Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beatification of Louis and Zelie Martin

Here is the latest on the beatification of the parents of St. Thérèse. (Via Blog-by-the-Sea)
Roma (2008-01-31).- Therese Martin happily wrote the following reflection about her parents: “The good God has given me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth” (Letter 261). In March 1994 their heroic virtues were approved, with the consequent canonical title of “Venerable”. On January 17 the medical board of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved a miracle attributed to their intercession, Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Celia Guerin (1831-1877). The examined miracle took into consideration the healing of Peter Schiliro, born on May 25 2002 with grave breathing problems. They baptized him on June 3 and at the time the parents were convinced that their child would soon die. In desperation they began a novena to St Therese’s venerable parents. In a few weeks the child made an unexpected recovery.

The presumed miracle was examined by the curia of the Archbishop of Milan, and in June 2003 they presented the relevant documentation to the Vatican congregation. After the approval of the medical committee there will be a pronouncement by the theological commission and the definitive approval of the commission of cardinals. After the ratification of the miracle by the Pope, it is hoped that the announcement of the beatification will take place later this year. The joint beatification of Luis Martin and Celia Guerin reflects not only the fact that they are the parents of St Therese, but also that they are parents in a true family now being beatified by the church.

Gertrud von le Fort

I have long been an admirer of Gertrud von le Fort and her novel Song at the Scaffold, about the Blessed Martyrs of Compiegne. Baroness von le Fort's short but powerful depiction of the sixteen Carmelite nuns guillotined in 1795 during the Reign of Terror was the inspiration for the play by Bernanos and the opera by Poulenc, Dialogues des Carmelites. Here is a short account of Gertrud von le Fort's life:

Baroness Gertrude von Lefort (1876–1971) is the author of over 20 books (poems, novels and short stories), honorary Doctor of Theology and «the greatest contemporary transcendent poet». Her works are appreciated for their breath-taking profoundness and virtuosity, beauty and actuality of her ideas, and for the sophisticateGertrud von le Fortd refinement of the form. Hermann Hesse, who evaluated her talent, proposed her as a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

Von le Fort was born in Westphalia, Germany, and studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. A Protestant of Huguenot descent, von le Fort converted early to Catholicism.

Her novel Die Letze am Schafott (The Last or Song at the Scaffold), by far her most famous work, was the basis for Dialogues of the Carmelites. Set during the time........... of the French Revolution, the von le Fort novel tells the story of a troubled, frightened, and strange girl, Blanche de la Force, who has lived in fear from the moment of her birth. To overcome her affliction, she decides to become a nun of Carmel. Little does she know that she is no safer from fear at this convent than in the secular world.

The character of Blanche was von le Fort’s creation, but the other nuns in the story historical figures. Notice the similarity of "von le Fort" to "de la Force." This was no coincidence: much of Gertrud von le Fort’s inspiration for her novel came from her own experiences during World War II and her hatred of Nazism.

She recorded the origin of her 1931 novel: " The point of departure for my creation was not primarily the destiny of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne but the figure of the young Blanche. In a historic sense she never lived, but she received the breath of life from my internal spirit, and she cannot be detached from the origin, which is hers. Born in the profound horror of a time darkened by the signs of destiny, this figure arose before me in some way as the embodiment of the mortal agony of an era going totally to its ruin."


Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Madame Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was court portrait painter at Versailles during the reign of Louis XVI. She painted Marie-Antoinette many times. In her Memoirs, she describes the queen thus:
Her arms were superb, her hands small and perfectly formed, and her feet charming. She had the best walk of any woman in France, carrying her head erect and with a dignity that stamped her queen in the midst of her whole court; and yet this majestic mien in no wise diminished the sweetness and gentleness of her expression. Her features were not regular; she had inherited the long and narrow oval peculiar to the Austrian race- her eyes, almost blue in color, were rather small - her nose was delicate and pretty, and her mouth not too large, although her lips were somewhat thick. But the most remarkable thing about her face was her brilliant complexion. I have never seen any so dazzling.

Here is a link to the gallery of portraits of the queen painted by Madame Vigée Le Brun, as well as one to a biography of the artist.

Charles Blanc in Histoire Des Peintres wrote:
As a painter Madame Vigee Le Brun belongs wholly and distinctly to the eighteenth century; that is to say, to that period in the history of French art which was brought to an abrupt termination by the works of Louis David. So long as she followed the counsels of Joseph Vernet her pencil evinced a certain suppleness and her brush a certain force; but unfortunately she too often sought especially was this the case in her later works - to imitate Greuze, and weakened the likeness to her models by an exaggerated mistiness. She became the fashion so early in her life that she was debarred from any thorough study, and she was too frequently satisfied with a clever suggestiveness in her portraits.

Without estimating her so leniently as she was in her own day estimated by the French Academy, we nevertheless must needs assign Madame Le Brun an honorable place in the history of painting in France; for, notwithstanding revolutions and reforms, she continued to pursue, as long as she lived, the dainty and delicate art of Watteau, of Nattier, and of Fragonard-an art at once graceful and intrinsically French.-From the French
To the right is a sketch that Madame Vigée Le Brun did of Marie-Antoinette after the queen's death, showing her going to heaven, palm in hand, where Louis and the two children who died are awaiting her. The artist, who was a friend of the queen, was too overcome with grief to finish the picture. Share

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lady Hamilton

The other night TCM showed That Hamilton Woman, said to be Winston Churchill's favorite film. It is a film that stays fairly close to actual history, as films go. Emma Hamilton was yet another "fallen woman" who rose from obscurity to become the toast of high society, only to die in destitution. She seemed like the last person with whom someone like Lord Nelson would become so smitten. He was a very serious man, quite committed to his duties. Yet there can be no doubt that he truly loved Emma, calling her his "wife before God," even after she had put on a great deal of weight. When Nelson died, he left her with a country manor, and so she should not have so quickly sunk into penury, but Emma spent too freely, gambled too much, and drank to excess.

