of that past and very little of the present. If I could see these so-called enlightened figures, these philosophes, more fortunate in their work and happier in their private lives, then I would accuse myself of bias, pride, prepossession, and obstinacy for not adjusting to them. But unfortunately daily experience teaches me the opposite. No one is weaker, no one more spiritless than these strong spirits; no one more servile, no one more despairing at the least misfortune as they. They are bad fathers, sons, husbands, ministers, generals, and citizens. And why? Because they lack substance. All of their philosophy, all of their axioms are conceived only in their egotism; the slightest disappointment crushes them beyond hope, with no resources to fall back upon. ~ Empress Maria Theresa