However, before the affair with Nelson became the scandal that rocked Europe, Emma Hamilton, as the English ambassador's wife in Naples, showed some political and social adroitness. The queen of Naples was Marie-Antoinette's favorite sister; just as Antoinette found friends a few years older than herself to take the place of the bossy big sister who had gone to Naples, so Maria Carolina adopted the much younger Emma to be the confidante she had once had in her little "Antoine." Emma visited the Queen of France while the latter was under house arrest at the Tuileries and brought messages from her to her sister Maria Carolina in Naples. It was because of Emma that Queen Maria Carolina later escaped the same fate as Marie-Antoinette, since Emma induced Lord Nelson to conduct the royal family to the safety of Palermo.

The artist Madame Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, friend of Marie-Antoinette, writes thus of Lady Hamilton in her Memoirs:
To return to the romance of Emma Lyon. It was while she was with the painter I have mentioned that Lord Greville fell so desperately in love with her that he intended to marry her, when he suddenly lost his official place and was ruined. He at once left for Naples in the hope of obtaining help from his Uncle Hamilton, and took Emma with him so that she might plead his cause. The uncle, indeed, consented to pay all his nephew's debts, but also decided to marry Emma Lyon in spite of his family's remonstrances. Lady Hamilton became as great a lady as can be imagined. It is asserted that the Queen of Naples was on an intimate footing with her. Certain it is that the Queen saw her often – politically, might perhaps be said. Lady Hamilton, being a most indiscreet woman, betrayed a number of little diplomatic secrets to the Queen, of which she made use to the advantage of her country.

Lady Hamilton was not at all clever, though she was extremely supercilious and disdainful, so much so that these two defects were conspicuous in all her conversation. But she also possessed considerable craftiness, of which she made use in order to bring about her marriage. She wanted in style, and dressed very badly when it was a question of every-day dress. I remember that when I did my first picture of her, as a sibyl, she was living at Caserta, whither I went every day, desiring to progress quickly with the picture. The Duchess de Fleury and the Princess de Joseph Monaco were present at the third sitting, which was the last. I had wound a scarf round her head in the shape of a turban, one end hanging down in graceful folds. This head-dress so beautified her that the ladies declared she looked ravishing. Her husband having invited us all to dinner, she went to her apartment to change, and when she came back to meet us in the drawing-room, her new costume, which was a very ordinary one indeed, had so altered her to her disadvantage that the two ladies had all the difficulty in the world in recognising her.

When I went to London in 1802 Lady Hamilton had just lost her husband. I left a card for her, and she soon came to see me, wearing deep mourning, with a dense black veil surrounding her, and she had had her splendid hair cut off to follow the new "Titus" fashion. I found this Andromache enormous, for she had become terribly fat. She said that she was very much to be pitied, that in her husband she had lost a friend and a father, and that she would never be consoled. I confess that her grief made little impression upon me, since it seemed to me that she was playing a part. I was evidently not mistaken, because a few minutes later, having noticed some music lying on my piano, she took up a lively tune and began to sing it.

As is well known, Lord Nelson had been in love with her at Naples; she had maintained a very tender correspondence with him. When I went to return her visit one morning, I found her radiant with joy, and besides she had put a rose in her hair, like Nina. I could not help asking her what the rose signified. "It is because I have just received a letter from Lord Nelson," she answered.

The Duke de Bern and the Duke de Bourbon, having heard of her poses, very much desired to witness a spectacle which she had never been willing to offer in London. I requested her to give me an evening for the two Princes, and she consented. I also invited some other French people, who I was aware would be anxious to see this sight. On the day appointed I placed in the middle of my drawing-room a very large frame, with a screen on either side of it. I had had a strong limelight prepared and disposed so that it could not be seen, but which would light up Lady Hamilton as though she were a picture. All the invited guests having arrived, Lady Hamilton assumed various attitudes in this frame in a truly admirable way. She had brought a little girl with her, who might have been seven or eight years old, and who resembled her strikingly. One group they made together reminded me of Poussin's "Rape of the Sabines." She changed from grief to joy and from joy to terror so rapidly and effectively that we were all enchanted. As I kept her for supper, the Duke de Bourbon, who sat next to me at table, called my attention to the quantity of porter she drank. I am sure she must have been used to it, for she was not tipsy after two or three bottles. Long after leaving London, in 1815, I heard that Lady Hamilton had ended her days at Calais, dying there neglected and forsaken in the most awful poverty.


Race, Nationalism and Patriotism

Scott Richert discusses the difference between patriotism and nationalism.
Patriotism, writes Pope John Paul II in the same book, “is a love for everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features. It is a love which extends also to the works of our compatriots and the fruits of their genius.” Or, to sum it up as I have in other discussions of the works of John Lukacs, patriotism is the love of a particular people in a particular place (and the place is just as important as the people).

Nationalism, on the other hand, is, in its pure form, something different. As Pope John Paul II writes, “[N]ationalism involves recognizing and pursuing the good of one’s own nation alone, without regard for the rights of others.” It is insular, and not in a good sense; it not only assumes the superiority of one’s nation over the nations of others (which is not necessarily a bad thing in itself), but it refuses to acknowledge or understand that others might regard their nation in the same way. It can also (and often does) separate itself from a particular place, its native land. The nationalist can be rootless; the patriot cannot.


Atheism and Violence

An article from First Things.
Books advocating atheism have recently been enjoying a modest boomlet. Sales are solid, book readings are sold out, and their authors grace the highbrow talk shows and op-ed pages in prestigious newspapers and periodicals. But their arguments are shopworn, stale hand-me-downs and threadbare heirlooms inherited from an era that was fading away even before the French Revolution had made the connection between atheism and violence clear to any fair observer. Yet these books read as if they came from authors who had never heard of the Reign of Terror or Robespierre.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte confronts Widow Simon

After returning to France in 1814, after twenty years of exile, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, was contacted by the Sisters of Charity at the Hôpital des Incurables in Paris. One of their patients was Madame Simon, widow of the infamous Simon the cobbler who had brutalized the little Louis XVII in the Temple prison. Widow Simon claimed that the boy king had been smuggled out of the Temple in a basket of laundry, and that he had not died in 1795, but had been replaced by another boy who died in his place. The princess did not know what to make of such a wild story. In December of 1814 she went incognito to the hospital with two friends to personally interview the cobbler's widow. The following is a rendition of the confrontation from the novel Madame Royale:


....A frail old woman sat alone by the stove. She was in a wheelchair, a white linen cap on her head, a shawl around her shoulders and a blanket across her legs. She was tatting in the fading December light streaming through the window.

"Mère Simon, some people are here to see you, " said Sister Lucie. She withdrew without curtsying, as Thérèse had asked her. Lifting her veil, Thérèse approached the cobbler's widow. Her eyes met the steel grey ones in the withered face. It was a hard visage, as hard as she had ever remembered it to be, but not evil. She stared keenly at Thérèse for several seconds before looking down again at her tatting.

"Sit down, Madame," said Widow Simon, gesturing to a chair. Thérèse sat down; Pauline and Mathieu rema
ined standing by the door. "You have heard, I suppose, that I was once the governess of the Dauphin. People talk of nothing but the Dauphin nowadays. Everyone wants to know about him; I tell them everything I can recall."

"Yes, Madame Simon," said Thérèse, trying to soften her grating voice. "I would like to hear about the Dauphin. They say he was a handsome child."

"Handsome!" exclaimed
Mère Simon. "Ah, mon Dieu, he was like an angel with his golden curls and thick eyelashes! Both of my little Bourbons were beautiful children. Yes, his sister was a lovely girl, too." She furtively glanced at Thérèse. "A proud lass, but lovely. Oh, la la, but my Charles was a naughty rascal."

"You took care of him, did you not?"

"Indeed, yes, Madame." The old woman stopped tatting and closed her eyes. "I made certain he ate all the food on his plate. I swept his chamber everyday and mended his clothes. I changed his bed linen often. Those tales about lice-- well, not while
I, Jeanne Simon, resided at the Temple. My Charles loved me and I loved him. He wanted to come with us when we left."

"Your husband," asked
Thérèse, hesitantly, "did he love Charles?"

Madame Simon's eyebrows arched defiantly."I do not care what stories you m
ay have heard, but Simon did not hit Charles all that often. Why, he only hit him when he was drunk, and then he would hit me, too, for that matter. And Charles was a rascal-- all those princely airs and graces, those fine manners and book-learning, why, it just made Simon as mad as can be. He had to beat it all out of him, and knock some sense into his head. He would have done the same to a boy of our own. But he never hit him with an iron poker, knocking him half-dead. That's an evil lie. And he never broke his toys, or killed his pet birds. Not Simon. As for the guards--well, that's another story altogether. They would wake the little fellow up every few hours a night, when they let him sleep at all, to make certain he was still there. 'Capet, are you awake? Show yourself, you whelp!' they would call. It angered me, I must say. Simon did no such thing. He even bought Charles a dog, which was given to the boy's sister after he left."

" said Thérèse, remembering little Coco. "So I have heard. But tell me, did you take the Dauphin away with you?"

"We did, indeed. Simon smuggled him out in a hamper of dirty linen. Hiding the likes of Monsieur Charles was no easy task, let me tell you. Then Simon took him to some place called Vitry. Afterwards, Simon was killed. I did not see the Dauphin again for many years."

Thérèse suppressed a small gasp. "You saw him, Madame? When?"

The old woman's eyes brightened and her face glowed. "My Charles came to see me in 1802. He stood right here in this room."

Thérèse felt her pulses pounding, as she hid her emotion. "From the tower of the Temple until 1802 is a long time," she said lightly. "How were you able to recognize him?"

"By the scar on his upper lip, where the rabbit scratched him." The hard mouth softened into a sly smile
. "Madame, I recognize you quite well, notwithstanding your disguise, although I have not seen you for very much longer....You are Madame Marie-Thérèse!"

Thérèse stood up and almost bolted from the room....

from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter 14, "The Hospital," copyright 2000 by E. M. Vidal


Thanks, Heidi!

The rules:
Recipients of the Excellent Blog Award must award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find "Excellent Award" worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want-even those that have received it already, but please award at least 10 people.

I could be here all day, so I am limiting myself to twelve: House Art Journal, Blog by the Sea, Happy Hearts at Home, Laudem Gloriae, Under the Gables, Silent Canticle, The Walled Garden, Catholic Mom of Ten, Gladdest Hours, My Domestic Church, Catholic Family Vignettes, Sancta Sanctis.

The Cost of Clutter

Alexandra linked to a helpful and practical site. The following insights struck me:
When both spouses work out of the home, who takes care of the house? Frequently, there is a constant battle between them about whose job it is to take care of some element of the housework. After all, the husband has been out working all day, so he doesn't feel like it. Oh, but the wife has been working, too so why can't she take a break?

Imagine if your boss at work decided to work a second full time job. How would this impact your work place?
Who would you ask if you couldn't find products for your customers? What if there was no change because your boss was at his other job until after the bank closed? What if you needed help or advice from your boss, but he said, "Not now... I'm too tired from my other job?" How long would that company last? The same thing happens in many homes every day.

Would your family be better served if one spouse stayed home?
Someone needs to be responsible for the bulk of the care and maintenance of the home and family. Ideally, everyone will share the work, but like in any other business there has to be one person in charge. Otherwise, everyone will avoid the work and everything will descend into chaos.

If this sounds like your home,
you might sit down with your spouse and seriously consider whether one of you might take off of work to try to get your home in order. Instead of thinking of staying at home as a prison sentence, think of it as another job to help save you money, reduce family stress and add more family comfort.

If you're considering staying home, get rid of the emotions and, with pen and paper (hopefully you can find one) in hand, write down the ways that being disorganized is costing you money. Be honest and try to cover even the small things. You might find that the money you are spending dealing with disorganization is equal to or more then one spouse's take home pay.

Organization has nothing to do with what is politically correct or what the media or other people tell you you need to do. It is a practical choice that you can make. I am NOT saying that you can't work doing something that you love. I am saying that regardless of how your family handles it, the work of keeping the home has to get done.


Monday, January 28, 2008

St.Thomas Aquinas

Fr. Mark on praying with St. Thomas.
The Lord addresses his invitation to the thirsty and the poor. The great accomplishment of Thomas Aquinas was that he saw himself as one thirsty and poor. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:3.6). Every official edition of the Roman Missal contains the prayers of Saint Thomas Aquinas to be recited by the priest before and after Mass. These prayers are, I think, a distillation of all that the Angelic Doctor lived and taught. One has only to pray Saint Thomas’ Prayer Before Mass to understand how he saw himself:here

I come sick to the physician of life; unclean, to the fountain of mercy; blind, to the light of eternal brightness; poor and needy, to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore I ask for the fullness of your infinite bounty, that you would graciously heal my sickness, wash away my uncleanness, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness; so that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, such sorrow and love, such purity and faith, such purpose and intent as shall further my soul’s salvation.


Louis XVI and the Voyage of La Pérouse

In 1785 Louis XVI commissioned the naval hero La Pérouse to outfit two ships for an expedition to explore the unknown regions of the Pacific Ocean. Both Louis and La Pérouse had read of the discoveries of Captain Cook and Louis did not want the British to outstrip the French in nautical explorations. The king, who was a skilled amateur cartographer and geographer, painstakingly mapped out the voyage which lasted for three years. The adventurers pinpointed the exact location of previously unknown Pacific Islands. In 1788, however, La Pérouse and his men encountered cannibals and the crews of both frigates perished miserably. One man escaped with maps and charts so that the voyage was not in vain. The tragedy destroyed the theory of the philosophes that man in his primitive state was benign and peaceful. Here is an account of the voyage and the discoveries. Share


Terry Nelson quotes Dom Bernardo Olivera on "acedia."
The chief symptoms of this devilish “scourge that lays waste at noon” are inner instability and the need for change (with wandering fantasies of a better place), excessive care of one’s own health (with special emphasis on one’s food), escape from manual work (with laziness and inactivity), uncontrolled activism (under the appearance of charity), neglect of the monastic practices (reducing observance to a minimum), indiscreet zeal in a few ascetic exercises (with extreme criticism of one’s neighbor), generalized discouragement (with the beginnings of a depression).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Holy Face Novena

Today begins the novena in honor of the Holy Face of Jesus. Share

Caroline of Naples, the Duchesse de Berry

Caroline of Naples is one of the main characters in the novel Madame Royale. She does not enter until the middle of the story, but then she upstages everyone else. She was high-spirited and much more like Marie-Antoinette than the queen's own daughter, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the Duchesse d'Angouleme. Caroline was Marie-Antoinette’s grand-niece, her sister Queen Maria Carolina's granddaughter. The author Chateaubriand always flirted with her, calling her a "crazy, Italian tight-rope artist." She had a wonderful singing voice and could sing and play any operatic song after hearing it only once.

Caroline of Naples was known as the Duchesse de Berry from the time of her marriage to Berry in 1816. Caroline introduced sea-bathing to high society and it was considered quite scandalous. She also enjoyed window shopping and they named one of the first Parisian street-cars after her. In spite of her impetuous ways, she was quite popular with the French people. She was also a generous patroness of the arts and her charitable contributions usually exceeded her annual income. Berry was murdered before her eyes in February of 1820 and their son Henri “the Miracle Child” was born in September, 1820. Their country home was Rosny, where Caroline had a special chapel devoted to Berry's memory. When Berry was killed at the opera, Caroline said, "I have lost the only person in the world who can make me happy."

It is a very romantic story how she secretly married an Italian count Ettore de Lucchesi-Palli in Rome, and then went to Brittany to try to regain the throne for her son in 1832. She ended up hiding in a chimney in a farmhouse and almost was burned alive. She never lost her courage and her dignity, even during her imprisonment in the fortress of Blaye, where she was forced to give birth in front of the guards. In the 1830's, after her secret marriage, adventure in Brittany and pregnancy, she was stripped by Charles X of her royal title and was styled "Comtesse de Rosny." She and Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte always quarrelled, although the Duchesse d’Angouleme ended up raising Caroline's older children, Henri and Louise. The two sisters-in-law were eventually reconciled, and would spend their winters in Venice together, until Thérèse died in 1851.

Caroline’s second husband, Count Ettore de Lucchesi-Palli was a scion of one the first families of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He was also known as Prince of Campofranco, and later as Duke della Grazia. He and Caroline had a castle at Brunsee in Gratz, Austria, which is where she died in 1870.

Baroness Orczy of The Scarlet Pimpernel fame wrote a biography of Caroline, as did Andre Castelot. Imbert de Saint-Amand's The Duchesse de Berry and the Court of Charles X is loaded with intimate details of court life.

When she was taken prisoner after almost being burned alive, Caroline said, "I have done what a mother could to regain the inheritance of her son." Brave, foolish, feisty, headstrong, loveable Caroline, she would not give up. Share

Murder of the Duc de Berry

On February 13, 1820, Charles-Ferdinand, Duc de Berry, was murdered on the steps of the Paris Opera while helping his pregnant wife into a carriage. Berry was the nephew of Louis XVI and the son of the Comte d'Artois. His older brother was the Duc d'Angouleme and his cousin and sister-in-law was Marie-Therese-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Angouleme. The particulars of the assassination are told in the novel Madame Royale.

Berry was the black sheep of the family, always in trouble. While in exile in England he married a young lady named Amy Brown and they had several children. Later, after returning to France, the marriage with Amy was declared null and void and in 1816 Berry married the lively Italian princess, Caroline of Naples. He was in his late thirties and she was seventeen. He had already installed Amy and her children in a house in Paris where she continued to live as his mistress.

Meanwhile, his wife Caroline lost her first two babies at birth, then in 1819 she had a daughter, Louise d'Artois. An heir to the throne was desperately needed and Berry was the only one of the Bourbon princes of the senior branch of the family capable of begetting children. (The portrait to the right is of Caroline of Naples by Madame Vigee-Lebrun.)

On Quinquagesima Sunday in 1820, at the height of Carnival, Berry was knifed by a madman. Caroline had only just discovered she was with child again. Berry died in her arms in the opera box, after receiving the last rites and asking forgiveness for the public scandal he had given.

In the painting above, Caroline is shown kneeling with her hair trailing down. The Duchesse d'Angouleme has the yellow shawl; the Duc d'Angouleme, Berry's brother, is prostrate at her side. On the other side of the sofa are the nefarious Louis XVIII (standing) and Berry's father, the Comte d'Artois, kneeling and suddenly very old. Berry, as he lay dying, called upon the Holy Virgin to save France.

Caroline shaved her head and went into deep mourning. On September 29, 1820, she gave birth to a son, who was called Henri, Duc de Bordeaux, later known as the Comte de Chambord (Henri V). According to the Bourbon tradition his mouth was moistened with wine at birth. He was presented to the people of France in the arms of Louis XVIII and called "The Miracle Child." In the picture below, the Duchesse d'Angouleme gazes upon the new little nephew who would become like her own son.

Above, the Duchesse de Berry, robed in black, is shown presenting her son to the court. Behind her are seated Louis XVIII and the Duchesse d'Angouleme. Share

First Trip to Paris

Twenty-eight years ago this very week, I made my first trip to Europe. Winters were colder then, and it had been a bitterly cold winter in Maryland, with piles of snow. I was a senior at Prospect Hall High School, now renamed Saint John's Prep. The school was in the old Dulaney mansion on a hill overlooking Frederick, Maryland. It was a grand old house; unfortunately, most of the classes were held in the gymnasium, which was freezing. We had to leave our coats on much of the time and then avoid slipping on the ice when changing classes.

Therefore it was with great excitement that about twenty students prepared for a ten day excursion to Paris, with a stopover in London. Not only were we leaving the misery of school, but, for me, at any rate, I was going to see so many places I had long dreamed of. Among the young travelers were three of the Thomas girls, whom I had known since childhood, but the adventures in Europe cemented our friendship into a lifelong bond which endures to this day. My designated roommate was a sweet, devout Methodist girl named Beverly who had grown up on a farm. Beverly had already been to England as an exchange student and so knew a little bit about getting around Europe.

Nothing can compare with the first experience of Paris. Climbing to the heights of Montmartre and entering the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for the first time was a moment of gravity and inspiration, for I thought of Saint Denis and his companions and their sufferings while at the same time glimpsing heaven. We entered the gothic portals of Notre Dame while the evening organ recital was going on, and all the glories of the Middle Ages unfolded before me. The same at Sainte Chapelle, which encapsulates in wood, glass and stone the love and devotion of Saint Louis IX.

What can I say about the Louvre, except that to walk in and see the "Winged Victory" was pure magic. (It was before those awful plastic pyramids were set up.) I was going through a Raphael phase, and soaked in the radiance of his Madonnas. On the Rue de Rivoli it was thrilling to see Saint Joan of Arc on horseback; anything that had the least to do with that saint was a special delight. Another church I fell in love with was La Madeleine; there were bunches of fresh lilies everywhere in the church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen, almost as if it were Easter.

The day we spent at Versailles was especially memorable. I had studied a book on Versailles that my grandmother had in her house but the magnificence of the Sun King's palace was still daunting. It was a soft, misty day, damp but not cold. We walked over to Petit Trianon and I was amazed at how the birds were singing in the gardens of the queen. There was a unique atmosphere there, both haunted and hallowed. It made an impression on my psyche which would linger for years; I did not think that someday I would write about Marie-Antoinette, although the inspiration was planted on that occasion. Share

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Opening Doors

Should gentlemen still open doors for ladies? There is a lively discussion on Modestly Yours. Share

St. Nicholas Owen

Mrs. Parkes has an inspiring post about St. Nicholas Owen, the English carpenter saint who constructed the refuges for the priests to hide in during the penal times.

More HERE. Share

Friday, January 25, 2008

Camille (1937)

The re-occurring image of the good-hearted courtesan redeemed by true love, as shown in operas and films ranging from La Rondine to Camille to Breakfast at Tiffany's, belongs for the most part to the realm of fantasy. There are exceptions to every rule; we have the example of many holy penitents to know that dramatic change is possible. Often in the past, reformed ladies of notoriety, such as Madame du Barry, would spend time in a monastery, some even became nuns. Giving scandal was seen as no small matter; the damage done to both the individual and to others was such that temporary withdrawal from the world was definitely part of the healing process.

However, fallen women belong to a bygone era. Someone can only be "fallen" if there is a certain standard from which to fall. In our time, most standards of what once constituted decent behavior have been drastically altered. Situations that formerly belonged to the "half-world," the demi-monde, are now mainstream.

Yet there are things that remain constant. Promiscuity, then as now, has a hardening effect upon the pysche, as well as destructive, long-term consequences. Such a life leaves many scars. Prostitution in any form is degrading, even the very glamorous whoredom portrayed in Camille, the 1937 cinematic masterpiece starring Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. Based upon the 1848 novel La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils, the "Lady of the Camellias" had already been the subject of an opera by Verdi, as well as several films.

Dumas' heroine "Marguerite Gautier" was inspired by the tragic life of one Marie Duplessis, a courtesan with whom Dumas became briefly involved in the 1840's. Marie was forced into prostitution by her own father at the age of twelve; she died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-three, practically destitute. For a few years, her lively wit and discreet charm made her one of the most sought after courtesans in Paris.

As shown in Camille, the glitter of the demi-monde is only the flip side of despair. "Marguerite" does not even believe that lasting love exists, so enveloped is she by the tawdriness of her situation. Her peers, the other "fallen women," are rivals, jealous and competitive, out for what they can get.

"Armand" loves Marguerite, but for him to marry her would be the ruin of his career and of his family. He wants to marry her anyway, but Marguerite leaves him for his own good. She returns to her life in the demi-monde, until illness overtakes her.

In Camille, the normalcy of family life is shown distinctly connected with the Church, as at the First Communion celebration and in the wedding scene. Later, it is after Marguerite receives the last rites that Armand speaks to her of the marriage vows that both have already made in their hearts. With those words in her ears, she dies. One can only hope that the actual "Lady of the Camellias" died in such peace. Share

The Death of Medieval Art

Artist Daniel Mitsui quotes scholar Emile Mâle.
If the mediæval tradition died, it was killed not by the Renaissance, but by the Reformation. The Reformation put an end to the long tradition of legend, poetry, and dream, by forcing the Catholic Church to watch over all aspects of its thought and to turn strongly in upon itself.

One of the first consequences of the Reformation was to make Catholics suspicious of their old religious theater. For the first time, they became aware that the authors of the Mystery plays had added a thousand stories, platitudes, and vulgarities to the text of the Gospels... The happy age of innocence, when all was full of charm, was now past... The disappearance of the Mystery plays had serious consequences for Christian art... When the religious theater died out, the only remaining traditions were those perpetuated for a time in the workshops. The old artists remained faithful to what they had seen in their youth. This explains why, until the end of the sixteenth century, the traditional iconography is to be found in some stained glass windows.

Europe's Permanent Revolution

John Laughland discusses the "primacy of change," which is the philosophical heart of revolutionary ideology.
However, there is a deeper sense in which Europe’s permanent institutional revolution is being deliberately carried over by old Marxists into Europe’s political reality, and it is a sense which comes from the very heart of darkness of Marxism-Leninism. For various authors – Edgar Morin, Jacques Derrida, Antonio Negri, among others – Europe is desirable precisely because it is “polymorphic” and “multifunctional," because it has no centre and no summit, because nothing is fixed and everything in a state of flux. This idea has been expressed as “multilevel constritutionalism” by Giuliano Amato, the former Italian Prime Minister who helped draw up the now defunct constitution, and as “a post-Hobbesian order” by Philippe Schmitter, a professor at the European University Institute in Florence.

This is nothing but the Marxist-Leninist dialectic in new guise. As Solzhenitsyn wrote in his 1973 Letter to the Leaders of the Soviet Union, the key fact about communism is not the dictatorship of the proletariat or even state ownership of the means of production but instead ideology. And that ideology, according to the great Yugoslav onetime Communist, Milovan Djilas, as well as to the great French anti-Communist historian of thought, Alain Besançon, is the dialectic: the belief in the primacy of change, in the fact that nothing is fixed, and in the idea that one thing and its opposite can both be true. Just as Engels drew on Darwin in the Dialectics of Nature to argue that in nature, “nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes out of existence” and that therefore one could never say that everything is what it is and not another thing (the cardinal rule of Aristotelian logic).

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Anna Post shares advice from Emily about making pleasant accommodations for house guests, with some updates. Share

Tea and Cheese

Cheese does not just go with wine; a cheese platter is a lovely addition to high tea.
...Most often, we think of wine as the perfect companion to cheese; the wine and cheese party is an established theme when it comes to entertaining. I had taken an interesting workshop on tea and cheese pairing while at the World Tea Expo where this was first introduced to me. Tea, can also pair very well with cheese, as it also contains tannins. Tannins are a substance that exists in grapes and tea leaves among other things and produces that tart, astringent taste that you may experience after drinking a deep red wine or black tea. It also lends to the color of the tea. Without tannins, both wine and tea would lack that complex taste and beautiful color. Not all teas are tannin-rich; exceptions are White and Green teas, which contain very little tannins, while Oolongs are in the middle, and Black teas have the most. When thinking of teas to pair with your cheese plate, sticking to Black or Oolong teas are good, but including a Green tea with a grassy or vegetal note will round out your selection wonderfully.

The idea of building a cheese plate may seem intimidating, but it's a great exercise in learning about different varieties of cheeses and exposing your palate to something different. Cheese and tea have a lot in common if you think about it: both vary when it comes to the region they are grown or produced as well as yield different tastes depending on the amount of or lack of processing. There are many good guides that have come out in the last few years that can also be helpful, if you think it'll be baffling. Though there might not be a cheese shop in your town or nearby, many supermarkets are expanding their cheese sections to include a diverse selection, going beyond Cheddar and Swiss. If you are fortunate enough to have a gourmet market with an extensive department or a cheese shop nearby, your cheese monger can help you make a selection and answer your questions.

And an article on the health benefits of tea. Share

St. Francis de Sales

Today is the feast of Saint Francis de Sales. He is a saint very close to my heart.
Here is one of his best-known sayings:

Do not look forward to the mishaps of this life with anxiety, but await them with perfect confidence so that when they do occur, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has kept you up to the present; remain securely in the hand of his providence, and he will help you in all situations. When you cannot walk, he will carry you. Do not think about what will happen tomorrow, for the same eternal Father who takes care of you today will look out for you tomorrow and always. Either he will keep you from evil or he will give you invincible courage to endure it. Remain in peace; rid your imagination of whatever troubles you.

Terry Nelson has some thoughts as well.

Fr. Mark on confidence and peace according to St. Francis de Sales.

God never changes. God is worthy of all our confidence. That “blessed assurance” is, ultimately, the only remedy for the anxiety that at certain hours torments even the most phlegmatic among us. Saint Francis de Sales invites us to let go of the false security of the anxieties that have become so dear, and to surrender in peaceful confidence to the “blessed assurance” of the Love of God. Confiance et paix.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Laura and Rose

A new book explores the collaboration between author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. (Via LRC)
Only 19 years between them, Lane and Wilder at times seemed as close as competitive sisters. Both were serious and accomplished writers. But Hill presents Wilder as the better storyteller and Lane as the broad-thinking editor. Their lifestyles reflected this. Where Wilder stayed close to the family's final homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, Lane cut her journalistic teeth in San Francisco and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. It was with this same vigor that Lane took up editing and rewriting her mother's manuscripts for "the big market."

The Espousals

On the traditional Carmelite calendar, today is celebrated the Espousals of Mary and Joseph. According to Archbishop Sheen:
Mary and Joseph brought to their espousals not only their vows of virginity but also two hearts with greater torrents of love than had ever before coursed through human breasts. No husband and wife ever loved one another so much as Joseph and Mary. Their marriage was not like that of others, because the right to the body was surrendered; in normal marriages, unity in the flesh is the symbol of its consummation, and the ecstasy that accompanies a consummation is only a foretaste of the joy that comes to the soul when it attains union with God through grace. If there are satiety and fed-up-ness in marriage, it is because it falls short of what it was meant to reveal, or because the inner Divine Mystery was not seen in the act. But in the case of Mary and Joseph, there was no need of the symbol of the unity of flesh, since they already possessed the Divinity. Why pursue the shadow when they had the substance? Mary and Joseph needed no consummation in the flesh, for, in the beautiful language of Leo XIII: "The consummation of their love was in Jesus." Why bother with the flickering candles of the flesh, when the Light of the World is their love? Truly He is Jesu, voluptas cordium. When He is the sweet voluptuousness of hearts, there is not even a thought of the flesh. As husband and wife standing over the cradle of their newborn life forget, for the moment, the need of one another, so Mary and Joseph, in their possession of God in their family, hardly knew that they had bodies. Love usually makes husband and wife one; in the case of Mary and Joseph, it was not their combined loves but Jesus Who made them one. No deeper love ever beat under the roof of the world since the beginning, nor will it ever beat, even unto the end. They did not go to God through love of one another; rather, because they went first to God, they had a deep and pure love, one for another. To those who ridicule such holiness, Chesterton wrote:

That Christ from this creative purity
Came forth your sterile appetites to scorn.
Lo! in her house Life without Lust was born
So in your house Lust without Life shall die.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Maisie Ward

Writing about Caryll Houselander brings one, of course, to her friend and biographer, Maisie Ward. Maisie and her Australian husband Frank Sheed worked for the Catholic Evidence Guild and started their own publishing house. The Catholic Evidence Guild had strict guidelines for their lay catechists, who would preach in parks and on street corners.

Guild members formed close ties by studying and training together and sharing a vibrant spiritual life. Their outreach was grounded in prayer and daily Mass. They maintained an important rule: For every hour on the soapbox, they had to spend an equal amount of time before the Blessed Sacrament.

The speakers were taught never to attack others or to be confrontational in anyway. "We cannot regard the non-Catholic as an enemy," Frank wrote. Nor was the goal to demonstrate "clever ideas for getting the better of an antagonist." The Guild's ultimate aim was to "spread a knowledge of the truth."

The Guild challenged and sharpened Maisie's and Frank's beliefs; it transformed their ideas about serving the church with their talents; it catapulted them into a life of speaking and writing; and not least of all, it brought them together. They became the Guild's natural leaders. Together they compiled the Catholic Evidence Training Outlines, a speakers' handbook that remains in use today.

Frank and Maisie got to know each other while being heckled in Hyde Park. According to an article by Patrick Madrid:
They met at a Catholic Evidence Guild talk. He was working with the guild to make ends meet while he decided what to do with his life. Maisie Ward was a speaker one afternoon at the center where he was helping.

Their encounter was the start of the famous Sheed and Ward publishing career that would catapult many now-legendary Catholic writers to prominence.

Maisie was as different from Sheed as one could imagine. He, although now a Catholic, had been raised a Protestant. The Wards were an ardently Catholic family that had converted to the faith in the 1860s. Maisie was born in 1889, when the English faithful were still severely tested by their country's oppressive anti-Romanism. Frank was an Australian with a broad, suntanned brogue and a taste for adventure and action.

Maisie was English, Edwardian, proper, upper-crust, ferociously Catholic, witty, likable, and incredibly intelligent. Born into a family of writers and editors, Maisie's mind was as keen and expansive as Frank's, and she was steeped in centuries of tough-as-nails English Catholicism. His family was poor; hers had money. For years, the Wards had rubbed shoulders with the major figures in the English Church. This heady atmosphere, cloudy with incense and ringing with Latin and chant and the glorious echoes of generations of recusant English Catholics, was immensely attractive to Sheed. He gravitated immediately to Maisie and her live-wire Catholic world....

Along the way, he and Maisie decided that in addition to writing their own books, they would help fledgling Catholic authors launch their careers. And so they formed a publishing house: Sheed and Ward.

Frank and Maisie paved the way for the lay apologists of today. The Sheeds had their soap boxes; we have our blogs. It is admirable how they helped other Catholic writers. Let us hope we can be live up to their high standards of wit, charity, and compassion.


A Day of Prayer and Mourning

Abortion rates are going down, but the use of the abortion pill is on the rise. Aside from the dire moral and spiritual issues, there surely are terrible effects upon women's health from inducing a miscarriage, in spite of what they say in articles such as this one in The Washington Post.
The French abortion pill RU-486, on the market since 2000, has become an increasingly common alternative, making abortion less clinical and more private. At a time when the overall number of abortions has been steadily declining, RU-486-induced abortions have been rising by 22 percent a year and now account for 14 percent of the total -- and more than one in five early abortions performed by the ninth week of pregnancy.

The pill, often called "miffy" after its chemical name mifepristone and brand name Mifeprex, also has helped slow the decline in abortion providers, as more physicians who previously did not perform the procedure discreetly start to prescribe the pill.

"The impact and the promise is huge," said Beth Jordan, medical director of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. "It's going a long way towards normalizing abortion."


Monday, January 21, 2008

Caryll Houselander

Caryll Houselander is one of the most intriguing personalities among modern spiritual writers. Always eccentric, Caryll was an artist who experienced the Gospel truths on a mystical level. A Franciscan tertiary, she overcame a troubled childhood and a bohemian youth in order to be a
witness of spiritual motherhood and the consecrated life in the world. According to one biographical account:

Frances Caryll Houselander was born October 29, 1901. She died of breast cancer October 12, 1954. By today's standards she had a short, personally unfulfilling life and a tragically unnecessary death. From the very beginning things looked unpromising. She entered this world in such a physically precarious condition she was not expected to live and, indeed, she struggled with poor health throughout her life.

Born to a pair of attractive, extroverted and athletic parents ill-equipped to deal with a homely,introverted and artistically-sensitive child, throughout her childhood and adolescence Caryll endured protracted sieges of psychological and physical suffering. Caryll's relationship with her mother was a particularly difficult one. Always impulsive and erratic, yet capable of great generosity on her own terms, Gertrude Houselander was the classic type of Englishwoman who could treat animals and assorted misfits with great tenderness and her own children with massive insensitivity. Ultimately, both Caryll's parents were too eccentric and self-absorbed to live together successfully. They separated permanently when she was nine.
Caryll was educated at Catholic boarding schools, run by nuns. She later wrote about the pain of being a child of divorce. She early on displayed a gift of heightened intuition and empathy for the sufferings of others, so that she is was regarded by many as being clairvoyant.
Maisie Ward, Caryll Houselander's biographer, observes that although Caryll's remarkable intuitiveness-her "sixth sense"-along with her long hours of prayer made this kind of spiritual insight and service a real possibility, these two elements alone were insufficient for her to be successful in the vocation for which Christ had prepared her; rather, she had to,"to read psychology and grow in understanding of the human mind (especially the human mind off-balance), to read theology and grow in understanding of Christ's revelation, to read above all the Gospels and meet Him in them."
As a teenager, Caryll had a crisis of faith and a period of disillusionment with the Church. She became interested in Russian Orthodoxy and spent time with the Russian ex-patriot community
in London.On the night of July 16, 1918, she was returning from an errand for her mother when she had a vision.
Caryll saw a "gigantic and living Russian icon"--she had never seen one before--in which she recognized Christ the King crucified, "lifted above the world in our drab street, lifted up and filling the sky ... with his head bowed down ... brooding over the world."Soon after, she learned of the assassination of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and saw from newspaper photos that it was Nicholas' face she had seen on the suffering Christ.
In 1925, she returned to the[Catholic] church .... She the Gospels, which alone were powerful enough to sustain her. She was acutely aware of her "oddness" and called herself "broken across psychologically." Her parents had emotionally neglected her. And, as a young woman, she fell in love with a Russian spy, a double agent, 26 years her senior. A year later, he married another woman, a loss from which Caryll never recovered. She understood with agonizing clarity the meaning of Jesus' words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The Russian spy, of course, was none other than the notorious Sidney Reilly, the original James Bond. Caryll never got over him, although once she was briefly engaged to someone else. As is recorded in the biography by Maisie Ward, Caryll had a vision of Reilly suffering in a Soviet prison. All she could do was pray for him.

She eventually became an artist and writer, as one article describes:
A woodcarver and ecclesiastical artist by trade, she followed a literary path at the encouragement of friends and others who recognized her genius for seeming "to see everybody for the first time," and for describing human suffering by using not merely the right word but "the telling word, that left you gasping." One of these admirers was Maisie Ward, who with her husband, Frank Sheed, formed the Sheed & Ward publishing house in 1927. Ward wrote a colorful account of their professional and personal friendship, and her out-of-print biography is one of the few remaining sources of information concerning the unlikely mystic (Caryll Houselander, That Divine Eccentric, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1962).
As with so many mystics, Houselander was paradox. She preached a social gospel, yet she was a virtual recluse. She felt overwhelming sympathy for the world, yet she had a razor-sharp tongue and biting sense of humor. (When she worked in a wartime first aid station, a nurse asked, "Houselander, are you sterile?" Houselander quipped, "Not as far as I know.") She... liked gin, and chain-smoked "with a dandelion-yellow upper lip." And by all accounts, she was a difficult person.
Caryll devoted herself to helping others, especially the poor and living a life of evangelical simplicity. She bore witness to the fruitfulness of the lay, celibate lifestyle, as is told here:
With Houselander we see that neither celibacy nor physical barrenness need be an obstacle to fruitful mothering. Therefore, all women-in whatever state of life-can take heart and hope in her spiritual teaching; for she where the rest of us can only trust, that the other, the "little one" is within; that the growth of the infant grace in our own souls requires "mothering." The same conditions required for a biological pregnancy obtain in relation to the implantation of sanctifying grace in each one of us: a receptivity that has the quality of virginal emptiness; the fertility that springs from desire; freely-given consent; the overshadowing from something, beyond required for conception; a long and hidden gestation; and painful but efficacious labor pains.
Caryll died in 1954 after a long ordeal with cancer. Here are some words which sum up her philosophy of simplicity:
To accept oneself as one is; to accept life as it is:these are the two basic elements of childhood's simplicity and humility. But it is one thing to say this and another to do it. What is involved? First of all, it involves the abandoning of all unreality in ourselves. But even granted that we have the courage to face ourselves and to root out every trace of pretense, how shall we then tolerate the emptiness, the insignificance, that we built up our elaborate pretense to cover?

The answer is simple. If we are afraid to know ourselves for what we are, it is because we have not the least idea of what trial is. It is because we have not the least idea of the miracle of life-giving love that we are. There is no pretense that can approach the wonder of the truth about us, no unreality that comes anywhere near the reality.